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US:     US Supreme Court allows Texas abortion law challenge to stay with state's top court

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday declined to send a legal challenge against a Texas abortion law back to a lower federal court— which has already blocked enforcement of the law once— sending the challenge instead to the Texas Supreme Court. 

The Jan. 20 ruling, which leaves the law in place for now, is the latest in a long series regarding the Texas “heartbeat” abortion law, in effect since September 2021, which bans abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat except in medical emergencies.

The law relies on private lawsuits filed by citizens to enforce the ban. This framework allows for awards of at least $10,000 for plaintiffs who successfully sue those who perform or aid and abet abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. 

The case will now proceed to the Texas Supreme Court, which the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has asked to rule on whether certain state licensing officials, cited in a December Supreme Court opinion, have the power to enforce the abortion law. The law will remain in place at least until the Texas Supreme Court responds to the circuit court.

​​In the Jan. 20 opinion, the Supreme Court declined a request brought by several pro-abortion organizations to send the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, “without delay” back to the district court. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to decline the request was given without explanation. Three justices dissented from the opinion, with Justice Sonya Sotomayor decrying the decision to send the case to the state Supreme Court as serving to “extend the deprivation of the federal constitutional rights of its citizens through procedural manipulation.”

The latest ruling follows a Dec. 10 decision by the court that the abortion providers can continue their legal challenge, but that the abortion law will remain in effect while the challenge plays out. 

In that December opinion, the Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the Texas law, but rather that the abortion providers’ lawsuit against certain executive licensing officials, such as the executive director of the Texas Medical Board, can continue. State court clerks, state judges, and the Texas attorney general cannot be sued, that ruling states.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit had issued a ruling reinstating the law on Oct. 8, reversing an Oct. 6 decision to halt the law’s enforcement by Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas.

In a 5-4 decision issued Sept. 1, the Supreme Court declined to block the law from taking effect, but in late October decided to consider two challenges— one brought by the federal government, and the other by abortion providers— to the law on an expedited basis.


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US:     Judge blocks COVID vaccine mandate for federal employees
null / oasisamuel/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

A federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Judge Jeffrey Brown of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled Jan. 21 that federal employees were likely to succeed in challenging the vaccine requirement. 

“The court notes at the outset that this case is not about whether folks should get vaccinated against COVID-19—the court believes they should,” the decision reads. “It is not even about the federal government’s power, exercised properly, to mandate vaccination of its employees.” 

“It is instead about whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment,” the decision continues. “That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.”

Brown wrote that “Regardless of what the conventional wisdom may be concerning vaccination, no legal remedy adequately protects the liberty interests of employees who must choose between violating a mandate of doubtful validity or consenting to an unwanted medical procedure that cannot be undone.”

The Justice Department immediately appealed the ruling. The White House has said that 98% of federal employees are vaccinated. 

“Obviously we are confident in our legal authority here,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Jan. 21.

President Joe Biden issued the vaccine mandate for millions of federal employees in September, though enforcement of the mandate was delayed until early 2022.

Employees could not agree to regular testing for the virus as an alternative to the vaccine, though they could seek out medical or religious exemptions. Employees who failed to comply with the mandate risked losing their jobs. 

Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors has already been suspended. 

Last week, the Supreme Court blocked Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. The court allowed a federal rule requiring millions of U.S. health care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”


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US:     'Every person matters,' Father Mike Schmitz tells pro-life marchers
Father Mike Schmitz, the host of the "Bible in a Year" podcast, addresses the crowd at the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. / Youtube.com/EWTN

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 14:24 pm (CNA).

The popular podcaster and YouTube star Father Mike Schmitz came well-prepared for his speech at the March for Life rally Friday.

“The first speech I ever gave in my entire life was in eighth grade. We got a chance to choose any topic, any argument, any position,” he told a large crowd assembled at the National Mall. “I chose to talk about the dignity of human life from natural conception to natural death and the evil of abortion and euthanasia.”

Born the year after the landmark Supreme Court abortion decision in Roe v. Wade, the gregarious 47-year-old priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, is best known for his "Bible in a Year" podcast and his YouTube videos for Ascension, the Catholic multimedia publisher.

A headline speaker at the pre-march rally, Schmitz, a North Star State native accustomed to the frigid January weather, received a rousing, rock-star reception from the crowd, which included thousands of young marchers.

He used the occasion to stress the same message he originally shared with his classmates as a young adolescent: every human life matters. This time, the message was deeply personal.

Schmitz told the story of his maternal grandmother, Helen, a nurse who spoke out in defense of the unborn and the conscientious objections of her fellow nurses when the hospital where they worked decided to peform abortions in the wake of the Roe decision.

“Helen, she knew that people mattered. She knew that children mattered. She knew that her nurses mattered. And so she hated the fact that this hospital that had done such good in that part of the world was now about to do so much evil. And they were forcing her nurses to participate in abortions. They were forcing her nurses to carry the remains of these children to be disposed. And so she went to the board of directors and she said, ‘This needs to stop. Either you stop doing abortions or I'm leaving,’” Schmitz recalled.

The board refused, and his grandmother left her job as head nurse. That decision “almost destroyed her life"; she didn’t regret it, “but it broke her heart,” he said.

“And I think that’s why we’re here, too, right? I think we're here because abortion, what it's done is broken our hearts. And I know so many people here, you're standing here because you know the dignity of human life. And so many people are among us because this story is part of your story, because you found yourself at one point in a place where it seemed like life was an impossible choice," he said.

"And so I know that we're surrounded by men and women who have chosen abortion. Listen, you need to know you're supposed to be here. You matter, you belong here. No matter what your past is, you are still loved. You need to know this. You are still loved and you still matter.” You can watch Schmidt's full speech in the EWTN video below.

Struggling to maintain his composure at times, Schmidt went on to share a recent conversation he had with a woman he helped persuade not to abort her child 12 years ago.

“She said, ‘I thought I hated my baby. And I realized these many years later, I didn't hate my baby. I hated the circumstances in which I found myself. I didn't hate my baby. I was ashamed of myself,’” Schmitz said.

“That young woman, 12 years ago, she gave her son to a couple who adopted him and have loved him. And he's blessed their life. And they've blessed his life. I've met him. He's an incredible young man,” Schmitz said.

He said the woman urged him ahead of his speech to remind people “that regardless of your choices, you are still loved and you still matter.” 

“And that's why we're standing here. That's why we're walking here,” Schmitz said.

“When my grandma Helen … left Sinai Hospital in 1973, it didn't change the hospital, it didn't change the culture, it didn't change the law, it didn't change the country,” he said.

“But when she walked, it changed her. When she stood, it changed her, and it changed her sons and it changed her daughter, my mom. And that …willingness to stand, that willingness to walk, it has echoed into my life. It’s echoed in the life of this young woman. It is incarnate in the life of this 12-year-old boy, who wouldn't be here if my grandma Helen hadn't stood, if my grandma Helen hadn't walked,” he said.

“Every child matters. Every woman matters. Every person matters. And no matter what this (march) does, no matter what this changes, your being here, standing, your being here, walking, it changes you, and you matter. God bless you.”


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Europe:     Spanish theologian warns German Synodal Way poses great danger to the Church
Thomas Sternberg and Bishop Georg Bätzing at the Synodal Way’s second Synodal Assembly in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. / Synodaler Weg/Maximilian von Lachner.

Alcalá de Henares, Spain, Jan 21, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Spanish theologian Fr. José Antonio Fortea has warned of what he calls the serious danger to the Catholic Church posed by the synodal path in Germany.

In a blogpost titled “Where is the German Church Going”, the priest said that “if we look at the history of the Church, we will see that the synodal path is something God wants, but the results of the councils weren’t always the right fruit.”

"Today we call conciliabules (illegitimate councils) the assemblies that have ‘gone astray,’ but in their day they were considered by those who attended them to be such true councils as those that gave definitions that have passed into the magisterium of the Church," he pointed out.

The theologian warned that "a synod, a council, any ecclesiastical meeting, can go off in an excessive and illegitimate direction, there can be pressures."

"And to that we must add that a regional council or a provincial synod does not necessarily have to be an expression of the faith of the Church," he added.

The synodal path in Germany is a process in which bishops and lay people from this country participate in order to address issues such as the exercise of power, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the Church.

This process began Dec. 1, 2019 and is scheduled to end in 2023.

In October its plenary session ended abruptly following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.

Various Catholics have expressed concern about the direction that the German synodal path has followed and have warned of the risk of a schism with the Catholic Church.

Fr. Fortea noted in his article that "a regional synod is assured of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but it is not assured that the final result will be an unquestionable expression of the faith of the Church."

“In a conclave, for example, the assistance of the Holy Spirit is guaranteed, but that does not mean that the cardinals listen to the voice of God. The election of a supreme pontiff is not necessarily the expression of what God wanted.”

For the priest, this shows that “listening to the Spirit is absolutely necessary. Whether or not the result is an expression of the Will of God will depend on that listening.”

“I am sorry to shatter a certain vision about synods as something absolute, but the history of the Church is clear: only universal councils in union with the Roman Pontiff are guaranteed infallibility. That has been the constant tradition of the Church,” he said.

Therefore, he continued, "the participants of the German synod must be made aware of their own fallibility, both personal and collective."

"They can’t separate themselves from the structure of truth that is what we could call the 'universal synod.'"

Fr. Fortea said  that “since we will not agree on what is or is not within the faith, we must at least accept the ecclesial structure to safeguard the faith established in the Church by Jesus Christ himself while he was on earth.”

"If that 'universal ecclesial order' is not accepted, the synod begins its deliberations from an off-center starting point. What would be deliberated is not this or that moral or biblical question, but the very being of the Church, the ability of the Church to safeguard the faith given to us by Christ,” he said.

Fr. Fortea said that “theology must advance within a homogeneous evolution of dogma.”

"My positions are progressive, but a progressivism that believes in a depositum fidei, the deposit of faith," he said.

“But if progressivism involves revolution, that is to say, the demolition of the pillars that support our connection with an unalterable truth from the past; then don't count on me in that 'conflagration,'” he said.

The priest pointed out that “I’m Spanish, and the truth is the same in Germany and in Spain. The German synod cannot determine what is the truth for Spaniards. And, obviously, the truth is not one thing in northern Europe and another thing in the south.”

"Nor is what was true in the seventh century no longer true in the eighteenth century," he stressed.

"The German synod, however very democratic it may be, cannot oblige me," he remarked.

Fr. Fortea pointed out that “all the members of the synod must accept that they are part of a family and that a certain number of votes can’t force the Church on the five continents to believe a thing or not; because the questions debated in that German meeting directly affect what is the truth in the Church: has the Church made a mistake in universally teaching this or that thing?”

The theologian pointed out that "it would be naive not to realize that the moral issues that have been raised fully affect the concept of the magisterium in the Catholic Church."

"Either it is accepted that any decision holds for the 'universal family,' or it is accepted that there are 'pastors of pastors' with a specific charge from Christ."

Otherwise, he warned, "many Germans would be falling into the same ecclesial error as the Coptic Church in the fifth century (when it broke  communion) or the Armenian Church (when it broke away in the seventh century) or the Old Catholics (in the 19th century)."


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Vatican:     Europe’s Catholic bishops ask for prayers for peace in Ukraine
Catholics pictured near the Co-Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv, Ukraine. April 3, 2021. / paparazzza/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Europe have expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” a Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) communique said.

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, the president of the CCEE, issued the statement on behalf of the council on Jan. 21. He said that Catholic bishops in Europe wished to express closeness to the people of Ukraine “in this dramatic moment of tension.”

“While the entire international community interprets the actions of the Russian military forces as a real threat to peace throughout the world, we embrace — in this time of fear and uncertainty for the future of the country — our brothers and sisters in the faith and all the people of Ukraine,” Grušas said.

The bishops’ statement called on the international community to “offer its support to the country in the face of the danger of a Russian military offensive.”

“We also, as shepherds of the European continent, want to appeal to the leaders of the nations so that they do not forget the tragic world wars of the last century and so that international law, as well as the independence and territorial sovereignty of each country, will be defended,” Grušas said.

“Together with the Holy Father, we want to call on governments to find ‘acceptable and lasting solutions’ in Ukraine based on dialogue and negotiation and without resorting to arms,” the bishops’ statement said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, is the second-largest country by area in Europe after Russia.

The conflict between the two countries — known as the Russo-Ukrainian War — began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020.

Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland, on Jan. 21.

Bliken told journalists after the bilateral meeting that if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, “it will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.”

Pope Francis addressed the situation in Ukraine in his annual “state of the world” address to diplomats last week.

“Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine,” the pope said on Jan. 10.

The pope also issued an appeal for “beloved Ukraine” in his Angelus address last month, calling on world leaders to resolve the crisis through “serious international dialogue and not with weapons.”

“I want to assure you of my prayers for beloved Ukraine, for all its Churches and religious communities, and for all its people so that the tensions it is experiencing might be resolved through a serious international dialogue and not with weapons,” he said on Dec. 12.


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US:     Knights of Columbus donates 1500th ultrasound machine
A dedication ceremony for the ultrasound machine donated by the Knights of Columbus to the First Choice Women's Resource Center in New Brunswick, N.J. / Knights of Columbus

Metuchen, N.J., Jan 21, 2022 / 11:49 am (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus donated an ultrasound machine to a New Jersey pregnancy center on Wednesday, a charitable milestone that marks the fraternal organization’s 1500th donation of the technology.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, with more than 2 million members in 16,000 councils worldwide.

The donation is part of a Knights’ initiative which began in 2009. Since then, the Knights have donated ultrasound machines in all 50 states.

The Jan. 19 donation was given to First Choice Women’s Resource Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly attended a dedication ceremony of the machine, which included a blessing of the machine by Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen.

Kelly said that the Knights of Columbus believes that every human life has dignity and worth.

“Our Founder, Blessed Michael McGivney, devoted his life to the care of widows and orphans,” he said. “We continue the Order’s mission by working tirelessly, through prayer and action, to support mothers and their children, both unborn and born.”

The founder of the Knights of Columbus, Blessed Michael McGivney, was beatified in October 2020.

The cost of the ultrasound machines are entirely covered by the Knights of Columbus. Half of the cost is fundraised by local councils, while the Supreme Council covers the rest of the funds.

“Now is a crucial moment for life. Our compassion, understanding and generous support are all essential,” Kelly said. “Our bold witness is needed to change not only laws, but also hearts and minds.”

The total value of all donated ultrasound machines surpasses $72 million.

From 2018 through 2020, local Knights councils have contributed almost $14 million worth of funds and supplies to pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes. They also assisted those organizations by offering more than 1.3 million volunteer hours.

The Knights of Columbus also puts its pro-life beliefs into action through many other pro-life programs, including Marches for Life, diaper drives, Special Olympics, Masses for people with special needs, and more.


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US:     March for Life underway, with hopes rising that Roe's days are numbered
Tens of thousands gathered for a pre-march rally and concert at the National Mall for the 2022 March for Life in Washington, D.C. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 11:36 am (CNA).

Tens of thousands of pro-life Americans gathered Friday to participate in the 49th annual March for Life, amid rising hopes that the event’s goal of overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide may be within reach.

The march is timed in observance of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, on Jan. 22, 1973.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, the event’s organizer, told participants who gathered at a pre-march rally and concert on the National Law.

“Roe is not settled law,” she said.

This year’s event is taking place as the nation awaits the high court’s ruling in a pivotal Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s  Health Organization. At issue is the constitutionality of the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of gestation — a direct challenge of Roe’s prohibition on state laws restricting access to abortion before fetal “viability,” judged to be between 24 to 28 weeks of gestation. If Roe and the related decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey were overturned, the regulation of abortion would return to democratically elected state legislatures, many of which are poised to enact major abortion restrictions.

Speakers at the rally included Katie Shaw, a pro-life advocate who has Down syndrome, and Father Mike Schmitz, the host of Ascension's popular "Bible in a Year" podcast.

"There's a reason we're here. And the reasons have principles," Schmitz said in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly prior to his speech. "The Church introduced to the world 2,000 years ago this truth that every human being matters, that every life matters … every person here matters."

Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, continued on that same theme in his speech.

"I think we're here because abortion, what it's done is broken our hearts. And I know so many people here, you're standing here because you know the dignity of human life. And so many people are among us because this story is part of your story, because you found yourself at one point in a place where it seemed like life was impossible choice," he said.

"And so I know that we're surrounded by men and women who have chosen abortion. Listen, you need to know you're supposed to be here. You matter, you belong here. No matter what your past is, you are still loved. You need to know this. You are still loved and you still matter." You can watch Shaw's speech in the video below.

The march itself got underway at about 1:30 p.m. EST, proceeding from the Mall up Constitution Avenue, culminating in front of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prior to the march, a scattered group of early arrivals gradually swelled to a large crowd of tens of thousands of people over the course of a sunny but cold morning, with temperatures in the 20s.

Mary St. Hilaire, of Wichita, Kansas (left), and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mary St. Hilaire, of Wichita, Kansas (left), and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Mary St. Hilaire, 21, of Wichita, Kansas, and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, attended the march with a group called Justice For All, which trains people to have “productive” conversations about the right to life.

“I’m pro-life because I think that life begins at conception, that there's a new, unique individual human being from the moment of conception,” St. Hilaire told CNA. “And I think that killing that human being is a grave injustice, that they're equal to you and I, and that they deserve the same right to life. And I also think that abortion harms women, and women deserve better.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the pro-life movement cannot afford to become “complacent,” regardless of the outcome of Dobbs.

“The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is a response of love for both mothers and their children in the womb. The Church’s teaching proclaims a message of life, reminding us that every life is a sacred gift from God from the moment of conception until natural death,” Lori said in a statement.

“We cannot build a truly just society and remain complacent when faced with the massive impact of Roe v. Wade, which has taken over 60 million lives since 1973. May we pray, fast, and work for the day when the gift of every human life is protected in law and welcomed in love,” he added.


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Vatican:     Vatican appeal court confirms former IOR officials liable for mismanagement
The Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank. / Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

A Vatican appeal court this week fully confirmed an earlier ruling that two former senior managers at the Institute of Works of Religion (IOR) were liable for mismanagement.

The appeal court ordered Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli to compensate the IOR with 40.5 million euros (around $46 million) plus court costs.

Cipriani and Tulli had served until 2013 respectively as the director and deputy director of the IOR, which is often called the “Vatican bank,” though it does not operate as a bank. The IOR derives its acronym from its Italian name, Istituto per le Opere di Religione.

This week’s ruling upheld the judgment of the Vatican Court of First Instance in 2018, while reducing the amount of compensation from 47 million euros (approximately $53 million).

Cipriani and Tulli still have a further right of appeal at the Vatican and may then challenge the verdict in the international courts.

The pair were found to have violated statutory obligations, autonomously deciding on investments that would have caused financial damage to the IOR.

An IOR press release issued on Jan. 21 said that the two men were ordered to pay compensation amounting to “35,740,587 euros by way of emerging damage, as well as 4,799,445 euros by way of loss of profit (therefore for a total of 40,540,032 euros, plus monetary devaluation and legal interest).”

It went on: “The court charged the appellants with court costs, including those relating to the first instance.”

The IOR added that “the judgment concerns Mr. Paolo Cipriani and Mr. Massimo Tulli mala gestio [mismanagement] arranged with some investments of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione between 2010 and 2013, and which proved to be immediately harmful as problematic and, in several cases, also illegitimate and subject to criminal proceedings.”

The court ruling is based on the losses that would have been caused to the IOR by two consultancy contracts and the opening of the Ad Maiora fund. This fund was used for a real estate operation — the acquisition of the former Budapest stock exchange building — made with a Maltese company, also now the subject of a complaint by the IOR.

The IOR accuses its Maltese counterpart of having sold higher than the market price, favoring other intermediaries. The Maltese side accuses the IOR of not having kept the agreed commitments, as well as having always rejected the purchase offers that would have settled the debt. There is even an insinuation that the IOR is putting the investment at risk to strengthen allegations against past management.

The same real estate investment is considered by the ruling to be a violation by managers, given that there was a moratorium on real estate investments from 2003.

But as evidenced by some subsequent decisions and acquisitions, the moratorium would no longer be in force. In December 2012, the IOR’s board of superintendence decided to launch a new class of investments of a more speculative nature, effectively circumventing the moratorium.

It should be noted that both the moratorium and regulation of the IOR were missing from the appeal documentation. Their inclusion would have allowed a better understanding of responsibilities. The same Vatican court of appeal judges consider that there is no “dual system” of decisions at the IOR because everything passes through the board of superintendence.

When the defense argued that none of the investment decisions could have been taken without the approval of the board of superintendence, the prosecution replied that the board meetings were “rarefied, unlike what is practiced in similar institutions,” the ruling said. But the verdict admitted that the board members may have studied the papers before the meetings.

Cipriani and Tulli resigned in July 2013. They left the IOR in a healthy situation, but profits dramatically dropped after their exit.

In 2014, the IOR filed a civil suit against the old management, complaining that the investments made by the administration had not managed the IOR’s assets well. In 2018, Cipriani and Tulli were found liable for mismanagement.

The Vatican appeal court’s verdict defends the work of the IOR but leaves some questions open. Some could already be answered by the results of the lawsuit filed by the IOR in Malta.


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US:     Cardinal Gregory criticizes activist group's 'antics' at basilica on eve of March for Life
Pro-choice messages projected onto the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2022. / Catholics for Choice

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, responded strongly Friday to an activist group's projection of pro-choice messages on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Thursday night, the eve of the annual March for Life.

Gregory said in a Jan. 21 statement: "Those whose antics projected words on the outside of the church building demonstrated by those pranks that they really are external to the Church and they did so at night – John 13:30."

Referring to Judas Iscariot, John 13:30 reads, “He therefore having received the morsel, went out immediately. And it was night.”

Gregory said, “The true voice of the Church was only to be found within The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last evening. There, people prayed and offered the Eucharist asking God to restore a true reverence for all human life.”

Catholics for Choice was responsible for the images, which for 90 minutes were beamed from a median across the street from the basilica while a prayer vigil to end abortion was going on inside.

In large letters visible blocks from the basilica, the messages read “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS YOU ARE NOT ALONE,” “1 IN 4 ABORTION PATIENTS IS CATHOLIC,” and “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS.”

Other slogans included the words “STOP STIGMATIZING” and “START LISTENING” on the church. The words were projected on both the 329-foot bell tower and upper facade of the church above the front entrance. The projections included Spanish translations of the messages as well.

“The March for Life twists our faith to villainize people who seek abortion services and silences the 68% of Catholics who do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned,” Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson said in a statement.

“That’s why, during the ‘Vigil for Life’ at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., we prominently projected our message to Catholics who support legal abortion access and those who have abortions themselves: no matter what the Church hierarchy tries to make you think, you are not alone,” she said.

The images were first reported on Twitter by Jack Jenkins of Religious News Service. Widely shared on social media, the images drew some support but also sharp denunciations.

"The attempted desecration is enormous. Diabolical," Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco tweeted. "Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen."

"Just when you thought @Catholic4Choice couldn’t sink any lower. The group inside is praying for babies and mothers—and for the group outside to repent and believe the Gospel," tweeted Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

The American Life League tweeted on Friday, “Not only do they hate God's Law ‘Thou shall not kill’, they hate His houses of prayer, too.”

Catholics for Choice’s act underscores a rise in hostility toward this year's March for Life, when many pro-life Americans are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization is expected in June.

On Saturday, a group called NYC for Abortion Rights plans to hold a rally titled "F--- the March for Life" outside St. Patrick's Cathedral. "Come picket and MAKE SOME NOISE with us!! We're disrupting the Catholic Church's anti-abortion bull--- on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision,” the group tweeted Wednesday.

“MEANWHILE, we're going to commemorate by disrupting their bull---- as much as we can, at the symbol of the Catholic Church's grotesque power in NY. Come speak out, sing, play, and show the antis that abortion isn't going away, and we aren't either,” the tweet says.


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Europe:     Catholic politician rejects ‘false accusations’ in European Islamophobia report
Marijana Petir, a member of the Croatian Parliament and former Member of the European Parliament. / Provided/CNA.

Zagreb, Croatia, Jan 21, 2022 / 07:15 am (CNA).

A Catholic politician has objected to her inclusion in a report on Islamophobia in Europe, saying that it is based on “false accusations.”

Marijana Petir, a member of the Croatian parliament, said that the reference to her and others in the European Islamophobia Report 2020, published on Dec. 29, 2021, amounted to an “attack on freedom of speech.”

The 886-page study, which defines Islamophobia as “anti-Muslim racism,” cited Petir, a former member of the European Parliament, in a section entitled “Islamophobia in Croatia National Report 2020,” one of 31 country reports.

It said: “The politician and independent parliament member Marijana Petir, known for her statement from 2015 saying that Christians were persecuted by Muslims in wars and that the current ‘refugee crisis’ was in fact an attempt by Muslims to occupy predominantly Catholic European countries including Croatia, suggested a proposal worth 1.5 million HRK in the form of aid to Christians prosecuted for their faith in countries where Islamist militants are in power. The government accepted the proposal.”

A footnote cited an article referring to a speech she gave in 2015, published in the Croatian weekly news magazine Nacional on Nov. 25, 2020.

Petir told CNA on Jan. 21 that the description of her 2015 speech, in both the report and the article, was inaccurate.

“The report on Islamophobia in Europe for 2020 contains my statement from 2015, which I never said, so we can consider that this report is based on false accusations,” she said.

She explained that she spoke in 2015 at an event dedicated to war reporters.

“Referring to the migrant crisis that has spread, I expressed my full understanding and sympathy with those fleeing the war, and said that people whose lives are at risk should be unreservedly helped,” she recalled.

“On the other hand, there are those who are looking for a better future and that is why they are going to Europe, but unfortunately Croatia cannot provide jobs for its citizens, so when we talk about migration, we should distinguish between war and economic migrants.”

“Europe, which is the largest donor of humanitarian and development aid, should direct this money to projects in third countries that will enable people to work and enable them to live in dignity at home.”

She continued: “I said that Europe needs to think about its future and demographic renewal, because some countries already do not have enough workers and this problem cannot be solved by illegal migration.”

“European asylum and migration policy has failed the test and needs to be revised as illegal migration can be a potential security problem for citizens.”

“In addition, Europe and the entire Western world have done nothing to stop the war in Syria and Iraq, where Islamist terrorists are killing Christians, which could lead to the disappearance of Christianity from the cradle of Christianity. Only a few journalists talk about it.”

Croatia is a country of four million people bordering Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. More than 86% of the population is Catholic.

Petir, an independent member of parliament, was instrumental in persuading the Croatian government to offer college scholarships to young people from countries where Christians face persecution.

The introduction of the scholarships marked the first time since the country gained independence in 1991 that it had earmarked money specifically to help individuals outside the European Union persecuted for their Christian faith.

Petir said it was unclear how giving scholarships to persecuted Christians could be characterized as Islamophobia.

“We do not give scholarships to Christians just because they are Christians, but because they are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and this is confirmed by reports of international organizations such as Aid to Church in Need and Open Doors,” she said.

Petir was not the only Catholic mentioned in the European Islamophobia Report 2020.

A section entitled “Islamophobia in Poland National Report 2020” criticized Catholic media in the Central European country, as well as the Polish-language section of Vatican Radio.

“Although the Catholic media — including leading media such as Gość Niedzielny or the Polish section of Vatican Radio — continue to lead the way in publishing Islamophobic content, when it comes to clergy and hierarchs, they are no longer as active in the field of fearmongering against Islam as they were in the previous years,” it asserted.

In a footnote, the report cited two Vatican News articles in Polish, one headlined “Sweden: social tensions rise, Christians are powerless” and the other “Christianophobia in Europe increased in 2019.”

Petir also took issue with other aspects of the “Islamophobia in Croatia National Report 2020.”

“If you look at the rest of the report for Croatia, you can see that journalists who wrote articles about the migrant crisis, reported on the Turkish government’s decision on Hagia Sophia or conducted interviews with European politicians who spoke about radical Islamists were also marked as an Islamophobe,” she said.

“Such reporting on Islamophobia attempts to stop any critical thinking and information that has nothing to do with criticism of Islam as a religion, but with criticism of radical terrorist groups that abuse religion for their narrow interests and thus harm the religion to which they belong.”

“I believe that this report is an attack on freedom of speech, made superficially and maliciously with the aim of labeling people who dare to tell the truth, and contains elements of Christianophobia.”


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Asia - Pacific:     Catholic diocese in Australia found vicariously liable for clerical abuse
The Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia. / Nickbenanh via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Melbourne, Australia, Jan 21, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In a ruling believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, a judge has found a Catholic diocese vicariously liable for clerical abuse.

A judgment issued on Dec. 22 by Justice John Forrest in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne held that the Diocese of Ballarat was vicariously liable for the conduct of Father Bryan Coffey.

The Legal Information Institute defines vicarious liability as the liability that a supervisory party bears for the actionable conduct of a subordinate or associate, based on the relationship between the two parties.

Coffey, who was convicted of child abuse in 1999 and given a three-year suspended sentence, died in 2013.

Justice Forrest awarded a man identified only as “DP” damages of AU$ 230,000 (around $165,000).

DP said that he was sexually abused by Coffey at his parents’ home in Port Fairy, southwestern Victoria, in 1971, when he was five years old.

“Coffey assaulted DP as he alleges; The diocese is vicariously liable for the assaults perpetrated by Coffey,” Justice Forrest declared in his judgment.

The survivor’s solicitors, Ken Cush & Associates in Canberra, said that the ruling was a landmark decision.

“It marks for the first time in Australia a decision that exercises attribution of liability to a bishop for the acts of his predatory priest or assistant priest,” lawyer Sangeeta Sharmin said.

The judgment noted that the diocese had argued that “unless it is demonstrated that a priest is an employee of the diocese then it cannot be vicariously liable.”

But the judge concluded that factors including “the close nature of the relationship between the bishop, the diocese and the Catholic community” in Port Fairy and “the diocese’s general control over Coffey’s role and duties within St Patrick’s Parish” made the diocese vicariously liable for the priest’s conduct.

The judge also defined the relationship between DP, his family, Coffey, and the diocese as one of “intimacy and imported trust in the authority of Christ’s representative, personified by Coffey.”

The concept of vicarious liability has been invoked in legal action against Catholic dioceses around the world, including in the case of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

It was also mentioned in a dissenting opinion related to the European Court of Human Rights ruling in October 2021 that the Vatican cannot be sued in local courts for the actions of clerical abusers because it has sovereign immunity.


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US:     Seven things to know about March for Life speaker Father Mike Schmitz
Father Mike Schmitz / Courtesy of Ascension

Denver Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates are expected to gather at the National Mall in Washington later today for the annual March for Life. The march will kick off with a noon rally featuring speakers including the host of the “Bible in a Year” podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz. Here are seven things to know about the priest:

1. Schmitz was raised Catholic. He is one of six kids. But his faith was not a priority in his life until he had what he described as an encounter with Christ in Confession at the age of 15. “That really affected me such that I said to myself, ‘This is real.’,” Schmitz said in an interview with Legatus magazine. “There was an interior recognition that I need this, I need Jesus. It led me down the road to asking God what He wants.”

2. He was ordained a priest in 2003 for the Diocese of Duluth. He is Director of Youth Ministry for the diocese, and chaplain at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He has said his favorite part about being a priest is celebrating the sacraments. “I love offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” he said in a Q&A with the Newman Center where he is chaplain. “I love preaching. I love hearing confessions. There is nothing that I know of that can compare with getting to be a part of someone’s Great Story, the story that God is calling His children to live.”

3. He left a relationship to enter the seminary. Schmitz shares his vocation story in a 2021 episode of his podcast. 

4. He gained national attention through a video series he started in 2015 with Ascension Press. The videos have covered topics including forgiveness, the saints, and relationships. He continues to produce those videos today

5. He is perhaps best known for hosting The Bible in a Year podcast. The podcast jumped to the top of Apple Podcasts charts within hours of publishing its first episode on Jan. 1, 2021, surpassing secular podcasts produced by organizations including The New York Times and National Public Radio. In 2021, it hit 142 million downloads, and 3.3 billion minutes of listening worldwide.

6. Though The Bible in a Year is complete, Schmitz will be involved in an upcoming virtual retreat for the community that grew around the podcast. The three-day retreat will take place Feb. 18-20. Schmitz is also in the early stages of developing a catechism-in-a-year podcast. 

7. Schmitz has long been a staunch pro-life advocate. The priest has said someone cannot be both Catholic and pro-abortion. “Abortion is one of the “deal breaker” issues,” he wrote in a 2014 Q&A. “If my conscience leads me to the place where I think it is okay for a person to be able to murder another innocent person, then I’m not Catholic. By that point, I’ve left the Church. No one is “kicking me out”; I’ve already left.”


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Vatican:     Pope Francis declares St. Irenaeus ‘Doctor of Unity’
St. Irenaeus of Lyon. / Wolfymoza via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday officially declared St. Irenaeus of Lyon as the 37th Doctor of the Church, with the title “Doctor Unitatis” (“Doctor of Unity”).

“May the doctrine of such a great Master encourage more and more the path of all the Lord's disciples towards full communion,” the pope wrote in a decree signed on Jan. 21.

The pope signed the decree mid-way through the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, taking place on Jan. 18-25.

“St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West: he was a spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians,” Pope Francis wrote.

“His name, Irenaeus, expresses that peace which comes from the Lord and which reconciles, restoring unity.”

St. Irenaeus is a 2nd-century bishop and writer revered by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians and known for refuting the heresies of Gnosticism with a defense of both Christ’s humanity and divinity.

While some of St. Irenaeus’ most important writings have survived, the details of his life are not as well preserved. He was born in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, likely in the coastal city of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, around the year 140 A.D.

As a young man, he heard the preaching of the early Christian bishop St. Polycarp, who had been personally instructed by the Apostle John. Irenaeus became a priest, serving the Church in the region of Gaul, in what is now France, during a difficult period in the late 170s.

During this time of state persecution and doctrinal controversy, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to provide Pope St. Eleutherius with a letter about the heretical movement known as Montanism.

After returning to Lyon, Irenaeus became the city’s second bishop, following the martyrdom of his predecessor St. Pothinus.

In the course of his work as a pastor and evangelist, the second bishop of Lyon came up against heretical doctrines and movements that insisted that the material world was evil and not part of God’s original plan.

Irenaeus recognized this movement, in all its forms, as a direct attack on the Catholic faith. He rebutted the Gnostic errors in his lengthy book “Against Heresies,” which is still studied today for its historical value and theological insights.

A shorter work, the “Proof of the Apostolic Preaching,” contains Irenaeus’ presentation of the Gospel with a focus on Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Several of his other works are now lost, though a collection of fragments from them has been compiled and translated.

Irenaeus died in Lyon around 202, when Emperor Septimus Severus ordered the martyrdom of Christians.

The U.S. bishops voted in 2019 in favor of having St. Irenaeus named a Doctor of the Church at the request of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the then archbishop of Lyon, and sent their approval to the Vatican for the pope’s consideration.

Pope Francis previously declared St. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk, a Doctor of the Church in 2015.

Benedict XVI named Sts. John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Church in 2012.

Seventeen of the 36 figures declared Doctors of the Church by the Catholic Church lived before the Great Schism of 1054 and are also revered by Orthodox Christians.

St. Irenaeus could be the first martyr to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

His entry on the website of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints says: “He died in 202, but his martyrdom is not certain. In the 4th century St. Jerome and two centuries later Gregory of Tours stated that Irenaeus ‘ended his life in martyrdom,’ which would have happened during a bloody persecution, most likely that of Septimius Severus, which took place between the years 202-203.”


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Vatican:     Pope Francis: The Church is firmly committed to justice for abuse victims
Pope Francis meets participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Jan. 21, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that the Catholic Church is firmly committed to bringing justice to victims of clerical abuse through the rigorous application of canon law.

In a speech to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the pope spoke of recent changes he made to the Church’s Code of Canon Law with the goal of making its “legal action more effective.”

“The Church, with God’s help, is vigorously pursuing her commitment to bringing justice to the victims of abuse perpetrated by her members, applying the established canonical legislation with particular attention and rigor,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 21.

The pope highlighted the changes he made last month to the CDF’s procedural norms for the most serious crimes, including the abuse of minors.

“This alone is not enough to stem the phenomenon, but it is a necessary step toward restoring justice, repairing the scandal, and correcting the offender,” Francis said.

The pope’s comments came a day after the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising released a report on the handling of abuse cases that faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, generating international headlines.

Pope Francis underlined that discernment is always needed “in the fight against abuses of all kinds.”

He added that discernment is also needed in the Church’s “synodal path.” Last October, the pope launched the diocesan stage of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

In this global consultative process of “listening and dialogue,” the Vatican has asked all Catholic dioceses worldwide to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

“A synodal path without discernment is not a synodal path,” the pope told the CDF.

“In the synodal path, it is necessary to continuously discern opinions, points of view, reflections, but one cannot go in the synodal path without discernment.”

“This discernment is what will make the synod a true synod for which the most important character is the Holy Spirit, and not a parliament with the exchange of opinions that can take place in the media,” he said.

Discernment, the pope added, is key in the Vatican congregation’s work regarding marriage annulment or dissolution cases.

He spoke in particular about the dissolution of marriage “in favorem fidei” (in favor of the faith), which can only be approved on a case-by-case basis and solely by the pope.

“When, by virtue of Petrine power, the Church grants the dissolution of a non-sacramental marriage bond, it is not only a matter of canonically putting an end to a marriage, which has already failed in fact, but, in reality, through this eminently pastoral act I always intend to foster the Catholic faith — in favorem fidei — in the new union and in the family, of which this new marriage will be the nucleus,” the pope said.

Pope Francis told the CDF that there are currently many social and political tensions that threaten human fraternity.

“The temptation is growing to consider the other as a stranger or an enemy, denying him real dignity,” he said.

“Therefore, especially at this time, we are called to repeat, ‘at every convenient or inconvenient occasion’ (2 Timothy 4:2), faithfully following the 2,000-year-old Church teaching, that every human being has an intrinsic dignity that is valid from the moment of conception until natural death,” Pope Francis said.

“Precisely the affirmation of such dignity is the essential precondition for the protection of a personal and social existence, and also the necessary condition for fraternity and social friendship to be realized among all the peoples of the earth.”

“Let us not be satisfied with a lukewarm, habitual, textbook faith. Let us collaborate with the Holy Spirit and collaborate among ourselves so that the fire that Jesus came to bring into the world can continue to burn and inflame the hearts of all,” Pope Francis said.


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US:     ‘A Wonderful Life’: Meet the woman with Down syndrome speaking at March for Life
Pro-life advocate Katie Shaw / Courtesy of March for Life

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

Katie Shaw is many things: a champion for the unborn, an advocate for those with disabilities, a faithful Catholic, and, now, a March for Life speaker. She also happens to have Down syndrome.

Her message to the world, she says, is Psalm 139:14.

“The main reason I became a national pro-life speaker is because of God calling me to tell everyone Psalm 139:14: ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’” she told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in 2020. 

On Friday, the 37-year-old pro-life advocate will witness to this message when she speaks to the tens of thousands of marchers expected at the Washington, D.C., March for Life, the largest pro-life event in the country that condemns abortion and celebrates life.

Shaw serves on the board of Down Syndrome Indiana, meets with politicans such as then-president Donald Trump, and lobbies for pro-life legislation, particularly legislation prohibiting the discrimination of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. Estimates suggest that nearly 70% of these babies are aborted in the United States.

But Shaw’s story begins in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

“My dad and mom found out I had Down syndrome when mom was pregnant with me,” she said at Rehumanize Conference 2018. “My mom's doctors never mentioned abortion. My parents feared the unknown and were sad that I was going to have surgery as soon as I was born, but the doctors started helping my parents plan what would help me have a wonderful life.”

She grew up in a Catholic family, she said, and was baptized the day after she was born. She later received First Holy Communion and confirmation. 

“My Catholic faith keeps me strong and knowing God is behind me,” she told EWTN.

While Shaw progressed through school, she picked up hobbies such as violin and softball. She earned her GED, the equivalency of a high-school diploma. 

As an adult, she worked in child care and retail. Now, she also dedicates her life to the unborn.

“My parents have always been pro-life, so they have always taught me that every life is a gift, that every life is wonderful, but the older I get, the more I realize not everyone sees that,” she said during the Rehumanize conference. “Ableism is not just seen in the medical field. As we all know, many people would prefer to end the pregnancy if there even might be a problem and they might ‘try again.’”

“That is why,” she added, “I want to help unborn babies, and their moms, and everyone see what a wonderful life we can all have.” You can watch Katie's interview with EWTN in the video below.

According to Shaw, “people with Down syndrome are just like everyone else.” 

“I play sports, I'm in a book club, I like hanging out with my friends and family, and I do the mini marathons, and I volunteer at my parish and Down Syndrome Indiana,” she told EWTN.

While she admitted “we have ups and downs like everyone,” she added that “I always say I have a wonderful life.”

During an interview with Life Issues Institute in 2020, Shaw emphasized the beauty of every life, regardless of disability.

“Even though babies — the most defenseless — have a disability or not, you should not just kill them,” she said. Because we have wonderful lives and all lives should be about celebrating anybody and people with disabilities too.”

Speaking with EWTN, she shared advice for moms and dads who might be expecting a baby prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome.

“I want them to know that the child is a gift from God and to cherish every moment with them,” she said. “Their child is beautifully and wonderfully made too, and who knows what God has chosen them to be.”

She concluded, “Help your baby's life be wonderful and your life will be wonderful.”


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US:     Activist group projects pro-choice messages on Washington basilica on eve of March for Life
Twitter post by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco on Jan. 20, 2022, reacting to an activist group's projection of pro-choice messages on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. / Screen shot of Twitter post

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 20, 2022 / 23:16 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Catholic leaders reacted with shock and disgust at an activist group's projection of pro-choice messages on the fascade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Thursday night in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the annual March for Life.

The group Catholics for Choice took responsibility for the images, which were beamed from a median across the street from the basilica while a prayer vigil to end abortion was going on inside.

In large letters visible blocks from the basilica, the messages read “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS YOU ARE NOT ALONE,” “1 IN 4 ABORTION PATIENTS IS CATHOLIC,” and “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS.”

Other slogans included the words “STOP STIGMATIZING” and “START LISTENING” on the church. The words were projected on both the 329-foot bell tower and upper facade of the church above the front entrance.

Ashley Wilson, director of communications and strategy for Catholics for Choice, tweeted an explanation of the group’s protest. 

“I know that my faith teaches Catholics to honor personal conscience,” she wrote. “And yet, the Catholic hierarchy seeks to polarize pro-choice Catholics and villainize people who make the moral choice to have abortions.”

“I am tired of feeling shame and stigma for being a pro-choice Catholic,” Wilson added. “And I’m not here for people to judge my own personal relationship with God.”

At 6:42 p.m. EST Catholics for Choice tweeted “FACT: 68% of Catholics want #RoeVWade to remain the law of the land. The #MarchForLife & @usccb want folks to think they speak for Catholics, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

The images were first reported on Twitter at 6:31 p.m. EST by reporter Jack Jenkins of Religious News Service. Widely shared on social media, the images drew some support but also sharp denunciations.

"The attempted desecration is enormous. Diabolical," Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco tweeted. "Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen."

"Just when you thought @Catholic4Choice couldn’t sink any lower. The group inside is praying for babies and mothers—and for the group outside to repent and believe the Gospel," tweeted Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

"The President of the United States is the most prominent Catholic in America.  He must condemn this immediately," tweeted CatholicVote.org. "His implicit defiance of Catholic social teaching on life has fueled this division in our church that activists are now exploiting."

Others were incredulous at the images they saw of the basilica.

"If this is real it is an atrocity. Support of murder projected on the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception???" tweeted Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas. "I pray that it is a fake photo photoshopped for evil purposes. If it is real it is horrible & even faking it is evil."

The provocative action by Catholics for Choice underscores a rise in hostility toward this year's March for Life, when many pro-life Americans are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A decision in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization is expected in June.

On Saturday, a group called NYC for Abortion Rights plans to hold a rally titled "F--- the March for Life" outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan. "Come picket and MAKE SOME NOISE with us!! We're disrupting the Catholic Church's anti-abortion bull--- on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision,” the group tweeted Wednesday.

“MEANWHILE, we're going to commemorate by disrupting their bull---- as much as we can, at the symbol of the Catholic Church's grotesque power in NY. Come speak out, sing, play, and show the antis that abortion isn't going away, and we aren't either,” the tweet says. 


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US:     Vigil Mass for Life: 'Every human being, at every stage of life, should be treated with respect'
The Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2015. / Addie Mena / CNA.

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2022 / 19:26 pm (CNA).

Catholics must work to promote a culture of life and work to support mothers, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said in his homily at the Opening Mass at the Prayer Vigil for Life on Thursday. 

“As we celebrate this pro-life vigil Mass, we are deeply conscious that the Supreme Court is weighing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” said Lori, the lead celebrant at the annual Mass on the eve of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20. 

Lori is the newly-installed chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. 

“This case gives the High Court an opportunity to undo the grave injustice it did in 1973, when in Roe v. Wade it was decided that a whole class of human beings, namely, the unborn, are outside the protection of the law, and thus ‘non-persons,’” he said.  

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns the legality of Mississippi’s law banning abortion after the 15th week of a pregnancy. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, it will be the first pre-viability prohibition on abortion since Roe v. Wade found a legal right to an abortion throughout the entirety of a pregnancy. 

Should the court overturn Roe, Lori explained, states would be permitted to write their own laws on the legality of abortion. 

“If legal protection is accompanied by more care for mothers and children, then it will be more and more clear to more and more of our fellow citizens that choosing life does not hinder happiness and does not burden society,” he said. 

“On the contrary, choosing life creates a society that looks to the future with hope, a society where a woman is never forced to choose between her future and her unborn child,” said Lori. 

For Catholics, said Lori, justice is a matter of reason, not faith. 

“And reason tells us that every human being, at every stage of life, should be treated with respect, protected, and cared for,” he added. 

If the Supreme Court does move to overturn Roe, Lori implored Catholics to be a “clear and united voice” saying that “our society and laws can and must protect and care for women and their children.”

Lori said it was a “matter of fundamental justice” legally to protect the unborn, as well as to “redouble our efforts to accompany women and couples who are facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, offering them loving and compassionate care.” 

During his 45 years of priesthood, Lori said he has met with many women and men who were considering abortion. 

“Almost without exception, these women and couples were deeply conflicted,” he said. “Most experienced a very deep and real anguish.” 

He said that for many of these people, “it seemed their only option was to have an abortion, but deep within, they knew it was a tragic choice with lasting consequences.” 

“What is needed so badly in all such situations is a witness to love and to life,” said Lori. 

That witness, he said, is provided through the work of pro-life ministries. 

The archbishop praised these ministries, singling out the USCCB’s “Walking with Moms in Need,” the Sisters of Life, pregnancy centers, and Project Rachel. Project Rachel assists women and men who are post-abortive and seeking spiritual healing and renewal. 

“In all these ways and more, the Church seeks to bring light, healing, and hope, thus witnessing to the beauty of life, and ‘building a culture of life,’ one mother and child at a time,” he said.

Lori then spoke to those attending the Mass, telling them to “go forth from this Mass with renewed resolve to reach out to a family member, a neighbor, or a fellow parishioner, to encourage them to join in this great cause for life,” and to “reach out in a personal way to help a mother and a child in need.” 

“This is our time to create a new culture of life in America,” he said.  

The opening Mass at the Prayer Vigil for Life was celebrated in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, were among the dozens of bishops and priests present. 

While the Mass was being said, the dissenting group Catholics for Choice projected messages supportive of abortion rights on the basilica’s bell tower.

The Prayer Vigil for Life concludes at 8:00 a.m. on Jan. 21, with a closing Mass. That Mass will be celebrated by O’Malley.


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Europe:     Popular Marian icon in Rome gets conservation check-up
The Salus Populi Romani was checked by Vatican art restorers Jan. 20, 2022. / Holy See Press Office

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Art restorers from the Vatican Museums checked the conservation of an important Byzantine Marian icon in Rome on Thursday.

The image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani — Protection of the Roman People — was found still to be in “excellent condition,” according to a Jan. 20 statement.

The icon, which has been revered by the people of Rome for centuries, underwent a months-long restoration in 2017.

In January 2018, the image of Mary and the Child Jesus was returned to the Pauline (also called Borghese) Chapel of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. It is now kept inside an air-conditioned display case to ensure its continued conservation.

According to a statement from the basilica, after a short prayer, the image was taken down from its niche on Thursday morning and moved to a nearby hall where it was checked by Vatican technicians.

“Thus, amid general satisfaction, shortly after the ‘Angelus’ the Salus Populi Romani returned to display in ‘its’ Pauline Chapel,” the basilica stated.

The icon of Salus Populi Romani, which tradition says was painted by St. Luke, has long been considered a symbol of the city of Rome and its people. It has also been beloved by many popes, including Pope Francis, who has a strong devotion to the image.

He visits the icon before and after every international trip to ask for the Virgin Mary’s intercession and to pray in thanksgiving for her protection.

During Italy’s first wave of the coronavirus in March 2020, Pope Francis also stopped to pray before the image while making a brief pilgrimage for an end to the pandemic.  

The pope prayed silently before the icon for about 20 minutes on March 15, 2020. A few days prior, on March 11, he had sent a video message asking for Mary’s protection under the title of Salus Populi Romani.

“Under Your protection we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not despise the entreaties of us who are in trial, and free us from every danger, glorious and blessed Virgin,” Francis prayed via video.

“You, Protectress of the Roman People, you know what we need and we are sure that you will provide so that, as in Cana of Galilee, joy and celebration may return after this trying moment,” he said.

The icon was also carried in procession through Rome by St. Gregory I in 593 for an end to the plague.

The Marian image was returned to the basilica after a major cleaning and restoration on Jan. 28, 2018, the Feast of the Translation of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the occasion, and in his homily, he recalled that Mary’s mantle “is always open to receive us and gather us.”

“The Christian East reminds us of this, where many celebrate the Protection of the Mother of God, who in a beautiful icon is depicted with her mantle sheltering her sons and daughters and covering the whole world,” he said.

“Where our Mother is at home, the devil does not enter in. Where our Mother is present, turmoil does not prevail, fear does not conquer,” he continued. “Which of us does not need this, which of us is not sometimes distressed or anxious?”

“How often our heart is a stormy sea, where the waves of our problems pile up and the winds of our troubles do not stop blowing,” he said. “Mary is our secure ark in the midst of the flood. It will not be ideas or technology that will give us comfort or hope, but our Mother’s face, her hands that caress our life, her mantle that gives us shelter. Let us learn how to find refuge, going each day to our Mother.”


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US:     Poll finds American majority want Roe v Wade to go
Thomas Andreas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2022 / 18:29 pm (CNA).

More than 60% of Americans disagree with the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a new Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll survey.

The poll, released two days before the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, found that 44% say that the Supreme Court should leave abortion up to ea​​ch individual state and 17% say the court should make abortion illegal.

The Supreme Court will decide later this year Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges Roe v. Wade and asks “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb.

While 55% of respondents identified as “pro-choice” and 40% called themselves “pro-life,” only 17% agreed that “abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy.” This number stayed low regardless of political affiliation. Only 31% of Democrats, 1% of Republicans, and 19% of independents said a woman should be able to obtain an abortion at any time.

In other words, 83% of Americans want some kind of limit on abortion.

“I think what is really an important takeaway is that opinion itself on abortion, although in the political realm is always discussed as complex and complicated, it is very clear in terms of public opinion,” Marist Poll Director Barbara Carvalho said during a press call. 

For the past 14 years, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, has partnered with Marist Poll to survey Americans’ attitudes on abortion. This latest survey of 1,004 adults was conducted Jan. 4—9.

Both Carvalho and Timothy Saccoccia, vice president of public policy for the Knights of Columbus, pointed to the survey results regarding gestational limits when CNA asked what they found most surprising.

Here, Americans answered “at which point should abortions for other reasons be limited” if abortion remains legal including for cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a mother.  42% said “the point at which a fetus can feel pain,” 36% said “the point at which a fetus can live outside the womb” (or the point of viability), 11% volunteered responses, and another 11% responded “unsure.”

“Anytime we see kind of double digits on a question where there is — where we have so many possibilities of a response, that suggests that people aren’t necessarily on one side or the other, but they are weighing what this actually means,” Carvalho explained. “I think that’s a very interesting number given that viability has been something that has been in part of this process for such a very, very long time.”

Regarding the threshold of fetal pain or viability, she added, “I think that that probably is one of the questions that the data would be most against the conventional wisdom that we have seen both in Congress and in the debate of this issue.”

Saccoccia also told CNA that “Any time we ask a new question, I think we’re always interested to see what the result is going to be.”

He pointed to the question regarding medical abortion. The survey found that 63% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose new federal rules that allow sending prescription drugs that induce an abortion through the mail instead of getting them in-person from a specially certified health provider. 

This comes after the Food and Drug Administration lifted restrictions on mifepristone, a drug approved for use in medical abortions, in December.

“That was an interesting tidbit of information to learn,” Saccoccia said, “especially as that conversation is really starting up and as people are talking about it more, especially in light of potential changes that could come following any decision in the Dobbs case.”

At another point, he said of Dobbs: “I think as the Supreme Court considers the case . . . the American people are paying attention and have opinions there that would seem to indicate an opportunity to reconsider and an opportunity to view these more nuanced opinions in law and in jurisprudence.”

The survey findings broke down the numbers by political affiliation and by Americans’ position on abortion. The survey also found that 54% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion and 73% oppose or strongly oppose using tax dollars to fund abortion services in other countries.

The survey addressed religious objections to abortion, particularly in health care. 71% of respondents said doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals who have religious objections to abortion should not be legally required to perform abortions. 54% of them think that organizations who have religious objections to abortion should not be legally required to provide insurance coverage for abortions.

Instead of separating the well-being of a mother and an unborn child, 81% of Americans believe laws can protect both mother and baby.

As president of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie Dannenfelser welcomed the results.

“Life is winning in hearts and minds across America,” she said in a statement. “For almost 50 years the Supreme Court has tied the hands of elected leaders nationwide as they strive to protect the unborn and their mothers, even from late-term abortions that inflict excruciating pain on children in the womb. Now, that right may finally be restored and the will of the people reflected in the law.”


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US:     Joe Donnelly confirmed as US ambassador to the Holy See
Joe Donnelly, official portrait, 2013. / United States Senate Historical Office

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2022 / 17:18 pm (CNA).

In a voice vote on Thursday the U.S. Senate confirmed Joe Donnelly as ambassador to the Holy See. The former senator for Indiana was nominated for the post by president Joe Biden in October 2021. 

The Jan. 20 vote made Donnelly the twelfth U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Donnelly “is a person of deep Catholic faith and commitment to public service, and I am confident that he will serve in this important new role with vision and integrity,” Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C, president of the University of Notre Dame, commented. Donnelly received degrees from the university, and later taught there. 

“It comes as no surprise that there was broad bipartisan support for his confirmation, as he has proven throughout his career that he is committed to building relationships and working across divisions,” Fr. Jenkins continued.

A Catholic, Donnelly received both an undergraduate and a law degree from Notre Dame. 

He served in the U.S. Senate from 2013 to 2019.

He had represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District from 2007 to 2013, during which time he voted against funding embryonic stem cell research and was a strong foe of abortion funding in the Affordable Care Act. He was one of the last House Democratic holdouts who abandoned their opposition and voted for the bill on its final passage in 2010, as President Obama promised the bill would not fund abortion. The U.S. bishops’ conference remained opposed to the law, in large part due to concerns about its funding of abortion coverage.

In the Senate he reversed his position against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions.

Donnelly has recently been a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm in Washington, D.C. He has served as chairman of the board at the New York-based Soufan Center, a non-profit think tank whose work on global security and foreign policy focuses on counter-terrorism, violent extremism, and armed conflict.

He is an advisor to multiple corporations, and the White House noted that his honors include the U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

While in Congress, Donnelly was known as a pro-labor, pro-life moderate Democrat, who changed his position on marriage. In 2013 he announced his support for redefining marriage, saying it was “the right thing to do,” as Politico reported.

He supported some pro-life policies over the years, including restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks and banning taxpayer-funded abortion.

Pro-life groups were split on Donnelly in his failed 2018 re-election campaign. Democrats for Life of America supported his re-election, but Susan B. Anthony List opposed his candidacy, saying he “claims to be pro-life, but he has a history of betrayal on important pro-life votes.” His vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court surfaced as a topic in his re-election effort, along with the issue of abortion, which his opponent Mike Braun repeatedly raised in a 2018 debate.

Callista Gingrich served as ambassador to the Holy See under president Donald Trump. Since Biden’s inauguration, Patrick Connell has been serving as chargé d'affaires ad interim at the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.


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US:     Coalition to protect, advance Catholic health care launches
Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (second from left), speaks during a press conference Jan. 20, 2023 in Washington, D.C. announcing the formation of the Catholic Health Care Leadership Alliance. With him in the photo are other members of the alliance's board of directors: Dr. Steven White of the Catholic Medical Association (far left), Douglas G. Wilson, Jr., CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association (third from left), and Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation. / Shannon Mullen/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2022 / 16:38 pm (CNA).

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, and the leaders of five Catholic medical or professional associations on Thursday founded the Catholic Health Care Leadership Alliance, meant to support the reception and provision of health care in accord with Church teaching.

“This Alliance brings together the best minds in medicine, law, business, and theology. I look forward to working with CHCLA and my brother Bishops to guide and support CHCLA in this important work that will not only bring faithful medicine to our people, but bring our people to a deeper relationship with God,” Conley, chair of the group's episcopal advisory board, said in a statement.

He added that it will “serve as a reliable and trustworthy resource for bishops to turn for assistance, information, and support; so that bishops can properly and more effectively exercise their pastoral office in overseeing health care ministry in their diocese. They will be better equipped to help facilitate an atmosphere of mutual understanding, fruitful collaboration, and ecclesial communion with the health care leaders in their dioceses.”

The alliance's inaugural event was held at the Washington, D.C., campus of Hillsdale College, a liberal arts college founded by Free Will Baptists but which has now has no affiliation with an ecclesial group.

The alliance's board is composed of representatives of the Catholic Medical Association, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the Catholic Benefits Association, the Catholic Bar Association, and Christ Medicus Foundation.

Franciscan Health, a healthcare system operating in Indiana and Illinois, is the alliance's first system member.

Sister Jane Marie Klein, O.S.F., chair of the board of Franciscan Health, commented that “Our sacred obligation to attest to and uphold the moral teachings of the Church concerning the sanctity of life throughout its natural progression from conception until natural death is being challenged by those who wish to secularize all health care providers. CHCLA is being formed to be a beacon of light and truth, an organization that will defend the right of faith-based providers to deliver care in concert with their religious beliefs.”

“A disproportionate number of people in our country, the poor and the elderly, the marginalized, and those without a voice struggle to receive adequate care. CHCLA wants to be their advocate. Franciscan Alliance is proud to be a part of an advocacy forum that defends both the dignity of all persons and religious freedom,” she added.

Dr. Steven White, president of the alliance, said that “to uphold the truth of the Catholic faith in the practice of medicine there is an urgent need for a clear, strong, and united voice to promote and defend medical care practiced in harmony with the mind of Christ and the long-standing tradition of His Church.”

A pulmonologist and director of respiratory Care at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, White called the coalescing of the alliance's member organizations "an inspiration of the Holy Spirit" that comes at a time when Catholic health care is facing an "existential threat."

"It's so necessary that we come together, as I like to refer to it, as the Body of Christ," White said. "We can't stay in our silos any longer."

Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said the alliance's formation comes a "providential time when ethical challenges in health care are growing, and it gives a voice to many organizations and individuals who strongly support Catholic values in health care, by having an alliance of national organizations to represent them."

The founding president of the Catholic Bar Association, Joshua M. McCaig, said it is hoped that “this Alliance, and the expertise brought by its members in the areas of medicine, law, policy, advocacy, education, and bioethics, will serve as a unique resource to health care providers, patients, the Church, and our country. It is imperative that the dignity of those called to serve the sick is protected and defended so they may practice their profession in accordance with their conscience, their faith and their beliefs, as well as for patients who seek out providers who share the faith and expect treatment options consistent with their beliefs and values.”

Douglas G. Wilson, CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association, spoke Thursday about the recent disclosure in a federal lawsuit, reported by the National Catholic Register in November, that the U.S. Department of Health (HHS) is developing sweeping new regulations that would require U.S. health care providers to provide abortion and gender-transition services, without any religious exemptions.

Such extreme regulations, said Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, a Catholic health sharing network, "would in effect make Catholic health care illegal in the United States."

Brown said the fight to preserve religious exemptions for faith-based health providers to offer "pro-life care" promises to become "the biggest pro-life battle" in the nation.

More information about the alliance is available on its website, catholichealthalliance.org.


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US:     Copyright and the Catechism of the Catholic Church make for some legal surprises 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church / Carl Bunderson/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jan 20, 2022 / 16:19 pm (CNA).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church was released in 1992 after years of development. It has helped generations of Catholics to deepen their understanding of their Christian faith.

But those who want to use the Catechism text for internet projects have to deepen their understanding of something else: U.S. copyright law and the requirements of the Catechism’s U.S. copyright holder, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Matthew Warner, founder of the Texas-based church communications software company FlockNote, once faced a cease-and-desist letter from USCCB attorneys for a daily free email that sent excerpts from the Catechism to those who subscribed. Though he eventually secured the necessary legal permissions for this project, he wonders if there’s a better way.

“I don’t think they should be hesitant at all to give permission to everyone,” Warner told CNA. “These essential documents of the Church should be freely licensed to anyone who wants to promote their usage in any way. There are ways to do that where the USCCB still retains the legal right to protect the integrity of the texts.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. bishops’ conference, however, says there are good reasons for the paperwork.

“Each year, the USCCB receives hundreds of requests for commercial and other uses of the Catechism in the United States,” Chieko Noguchi, director of public affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA.

“Each request is reviewed in light of our contractual obligations to the Holy See, due respect for copyright law, and other considerations,” Noguchi said. “We are required to ensure an accurate use of the Catechism in a manner that respects intellectual property for the license granted to us by the Holy See. The Catechism plays an important role in the faith formation of Catholics, and we look forward to continuing to find ways to make it more accessible.”

Warner’s company ran afoul of copyright restrictions on a project involving the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In response to Benedict XVI’s 2012 Year of Faith exhortation to Catholics asking them to read the catechism, Flocknote launched a “Catechism in a Year” email at no charge to subscribers.

“You get one email per day with a little bit of the Catechism,” Warner recounted. “365 days later you’ve read the whole thing.”

“We had over 100,000 people sign up, and it very quickly became the largest group in history to study the Catechism together,” he said. “We’ve had over 300,000 (users) participate since and it is still going. It’s been phenomenal.”

The project’s initial use of the Catechism prompted a reaction from the bishops’ conference that Warner didn’t expect.

“(P)art way through that first year the USCCB had their lawyers send us a cease and desist letter to shut it down,” he said. “I told them what a tragic idea that was and even offered to give the whole thing to them. They simply asked again for us to shut it down. It was very sad for me.”

The Flocknote project eventually pivoted to using texts like YouCat, the 2011 Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the 2005 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The latter is also a USCCB publication.

“Luckily, we were able to work with Ignatius Press to get permission to use the YouCat as a substitute, and were able to finish the year,” Warner said. “A few years later we were able to get permission from the USCCB to use the Compendium of the Catechism, which has been a really good fit for a daily email.”

Though Noguchi did not discuss particular requests to use the Catechism text, she explained there are legal constraints on the USCCB.

“Unfortunately, not every request can be granted,” she said. “Other considerations, such as honoring the exclusive contract granted for the original mass-market paperback and gift editions must be considered. We make every reasonable attempt to work with publishers. At times, it has been necessary to notify groups of copyright infringements, but we will not comment further on negotiations between the USCCB and those seeking permissions.”

The Catechism’s second edition runs to 924 pages in the English-language paperback edition. This version is available through the USCCB website at a cost of just under $30.

St. John Paul II authored an Aug. 15, 1997 apostolic letter marking the Catechism’s publication. He praised the work as a “genuine, systematic presentation of the faith and of Catholic doctrine” and urged Catholic bishops “to intensify their efforts to disseminate the text more widely.”

The USCCB’s website provides an online version of the Catechism and offers several resources, including a question-and-answer document with 48 sections.

The website also discusses copyright issues and permission for the use of the Catechism.

“The Holy See has given the United States Conference of Catholic (USCCB) specific rights and responsibilities regarding the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the website says. Written permission is required for all editions of the catechism published or imported for commercial distribution in the U.S. Excerpts from the English, Spanish or French language catechism may be used only in compliance with USCCB guidelines.

Both the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catechism and USCCB Publishing oversee how the Catechism is used. Their goals are to preserve the integrity of the text, to seek its “widest possible distribution,” and to encourage “the proper use of the text” in secondary and derivative works.

Warner questioned whether the USCCB’s approach is in the best interest of the Catholic Church’s mission.

“I think their view of how to ‘control’ or ‘protect’ the texts of the Church is outdated and, in practice, ends up hurting the promotion of these important and essential texts, therefore working against the Church’s mission,” he said, reflecting on the obstacles his company faced.

This put a group like Flocknote “in a tough spot of trying to keep the USCCB, which represents my Church, from looking bad while also hopefully working to bring about positive change,” Warner said. “I do think it’s gradually gotten better and I hope it continues in that direction. We are very grateful they let us use the Compendium and many people have benefited from that. I hope those kinds of partnerships continue.”

Warner had advice for small projects or volunteer groups want to adapt the Catechism for new efforts and new media: “just ask the USCCB and see what they say.”

“Give the USCCB the benefit of the doubt and engage in good faith, even after hitting those initial roadblocks. Keep trying. There are good people working there. Make connections and let’s work together to improve the situation. It’s possible. And we’ll be most productive if we work together on it as brothers and sisters,” he said. “They do give permission sometimes. If they don’t, find out why. Share the answer with your bishop and hopefully we can all work together to make it easier to use and promote these texts.”

Flocknote makes no money from its catechism project, said Warner, who added: “In fact, it costs us lots of money to provide it for free. But we’re fine with that.”

The guidelines for use of the Catechism discuss various ways to include copyright notices and to ensure accuracy in using the text. Printed works, recordings, or other electronic media that use the text do not need to secure USCCB permission, provided the use of the text is fewer than 5,000 words.

If this word limit is exceeded, further permission is required regardless of whether the work is commercial or non-commercial. It is still necessary to secure written permission from the USCCB and a USCCB review of non-commercial works. Commercial use of the Catechism text faces another requirement: they must pay a pro-rated royalty, under Vatican requirements, calculated based on 10% of the list price.

These measures even apply to the educational works of dioceses or entities directly under diocesan control.  

Father Mike Schmitz, the Diocese of Duluth priest who hosts the popular podcast The Bible in a Year from the Catholic publisher Ascension, has said that he had originally hoped to read both the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church over a one-year period. A catechism-in-a-year project is now in the early stages of development, Schmitz told EWTN Nightly News anchor Tracy Sobol in December.

“We wanted to give people a time to be able to finish the Bible podcast before they had this other thing, you know, on their shoulders,” he said, “and so we’re going to start it in 2023, God willing, if we get all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted.”

CNA contacted Ascension, which declined further comment.

The USCCB website also notes the legal permissions required for use of the New American Bible, whose English edition is copyrighted by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.


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US:     Milwaukee archdiocese provides gender theory policy based on biological sex
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. / Credit: Sulfur via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Milwaukee, Wis., Jan 20, 2022 / 15:04 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee this week put forth a policy related to gender theory, which includes the provision that only pronouns corresponding to a person’s biological sex are to be used in parishes, schools, and other Catholic institutions or organizations.

The policy states that “As a general rule, in all interactions and policies, parishes, organizations, and institutions are to recognize only a person’s biological sex,” which it defines as “the sex with which a person is born, regardless of acceptance or perceived identity.”

“Permitting the designation of a preferred pronoun, while often intended as an act of charity, instead promotes an acceptance of the separability of biological sex and ‘gender’ and thus opposes the truth of our sexual unity,” it said.

In the Catechesis section of the policy, the archdiocese lays out the Catholic Church’s teaching on the topic of gender. Humans are created by God as inseparable composites of body and soul, and “Our biological sex, expressed by our body, is a gift from God and is unchangeable,” the document says. 

“A person’s ‘gender’ is inseparable from biological sex,” it also notes. “While biological sex and ‘gender’—or the socio-cultural role of sex as well as ‘psychological identity’—can be distinguished, they can never be separated. Should someone experience a tension between biological sex and ‘gender,’ they should know that this interior conflict is not sinful in itself but rather reflects ‘the broader disharmony caused by original sin’ and often results from the residue of social ills and cultural distortions of what constitutes ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity.’”

The document notes that people experiencing “interior conflict” between their biological sex and their psychological identity “should be treated with respect and with charity, and ‘no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults, or unjust discrimination’ based on such experiences.”

"Only by turning to Christ can one acknowledge and accept one’s sexual identity in every aspect—
physical, moral, social, and spiritual —and only through such an acceptance can the human person in
turn experience the freedom promised by Christ," the archdiocese stated.

“Parishes, schools, and other Catholic institutions or organizations should take the necessary precautions, in accord with the policies of this document, to avoid bullying and to protect the integrity of those who may express tension or concerns about their biological sex,” the document reads. 

The policy forbids the use or distribution of any medications for the purpose of gender reassignment.

The policy also says that where a dress code or uniform exists, all persons are to follow the dress code or uniform that accords with their biological sex. It also notes that bathrooms and locker rooms are to be used in accordance with biological sex, and that participation in athletic and extracurricular activities “must be conformed with the biological sex of the participant.”

The Milwaukee document cites Pope Francis writing in Laudato si’: “Learning to accept our body, to care for it, and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology…It is not a healthy attitude which would seek ‘to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.’”

Milwaukee is one of several U.S. dioceses in recent years to issue guidance related to gender theory based on the Congregation for Catholic Education's 2019 document “Male and Female He Created Them”, which says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and women, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.


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US:     Catholic prep school keeps unvaccinated kids behind plastic barriers at lunch
CDC vaccination card / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jan 20, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A group of parents and alumni has called on a top Catholic prep school in Boston to stop treating unvaccinated students as “potential biohazards” by isolating them from vaccinated students at lunch time behind plastic barriers and barring them from participating in sports.

The COVID-19 measures at Boston College High School go beyond those of other Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston and public schools in the state. The lunch time policy also contradicts guidance from the U.S. Centers on Disease and Prevention (CDC), which discourages schools from separating students based on their vaccination status.

But the Jesuit-run, all-male prep school, one of the top academic and athletic schools in the state, says the measures are necessary to ensure that students can continue to attend classes in person.

Some 98% of the school's 1,430 students in grades 7 through 12 are vaccinated, said Colleen Carter, the school’s vice president for external relations, which means that only about two dozen or so students are unvaccinated.

Carter told CNA that the clear Plexiglas dividers during lunch are meant “to keep everyone — regardless of vaccination status — as safe as possible.”

Unvaccinated students who violate the policy could be sent home and be subject to a meeting with their parents and a school official, the policy states.

The policy says the rules are consistent with Jesuit values of “relationship and care,” adding that students and adults do best when they are “valued, cared for, and respected.” But not all parents see it that way.

Two dozen parents and alumni signed a petition in October calling on the school’s board of trustees to rescind the policy, arguing that “the social-emotional, physical, and intellectual needs of unvaccinated students at BC High are being wholly denied and neglected.”

“We believe that it is short-sighted and developmentally harmful to create a school environment in which students regard classmates as potential biohazards, and where teachers and staff are emboldened to openly single boys out in service of these excessive separation measures,” the petition states.

“It is our sincere intention and prayer that BC High not join those in history who have acted in morally reprehensible ways under the guise of virtue and in the name of public good,” the petition states.

Parents who signed the petition declined to comment on the record to CNA.

Months after the petition was submitted to the trustees, the policy remains in place.

“We are remarkably proud of the policies and procedures we have put into place to ensure our community remains safe and healthy and that our students continue to have the opportunity to learn in an in-person environment,” Carter told CNA.

In addition to being separated from their vaccinated peers at lunch time, unvaccinated students are barred from participating in any co-curricular activities, which includes sports.

“This policy, which remains in place today, has served us well,” Carter said. “We are not aware of any transmission on campus or among our teams this fall.”

The petition said that lunch segregation and denying unvaccinated students the ability to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities is “a practice without scientific justification.”

The petition says that available vaccines cannot prevent infection or transmission of COVID-19, while noting that “the only person who can benefit from the vaccination is the vaccinated individual. It protects no one else!”

The petition states that the school's policy also conflicts with guidance from the CDC.

"Cohorting people who are fully vaccinated and people who are not fully vaccinated into separate cohorts is not recommended. It is a school’s responsibility to ensure that cohorting is done in an equitable manner that does not perpetuate academic, racial, or other tracking," the CDC states.

Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, told CNA that the archdiocese’s policy does not require students to be separated at lunch based on vaccination status, nor does it require vaccination for participation in sports or extracurricular activities. However, the archdiocese’s protocols don’t apply to school’s run by religious orders, he added. 

Carroll said he is not aware of any other Catholic school in the archdiocese that has adopted Boston College High School’s approach to mandated vaccines.

Unvaccinated students are allowed to partake in sports in the state of Massachusetts. The Cambridge Public School system, a school system in Greater Boston, also voted for the 2021-2022 school year to exclude unvaccinated students from sports and extracurricular activities. 

The petition maintains the school's policy runs counter to guidance from the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), whose directors include Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston.

"If any institution mandates COVID-19 vaccination, the NCBC strongly urges robust, transparent, and readily accessible exemptions for medical, religious, and conscience reasons,” according to statement issued by the NCBC on July 2, 2021.

“Catholic institutions, in particular, should respect the decisions of people to decline the use of vaccines dependent on abortion-derived cell lines," the NCBC states.

The petition maintains that the school’s COVID-19 measures have led some parents to vaccinate their students “against their better judgment and, worse, against their conscience.”

“We reject any notion of ‘protection’ for students and staff that trades dignity for discrimination,” the petition states.


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Vatican:     It’s official: St. Irenaeus to be declared a Doctor of the Church
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202). / Public Domain.

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon is one step closer to being the first martyr to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Pope Francis met with the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Thursday to discuss the conferral of the title on the saint.

During the meeting, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro informed the pope that the plenary session of the cardinals and bishops from the saints’ congregation had found the 2nd-century bishop worthy of the title, according to a Vatican statement Jan. 20.

Pope Francis has already made public his intention to declare Irenaeus a Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor unitatis,” meaning “Doctor of Unity.”

In a speech to a group of Catholic and Orthodox theologians last October, the pope called St. Irenaeus “a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians.”

St. Irenaeus is a bishop and writer revered by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians and known for refuting the heresies of Gnosticism with a defense of both Christ’s humanity and divinity.

While some of St. Irenaeus’ most important writings have survived, the details of his life are not as well preserved. He was born in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, likely in the coastal city of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, around the year 140 A.D.

As a young man, he heard the preaching of the early Christian bishop St. Polycarp, who had been personally instructed by the Apostle John. Irenaeus became a priest, serving the Church in the region of Gaul, in what is now France, during a difficult period in the late 170s.

During this time of state persecution and doctrinal controversy, Irenaeus was sent to Rome to provide Pope St. Eleutherius with a letter about the heretical movement known as Montanism.

After returning to Lyon, Irenaeus became the city’s second bishop, following the martyrdom of his predecessor St. Pothinus.

In the course of his work as a pastor and evangelist, the second bishop of Lyon came up against heretical doctrines and movements that insisted that the material world was evil and not part of God’s original plan.

Irenaeus recognized this movement, in all its forms, as a direct attack on the Catholic faith. He rebutted the Gnostic errors in his lengthy book “Against Heresies,” which is still studied today for its historical value and theological insights.

A shorter work, the “Proof of the Apostolic Preaching,” contains Irenaeus’ presentation of the Gospel with a focus on Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Several of his other works are now lost, though a collection of fragments from them has been compiled and translated.

Irenaeus died in Lyon around 202, when Emperor Septimus Severus ordered the martyrdom of Christians.

During Pope Francis’ meeting with Semeraro, the pope also authorized a decree concerning the heroic virtue of three Italians: Archbishop Francesco Saverio Toppi of Pompeii (1925-2007); Mother Maria Teresa DeVincenti, the founder of the Congregation of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart (1872-1936); and Sister Gabriella Borgarino of the society of the Daughters of Charity (1880-1949).

The U.S. bishops voted in 2019 in favor of having St. Irenaeus named a Doctor of the Church at the request of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the then archbishop of Lyon, and sent their approval to the Vatican for the pope’s consideration.

Pope Francis previously declared St. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk, a Doctor of the Church in 2015.

Benedict XVI named Sts. John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Church in 2012.

Seventeen of the 36 figures declared Doctors of the Church by the Catholic Church lived before the Great Schism of 1054 and are also revered by Orthodox Christians.

“His name, Irenaeus, contains the word ‘peace,’” Pope Francis said on Oct. 7.

“We know that the Lord’s peace is not a ‘negotiated’ peace, the fruit of agreements meant to safeguard interests, but a peace that reconciles, that brings together in unity. That is the peace of Jesus.”


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US:     Philadelphia Archdiocese pro-lifers doing ‘amazing things’ for life at all stages
At the Jan. 23, 2021 Philadelphia March for Life, Luke Parlee and his mother Terry of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, displayed ultrasound images of his development at six and 33 weeks alongside his high school senior portrait. / Gina Christian/CatholicPhilly.com

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 20, 2022 / 11:46 am (CNA).

As the nation marks almost 50 years of legalized abortion, pro-life advocates in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia say they’re committed to “all-encompassing” support for human dignity, from conception to natural death.

“What you say at the beginning of life, you say at the end of life,” said Steven Bozza, bioethicist and director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family. “The question is, ‘How are we being pro-life with all of the stages of life?’”

The answer involves a broad array of public witness, legislative change, social outreach, scientific advancement and education — all inspired by faith, love and courage, he said.

“Catholic social teaching reveals a beautifully consistent ethic of life,” said Bozza.

Upholding that ethic first requires a recognition that abortion ultimately devalues human life at every age, said Bozza.

“Think of the social problems we see in the news every day — violence, people killing each other,” he said. “It boils down to a disrespect for human life. You’re not respecting human life in the womb. What makes you think you’ll respect it on the street?”

Since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton cases, over 61 million abortions have taken place in the U.S., an average of 2,000 per day.

Globally, there are a total of some 73.3 million abortions each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute — a number at least five million greater than United Kingdom’s current population, and almost 15 million more than the United Nation’s 2019 crude death rate, or total number of deaths worldwide in a given year.

Abortion particularly impacts communities of color: Black, Hispanic and other non-White patients accounted for 62% of all U.S. abortions in 2014, according to Guttmacher.

Marching for Life

On Jan. 21, Bozza will join thousands expected at the 49th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. After last year’s virtual observance due to COVID, the gathering — launched by Nellie Gray in 1974 to protest the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions — will resume its in-person format.

Trips to the march are being organized by some two dozen Philadelphia-area parishes, Catholic schools and Knights of Columbus chapters, with Bozza’s office coordinating bus parking permits for groups traveling to pre-march Masses at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

A number of local teens will stay in Washington to attend the Jan. 22 National Pro-Life Summit, hosted by Students for Life of America (SFLA). The all-day session, set to take place at the capital’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, will provide training for grassroots pro-life activists.

“We have students signed up from private, public and parochial schools,” said Maria Parker, theology department chair at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

SFLA has provided Parker with some 80 free tickets to the conference, while support from the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia (PLU) and Pennsylvanians for Human Life is covering the cost of transportation for her group.

Prayers for the unborn

Along with public demonstrations, prayer remains vital to ending abortion, say pro-life advocates.

The PLU will hold a prayer vigil Jan. 22 at 10 am outside Planned Parenthood’s downtown location at 12th and Locust Streets. Both the vigil and the SFLA summit will take place on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, observed in all the Catholic dioceses of the U.S.

Pro-life advocate Ashley Garecht (second left) joined some 30 others at a Dec. 1, 2021 prayer vigil outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood site, an event organized by the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. Gina Christian/CatholicPhilly.com
Pro-life advocate Ashley Garecht (second left) joined some 30 others at a Dec. 1, 2021 prayer vigil outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood site, an event organized by the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. Gina Christian/CatholicPhilly.com

As in recent years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is also inviting faithful across the nation to participate in the 9 Days for Life novena (Jan. 19-27) for the protection of human life.

With materials available in both English and Spanish, each day’s novena intention includes a short reflection, suggested acts of reparation and additional resources for understanding church teaching and pastoral outreach regarding abortion.

Throughout the month of January, a Zoom-based rosary campaign for the end of abortion is being recited each evening at 9 p.m., led by Mickey Kelly, a local pro-life advocate and board president of the St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation. Those wishing to join the rosary can email Kelly for the Zoom link.

Headwinds and hope

Amid ongoing efforts to end abortion, several challenges remain, say area pro-life leaders.

The Supreme Court’s pending ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case — a decision expected by July — could overturn Roe v. Wade and redirect the abortion issue to the state level for legislation.

But that’s where the work begins anew, said Father Christopher Walsh, PLU chairman and pastor of St. Raymond of Peñafort Parish in Philadelphia.

States such as New Jersey have already moved “to enshrine a ‘right to abortion’ in their law,” said Walsh, noting “there are plans to do the same in Pennsylvania.”

For that reason, “it is essential for people who believe in the civil rights of the unborn child to be united,” he said.

In the process of “(fighting) this legal battle,” he said, “the more challenging battle for hearts and minds must continue.”

Walsh urged compassion in “listening to those who believe abortion is permissible,” and advised pro-life advocates to “share the truth with (abortion proponents) little by little, with patience but also with conviction.”

And men need to be part of that conversation on abortion, said Bozza.

“I put much of this issue squarely into the hands of the men involved,” he said, citing Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which warned that artificial contraception and abortion would result in a woman being reduced to “a mere instrument for the satisfaction of (a man’s) desires,” without regard for “the reverence due to (her)”

PLU president and CEO Tom Stevens agreed, describing abortion as “an easy way out for men.”

At the same time, many men are simply excluded “when there’s an unexpected pregnancy,” and a decision to seek an abortion “can cause great grief for a man,” said Stevens.

Both he and Bozza said chemical abortions, the pills for which are now widely available in several states through telemedicine and online delivery services, compound that marginalization – while endangering the health of women and teen girls.

“A doctor or a nurse practitioner could be talking to a 14-year-old girl in her bedroom, and there’s no ultrasound, so you don’t really know how far along she is, or if she has an ectopic pregnancy,” said Stevens. “It’s really dangerous.”

“What happens when things go wrong, and she ends up in the hospital?” asked Bozza, noting that advances in medical science are themselves paving the way to end abortion.

“When women look at ultrasound videos, there’s no mistaking those are children in the womb,” he said. “And modern genetics (shows) that what a person is genetically at the moment of conception, they’ll always be; there’s no changing that.”

Thanks to entities such as SFLA and Live Action, younger generations have “the scientific information” to “debunk the social myths” surrounding abortion, said Parker.

“I think most of our students are definitely pro-life, and they just need the knowledge and information so they can connect what they’re feeling in their hearts with their heads,” she said.

The wide range of pregnancy and parenting supports provided by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services and the PLU’s numerous member outreaches offer tangible help and hope to women in crisis pregnancies, offering them alternatives to abortion, said pro-life advocates.

“The pro-life community of Greater Philadelphia is doing amazing things,” said Walsh. “I hope others join these efforts for the good of the human family.”

Editor's note: This story was originally published by CatholicPhilly.com of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis: Human life is the most valuable work asset
Pope Francis met the Italian Association of Private Construction Contractors on Jan. 20, 2022 / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that human life is the most important asset to protect in the workplace, and lamented the many lives lost in work-related accidents or disease every year.

“People are the real wealth: without them, there is no working community, no enterprise, no economy,” the pope said Jan. 20 in an audience with the Italian Association of Private Construction Contractors.

“Workplace safety means safeguarding human resources, which are of inestimable value in the eyes of God and also in the eyes of the true entrepreneur,” he added.

In 2021, 1,404 people died in work accidents in Italy, according to the Independent National Observatory on Work Deaths. Of these, 695 happened in the actual workplace, as opposed to off-site — an 18% increase from 2020. Just over 30% of deaths were in the agricultural sector, while 15% were in construction.

The numbers do not include COVID-19 related deaths.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 2.3 million people lose their lives in work-related accidents or diseases every year worldwide.

“Last year, too many people died at work,” Pope Francis said in his speech to Italian construction workers. “They are not numbers, they are people.”

“Construction sites, too, have seen tragedies that we cannot ignore. Unfortunately, if we look at safety in the workplace as a cost, we are starting from the wrong assumption. People are the real wealth,” he underlined.

Francis stated that people are the highest patrimony, and workplace safety “allows everyone to express the best of themselves while earning their daily bread.”

“The more we take care of the dignity of work, the more certain we are that the quality and beauty of the work carried out will increase,” he said.

In his speech, the pope also shared some teachings of the Gospel which he said could help builders in their work.

In particular, he pointed to Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on sandy ground, an unstable foundation.

“Of course, Jesus is not thinking of great buildings, but he points out that these constructions are built by the river, while the good builder knows that at the first flood such a house is destined to be swept away,” Francis said.

The man who builds his house on rock, instead, “not only did the right thing in the present moment; he also defended the house from possible future floods.”

“In Jesus’ preaching, the believer is one who does not limit himself to appearing Christian on the outside, but who actively works as a Christian,” Pope Francis said.

“And it is precisely this ‘operational consistency’ that enables him to build himself up not only in the normal times of life, but to remain so even in difficult moments,” the pope continued. “This also means that faith does not protect us from bad weather, but, accompanied by good works, it strengthens us and makes us capable of resisting it.”


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Vatican:     Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI is praying for victims in wake of Munich abuse report
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. / Paul Badde/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein said on Thursday that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is praying for abuse victims in the wake of a report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, told reporters that the retired pope would read the extensive study in the coming days, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The study, issued on Jan. 20, accused the 94-year-old pope emeritus of mishandling four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

Gänswein said: “Benedict XVI did not have access until this afternoon to the report of the law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl, which has more than 1,000 pages. In the coming days, he will examine the text with the necessary attention.”

“The pope emeritus, as he has already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shock and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness and prayer for all the victims, some of whom he has met on the occasion of his apostolic journeys.”

Lawyer Martin Pusch, an author of the report, said at a press conference on Thursday that investigators had faulted the actions of Benedict XVI, who was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he led the Munich archdiocese.

“In a total of four cases, we concluded that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” he said.

Pusch noted that in two of the cases, clerics committed abuse while Ratzinger was in office. While they were criminally sanctioned by secular courts, they continued to perform pastoral duties, he said, and no action was taken against them under canon law.

In a third case, a cleric convicted by a foreign court worked in the Munich archdiocese. Pusch suggested that Ratzinger knew of the priest’s history.

Another case treated in the report relates to a priest named Father Peter Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.

The case of the priest identified in German reports only as “H.” was first highlighted by the media in 2010, when Benedict XVI was pope, and again earlier this month.

Gänswein told the German newspaper Die Zeit in early January: “The claim that he had knowledge of the previous history [allegations of sexual assault] at the time of the decision on the admission of Father H. [to the archdiocese] is wrong. He had no knowledge of his previous history.”

After leaving the Munich archdiocese in 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005. He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.

The new report covers not only the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, but also the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.

In addition to criticizing the future pope’s handling of four cases, investigators said that Wetter had mishandled 21 cases and Marx two cases.

Marx said that he was “shocked and ashamed” at the report’s findings.

The study identified at least 497 victims of abuse, but investigators said that the true figure was likely to be higher. They said that 247 victims were male, 182 female, while the gender of 68 victims could not be determined. They added that they had found 235 alleged perpetrators, including 173 priests.

A Vatican spokesman said on Jan. 20: “The Holy See considers that appropriate attention should be paid to the document, whose contents are presently unknown. In coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will be able to give it a careful and detailed examination.”

“In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them.”


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Europe:     Cardinal Marx ‘shocked and ashamed’ by Munich abuse report
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, pictured in June 2016. / Degreezero via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Munich, Germany, Jan 20, 2022 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Cardinal Reinhard Marx said on Thursday that he was “shocked and ashamed” at the findings of a report criticizing the handling of abuse cases in his Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

The study, issued on Jan. 20, accused the 68-year-old cardinal of mishandling two cases in the southern German archdiocese, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Investigators claimed that Marx, who has led the archdiocese since 2007, failed to support victims and report the cases to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a statement hours after the report’s publication, Marx did not respond directly to the criticisms.

He said: “My first thought today is for those affected by sexual abuse, who have experienced harm and suffering at the hands of Church representatives, priests, and other employees in the sphere of the Church, on an appalling scale. I am shocked and ashamed.”

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), the Munich law firm that produced the study, presented the conclusions of the more than 1,000-page text at a live-streamed press conference.

Marx was not present at the event. Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the firm, lamented the cardinal’s absence as she presented the report.

The authors of the “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019” also accused Pope emeritus Benedict XVI of mishandling four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

The 94-year-old retired pope, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

CNA Deutsch reported that lawyer Martin Pusch, one of the authors, said that Marx had emphasized that the main responsibility for handling abuse cases fell to the archdiocese’s ordinariate and vicariate general.

He said that the cardinal observed that he was primarily responsible for the “proclamation of the Word of God” but felt a “moral responsibility” regarding the cases.

Pusch questioned Marx’s position, saying: “When, if not in the case of the sexual abuse of minors, is the classification of an issue as a ‘matter for the boss’ applicable?”

“All the more so when the relevant regulations assign a central role to the diocesan bishop. That Cardinal Archbishop Marx would have assumed this was not for us to determine.”

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until 2020, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

He wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl produced a report on the Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases in 2010, which has never been published. It announced a delay in the publication of the new report in November 2021, citing “new findings obtained in the recent past” that required an “intensive review.”

In his statement, the cardinal said: “We have known for years that sexual abuse in the Church was not taken seriously, that the perpetrators were often not held accountable in the right way, that those responsible looked the other way.”

“This is precisely why, since the first expert report we commissioned in 2010, we have commissioned the expert report presented today from the law firm WSW. It is an important and indispensable building block for the processing of cases of sexual abuse in our archdiocese and also for the Church as a whole.”

“Since 2010, many things have already been changed and implemented in the archdiocese, and we are far from finished. We will also discuss and implement further changes based on the recommendations of the current report.”

In April 2021, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June 2021 that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the conclusions of the new abuse report “after a first reading and examination.”

Concluding his statement, Marx highlighted the “Synodal Way,” the controversial multi-year process bringing together bishops and laypeople to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

“Coming to terms with sexual abuse cannot be separated from the path of change, renewal, and reform of the Church. We will continue to work on this together,” he said.


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Vatican:     Roman Curia’s annual Lenten retreat changed again due to COVID-19
Pope Francis takes part in the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy, on March 6-10, 2016. Credit: Vatican Media. / null

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

For the third consecutive year, Pope Francis will not be gathering together with the Roman Curia for a spiritual retreat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis has asked members of the Roman Curia to make their own arrangements for a private Lenten retreat from Sunday, March 6 to Friday, March 11.

All papal events will be canceled between these dates, including the general audience that would have taken place on Wednesday, March 9.

The pope usually spends five days on retreat together with members of the Roman Curia participating in Lenten spiritual exercises.

The retreats took place in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome in a retreat house in the town of Ariccia from 2014 to 2020, although the pope was unable to participate in 2020 due to a cold.

A statement from the Holy See press office on Jan. 20 said that the retreat would not take place in Ariccia this year due to “the continuing epidemic emergency caused by COVID-19.”

Earlier this week, a Vatican spokesman confirmed that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and his substitute, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Parolin has “very mild” symptoms, while Peña Parra is asymptomatic, Matteo Bruni told journalists on Jan. 18.

The practice of the pope going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries in Lent began around 90 years ago under Pope Pius XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

Last year, Pope Francis also invited the Roman Curia to make the Lenten retreat privately due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He gave each member of the Roman Curia a book to include in their spiritual reading for their 2021 Lenten retreat.

The book, written by an unnamed Cistercian monk in the 17th century, was entitled “Abbi a cuore il Signore” (“Keep the Lord in your Heart”). It was originally written to aid monks in the Italian monastery of San Bartolo to grow in their spiritual lives.

In the text, the “Master of San Bartolo” wrote: “God will meet you where your humanity has descended all the steps of weakness and you have reached the awareness of your limitation.”

“If you yourself do not choose the path of abasement, life will take you where you would not want because, as the Lord teaches, only those who live their weakness with humility will be exalted.”


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Europe:     Pro-life group criticizes Macron’s call to add abortion to rights charter
French President Emmanuel Macron. / Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2022 / 07:05 am (CNA).

A pro-life group in France has denounced President Emmanuel Macron’s call to add abortion to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

“Advocating for the inclusion of a ‘right to abortion’ in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ignores the violence that abortion often inflicts on many women,” Alliance VITA said in a statement on Jan. 19.

“In France, a study found that less affluent women have more abortions than wealthier women. Abortion is a marker of social inequality.”

Alliance VITA is an association in France that provides support for women facing difficult or unplanned pregnancies and advocates for the protection of human life in public policy.

Caroline Roux, the deputy executive director of Alliance VITA, said that it is “necessary more than ever that a real assessment of the causes, conditions, and consequences of abortion be carried out at national and European level.”

“This would be a real step forward that the French Presidency should offer to protect women,” she said.

France took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in 14 years on Jan. 1. The Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic group, has proposed a collaboration with Macron to promote the abolition of the death penalty worldwide during the French EU presidency.

Macron called on Jan. 19 for the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to be revised “to be more explicit on environmental protection or the recognition of the right to abortion,” in a speech to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.

In the address, he noted that the charter has “enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union.”

Roux said that the French president’s comments about the “abolition of the death penalty” and the “recognition of the right to abortion” side by side show that “Emmanuel Macron's intention is out of step.”

“Addressing the painful issue of abortion head-on, without prior debate, and without mentioning any policies of prevention and support, is to do violence to the many women who want society to help them avoid abortion, which is often carried out under pressure,” she said.

“The abolition of the death penalty, recalled by the president in his speech, as well as the right to life are among the values inscribed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

The EU charter recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

Macron’s speech came on the same day that the French Senate again rejected a bill to extend abortion on demand beyond 12 weeks, the current legal limit on abortions in France.

Under current French law, abortions in the second and third trimesters are permitted only if two physicians certify that it is necessary to save the life of the mother, to prevent grave and permanent harm to her health, or the child has a severe and incurable illness.

The French Senate voted 202 to 138 to reject the bill for a legal extension of abortion from 12 weeks to 14 weeks on Jan. 19, according to Le Figaro.

In response to the vote, Brigitte Bourguignon, the French Minister of Autonomy, said that the government “fiercely defends” a right to abortion, adding that “the President of the Republic reaffirmed this commitment forcefully this very morning.”

“The declaration of the President of the Republic shows an incoherent position, disconnected from the reality experienced by women,” Alliance VITA said.


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Europe:     Top official won’t join Order of Malta reform working group, citing threat to sovereignty
Albrecht von Boeselager. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2022 / 06:25 am (CNA).

A top Order of Malta official has said that he won’t join a working group on the reform of the 1,000-year-old institution, citing a threat to its sovereignty.

In a letter sent to senior Order of Malta officials, the group’s Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager said that proposed reforms would undermine the order’s identity and he would not play an active part in the group studying changes to the order’s constitutional charter and code.

Boeselager’s letter, delivered on Jan. 19 and seen by CNA, emerged amid heated debate within the Order of Malta over a draft of the new constitution overseen by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, Pope Francis’ special delegate to the order.

The new constitution would define the Order of Malta, which has sovereign status, as being “subject to the Holy See.” This would potentially jeopardize the order’s ability to engage in diplomatic relations as it could be seen as being dependent on another sovereign body: the Holy See.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is an ancient chivalric order with the task of serving the sick and the poor worldwide. The order consists of 13,500 knights, dames, chaplains, more than 100,000 volunteers, and 42,000 employees. It has full diplomatic relations with 112 countries.

The order’s current leader, Fra’ Marco Luzzago, stressed the importance of its sovereignty to carry out its charitable works in a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the order on Jan. 11. Luzzago, the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, voiced a growing concern within the order.

Boeselager was at the center of events that led to a dramatic papal intervention in the order’s affairs in 2017. He was initially suspended by the order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, amid concerns about the distribution of condoms by the order’s relief agency in Burma. But he was reinstated after Pope Francis required the Grand Master’s resignation and launched a sweeping reform process.

The pope appointed Tomasi as his delegate in 2020, replacing the demoted Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who served as delegate from 2017.

In October 2021, Pope Francis issued a letter granting Tomasi full powers to draft a revised constitution, summon a council to discuss and approve the constitutional charter and code, call an Extraordinary Chapter General, “renew” the Sovereign Council, and convene a Council Complete of State for the election of a new Grand Master.

A source within the order told CNA: “The question of sovereignty was already raised when the pope issued a letter in October that the constitution could be overrun by the delegate.”

“Concern spread further when Cardinal Tomasi wrote in January that he would call an Extraordinary Chapter General to vote on the text and replace the government, changing the composition of the Chapter in order to get the required majority.”

The source argued that this approach would lead to “anti-constitutional results.”

The working group overseeing the reform comprises Tomasi, canon law expert Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Msgr. Brian Ferme (secretary of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy), Maurizio Tagliaferri, Federico Marti, and Gualtiero Ventura.

This group will be expanded to include other members of the order on Jan. 25. On Jan. 26, Tomasi is expected to distribute the draft of the constitution to a larger group of members, including presidents of national associations and professed knights.

The Italian cardinal will then call a General Chapter to discuss and finalize the proposed documents a few days after.

Tomasi has assured the order’s leaders that the text can be changed and is not definitive. But there is little time for the expanded working group to study the draft and propose amendments.

As the Grand Chancellor, Boeselager would be part of the expanded working group. But he has renounced that responsibility and, at his suggestion, Marwan Senahoui, president of the order’s Lebanese association, is taking his place. Senahoui will be assisted by Péter Szabadhegÿ.

Senahoui was asked by Fra’ Matthew Festing to resolve a crisis among the order’s members in England a few years ago. He was also part of the Tomasi-led commission appointed by the pope at the end of 2016 to look into the crisis in the order.

Why did Boeselager step aside? The reasons are in the letter delivered on Jan. 19. Boeselager said that he had been reviewing for the first time the draft texts of the new constitution and code as proposed by Tomasi, and stressed that “both the indicated process and draft content create significant constitutional challenges for our order, and I would have serious difficulties to accept them in good conscience.”

Boeselager lamented that the whole process “is not in accordance with the confirmations given to us by the special delegate that the Holy Father does not wish to put our sovereignty at risk.”

He added that he would “normally use the conventional channels between sovereign entities to voice this objection respectfully, but that avenue has been closed to me.”

Boeselager also blamed “certain groups” within the organization for accusing him of seeking to secularize the order and turn it into an NGO – an allegation he strongly rejected.

He added that he was not going to let a personal reputational issue “get in the way of preventing a detrimental outcome for the order.”

He said that he also understood that combining the task of managing the constitutional reform with his daily work would not be effective. For this reason, he wrote, he had decided not to join the working group, but would be available for consultation.

Boeselager’s letter indicates that the order is not going to give up its sovereignty easily and that, despite Pope Francis’ intervention, the debate remains intense.

It also suggests that the reform, as presented until now, may not be accepted by a majority of knights and dames, making the reform potentially ineffective and harmful for the order’s future existence.


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Europe:     Benedict XVI, Cardinal Marx faulted in Munich abuse report
The Frauenkirche, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. / Suicasmo via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Munich, Germany, Jan 20, 2022 / 05:49 am (CNA).

A long-awaited report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising has faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

The study issued on Thursday criticized the 94-year-old retired German pope’s handling of four cases during his time in charge of the southern German archdiocese. Media reports had previously focused on his handling of a single case, that of a priest named Father Peter Hullermann.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, the law firm that produced the study, presented the conclusions of the more than 1,000-page text at a live-streamed press conference on Jan. 20, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The study’s official title is “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019.”

The report covers 1977 to 1982, the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, as well as the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.

In addition to criticizing the future pope’s handling of four cases, investigators said that Wetter had mishandled 21 cases and Marx two cases.

The report identified at least 497 victims of abuse, but investigators said that the true figure was likely to be higher. They said that 247 victims were male, 182 female, while the gender of 68 victims could not be determined. They added that they had found 235 alleged perpetrators, including 173 priests.

Around 60% of suspected crimes were committed against children between the ages of eight and 14.

Marx was not present at the press conference but is expected to make a statement in response to the report’s findings on Thursday afternoon.

Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, lamented the cardinal’s absence as she presented the report.

Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, presents a report on Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases, Jan. 20, 2022. Screenshot from BR24 extra live stream.
Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, presents a report on Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases, Jan. 20, 2022. Screenshot from BR24 extra live stream.

Lawyer Martin Pusch, an author of the report, said: “In a total of four cases, we concluded that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct.”

He said that in two of the cases, clerics committed abuse while Ratzinger was in office. While they were criminally sanctioned by secular courts, they continued to perform pastoral duties, he said, and no action was taken against them under canon law.

In a third case, a cleric convicted by a foreign court worked in the Munich archdiocese. Pusch suggested that Ratzinger knew of the priest’s history.

A Vatican spokesman said on Jan. 20: “The Holy See considers that appropriate attention should be paid to the document, whose contents are presently unknown. In coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will be able to give it a careful and detailed examination.”

“In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them.”

Claims that the future pope covered up an abuse case in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising resurfaced earlier this month, more than 10 years after the Vatican firmly rejected the allegations.

The allegation related to the archdiocese’s handling of the case of Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.

The priest, identified in German reports only as “H.”, was suspended from his duties in the Diocese of Essen in 1979 over allegations that he abused an 11-year-old boy.

He was moved in 1980 to the Munich archdiocese. Hullermann was found guilty of molesting boys in a parish of the archdiocese in 1986.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, told the German newspaper Die Zeit: “The claim that he had knowledge of the previous history [allegations of sexual assault] at the time of the decision on the admission of Father H. [to the archdiocese] is wrong. He had no knowledge of his previous history.”

After leaving Munich archdiocese in 1982, Cardinal Ratzinger served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005. He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl produced a report on the Munich archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases in 2010, which has never been published. It announced a delay in the publication of the new report in November 2021, citing “new findings obtained in the recent past” that required an “intensive review.”

The Munich law firm was previously responsible for compiling a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Cologne.

After lawyers advising the archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological deficiencies” in the study, Woelki commissioned Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report, published in March 2021.

Cardinal Marx wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June that year.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until 2020, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

In April 2021, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising at a press conference held by German bishops at the Teutonic College in Rome, Oct. 5, 2015. .  Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising at a press conference held by German bishops at the Teutonic College in Rome, Oct. 5, 2015. . Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June 2021 that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

The Archdiocese of Munich, in Bavaria, southern Germany, dates back to 739 A.D. It serves more than 1.7 million Catholics in 758 parishes, out of a total population of 3.8 million people.

Since 1945, the start of the period covered by the report, the archdiocese has been led by Archbishops Michael von Faulhaber, Joseph Wendel, Julius Döpfner, Joseph Ratzinger, Friedrich Wetter, and Reinhard Marx.


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Europe:     Italian Catholic doctors: Assisted suicide is not a dignified death
null / Video_Creative / Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2022 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

As the Italian parliament debates whether to pass a bill to decriminalize assisted suicide, an association of Catholic doctors has emphasized that a dignified death “cannot take shortcuts.”

“A dignified death is to be ensured to all: this is an essential principle of care and this action, which has an objective value, cannot take shortcuts compared to practices of support and accompaniment of the sick in the last stages of his life,” Filippo M. Boscia, president of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors, wrote in a Jan. 18 statement.

“We firmly believe that assisted suicide and euthanasia cannot be included among the professional and deontological duties of physicians,” he said.

The statement from Catholic physicians comes as lawmakers prepare to vote in February on a bill to decriminalize assisted suicide in Italy. Debate on the legislation started in mid-December in the Chamber of Deputies.

Both assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in Italy, where the criminal law says, “anyone who causes the death of a man, with his consent, is punished with imprisonment from six to fifteen years.”

Last week, 57 associations, mostly based in Italy, jointly signed their own statement criticizing an article in a Jesuit journal supporting the bill.

The article, which argued that the bill could be an “embankment in the face of a possible more serious damage,” was published in La Civiltà Cattolica, which is produced by the Jesuits in Rome and approved before publication by the Vatican Secretariat of State.  

In the AMCI statement, Boscia referenced a “heated debate” on end of life and other ethical and legislative problems, but emphasized that “physicians cannot be assigned the task of causing or provoking death.”

“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, the doctor will always have the duty to obey his professional conscience,” he said.

There has been a public push to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in Italy in recent years, with several high-profile challenges to the law. In 2021, a petition to hold a referendum on the subject received over 1.2 million signatures. It was submitted to Italy’s supreme court in October and awaits a decision. 

The Association of Italian Catholic Doctors warned in its statement that the decriminalization of actions related to euthanasia in the Italian legal system could undermine democracy and “alter the principles of solidarity and justice” reserved for society’s weakest.

“We insist that the state should never deny forms of assistance and protection to the chronically ill, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, etc.,” it said.

“Those who practice the difficult art of medicine cannot choose between letting people live or letting people die…” it continued. “And in this the doctor has no alternative: the only option he can exercise is, always and in any case, for life and in favor of life, because his conscience requires it and his profession obliges him to do so.”

AMCI president Boscia added that “all Catholic doctors represent the absolute incompatibility between medical action and killing…”

He said that the association’s doctors want to reiterate the urgent need to have better access to palliative care and pain management for the terminally ill.

“Catholic doctors believe that the whole issue of the end of life with all its human, personal and family, ethical and legal, political and legislative aspects," he stated, "certainly represents at the present time an opportunity for dialogue, confrontation, improvement of care towards eubiosia (the opposite of euthanasia), that is, good life…”


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US:     Scholarships, loan relief for abortion workers in California budget proposal
The California capitol. / Willem van Bergen (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Sacramento, Calif., Jan 19, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

California health care workers who commit to providing abortions could see their student loans repaid and prospective abortion industry workers could receive scholarships, if lawmakers retain a $20 million proposal in the state’s new draft budget.

The proposal drew criticism from pro-life advocates who worry it creates terrible incentives.

Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, called the proposal “a gross overreach of what most Californians would want our tax dollars to go to.”

“There aren’t a lot of providers who like to do abortions. Abortion is not something that medical students are excited to be a part of. We’ve known that,” she told CNA Jan. 18. “The reason why abortion is not provided in certain areas has nothing to do with laws or regulations. There’s no doctor in the area who wants to perform abortions. They don’t want to do it.”

The California budget summary section for Health and Human Services is 32 pages, with a section dedicated to “reproductive health.” Pro-abortion rights advocates consider abortion to be reproductive health, and abortion is addressed in this section.

“To protect the right to safe and accessible reproductive health care services, the Administration will undertake a number of actions to maintain and improve availability of these essential services,” the summary says, adding, “The Administration will work with the Legislature to reduce barriers to accessing abortion and abortion related services through managed care plans.”

The summary says $20 million in grant funding would go to the general fund of the Department of Health Care Access and Information “to provide scholarships and loan repayments to a variety of health care provider types that commit to providing reproductive health care services.” The goal of this funding is “to support California’s clinical infrastructure of reproductive health care services.”

Domingo was very critical of this proposal.

“This is appalling,” she said. “It's a big deal to pay off medical student loans.”

Students graduate medical school with what seems to be “crippling debt.” For Domingo, incentivizing them to go into the abortion industry is “tantamount to coercion from the state.”

“It’s wonderful to be helping medical students and health care professionals as they go through schools. Let’s figure out a way to do that that’s not handicapping anyone who doesn’t want to do abortion,” she said.

According to Domingo, this section of the California budget is directly related to the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council. In December 2020, the council released a 14-page report on policy proposals to respond to possible changes if the U.S. Supreme Court revisits Roe v. Wade and other precedents that mandate permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The council is made up of some 40 California organizations. Its members include seven Planned Parenthood affiliates, three regional ACLU affiliates, and the Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom has pledged to make California a “sanctuary” for abortion access, while State Sen. President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, wrote a letter introducing the council’s December report and voicing gratitude for a partnership with the council.

The council advocated that lawmakers should “improve the education pipeline by creating a California Reproductive Scholarship Corps” for those who train as physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physician assistants, and others, if they are “dedicated to providing abortion care in underserved areas in California.” These specified medical professionals, if properly licensed, may all perform abortions under state law.

According to the abortion council, lawmakers should also “optimize loan repayment to increase retention and recruitment of clinicians who provide abortion by allocating funds for health care workforce programs.”

Domingo said that these proposals are part of the initial budget, not necessarily the final budget scheduled for May.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s our job now to advocate that it not include those things, to raise awareness and say ‘This is not a good use of California tax dollars. This is not what Californians want to be paying for’,” she said. “I’m sure many adjustments will be done along the way.”

While the state legislature has a Democratic supermajority and Newsom has made strong commitments to expanded abortion access, Domingo said there are many moderates and others in the legislature “who might look at some of these things and say it is going way too far.”

“In terms of advocacy, it’s very important to make our voice heard,” she said, encouraging grassroots involvement to voice opposition to the proposal.

Californians also need to know about resources that are “life-affirming for women in need.”

“There are so many things that can be done to help people on the ground,” said Domingo. “We would really like to make California a place where women know that they are supported, that children and families are supported all the time.”

“We want to prove that we don’t need abortion expansion in California,” she said. In her view, California should aspire to be a place that “respects women, welcomes children, and protects families.”

The proposed budget would also remove requirements for follow-up visits and ultrasound for chemical abortions that currently apply under MediCal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income individuals. Backers of abortion have stressed the importance of flexibility in medication abortion given the limits of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week the California Catholic Conference criticized this aspect of the budget and other efforts to expand abortion access.

“The California Catholic Conference is disappointed and is actively advocating against the Governor’s planned $61 million in additional funding for abortion facilities based on the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council report,” the conference said Jan. 14.

Other budget proposals include $20 million in one-time funding for the state’s Department of Health Care Access and Information “to assist reproductive health care facilities in securing their physical and information technology infrastructure and to enhance facility security.” Still another $20 million would back the Covered California state health insurance marketplace’s one-dollar health care premium subsidy due to federal policy limiting abortion coverage.

While Domingo praised efforts to expand health care access, she said that MediCal gives full coverage of abortion and contraception, gender reassignment surgery, and assisted suicide.

“They’re funding all the really good stuff but also the really bad stuff,” she said.

Many in the immigrant community do not want this, according to Domingo.

“We’re in a situation where, particularly immigrant families, are appalled that their children, who now can qualify for MediCal, have access to all kinds of things they would never want their children to access.”

In California’s political context, the drive to expand health care access not only means expanding access to abortion, but also assisted suicide. California lawmakers last year passed a bill to reduce the waiting period for assisted suicide from 15 days to 48 hours and to eliminate a final attestation form, among other changes.

“They’re removing that mental health safeguard for the end-of-life,” Domingo said. She warned that this further reduces efforts to prevent coercion and to give time for additional intervention for those seeking assisted suicide.


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US:     Supreme Court hears Boston free speech case involving Christian organization
Boston City Hall / andrewjsan via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2022 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving the city of Boston’s refusal to raise a flag with Christian imagery in front of its City Hall. 

The North Carolina-based organization Camp Constitution applied in June 2017 to raise a flag featuring a Latin cross in front of City Hall. The display of the flag reportedly would have coincided with an event involving speeches by local clergy.

Boston has a long-standing flag program through which private organizations can apply to raise a flag related to their cause on one of three flag poles in front of City Hall. Previous flags have represented causes including Boston Pride. Some flags have included religious imagery, but this seems to be the first application for a flag with an explicitly religious description. 

The city of Boston rejected Camp Constitution’s application, after approving all 284 previous applications in the flag program’s history. 

The city argued that displaying a flag with a Christian symbol would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Camp Constitution sued, arguing the city’s decision violated its free speech.

The case of Shurtleff v. City of Boston considers whether the city of Boston’s flag program is properly considered a public forum for private speech or a reflection of government endorsement of messages promoted by the flags. 

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city in January 2021, arguing the government is entitled to choose the messages it endorses. 

The Supreme Court agreed in September 2021 to hear the case. The court is expected to issue a decision in June.


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US:     Afghanistan the most dangerous place to be Christian, advocacy group says
Kabul, Afghanistan. / Mohammad Rahmani via Unsplash

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

Afghanistan has unseated North Korea for the dubious distinction of the most dangerous country in the world for Christians, according to a group that reports on global Christian persecution.

A takeover of the government by the Taliban has made it even harder — now, impossible— to live openly as a Christian, advocacy group Open Doors writes in its annual World Watch List. 

“The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts don’t have any option but to obey them. If a Christian’s new faith is discovered, their family, clan or tribe has to save its honor by disowning the believer, or even killing them. This is widely considered to be justice,” the group writes.

“Alternatively, since leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity, a Christian who has converted from Islam may be forcibly sent to a psychiatric hospital.”

Afghanistan is over 99% Muslim, with the majority being Sunni. There are small groups of Christians, including about 200 Catholics, as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and Baháʼís.

Overall, 360 million Christians worldwide face persecution, according to Open Doors, an increase of 20 million from last year.

The group had cited North Korea as the most “extreme” persecutor of Christians for twenty years prior to this year’s ranking. 

The “top ten” countries with the most Christian persecution this year are Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India. 

North Korea’s level of persecution increased this year, even as its ranking went down, the group reported. The groups says “any North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, brutal torture and death” at the hands of the communist government. 

Nigeria, which ranks number seven on the list, no longer appears on the U.S. State Department’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a watchlist of countries with the most egregious violations of religious freedom. 

Nigeria was listed in 2020, but the country was not included in the 2021 list, released in mid-November. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had been recommending the designation of Nigeria as a CPC since 2009.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a Nov. 18-19 visit to Nigeria to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, but it remains unclear why the State Department removed Nigeria from the watchlist.


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US:     Former CNA editor recalls the 'privilege' of working with Alice von Hildebrand
Alice von Hildebrand / Courtesy of Hildebrand Project

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

When I first met Alice von Hildebrand, I really shouldn’t have. As a senior studying history at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I wasn’t actually invited to the graduate school of philosophy’s already packed event hosting the beloved author and philosopher. Franciscan is one of the few philosophy departments in higher education (that I’m aware of) that studies so much of the works of her late husband, Dietrich, and it seemed like the entire campus (or perhaps just the theology nerds who I ran with) was abuzz with excitement over her visit.

But, I was friends with the department chair’s daughter and she clued a few of us undergraduate students in on the details of the event and assured us no one would really notice if we stood in the back. 

“Should I really sneak into an event I wasn’t invited to? Especially when the presenter is speaking about faith and morals?” I wondered as I filed into the back of the crowded room. 

Admittedly, I got a “C” in my Philosophy of the Human Person class earlier that year which is probably how I justified my actions. Since it was unlikely that I’d ever get another chance to meet her, I told myself, I should take advantage of the opportunity now. Besides, my nascent conscience urged me, I really loved her book!

However, as providence would have it, I did get a chance to “meet” her again some five years later. Though this time not as a giddy undergrad clutching a copy of “The Privilege of Being a Woman,” straining to hear her remarks from the back of a conference room in Steubenville, Ohio. It was as an editor for her regular contributions to Catholic News Agency.

Although that evening back in 2010 was the only time I ever met her in person, “Lily” became a sort of digital pen pal when I was assigned the privilege of editing her work for Catholic News Agency a few years later. She graciously gifted the agency with dozens of essays containing prophetic wisdom and perspectives that have proven to be even more relevant now than when they were first published.

While Catholics may know of Alice von Hildebrand’s books and tireless work promoting her late husband Dietrich’s masterful canon of philosophical writings, they may not be aware of the virtual library of essays hosted right here on Catholic News Agency. As a wife and mother, I especially appreciate the accessibility of her writings for both their depth and practical application.

It should be noted that when Alice wrote these articles her eyesight was already beginning to fail and her physical health was declining, although her mind was as sharp as ever. When she submitted her work she would apologize for the grammatical and punctuational errors she knew they contained while at the same time remarking that these works were her “swan song.” She told me that she felt a special urgency to write these even as her strength began to fail. Revisiting some of her articles today, I can see just how right she was to respond to that call. Although Lily has departed this life, I hope that even more people will benefit from her writings here on this website.

Many of her articles focused on the importance of gratitude and reverence. I remember one in particular titled, “The art of helping.” She wrote that we should rejoice in being asked for help because it meant that God was giving us an opportunity to repay our debt to him.

“The real Christian — the one living in the consciousness that it is a privilege to help our brothers — understands that to be asked for help grants us an opportunity of showing our love for Christ,” she wrote, “and is also a grace enabling us to pay our own debt toward him: indeed we are all bankrupt, and we should welcome as a grace every single opportunity to pay some of our debt.”

Another one of my favorites, “Love and friendship,” contains the zinger, “... my experiences in the classroom have taught me so much that I cannot help but wish that my teaching had been as enriching to my students as their errors have enriched my mind.” After teaching philosophy at Hunter College in New York for 37 years, she certainly had some interesting stories to share.

Written nearly 10 years ago, von Hildebrand’s essay “Rip van Winkle’s nightmare” has proved to be even more timely now than it was when it was first published. In it she takes the reader along a journey with the fabled Rip van Winkle who, instead of sleeping through the American Revolution, slumbers his way through the 20th century and wakes up in the present day. The things that would have shocked and disgusted any person 100 years ago are now accepted and even celebrated, she points out.

“Just as there is a hierarchy of truths, there is also a hierarchy of errors, and last but not least, a hierarchy of stupidities,” she wrote.

She often remarked, quoting her late husband Dietrich, that what is called “culture” today is actually a type of “anti-culture.” In her essay “A touch of metaphysical humor” von Hildebrand pinpointed the root of so many of society’s ills by saying, “We have lost sense for mystery, for sacredness and this might explain why our society is not only sick but in many ways ‘comatose.’ A society that has lost the sense of the sacred is a society which has chosen death.”

The last time I wrote to Alice von Hildebrand was over five years ago when I had just decided not to return from my maternity leave at CNA in order to stay home full time with my two daughters. As I drafted the email, I remember feeling a pang of shame. Looking back I can see that it was the breath of the Evil One in my ear telling me that my choice to stay home with my children, instead of continuing my career, was an inferior one that I’d quickly come to regret. I should have known that if there was anyone who understood my decision, it was Lily. 

“Of course I’ll miss our contact,” was her frank response, “but a mother should be home with her children. No one can replace her.”

Perhaps some mothers who work outside the home will bristle at such a remark, but I don’t share these words to shame anyone for her choices or circumstances. I share these words to encourage those of us who may not feel any real importance in the endless marathon of being a stay-at-home mother. I bring to mind her words when I feel the most run-down and discouraged by motherhood, tempted to believe that I should be doing something “better” or “more useful” with my time. 

Alice often championed women as the “privleged” sex in her writings. While Aristotle painted women as the passive, and therefore inferior, sex von Hildebrand explained that (with all due respect) the Greek philosopher failed to look beyond physical strength and appreciate the true honor that is written into a woman’s very body.

In her essay, “Praise of receptivity” von Hildebrand reminded the reader that God didn’t create one sex superior to another, but rather He made them complementary, “enriching one another.” However, she notes that while Adam was made “from the slime of the earth” Eve was brought forth from Adam, “a fact which gives the female body a special dignity.”

Will anyone remember the words I’ve pounded out on a keyboard years after I die? Most likely not. But will my children, who I’ve offered my body up for four times over, give thanks for their lives and offer up a little prayer for me? I certainly hope so. 

When I told my now 5-year-old that I was writing an article about a friend of mine who had recently died, she sincerely asked, “So, is she a saint now?” 

“I think so,” I told her. “She spent her life teaching others the truth about God.” 

Alice von Hildebrand, pray for us.


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US:     Pro-life vs. Pro-choice states: If Roe falls, what would the abortion landscape look like?
Screenshot of CNA graphic showing abortion policy by state. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case which observers believe could present a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 decision which legalized abortion nationwide. 

But even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortions will almost certainly continue in the U.S.— at least in certain states. 

While the nation awaits the court’s ruling— which could come at any time until roughly the end of June— numerous states are taking legislative action to codify abortion rights, while other states are doing the opposite, creating a potential patchwork of abortion laws throughout the country.

What are the trends? Which states are moving in a pro-life direction, and which in a pro-choice direction? Check out the map above and see where your home state falls. 

More detailed information on each state, and links to coverage by CNA and other outlets, is listed below. 

Information is up-to-date as of Jan. 19, 2022. 

Alabama

Alabama has a “trigger law” that would ban almost all abortions if Roe v Wade were to be overturned, as well as a total ban passed in 2019, which is currently blocked in court. 

A group of 23 Republican lawmakers have prefiled a bill (HB 23) that would implement a Texas-style heartbeat abortion ban, enforced by private lawsuits.

Alaska

The Alaska State Supreme Court found a "right to abortion" in 1997. Alaska law requires the "informed consent" of a patient before they have an abortion, meaning that their doctor must discuss with them the physical and emotional risks involved in abortion before they obtain one. Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates in Alaska has discussed the possibility of asking voters in Nov. 2022 to call a constitutional convention, which only happens once every 10 years.

Arizona

Arizona has a ban on abortion that predates Roe v Wade and is currently unenforceable. Arizona also has laws that prohibit abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. The state also prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

Arkansas

Trigger law, 20-week ban

California

Abortion rights enshrined in law since 1969. California has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions on the books, but the law is permanently enjoined by court order, meaning minors in California can seek abortions without their parents’ knowledge or permission. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion. 

Senate Bill 245, introduced in 2022 by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), would put an end to out-of-pocket costs paid by those seeking abortions. The state already requires abortions to be covered by health insurance.

Colorado

No gestational limit- voters rejected a proposed 22-week limit in 2020. 

The Reproductive Health Equity Act is set to be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly in 2022. Its sponsors say the act will ensure every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception; every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of Colorado.

Connecticut

Abortion protected under state law.

Delaware

Abortion protected under state law.

Florida

Lawmakers in Florida have introduced a 15-week abortion ban for the state, which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. 

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List praised the effort and urged the bill’s passage. 

 “We urge the Florida Legislature to swiftly pass and send to Governor DeSantis’s desk this groundbreaking pro-life legislation that would finally end brutal late-term abortions in the Sunshine State,” said Sue Liebel, SBA List State Policy Director, on Jan. 11. 

“Abortions after 15 weeks are gruesome and inhumane for unborn children and increasingly dangerous for the mother with every passing week.”

According to SBA, Florida has the third highest number of late term abortions among states that report them. 

Georgia

Heartbeat ban. Pro-life lawmakers in Georgia are preparing to introduce legislation to prevent the abortion pill from being prescribed through telemedicine and prevent it from being delivered by mail.

Hawaii

Abortion protected under state law.

Idaho

Trigger law; heartbeat law. A conservative policy group in the state has said that passing a Texas-style heartbeat ban is part of their 2022 agenda.

Illinois

Right to abortion is enshrined in state law. The state also recently repealed its requirement that parents be notified about abortions.

Indiana

22-week ban, abortion pill reversal notification law (blocked)

Iowa

Heartbeat ban (unenforceable); State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion."

Kansas

Abortion is allowed under a state Supreme Court ruling; in Aug. 2022, Kansans will vote on an amendment to the state's constitution to exclude a "right to abortion" and reserve the right to regulate abortion in the state to the legislature.

Kentucky

Trigger law, heartbeat bill. Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, has plans to file a bill banning the receipt of abortion pills by mail.

Louisiana

Trigger law, State constitution excludes right to abortion, heartbeat ban

Maine

Abortion protected under state law.

Maryland

Abortion protected under state law since 1992. Montgomery County Del. Ariana Kelly (D), a former executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, has said that she will be introducing legislation to expand abortion access in the state.

Massachusetts

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion." A bill currently in the state's Joint Committee on Public Health would force public universities to provide medication abortion services at student health centers.

Michigan

Abortion advocacy groups in Michigan have launched a ballot initiative to override a state abortion ban— which is currently unenforced— by way of a constitutional amendment. The state’s Catholic Conference said the effort shows the power of the abortion industry in influencing state policy. 

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan are two of the organizations sponsoring the ballot drive. Organizers of the ballot initiative need about 425,000 valid voter signatures to put it before the electorate in November, the AP reports. 

Michigan is one of several states with an abortion law on the books which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. A 1931 Michigan state law makes it a felony for anyone to provide an abortion unless "necessary to preserve the life of such woman." 

“More than anything, women considering an abortion deserve support, love, and compassion. For decades, abortion has been touted as the only option, harmless and easy, yet we know this is a lie. Abortion hurts women,” Rebecca Mastee, Policy Advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Jan. 7.

“Today’s news that some are looking to enshrine abortion in the state constitution is a sad commentary on the outsized and harmful role the abortion industry plays in our politics and our society. We look forward to standing with women through a potential statewide ballot campaign to promote a culture of life and good health for both moms and unborn children.”

Minnesota

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion."

Mississippi

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, dilation and evacuation abortion ban, heartbeat law. Mississippi's 15-week ban is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Missouri

Trigger law, Eight-week ban (currently blocked by courts). 

House Bill 1854, introduced Jan. 2022, would defund Planned Parenthood. State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, in 2022 introduced a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Montana

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion." Abortion restricted after viability; other restrictions, such as requirement that only doctors perform abortions, are enjoined by court order. 

Nebraska

Six-week ban currently under consideration. State also has dilation and evacuation abortion ban. Six week abortion ban has been introduced. 

Nevada

Right to abortion enshrined in state law since 1990. 

New Hampshire

New 24-week limit took effect in 2022. For this year, legislation has been introduced to repeal the state's 24-week limit and ultrasound mandate; a bill to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers who object to abortion, sterilization, or artificial contraception; a bill to allow biological father to seek a court injunction to stop a mother having an abortion; and a heartbeat ban.

New Jersey

Bill S49/A6260, which was introduced Jan. 6, codifies a “fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term.” 

A “right to abortion” already existed in New Jersey because of state Supreme Court rulings. Proponents of the bill say the legislation is necessary to protect abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned. 

The bill passed by both houses of the New Jersey state legislature the afternoon of Jan. 10 was vigorously opposed by the state’s Catholic conference. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law Jan. 13. 

New Mexico

1969 abortion ban repealed in 2021.

New York

The 2019 Reproductive Health Act eliminated restrictions on abortion until the moment of birth in cases deemed necessary for the mother’s "life and health."

North Carolina

20-week ban. Heartbeat bill introduced. 

North Dakota

Trigger law, heartbeat bill. Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal has said she wants to pass a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Ohio

Heatbeat ban. Texas-style heartbeat ban introduced in late 2021.

Oklahoma

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, Heartbeat ban. A Republican lawmaker, Oklahoma State Rep. Sean Roberts, has announced plans to introduce a law modeled after the Texas abortion ban.

Oregon

Abortion fully protected under state law.

Pennsylvania

24-week-limit; abortion not explicitly protected under state law.

Rhode Island

Abortion protected under state law. The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act seeks to repeal a law prohibiting insurance coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients seeking abortions.

South Carolina

Heartbeat ban. Introduced in 2022, House Bill 4568 and its counterpart Senate Bill 907 would require “the disclosure of medical information" about abortion pill reversal. Other legislative efforts are underway to make adoption easier and less expensive in the state. 

South Dakota

Trigger law. Governor Kristi Noem said in Jan. 2022 that she will be introducing a heartbeat ban for the state, as well as introducing legislation to ban telemedicine abortions in South Dakota. 

Tennessee

Trigger law, heartbeat ban, State constitution bars protection.

Texas

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, Heartbeat ban (currently enforced through private lawsuits).

Utah

Trigger law as well as numerous other current restrictions on abortion such as a waiting period.

Vermont

Abortion protected under state law. The Vermont House of Representatives is due to begin debate on an amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, which would require voter approval in the fall.

Virginia

Abortion not explicitly protected under state law. Several abortion expansions enacted in 2021, including the allowing of abortion coverage to be included without limits in health plans on the state exchange, meaning that taxpayers would be funding abortions under the law. 

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has suggested he may be open to a 20-week ban.

Washington

Abortion protected under state law.

West Virginia

Pre-Roe ban, dilation and evacuation abortion ban, State constitution bars protection. West Virginia's House Bill 4004 would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

Wisconsin

Pre-Roe ban, but Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has said he will not enforce a ban on abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Wyoming

Restricts abortion after viability - abortion not protected under state law. Some have speculated that Republican lawmakers may introduce a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Washington, DC

Abortion fully protected under law.


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US:     Catholic health care system removes race as factor in eligibility for COVID-19 treatments
null / Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 14:17 pm (CNA).

A Catholic health care system in Wisconsin is no longer including race as a factor in determining a patient’s eligibility for COVID-19 treatments.

SSM Health and its affiliates use a risk scoring calculator to determine a patient’s eligibility for COVID-19 treatments including monoclonal antibodies. 

A previous version of the calculator boosted the scores of nonwhite or Hispanic patients, making them more likely to be prioritized for treatments that have become increasingly scarce amid a surge in omicron cases. Monoclonal antibody treatments are in particularly short supply because some versions of the treatment are reportedly ineffective against the omicron variant.  

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty questioned the inclusion of race in the calculator in a Jan. 14 letter to SSM Health’s president and CEO. SSM Health responded that the calculator was updated to no longer include race, though it is unclear when that happened.

“While early versions of risk calculators across the nation appropriately included race and gender criteria based on initial outcomes, SSM Health has continued to evaluate and update our protocols weekly to reflect the most up-to-date clinical evidence available,” SSM Health said in a statement. “As a result, race and gender criteria are no longer utilized.”

Other factors included in the calculator include age, gender, and preexisting health conditions. 

Healthcare providers under the umbrella of the Minnesota Resource Allocation Program were also factoring in race in determining patient eligibility for COVID-19 treatments. The policy was reversed on Jan. 12, the same day a conservative advocacy group threatened to sue Minnesota.

New state policy prioritizes treatment for people who are immunocompromised or pregnant. 

Both healthcare systems were following a directive from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prioritize race in the administration of COVID-19 treatments. 

Some studies suggest racial minorities are at higher risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19. But conservative leaders have argued that it is unjust and illegal to discriminate against patients based on race. 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) decried the practice in a Jan. 11 letter to the Acting Commissioner of the FDA

“While our nation should seek to better understand and address real disparities that exist in health outcomes, that important work is a far cry from the rationing of vital medicines based on race and ethnicity,” Rubio wrote. “Rationing life-saving drug treatments based on race and ethnicity is racist and un-American. There is no other way to put it.”

Rubio suggested appropriate factors include age and preexisting conditions. 

“Medical research has long documented that many of these comorbidities disproportionately impact people of color,” he wrote. “Therefore, by prioritizing an individuals’ medical history, healthcare providers would ensure racial minorities at highest risk of disease, including all other high-risk patients, can receive these life-saving drugs.”


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Vatican:     Pope Francis appoints apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in US and Canada
The flag of Eritrea. / Creative Photo Corner/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor on Wednesday for Eritrean Catholics in the United States and Canada.

The pope named Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, chaplain of the Eritrean community of Los Angeles, on Jan. 19 as apostolic visitor of Eritrean Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite in the two countries.

The Vatican announced on the same day that the pope had chosen an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in Europe: Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, protosyncellus of the Archeparchy of Asmara, the metropolitan see of the Eritrean Catholic Church.

The move follows the pope’s decision in January 2020 to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe and name an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year.

In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who perform a short-term mission on behalf of the pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role supervising communities which do not yet have their own ordinary.

The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 168,000 members and is based in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, but also has diaspora communities around the world.

Eritrea is a northeast African country with a population of 6 million that borders Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. In 2019, the government nationalized schools and hospitals run by the Catholic Church.

Eritrea gained independence from its larger neighbor Ethiopia in 1991 following a decades-long war.

The Eritrean Catholic Church traces its roots to apostolic times and uses the ancient Ge’ez language in its liturgies, which are celebrated according to the Alexandrian Rite, associated with St. Mark the Evangelist.

Pope Francis agreed in 2015 to formally separate the Eritrean Catholic Church from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, establishing it as a sui iuris (“of one’s own right”) metropolitan church, with Asmara as its metropolitan see.


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Europe:     City names 2022 the Year of Edith Stein to mark 100 years since her baptism
Edith Stein, pictured as a student in 1913-1914. / Public Domain.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Edith Stein’s baptism in the Catholic Church.

The city where the philosopher turned saint was born has launched a Year of Edith Stein to celebrate the life and legacy of the woman who was martyred at Auschwitz.

Stein was born in 1891 into a Jewish family in what is now Wrocław, southwestern Poland. The city was then known as Breslau and located in the German Empire.

After declaring herself to be an atheist at the age of 20, she went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy.

She decided to convert to Catholicism after spending a night reading the autobiography of the 16th-century Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila while staying at a friend’s house in 1921.

“When I had finished the book,” she later recalled. “I said to myself: This is the truth.”

Stein was baptized on Jan. 1, 1922, at the age of 30. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross when she became a novice Carmelite nun 12 years later.

Wrocław Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Kiciński inaugurated the year on Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the parish church where Stein used to come to pray.

“We look today at St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. One hundred years ago she was baptized and 100 years ago she was immersed in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Kiciński said.

“Coming out of the baptismal waters, she took very strongly to heart the words from today’s Gospel: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’”

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. Public Domain.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. Public Domain.

Ten years after Stein entered the Carmelite convent, she was arrested along with her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic, and the members of her religious community.

She had just finished writing a study of St. John of the Cross entitled “The Science of the Cross.”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on Aug. 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998 and proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe a year later.

To mark the year, the city council of Wrocław has also set up an exhibit in the Edith Stein House, the saint’s family home which is now a conference center and a space for interreligious dialogue.


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Vatican:     Synod of Bishops’ resources website links to women’s ordination group
The opening day of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican Synod Hall on Oct. 3, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 10:15 am (CNA).

A website overseen by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican has linked to a group campaigning for women’s ordination.

In a post dated Jan. 15, the Synodresources.org website shared information about the Women’s Ordination Conference organization, based in Washington, D.C.

Thierry Bonaventura, communication manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, told CNA on Jan. 19 that the website was not promoting the group.

“I would rather speak of ‘sharing,’ as the title of the website,” he said.

Bonaventura pointed out that the “About” section of Synodresources.org emphasizes that the website is “a tool for listening and a platform for sharing that does not replace the official website of Synod 2021-2023 (synod.va).”

“Rather than vertical, top-down communication, it aims to be horizontal communication,” it says.

The website was previously at the center of controversy after it linked to an LGBT outreach ministry.

Officials at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops removed the link to New Ways Ministry after they became aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the organization in 2010.

But following an outcry, they restored the link and issued an apology.

Synodresources.org also links to the Latin-American Rainbow Catholic community, part of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which says that it “brings together groups and their members who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and their families.”

The Women’s Ordination Conference, founded in 1975, describes itself as “the oldest and largest organization working to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops.”

In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

During an in-flight press conference in 2016, Pope Francis was asked whether there were likely to be women priests in the Catholic Church in the next few decades.

“As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this holds,” he replied.

The pope has asked two commissions to study the question of a female diaconate in the Catholic Church.

The first, established in 2016, examined the historic issue of the role of deaconesses in the early Church but did not reach a consensus.

He instituted a second commission in 2020, following discussion of the female diaconate during the 2019 Amazon synod.

Pope Francis changed Church law in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, a permanent institution based at the Vatican and dedicated to serving the Synod, is currently overseeing what has been called one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

A vademecum, or handbook, released in September 2021 urged dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.

It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”

A disclaimer on the homepage of Synodresources.org says: “The publication of any contribution should not be understood as an endorsement of its content; nor should anyone interpret such a publication as an act of formal recognition by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops of the group or community submitting the contribution.”

A pop-up window explains that anyone can send material to the site, but not all contributions will be accepted.

It says: “The current synodal process is addressed to the entire People of God, to all the baptized. In chapter 2.1 of the Vademecum, we urged dioceses to involve people at risk of exclusion (women, migrants, the elderly or Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith).”

“At the same time, in order to participate fully in the act of discernment, it is important for the baptized to listen to the voices of other people in their local context, including those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, people from other faith traditions, people who have no religious beliefs at all.”

“Therefore, anyone is entitled to send material. At the same time, because we firmly believe that the experience of faith is and must be communitarian, we will only accept contributions that express the views of a group clearly identified. We regret that individual submissions will not be considered.”

The Vatican announced in May 2021 that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October that year.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.


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US:     New committee aims to build up political candidates who support religious liberty for all
American flag and Church. / Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 09:52 am (CNA).

The Religious Freedom Institute on Tuesday launched a committee to support political candidates who defend the free exercise of religion for all.

The National Committee for Religious Freedom describes itself as a non-partisan organization that will support “any candidate from any political party who supports religious freedom, and oppose any candidate of any political party who does not.”

As part of the Jan. 19 launch, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on religious freedom, hailed the committee’s creation, while lamenting the fact that the “first freedom” of religious liberty is “surely one of the last freedoms to get a committee to safeguard it.”

Dolan recently spoke out against attacks on houses of worship and religious art, saying such attacks are akin to attacking the community who prays there.

Sam Brownback, a Catholic and a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, said the founders of the group are “increasingly concerned with declining religious freedom here at home” and the “exponential” effect that has overseas. He said the committee plans to run educational campaigns and assess candidates’ positions on religious freedom; create voter guides; and ask candidates to sign a pledge to support religious freedom.

Though the founders of the committee— who represent a wide range of religions— don’t agree on all points of theology, Brownback praised the fact that the group was able to come together to support the right of all Americans to “peacefully practice their faith, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Robert George, a Catholic intellectual and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom , spoke during during the launch and noted that the committee stands ready to defend the religious freedom of all people, not just Christians.

“What we don’t want is religious freedom for me, but not for thee,” he noted.

A legal group known for representing religious believers in court said late last year that support for religious freedom in America has reached a three year high.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis offers prayers for the people of Tonga after volcanic eruption and tsunami
Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 19, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 08:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of Tonga on Wednesday as its islands recover from tsunami damage caused by a massive underwater volcanic eruption.

“My thoughts go out to the people of the islands of Tonga, who have been affected in recent days by the eruption of the underwater volcano, which has caused enormous material damage,” Pope Francis said at the end of his general audience on Jan. 19.

“I am spiritually close to all the afflicted people, imploring God for relief for their suffering. I invite everyone to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters.”

Seen in satellite images from space, scientists have called the volcanic blast in the South Pacific on Jan. 15 the largest eruption in the world in three decades.

Some of the archipelago’s outlying islands were hit by 49-foot-high waves which destroyed homes, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 19.

Communications from Tonga were cut off after the eruption. Reuters has reported at least three known deaths from the tsunami waves.

Caritas Australia, a Catholic charity, is working to contact its partners in Tonga to assess the situation on the ground.

“The volcanic ash is hampering emergency flights into the country and the damage to telecommunications infrastructure has made it difficult to get in contact with affected communities,” the charity wrote on its website.

“There are fears that the volcanic ash and saltwater inundation from the tsunami waves may contaminate drinking water and threaten the health and safety of vulnerable communities.”

The Polynesian country has a Catholic cardinal. Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 60, was born in Tonga’s largest island and currently lives in its capital city, Nukuʻalofa.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane wrote on social media that he had sent a message of prayerful solidarity to Cardinal Mafi on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

“Our congregations will be praying for Tonga today,” Coleridge said on Jan. 16.


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Europe:     Emmanuel Macron calls for abortion to be added to EU rights charter
Emmanuel Macron. / Frederic Legrand COMEO/Shutterstock.

Strasbourg, France, Jan 19, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Jan. 19, Macron said that the rights charter, ratified in the year 2000, needed to be revised.

“Twenty years after the proclamation of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, which notably enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union, I hope that we can update this charter, notably to be more explicit on environmental protection or the recognition of the right to abortion,” he said.

He added: “Let us open this debate freely with our fellow citizens of great European conscience to give new life to our set of rights that forges this Europe strong in its values, the only future of our common political project.”

The French news channel BFM TV reported that Macron’s reference to abortion was applauded by lawmakers.

His appeal came the day after the European Union’s law-making body elected the pro-life Maltese politician Roberta Metsola as its new president.

Metsola succeeds David Sassoli, who died on Jan. 11 at the age of 65. Her election was welcomed by both EU bishops and Maltese Church leaders.

But Metsola — at 43, the youngest-ever president of the European Parliament — told Euronews after her election that she would respect the assembly’s majority view in favor of abortion during her renewable term of two and a half years.

“The position of the parliament is unambiguous and unequivocal, and that is also my position,” she said on Jan. 18.

“That is exactly what I will do throughout my mandate as president on this issue.”

The EU charter recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

The European Parliament voted in June 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

Members of the assembly voted by 378 votes in favor, 255 against, and 42 abstentions to adopt the text, known as the Matić Report, at a plenary session in Brussels, Belgium.

The report also declared that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”

Most of the EU’s 27 member states permit abortion on demand or broad social grounds, except Malta and Poland, which have strong pro-life laws.

On Jan. 1, France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which negotiates and adopts EU laws with the European Parliament.

Macron, who is expected to run for re-election in April, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in November 2021.


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Vatican:     Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of our sins’
Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 19, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has encouraged people to encounter God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with a reminder that the tender forgiveness of God is greater than the “ugliest” sin.

“God is not afraid of our sins, he is greater than our sins,” the pope said in his general audience on Jan. 19.

“God always forgives: put this in your head and heart. God always forgives. We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness. But he always forgives, even the ugliest things,” he said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Speaking about God’s tenderness and mercy, Pope Francis said that the “things of God always reach us through the mediation of human experiences.”

“Tenderness is the best way to touch what is fragile in us. Look how nurses touch the wounds of the sick: with tenderness, so as not to hurt them more. And so the Lord touches our wounds with the same tenderness,” he said.

“This is why it is important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in personal prayer with God, having an experience of truth and tenderness.”

The pope said that God’s tenderness is “greater than the logic of the world” and can be “an unexpected way of doing justice.”

“Without this ‘revolution of tenderness’ … we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to get up easily and that confuses redemption with punishment,” he said.

At the end of his live-streamed audience, the pope’s thoughts turned to those who are in prison today.

“For this reason, today I want to remember in a special way our brothers and sisters who are in prison,” he said.

“It is right that those who have made a mistake pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have made a mistake can redeem themselves from their mistake.”

“There can be no condemnations without windows of hope. … Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and we think of God’s tenderness for them and we pray for them, so that they may find in that window of hope a way out towards a better life.”

This was Pope Francis’ eighth audience in a cycle of catechesis on St. Joseph that he launched in November 2021.

The pope dedicated this week’s general audience to a reflection on the saint as “a father of tenderness.”

As a part of this theme, he reflected on a Bible verse from the Book of Hosea (11:3-4): “He taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him.”

“It’s beautiful, this description from the Bible that shows God’s relationship with the people of Israel. And it is the same relationship we believe St. Joseph had with Jesus,” he said.

Pope Francis offered the following prayer to St. Joseph at the end of the audience:

St Joseph, father in tenderness,
teach us to accept that we are loved precisely in that which is weakest in us.
Grant that we may place no obstacle
between our poverty and the greatness of God's love.
Stir in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
that we may be forgiven and also made capable of loving tenderly
our brothers and sisters in their poverty.
Be close to those who have done wrong and are paying the price for it;
Help them to find not only justice but also tenderness so that they can start again.
And teach them that the first way to begin again
is to sincerely ask for forgiveness, to feel the Father’s caress.
Amen.


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Europe:     The Order of Malta’s new statutes could dilute its sovereignty forever
The flag of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. / AM113 via Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2022 / 04:20 am (CNA).

Fra’ Marco Luzzago, the Lieutenant of the Order of Malta, delivered his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the order on Jan. 11, five years into a reform process launched by Pope Francis.

Standing at a podium at the Magistral Villa in Rome, he hinted at some issues regarding the sovereign status of the body known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Fra’ Marco Luzzago. .  Order of Malta.
Fra’ Marco Luzzago. . Order of Malta.

Recalling at length the works of mercy performed by the order’s members in the past year, he stressed towards the end of his speech that “what you have heard so far has been possible above all thanks to the sovereignty of the order, a founding element of our constitution.”

Luzzago, whose official title is Lieutenant of the Grand Master, added that “this sovereignty has enabled the Order of Malta to build up its vast network of international relations through its diplomacy committed to the constant support of its centuries-old humanitarian mission.”

He concluded: “The work on the reform of our constitutional charter has continued over the past year and is at an advanced stage. Further meetings are planned in the coming weeks to analyze further and examine the outstanding issues.”

“An extraordinary general chapter will be convened to approve the reform when as much consensus as possible has been reached on all the main issues.”

This final passage is crucial to understanding the present situation. In November 2020, Pope Francis named Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi as his special delegate to the order. In October 2021, the pope gave Tomasi sweeping new powers to carry forward reform of the 1,000-year-old institution.

But a draft of the order’s revised constitution is proving controversial among some Knights of Malta, since it would make the order “subject to the Holy See.” This means that the body would lose its independence and hence its diplomatic status.

The final stage of the reform is coming after a long and often bitter debate, which broke out in 2017 after the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing as Grand Master of the order. (Festing died in November at the age of 71.)

To grasp the current crisis, it is important to understand the order’s unique identity and distinctive structure.

The order has diplomatic relations with more than 100 states and permanent observer status at the United Nations. Although it possesses no real territory, it has the hallmarks of sovereignty, such as its own official currency, postage stamps, and vehicle registration plates.

The order’s members belong to one of three classes.

The First Class consists of the Knights of Justice or Professed Knights, as well as Professed Conventual Chaplains, who take the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are defined as religious but not required to live in community.

The Second Class is composed of Knights and Dames in Obedience, who promise to strive for Christian perfection in the spirit of the order.

The Third Class comprises lay members who make neither vows nor promises, but are committed to living a fully Catholic life according to the order’s principles.

Only First Class knights who descend from a family of four quarters of nobility are eligible to be elected as the Grand Master, the order’s religious superior and sovereign.

The Grand Master oversees the order with the help of a body called the Sovereign Council, whose members are elected for five-year terms by the order’s General Chapter.

Members of the Sovereign Council include the Grand Chancellor, who oversees the order’s 133 diplomatic missions, and the Grand Hospitaller, responsible for the order’s humanitarian initiatives.

The order has three different types of national institutions spread around the world: six grand priories, six sub-priories, and 48 associations.

Now let’s look at how the tensions within the order exploded into a public crisis.

Albrecht von Boeselager. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Albrecht von Boeselager. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Clashes within the order

In 2014, the Chapter of the Order of Malta decided not to re-elect Jean-Pierre Mazery as the order’s Grand Chancellor. Instead, Albrecht von Boeselager, previously the order’s Grand Hospitaller, was elected to the position. There was also a significant shift in that election, as none of the Italian members previously in critical positions were re-elected.

This shift had notable consequences. In 2016, Fra’ Matthew Festing, the then Grand Master, asked Boeselager to resign in the presence of Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s cardinal patron (the pope’s representative to the order). The request was tied to reports about the alleged distribution of condoms in Burma by Malteser International, the order’s relief agency.

Fra’ John Edward Critien was appointed interim Grand Chancellor. But several knights appealed against the decision, arguing that the situation in Burma had been resolved and Boeselager was not even Grand Hospitaller at the time.

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, addresses the diplomatic corps in January 2015. British Association of the Order of Malta.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, addresses the diplomatic corps in January 2015. British Association of the Order of Malta.

The pope decided to establish a commission to clarify the situation. The members of the commission were the then Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Lebanese leader Marwan Sehnaoui, canon law expert Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former Grand Chancellor Jacques de Liedekerke, and Marc Odendall, a Swiss-German banker who at the time also sat on the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority’s board.

Recalling that time, Odendall told CNA via email: “We got all the high charges, plus all the important presidents, that represented the associations doing the 90% of the works of the order with 10% of members. We also received hundreds of support letters.”

“We finalized our report and recommended the consensus views among those, inter alia, to ask Fra’ Festing to go, not as a head of state, where the pope should not intervene, but as a head of the religious, since he had asked Boeselager to resign under his promise of obedience and had dismissed him for refusal.”

“He had not followed the course before the Sovereign Council because he would not have had a majority. So, Festing had to resign because he had broken his religious obligations.”

Festing resigned on Jan. 28, 2017. Odendall said that “the pope did not sanction a political decision, which Festing would have taken as the head of the sovereign order.” But the pope firmly took over the religious reform at the Order of Malta.

Pope Francis appointed a delegate to keep tabs on the reform process: Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then an archbishop and serving as the “sostituto” of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Pope Francis with Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, at the Vatican, June 22, 2018. .  Vatican Media.
Pope Francis with Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, at the Vatican, June 22, 2018. . Vatican Media.

The order elected the Italian Fra’ Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto as Lieutenant in 2017 and Grand Master in 2018. Dalla Torre promoted workshops and a comprehensive consultation among the knights to collect proposals for reforming the order’s constitution.

But on April 29, 2020, Dalla Torre died, at the age of 75. The order was led briefly by an interim head, before Luzzago was elected Lieutenant of the Grand Master on Nov. 8, 2020. The lieutenancy lasts for a year, and then there must be a new election, which can either confirm the lieutenancy or elect the Grand Master.

In the meantime, Pope Francis replaced the demoted Becciu with Tomasi as his delegate to the order. In a letter sent to the delegate last October, the pope himself confirmed Luzzago as Lieutenant until the election of a Grand Master and granted Tomasi the right to reform the entire constitution — not only the religious part.

Pope Francis meets with the Order of Malta's Fra' Marco Luzzago on June 25, 2021. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with the Order of Malta's Fra' Marco Luzzago on June 25, 2021. Vatican Media

In particular, the pope gave the delegate the power to summon an Extraordinary General Chapter and co-chair it; outline an ad hoc regulation for the composition and procedures of the Chapter; approve the order’s constitutional charter and code; carry on a renewal of the Sovereign Council according to the new regulations; and summon the Council Complete of State to elect a new Grand Master.

In the end, the pope intervened not only in the religious part of the order, but also granted powers for a general reform of the order, which necessarily affects its sovereignty and government.

Currently, a working group is overseeing the reform. It is composed of Tomasi, Father Ghirlanda, Msgr. Brian Ferme (secretary of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy), Maurizio Tagliaferri, Federico Marti, and Gualtiero Ventura.

On Jan. 25, this group will be enlarged with the addition of a few senior members of the order and at least one Professed Knight. They are supposed to reach an agreement by Jan. 26, so that the delegate can distribute the draft reform: a challenging task, no doubt.

.  Giorgio Minguzzi via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).
. Giorgio Minguzzi via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The fundamental issues

Why is reform of the Order of Malta necessary? Odendall suggested two main reasons.

“The first: the religious life of the professed needs to be reformed. Most of them have a dispensation for not honoring the vow of poverty. The second: if the Grand Master needs to be a religious, which we all agree on, we would like to be able to elect all of the pool of 55 professed and drop the nobility requirements, as only a handful of very old professed qualify today,” he said.

But the discussion within the working group is also about the nature of the office of Grand Master. Odendall shares an opinion that arose during the various debates.

“Unlike others,” he affirmed, “we believe that the Grand Master should be a non-governing head of state, elected for a fixed period and not an absolute monarch for life.”

“He should be completely devoted to the order’s religious role and let the 14,000 Catholic members, of the three classes, together continue to develop the order spiritually and professionally at the service of the poor and the sick.”

He added that a “$2 billion turnover, 45,000 employees, 100,000 volunteers in the world cannot be managed by 19 professed who are under 70 and have no professional qualifications.”

In the end, Odendall believes that “national associations cannot accept their success and future developments being compromised by the notion that only full religious members should be decision-makers.”

But, he noted, “if the sovereignty disappears, then national associations do not need to stay in a subsidiary of the Holy See managed by the professed, and they will likely quit and stay a Catholic organization with their chaplains and no interference against the mission to the poor and the sick.”

The Magistral Villa of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome. Lalupa via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The Magistral Villa of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome. Lalupa via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The state of the reform process

The draft of the constitutional charter has not been released publicly. But CNA has learned of its general outlines.

First, the order would become a lay institute, subject to the Holy See, ruled by canon law. This reform might jeopardize the diplomatic ties of the Order of Malta — which is a sovereign entity in international law.

The reform would also allow the Holy See to intervene in the works of the associations beyond what is spelled out in the constitutional charter and code.

National associations have until now been distinct from the order’s priories: they were not governed by canon law and the Holy See played no role in them.

According to the draft, power within the associations will reside with the professed and members in obedience. Moreover, the top offices will only be elected for six-year terms.

This provision reflects Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, as the pope has made known that top positions will be held for no more than two consecutive five-year terms.

But observers note that these measures can limit the effectiveness of senior officials’ work, according to a principle considered valid both for the Order of Malta and the Roman Curia.

Another notable change would be that the order’s focus would increasingly be on offering relief amid conflicts and disasters, which might imply that Malteser International will be transferred to the Grand Magistry in Rome.

Also, the Grand Magistry can dismiss members of all high offices of the association. The Grand Master alone can initiate disciplinary measures against the lay president of an association, and the Grand Hospitalier supervises the works of the association.

Further, the Grand Magistry would be able to stipulate unilaterally the financial contributions it receives from the associations (currently this applies only to priories). The Grand Magistry also would be able to give rules for the conduct of the associations’ daily business.

Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi. Martin Micallef/Maltese Association Order of Malta via Flickr.
Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi. Martin Micallef/Maltese Association Order of Malta via Flickr.

The high stakes of reform

If tailored this way, the reform will touch the very nature of the Order of Malta, on the one hand, enhancing the powers of the Grand Magistry and, on the other, threatening the sovereignty of the order in a combination of religious and secular issues.

But Tomasi has written in the past days to the order’s regional leadership, stressing that the draft is “provisional” and that it can be changed. Thus, Tomasi addressed the heated debate that has arisen within the order.

To clarify things, Odendall suggested it was necessary to “leave the present working group to focus on religious matters and add another commission with senior members of the government and members of the Secretariat of State, experts in international law, to evaluate how to protect the sovereignty and independence of the order as a distinctively internationally recognized body while we achieve a real religious reform of the First Class.”

Odendall added that “the delegate should also chair this institutional commission and the result of this combined work would help the order, the Church and, more than everything else, the poor and the sick, migrants and the abandoned, to be helped on an even bigger scale in the future.”

In the end, reform needs to pass. But the kind of reform currently considered, Odendall noted, “could probably result in the secession of the biggest associations, leaving a few professed and non-active associations having a purely worldly representation. This cannot be the objective of Pope Francis as we know him.”


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US:     ‘We offered them a safe space’: Texas priest details parish's role helping synagogue hostage families
Good Shepherd Catholic Community Parish in Colleyville, Texas. / Screen shot of Twitter post

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 18, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

When a gunman entered a nearby synagogue in Texas and took four people hostage, including the rabbi, Father Michael Higgins and his Catholic parish sprang into action. 

“We got a call from the police that they were looking for a safe space for the wife and daughter of Rabbi Charlie and for the spouses of the hostages out over at the synagogue,” the Franciscan friar said during his homily on Jan. 16, the day after the attack. “We offered them a safe space.”

The family members hid at his parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Colleyville, Texas, located just a minute’s drive away from the synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel. They stayed for more than 12 hours, he said, as the parish staff cared for them.

“I really want to mention this because I think it really is an indication of how well the message of how we should deal with those in need has really seeped through the community here,” Higgins said.

The gunman, identified as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, attacked during synagogue services that were live streamed. Law enforcement fatally shot Akram, who appeared to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted terrorist imprisoned in Texas after being found guilty of attempting to murder American soldiers and officials in Afghanistan. 

The hostages were uninjured.

During the more than 10-hour standoff between Akram and authorities, Good Shepherd opened its doors to law enforcement, media, faith leaders of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and the hostages’ family members.

The parish attempted to separate the press from the family members.

“What we were trying to do is give the families a safe space and we didn't want the press to be notified that they were there,” Higgins said. “So we sort of blocked off the church hall and allowed the press to use the facilities in that area.”

He wanted the families to have their own space, he said, “because you can imagine the terror that they were going through.” 

But Higgins also stressed the good during the attack.

“I think these events really show what the worst that humanity can do and what the best of humanity as well,” he said. 

He thanked parish staff and members of the parish community — as well as those that brought them food during the attack.

“Christianity has a lot of traditions within it that we receive from our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he added. “And one thing that really highlighted that yesterday was that we were deluged with food.” 

“All of that is to point out that there is a lot of good and there's a lot of good that goes on behind the scenes that's not celebrated,” he concluded. “Too often we focus only on the negative things and we don't celebrate all the positive things.” 

He credited the example of the faith of the Blessed Mother. 

“I can't say that I'm more proud of what this community was able to do,” he added.

As soon as all of the hostages were declared safe, Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth took to Twitter to thank God and the local Catholic church led by Higgins.

“Thank you to the parishioners of [Good Shepherd] and their pastor Fr. Michael Higgins, TOR, for their assistance and charitable support for first responders and families of hostages,” he tweeted.

The bishop retweeted Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, who also expressed gratitude.

“We thank God for the safety of the members of Beth Israel in Texas,” the cardinal wrote. “Thanks also for the successful work of those public safety officials.  We stand with our Jewish neighbors as they confront violence. May all who suffer hatred in their places of worship know of our prayers.” 


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US:     'Devastated' Traditional Latin Mass devotees petition Arlington bishop to ease restrictions
Priest celebrating the traditional Latin Mass at the church of St Pancratius, Rome / Thoom/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 18, 2022 / 17:17 pm (CNA).

Supporters of the Traditional Latin Mass are petitioning Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, to lift restrictions he recently imposed on the celebration of the sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. 

“In the spirit of the Synodal Path that the church has embarked upon, we humbly ask that you engage in consultations with the faithful of each parish church potentially affected by restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass,” says the petition, which was published on the petition website Change.org on Jan. 14. 

“And we pray fervently that you might offer permission to allow the Extraordinary Form and other traditional sacraments to continue across the Diocese of Arlington.”

The petition had garnered more than 1,000 signatures by 6 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

The Diocese of Arlington is one of the two Catholic dioceses in Virginia. Its territory covers the northern part of the state. Twenty-one of the diocese’s 70 parishes offer the Latin Mass, one of the highest percentages among U.S. dioceses. 

In early January, Burbidge issued a statement concerning the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the diocese. While Burbidge did not restrict any of the existing Latin Masses in the diocese, he said there is to be no “scheduling of new celebrations of the Sacraments (such as baptisms and weddings) in the Extraordinary Form.” 

“Those which have already been scheduled are permitted to continue as planned,” said Burbidge. 

Burbidge issued his directive as a response to the “responsa ad dubia” published by the Vatican on Dec. 18. Among the things listed in the responsa, the Divine Worship congregation said that, according to Traditionis custodes, sacraments cannot be celebrated using the liturgical books Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum promulgated prior to the Vatican II reforms.

In a letter to bishops accompanying Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis said that the celebration of the Latin Mass “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.'” 

The pope also lamented that communities dedicated to the Latin Mass had “exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

The petition says those characterizations do not apply “in any way” in the Arlington Diocese.

“Traditional Latin Mass attendees in this diocese are marked by deep reverence and love for the Church and a burning desire to live our Catholic faith as fully as possible, not a sense of disunity and schism,” it continues. 

The petition adds that the laity have been “devastated” at the new restrictions, and that there is a “profound sense of loss and grief at the prospect of losing the ability to celebrate the Mass and other sacraments in the Old Rite.”

“At a time when there is so much darkness and despair in the world and in our country, we find the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to be a beacon of light and hope — one which touches our hearts and nourishes our Catholic Faith,” says the petition. 

The petition was started by Noah Peters, a parishioner at St. John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. “Peters converted to Catholicism from Judaism in 2020, and his wife was baptized and received into full communion that same year.

After seeing “YouTube traditionalists” discuss the Latin Mass, Peters, 36-year-old lawyer living in Fairfax, was steered in the direction of a parish in the Diocese of Arlington. He said his first experience seeing the Latin Mass in 2019 “blew me away,” and that “any doubt about converting went away immediately.” 

While he had attended the Novus Ordo before, and found it to be “fine, perhaps a bit rote,” he thought “there was something special about the TLM.” 

When Traditionis custodes was released in July, Peters and his wife were in marriage preparation. He told CNA he was “shocked” by the motu proprio. They were married, in the Extraordinary Form, in October 2021. 

“[My wife and I] were totally confused as to why the Vatican would focus on this at a time when the Catholic church is suffering from such a decrease in Mass attendance and belief,” he said. That feeling later became a sense of powerlessness, he said.

“This petition was born of trying to overcome that awful feeling,” explained Peters. He hopes to “give voice to all the people who love the traditional Mass in Arlington” through the petition drive.  

Peters plans on personally handing Burbidge a printout of the signed petition. 

“I am sympathetic to him because he is being placed in an impossible position,” he said, noting that he and his predecessors had helped the diocese become a hub for the traditional Mass. 

“Now he has pressure to go suddenly in reverse,” said Peters. “That is why he asked for our prayers.” The petition, Peters said, reflects those prayers from Catholics in the diocese. 

But for Peters, another motivation is looking ahead to the future. Namely, his own future generations.

“Ultimately, we want others — especially our children — to experience the deep Catholic faith that we have experienced through the TLM,” he said. 


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