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Europe:     Spanish bishop who resigned from office will attempt marriage

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, Bishop Emeritus of Solsona. / Conferencia Episcopal Española via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Solsona, Spain, Oct 15, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, who resigned as Bishop of Solsona in August, has applied for a civil marriage license with his partner, who is herself a divorcee.

After various inquiries with Spanish ecclesial authorities by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, there is no record that Bishop Novell, 52, has been dismissed from the clerical state, or has even requested such.

Those who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage, as do those bound by the bond of a prior marriage. A cleric who attempts marriage can be punished, even by dismissal from the clerical state.

According to a document released by Spanish media, Bishop Novell made the request with the Civil Registry of Suria in Spain’s Barcelona Province Oct. 7.

Within the 15 days established by the Civil Registry of Spain, the authorities ask "all persons who know of any legal impediment" to state so before the marriage takes place.

In the document signed by Justice of the Peace Jaume Bransuela Alsina, "all persons who know of any legal impediment (...) are asked to express it in writing or orally to this Court within a period of fifteen days."

Bishop Novell resigned Aug. 23 citing “strictly personal reasons.” The diocese announced that the decision was made freely and in accord with a canon which asks that a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause … present his resignation from office.”

Various media broke the news Sept. 5 that Bishop Novell moved to Manresa to live with Silvia Caballol, 38, a psychologist and author of erotic novels with satanic overtones, some of them restricted to those 18 or older. 

Caballol is separated from her husband, and the mother of two. 

Bishop Novell was born in 1969 in Spain’s Lérida province.

He earned a degree in agricultural technical engineering from the University of Lleida, a bachelor's in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1997, and a doctorate in 2004.

He was ordained a priest of the Solsona diocese in 1997, and in 2010 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed ordinary of the same diocese.

The apostolic administrator of Solsona, Bishop Romà Casanova i Casanova of Vic, wrote in September that after Bishop Novell’s resignation some of the feelings people were experiencing were of "truncated fidelity," "abandoned fatherhood" and "shaken fraternity", because a bishop’s relationship with his diocese is "much more than the cold reality of a captain who makes things go as best as possible."

Bishop Casanova said, “the Lord never abandons his people. To come out of this we have to live out the communion that leads us to fraternity and trusting prayer. We need to hear the voice of the Lord and experience the strength of his hand that does not allow us to perish.”


Americas:     Argentine bishops welcome Vatican recognition of priests' 1683 martyrdom
The Martyrs of Zenta. / Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Orán.

Orán, Argentina, Oct 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Bishops in Argentina have welcomed the promulgation of a decree by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that regards the martyrdom of Pedro Ortiz de Zárate and Juan Antonio Solinas, priests who were killed Oct. 27, 1683.

Fr. Ortiz de Zárate, a diocesan priest, and Fr. Solinas, a Jesuit, were evangelizing the indigenous populations of the Valle del Zenta in the Viceroyalty of Peru, now part of Argentina, when they were beheaded by members of the Toba and Mocoví peoples.

Fr. Ortiz de Zárate was born in what is now Argentina in 1626. He married and had two children, but became a widower and entrusted them to a grandmother, intending to become a priest. He was ordained a priest around 1657. He was a parish priest in Jujuy for 24 years.

Fr. Solinas was born in Italy, and made religious profession in the Society of Jesus in 1665, and was ordained a priest in 1673. His first apostolate began in 1678 at the Reduction of Itapúa.

The two priests were assigned to the mission of Chaco in 1683. Together with 18 laity, some of whom were indigenous, they were massacred by a group of some 150 natives on Oct. 27. Their remains were found the following day by witnesses who narrated the event. 

Their cause was opened in 1988. The 18 lay persons were originally included, though they were expelled in 2002 for lack of documentation.

The congregation said in its decree that “the Servants of God were aware of the risks that their mission entailed, ready to be witnesses to the very last of the Gospel message they were spreading.”

The priests’ martyrdom was recognized by an Oct. 13 decree of the congregation, which also recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of two Venerables, and the heroic virtues of four Servants of God.

Bishop Luis Antonio Scozzina of Orán noted that since the slayings, the faithful have made a pilgrimage in October of each year from Pichanal to the site of the martyrdom.

The recognition of the priests’ martyrdom in a diocese "that has five different ethnic groups, with more than 120 native communities in the territory, where a good part of these communities identify with the Catholic faith,” is "an opportunity to renew this alliance at the service of the native communities, a great challenge, " Bishop Scozzina told the AICA news agency.

The Aboriginal Pastoral Ministry has gained momentum and has made "a long journey of accompaniment in the defense of aboriginal rights, with a great presence in the midst of the communities," he stressed.

The Bishops’ Delegate for the Causes of Saints and the Military Bishop of Argentina, Santiago Olivera, noted that before Argentina was a country,  “men and women, also lay people, shed their blood for the faith, for fraternity, for the encounter” between peoples.

"May this be the commitment of all of us who joyfully” receive the news of this decree “to be able to give up our own lives for our convictions, our beliefs, for the faith, for the love of Jesus Christ, for the love of the Church."

Bishop Olivera said that the decree is a cause for joy and gratitude also for "so many men and women who in our country, and before it became a nation, signed with their lives the faith they professed with their lips."

"We thank God for these men who throughout the country are showing us that holiness is possible, that we must all travel that road and they are thankful that we too are always on the road," Bishop Olivera said.


Europe:     Murdered British lawmaker was Catholic, pro-life
The late David Amess, Member of Parliament for Southend West / davidamess.co.uk

Denver Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 11:45 am (CNA).

A British lawmaker died Friday after suffering multiple stab wounds at a Methodist church in southeast England. 

Sir David Amess, 69, was a Member of Parliament since 1983 and a member of the Conservative party. He was Catholic, pro-life, and reportedly a strong supporter of Catholic education and animal welfare. Amess was holding a meeting with his constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church when the attack took place. 

A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the killing, and a knife has been recovered. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster released a statement paying tribute to Amess and urging prayers for him and his family. 

“I pray for him that he be welcomed into the merciful presence of Our Heavenly Father. I pray for his family and friends, those reeling from shock at this time. I pray for his constituents [and] all those who worked with him in his political career,” Cardinal Nichols said. 

“David carried out his vocation as a Catholic in public life with generosity and integrity. He served in Parliament for four decades and was respected by all political parties across the House. His untimely death is a great loss.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Amess had an "outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable.”

Right to Life UK described Amess as a “pro-life champion.” 

“Sir David’s death is a senseless tragedy and he will be truly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Julia and their five children,” said Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK. 

“Since he was elected in 1983, he always, where possible, used his position as an MP to stand up for the vulnerable, including championing initiatives to introduce more protections for unborn babies and more support for women facing crisis pregnancies. Everyone who worked with Sir David knew him to be a kind, caring and jovial man, who showed real care for the most vulnerable in our society.” 

Amess’ recent voting records showed that he voted against the legalization of assisted suicide, in favor of stricter gestational limits on abortions, and against ​​the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland, among other pro-life measures. 

Cardinal Nichols noted that Amess was “instrumental” in the historic visit of Pope Benedict to Parliament in Sept. 2010, during the pope’s visit to the UK. Amess had in 2006 established an All-party Parliamentary Group for relations with the Holy See, a group including people from different faiths and beliefs, Nichols said. 

“He fostered this mutually respectful relationship through meetings with Cardinal Parolin, the Pope’s Secretary of State, and with other Catholic leaders. This contribution is both esteemed and will be sorely missed,” the Cardinal said. 

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales’ agency for education stated on Twitter, “The death of Sir David Amess is a horrific tragedy. He was an outstanding Catholic MP and a fervent supporter of Catholic education.”

“Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.”

Benedict Rogers, chief executive and cofounder of the British human rights group Hong Kong Watch, said he and Amess had “worked together regularly on international human rights over the years.”

“He was very warm, kind and fun. He was always encouraging me to stand for Parliament and tried to help me in that. He had a huge smile, great humour and a very good heart. He was a great character and will be hugely missed,” Rogers tweeted. 

Amess strongly supported Brexit in the 2016 referendum. 

The last British MP to be killed was Jo Cox in 2016, who was shot outside a meeting with her constituents in West Yorkshire. Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, said she was “Totally shocked by what has happened to think that something so horrific could happen again to another MP, to another family,” PA reported.

“And scared and frightened – a real rollercoaster of emotions,” Leadbeater said.

According to PA, 80 people attended a memorial service for Amess on Friday.

“He carried with him that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians I would say are good at that,” Father Jeffrey Woolnough said of Amess, PA reported. “We don’t have the words tonight. Dear Sir David, rest well.”

This story was updated with new information on Friday, Oct. 15.


Europe:     Meet the Catholic nuns leading the fight against human trafficking
Sister Monica Chikwe, vice president, Slaves No More / U.S. Embassy to the Holy See

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 10:06 am (CNA).

When a 26-year-old Nigerian girl was first forced out on the streets of Italy by her traffickers, she was told: “You have to start smiling.”

Blessing Okaedion still thinks back on that moment in 2013 as a turning point in her life.

“I can remember the shame. I can remember covering my face,” Okaedion said at an event in Rome on Oct. 14.

Her traffickers told her to smile for the clients, and Okaedion thought: “How can I just stop crying and start smiling?”

She said that that was the moment that she realized that she was a slave without the freedom even to express her own emotions.

“You can no longer prove your emotions because it doesn't matter anymore because you are a slave,” she said.

“You have to present yourself to the buyers that you are a product, that you chose to be there. You have to present yourself to the buyer, that this is your desire … because that is what the buyer sees on your face and through your actions.”

“No one really understood that those girls on the streets, they are not smiling, they are crying,” she said.

Rediscovering Dignity

Okaedion described the dehumanizing experience of sex slavery at an event co-hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the Embassy of Ireland to the Holy See entitled: “Empowering a New Generation to Fight Modern Slavery.”

She shared how Catholic religious sisters helped her to regain her freedom, recognize her dignity, and be empowered to advocate for other sex trafficking victims through an NGO which she founded.

“I will not stop this speech without appreciating the role that the sisters played in our lives,” she said.

Okaedion said that the sisters showed her “what it means to be autonomous and to be free,” and helped her “not only to regain her dignity, but to have a voice and to have eyes to look profoundly for those social injustices.”

Sisters on the frontlines

A network of more than 2,000 Catholic religious sisters serve on the frontlines of the fight against sex trafficking, helping survivors heal and find true freedom.

Among these sisters dedicating their lives to serving human trafficking victims is Sister Imelda Poole, who works with trafficking victims in Albania.

Sister Imelda was invited to come from Albania to Italy by the American and Irish embassies to the Holy See to receive the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Hero Award at the event.

“Survivors in our shelters in Albania are nearly all minors today,” Sister Imelda said in her speech.

“And they have come back from countries which have abused them beyond any of your imagination.”

She said that the religious sisters help these women through “human empowerment to bring them through the trauma” using art therapy.

Sister Imelda is a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary congregation and serves as the president of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation.

Sister Monica Chikwe, a member of the Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy from Nigeria and the vice president of Slaves No More, and Sister Gabriella Bottani, a Comboni Missionary who leads the “Talitha Kum” network, also spoke at the panel and shared their strategies for how to combat human trafficking. 

Talitha Kum

Talitha Kum is a network of religious sisters present in 77 countries. Members of the network have served 10,000 trafficking survivors by accompanying them to shelters and other residential communities, engaging in international collaboration, and aiding survivors' return home.

At the highest levels of the Church, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is working on anti-trafficking issues and coordinating different agencies, including the anti-trafficking network Talitha Kum.

The name “Talitha Kum” is Aramaic, from Jesus Christ's words in the Gospel of Mark's fifth chapter. There he spoke to the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, who had just died: "Young girl, I say to you, arise!" Jesus then took the girl by the hand and she got up and walked.

The network sees its name as an expression of "the transformative power of compassion and mercy" for those who have been wounded by "the many forms of exploitation." The network grew out of efforts in the 1990s and is a collaborative effort with the International Union of Superiors General. It was formally established in 2009.

Empowering the next generation

Sister Imelda said that she has great hope that younger generations will join their efforts to “to eliminate the world of this heinous crime of human trafficking.”

In an interview with EWTN, she shared the story of a Norwegian young man who was studying at the Polish Film Academy in Warsaw and who was assigned to do a film on erotica.

“He chose not to do that, but to make a film against human trafficking to express the horror of erotica, and what it can do to enslave a young woman who without her will is being abused in this way,” she said.

At first, the film was critiqued by his professors who told him he did not fulfill the assignment, but later this short film was given a distinction, she explained. The award winning video was shown at the BAFTA center in Piccadilly Square in London.

Sister Imelda said that she believes education has a key role to play in empowering the next generation in the fight against human trafficking. 

“ I feel that they [young people] are the future …  not I feel, I know,” Sister Imelda said.

“We have a responsibility to the next generation. But our main responsibility is to listen and support them, so that they can be given all possibilities and skills to lead,” she said.


US:     Knights of Columbus release new documentary on St. Joseph
St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni / Public Domain

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2021 / 09:15 am (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus have released a new documentary on St. Joseph, inspired by Pope Francis’s declaration of the Year of St. Joseph.

"The film opens up a new avenue for individuals who want to learn more about St. Joseph, who want to cultivate a devotion to him," the film’s director, David Naglieri, told CNA. 

The 60-minute documentary “St. Joseph: Our Spiritual Father,” which premiered on Oct. 10 for a six-week run on ABC-affiliated stations across the country, features reenactments, interviews with scholars, and testimonies of people with a devotion to St. Joseph.

Naglieri said that the “visual medium” used to tell the story of St. Joseph is what makes the project unique. 

"I'm not saying there's anything original in this film that could not be found in books,” he said, “but what is original is putting it all together along with these individual stories in a visual medium that can inspire you in ways that a book can't."

The airing times, as well as segments from the documentary and resources on St. Joseph, are available on the Knights of Columbus website.

"I think reading and engaging in media visually are two different ways to learn and to grow and to educate yourself and so it's good to have both,” Naglieri added. “If you're just watching stuff, you're missing something and if you're only reading and you're not watching some educational or informative films, you're missing something there as well."

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

Naglieri said the film is a result of Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly’s strong devotion to St. Joseph. Earlier this year, Kelly was installed as the head of the order in June, and consecrated his new administration to St. Joseph. 

According to Naglieri, who is the director of film and digital media for the Knights of Columbus, Kelly asked him to consider producing a documentary film to highlight St. Joseph’s life and his importance as a role model for modern times.

Naglieri said that he chose to highlight devotion to St. Joseph through six different stories. 

One of the six stories, told by a member of the Knights in Poland, tells about the Catholic priests in the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. Naglieri said the testimony, told by a prisoner's grandson, notes that 20% of the priests in Poland ended up as prisoners at Dachau.

Fearing for their survival, the priests prayed a nine day novena to St. Joseph for protection. The people in the camp were liberated at the culmination of their novena, and discovered that the day of their liberation was originally the day of their scheduled execution, Naglieri said.

It was a “remarkable story,” Naglieri said. To pay thanks and homage to the saint, he noted that there is an annual pilgrimage on the day of the liberation, April 29, to the St. Joseph Shrine in Kalisz, Poland.

Naglieri said the story shows the power of devotion to St. Joseph “during one of the darkest periods of the 20th century.”

If viewers miss the airing on ABC, Naglieri said the full documentary will be available on the Knights of Columbus website in December.


Vatican:     Pope Francis to meet 500 poor in Assisi on Nov. 12
On Nov. 17, 2019, Pope Francis shared a free lunch with nearly 1,500 poor people invited to dine at the Vatican for the 3rd annual World Day of the Poor / / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 07:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will visit Assisi, Italy on Nov. 12, where he will spend time with a group of 500 poor people from across Europe, the Vatican announced Friday.

The encounter will take place as part of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the 5th annual World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 14.

According to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the meeting, Pope Francis will make a private visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis.

The pope will then meet a group of 500 poor people, praying with them and listening to their experiences.

The theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor is “The poor you will always have with you,” the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 14:7 after a woman anointed him with precious ointment.

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, issued in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The idea came about, he explained, during the Jubilee for Socially Excluded People.

“At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” the pope wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message in 2017.

The Day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Feast of Christ the King.

In his message for this year’s celebration, released in June, Pope Francis appealed for a new global approach to poverty.

He also said democracy is threatened when the poor are marginalized and treated as if they are to blame for their condition.

“This is a challenge that governments and world institutions need to take up with a farsighted social model capable of countering the new forms of poverty that are now sweeping the world and will decisively affect coming decades,” he wrote.

“If the poor are marginalized, as if they were to blame for their condition, then the very concept of democracy is jeopardized and every social policy will prove bankrupt.”

The pope also lamented what he said was an increasing tendency to dismiss the poor against the background of the coronavirus crisis.

“There seems to be a growing notion that the poor are not only responsible for their condition, but that they represent an intolerable burden for an economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups,” he commented.

“A market that ignores ethical principles, or picks and chooses from among them, creates inhumane conditions for people already in precarious situations,” he said. “We are now seeing the creation of new traps of poverty and exclusion, set by unscrupulous economic and financial actors lacking in a humanitarian sense and in social responsibility.”


Europe:     'One million children praying the rosary': Kids join rosary initiative inspired by St. Padre Pio
null / Photo courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need

Rome Newsroom, Oct 15, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Children in South Sudan, Burma, and Lebanon have joined a worldwide initiative to get one million kids to pray the rosary this year on Oct. 18.

“One million children praying the rosary” is a prayer campaign by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) held annually on the feast of St. Luke.

This year, the organization has provided meditations on the mysteries of the rosary for children in 24 languages, along with printable coloring pages and a prayer to St. Joseph.

More than 100,000 children from 44 countries, including the United States, Spain, Kenya, India, Colombia, and the Philippines, have already registered to take part in the rosary campaign, according to an online map published by the pontifical charity.

Children in South Sudan participating in the rosary campaign. ACN
Children in South Sudan participating in the rosary campaign. ACN

Among the participating dioceses is a Catholic community in Myanmar, also known as Burma. A Catholic leader from the southeast Asian country wrote a letter to ACN saying that the rosary has been a source of strength amid the difficult times the country is facing after experiencing a coup.

“The situation has been bad for months now. The pandemic is rather severe in our area. All the villages are in lockdown. Praying the Rosary daily is the only source of strength physically and psychologically in the villages,” said the Burmese cleric, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

“Our diocese will join you and pray for you and for your intentions. I am ever grateful to you for all concerns, love, kindness and generous support,” he said.

Aid to the Church in Need is a pontifical foundation, established in 1947, dedicated to helping persecuted Christians around the world.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the president of ACN, said that the 2021 rosary campaign seeks to encourage children to pray “hand in hand with Our Lady and under the protection of Saint Joseph.”

He said that St. Joseph is “a great example for us of how God can turn all things to good through our prayer, our fidelity and our obedience to His Word.”

Children in Lebanon pray the rosary. ACN
Children in Lebanon pray the rosary. ACN

The ACN rosary initiative originated in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in 2005. According to the official website, children were praying the rosary at a wayside shrine when “several of the women in attendance strongly felt the presence of the Virgin Mary.”

“They immediately thought of St. Padre Pio’s promise: ‘When one million children pray the rosary, the world will change,’” the website said.

St. Padre Pio is known for his deep devotion to praying multiple rosaries daily. The Franciscan priest from Pietrelcina, Italy was often seen with a rosary wrapped around his hand and had other rosaries under his pillow and on his nightstand.

Two days before he died in 1968, Padre Pio encouraged his spiritual children to pray the rosary saying: “Love Our Lady and make her loved. Recite the Rosary and recite it always and as much as you can.”


Vatican:     What is the seal of confession? A Q&A with Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary / / Gianluigi Persi (public domain).

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

The release this month of a watershed report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France has sparked another debate over the secrecy of confession.

The Catholic Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is obliged, under the severest legal penalties, to keep absolute secrecy concerning everything learned in the context of sacramental confession.

French law has long recognized the Church’s strict rules about the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but the government is contemplating amending the law for confessors, as it has done with lawyers and other secular professionals, who are required to report child sexual abuse if they learn of it.

In comments to the National Catholic Register on Wednesday, the spokeswoman for France’s bishops’ conference, Karine Dalle, clarified that the country’s Catholic leaders do not intend to compromise on the Church’s teaching that the confessional seal is sacrosanct.

To learn more about the seal of confession, ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian partner agency, spoke to Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary.

ACI Stampa: Why is the seal of confession so important? What is it and where does the law come from?

MP: The nature of the Sacrament of Reconciliation consists in the personal encounter of the sinner with the Merciful Father. The object of the sacrament is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God and with the Church, and the restoration of filial dignity by virtue of the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.

The Church’s teaching on confession is briefly presented in paragraph 1422 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which collects the teachings in Vatican II’s [constitution] Lumen gentium and canon 959 of the Code of Canon Law.

It is essential to emphasize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation, being an act of worship, cannot and must not be confused with a psychological session or a form of counseling. As a sacramental act, this sacrament must be protected in the name of religious freedom and any interference must be considered illegitimate and harmful to the rights of conscience.

So the priest hearing confessions must keep the seal, but at the same time, shouldn't he help report crimes to the ecclesial and civil authorities? How can he do that?

Everything said in confession from the moment in which this act of worship begins with the sign of the cross to the moment in which it ends, either with absolution or with absolution denied, is under absolutely inviolable seal. All information referred to in confession is “sealed” because it is given to God alone, so it is not usable by the priest confessor (cf. canons 983-984 CIC; 733-734 CCEO).

Even in the specific case in which, for example, during confession a minor reveals that he has been abused, the conversation must, by its nature, always and in every situation, remain sealed. This does not prevent the confessor from strongly recommending that the minor himself report the abuse to his parents, educators, and the police.

In the case that someone confesses to having committed abuse, if the confessor has no doubt about the penitent disposition of the person asking for absolution it cannot be denied or postponed (cf. canon 980). There is certainly a duty to make amends for a perpetrated injustice and to sincerely commit to preventing the abuse from happening again, resorting, if necessary, to competent help, but these serious duties linked to the path of conversion do not involve self-denunciation. The confessor must in any case invite the penitent to a deeper reflection and to evaluate the consequences of his actions, especially when another person has been suspected or unjustly condemned.

How can we respond to bishops who are tempted, even if for a just cause, to concede a part of the obligation of secrecy in confession? How does the seal of confession differ from professional secrecy or confidentiality?

Comparing the sacramental seal to the professional secrecy which, for example, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, etc. are required to keep, must be absolutely avoided.

Apart from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there is no [professional] secret that cannot yield to requirements to the contrary established by law or by a judge, by ethical codes or by the interested party who authorizes its disclosure.

The secret of confession, on the other hand, is not an obligation imposed from outside, but an intrinsic requirement of the sacrament, and as such cannot be dissolved even by the penitent himself (cf. canon 1550, §2, n.2 CIC; canon 1231, §2, n.2 CCEO).

The penitent does not speak to the human confessor, but to God, so that to take possession of what belongs to God would be sacrilege. The safeguard of the sacrament, instituted by Christ to be a sure haven of salvation for all sinners, is accepted.

If the faithful lose confidence in the seal, reception of the sacrament of confession could nosedive, causing very serious damage to souls and to the whole work of evangelization.

It is essential to insist that the seal of confession cannot be compared to professional secrecy, in order to prevent secular legislation from applying the justifiable exceptions of professional secrecy to the inviolable secrecy of confession.


Europe:     As Catholic dioceses across the world embark on the synodal path, experts offer advice
Cardinals and bishops in the Vatican’s Synod Hall, Oct. 14, 2015. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

London, England, Oct 15, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

This weekend, dioceses in the U.S. and around the world will formally launch a local consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality in Rome.

Supporters bill it as one of the most important events in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council and the greatest consultation exercise in human history.

But as the diocesan phase of the ambitious two-year project begins, many Catholics are either wholly unaware of the “synodal path” or unsure of its significance.

The synodal process starts with a diocesan consultation lasting from October 2021 to April 2022. 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, on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

An infographic showing the timeline for the synod on synodality. Vatican Media.
An infographic showing the timeline for the synod on synodality. Vatican Media.

The process will be guided by two texts -- a preparatory document and handbook -- released last month by the Vatican.

But at an event in Rome last weekend, Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said it would be wrong to see the texts as an attempt to dictate the direction of the global process. The cardinal explained that the documents were not intended to “pre-establish the conditions of the path or dictate the way, obliging the Church to follow a path established in advance.”

With that caveat noted, CNA asked theologians what the preparatory documents tell us about where the synodal path could lead.

While they expressed enthusiasm about the synod on synodality’s potential for renewal, they voiced reservations about the vagueness surrounding its ultimate goals, the preparatory texts’ theology, and the timing of the process.

The promise of synodality

Christopher Ruddy, an associate professor of historical and systematic theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said that there was “a lot that’s really commendable” in the texts.

“To be trying to foster deeper communion in the Church, deeper participation, greater mission — those three goals are all really worthwhile,” he told CNA in a phone interview.

“I think that sense of co-responsibility — that all of the faithful are called to take an active part in the life and mission of the Church — is something that’s really important and is still a work in progress.”

He added: “The emphasis on listening and discernment, and trying not to reduce the synod to a parliament or political struggle, is really good.”

Fr. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M. Cap., a former member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, praised the global scope of the synodal process.

“It could enliven not only the local churches but the entire worldwide Church,” he told CNA via email.

“[Through] a global growth in faith through the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would more fully be called Lord of all of the world to the glory of God the Father.”

“Also, the faith of the Church could be confirmed and strengthened and people could be helped to live holy lives. It could enliven a whole worldwide evangelization. All of this would be marvelous to behold.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Images of the Church

Ruddy, who teaches a course on Vatican II, noted that the preparatory document seeks to root the synodal path in the ecumenical council held in Rome in 1962-65.

“It’s very clear that it’s placing itself in a sort of trajectory of Vatican II and the idea that the Church is a pilgrim People of God journeying towards the Kingdom,” he said.

“And of course that’s conciliar teaching and it’s scriptural, but there are other things that don’t get emphasized as much in terms of looking at the Church, like the images of the Church as the Body of Christ or the Temple of the Holy Spirit, or even the Bride of Christ.”

“These are all obviously legitimate and valid ways of looking at the Church, but they bring out different emphases. I think that sometimes when you’re emphasizing one dimension of the Church, or one image, it has its strengths but also its limits.”

Ruddy said that highlighting the image of the Church as a people “walking together” (the origin of the word “synod”) raised the question of “where it is journeying to.”

“I think there needs to be a clear sense of the goal here. I think of that line, ‘it’s not the destination, it’s the journey,’ and I've never liked that. When you’re on a journey, you need to be surprised sometimes by that, but you do need to have a sense of why you’re doing this and where you’re ultimately heading.”

He added: “Even granting that this document is just trying to get something going, I think it’s still important to have a sense ultimately of where you’re going, so that it doesn’t just become amorphous.”

Referring to the Bible, he noted that when the Israelites were in the desert, they were seeking the Promised Land, and when people went up to Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, they did so for a definite purpose.

“They weren’t just trying to journey together, they were trying to go somewhere,” he commented.

Vatican pool.
Vatican pool.

Consulting all the baptized

The synod on synodality’s handbook urges dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process.

It says: “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.”

Ruddy said it made sense to consult those who no longer take part in Church life, just as a company would seek to listen to dissatisfied customers so it could improve its service.

“You’d be like, ‘OK, what are we doing wrong? What can we improve? What are we missing here?’” he said.

“But if it’s used as a way to almost privilege those voices, as the document says, I think, in a couple of places, that can lead in a problematic direction.”

Weinandy, the former executive director of the U.S. bishops’ secretariat for doctrine, also expressed concern about this aspect of the process.

He said: “It would appear that everyone, even non-Catholic, can express their various opinions on a whole variety of topics both concerning doctrine, liturgy, and morals. However, if such opinions are contrary to the faith of the Church, and these opinions are loudly proclaimed, then chaos will ensue.”

He offered the German “Synodal Way” as an example of what happens when Church teaching is put up for debate.

“As the Synodal Path in Germany has created a mess, so the global synodal path could create an ecclesial worldwide mess. I hope that this does not happen, but this is what I fear,” said Weinandy, who has previously criticized the German initiative.

.  Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.
. Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.

The role of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is critical to Pope Francis’ understanding of synodality. As he put it last weekend, “the synod is an ecclesial event and its protagonist is the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is not present, there will be no synod.” The 60-page handbook mentions the Holy Spirit 50 times.

Ruddy noted that the Spirit is often spoken of nowadays as the impulse for change in the Church, but that the Third Person of the Trinity also acts in other ways.

“Sometimes the Holy Spirit makes something clear that we didn’t see before and that the Church can develop in that sense,” he reflected.

“But there’s another way in which the Holy Spirit is something that is given to the Church. Both, I’d say, to all the faithful to awaken the sense of the faith and also to the Church leaders, to teach and lead.”

“And so the Holy Spirit can’t always be associated with ‘Oh, something new is happening,’ a kind of rupture.”

“It’s also in this sense that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus,” he said, “and that it has not just this sort of disruptive role but a confirming role as well. The Spirit is not a spirit of disorder, of chaos. It’s a spirit of peace and of order as well.”

Weinandy encouraged Catholics to pray that the Holy Spirit guides the synodal process.

“We must pray that the Holy Spirit enlightens all who attend these meetings, and especially the bishops, clergy, and faithful laity (the sensus fidelium) so that these gatherings do not get hijacked by the devil,” he said.

“Of course, we must remember that the Lord works good in all situations for those who love him. Some may see this as an opportunity to undermine the Church and her faith, but it could be an opportunity for all faithful believers to bear witness to the faith and be strengthened in so doing. The crucified and risen Jesus would then shine gloriously throughout the world.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

A missing call?

Ruddy added that he was interested in “what’s not being said” in the synod texts.

For example, he said, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the “universal call to holiness.” A whole chapter of Lumen gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, was dedicated to the notion that “all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”

While the preparatory document rightly stressed participation and co-responsibility, he said, “I don’t think it really took up the fact that the Vatican II spoke very essentially about the universal call to holiness.”

“Participation is a part of that holiness, but it’s not just trying to get people more active in the Church, it’s that we want them to do all this because we want them to be more closely united to God and sharing God’s life,” he said, while acknowledging that “no document can say everything.”

.  L'Osservatore Romano.
. L'Osservatore Romano.

Practical challenges

Writing at the National Catholic Register, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza noted that the Vatican is asking dioceses to organize “the most massive set of meetings ever conducted in the history of the Catholic Church” during a global pandemic.

“No one had heard of this idea 120 days ago, when it was first announced, and the official guidance comes less than 60 days before launch,” he wrote on Sept. 17.

“Most sacramental-preparation classes are more extensively prepared than that.”

Ruddy said that dioceses already conducting some kind of synodal process — such as the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis — would have a head start in responding to the Vatican’s requests.

He suggested that the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on parish life should not be underestimated.

“People are wiped out by COVID,” he observed. “I don’t even mean just physically but, you know, people are weary. People are just trying to get back on their feet, trying to keep parishes open and do all of that. And the idea of now organizing meetings when we don’t even have social hours in our parishes anymore…”

“How are you going to have listening sessions, and so forth? It’d be hard to begin with, but I think the COVID situation makes things a lot trickier right now.”


Europe:     Northern Ireland considering abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’ law
Pro life protesters outsider the Belfast High court, as Northern Ireland abortion laws were being challenged. Belfast, UK. Oct. 3, 2019 / meandering images/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

A proposal to require so-called “buffer zones” around abortion clinics - an area where protests would not be allowed - is reportedly drawing support in Northern Ireland’s parliament. If passed, the law, which has progressed past the first legislative stage, would be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. 

The bill would empower the Department of Health to establish "safe access" zones outside abortion facilities, the BBC reported. 

Patients and employees of abortion clinics are identified in the bill as “protected persons.” Offenses under the bill would include “influencing a protected person, whether directly or indirectly...preventing or impeding access by a protected person...causing harassment, alarm or distress to a protected person.”

The member of parliament who introduced the bill, Clare Bailey, claimed that while volunteering at a Belfast abortion clinic over 10 years ago, she was "spat at, I had holy water splashed on me, I was verbally abused, I had one young woman who was so distressed she ran into four lanes of oncoming traffic to escape the protestors.”

However, the leaders of a British pro-life group pushed back against claims that harassment outside abortion facilities is commonplace.

“Contrary to the claims of Claire Bailey, the harassment of women and staff outside abortion facilities has been proven to be extraordinarily rare,” said Michael Robinson, executive director of the British pro-life group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

“The intimidation of women outside abortion facilities has been proven time and time again to be a lie, while the abuse that pro-lifers have suffered has not been subject to a review at all,” he added, pointing out that a pro-life supporter was assaulted outside a Belfast abortion clinic in June. 

Politicians of the Democratic Unionist Party, the leading pro-life party in Northern Ireland, described the bill as "regressive.”

“Under the Bill, anything from a conversation to a leaflet would be deemed criminal. Notwithstanding whether such a definition would be enforceable in practice, that is an incredibly broad scope. Some Members will deem those who hold a pro-life stance as offensive, and others, like me, can consider a pro-abortion stance as equally offensive,” DUP lawmaker Jonathan Buckley said during an Oct. 12 debate on the proposal. 

“Neither I nor my party, nor the vast majority of pro-life advocates, have any common cause with those who engage in either aggressive or violent activities, and they should be pursued with the full rigour of the law,” he added. 

Proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales were rejected by the then-British Home Secretary in September 2018, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive.

The British parliament legalized abortion in Northern Ireland in March 2020. Before then, abortion was legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother’s life was imperilled or if there was a risk of long-term or permanent, serious damage to a woman’s mental or physical health.

The new regulations allow elective abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; abortions up to 24 weeks in cases of risk to the mother's physical or mental health; and abortion without time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment or fetal fetal abnormality.

After the parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 to legalize abortion, the Northern Ireland Assembly was deadlocked due to a dispute between the two major governing parties. As the assembly failed to do business by the Oct. 21, 2019 deadline, the abortion law took effect in March 2020.

The country’s Catholic bishops have called the act "an unjust law," one "which was imposed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland."

The bishops added they are "morally obliged, wherever possible, to do all we can to save the lives of unborn children, which could be lost through abortion, and to protect mothers from the pressures they might experience at the time of an unplanned pregnancy. We trust that you recognise this to be an obligation we all share as concerned citizens and public representatives."

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State, issued a formal direction on July 22 requiring the Northern Ireland Executive and Department of Health to make abortion and post-abortion care available in the region by March 31, 2022. A ​​High Court judge in Belfast recently ruled that Lewis had failed to comply with his duties as Secretary of State by not "expeditiously" making abortion available to women in Northern Ireland.

In England, a buffer zone was imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in April 2018. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic.

The Ealing buffer zone, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in August 2019, was cited by then-Secretary Sajid Javid as an example of a local government using civil legislation "to restrict harmful protest activities," rather than a nationwide policy.

Shortly after the Ealing buffer zone was adopted, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said that "to remove from the environment of the abortion clinics alternative voices is to limit freedom of choice. Indeed, research shows that many women have been grateful for the last-minute support they have thereby received."

"The imposition of 'no-prayer zones' outside clinics – I mean prayerful vigil, not militant or disruptive action – is unhelpful, unjust and unnecessary," Bishop Egan said.


US:     US dioceses prepare to open synod process this month
null / Vatican pool.

Denver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

Dioceses across the United States are preparing for the consultation process for the Synod on Synodality, a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their local diocese.

Most dioceses contacted by CNA said they are still in the process of determining how feedback will be collected from the faithful, and several dioceses are planning an opening Mass on Oct. 17.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

The “diocesan phase” of the synod will run until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents. Earlier this month, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook to help dioceses to take part.

The concept of "synodality" has been a topic of frequent discussion by Pope Francis, particularly during the previous ordinary Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment in October 2018. The pope, speaking about the present synod, has said that the synod is “not about gathering opinions, no … it is about listening to the Holy Spirit.”

Synodality, as defined by the International Theological Commission in 2018, is "the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God." Pope Francis launched the consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality Oct. 10. 

According to Vatican documents, the “fundamental question” to be considered by the dioceses and the bishops over the multi-year process is as follows: “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

In San Antonio, the consultation period will begin with an Opening Mass at the Cathedral of San Fernando Oct. 17. The diocesan website for the synod process, available in both English and Spanish, says that “listening and interactive sessions” to collect feedback from Catholics in the diocese are set to be held “in the following months.”

Jordan McMorrough, Archdiocese of San Antonio Communications Director, told CNA that the Synodal Process Steering Committee will “launch a series of meetings in every corner of the archdiocese” in the coming days.  

The Scranton diocese is also set to hold an opening Mass for the Synod on Oct. 17, Bishop Joseph Bambera wrote in an Oct. 4 letter. 

“In the coming weeks, we’ll have more updates on how the consultation process is expected to play out in parishes, schools and other diocesan structures,” Eric Deabill, communications director for the Scranton diocese, told CNA. 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge accepting the offertory gifts at the Mass for Persons with Disabilities, Sept. 29. .  ZOEY MARAIST/Arlington Catholic Herald
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge accepting the offertory gifts at the Mass for Persons with Disabilities, Sept. 29. . ZOEY MARAIST/Arlington Catholic Herald

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington will celebrate an opening Mass on Oct. 17, and has said that focus groups and surveys are being arranged to collect feedback from the faithful of the Arlington diocese. 

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark announced he would be celebrating an opening Mass for the synod on Oct. 17 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. 

“Sister Donna Ciangio, OP, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and Father Bismarck Chau, the rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, have agreed to coordinate the synodal process throughout our Archdiocese,” Cardinal Tobin wrote Oct. 11. 

“Together with their team, they will ensure that every parish will have the opportunity to participate in this important moment in the history of the Church. But they will also be concerned with voices from the ‘periphery,’ voices that are easily and often overlooked in Catholic discussions. The Holy Spirit is moving throughout the Church and we need to listen. As a result of the diocesan consultation, a report will be written that will collect our voices.”

Carmen Gaston, Director of Mission Advancement for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, told CNA that Archbishop Alexander Sample is set to announce plans to participate in the Synod at a special Mass celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the archdiocese, celebrated at St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 24.

Mark Haas, spokesman for the Denver archdiocese, told the National Catholic Register that plans for how the synodal process will unfold will be “communicated to all the faithful once the plans are finalized.”

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois completed its fourth diocesan synod in 2017. That process included consultations with all the laity, priests, deacons, and leaders of the religious communities in the diocese, as well as delegates from each of the 129 parishes.

“I think much of the information that we are being asked to gather during the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality can be gleaned from what we learned from our surveys of active and inactive Catholics and what we heard during our listening sessions and consultations held during our Fourth Diocesan Synod,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki wrote in a recent column. 

“Additional consultations will be done with our canonical consultative bodies, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Presbyteral Council, and parish pastoral councils, supplemented perhaps by focused listening sessions in the deaneries as needed.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Similarly, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is currently in the midst of its own archdiocesan synod. Some of the information collected for that synod will be applicable to what Pope Francis has requested from dioceses for the synod on synodality, the Catholic Spirit reported. Archbishop Bernard Hebda is set to celebrate a Mass in solidarity with the pope on Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

The Diocese of Brooklyn opened its own diocesan synod Oct. 10, and is set to hold a series of “listening sessions”— first at the parish level and then at the diocese’s 22 deaneries — from now until April, The Tablet reported. 

The worldwide synod will conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.


US:     Catholic sites suffered more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson since May 2020, USCCB says
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles visits the scene of the fire at Mission San Gabriel church, July 11, 2020. / Jon McCoy/Angelus News

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Thursday reported that churches and Catholic sites have been targeted in more than 100 acts of vandalism, arson, and other destruction since May 2020.

“These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace,” stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Dolan is the chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, while Coakley is the chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee. Both episcopal committees have advocated for increased funding of a federal non-profit security program, citing a rise in attacks on houses of worship.

The conference began tracking such attacks on churches in May 2020, and now says that at least 101 incidents have occurred in 29 states since then. Incidents include graffiti being sprayed on church walls, Catholic statues beheaded or smashed, gravestones desecrated with swastikas, and arson.

Last Sunday, Oct. 11, Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was vandalized with graffiti, including phrases such as “Satan Lives Here,” “White Supremacists,” and “Child Rapists, LOL.” 

On. Sept. 29, a parish in nearby Boulder, Colorado was also desecrated with pro-abortion graffiti, which included the phrases “Jesus [Loves] Abortion,” “Bans off our bodies” and “No Wire Hangers Ever.” 

Other attacks have been more severe. In November 2020, a Catholic church in Washington state was damaged by fire in an apparent case of arson. Earlier that year, the historic Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in Los Angeles County, a church founded by St. Junipero Serra in 1771, suffered a devastating fire. In May 2021, a California man was charged with arson in connection to the fire.

Cardinal Dolan acknowledged various reasons behind attacks on churches, but stated that “this destruction must stop. This is not the way.”

“In all cases, we must reach out to the perpetrators with prayer and forgiveness. True, where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity,” he said.

The bishops’ religious freedom committee has launched a “Beauty Heals” campaign of short videos as a response to church vandalism.

In the summer of 2021, churches across Canada were discovered to be on fire in burnings deemed by police to be “suspicious” or outright cases of arson. The fires, many of which occurred on indigenous lands, happened as unmarked graves at the sites of former Catholic-run residential schools for indigenous children were discovered.


Europe:     Carl Anderson receives honor from Catholic Church in Poland
Carl Anderson receives the Totus Tuus award at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 9, 2021. / Rycerze Kolumba.

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Poland has honored Carl Anderson, the former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Anderson received the Totus Tuus award -- known as the “Catholic Nobel” in Poland -- at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on Oct. 9.

Rycerze Kolumba.
Rycerze Kolumba.

The Polish bishops’ foundation “Work of the New Millennium” gave Anderson the award “for the promotion of the person of St. John Paul II and credible international implementation of the values that he proclaimed.”

Receiving the honor, Anderson, who served as supreme knight from 2000 to 2021, said: “John Paul II changed the history of Poland and the United States. He changed the history of the world.”

“He was a great advocate of human rights, solidarity, and freedom. He always defended the truth about the human person and his dignity.”

“Modestly helping to fulfill his mission and carry on his legacy has been the greatest honor in my life.”

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order, was founded in New Haven, Conn., in 1882 by Blessed Michael J. McGivney.

It has 1.8 million members worldwide who perform volunteer service and advance the order’s principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.

Fundacja ‘Dzieło Nowego Tysiąclecia’
Fundacja ‘Dzieło Nowego Tysiąclecia’

Under Anderson’s leadership, the Knights established a shrine in 2011 in honor of St. John Paul II in Washington, D.C. The U.S. bishops designated the sanctuary as a national shrine in 2014.

In an interview with the Family News Service, Anderson discussed the central themes of John Paul II’s pontificate, which lasted from 1978 to 2005.

“The message of Pope John Paul II was mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness, recognition, and respect for the dignity of every human being,” he said.

“It wasn’t just an abstraction; it was something personal, and you could see that in the pope. Now, I believe that this is what gave his teaching such power.”

Family News Service.
Family News Service.

The Polish pope appointed Anderson as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1998 and the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 2002, and as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2003.

Anderson said that the decision in 2005 to establish Knights of Columbus councils in Poland was, in a sense, an act of gratitude to the Polish pope and his role in promoting the laity.

“So many people have been kind and supportive to the Knights of Columbus, including the Holy Father John Paul II. So, we are very happy to be here in Poland,” he said.


US:     From abortionist to pro-life leader: What changed this doctor's heart?
Aultman in her first year of private practice, outside her office, which was under construction. / Kathi Aultman

Denver Newsroom, Oct 14, 2021 / 12:26 pm (CNA).

Kathi Aultman was six weeks postpartum when she returned to work at an abortion clinic in Gainesville, Florida. She performed abortions on the weekends to earn money during her residency.

“I felt really strongly that abortion was a woman's right,” Aultman told CNA in a Sept. 17 interview. “I mean, I bought the whole thing: hook, line, and sinker.”

“I even did abortions when I was pregnant — very pregnant. But I didn't see any contradiction. My baby was wanted, theirs wasn't. If they wanted to abort their baby, that was their right.”

But Aultman remembers something was different about that first abortion she performed after delivering and caring for her own baby. For the first time in her life, Aultman made the connection that the unborn child she was aborting was, in fact, a child. Not dissimilar to her own child.

Aultman completed the abortion, and the rest of the abortions scheduled for her that day. But she said her experience that first day back from maternity leave marked the beginning of her journey toward becoming a pro-life advocate.

Today, Aultman has testified on pro-life issues before state and congressional bodies and state courts, and has assisted various state attorneys and the Justice Department in considering cases related to abortion. She was a speaker at the 2019 March for Life in Washington.

Most recently, Aultman was one of 240 of pro-life women to sign an amicus brief in support of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case out of Mississippi that has the potential of overturning federal protection for abortion in the United States.

‘I did not see them as people’

Aultman had a mind for science from a very young age. She remembers eagerly helping her father, a Methodist preacher, clean fish after fishing trips. Aultman enjoyed examining the internal organs of fish, and inspecting their eyeballs. When her mother brought animal hearts home for family meals, Aultman would run water through the organ to examine the valves in action.

Aultman’s aunt was a bioengineer, and she became a role model for her inquisitive niece. When Aultman was in the fourth grade, she visited her aunt's lab, and she remembers being so impressed that she decided, on the spot, to become a scientist.

After earning her undergraduate degree from Drew University in 1972, Aultman set her sights on a Ph.D. in basic research. But she chose to study medicine, because the field seemed to offer more secure job prospects than research.

Kathi Aultman in a science lab at Drew University, where she earned her undergraduate degree. Kathi Aultman
Kathi Aultman in a science lab at Drew University, where she earned her undergraduate degree. Kathi Aultman

Aultman was accepted into medical school in New Jersey. Before her classes began, Aultman discovered that she was pregnant.

“And it's the same old story,” Aultman said. “I thought that … if I kept the baby, I wouldn't be able to be a doctor. I was afraid we'd end up with a divorce, because we were getting married because we had to. I was afraid of what my family and friends would think.

“So I decided to have an abortion.”

After her first year of medical school in New Jersey, Aultman transferred to the University of Florida to be closer to her then-boyfriend. After completing medical school in 1977, Aultman found she had a natural interest in obstetrics and gynecology. She enjoyed what experience she had delivering babies, performing surgeries and well-woman checks. But she said her personal experience with abortion made the field even more attractive to her.

All standard OB-GYN residency programs include abortion training, though residents can conscientiously object. Aultman remembers some of her fellow residents conscientiously objected and did not learn how to perform abortions. But Aultman felt abortion was a woman’s right, especially after her own experience. She happily learned how to perform first trimester abortions. She even pursued special training outside of her program to learn how to perform later-term abortions, and dismemberment abortions.

After she got her medical license, Aultman began moonlighting at an abortion clinic to pay the bills during her OB-GYN residency.

Aultman in the OR during her residency. Kathi Aultman
Aultman in the OR during her residency. Kathi Aultman

Aultman said abortions tapped into the fascination with biology that she experienced as a child.

“I was fascinated,” she said. “I thought they were so interesting. I love[d] sending fetal parts down to pathology so I could look at the slides and see what the embryonic tissue looked like. I did not see them as people.”

Around the same time, Aultman helped open the first rape treatment center in Jacksonville, Florida. The center seemed like a natural offshoot of her interest in caring for women. She performed rape exams at the center, but never knowingly performed an abortion on any of the women she saw there.

In fact, she never knowingly performed an abortion on any victims of rape — at the center, or at the abortion clinic. Aultman remembers patients at the abortion clinic were required to give a reason for their abortion. If they didn’t have a clear reason, Aultman said she would typically list “psychological health” on documentation.

“If you have to have this baby, and you don't have the means to take care of it, blah, blah, blah,” Aultman said. “I never specifically did an abortion because the baby was deformed, or for the mother's health. They were all elective.”

‘I don’t want to do this’

Aultman said three encounters she had with abortion patients on her last day of performing the procedure remain seared in her memory.

The first patient was young, and Aultman recognized her because she had already performed three abortions for her.

“I went to the administration, and I said, ‘I don't want to do this abortion. I've already personally done three on her,’” Aultman said. “And they said, ‘Well, that's not up to you. It's her right and you can't discriminate against her.’ And, I looked at them. I said, ‘Yeah, well, that's fine for you, but you're not the one doing the killing.’”

Aultman performed the abortion that day. But it was the first time Aultman had associated abortion with the word “killing,” and she took note of it.

A second patient came in for an abortion, and she brought a friend for support. After the abortion, the friend asked the patient if she would like to see the aborted baby.

“And she said, ‘No, I just want to kill it,’” Aultman recalled. “And it just struck me, you know, how could she be so hostile and angry towards this little baby? It hadn't done anything wrong. That really affected me.”

A third patient came in for an abortion. She already had four children, but she and her husband decided they couldn’t afford another child. Aultman remembers the patient cried during the entire abortion. That was the final straw for Aultman, and the last abortion she would perform.

“After that, I could no longer personally do abortions,” Aultman said. “I couldn't abort babies just because they were unwanted.”

A dramatic shift in thinking

Aultman no longer performed abortions, but for several years she continued to refer for abortion at her own practice, which she opened in 1981. That same year, she accepted the role of medical director for Planned Parenthood of Northeast Florida. The clinic did not perform abortions at the time. Aultman quit that role in 1983, when the clinic expanded its services to include abortion.

Aultman in her first year of private practice, outside her office, which was under construction. Kathi Aultman
Aultman in her first year of private practice, outside her office, which was under construction. Kathi Aultman

But Aultman still believed that abortion was a woman’s right. It was easy for her to wonder where she would be if not for her own abortion all those years ago.

“I had bought the line that the worst thing that could happen to a woman was an unwanted pregnancy,” she said.

Then Aultman would see young pregnant women come to her practice, and thrive after giving birth to their children. She remembers a family at her Christian church had a baby with Down syndrome, and Aultman watched in awe as the baby grew into what Aultman described as a sweet little girl. But many of the women she saw coming into her practice after abortions carried psychological or physical complications.

“Slowly, this was beginning to make me wonder if everything that I believed [about abortion] was really true,” Aultman said.

In terms of her own abortion, Aultman began to realize the fears she had at the time were unfounded. She had met plenty of women who had babies and were now successful doctors. She and her first husband ended up getting divorced, despite the abortion. Aultman also realized that the family and friends who really counted would have been understanding about her unplanned pregnancy.

“So none of the reasons that I came up with for having the abortion ended up being valid,” Aultman said.

Aultman turned these questions over in her mind. One day, a friend from her church sent her an article that likened abortion with the Holocaust. It was a particularly sensitive topic for Aultman because her father had been with the unit that liberated the first concentration camp during World War II. She had grown up with the stories and photographs of that historic, harrowing moment.

“Also, when I became a doctor, I couldn't understand how the German doctors could do what they did,” Aultman said. “So with that background, when I read this article, it really hit me. I mean, it … just removed the blinders. All of a sudden, I thought, ‘Well, no wonder they could do what they did. Look at what I did because I didn't see [the unborn] as human beings.”

Suddenly, Aultman saw herself as a mass murderer. It happened to be within a few years of the arrest and execution of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, and Aultman remembers thinking that she had probably killed a lot more people than Bundy had.

“That was the point when I understood that abortion was wrong, and I became pro-life.”

Healing and advocacy

Aultman became pro-life around the year 1995, and she said it took another year for her to truly heal and forgive herself for her past involvement with abortion.

During that year, she visited the Christian Healing Center in Jacksonville and she said she had an experience of forgiveness there. As a woman prayed over her, Altman saw herself at the foot of Jesus. She had a dialogue with Jesus, in which He asked why she could not forgive herself when He had forgiven her. Altman then saw the baby she had aborted. He was a little boy, and he told her he forgave her.

Soon after, Aultman went public with her pro-life stance, speaking out against abortion and in particular against partial-birth abortion.

Aultman during an interview with Focus on the Family in January 2020. Kathi Aultman
Aultman during an interview with Focus on the Family in January 2020. Kathi Aultman

Even with her experience of forgiveness from God and her aborted baby, Aultman still struggled to tell her now-husband, Ron Combs, about her past. The pair met in 2000, and Combs remembers that Aultman waited to share her story with him.

“But I understood the journey and how it came about, because I'm of that same generation,” he said. “I remember how strongly pro-abortion came on back in the 60s, 70s and early 80s ...They were pushing it so hard. I can understand why all women were thinking that was the way to go.”

Combs shares his wife’s pro-life beliefs, and although her pro-life work sometimes requires travel and long hours, Combs says he fully supports his wife and the work she is doing.

“I'm very proud of her, and fortunate to be married to her,” he said. “She is committed to this, and she believes in it. .. And I support her in it as far as she can physically and mentally take it, because of course there's a lot of pushback when you go in there and tell people the facts. You know, people don't like facts all the time.”

Aultman said her involvement in legal battles related to abortion has always been a challenge.

“I just trusted that God would take care of me.”

Aultman retired from her practice and her pro-life advocacy in 2014, for medical reasons. After a year of recovery, Aultman began praying to God for guidance for her retirement. She had always envisioned spending her retirement in the mission field, working in Africa or somewhere similar, but her health issues would not allow for it. She asked God to let her still do something meaningful.

The next week, she got a call. Could she go to Washington and testify before Congress on a heartbeat bill? She happily agreed. Since then, Aultman has testified, written affidavits and declarations in abortion cases across the country, more recently in New York and Louisiana.

When Aultman heard that the U.S. Supreme Court would consider Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, she was immediately intrigued. She was one of 240 pro-life women to sign an amicus brief in the case, challenging the assumption that women are socially and economically better off with access to legal abortion.

“I felt like I was one of those women who believed that women had to have abortion in order to succeed,” Aultman said. “That was a lie. It wasn't true. I still could have been a professional, I still could have done what I did, as many other women had done that I trained with. So I felt it was important to sign on to that [amicus] brief.”

A powerful pro-life witness

On Jan. 18, 2019, a crowd of pro-life advocates gathered before a stage at the national March for Life in Washington.

Men, women and children were bundled in coats and scarves to protect themselves against the cold of winter. They clutched signs with messages including “Choose Life” and “Defund Planned Parenthood,” and watched as Aultman walked up to the podium on the stage.

“My name is Dr. Kathi Aultman,” she began. “I’m a retired OB-GYN. I used to do abortions, but by God’s grace, I’m now pro-life.”

Aultman then shared her story, and pleaded with the crowd to continue their work changing hearts and minds on abortion.

“Help people to see that what is in the womb is a person, with their own unique characteristics and potential, not just a blob of tissue,” Aultman said.

“A woman cannot kill her child and remain unscathed. There are millions of women in the United States who have had abortions. Some of you are here. They are hurting, and need your help and compassion. They need to know that God wants to heal and restore them.”

Sue Liebel is state policy director for the Susan B. Anthony List. She remembers the first time she heard Aultman share the story of her pro-life conversion, and testify on partial-birth abortion.

“I was actually shocked,” Liebel told CNA. “Then, I was mesmerized as she described with such transparency exactly how she did abortions in her previous career.

“While painfully clear how the procedure — especially dismemberment— kills the baby and sometimes hurts the mother’s body, Aultman still showed respect and caring for her patients.”

Liebel has since seen Aultman testify three other times, and she said Aultman’s unique perspective as a former abortionist is powerful for the pro-life cause.

“Her testimony is so powerful,” Liebel said. “I know her personally and sometimes this exhausts her, yet she keeps going because she can speak the truth into the abortion debate. And people stop and listen.”

Though Aultman’s testimony is powerful, Liebel said her demeanor is disarmingly humble.

“Her kind voice and respectful approach removes the vitriol seen in so many of the [abortion] hearings,” Liebel said. “She wants to bring truth and healing into America’s painful abortion reality.”

Love, bravery can change hearts

Today, Aultman has two daughters. She still lives in Florida with her husband, Ron. She is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education branch of the Susan B. Anthony List.

She told CNA she isn’t in an environment in which she hears a lot of criticism for her pro-life beliefs. She has friends and family members who are pro-abortion, including her mother. But Aultman said her mother is supportive of her pro-life work.

Aultman believes a gentle, loving approach is the best way to convince others to reconsider their position on abortion. She remembers the example of patients at her practice, when she was still referring for abortions. Several of them came to her when they were pregnant, and asked about her stance on abortion. When she told them that she supported abortion as a woman’s right, they calmly told her they could no longer stay in her practice and left.

“That made a difference to me,” Aultman said. “I think that was also one of the things that began to change my outlook. They were brave enough, and they did it gently. They didn't do it in a mean way.”

“So I think you have to love people, but I think you have to be brave enough to be honest about what your feelings are, and let people know in little ways that aren't offensive that you believe in life.”

Correction: Kathi Aultman performed her last abortions all on the same day, not over the course of several weeks, as reported in a previous version of this story. In addition, she became pregnant for the first time just prior to entering medical school, not while she was a medical student, and she said residents, not medical students, can opt out of abortion training.


Vatican:     Pope Francis defends conscientious objection to abortion, euthanasia in healthcare
Pope Francis meets participants in a congress promoted by the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services of Health Authorities at the Vatican, Oct. 14, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Conscientious objection to abortion and euthanasia is an integral part of a doctor’s fidelity to the medical profession, Pope Francis told a group of Italian pharmacists on Thursday.

“On an individual level, the pharmacist, each of you, uses medicinal substances which can however turn into poisons. Here it is a question of exercising constant vigilance, so that the objective is always the patient’s life in its entirety,” the pope said on Oct. 14.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“You are always at the service of human life,” he told the group of pharmacists. “And this may in some cases involve conscientious objection, which is not infidelity, but on the contrary, fidelity to your profession, if validly motivated.”

The pope addressed participants in a congress organized by the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy during a meeting in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He noted that today it is fashionable to think that “removing conscientious objection” is a good idea, but, he said, protection of one’s conscience is the ethical right of every health professional, and can never be negotiated.

Conscientious objection “is precisely the fundamental responsibility of health professionals,” he added, “and it is also a denunciation of the injustices committed against innocent and defenseless human life.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Turning to abortion, the pope said that life issues were a delicate subject that required competence and integrity.

“You know that I am very clear about this: [abortion] is a murder and it is not permissible to become accomplices,” Francis said, explaining that it is a duty to be close to women in difficult situations so that they are not left to think that abortion will solve their problems.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Because in reality, it is not the solution,” he said. “Then life, after 10, 20, 30 years, passes you the bill.”

The long-term repercussions of an abortion, he said, are often heard by Catholic priests in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“You have to stay in a confessional to understand the very hard price of this,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis said that Italy’s national public health system was important “as an essential element to guarantee the common good and social growth of a country.”

He urged pharmacists not to let the “throwaway culture” affect their work, treating the elderly the same way they would care for younger patients.

The pope also compared the work of a hospital pharmacist to the hidden service of the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable.

“The daily routine and the hidden service have no visibility, little, so to speak, little visibility,” he said. “Precisely for this reason, if they are accompanied by prayer and love, they generate the ‘holiness of everyday life.’”

“Because without prayer and without love -- you know well -- this routine becomes dry. But with love, done with love and with prayer, it leads you to ‘next door’ holiness: anonymous saints who are everywhere because they do what they have to do well.”


US:     Judge again blocks New York medical worker vaccine mandate without religious exemption
null / oasisamuel/Shutterstock

Syracuse, N.Y., Oct 14, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Medical workers in New York can seek religious exemptions from a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate while a lawsuit challenging the requirement advances, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Health care workers challenging the mandate have established that it “conflicts with longstanding federal protections for religious beliefs and that they and others will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief,” Judge David Hurd wrote in his Oct. 12 decision granting a preliminary injunction to prevent the state health department enforcing the mandate.

Then-governor Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all medical workers in the state in August. The mandate covers staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, adult care facilities, and other care settings, and did not include a religious exemption. 

A group of 17 medical professionals claim the mandate violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Hurd wrote that the question presented by the case is whether the mandate “conflicts with plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers,” adding that “the answer to this question is clearly yes.”

The judge wrote that “these conclusions have nothing to do with how an individual employer should handle an individual employee’s religious objection to a workplace vaccination requirement.”

In addition to granting the preliminary injunction, Hurd also allowed the plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously.

Stephen Crampton, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel, said, “This is very clearly a decision supporting the constitutional rights of these medical workers whose requests for religious exemption to the vaccine mandate were rejected by Governor Hochul and her administration.”

The legal group is representing the plaintiffs.

“New York seems to be dead set on ignoring the United States Constitution, its Amendments, and the Civil Rights Act. We are pleased that Judge Hurd has seen fit to put an immediate halt to that gubernatorial overreach.”

And Christopher Ferrara, the Thomas More Society’s lead counsel in the case, commented, “With this decision the court rightly recognized that yesterday’s ‘front line heroes’ in dealing with COVID cannot suddenly be treated as disease-carrying villains and kicked to the curb by the command of a state health bureaucracy. Some of these plaintiffs contracted COVID while treating patients, recovered, and were allowed to return to work with the same protective measures that were good enough for the 18 months that they were the heroes in the battle against the virus. There is no ‘science’ to show that these same measures are suddenly inadequate – especially when they are allowed for those with medical exemptions.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul responded to the injunction, saying, “My responsibility … is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Hurd had last month granted a temporary restraining order against the mandate.

Also on Oct. 12, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary restraining order to keep United Airlines from putting unvaccinated employees who have requested exemption from its vaccine mandate on unpaid leave.

And a federal judge in New York City rejected a challenge from public school employees to a city mandate that they be vaccinated. The 10 employees had not met the city's religous exemption requirements, and the judge held that the mandate is neutral, and not discriminatory.


US:     San Francisco archbishop clarifies Pelosi's papal visit not an endorsement of her abortion views
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (center) with Pope Francis (right), during their Oct. 9 meeting at the Vatican. / Vatican Media

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2021 / 10:05 am (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent meeting with Pope Francis does not signal a papal endorsement of her views on abortion, the archbishop of San Francisco said in a television interview on Oct. 13. 

Pope Francis met with Pelosi at the Vatican on Saturday, Oct. 9. Although the Vatican did not reveal what they discussed, Pelosi said in a statement after the meeting that she thanked the pope for his “immense moral clarity” in speaking on the issue of climate change.

Speaking on Newsmax TV’s Chris Salcedo Show, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone took issue with the host’s assertion that “it seems Pope Francis is allowing one of the world’s biggest abortion cheerleaders to use the Vatican as some sort of validation for her anti-Catholic views.” 

“I first of all would urge some caution in jumping to that conclusion,” said Cordileone, whose eccelesial territory includes Pelosi’s congressional district. Cordileone noted that other popes have met with world leaders with questionable pasts, and that Pope Francis is no different. 

“I recall I was in Rome at the time back in the 80s, when he [Pope John Paul II] met with Kurt Waldheim, who was the president of Austria at the time,” said Cordileone. In 1987, Waldheim was accused of participating in war crimes, including the deportation of Greek Jews to death camps, during his service in the German army in World War II. 

“Now, he [Waldheim] denied those allegations, but he created a lot of controversy, and there were widespread protests from Jewish organizations. This is St. John Paul, who did so much to build bridges with the Jewish people,” Cordileone explained the meeting. 

“So it underscores that the popes meet with everyone. They meet with world leaders, no matter who they are, even if there are these problematic things in their background or in their policies. They meet with everyone. I don’t think Pope Francis could be clearer in his condemnation of abortion,” he said. 

At a Monday press briefing at the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi said most of her conversation with Pope Francis focused on the “moral issue” of climate change.

Pausing for several seconds beforehand, Pelosi remarked that “it was just a remarkable experience to have that private audience with His Holiness, and again, to bring the thanks and gratitude of our colleagues, and his blessings back to us.”

Pelosi has supported legal abortion during her time as House Speaker. She recently brought up the Women’s Health Protection Act for a vote in the House; the legislation would override state abortion restrictions and allow abortions in some cases throughout pregnancy. The U.S. bishops’ conference warned that the limits on late-term abortions in the bill were not “meaningful,” and called it “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”

Pope Francis has compared abortion to hiring a hit man, and said as recently as September 2021 that abortion is murder. 

Pelosi, a Catholic, called her Oct. 9 meeting with Pope Francis “a spiritual, personal, and official honor,” and said that the pope is “a source of joy and hope for Catholics and for all people, challenging each of us to be good stewards of God’s creation, to act on climate, to embrace the refugee, the immigrant, and the poor, and to recognize the dignity and divinity in everyone.”

In a statement following the meeting, she praised Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato si’, and noted that her hometown, San Francisco, has the same namesake as the pontiff.

“His Holiness commands our attention to honor the Gospel of Matthew by serving ‘the least of these,’ lifting up those who have been left out or left behind, especially in the time of COVID,” said Pelosi.

“In San Francisco, we take special pride in Pope Francis, who shares the namesake of our city and whose song of St. Francis is our anthem. ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may we bring light. Where there is hatred, may we bring love. Where there is despair, may we bring hope,’” she said. 

Pelosi was in Rome to give the keynote address at the opening session of the G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit. She also met with the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The day before her audience with the pope, the 81-year-old discussed the environment, migration, and human rights during a visit with the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Since her enthusiastic support of the Women’s Health Protection Act, Pelosi has been the subject of a prayer campaign initiated by Cordileone. 

“Please join me in the Rose and Rosary for Nancy Campaign. Pray a rosary once a week for her. Fast on Friday, and you can sign the petition at BenedictInstitute.org. And if you commit to the rosary and fasting, we will send a rose to her as a symbol of your prayers and sacrifices,” said Cordileone. 

The initial call to pray a rosary and to fast for Pelosi came on Sept. 29, following the House of Representatives’ passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act. 

“A conversion of heart of the majority of our Congressional representatives is needed on this issue, beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” Cordileone said. 

“Speaker Pelosi speaks fondly of her children. She clearly has a maternal heart. Pope Francis has called abortion murder, the equivalent of hiring a hitman to solve a problem,” Cordileone said. 

Since then, more than 10,000 people have pledged to pray and fast for Pelosi’s conversion. 


US:     White House confirms Oct. 29 meeting between Pope Francis, Joe Biden
null / Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2021 / 09:02 am (CNA).

The White House has confirmed that President Joe Biden and his wife Jill will meet with Pope Francis on Oct. 29 at the Vatican.

According to a Thursday statement by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the Bidens will discuss several issues with the pope, including “ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.”

The Oct. 29 event would mark the first meeting with the pope during Biden’s presidency. Biden, a Catholic, previously met with Pope Francis in 2016 as vice president. He spoke on the phone with Pope Francis on Nov. 12, 2020, where the pope congratulated him on his election as president.

Pope Francis has met with other top U.S. officials in-person this year. He met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Catholic, on Oct. 9 at the Vatican during Pelosi’s international travels. According to the Speaker’s office, that discussion focused mostly on climate change.

In June, Pope Francis met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a 40-minute private audience at the Vatican. According to the State Department, the two discussed China, as well as "the humanitarian crises in Lebanon, Syria, the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and Venezuela." Blinken also thanked the pope for his “leadership” on the issue of the environment.

After Biden’s election to the presidency, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, noted some areas of agreement and disagreement between Biden and the conference on policy issues.

"For only the second time, we are anticipating a transition to a president who professes the Catholic faith. This presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges," Gomez said at the bishops’ virtual fall meeting in November 2020.

"The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies of immigration reform, refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change,” Gomez said.

"He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics. These policies include: the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe vs. Wade. Both of these policies undermine our preeminent priority of the elimination of abortion," said Gomez.

Biden submitted a budget request earlier this year without the Hyde Amendment, thus seeking to allow federal funding of abortion in Medicaid. His administration has also sought to loosen restrictions on funding of abortion providers in the Title X program, and has allowed for federal funding of international pro-abortion groups in U.S. global health assistance.

He has issued statements supporting the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas after the state’s pro-life “heartbeat” law went into effect on Sept. 1.

His administration has also fought in court to reinstate the “transgender mandate,” a requirement that doctors provide gender-transitioning procedures upon the referral of a mental health professional, whether or not they are opposed to the procedures.

He also signed an executive order interpreting federal civil rights law to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Legal experts have warned that his sweeping order would mandate that sex-specific spaces - such as women’s locker rooms, bathrooms, and sports - be open to biological males identifying as transgender females.


Vatican:     Italy’s high court overturns arrest warrant against Vatican broker Gianluigi Torzi
The Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy. / Sergio D’Afflitto via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 it).

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Italy’s Supreme Court has overturned an arrest warrant against a broker wanted in Italy and the Vatican on allegations of financial crimes.

According to a statement from the lawyers of Gianluigi Torzi late Wednesday, a precautionary measure against the Italian businessman who brokered the final stage of the Vatican’s controversial purchase of a London property has been “annulled in its entirety.”

The case has been sent back to Rome’s Tribunal for Review. A written ruling explaining the reason for the annulment will be released by the Italian court within a month, according to the AP.

Torzi is one of the key suspects in a significant finance trial being heard by the Vatican City State’s tribunal about the London property deal.

The Vatican has accused the businessman of being part of a conspiracy to defraud the Secretariat of State of millions of euros, and has charged him with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering. He denies the charges.

An Italian magistrate issued an arrest warrant for Torzi in April on suspicion of similar financial crimes committed in Italy. The businessman has been under precautionary measures in the U.K. while awaiting extradition to Italy at the request of the Italian authorities.

The Supreme Court decision to annul the precautionary measures calls into question whether Torzi will be extradited from the U.K.

In a hearing on Oct. 6, Vatican judges ruled that Torzi’s portion of the finance trial would effectively be on hold until he could present himself at the Vatican.

A statement from Torzi’s communication team on Oct. 13 said that Torzi’s lawyers, Ambra Giovene and Marco Franco, called the high court’s annulment of the precautionary measure “an important step towards proving their client’s innocence.”

The statement also said that evidence used by the Supreme Court in its decision was provided by Vatican prosecutors.

In March, a British judge reversed the seizure of Torzi’s accounts, saying that Vatican prosecutors withheld and misrepresented information in their request to the U.K. court.

Judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court overturned another judge’s decision to seize the British-based accounts of Gianluigi Torzi, as had been requested by Vatican prosecutors.


Europe:     France’s Catholic bishops will uphold confessional seal, spokeswoman clarifies
Karine Dalle, the communications director of the French bishops’ conference. / Marion Delattaignant/CEF.

Paris, France, Oct 14, 2021 / 05:50 am (CNA).

The spokeswoman for France’s bishops’ conference clarified Wednesday that the country’s Catholic leaders do not intend to compromise on the Church’s teaching that the confessional seal is sacrosanct.

“One cannot change the canon law for France as it is international. A priest who today would violate the secrecy of the confession would be excommunicated,” Karine Dalle, the communications director of the French bishops’ conference (CEF), told Solène Tadié of the National Catholic Register on Oct. 13.

“This is what Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort wanted to say last week after the publication of the Sauvé report, when he said that the seal of confession was above the laws of the Republic,” Dalle explained.

“He spoke the truth, but this truth is not audible in France for those who are not Catholic, and not understandable in France in the midst of debates on so-called ‘religious separatism.’”

Moulins-Beaufort, the bishops’ conference president, was invited to a meeting with France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin following his comments about the confessional seal in an interview with France Info, which caused an outcry.

After the meeting on Oct. 12, media reports suggested that the archbishop had conceded that priests should inform police of admissions of abuse made by penitents during confession.

The reports provoked consternation among Catholics.

While French law has long recognized the Church’s strict rules about the confidentiality of the sacrament, the government is now contemplating amending the law for confessors, as it has done with lawyers and other secular professionals.

“[T]here have been conditions introduced within professional secrecy, which oblige some professionals when there is an abuse committed on a minor under 15 years old, to report to the competent authorities,” she said.

“If a lawyer or a doctor has knowledge of the abuse of a minor under 15 years of age, he or she is obliged not to respect professional secrecy. This is to prevent further crimes, because pedophile criminality is compulsive.”

“What Interior Minister Darmanin said is that in the future, the seal of confession could fit into this framework. It wouldn’t concern all confessional secrecy, of course, but I don’t know where that will lead,” she continued.

“But if the state tells us [that priests must report crimes against minors revealed in confession] there would be an obligation to leave the secrecy of confession. This would mean that the priests concerned would be excommunicated by Rome,” Dalle said.

“There will certainly be some adjustments proposed, which Rome will accept or not. But no, in no case did Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort say that the seal of confession would be put aside. He never said that.”

Moulins-Beaufort made the comments after the publication of a watershed report on abuse in the French Catholic Church.

The final report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) said that an estimated 216,000 children were abused by priests, deacons, monks, or nuns from 1950 to 2020.

The independent commission, established by the French bishops in November 2018, spent 30 months investigating abuse within the Catholic Church led by Jean-Marc Sauvé, a senior civil servant.

Among the report’s 45 recommendations was a request for the Church to reconsider the seal of confession concerning abuse.

The Vatican has strongly defended the confessional seal in response to mandatory reporting laws introduced around the world.

In June 2019, the Apostolic Penitentiary issued a note reaffirming the inviolability of the sacramental seal.

Dalle said: “We know that if these rules were to be adopted, no abuser would ever go to confession if they knew that they would be reported if they confessed to abusing a minor under the age of 15. That’s also problematic.”

“The same is true for children, for whom confession is a space to speak. Confession allows the child’s word to be released. And when the confession is over, the priest waits for a moment and then goes to the child and asks him if he can say again what he said, but this time outside the confession.”

“This is what the anticlericals don’t want to understand,” Dalle said, “because they don’t know all this context.”


Europe:     Prominent Anglican bishop received into Catholic Church
The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Anglican bishop of Rochester, England. / michaelnazirali.com.

Oxford, England, Oct 14, 2021 / 03:55 am (CNA).

A prominent Anglican bishop once considered a potential future Archbishop of Canterbury has entered into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, England, has joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, The Spectator reported on Oct. 14.

The magazine said that Nazir-Ali could be ordained as a Catholic priest as early as the end of October within the ordinariate, a body created by Benedict XVI in 2011 for groups of former Anglicans wishing to preserve elements of their patrimony.

In an Oct. 14 statement, the ordinariate said that Nazir-Ali was received into full communion by the group’s Ordinary, Msgr. Keith Newton, on Sept. 29, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.

“With the permission of the Holy See, he will be ordained to the Catholic priesthood for the ordinariate in due course,” it said.

Explaining his decision, Nazir-Ali said: “I believe that the Anglican desire to adhere to apostolic, patristic and conciliar teaching can now best be maintained in the ordinariate.”

“Provisions there to safeguard legitimate Anglican patrimony are very encouraging and, I believe, that such patrimony in its liturgy, approaches to biblical study, pastoral commitment to the community, methods of moral theology, and much else besides has a great deal to offer the wider Church.”

“I am looking forward to receiving from the riches of other parts of the Church, while perhaps making a modest contribution to the maintenance and enhancement of Anglican patrimony within the wider fellowship.”


The news comes a month after another Church of England bishop announced that he was crossing the Tiber.

The Rt. Rev. Jonathan Goodall, the Anglican bishop of Ebbsfleet, said that he had taken the decision “after a long period of prayer.”

Nazir-Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949, and attended Catholic schools. He has both a Christian and Muslim family background and holds British and Pakistani citizenship.

He was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1976, working in Karachi and Lahore. He became provost of Lahore’s Anglican cathedral and was consecrated as the first bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab.

He later joined the staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury, helping to plan the 1988 Lambeth Conference, a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion.

In 1994, he was appointed as the Anglican bishop of Rochester, covering the areas of Medway, north and west Kent, and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.

Married with two children, he served as a member of the House of Lords, Britain’s upper house of Parliament, from 1999.

He took part in the second phase of Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC-II) and was a member of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).

In 2002, the U.K. media identified him as one of the favorites to succeed the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. He was quoted at the time as suggesting that he was the target of a racist smear campaign and he remained as bishop of Rochester until 2009.

The 72-year-old is currently president of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy, and Dialogue (OXTRAD).

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, paid tribute to Nazir-Ali on his Twitter account on Oct. 14.

He praised his “expertise in evangelism, interfaith dialogue, ecumenism, and theological education.”

“He will continue to be a blessing to the global church as he joins the ordinariate. I will be praying for him and his wife, Valerie, that this new step in their journey might draw them ever closer to God in Christ,” he said.

Msgr. Newton commented: “Since its erection in 2011, Michael has always shown great interest in the development of the ordinariate in the United Kingdom. Those of us who serve the Catholic Church within the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are delighted at his reception into full communion and forthcoming ordination.”

“He brings a great experience of the Anglican Communion and is in a unique place to articulate that Anglican patrimony, described by Pope Benedict XVI as a treasure to be shared, which now has an honoured place in the Universal Church.”

The ordinariate priest Fr. James Bradley noted on his Twitter account last month that the following Anglican bishops have been received into the Catholic Church since 1992: Graham Leonard (London); Conrad Meyer; John Klyberg (Fulham); Richard Rutt (Leicester); John Broadhurst (Fulham); Edwin Barnes (Richborough); Keith Newton (Richborough); Andrew Burnham (Ebbsfleet); David Silk; Paul Richardson; John Goddard (Burnley); and Jonathan Goodall (Ebbsfleet).

Many converts come from the Anglo-Catholic branch of the Church of England, which stresses Anglicanism’s Catholic heritage, but Nazir-Ali has long been associated with the evangelical wing.

Nazir-Ali said: “Ministry in the Church of Pakistan, in the Middle East generally, in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion remains precious to me and I see this as a further step in the ministry of our common Lord and of his people. At this time, I ask for prayers as I continue to pray for all parts of the Church.”

This report was updated at 06:32 a.m. MDT with comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.


US:     Catholic businessman receives Legatus evangelization award
Legatus 2020 Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization recipient Mario Costabile (left), with Thomas Monaghan (right), Legatus founder and CEO / Legatus International

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2021 / 18:51 pm (CNA).

The organization of Catholic business leaders Legatus International has awarded Catholic producer Mario Costabile with its 2020 Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization.

Costabile is the producer and executive director of “Array of Hope,” a Catholic production company that serves Catholic parishes, dioceses and organizations.” 

“Seeking to address the decline of God” in society, Costabile’s business aims to “reveal the ‘Truths of our Faith’ by creating high quality films, music and events.”

Legatus founder and CEO Tom Monaghan presented Costabile with the award at the group’s biannual summit conference in September. The Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization is named after Bowie Kuhn, the former Major League Baseball commissioner who was Catholic. It recognizes a member's efforts to “spread the good news of Jesus Christ among his/her peers and his/her noteworthy dedication to the mission and ideals of Legatus.”

Legatus president Stephen Henley said that “Costabile's commitment to advancing the Catholic faith and Christian ethics through media ‘distinguishes him among his peers and makes him a worthy recipient of the Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization.’”

Costabile serves as the president of the organization’s Newark chapter; according to Legatus, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark is a “long-time” chapter supporter. 

Costabile also received the Legatus ACE award in 2018 for his success in recruiting new members. 

Past recipients of the Bowie Kuhn Award for Evangelization include Tim Flanagan, founder of the Catholic Leadership Institute; Michael Warsaw, Chairman and CEO of EWTN; Curtis Martin, founder of the Catholic campus ministry FOCUS; Tim Busch, attorney and philanthropist; Thomas Peterson, president and founder of Catholics Come Home; and Luisa Kuhn, wife of the late baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

Legatus members include Catholic CEOs, presidents, managing partners, business owners, and their spouses. The group’s stated mission is "to study, live, and spread the Catholic faith in our business, professional and personal lives."

Legatus chapter monthly meetings typically include Mass, Confession, and a rosary followed by social hours, dining, and a presentation on Catholic topics. Legatus International also organizes leadership conferences, pilgrimage opportunities, religious retreats, social events, and overseas trips.

Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza founder turned Catholic philanthropist, founded the organization in 1987. It is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


US:     Supreme Court must return abortion debate to voters and legislatures, says Mississippi brief
Lynn Fitch, the Mississippi Attorney General. / LibandJustice via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Denver Newsroom, Oct 13, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court’s precedents on legal abortion are so tangled and misguided that abortion law should be returned to the people and their representatives in the legislatures, backers of a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks have said.

“Finally forced to defend those cases, respondents drive home the stark reality: Roe and Casey are indefensible,” said the Oct. 13 Supreme Court brief filed by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and other state officials.

“It is true that the judiciary cannot provide a workable half measure—it cannot produce an enduring compromise. But the people can,” the brief continued. “When this court returns this issue to the people, the people can debate, adapt, and find workable solutions. It will be hard for the people too, but under the constitution the task is theirs—and the court should return it to them now.”

The brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization involves Mississippi’s ban on most elective abortions after 15 weeks. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 1.

The challenge could mean the Supreme Court will re-examine its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, as well as its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that reaffirmed legal abortion.

The respondents’ brief, led by attorneys from the pro-abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights, sought to defend the current viability standard, allowing abortion restrictions only after the unborn child may survive outside the womb. The brief said this is 23-24 weeks into pregnancy. The respondents argued that the viability standard serves the court well, has a grounding in the constitution, and has not been challenged by the facts. Defenders of the Mississippi law, they said, do not provide an alternative framework that could sustain a stable right to abortion.

“Each of the state’s purported alternatives would upend the balance struck in Casey and ultimately extinguish ‘the woman’s liberty to determine whether to carry her pregnancy to full term’,” said the pro-abortion rights brief. Upholding the Mississippi ban would lead to “attempts by half the states in the nation to forbid abortion entirely, and a judiciary left without tools to manage the resulting litigation.” The brief argued that the state should reaffirm precedent, which holds that a state’s interest in protecting fetal life falls short of overriding individual liberty claims.

Fitch and other Mississippi leaders faulted this response.

“Respondents’ effort to narrow this case—or avoid any decision—shows what they know: that Roe and Casey are deeply flawed and that those flaws have finally been presented to the one tribunal that can do something about them,” said their brief.

There is “no constitutional basis” for Roe, Casey, or the viability rule, the brief said. The logic for abortion rights decisions appear selective and unique, rather than part of American constitutional tradition.

 “(T)his Court has never endorsed another privacy or liberty interest that involves purposefully ending a human life,” the brief said.

Backers of the Mississippi law depicted Roe as a departure from precedent, and Casey as similarly “egregiously wrong” in a way that weakens claims they should serve as continued precedent.

The common law long condemned and restricted abortion and most states broadly restricted abortion at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was passed. Abortion is a matter that “unites state interests in protecting women’s health and unborn life” but current pro-abortion rights precedent “uniquely limit the states and cut off the democratic process,” said the brief.

The viability line has no constitutional or principled basis and could just as meaningfully be drawn at 14 weeks into pregnancy.  At minimum, the brief argued, the court should reject a rule based on viability.

“Saying that a state’s interest becomes compelling at 15 weeks’ gestation is just as plausible as saying that it becomes compelling at viability,” said the brief, arguing that such “line-drawing” is legislative task and another sign that abortion decisions should not rely on the courts.

“Abortion—as both a jurisprudential and policy matter—is as divisive and unsettled as ever,” said the brief. “Protecting unborn life and women’s health are as compelling as ‘preserving public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary’— an interest this Court has found compelling,” it added.

States should be able to decide on disputed questions, such as to what extent either continued pregnancy or abortion may create health risks for the mother. Similarly, the states should be able to account for advances in knowledge of when the unborn child becomes sensitive to pain.

“This court need not resolve who is right on fetal pain. It need only recognize that knowledge changes and that the constitution does not bind States to a long-outdated view of the fact,” the brief said.

The reasoning of the pro-abortion precedents did not take into account policy changes that better allow women to have both careers and families or the provision of “safe havens” to shelter newborn children without penalty. These precedents were based in outdated ideas about contraception effectiveness and access.

Any claim that preserving Roe and abortion access is critical to women’s advancement is a “demeaning view of women.” The claim “boils down to the view that millions of women have a meaningful life only because 50 years ago seven men in Roe saved them from despair—and that women’s success comes at the cost of ending innumerable human lives,” the brief argued.

“Women’s extensive political participation and share of the population ensure that they strongly influence public policy—and would do so without a judicially managed right to abortion,” the brief continued.

“This court has before it the strongest arguments for and against overruling— from the parties, the United States, and 130 amicus briefs exploring every relevant issue,” the brief said. “The fundamental question at issue here will keep returning until this court addresses it. This is the case to confront— and reject—Roe and Casey.”


Middle East - Africa:     Abducted Nigerian seminarians released
The three seminarians (C) who were released Oct. 13, 2021 by their captors, between Fr. Emmanuel Faweh Kazah, rector of the St Albert Institute, and Fr Jonah Yabanad Stephen, rector of Christ the King Major Seminary. / Aid to the Church in Need International

Kafanchan, Nigeria, Oct 13, 2021 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

The three seminarians who were abducted Monday night from their seminary in Nigeria's Kaduna state have been released, the chancellor of the local Church confirmed on Wednesday.

“Barely 48 hours after their kidnap, our beloved brothers were released by their abductors,” Fr. Emmanuel Okolo, chancellor of the Diocese of Kafanchan, said in an Oct. 13 statement.

Fr. Okolo expressed gratitude to “all those that have offered prayers and entreaties for the quick release of our Seminarians and Others who are still in the dens of their kidnappers.”

Christ the King Major Seminary in Fayit, Fadam Kagoma, about 10 miles southwest of Kafanchan, was attacked by bandits around 7:30 pm Oct. 11.

The three seminarians who were abducted from the seminary chapel belong to the Apostles of Divine Charity and the Little Sons of the Eucharist, and are all in their fourth year of theology.

Christ the King Seminary houses more than 130 seminarians.

Six seminarians were injured in the attack. They were taken with some formators to a hospital in Kafanchan by “a dispatch of soldiers of the Operation Safe Haven.” The injured were treated and discharged after being confirmed to be stable.”

Fr. Emmanuel Faweh Kazah, rector of the St Albert Institute and a professor at the seminary, told Aid to the Church International Oct. 14, “We were beaten but we won’t stay down. We won’t allow ourselves to be cowed by threats emanating from men and women of the underworld. We will courageously carry the torch of the Gospel to the ends of the earth notwithstanding the barrage of attacks on the Christian Faith!”

During an Oct. 13 Mass at the seminary, shortly before the seminarians' release, Bishop Julius Kundi of Kafanchan said: “One line from the psalms struck me recently in my morning prayer. ‘He is not afraid of bad news: his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord’. Notice that God does not promise that the righteous will not receive bad news. They will. That is life in this valley of tears. But the righteous will not be afraid.”

“Bad news tests the heart”, he added. “But what makes the heart firm and steady? Faith in God. It is ‘trusting in the Lord’ that anchors our hearts, keeping them from being carried away by the waves and wind of fear and anxiety. We need a strong faith to have a strong heart. And we need that strength now more than ever”, he concluded.

Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent years, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.

A priest of the Kafanchan diocese was kidnapped last month. Fr. Benson Bulus Luka was abducted from his residence Sept. 13, and released after little more than 24 hours.

And gunmen abducted four seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna in January 2020, holding them for random. The kidnappers eventually released three of the seminarians, but killed 18-year-old Michael Nnadi after he refused to renounce his faith.

Fulani herders, most of whom are Muslim, have had increasing conflict with largely Christian farmers over limited natural resources in Kaduna and other states in recent years, and the radical Islamist group Boko Haram continues to threaten safety in Nigeria's north.


Europe:     Analysis: The Church in France must uphold the confessional seal
null / Pleuntje via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

New York City, N.Y., Oct 13, 2021 / 17:10 pm (CNA).

The French bishops’ conference has seemingly tried to walk back the straightforward comments of the Bishop of Reims, who recently reiterated that the inviolability of the seal of confession, deriving from divine law, supersedes any law of the French Fifth Republic directing that it be broken.

The bishops’ comments came shortly after a report estimated that in France 216,000 children were abused by clerics, monks, or nuns from 1950 to 2020. The report recommended that the confessional seal be reconsidered in relation to abuse.

Below is an analysis of the situation written by Fr. Gerald E. Murray, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who is pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church and who was awarded a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University:

The French Bishops Conference issued a statement on October 12, 2021 following a meeting between the President of the Conference, Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort and the French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin.

On October 6 Moulins-Beaufort had told France Info: “The confessional secret is and will remain an imperative for us and as such it is above the laws of the Republic.” The October 12 Statement apologized for Moulins-Beaufort’s defense of the supremacy of the secrecy of the confessional to any laws of the state: “Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort was able to discuss with Mr. Gerald Darmanin the clumsy phrasing of his response on France Info last Wednesday morning. The State has as its task to organize social life and regulate public order. For us Christians, faith appeals to the conscience of each person, she calls us to seek the good tirelessly, something which cannot be done without respecting the laws of his country.”

The Statement continued: “The widescale extent of sexual violence and assaults on minors revealed by the report of the CIASE demands of the Church that she restudy her practices in the light of this reality. Work is thus needed to reconcile the nature of confession and the necessity of protecting children.”

The apology is remarkable. Christians are called to respect the just laws of the State, and to resist unjust laws. The State has no right to interfere with the sacramental discipline of the Church. The relation between God and man in the administration of the sacraments of the  Church is not subject to state interference. That is a plain violation of the religious liberty of French Catholics.

Even more remarkable is the claim that the Church needs to “restudy’ (in French relire) her practice of safeguarding the secrecy of the confessional. No change in this ironclad discipline is possible. The nature of this sacrament, in which the penitent reveals his conscience by telling his sins to the priest and then receives absolution, requires that the priest make no revelation of those sins which he comes to know only in consideration of his divinely granted power to forgive those sins which the penitent has owned up to and repented of knowing that his confession will remain secret. His avowal of his sins is between him and God; the priest is God’s instrument and must keep silent about what he learns. He should instruct the penitent to own up to any crimes he may have committed by surrendering to the police, but he cannot go any further than that and must uphold the seal of confession.

The October 6 remarks of Bishop Moulins-Beaufort are unremarkable, and in no way clumsy, as they reflect the constant teaching and practice of the Church. The defense of the sacrament of Penance necessarily includes the inviolability of the seal of confession. Canon 983 states: “The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches [#1467]: “Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives. This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the ‘sacramental seal,’ because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains ‘sealed’ by the sacrament.”

The pressure to deal with the horrible revelation of widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests in France must not lead to an attempt by the French bishops to destroy the absolute inviolability of the seal of confession.


US:     Biden administration pushes death sentence for Boston bomber at Supreme Court  
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev / Public Domain

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2021 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday, Oct. 13 concerning whether or not to reinstate a federal death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

Although he was sentenced to death in 2015, Tsarnaev’s sentence was overturned by a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2020. The panel unanimously found that he had not received a fair trial.

In May 2021, the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider the death sentence, and in June, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to sentence Tsarnaev to death. The Biden administration’s push to execute Tsarnaev came weeks before Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a moratorium on federal executions.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, an organization which seeks to end the death penalty and to promote restorative justice, told CNA that Wednesday’s arguments were a reminder “that the federal death penalty is an incredibly tumultuous, broken system that is almost always retruamatizing for victims of families.”

"We pray for Mr. Tsarnaev’s victims, their families, and the city of Boston today as they prepare for what will surely be another emotional ruling,” she said. 

During Wednesday’s arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned what the “end game” of the federal government was in light of the execution moratorium. 

“So the government has declared a moratorium on executions, but you're here defending his death sentences,” said Barrett. “And if you win, presumably, that means that he is relegated to living under the threat of a death sentence that the government doesn't plan to carry out. So I'm just having trouble following the point.”

Eric Feigin, deputy solicitor general, replied that Attorney General Garland could “presumably” review “the current execution protocol.”

“And what we are asking here is that the sound judgment of 12 of Respondent's peers that he warrants capital punishment for his personal acts in murdering and maiming scores of innocents, and along with his brother, hundreds of innocents at the finish line of the Boston Marathon should be respected,” he said. 

In 2015, Tsarnaev was convicted on four murder charges and sentenced to death for orchestrating the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon with his brother Tamerlan. The bombing killed three and injured hundreds. 

During their ensuing run from police, the two brothers shot and killed one police officer, and another police officer died from injuries in a shootout with them. Tamerlan died after being run over by an SUV driven by Dzhokhar, while he was fleeing police.

Vaillancourt Murphy said it was “concerning” to see the Biden administration push to execute Tsarnaev, especially considering that President Joe Biden is the “first-ever president to openly oppose the death penalty” while actively serving as president.  

“The reality is, if Mr. Tsarnaev’s death sentence should remain overturned, he would never leave prison,” she said. “His execution would bring little healing to those he harmed, and would serve only as state-sponsored vengeance. We have other ways of keeping society safe than resorting to executions — methods that don’t violate the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and inherent dignity of the human person."

While the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have now all pushed for the federal death penalty for Tsarnaev, the Boston archdiocese has instead called for life in prison without parole.

“The pain and suffering caused to the victims of the bombing and to their loved ones is as clear and real today as it was nearly eight years ago,” the archdiocese told CNA in May. “As we have previously stated, Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice.”


US:     For Catholic school teachers, new credential program promises formation in faith and reason
Participants in the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education's Catholic Educator Formation and Credential Program at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Denver. / Courtesy photo.

Denver, Colo., Oct 13, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic schools’ unique goals and qualities are the focus of a new program that aims to provide teachers with the formation and credentials for the task, and the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Denver are collaborating with the program.

“The men and women who have responded to a vocation in Catholic education deserve to be fed spiritually and intellectually to help them fulfill their ministerial role: to form joyful disciples of Jesus Christ,” Elizabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, told CNA Oct. 12.

The institute and the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools on Oct. 7 announced the launch of the Catholic Educator Formation and Credential Program to help prepare “well-formed” Catholic school teachers.

Sullivan said the institute’s decades of teacher formation work have helped schools achieve renewal as “vibrant communities of faith and learning.”

“The credential program draws upon and expands this formation into an even deeper grounding in the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition,” she said.

If new applicants for teaching positions in the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools do not have a state teaching license, they can complete the formation and credential program instead.

The program consists of several requirements: five courses; two retreats or workshops; and supervised teaching over 18 months. Those who complete the program will receive the institute’s Catholic Educator Credential.

The pilot program launched in August with 28 participating teachers. The program aims to become nationally recognized, with its credentials recognized across dioceses. It draws on Church teaching on Catholic education, especially as presented in the book The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools, by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B. of Vancouver.

The institute’s certification program aims to provide “a robust alternative to state teacher licensure that provides rich formation in the philosophy and practice of Catholic intellectual tradition, which is distinct from the secular approach,” Sullivan said.

“Many have not recognized that this pragmatic, utilitarian approach undermines the wonder and mystery at the heart of faith,” she told CNA. “In addition, contemporary education is failing to form students who can think well, speak well, and write well.”

Dr. Alyssan Barnes, the director of the institute’s credential program, said that the certification program teaches educators basics, including lesson planning, literacy instruction, and effective pedagogy. She said the program also goes beyond a utilitarian sense of “best practices” by “rooting these essentials in the human person made for holiness.”

“The Lord has called us to tend his sheep,” Barnes told CNA. “What we are doing in Catholic schools is exactly that: caring for the upcoming saints of the next generation. We believe these children need not only something more than what the public school is offering; they need a different paradigm to understand the world around them. We want to support their teachers so they can convey this gift.”

For Barnes, Catholic liberal education “puts the Christ as the Logos at the center” and all truths are “fragments of this Truth.”

“Our credential program seeks to recover the Catholic intellectual tradition of uniting faith and reason – a long tradition that has shaped our world for the better,” she said. “We grow educators in teaching skills, yes, but we also focus on something absolutely essential for the Catholic teacher: developing a sacramental imagination that sees truth as one, as accessible, as communicable.”

The formation program will help educators “fulfill their ministerial role and instill in their students the joyful hope that is the foundation for discipleship,” the joint statement from the Denver archdiocese’s schools and the institute said.

The Denver archdiocese has over 35 schools, about 800 teachers, and over 8,000 students.

The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, based in Ventura, Calif., was founded in 1999 with the goal of renewing Catholic education. It aims to promote “the Church’s vision and practice of liberal learning, which puts Jesus Christ, the Logos, at the center of the content, pedagogy, and school culture.”

Its president and founder, Michael J. Van Hecke, served as headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura for 20 years. The institute’s board of directors includes Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles; Father John Belmonte, S.J., Superintendent of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Venice in Florida; and Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Its board of advisors includes Archbishop Miller; Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura; Bishop James Conley of Lincoln; and Sister Mary Anne Zuberbueler, O.P., principal of Mary Immaculate School in Dallas.


Europe:     What was Sr. Lucia's advice after Fatima visions? Pray. Everyday.
Lucia dos Santos. Public Domain.

Fatima, Portugal, Oct 13, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The niece of Fatima visionary Sr. Lucia dos Santos said her aunt was a normal person like everyone else, but shared some personal advice that her saintly relative used to give: to pray every single day.  

“She always asked me to pray the rosary every day, because there were many who did not pray,” Maria dos Anjos, niece of Fatima visionary Lucia dos Santos, told CNA.

“This was what Our Lady asked: that we pray the rosary every day. Because there were many who didn't pray and because of this many souls went to hell because there was no one to pray for them,” she said.

Anjos, who only saw her aunt when they went to visit her in the convent, said the advice Lucia always gave her was to pray daily, and “that I not forget.”

She recalled that in a few of the conversations she had with her aunt, she confessed to not finishing the rosary because she was tired, having worked hard in the fields all day.

In response, Lucia didn’t reproach, but instead told her to “always start it, and if you don’t finish, Our Lady will finish it.”

Anjos is the daughter of one of Lucia’s older sisters. She grew up in the house directly across the street from where Lucia and her family used to live.

While now there are paved streets and cars driving past the houses and tourist shops set up near Lucia’s house, which is now preserved as a museum and is open to the public for visits, Anjos said that when she was growing up, “there wasn’t anything here...just a mountain and some sheep and donkeys.”

Although she was only one year old at the time Lucia entered the convent, Anjos said her family would go to visit whenever they could.

Lucia, she said, “was a sister like the others. There was no difference. She was just like the other sisters who were in the convent,” and was always “joyful” – both as a child and as a religious sister.

Recalling memories that her mother had shared of her and Lucia’s childhood, Anjos said Lucia was a normal child like everyone else, and never lacked playmates.

“Many children came to play with her because their parents went to the wine estates and left their children here, because there was always someone at the house of Lucia’s mother who looked after the kids,” Anjos said.

Her grandmother and mother to Lucia, Maria Rosa Farreira, was a catechist, and would also teach the children who came to the house while their parents were away.

Faith was always a big part of their family, even before the apparitions, Anjos said, explaining that “we always prayed the rosary, we went to Mass every Sunday, we did what we saw that could be done.”

After the apparitions of Mary, “we continued, doing more, and remembering that Our Lady asked us to pray more and to make more sacrifices,” she said, jesting that “we do our homework well.”

She recalled being able to attend Mass with Pope John Paul II during one of his three visits to Fatima, saying she was able to receive communion from him alongside her aunt, Sister Lucia.

“When communion came, I received communion from his hands, from the hands of the Holy Father. I liked it a lot,” she said, adding “you always like good things, do you not?”

Though she wasn’t able to speak with John Paul, Anjos said she was still “very happy,” and also content to welcome Pope Francis during his May 12-13 visit for the centenary of the Fatima apparitions.

Noting an uptick in visits to the shrine, Anjos said that many people, her family included, would pray the rosary and visit the shrine after the apparitions, but “it seems that we have more devotion.”

“I think that faith has increased here and in the whole world,” she said. “At least I think it has, because many people come here, and that’s why we have to (pray) more and more. I think it did a lot of good for people to have Our Lady appear here.”

This article was originally published on CNA May 11, 2017.


Europe:     Number of new Catholic seminarians in Poland falls by nearly 20% year on year
Mass in the chapel of a seminary in Poznań, western Poland, Sept. 15, 2018. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 13, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Nearly 20% fewer candidates for the Catholic priesthood have enrolled in Poland’s seminaries this year, compared to 2020.

Fr. Piotr Kot, chairman of the Conference of Rectors of Major Seminaries, told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI on Oct. 12 that 356 seminarians began their studies in 2021.

Last year, he said, there were 441 candidates, meaning that “the number is lower by approximately 20%.”

He explained that of the 356 candidates, 242 were training for the diocesan priesthood and 114 for religious orders.

There were 47 fewer seminarians in diocesan seminaries and 38 fewer candidates for religious orders compared with the previous year, he said.

The Polish Catholic weekly Gość Niedzielny noted that priestly vocations had declined sharply in Poland in recent years.

In 2012, it said, 828 candidates enrolled in the first year of seminary. There were 498 in 2019 and 441 in 2020.

In March this year, Poland’s bishops made their final adjustments to a decree, called “The Way of Formation of Priests in Poland” (Ratio institutionis sacerdotalis pro Polonia), setting out new rules for priestly formation.

Fr. Kot told KAI that it was difficult to identify all the factors behind the fall in priestly vocations with certainty.

He said that while God continued to call people, young people had difficulty responding.

“Sometimes they judge themselves unworthy or incapable of such a life,” he said. “Behind this may be difficult stories in the past: lack of appropriate role models in the family home, early addictions, personality problems, and identity disorders.”

“Others are reluctant to follow the call of a vocation because a negative image of the Church and the priesthood is entrenched around them.”

“Today this factor is reinforced by the sexual abuse crisis. If such a young man does not enter into deepened prayer, find a spiritual director, or receive support in some community living the faith enthusiastically and authentically, it is hard for him to respond to the call.”

Another factor, he said, was the “hyper-individualism” of contemporary society that makes it difficult to decide to sacrifice one’s life for others.

The Catholic Church in Poland is undergoing a reckoning on clerical abuse.

It announced in June that it had received 368 allegations of clerical abuse in the past two and a half years.

Since November 2020, the Vatican has disciplined a series of mainly retired Polish bishops after investigations under Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

But despite the decline, Poland remains one of the European countries with the highest number of priestly vocations. The website Notes from Poland reported last year that one in four priestly ordinations in Europe takes place in the country.

In Ireland, a former Catholic powerhouse with a population of almost five million people, nine candidates are beginning their studies for the priesthood this year.

In 2020, there were 56 ordinations to the diocesan priesthood in Germany, a country neighboring Poland with a population of 83 million people.

The “Church in Poland” report, issued in March this year, found that 91.9% of Poles -- 32.5 million people -- described themselves as members of the Church.

It concluded that 36.9% of Poland’s Catholics regularly attended Mass.

The report said that the Polish Church had two cardinals, 29 archbishops, 123 bishops, 33,600 priests, and around 19,000 religious sisters.


Americas:     This is the miracle that paved the way for John Paul I’s beatification
Pope John Paul I in an undated file photo. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Oct 13, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

After the doctors told Roxana Sosa that there was nothing else that they could do for her 11-year-old daughter, who was suffering from brain dysfunction and septic shock amid uncontrollable seizures, the mother went to pray in the Catholic church next to the hospital.

Inside the Buenos Aires’ church, she encountered Fr. José Dabusti, who came to pray at her daughter’s bedside on the night of July 22, 2011.

The priest proposed that they entrust her daughter, Candela Giarda, to the intercession of the Servant of God Pope John Paul I, and together they prayed.

Earlier that day, doctors at the Favaloro Foundation had used the words “imminent death” to describe Candela’s condition, according to the Vatican Congregation of the Causes of Saints website.

Her daughter had suddenly become ill four months earlier with what was eventually diagnosed as Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome.

In March 2011, Roxana brought Candela to a hospital in their hometown of Paraná, northeastern Argentina, “with refractory status epilepticus.”

“I took her to the pediatric hospital in Paraná and she was admitted to therapy. In a few hours, she was in a coma, on a respirator. She had convulsions and they tried different anticonvulsants, but nothing worked,” Roxana told reporters in an interview with the Argentine news site Infobae.

The numerous daily epileptic seizures made it necessary to intubate her daughter, who was transferred in an ambulance for more than 300 miles to the intensive care unit in the Favaloro Foundation research hospital in Buenos Aires in May that year.

“Since we had arrived at Favaloro, Cande got worse instead of better. She had no life expectancy. They even told me to go back to Paraná so that she would die at home,” Roxana said.

But after praying with Fr. Dabusti for the intercession of John Paul I, her daughter began to show signs of improvement overnight.

Roxana later admitted that she knew little at the time about the Italian pope, who had served only 33 days in office before dying unexpectedly in 1978. But she told the Argentine news site that she trusted what the priest was proposing to her without hesitation and asked the intercession of Pope John Paul I exclusively.

The nursing staff in the intensive care unit also joined in their prayers for the intercession of the former pope, according to the Vatican.

“On July 23, 2011, unexpectedly, there was a rapid improvement in septic shock, which continued with the subsequent recovery of hemodynamic and respiratory stability,” the Vatican website said.

Two weeks later, Candela was extubated and by Aug. 25 her status epilepticus was resolved. She was discharged from the hospital on Sept. 5.

Fr. Dabusti reported what had taken place to the Vatican and received instructions to write down with precise details everything that had happened regarding Candela’s health.

Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the local archbishop at the time that the miracle took place in Buenos Aires in 2011. He would go on to become Pope Francis in 2013.

After the Vatican investigation into Candela’s healing concluded, Pope Francis recognized the event as a miracle obtained through the intercession of John Paul I on Oct. 13, 2021.

Today, Candela is 21 years old and pursuing a veterinary degree in university. She is not currently taking any medications.

“Miracles exist, and I saw it with Cande,” Roxana said.


US:     Archbishop Broglio: COVID-19 vaccines morally permissible, but troops may conscientiously object
Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services outside the meeting hall during the 2019 USCCB General Assembly, June 12, 2019. / Kate Veik/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2021 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Service members should not be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine against their conscience, the archbishop of the U.S. military archdiocese said on Tuesday.

In a Oct. 12 statement “on Coronavirus Vaccines and the Sanctity of Conscience,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA stated that “no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience.”

“The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” he said.

In August, the Pentagon announced that all service members would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In advance of that announcement, Archbishop Broglio said that receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States was morally permissible, and that a vaccine mandate “seems prudent” and would be “very similar” to mandates already enforced in the military.

The Pentagon press secretary said in August that a possibility existed for religious vaccine exemptions, but that the process of obtaining exemptions would differ among the various branches of the military.

On Tuesday, Broglio reiterated statements of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that use of COVID-19 vaccines with connections to abortion-derived cell lines is morally permissible.

All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have some link to cell lines derived from a baby believed to have been aborted in the 1970s. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested using the controversial cell lines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed, tested, and produced using the cell lines.

The connection of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to abortion “has been for centuries considered remote material cooperation with evil and is never sinful,” Archbishop Broglio noted on Tuesday. He added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “more problematic,” and while it is still “morally permissible” to use, Catholics should note their preference for the other two vaccines if possible.

Hundreds of thousands of service members are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an Oct. 10 Washington Post report. There are more than two million members of the U.S. military. Military branches have instituted various deadlines for the vaccination of all troops.

Regarding troops who are seeking a religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccines through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Broglio stated that although the vaccines are morally permissible to receive, they can be refused in conscience.

However, he added that those refusing vaccines must act to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through other means, out of “charity for their neighbors and for the common good.”

These acts would include “wearing face coverings, social distancing, undergoing routine testing, quarantining, and remaining open to receiving a treatment should one become available that is not derived from, or tested with abortion-derived cell lines,” he said.


Europe:     10 things you need to know about how Fatima's 'Miracle of the sun' ended an Atheist regime
Crowds looking at the Miracle of the Sun, occurring during the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions. / Public Domain.

Fatima, Portugal, Oct 13, 2021 / 09:15 am (CNA).

October 13, 1917 marked the last Marian apparition in Fatima, and the day in which thousands of people bore witness of the miracle of the dancing sun; a miracle that not only proved the validity of the Fatima Marian apparitions, but also shattered the prevalent belief at the time that God was no longer relevant.

Dr. Marco Daniel Duarte, a theologian and director of the Fatima Shrine museums told CNA these 10 things we need to know about the impact of the miracle during those days in Portugal.

1) If one were to open philosophy books during that period, they would likely read something akin to the concept conceived by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who boldly asserted in the late 1800s that “God is dead.”

2) Also, in 1917, Portugal, like the majority of the world, was embroiled in war. As World War I raged throughout Europe, Portugal found itself unable to maintain its initial neutrality and joined forces with the Allies. More that 220,000 Portuguese civilians died during the war; thousands due to food shortages, thousands more from the Spanish flu.

3) Few years before, in 1910, a revolution had led to the establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910 and a new liberal constitution was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to suppress the faith from public life.

4) Catholic churches and schools were seized by the government, and the wearing of clerics in public, the ringing of church bells, and the celebration of public religious festivals were banned. Between 1911-1916, nearly 2,000 priests, monks and nuns were killed by anti-Christian groups.

5) This was the backdrop against which Mary, in 1917, appeared to three shepherd children – Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, 9 and 7 – in a field in Fatima, Portugal, bringing with her requests for the recitation of the rosary, for sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a secret regarding the fate of the world.

6) To prove that the apparitions were true, Mary promised the children that during the last of her six appearances she would provide a “sign” so people would believe in the apparitions and in her message. What happened on that day – Oct. 13, 1917 – has come to be known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” or “the day the sun danced.”

7) According to various accounts, a crowd of some 70,000 people – believers and skeptics alike – gathered to see the miracle that Mary had promised: The rainy sky cleared up, the clouds dispersed and the ground, which had been wet and muddy from the rain, was dried. A transparent veil came over the sun, making it easy to look at, and multi-colored lights were strewn across the landscape. The sun then began to spin, twirling in the sky, and at one point appeared to veer toward earth before jumping back to its place in the sky.

8) The stunning miracle was a direct, and very convincing contradiction to the atheistic regimes at the time, which is evidenced by the fact that the first newspaper to report on the miracle on a full front page was an anti-Catholic, Masonic newspaper in Lisbon called O Seculo.

9) The Miracle of the Sun, was understood by the people to be “the seal, the guarantee that in fact those three children were telling the truth.”

10) Even today, “Fatima makes people change their perception of God,” since "one of the most important messages of the apparitions is that even if man has separated God from his existence, God is present in human history and doesn’t abandon humanity.”

This article was originally published on CNA on Oct. 12, 2017.


Americas:     Fatima visionary predicted 'final battle' would be over marriage, family
Our Lady of Fatima. / Joseph Ferrara Our Lady of Fatima in LA Archdiocese via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 13, 2021 / 08:33 am (CNA).

Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who witnessed the Marian apparitions at Fatima, died in 2005. But before her death, she predicted that the final battle between Christ and Satan would be over marriage and the family.

So says Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who reports that the visionary sent him a letter with this prediction when he was Archbishop of Bologna, Italy.

This reported statement by Sister Lucia, expressed during the pontificate of Saint John Paul II, was revisited in 2016 by the Desde la Fe (From the Faith) weekly of the Archdiocese of Mexico, in the midst of the debate generated by President Enrique Pena Nieto, who announced his intention to promote same-sex marriage in this country.

The Mexican weekly recalled the statements that Cardinal Caffarra made to the Italian press in 2008, three years after the death of Sister Lucia.

On Feb. 16, 2008, the Italian cardinal had celebrated a Mass at the tomb of Padre Pio, after which he gave an interview with Tele Radio Padre Pio. He was asked about the prophecy of Sister Lucia dos Santos that speaks about “the final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan.”

Cardinal Caffarra explained that Saint John Paul II had commissioned him to plan and establish the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. At the beginning of this work, the cardinal wrote a letter to Sister Lucia of Fatima through her bishop, since he could not do it directly.

“Inexplicably, since I did not expect a reply, seeing as I had only asked for her prayers, I received a long letter with her signature, which is now in the archives of the Institute,” the Italian cardinal said.

“In that letter we find written: ‘The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about Marriage and the Family.’ Don't be afraid, she added, because whoever works for the sanctity of Marriage and the Family will always be fought against and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. Then she concluded: ‘nevertheless, Our Lady has already crushed his head’.”

Cardinal Caffarra added that “speaking again with John Paul II, you could feel that the family was the core, since it has to do with the supporting pillar of creation, the truth of the relationship between man and woman, between the generations. If the foundational pillar is damaged, the entire building collapses and we're seeing this now, because we are right at this point and we know it.”

“And I am moved when I read the best biographies of Padre Pio,” the cardinal concluded, “about how this man was so attentive to the sanctity of marriage and the holiness of the spouses, even with justifiable rigor at times.”

This article was originally published on CNA July 8, 2016.


Vatican:     Pope Francis approves beatification of Colombian sister filled with ‘ardent apostolic zeal’
Mother María Berenice receives the Eucharist during a period of illness. / Hermanitas de la Anunciación.

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2021 / 06:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday approved a miracle obtained through the intercession of Venerable María Berenice Duque Hencker, a Colombian nun described as an entrepreneurial figure with “great mettle.”

Mother María Berenice, as she was known, was the founder of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Annunciation in Medellín, Colombia. She died in 1993 at the age of 94, and her congregation continues to be active in Colombia and Venezuela.

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the late archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, described her as having an “ardent apostolic zeal.”

Urosa told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, in May that the nun, who was born in 1898, “felt the vocation to religious life very young, and responded in 1917 to the Lord’s call, entering the Congregation of the Dominicans of the Presentation.”

“There she grew in her intense love for God, which inspired her with an ardent apostolic zeal to serve and evangelize her neighbor, which she concretized in the various activities that were progressively assigned to her,” the cardinal wrote in a letter.

In 1943, she founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Annunciation, and afterward, she began another congregation, the Missionary Sisters, to welcome young Afro-Colombian women called to consecrated life.

“She was a woman of living and firm Christian faith, of intense Marian piety and great mettle, an enthusiastic entrepreneur, with many initiatives to announce the name and love of God to those most in need,” Urosa said.

He added that the mother superior accepted and implemented the decrees of the Second Vatican Council in her congregation, and led her sisters “with prudence, gentleness, and tact.”

The cardinal stressed that “her intense love for God and her union with Christ crucified gave her the necessary strength to undertake many difficult deeds, especially among the poorest.”

In her 70s, she became seriously ill for several years, but “the Lord gave her a special strength to join the passion of Christ in the pain of illness and the weakness that it brings,” Cardinal Urosa said.

The miracle attributed to the nun’s intercession was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in May, and on Oct. 13, Pope Francis gave his authorization for her to be beatified.

Pope Francis also signed off on the decrees of martyrdom of the diocesan priest Fr. Pedro Ortiz de Zárate and the Jesuit priest Fr. Juan Antonio Solinas, who were killed in Argentina in 1683.

Other Servants of God whose sainthood causes have been advanced are the Spanish priest Fr. Diego Hernández González (1915-1976); the Italian priest and Franciscan of the Order of Friars Minor Fr. Giuseppe Spoletini (1870-1951); the Italian foundress of the Fraternity of the Little Sisters of Jesus, Sr. Maddalena di Gesù (1898-1989); and Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Mary of Leuca, Sr. Elizabetta Martinez (1905-1991).


Vatican:     Pope Francis: The Gospel opens every culture to greater freedom in Christ
Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Oct. 13, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2021 / 05:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spoke Wednesday about the universal nature of the Catholic Church, which embraces all cultures because Christ died for all people.

“This is the meaning of calling ourselves Catholics, of speaking of the Catholic Church: it is not a sociological denomination to distinguish us from other Christians. Catholic is an adjective that means ‘universal,’” Pope Francis said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Oct. 13.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“The Church contains within herself, in her very nature, an openness to all peoples and cultures of all times, because Christ was born, died, and rose for everyone,” he said.

The word “Catholic” comes from the Greek word “katholikos” (καθολικός), which means “universal.” The term was first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote in the second century that “wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, chapter five, verse 13: “For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”

Pope Francis said: “In the call to freedom we discover the true meaning of the inculturation of the Gospel ... being able to announce the Good News of Christ the Savior while respecting the good and the true that exist in cultures.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“It is not easy. There are many temptations to seek to impose one’s own model of life as though it were the most evolved and the most appealing. How many errors have been made in the history of evangelization by seeking to impose a single cultural model.”

The pope pointed to examples from Church history in which missionaries who immersed themselves deeply in other cultures were criticized by their contemporaries. He mentioned the 16th-century Jesuit Fr. Matteo Ricci, who spent nearly three decades in China, and another Jesuit missionary, Fr. Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656), who learned Sanskrit and Tamil while ministering in India.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“The liberation obtained through baptism enables us to acquire the full dignity of children of God, so that, while we remain firmly anchored in our cultural roots, at the same time we open ourselves to the universalism of faith that enters into every culture, recognizes the kernels of truth present, and develops them, bringing to fullness the good contained in them,” Pope Francis said.

“To accept that we have been set free by Christ -- his passion, his death, his resurrection -- is to accept and bring fullness even to the different traditions of every people. True fullness.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his 11th live-streamed address in his cycle of catechesis on Galatians, the pope underlined that “uniformity as a rule of life is not Christian.”

“Unity yes, uniformity no,” he said.

Pope Francis said that culture by its very nature is always in “continual transformation.”

“Think about how we are called to proclaim the Gospel in this historical moment of great cultural change, where increasingly advanced technology seems to have the upper hand,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“If we were to speak of faith as we did in previous centuries, we would run the risk of no longer being understood by the new generations. The freedom of Christian faith -- Christian freedom -- does not indicate a static vision of life and culture, but rather a dynamic vision, a dynamic vision too of tradition. Tradition grows but always with the same nature.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Let us not claim, therefore, to possess freedom. We have received a gift to cherish. Rather, it is freedom that asks each one of us to be constantly on the move, oriented towards its fullness. It is the condition of pilgrims; it is the state of wayfarers, in continual exodus: liberated from slavery so as to walk towards the fullness of freedom.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis greeted American visitors on pilgrimage in Rome.

“I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially the groups from the United States of America. In this month of October, through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, may we grow in the Christian freedom that we received at baptism. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you,” the pope said.


Vatican:     John Paul I, ‘the smiling pope,’ to be beatified after miracle approved by Pope Francis
Pope John Paul I in an undated file photo. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2021 / 04:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recognized a miracle obtained through the intercession of his predecessor Venerable John Paul I, who will now be declared “blessed.”

Often called “the smiling pope,” John Paul I died unexpectedly on Sept. 28, 1978, after just 33 days in office. A priority of his short pontificate was carrying forward the work of the Second Vatican Council.

But even before he was elected pope, Albino Luciani was known for his humility, his emphasis on spiritual poverty, and his dedication to teaching the faith in an understandable manner.

Pope Francis gave his approval on Oct. 13 for the cause of beatification of John Paul I to move forward, along with the causes of six other people on the path to sainthood.

John Paul I was declared Venerable by Pope Francis in 2017.

According to a report this week from the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, John Paul I may be beatified before Easter.

Though beatification ceremonies usually take place in the country most associated with the life of the new blessed, John Paul I is likely to be beatified at the Vatican by Pope Francis because he served as a pope.

The miracle attributed to John Paul I’s intercession is the 2011 healing of a girl in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, from a severe form of encephalopathy, a disease affecting the brain.

Last year, Pope Francis instituted a Vatican foundation to promote John Paul I’s thought and teachings.

In an article in L’Osservatore Romano on April 28, 2020, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote that “Pope John Paul I was and remains a reference point in the history of the universal Church, the importance of which -- as St. John Paul II pointed out -- is inversely proportional to the duration of his very short pontificate.”

In 2008, on the 30th anniversary of John Paul I’s death, Benedict XVI reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, when the apostle wrote: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”

Benedict said that this biblical text called to mind John Paul I, who chose the same episcopal motto as St. Charles Borromeo, “Humilitas.”

John Paul I’s simplicity, according to Benedict, “was a means of solid and fruitful instruction, which, thanks to the gift of an excellent memory and vast culture, was enriched by numerous citations of Church and secular authors.”


Europe:     Blessed Carlo Acutis’ doctors recall his last days in hospital
The tomb of Blessed Carlo Acutis in Assisi, Italy. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Fifteen-year-old Carlo Acutis died within a week of being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, offering his suffering for the pope and for the Church. Following his beatification on Oct. 10, 2020, his doctors and hospital chaplain recalled their memories of his final days.

Fr. Sandro Villa was the hospital chaplain of St. Gerald Hospital outside of Milan who gave Acutis the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion on Oct. 10, 2006, the day before Acutis went into a coma due to a brain hemorrhage caused by the M3 subtype of acute myeloid leukemia. 

Villa shared at an event in Assisi Oct. 13, 2020 that he was touched by Acutis’ “composure and devotion” in receiving the sacraments in the hospital room.

“In a small room, at the end of the corridor, I found myself in front of a boy. His pale but serene face surprised me -- unthinkable in a seriously ill person, especially an adolescent,” he said.

“I was also amazed by the composure and devotion with which, albeit with difficulty, he received the two sacraments. He seemed to have been waiting for them and felt the need for them.”

Before his cancer diagnosis, Carlo Acutis had a great devotion to the Eucharist. From a young age, he expressed a special love for God, even though his Catholic parents had stopped attending Mass. 

As he grew older, he started going to daily Mass, often dragging his family members along with him. He made Holy Hours before or after Mass and went to confession weekly. 

With his aptitude for computer programming, Acutis built websites to inform others about Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions around the world. On his site, he told people, “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”

For Villa, this administration of the sacraments would be his only encounter with Acutis, but he said that the look of serenity on Carlo’s face was something that stayed with him.

“After a few years … I learned that he was declared ‘Venerable.’ I was amazed that the Lord had allowed me to meet him, if only for a few moments,” he said.

Villa continued: “I decided to learn about his life. I discovered that he was in love with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and I therefore began to better understand some of his words.”

Dr. Andrea Biondi and Dr. Mòmcilo Jankovic, who treated Acutis in the pediatric clinic of St. Gerald Hospital, recorded their memories together in a paper that was read aloud at the event.

They said: “Carlo was like a meteor with a quick passage through our ward; leukemia took him away before we could get to know him even a little. However, his sweet eyes remain engrained [in our memories]. His gaze was full of attention … of courage, of love, of strong empathy.”

“His faith in God, which he had wanted and still wanted to pass on to others, to his neighbor, shone through him … His gentle eyes … taught us a lot: life, whether short or long must be lived intensely for oneself, but also and above all for others.”

Acutis’ heart stopped beating on Oct. 12 -- a date which is now celebrated as a local feast in the Diocese of Assisi and Archdiocese of Milan. His parents had desired to donate his organs, but they were too compromised by leukemia to be donated.

Today Blessed Carlo’s heart is considered a relic and is contained in a reliquary in Assisi that is inscribed with his words: “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.”

This article was originally published on CNA on Oct. 16, 2020.


Europe:     Dean resigns after filming of questionable music video in Toledo Cathedral
The Toledo Cathedral in Toledo, Spain. / Michal Osmenda via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Toledo, Spain, Oct 12, 2021 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

Fr. Juan Miguel Ferrer Grenesche, dean of the Toledo Cathedral, has submitted his resignation following the improper use of the sacred space in a music video which includes sensual dance scenes within the church.

“The Dean expresses his request for forgiveness from the institution, on his own behalf and on behalf of the various elements of the cathedral chapter, insofar as they have had responsibility, for all the errors and faults that may have been committed by word, deed and omission in the recent events,” the Archdiocese of Toledo said Oct. 12.

Fr. Ferrer’s resignation will take effect Oct. 16. His term was to have ended Nov. 5.

The archdiocese said that the priest expressed his “full communion” with Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves  “and the Diocesan Church.”

Spanish rapper C. Tangana released a music video for his song "Ateo" (Atheist) Oct. 7, made with Argentine singer Nathy Peluso. In the video, both perform sensual and provocative dances inside the cathedral.

The archdiocese also pointed out that "by internal regulations of the cathedral chapter, in effect for years, the money collected for extraordinary activities of the Cathedral is used for charitable works."

C. Tangana paid 15,000 euros ($17,000) for the use of the cathedral in the music video.

In a statement to the Spanish press reported by Europa Press Oct. 12, Fr. Ferrer said that "communication failures" complicated the case, and hat he doesn’t regret his first statement, in which he justified the recording of the music video.

What he said at that time "is true and I explained the reasons why permission was given,”  but he acknowledged that during the recording of the performance there were no representatives of the cathedral to realize "the things that later caused some people to be scandalized. That was a failure."

Fr. Ferrer also said that requests for permission for this type of recordings are not normally communicated to the archbishop, which "may be another failure that would have avoided some of the difficulty that we have experienced."

"I acknowledge all criticism and that I have been wrong, but when they correct me, I like it to be done with charity and respect," he said.

However, the priest said that for him this case is "water under the bridge, and what I want is for everyone to be serene and live in peace and that there not be any tension."

“I am convinced that the music of one kind of guy or another, from our faith, what we are looking for is to do good to people and I hope that after all this pain and this controversy we will all strive to do some good to one another,” he said.

Fr. Ferrer had said Oct. 8 that  “the video presents the story of a conversion through human love. The lyrics of the song are precise: ‘I was an atheist, but now I believe, because a miracle like you had to come down from heaven.’”

In addition, the dean criticized "certain attitudes of intolerance," to which, he said, "is opposed by the understanding and acceptance of the Church, as manifested in the final sequences of the video."

The Toledo archdiocese said Oct. 8 that the archbishop “was absolutely unaware of the existence of this project, its content and the final result,” and that he “deeply regrets these events and disapproves of the images recorded” in the cathedral.

The Archbishop of Toledo asked "humbly and sincerely for forgiveness from all the lay faithful, consecrated people and priests, who have felt justly hurt by this misuse of a sacred place."

"From this moment, the archdiocese will work to review the procedure followed to prevent something similar from happening again," the statement added.

"To do this, a protocol for the recording of images for public broadcasting in any church in the archdiocese will be immediately drawn up.”

About 30 people gathered outside the cathedral Oct. 10 to pray a reparative rosary.

The Archbishop of Toledo announced Oct. 9 there will be an act of reparation carried out during an Oct. 17 Mass.

“As a result of recent events, I want to add to this celebration an invitation to conversion, reparation for sins and purification that this time of grace and interior renewal requires, and that we will carry out in a special penitential act of the Mass,”  the archbishop said.


US:     Why women didn’t need Roe to get ahead: An interview with the head of Secular Pro-Life
Pro-life feminists participate at the Women's March in Washington D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

This December, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many legal experts say it presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

Kelsey Hazzard, an attorney and the founder and president of the group Secular Pro-Life, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s pro-life law. The brief argues that women’s “social, economic, and political opportunities” were already increasing before Roe, and that abortion is not necessary for women’s socioeconomic success 

The following is a transcript of CNA’s interview with Hazzard. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about yourself. What is your personal and faith background? How did you come to the place where you are professionally?

I grew up attending a United Methodist church, which is officially a “pro-choice” denomination. Abortion was never discussed, from the pulpit or anywhere else. As a result, the pro-life position was not framed as “religious” for me. Once I was old enough to understand what abortion was, I came to the pro-life movement simply by applying my general values, e.g. sticking up for the “little guy.” When I left Christianity for unrelated reasons (it just stopped making sense to me), my pro-life position was unaffected because it was always secular. 

Professionally, I am a lawyer in private practice; my pro-life advocacy is 100% volunteer. I earned my B.A. at the University of Miami and my J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law, and held leadership roles in the pro-life student organizations for each [university].

The amicus brief lays out an argument that, contrary to the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement and, in fact, has hurt women. Can you walk me through the brief’s argument and evidence?

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said that even if Roe was wrong, it couldn’t correct its deadly error because American women had come to rely upon abortion for their professional advancement. This is the infamous “reliance interest.” And yet in the decades since Casey, abortion rates have plummeted dramatically while women have enjoyed ever-increasing gains in the workplace. Forget “correlation does not equal causation”—they don’t even have correlation! 

As a professional woman myself, the fact that the highest court in the land attributes my success to the mass slaughter of preborn babies fills me with disgust. That is the polar opposite of my values, and I deserve credit for my own hard work. 

How did it come about that you signed the amicus brief in this case?

One of Secular Pro-Life’s board members heard about the pro-life feminist brief in progress from another signatory, and we jumped on it!

Have you signed amicus briefs in similar cases in the past? If not, why was this case different for you?

This was my first opportunity to join an amicus brief. 

Many are saying this case has a chance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Do you agree?

Yes, it does! 

Have you always considered yourself to be pro-life, or was there a moment or event that convinced you of the position?

I can’t point to a moment. I’ve been pro-life ever since I heard about abortion.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions or myths about the pro-life position that you encounter in your professional environment?

That we’re all Trump supporters, that we’re all Bible thumpers, that we’re all… anything, really, is a myth! Our movement is incredibly diverse.

Do you ever feel you are treated differently from others because you are a pro-life woman? In the pro-life movement, do you feel as though you are treated differently due to your atheism? 

The pro-life movement has welcomed me with open arms. In my experience, women are the majority of engaged pro-life advocates. Pro-life female leadership is commonplace and unremarkable. Pro-life atheism is less common statistically – according to Pew, religiously unaffiliated people are about 12% of abortion opponents in the United States – but most religious pro-lifers welcome the collaboration.   

We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science.” Do you face this accusation often? If so, how do you respond? 

Pro-life is pro-science. The pro-choice movement has become almost a caricature of itself at this point. I mean, talking about “cardiac activity” or “flutters” to avoid saying “heartbeat”? Come on. 

That said, I think the “clump of cells” talking point is on its way out; the truth is just too difficult to avoid. Instead it’s the ad hominem attacks taking the lead: “you hate women,” “you don’t care about kids after they’re born,” that sort of thing.

What is it like leading an organization of secular pro-lifers? How do you counter the "get your rosaries off my ovaries" criticism? 

Leading an organization of secular pro-lifers is an honor, and also reminiscent of herding cats. Secular Pro-Life has become a home not only for pro-life atheists and agnostics, but also for members of minority religious groups like Wiccans, Mormons, Muslims, and more liberal Christians who don’t fit the “religious right” label. 

I’ve gotten to meet people from all walks of life. It’s really emphasized for me how unique every human being is – and how great a loss the world experiences with every abortion.   

What do you hope for the future of the pro-life movement? How can other faithful women support your efforts?

We must remember that success in Dobbs is only the beginning. I worry that people will get complacent, thinking that reversal of Roe was the goal. No: saving lives is the goal.  The post-Roe abortion industry is not going to accept defeat quietly. They are going to enact ever more extreme laws in pro-abortion states. They are already trying chemical-abortion-by-mail schemes. Increasingly, abortion advocates dehumanize not only children in the womb, but their defenders as well. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Is there anything you would like the pro-life movement, or pro-life people in general, to try to improve on, especially as the possibility of a post-Roe country becomes more and more likely?

Pro-lifers have spent decades building up an infrastructure of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and other support systems for pregnant mothers in crisis. We need to continue that investment and also do a much better job of advertising what is already out there. 

What good is a scholarship for pregnant students if the candidate who needs it doesn’t hear about it? 

More broadly, we need to fix the mainstream media’s capture by pro-abortion interests, so pro-life efforts to help needy families can get fair coverage.


Middle East - Africa:     Three seminarians abducted in Nigeria
The entrance to Christ the King Major Seminary in Fayit, Fadan Kagoma, Nigeria, whence three seminarians were abducted Oct. 11, 2021. / Courtesy photo.

Kafanchan, Nigeria, Oct 12, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Three seminarians were abducted Monday night from their seminary in Nigeria's Kaduna state. Another six were injured during the attack, and were taken to hospital and then discharged.

Christ the King Major Seminary in Fayit, Fadam Kagoma, about 10 miles southwest of Kafanchan, was attacked by bandits around 7:30 pm Oct. 11.

The three seminarians who were abducted from the seminary chapel belong to the Apostles of Divine Charity and the Little Sons of the Eucharist, and are all in their fourth year of theology.

Christ the King Seminary houses more than 130 seminarians.

“We ask for your closeness to us in praying for the quick and safe release of our abducted brothers,” Fr. Emmanuel Okolo, chancellor of the Diocese of Kafanchan, wrote in an Oct. 12 memo.

“Well-wishers of our Institute and Seminary are hereby encouraged to desist from taking the laws into their hands,” the priest added. “We would use every legitimate means to ensure their prompt and secure release. May Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and St. Wilfred intercede for our abducted brothers and all other kidnapped persons.”

Fr. Okoloadded that the six seminarians who were injured were taken with some formators to a hospital in Kafanchan by “a dispatch of soldiers of the Operation Safe Haven.” The injured were treated and discharged after being confirmed to be stable.”

Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of Aid to the Church in Need International, commented that “The kidnapping of innocent young seminarians - once again - in Nigeria is an abominable act. We appeal to the conscience of their kidnappers and urge them to release these young people. We ask people of good will to join us in praying that the three seminarians will soon be released unharmed. At the same time, we call on international communities not to look away from the atrocities that occur every day and the ongoing suffering of Christians due to Boko Haram, Fulani attacks and acts of violence by bandits in the whole country.”

He called on Nigeria's government to ensure its citizens' safety, saying the country "runs the risk of becoming a failed state."

A priest of the Kafanchan diocese was kidnapped last month. Fr. Benson Bulus Luka was abducted from his residence Sept. 13, and released after little more than 24 hours.

And gunmen abducted four seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna in January 2020, holding them for random. The kidnappers eventually released three of the seminarians, but killed 18-year-old Michael Nnadi after he refused to renounce his faith.

Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent years, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.

Fulani herders, most of whom are Muslim, have had increasing conflict with largely Christian farmers over limited natural resources in Kaduna and other states in recent years, and the radical Islamist group Boko Haram continues to threaten safety in Nigeria's north.


US:     Before Supreme Court, Kentucky’s attorney general asks to intervene in defense of pro-life law
Matthew Kuhn, Principal Deputy Solicitor General of Kentucky (right), along with Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky (center) and his wife Makenze (left), outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 12, 2021. / Matt Hadro/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 14:10 pm (CNA).

The office of Kentucky’s attorney general appeared at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking to be allowed to intervene in defense of the state’s dismemberment abortion ban.

Kentucky’s pro-life law, H.B. 454, passed the state legislature in 2018 and was signed into law by then-governor Matt Bevin (R). It bans the practice of live dismemberment abortions, a second-trimester abortion procedure, after eleven weeks of pregnancy. The law was subsequently challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, and was overturned in a federal court.

While the current governor and health secretary do not support the law, Kentucky’s attorney general Daniel Cameron (R) is seeking to intervene in defense of the law and to have it reconsidered at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. When the Sixth Circuit would not allow Cameron to intervene in the case, the attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court.

After oral arguments concluded on Tuesday, Cameron said he was “excited” and “optimistic” about his case, calling it an “honor” to seek to defend the law.  

“Basically, what it [the law] said in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, is in Kentucky, we want to make sure that we show the compassion in the heart of the men, women, and children of all 120 counties in saying that if this [dismemberment abortion] procedure is occurring – again, we don’t necessarily want it to occur but if it is to occur – you don’t want the baby to feel pain in the womb,” Cameron said.

Cameron noted that he and his wife are expecting a baby in January. “The issue is more important to us,” he said, “knowing that we’ve got a little one on the way.”

“This is an important issue for Sisters for Life, this is an important issue for Kentucky Right to Life. This is important, again, for the men, women, and children of all of our 120 counties.”

The court is considering not the constitutionality of the law itself, which was struck down by a federal district court, with the Sixth Circuit upholding that decision. Rather, the court is considering whether Cameron is lawfully allowed to intervene in the case. As Cameron had only moved to defend the law once the Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court's decision, the circuit court ruled he could not intervene in the case.

In his brief at the Supreme Court, Cameron argued that as attorney general he had the “final say” on whether to accept the lower court’s decision. On Tuesday, the state’s principal deputy solicitor general Matthew Kuhn argued that the office should be allowed to defend the law in court.

Cameron is seeking to intervene “so the commonwealth could exhaust all appeals in defense of its law,” Kuhn said. Cameron is not doing so in a personal capacity, but in his lawful capacity as state attorney general, Kuhn said.

“This court’s case law instructs that acting for a state is a distinct capacity, because everyone agrees that the attorney general did not participate in that capacity in district court, he is not jurisdictionally barred from doing so now,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn told reporters on Tuesday that the state had created a “failsafe” for situations when government officials would not defend state laws. According to Kuhn, state law allows the attorney general to intervene in court in such cases to uphold the law.

Pro-life groups advocated on Cameron’s behalf on Tuesday.

“As chief enforcer of the Commonwealth’s laws, Attorney General Cameron should have the power to defend the will of the people to protect the unborn, stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The legislature of Kentucky, elected by the people of Kentucky, passed the law to prevent the horrific deaths of unborn babies by dismemberment abortions,” stated Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. 


Europe:     French Catholic leader discusses ‘clumsy wording’ on confessional seal with interior minister
Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, pictured in 2015. / Olivier LPB via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Paris, France, Oct 12, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The president of the French bishops’ conference discussed the “clumsy wording” of his recent comments about the confessional seal with the country’s interior minister on Tuesday.

In a statement after the meeting at the interior ministry’s headquarters in Paris on Oct. 12, the bishops’ conference said that Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort and Gérald Darmanin reflected on an interview that the archbishop gave after the publication of a watershed report on clerical abuse in France.

In the interview with France Info, Moulins-Beaufort was pressed on whether the confessional seal took precedence over French laws.

“The seal of confession imposes itself on us and in this, it is stronger than the laws of the Republic,” he said.

France has a mandatory reporting law, with sanctions for failing to stop or report a crime.

“Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort was able to discuss with Gérald Darmanin the clumsy wording of his answer on France Info last Wednesday morning,” the bishops’ conference statement said.

“The state has the task of organizing social life and regulating public order. For us Christians, faith appeals to the conscience of each person, it calls to seek the good without respite, which cannot be done without respecting the laws of the country.”

The final report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE), issued on Oct. 5, estimated that 216,000 children were abused by priests, deacons, monks, or nuns from 1950 to 2020.

The independent commission, established by the French bishops in November 2018, spent 30 months investigating abuse within the Catholic Church led by Jean-Marc Sauvé, a senior civil servant.

Among the report’s 45 recommendations was a request for the Church to reconsider the seal of confession in relation to abuse.

The bishops’ conference statement quoted Moulins-Beaufort as saying: “I ask forgiveness of the victims and all those who may have been hurt or shocked by the fact that the debate sparked by my remarks on France Info about confession took precedence over the reception of the content of the CIASE report and the consideration of the victims.”

The Vatican has strongly defended the confessional seal in response to mandatory reporting laws introduced around the world.

In June 2019, the Apostolic Penitentiary issued a note reaffirming the inviolability of the sacramental seal.

The bishops’ conference statement noted that Darmanin, who is responsible for France’s religious affairs, initiated the meeting. It said that the two men discussed the CIASE report, which it described as “remarkable.”

It noted that the French bishops’ conference (CEF) and the Conference of Religious in France (CORREF) had asked Pope Francis to grant Sauvé and his colleagues an audience.

“The extent of sexual violence and aggression against minors revealed by the CIASE report requires the Church to re-read its practices in light of this reality. Work is therefore needed to reconcile the nature of confession with the need to protect children,” the statement said.

The French bishops will address the CIASE report and its recommendations at their plenary assembly on Nov. 3-8.

“Along with the bishops of France, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort invites parishes, movements, and communities to read this report, to share it and to work on it, as it seems essential that all welcome the numerous testimonies of victims that it contains and draw the necessary conclusions,” the bishops’ conference statement said.

“The reality of sexual violence and aggression against minors within the Church and in society calls women and men of goodwill, believers or not, to work together in the service of the protection of the youngest, of the reception and accompaniment of the victims.”

“Faced with these facts, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort reiterates his shame and dismay, but also his determination to carry out the necessary reforms so that the Church in France may deserve the trust of all.”


Europe:     Bishop: Ask Bl. Carlo Acutis on his feast day for a greater love for the Eucharist
A detail from a poster marking the liturgical memorial of Bl. Carlo Acutis on Oct. 12, 2021. / Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

Rome Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

On the feast of Blessed Carlo Acutis, the bishop of Assisi invited pilgrims gathered at the Italian teen’s tomb to seek his intercession for a greater love for Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

“Making Jesus our all. This is the ideal of the Christian life. The Eucharist, well celebrated and adored, allows us to live in Jesus,” Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino said on Oct. 12.

Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino. Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.
Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino. Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

“It is to the Eucharist, not to himself, that Carlo calls us … Let us ask Carlo, on this liturgical memorial, to instill in us his love for the Eucharist, as we prepare to receive it under his smiling and joyful gaze,” the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino said in his homily.

Sorrentino offered Mass in Assisi’s Sanctuary of the Spoliation, part of the parish Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where the blessed’s tomb is located. Concelebrants included Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama. Carlo Acutis’ mother, Antonia, attended the Mass.

Carlo Acutis’ mother, Antonia (wearing pink mask).
Carlo Acutis’ mother, Antonia (wearing pink mask).

The tomb has drawn more than 117,000 visitors since Bl. Carlo became the first millennial to be beatified in the Catholic Church last year, according to the Diocese of Assisi.

“In this year that has passed since his beatification, Carlo’s ‘work’ has certainly increased, so to speak, and we can see the fruits,” the archbishop said.

“By now there are many, in every part of the world, who entrust themselves to him. They call on him for help, like a generous intercessor. And they experience that it is not in vain … which makes one imagine that the miracle that will serve for his inclusion in the register of the saints is not far away,” he said.

Bl. Carlo is known for his passionate devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and an aptitude for computer programming.

He died on Oct. 12, 2006, of leukemia at the age of 15 after offering his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church.

“Carlo speaks to the hearts of many young people,” Sorrentino said.

“The reason for this is to be found in the fact that, beneath all the banalities of life, there always remains within us a spark of good that God knows how to rekindle with a new flame. Carlo is God’s lighter.”

Liturgical celebrations of Bl. Carlo Acutis’ feast day took place across Italy. In Rome, three relics of the blessed were enthroned in the parish of Sant’Angela Merici, followed by a party for children in the parish garden.

Three relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis are enthroned in the parish of Sant’Angela Merici in Rome, Oct. 11, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Three relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis are enthroned in the parish of Sant’Angela Merici in Rome, Oct. 11, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Santa Maria Segreta, the parish in Milan where Carlo attended daily Mass, also offered a Mass in honor of their former parishioner on the evening of Oct. 12.

Assisi celebrated the local feast over the course of four days, offering additional hours of Eucharistic adoration and a prayer vigil for young people in the days ahead of the Mass offered by Sorrentino.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

A wooden statue of Bl. Carlo was installed beside his closed tomb before the Mass.

The wooden statue of Bl. Carlo Acutis. Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.
The wooden statue of Bl. Carlo Acutis. Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

“The Sacred Host, the bread with which Jesus in every Holy Mass presents himself with his sacrifice to become the nourishment for our life, literally enraptured Carlo’s heart,” Sorrentino said.

“His love for the Eucharist had the ardor of that of St. Francis. His daily attendance at Mass and his apostolate with the exhibition of Eucharistic miracles are the expression of a fervor that made his entire existence Eucharistic.”


US:     Cordileone prayer update: 10,688 roses and counting for Nancy Pelosi
Roses gathered by Catholics representing a rosary prayed for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. / Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Twitter / Benedict Institute

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).

More than 10,000 people have committed to pray the rosary and to fast on Fridays for the ideological conversion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the subject of abortion, the Benedict XVI Institute announced Tuesday.

"As of Saturday, October 9, we have 10,688 Catholics who have committed to praying one rosary each week and fasting on Fridays through the end of October,” said Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the Benedict XVI Institute. The institute is administering the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign with the support of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Pelosi's bishop in San Francisco.

“We hope the Blessed Mother will touch her maternal heart, as the Archbishop has put it so beautifully, and extend her compassion and respect for the equal dignity of all people to children in the womb," said Gallagher.

The announcement coincides with the launch of a new advertisement featuring Cordileone. 

"This is a critical time in our country when we especially need to pray for our political leaders as we see our country moving more and more in the direction of the culture of death,” Cordileone says in the video advertisement. “Our leadership is very important, so I invite you all to join me in prayer and sacrifice for the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from here in San Francisco.”

“Please join me in the Rose and Rosary for Nancy Campaign. Pray a rosary once a week for her. Fast on Friday, and you can sign the petition at BenedictInstitute.org. And if you commit to the rosary and fasting, we will send a rose to her as a symbol of your prayers and sacrifices,” Cordileone says in the video. 

The initial call to pray a rosary and to fast for Pelosi came on Sept. 29, following the House of Representatives’ passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021. The bill, which is not likely to pass in the Senate, would codify the legal right to an abortion into law. 

Pelosi championed the bill, despite her Catholic faith. In his message on Sept. 29, Cordileone singled her out as someone in need of ideological conversion on the issue of abortion. 

“A conversion of heart of the majority of our Congressional representatives is needed on this issue, beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” he said. 

“Speaker Pelosi speaks fondly of her children. She clearly has a maternal heart. Pope Francis has called abortion murder, the equivalent of hiring a hitman to solve a problem,” Cordileone said. 

“The solution to a woman in a crisis pregnancy is not violence but love. Please join me in praying the rosary and fasting for a conversion of Speaker Pelosi’s maternal heart to embracing the goodness and dignity of human life not only after birth, but in the womb as well.”

Two days after the initial call for prayer, 1,000 roses were delivered to Pelosi’s office in San Francisco. Gallagher called the number of people who signed up to pray for Pelosi “remarkable,” and said she hoped more people would commit to prayer and fasting as the month continues.  

“This is more than a moment, it is a movement," she said. "In less than a week, more than 10,000 Catholics responded to the call. By the end of October, Respect Life Month, let's make it a shower of 50,000 roses and rosaries for Nancy."

Gallagher noted that Pope Francis “recently called for us to take a pastoral approach to those who are not in full communion with our faith,” and said that Cordileone’s “Rose and Rosary For Nancy” campaign served as “a wonderful example to us all.” 

"The really hard teachings of Jesus are not really about chastity but about charity: Do good to those who do you wrong, or who do wrong to others —no matter what stage or condition of life they may be in," she said. 

The Benedict XVI Institute is located in San Francisco. According to its website, the goal of the organization is to provide “practical resources for more beautiful and reverent liturgies and energizing a Catholic culture of the arts.” Cordileone is a board member of the institute. 


US:     Millennial and Gen Z Catholics love Carlo Acutis. Here's why
Carlo Acutis. / carloacutis.com

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Blessed Carlo Acutis was beatified on Oct. 10, 2020, and became the first member of the millennial generation to become officially known as a “blessed.”

Interest in the life of Carlo Acutis has been intense all over the world. And while research shows that a growing number of millennials and Gen Z Americans do not practice any religious faith, CNA spoke with some Catholic contemporaries of Acutis, who said the video-game playing Italian makes them want to grow closer to God.

Born on May 3, 1991, Carlo Acutis died at the age of 15 on Oct. 12, 2006 after suffering from leukemia.

During his life, he made a website dedicated to Eucharistic miracles, and maintained a deep devotion to the Eucharist until his death. He also loved PlayStation, which is probably a first for anyone canonized or beatified.

Acutis serves as an example for how millennials and Gen Z should live their lives, Cecilia Cicone, a 25-year-old from Delaware, told CNA.

“Carlo puts flesh on what a saint who plays video games and goes on the internet looks like. He challenges me to examine my conscience and say, ‘Ok, I'm called to be a saint who uses the internet too. Am I using it to make God's love known?’”

Acutis, she said, is a concrete example of “what holiness looks like in the 21st century.”

“We see that holiness can involve awkward middle school phases with popped collars and video games,” she said.

“With the beatification of Carlo Acutis, for the first time I experience the peace and joy of recognizing that I, too, can be a saint of the 21st century. It's not a hypothetical anymore.”

Fr. John LoCoco, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is about six months younger than Acutis. And when he first heard about Acutis in 2014, he said he was “wholly unimpressed by his witness at first.”

“I never cared much for computers or video games, so it never made him ‘familiar.’ He was just a kid who blogged about the Eucharist,” LoCoco told CNA.

Gradually, however, LoCoco’s views on Acutis began to change, and now he thinks that Acutis “will be a stalwart saint in the modern age.”

“I think that what I have come to love is what seems to be the very gentle nature of Carlo,” LoCoco said. “His care for those who are picked on in school, his care for those whose parents were divorcing; Carlo seems so emotionally invested in the lives of people.”

LoCoco told CNA that he now finds the “profoundly quiet, honest sense that he had of God’s presence in all things” to be “remarkable.”

Maria Roberts, a 26-year-old computer programmer, is excited that her profession is about to gain its own patron saint, and she thinks that Acutis is a good example for how Catholics should be using the internet. 

“It is important for us as Catholics to think about how technology can be used for good and for evangelization, and not as a way to take advantage of others or demoralize young people,” she said.

“There is so much good to be done and so much suffering nowadays- young people should know that their talents can be used for God’s glory in many ways through our technological advances.”

Acutis’ age has been a sort of a spiritual wake-up call for some Catholics.

“The fact that we were alive at the same time and are so close in age seems to highlight even more the gap between our ‘levels’ of holiness,” Taylor Hyatt, a 28-year-old from Canada, told CNA. She was born the same year as Acutis.

“That said, I really appreciate his deep love for the Eucharist and interest in the Internet. We shared those interests, back when I was his age and up to now,” she said. Hyatt also admired Acutis’ interest in disability rights, a cause she is also involved with.

Fr. Paul, a recently-ordained priest in Ontario, was more blunt in his assessment of his life to Acutis’.

“For me personally, knowing how holy Blessed Carlo was makes me feel like a piece of crap,” he said. “I was born the same year as him and as a teenager wasn't particularly saintly.”

“But I talked about him to our young adults group last week and showed them the picture of his tomb and more than a few people commented on the fact that he was wearing normal clothes, and that he played video games and was good with computers,” said Fr. Paul.

“I have tried to use Pier Giorgio as an example young people can relate to but perhaps Blessed Carlo might be better these days given how contemporary he is.”

It is Acutis’ “normalcy” that makes him so interesting, some Catholics told CNA.

Acutis “is someone we can look at and quite literally picture ourselves,” Alex Trevino, a 30-year-old from Dallas, told CNA. “He’s buried in the clothes that I wore as a teenager.”

Trevino said that Acutis’ beatification shows young people “that you don’t need to be a priest, a bishop, or even a pope to be holy.”

“We need to see as a Church that sainthood, heaven, and eternal life with God is real and attainable,” he added. 

Ani, a 24-year-old from Texas, agreed. She described Acutis as “just a regular dude who grew up Catholic, as we all do, got sick like so many people do, and built a website to post about his specific interests like we do.”

“We talk about everyday sanctity a lot in Schoenstatt, the concept of doing things extraordinarily well,” Ani said to CNA. “I feel like Carlo’s maybe the first saint I’ve seen that’s had an actually normal, human, attainable way to do that.”

Unlike other saints who died young, such as St. Kateri, St. Therese, or St. Maria Goretti, Acutis had “no supernatural influence at any point,” said Ani.

“No visions, no tilma, no stigmata. Just a dude and his computer and his love of God. That stuff’s cool,” she said. 

This article was originally published on Oct, 9, 2020.


US:     USCCB pro-life chairman urges Biden to act like the ‘devout Catholic’ he says he is
Joe Biden. / Drop of Light via www.shutterstock.com

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 10:53 am (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops’ pro-life chairman is expressing disappointment with President Biden as his administration reverses a Trump-era rule that restricted funding over abortion.

“It’s really sad,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who heads the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told EWTN News Nightly on Oct. 8. The Biden administration, he added, is “in the control of abortion extremists.” 

The archbishop reacted to the administration’s reversal of the “Protect Life Rule,” which barred tax dollars from Title X recipients that provide or promote abortion and required Title X clinics to be physically separate from abortion clinics. A federal program, Title X subsidizes family planning services, including contraceptives, for low-income communities. 

The archbishop challenged President Biden – the second Catholic president in U.S. history – to defend and cherish human life.

“He likes to call himself a devout Catholic. I would urge him to begin to act like one, especially on the life issues,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann said. “And to let his faith really inform his conscience and the decisions that he’s making, not the platform of his party.” 

President Biden has repeatedly demonstrated support for abortion. After decades of backing the Hyde Amendment, which barrs taxpayer funding from going toward abortion, he switched his position while running for president. More recently, in the wake of Texas’ new abortion law, he confirmed that his administration is “deeply committed” to abortion as a constitutional right. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the president “believes that it's up to a woman to make those decisions and up to a woman to make those decisions with her doctor.”

Right now, the archbishop said, the Biden administration is “looking for every opportunity to expand abortion,” and this latest reversal is “just one more casualty along that train.”

In an Oct. 7 statement, Archbishop Naumann stressed that Title X was “intended and authorized to be a program entirely separate from abortion.” Abortion, he concluded, is not family planning. Instead, it wounds women and “takes the life of an already-conceived and growing child.”


Americas:     The miracle attributed to Carlo Acutis' prayers
Mattheus (left) holds a photo of Carlo Acutis (right), whose prayers are attributed with the boy's healing. / Campo Grande News

CNA Staff, Oct 12, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

The beatification of Carlo Acutis took place Oct. 10, 2020 after a miracle attributed to his prayers and the grace of God. In Brazil, a boy named Mattheus was healed from a serious birth defect called an annular pancreas after he and his mother asked Acutis to pray for his healing.

Mattheus was born in 2009 with a serious condition that caused him difficulty eating and serious abdominal pain. He was unable to keep any food in his stomach, and vomited constantly.

By the time Mattheus was nearly four years old, he weighed only 20 pounds, and lived on a vitamin and protein shake, one of the few things his body could tolerate. He was not expected to live long.

His mother, Luciana Vianna, had spent years praying for his healing.

At the same time, a priest friend of the family, Fr. Marcelo Tenorio, learned online about the life of Carlo Acutis, and began praying for his beatification. In 2013 he obtained a relic from Carlo’s mother, and he invited Catholics to a Mass and prayer service in his parish, encouraging them to ask Acutis’ intercession for whatever healing they might need.

Mattheus’ mother heard about the prayer service. She decided she would ask Acutis to intercede for her son. In fact, in the days before the prayer service, Vianna made a novena for Acutis’ intercession, and explained to her son that they could ask Acutis to pray for his healing.

On the day of the prayer service, she took Mattheus and other family members to the parish.

Fr. Nicola Gori, the priest responsible for promoting Acutis’ sainthood cause, told Italian media what happened next:

“On October 12, 2013, seven years after Carlo's death, a child, affected by a congenital malformation (annular pancreas), when it was his turn to touch the picture of the future blessed, expressed a singular wish, like a prayer: 'I wish I could stop vomiting so much.' Healing began immediately, to the point that the physiology of the organ in question changed,” Fr. Gori said.

On the way home from the Mass, Mattheus told his mother that he was already cured. At home, he asked for French fries, rice, beans, and steak - the favorite foods of his brothers.

He ate everything on his plate. He didn’t vomit. He ate normally the next day, and the next. Vianna took Mattheus to physicians, who were mystified by Mattheus' healing.

Mattheus’ mother told Brazilian media she sees in the miracle an opportunity to evangelize.

“Before, I didn't even use my cell phone, I was averse to technology. Carlo changed my way of thinking, he was known for talking about Jesus on the Internet, and I realized that my testimony would be a way to evangelize and give hope to other families. Today I understand that everything new can be good, if we use it for good, " she told reporters.

A version of this story was first reported by ACI Digital, CNA's Portugese-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. This story was originally published on Oct. 10, 2020.


Europe:     European court rules Vatican cannot be sued in local courts over clerical abuse
Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City / CNA

Strasbourg, France, Oct 12, 2021 / 07:15 am (CNA).

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that the Vatican cannot be sued in local courts for the actions of clerical abusers because it has sovereign immunity.

The international court that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights issued the ruling on Oct. 12. It is the first time that the court has considered a case touching on the Holy See’s immunity.

A Chamber of seven judges decided by six votes to one that courts in Belgium did not violate Article 6 § 1 of the convention, on the right of access to a court, when they declined jurisdiction in respect of the Vatican.

The case, known as J.C. and Others v. Belgium, was brought by 24 Belgian, French, and Dutch nationals against the Vatican, as well as Catholic leaders and associations in Belgium.

The applicants, who said they were sexually abused by Catholic priests as children, sought to bring a civil action against the Vatican, arguing that it had addressed clerical abuse in a “structurally deficient manner.”

An Oct. 12 ECHR press release said: “The Court found that the dismissal of the proceedings by the Belgian courts in declining jurisdiction to hear the tort case brought by the applicants against the Holy See had not departed from the generally recognized principles of international law in matters of state immunity, and the restriction on the right of access to a court could not therefore be regarded as disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued.”

The Chamber’s ruling is not final and can be referred within three months to the court’s Grand Chamber, where a panel of five judges would decide whether to hear the case and offer a final judgment.

If the Grand Chamber rejected the referral request then the Chamber’s ruling would become final.

The applicants filed a class action in the Court of First Instance in Ghent, northwest Belgium, in July 2011.

They asked that the defendants be held jointly and severally liable for their suffering caused by priests and members of religious orders, seeking compensation of 10,000 euros (around $11,500) each.

The court declined jurisdiction in respect of the Holy See in October 2013.

The Ghent Court of Appeal upheld the judgment in February 2016. In August of that year, a lawyer at the Court of Cassation said that an appeal to the supreme court of the Belgian judicial system was unlikely to succeed.

Twenty of the claimants obtained compensation via an arbitration center for sexual abuse claims within the Church. Four did not apply.

The group lodged an application with the ECHR on Feb. 2, 2017, arguing that by acknowledging the Holy See’s state immunity from jurisdiction the local courts had prevented them from asserting their civil claims.

The ECHR judges acknowledged that the Holy See was “recognized internationally as having the common attributes of a foreign sovereign,” noting that it has diplomatic relations with some 185 states worldwide.

The Vatican’s diplomatic relations with Belgium date back to 1832.

The judges noted that the applicants had argued for an exception to the immunity rule applying to proceedings connected to “an action for pecuniary compensation in the event of the death or physical injury of a person, or in the event of damage to or loss of tangible property.”

The Court of Appeal had dismissed the exception on several grounds, the ECHR press release said. The court said that Belgian bishops’ misconduct could not be attributed to the Holy See as the pope was not “the principal in relation to the bishops” and the Vatican’s alleged misconduct was committed in Rome rather than Belgium.

“It was not for the [ECHR] to substitute its own assessment for that of the national courts, since their assessment on this point had not been arbitrary or manifestly unreasonable,” the press release said.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Darian Pavli of Albania questioned why the Belgian courts had “accepted wholesale” the contention that “there was no principal/agent relationship between the Holy See and the bishops.”

“Domestic courts have an obligation to adequately set out the factual and legal reasons for their decision. In my view, the Belgian courts failed to do so in relation to the claim of vicarious liability, and I would therefore have found a violation of Article 6 of the Convention in this case,” Pavli wrote.

The Holy See has responded successfully to similar cases in U.S. courts.

A federal judge in Portland, Oregon, dismissed a sex abuse lawsuit against the Holy See in 2012 on the grounds that the Vatican was not an employer of an accused ex-priest and could not be held financially liable for the abuse.

Jeffrey Lena, counsel for the Holy See, described the ruling in the case known as Doe v. Holy See as “particularly important.”


Europe:     ‘They are killing Naples’: Catholic archbishop appeals for an end to mafia violence
Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples, Italy. / Vincenzo Amoruso via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 06:17 am (CNA).

The archbishop of the Italian city of Naples responded on Tuesday to a spate of deadly violence with an appeal for members of organized crime groups to “be converted.”

“They are killing Naples! The trail of blood that is crossing the city these days, causing death to young lives and terror and anguish to entire neighborhoods, streets, families, cannot leave us indifferent,” Archbishop Domenico Battaglia said in an Oct. 12 statement on the archdiocesan website.

His appeal followed the Oct. 9 murder of a 19-year-old man. Police are investigating the man’s connections to the Camorra, a Naples-based criminal organization. A 23-year-old man was also killed last week.

Over the weekend, armed robbers entered a pizzeria in a Naples suburb, pointing guns at families eating dinner, including young children.

In his message, Battaglia addressed members of the Camorra and others connected with crime.

“I say: go back to being human! Be converted!” he said. “Your bishop will not hold back in welcoming and accompanying the steps of conversion and the human rebirth of those who will listen to their conscience and the word of the Gospel, laying down their weapons, and undertaking paths of collaboration with justice.”

The 58-year-old Battaglia became archbishop of Naples in December 2020. Prior to the appointment, he was a parish priest in another southern Italian archdiocese, Catanzaro-Squillace, where he was called “Don Mimmo” and known as a “street priest” who cared for the marginalized.

Battaglia said this week that he and a group of young adults from the archdiocese would visit the Ponticelli district of Naples, one of the areas most affected by the Camorra’s recent escalation of violence.

“They are killing Naples!” he reiterated. “The Camorra and the underworld are killing it, with the violence and cruelty of those who have forgotten that they are human.”

He added that people’s indifference and a failure to take a stand against the violence were also destroying the city.

“Under the cross of our city, we must today more than ever, together and without distinction of faith, politics, social and institutional role, stand up, avoid lying on our backs waiting for something to change by itself and sitting, hardened and resigned to seeing Naples die,” he said.

Addressing the mothers of Naples, especially those living in difficult neighborhoods and family situations, he said: “Be an instrument of conversion for your children, help your families to repent, be once again the womb that generates life and not accomplices of death paths.”

Battaglia will hold a meeting on Oct. 13 with members of civil society, the private sector, and the Catholic Church to work on an educational initiative for Naples.

“The kids and young people of Naples cannot be passive recipients of change but must become its protagonists,” he said.

“To all institutions, to civil society, to men and women of goodwill, to my Neapolitan Church, I ask today more than ever to walk together, overcoming individualism and mistrust, working together to restore Naples to its vocation as a city of peace, welcome, solidarity.”


Americas:     Why Our Lady of the Pillar is the patroness of Spain and the Americas
Our Lady of the Pillar / Public Domain

Denver Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 01:23 am (CNA).

Our Lady of the Pillar (officially in Spanish, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza,) is recognized as the first Marian apparition in the history of Christianity and is the only one that happened while the Virgin Mary was still alive.

Although it was technically a bilocation of Our Lady, because she was living with John the Apostle in Jerusalem, it is still regarded as an apparition by the tradition of the Church.

According to tradition, James the Greater, brother of Saint John the Evangelist, traveled with great effort to Roman Hispania (modern-day Spain) to evangelize the local tribes.  

He not only confronted great difficulties but he also saw very little apostolic fruits of conversion. Tradition says that when he was at his lowest point of discouragement, in A.D. 40, while he was sitting by the banks of the Ebro river in Zaragoza (back then known as Caesaraugusta) Mary appeared to him accompanied by thousands of angels, to console and encourage him.  

The Virgin Mary, with the Child Jesus in his arms and standing on a pillar, asked Saint James and his eight disciples to build a church on the site, promising that “it will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.”

Apparition of our Lady of the Pillar by Goya. Public Domain
Apparition of our Lady of the Pillar by Goya. Public Domain

The church of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, is the first church dedicated to Mary in history and it remains standing to this day, having survived invasions and wars. 

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) the Communists dropped three bombs on the church from an airplane, the bombs tore through the roof and hit the floor, but none of them exploded. The three now deactivated bombs are currently on display in one of the Basilica’s walls. 

Our Lady is also said to have given the small wooden statue of the apparition to Saint James, which now stands on the pillar she arrived on.

The wooden statue is a relatively simple image 15 inches high, standing on a jasper pillar 5.9 feet tall. But the crown adorning her head is a masterpiece. It was made in 44 days by 33 workmen. The sun-like crown is made of 2,836 diamonds cut triangularly, 2725 roses, 145 pearls, 74 emeralds, 62 rubies and 46 sapphires. The crown of the baby Jesus is identical in shape although not in size.

The Basilica was redesigned and expanded several times during its history. The current structure was completed in the 17th century, includes 11 brightly colored tiled domes, and is the second biggest church in Spain.

Nuestra Señora del Pilar is not only the patroness of Spain, but also of all Hispanic peoples since it was on Oct. 12, 1492, the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, that Christopher Columbus arrived at American land and the first Mass in the Americas was celebrated.


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