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Updated: 1 hour 23 min ago

'I survived my mom’s abortion appointment:' Voices from the March for Life

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Attendees at the 2019 March for Life saw an unannounced appearance from Vice President Mike Pence, a video message from President Trump, a strong bipartisan speaker line-up, and secular science theme. But the most surprising sight of the day, at least for 12-year-old first-time marcher, was the number of children.

“There are more kids here than adults!” said Angela from Rockville, Maryland.

A crowd of 100,000 people marching on the politically divisive issue of abortion, in the middle of the country’s longest-ever government shutdown no less, might not seem like the place for kids. But Robin Diller was one of thousands of mothers present who would enthusiastically tell you otherwise: “It’s such a positive environment, a happy and joyful place.”

The March, held Friday, traced the annual route along the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was the Dillers’ second march as a family. Their group of 14 included the Diller brothers, their wives Robin and Lisa, and their collective ten children. The crowd did not intimidate even the smallest Diller, a 10-month-old blinking out from Mr. Diller’s chest, zipped into his dad’s jacket for warmth.

In addition to the fun, Mr. Diller said he sees the March as a lesson in civic responsibility: “It’s important to show our kids what positive activism looks like.”

High school history teacher James Flannery loves the March for a similar reason. He said that his biggest concern for his students is apathy. “That’s why it’s so reassuring to see so many of them here, to see them stand for something.”

Though often labeled “anti-abortion,” people like Mary Bonk from Lexington Park, Maryland, think of themselves as marching for many different life issues-- not just against abortion.

Bonk adheres to the consistent life ethic, which opposes all forms of violence against the human person, including things like war, torture, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.

Bonk acknowledged that her anti-death penalty views put her at odds with many right-leaning pro-lifers. This does not phase her: “I don’t think that being pro-life is a right-wing position.”

Plus, she added, “I feel welcomed here.”

Krista Corbello and Alex Seghers, 26-year-olds from Pro-Life Louisiana, shared Bonk’s expansive sense of what it means to be pro-life.

Corbello agreed that it takes humility to welcome diversity into the movement. But in her experience, the spirit of “welcoming hospitality” is always present “when change is really happening.”

One such change is the growth of “pro-life feminism.” Seghers identified herself and her unborn daughter as pro-life feminists: “She’s marching before she’s even born.” To them, pro-life feminism means advocating nonviolence and nondiscrimination for all people, including those in the womb.

“It’s inclusive of anyone from any background.”

These women appear to have struck a nerve with their inclusive message: their group brought 1,500 young people to D.C. for the March this year.

“Consistency is key for young people,” Corbello said, adding that young people from Louisiana are lucky to have a legislature that is bipartisan on life, including Democrat Rep. Katrina R. Jackson, who spoke at the March this year. Seghers attributes the bipartisanship to Louisiana’s diversity and “culture of family values.”

Though “family values” often connotes religion, Pro-life Louisiana’s events are mostly secular in tone. “Abortion is wrong because it is violent,” Corbello said. “That’s not a religious belief.”

Family is a common theme among young people at the March. Though many of them march for religious, political, and educational reasons, almost all point to their families first when asked about their interest in pro-life issues.

Mother and daughter Claudia and Taylor Turcott did this in a literal way, carrying signs with arrows drawn toward each other. Claudia’s reads: “25 years ago, I thought abortion was the only way, but I walked out of that clinic with my baby that day.” Taylor’s read: “October 1994: I survived my mom’s abortion appointment.”

Taylor began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy clinic in college after learning about her mother’s near decision to abort her. The Turcotts see their advocacy, especially the March, as an opportunity to share their gratitude.

Although many people who saw Claudia’s sign thanked her for choosing life, she simply said: “I just feel so, so grateful. I don’t think I’m unusually brave.” Claudia wants to encourage young women facing unplanned pregnancies: “You will be amazed by how many resources there are to help you.”

Friday’s crowd was full of extraordinary stories like the Turcotts.

One woman, Francis Reciniello, has attended the March for over 30 years. As an immigrant from Honduras, she said she had never supported abortion because it was antithetical to her culture and upbringing. So when a friend got pregnant in college, Reciniello offered help and begged her to choose life.

It worked. “She told her boyfriend and he married her, and they named their child ‘Francois,’ after me” Reciniello said.

Though Reciniello’s own children are active pro-lifers, most years she marches with her friend, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. “She’s a cancer survivor, and every year we say: ‘Can we make it?’ And we do. Even though we go at our own pace now.”

The two expressed their amazement at how young the March has become. “Young people are really stepping up!”

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of the March for Life was that the thousands of people who attend each year think of their peaceful activism, loving families, and joyful sacrifices as ordinary.

“This is just, like, normal,” said Garrett, a high school student from Philadelphia, about being young and pro-life. “It’s how we grew up.” His classmates Evan, Miguel, and Charlie nodded.

“It’s normal to respect each other, to have respect for other human beings.”

NY bishops lament bill to expand abortion in state

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 17:01

Albany, N.Y., Jan 19, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of New York decried Thursday the likely passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which would expand abortion access throughout the state, noting it will only increase family suffering.

The bill was first introduced in 2007, but was often blocked by a Republican-led state senate.

The New York state senate recently returned to Democrat-majority control for the first time since 2010, and the bill is widely expected to become law.

The Reproductive Health Act would allow health care professionals like nurse practicioners and physicians assistants to perform abortions, and permit late- abortion at any time throughout pregnancy in case of fetal inviability or “when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.”

Under current New York law, abortion past 24 weeks is illegal except when necessary to save the life of the mother.

The bill would also decriminalize abortion, transferring it to the health code from the criminal code.

“Words are insufficient to describe the profound sadness we feel at the contemplated passage of New York State’s new proposed abortion policy. We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result,” the bishops of New York state said Jan. 17.

“The so-called 'Reproductive Health Act' will expand our state’s already radically permissive law, by empowering more health practitioners to provide abortion and removing all state restrictions on late-term procedures. With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction.”

The bishops recalled their pledge “to offer the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services to any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, to support her in bearing her infant, raising her family or placing her child for adoption. There are life-affirming choices available, and we aim to make them more widely known and accessible.”

They noted that Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators “hail this new abortion law as progress.”

“This is not progress,” the bishops countered. “Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?”

Americans United for Life CEO Catherine Glenn Foster told CNA earlier this month that the bill would not protect women’s health, but rather trip away health and safety regulations on abortion providers.

“Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, New York nail salons will be more regulated than abortion facilities,” Foster stated.

Cuomo has also called for the addition of a provision to the state constitution “protecting a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.” Such an amendment could not be passed before 2021.

When a baby dies, faith and medicine aim for compassion

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 12:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Grieving a miscarriage or stillbirth can be heart-wrenching. As awareness of that difficulty grows, medical professionals and clergy strive to offer meaningful ways to help parents mourn.

Frequently periods of mourning after a stillbirth or miscarriage are quiet, and perhaps too quick. Now, new medical devices allow parents of stillborn babies to spend more time with a stillborn baby’s earthly remains, possibly giving new ways to aid grieving families.

“To God, no life is lost, no life is insignificant,” Fr. Christopher Zelonis, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown in Virginia, told CNA. “Parents who have suffered miscarriages are parents and have every right and, we would say, need, to regard themselves as such.”

“The community around them, in doing the same, would create greater reverence and respect for the life that those parents have carried. Certainly, no parent wants to bury a child or wants to grieve that loss,” said Zelonis.

The priest spoke about the significance of stillbirths and miscarriages in the life of parents, community, and the Church. He has been a priest for 15 years and a part-time hospital chaplain for the last four years, in addition to his current duties as a parish pastor.

Newly developed cooling cots, also called cold cots, aim to help parents of stillborns. The New York Times profiled an eight-pound device called the CuddleCot, a describing it as a “kind of refrigerated baby bed that helps preserve the body of a deceased newborn for days.”

“The device gives parents a chance to bond with their babies — to love and hold them, take pictures, even take them home and take them for walks, creating memories to last a lifetime,” the New York Times personal health columnist Jane E. Brody wrote Jan. 14.

The twin babies of Chris and Emily Fricker of Pingree Grove, Ill., were born too early to live longer than 90 minutes. The Frickers said the CuddleCot helped them so much they donated one to an Illinois hospital.

“I can’t imagine not having one, it helped us so much,” Emily Fricker told the New York Times.

“Brittany, our labor and delivery nurse, told us we could spend as much time as we wanted with our babies,” Chris Fricker said. “We held them, told them how much we loved them and had them baptized. We got to choose when to say goodbye to them, about 12 hours later.”

The bodies of babies who die in utero or during delivery are often quickly placed in hospital morgues, and parents cannot spend much time with them. Parents are sometimes discouraged from seeing their babies.

“When women find out that they’re pregnant, they immediately begin making plans for the baby,” Dr. Tracy Arghavani, obstetrician-gynecologist at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, told the New York Times. “When they lose that baby, it’s like someone stole their dreams. The loss of an unborn child can be just as heart-wrenching as the loss of a born child.”

For Fr. Zelonis, parents’ various responses to grief and loss “just reflect the variety of people.”

“I don’t know if there’s any right or wrong or better or worse about it,” he said.

Physical contact with the baby is considered important at a “crucial bonding time” that happens with mothers and fathers after a typical birth, and the new devices could help.

“That could certainly make the actual humanity of that child, which was always present at every stage, more palpable to the parents,” he said.

The U.K.-based manufacturer of the CuddleCot, Flexmort, says 92 percent of British hospitals have at least one device. The device costs about $2,700. It is designed to be cleaned and sterilized for reuse.

“Dealing with the death of a baby is clearly an incredibly difficult event for parents and bereaved parents should be given the option of spending time with their baby,” the CuddleCot website said. “This is usually in the hospital maternity/labor ward or hospice but increasingly babies are also being allowed home.”

This time helps the family bond with the baby and helps them deal with the loss, the manufacturer claimed.

The CuddleCot site cited a testimonial from Sutton Jones of South Carolina: “I can’t even explain how helpful the cuddle cot was to us. We have memories with our daughter that we never would have had. We got to hold her, kiss her, change her, take pictures with her, spend the night with her, just love her as our child.”

Zelonis said that after the loss of an expected child, parents can react in any number of ways. The loss of a child is grievous in itself, and grief over lost dreams and expectations for the child also follow. Feelings of guilt are also possible, with parents’ thoughts focusing on “anything they may or may not have contributed to the death of the child.”

“There can be anger at God for allowing it to happen,” he said. “You might hear sometimes the phrase ‘taking away their baby,’ as you might hear from any loved ones who died regardless of age.”

“I tell people who are grieving that God is big enough to handle it,” the priest told CNA. “I think people get angry with God and then get ashamed or afraid for being angry with God.”

Parents who miscarry should show “compassion towards themselves.” The should also respond with “candor with God.”

“Regarding miscarriage, no life is lost in the sight of God, though a life might not have reached full maturity,” Zelonis said. “No life is lost. God knows. In heaven, that child may for all we know come to possess full understanding and insight in the presence of God, with God completing any defects or any deficits in understanding and freedom.”

“And if not, either way, this is a person loved into existence by God and by his or her parents.”

Zelonis said Catholics should respond to the loss of a baby with compassion, understanding and “respect for the life that was and is present to God, even if it is no longer present to the world.”

Medical professionals also have guidance in responding to stillbirth or miscarriage. The CuddleCot website links to a copy of the National Health Service Scotland and Children’s Hospice Association Scotland January 2016 document “Collaborative guidance for staff to support families who wish to take their baby home after death.”

The document aims to make parents aware of their choices following their baby’s death and to “support their decision-making.” It aims to “ensure that the baby and their family are treated
with dignity and respect.”

Staff should advise parents that their baby’s body will undergo changes after death, and should reassure them and instruct them on how to minimize these changes.

It notes that taking a baby home after his or her death is “not the right choice for every family” and this should be respected. To ensure a dignified, respectful treatment for the baby and his or her family, the guidelines said, “the use of the baby’s name acknowledges their baby as a person and affirms them as parents.” Parents have a role in caring for their baby and hospital staff should remember “to respect their choices at this difficult time.

Zelonis said the Church has “prescribed rites and proper prayers” for infants who pass away.

“Catholic cemeteries have plots for infant and fetal remains, with some people who assist in donating resources the space and services,” he said.

Those who suffer the loss of a baby in miscarriage “should certainly allow themselves to give voice to any feelings,” he continued.

“Certainly, they should have patience and be willing to, in an appropriate time, not according to a timeline, work through those emotions.”

Insensitive responses from clergy or lay Catholics can have such severe effect as to drive people away from religious practice, warned Zelonis, saying this happened in his own family history.

There is also a temptation for both the chaplain and the lay person to “default to platitudes.”

“I think of the friends of Job who before opening their mouths first sat with him and said nothing,” he said. “They were just there.”

Even though it can be uncomfortable to be in the presence of such loss, he encouraged people to resist the temptation “to speak too much or not enough.”

“Well-meaning people might rush to rationales, presuming the mind and will of God,” said Zelonis. “As a chaplain I try to steer clear of that… Better, I say little or nothing, except to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of life—our own or the child’s—asking the Lord of the living and dead to receive the child as His beloved and to receive us in all our emotions, and unfulfilled expectations.”

 

Appeals court rules in Texas' favor over effort to defund Planned Parenthood

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 20:59

New Orleans, La., Jan 18, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated Thursday a previous injunction barring Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood affiliates of Medicaid funding.

The injunction was based largely on undercover videos released by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) during the summer of 2015 which show Planned Parenthood workers negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted children.

“The [Texas Office of Inspector General]...concluded, based on the videos, that [Planned Parenthood affiliates] at a minimum violated federal standards regarding fetal tissue research and standards of medical ethics by allowing doctors to alter abortion procedures to retrieve tissue for research purposes or allowing the researchers themselves to perform the procedures,” Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote in the court’s Jan. 17 opinion.

Many media reports since 2015 have characterized CMP’s undercover videos as “deceptively” or “heavily” edited, undercutting their credibility.

“The district court stated, inaccurately, that the CMP video had not been authenticated and suggested that it may have been edited...In fact, the record reflects that OIG had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited,” Jones wrote. “And the plaintiffs did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”

In the videos in question, two individuals including journalist David Daleiden posed as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company, and claimed to be interested in purchasing liver, thymus, and neural tissue from fetuses aborted during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Melissa Farrell, Research Director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is shown in the videos discussing the possibility of a research partnership, providing a tour of her clinic’s surgical facilities, and displaying tissue samples from recently aborted fetuses, according to the court ruling.

An Aug. 2016 grant proposal attributed to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations indicated at least $7-$8 million would be spent in a campaign to counter the CMP videos and “transform the narrative, charging that the videos were doctored.”

Following the release of the videos, the Texas Office of the Inspector General (OIG) subsequently informed Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in October 2015 that they were “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, and legal manner” and their funding would be terminated, and sent final notice of the decision during December 2016.

Planned Parenthood’s 30 affiliates in Texas currently receive $3.4 million in Medicaid funds.

The affiliates sued in federal court to block the termination of funding, and the district court granted an injunction for the plaintiffs in part because, in the February 2017 opinion of district judge Sam Sparks, the undercover videos had not been authenticated and appeared to have been edited.

The district court also discounted statements from Farrell because she claimed on the witness stand that she had no personal knowledge of the medical aspects of abortion procedures and “had never even been in the room when an abortion was performed.”

Jones affirmed that the state has the right to exclude a healthcare provider from Medicaid funds, and criticized the Planned Parenthood affiliates’ argument that the OIG has insufficient expertise to determine the qualifications of abortion providers.

“That the Chief Medical Officer is a surgeon – and not himself an abortion provider – does not mean that he deserves no deference when deciding whether a provider has failed to meet the medical and ethical standards the state requires,” Jones wrote.

“It is even odder to claim that federal judges, who have no experience in the regulations and ethics applicable to Medicaid or medical practice, much less in regard to harvesting fetal organs for research, should claim superior expertise.”

The case is now remanded to the district court for further review, which has been ordered to apply a different legal standard to determine the final outcome.

The Texas House of Representatives first passed a budget that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its state funding in April 2017. Texas’ Inspector General had sought to strip the abortion provider of state funding because the videos “indicated noncompliance with accepted medical and ethical standards,” according to the lawsuit.

“Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a Jan. 17 statement.

Sister resigns from Detroit seminary after sex abuse allegations

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 19:47

Detroit, Mich., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit announced this week the resignation of Sr. Mary Finn, 84, a long-time faculty member and assistant professor of theology, after allegations surfaced that she had sexual contact with young adult novices under her charge in the 1970s.

“In recent days, information came to my attention regarding inappropriate conduct over fifty years ago by Sr. Mary Finn,” Msgr. Todd J. Lajiness, the rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said in a statement published Wednesday.

“After a series of conversations with her, her superior, Archbishop Vigneron and members of the Archbishop’s team, I have accepted her resignation from the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, effective today.”

In a story reported by Deadline Detroit, Theresa Camden, a former novice with the Home Visitors of Mary, recalled “confusing” experiences with Finn, then the novice director for the order, such as being made to lie very close to her on exclusive retreats.

Camden told Deadline Detroit that in hindsight, she knew something felt wrong. After Camden and another novice, who has remained anonymous, were suddenly kicked out of the order in 1972, they sought therapy for their experiences with Finn. The anonymous novice confirmed to Camden that she had had a sexual relationship with Finn.

Michael Betzold with Deadline Detroit reported that Finn’s resignation was announced by the seminary as his story on the allegations was being prepared.

In her resignation letter, posted to the seminary’s website, Finn admits to having “misused my position of authority as a director of novices in the Home Visitors of Mary (HVM) Order, engaging in inappropriate conduct with two adult novices. I regret that behavior, have repented of my actions, and sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused.”

The Home Visitors of Mary hung up the phone when CNA attempted to contact the order about Finn. Subsequent attempts to contact the order went unanswered.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, chairman of the board of trustees at Sacred Heart, was quoted in the seminary statement supporting Finn’s resignation, citing “additional information and what we have come to learn about how best to respond to these situations.” He said that “While serving as rector of Sacred Heart in the late 1990s, I was given partial details about Sr. Mary's inappropriate conduct that had occurred in the early 1970s. At the time, I thought the matter had been resolved. I regret this was not the case.”

In a Jan. 18 statement, Archbishop Vigneron went on to say: “It is only in recent days that I have come to know new and additional details and context regarding Sr. Mary's misconduct. Based on this information, the current rector, Msgr. Lajiness, accepted Sister Finn's resignation and I endorse this action.”

In 1969, three years before Camden and the other novice were expelled from Finn’s order, Finn began working at Sacred Heart Seminary, where she has served in various positions ever since.

Most recently, Finn was an assistant professor of theology and served on the Priestly Formation Team for the College of Liberal Arts, among other roles, according to a cached website of her seminary page, which had been removed from the school’s website by Friday, Jan. 18.

Edward Mischel, director of community psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, was in the seminary at Sacred Heart about 10 years after Finn started there, in the late 1970s.

Mischel, who completed four years of college at the seminary before discerning that he was not called to the priesthood, told CNA that he chose Finn for his spiritual director and remembers her fondly. They still maintain contact to this day.

“She’s been this quiet, spiritual, loving, easy-going person,” Mischel told CNA. “The guys in the seminary, they adore her.”

News of the allegations of sexual misconduct in the early 1970s was “disheartening,” Mischel said, but he rejected any insinuations that Finn “was dominant or in this old boy’s club, that’s like the antithesis of her. I’ve never seen that in the 30, 40 years I’ve known her, nothing like that at all.”

Mischel said he knows Finn to be a staunch advocate for the people of Detroit, and a very kind and forgiving person.

When asked if he had any concerns that she was placed in charge of young seminarians, after having been accused of sexual misconduct with young women, Mischel said he was not concerned, because he had seen “nothing like that at all” by Finn against the seminarians.

But not all former seminarians of Sacred Heart remember Finn as fondly, and the news of her resignation and the allegations against her as a novice master have also raised serious questions and concerns about her conduct at the seminary.

Two former seminarians at Sacred Heart seminary have told CNA that Finn had a reputation for being overly “handsy” with seminarians - extended hugs, smooches, squeezes and generally unwanted contact were to be expected from Finn.

“In legal terms, it was unwelcomed touching. But if a seminarian reported it, they became a problem,” one former seminarian, who asked for anonymity, told CNA.

Another former seminarian, who also asked for anonymity, told CNA that Finn had become such a “fixture” of the seminary and was so well-liked and considered so holy that she became “untouchable” - any complaints against her were promptly dismissed.

This same seminarian told CNA that Finn was always “touching people”, and while he doesn’t know of any explicitly sexual touching, he said her behavior was “grossly inappropriate.” He recalled on instance where Finn almost pushed a seminarian over a balcony, only to pull him back at the last second, as a joke. When the seminarian turned to throw a punch, assuming it had been one of the guys, he instead saw Sr. Mary.

“She had no sense of boundaries,” the former seminarian said. Her meetings would often run late, and seminarians were expected to listen to her for hours, in what felt like “indoctrination lectures,” he said.

In another example of boundary violation, both former seminarians told CNA separately that Finn was known for wandering the residence wing of the seminary late at night unannounced, and would often walk past seminarians who were in their towels or boxers, coming to and from the communal showers.

One time, Finn wandered in on a priest in the shower, but that issue was “promptly addressed,” one of the former seminarians said.

At some point after the late 1970s, Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary. While she would wander the wing belonging to the seminarians, her room was in the faculty wing.

Mischel told CNA that Finn was still living with her community during his time at Sacred Heart. He said he suspects she may have been moved to the seminary due to health problems - she eventually developed Parkinson’s disease, which may have made it difficult for her to drive.

Mischel said he had never had any experience of Finn intentionally walking past half-dressed seminarians, and said he wondered whether it could have been a sign that Finn was entering stages of dementia.

One of the former seminarians who spoke to CNA also said Finn seemed to be “detached from reality” at times, and had difficulty remembering dates. Both of the anonymous former seminarians included in this article were at Sacred Heart in the early and mid-2000s.

When asked why Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary, Mary Henige, Strategic Communications Director for Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told CNA that “We do not know when and why Sr. Mary Finn moved to the seminary.”

Both former seminarians also told CNA that Finn’s theology was “unsound.” Part of her theology classes, they said, included “feelings lists” where seminarians were asked to recall an experience from their lives and describe their feelings. The lists, provided by Finn, included “feeling words” such as “sexy”, “hot,” or “horny”, they recalled.

One of the former seminarians told CNA that multiple men had attempted to register complaints against Finn’s conduct, but they were ignored because of the reputation she enjoyed. Many of the faculty at Sacred Heart had been formed by Finn during their time in seminary, and believed her to be saintly. He said at one point, he had heard a faculty member refer to Finn as the “Holy Spirit Incarnate.”

He said on the one hand, she did seem to have a genuine love and concern for people. She saw Christ in people in a way that was “beautiful,” he said.

But she acted like she “was everyone’s mom, but she wasn’t and she’s not,” he said. “There were clear boundary issues. She was very emotionally manipulative of people, very passive aggressive.”

“She had a cult-following, so this is devastating to a lot of people,” he added.

When CNA asked the archdiocese about these claims about Finn’s conduct at Sacred Heart seminary, the archdiocese referred all questions to Sacred Heart.

When asked whether the faculty at Sacred Heart were aware of Finn’s alleged reputation for unwanted touching, inappropriate contact or for allegedly wandering by seminarians in towels, Henige told CNA that “We’re not going to respond to character allegations, nor would that be our role. Sr. Mary’s resignation letter outlines the reasons why she resigned.”

 

Knights on parade: With the Knights of Columbus at the March for Life

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 19:30

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- Their activism has sparked controversy in recent months, after a U.S. senator called the Knights of Columbus and their pro-life work “extreme.” But the Knights of Columbus say their work in the pro-life movement is a part of their Catholic identity, and that they’re proud of their long-standing involvement in the annual March for Life  

In fact, according to Supreme Knight and CEO Carl A. Anderson, when the March for Life began in the early 1970s, the Knights of Columbus was one of the first groups to lend a hand.

Anderson told CNA that the Knights now play a part in “just about everything that needs to be done” on the days leading up to, and during, the march.

CNA spent the 2019 March for Life getting a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Knights of Columbus during the nation’s largest annual pro-life gathering.

Standing guard

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic Church in North America; it was designed to hold about 10,000 faithful. The night before the March for Life there were at least that number present for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. People filled the pews, and nearly ever space around them in the aisles.

At 5:30 p.m., a procession of priests, bishops, and cardinals entered the basilica. When they did, Knights of Columbus from 19 different local councils were among the volunteers serving as ushers to help keep the heaving crowd in order.

One of those ushers was Alec McGuire, a sophomore at the Catholic University of America.

McGuire told CNA that joined the Knights of Columbus because his grandfather was a Knight. At Catholic University, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest student groups on campus. On Thursday, it was his job to “make sure people are where they're supposed to be."

Patrick McAleer is a field agent for the Knights of Columbus, selling the insurance policies the organization offers to its membership. He is also the chairman of the Shrine’s usher ministry. He’s been a Knight for 25 years.

For McAleer, volunteering at the Vigil Mass and other events is “a way to serve and be around so many young people who travel long distances to take part in the Mass and March.”

As an usher, McAleer said it is his job to “welcome to all our visitors to the Basilica, handle the congregation with care when we have to move people for the processional and recessional, as well as the most important duty: protecting the Blessed Sacrament, at communion time.”



‘An amazing group’

The day of the March for Life began bright and early at 7:30 a.m. for Tyler Lomnitzer, the Knights of Columbus’ program manager for pro-life activities. He spent the morning unloading signs for marchers from a U-Haul, and organizing the volunteers who would help disperse those signs.

“We successfully distributed 10,000 ‘Love Life, Choose Life’ Knights of Columbus signs,” Lomnitzer told CNA. In addition to signs, the Knights of Columbus distributed drawstring bags, fleece headbands, and beanies emblazoned with their logo.

Lomnitzer said he got involved in the Knights of Columbus when he was a freshman at CUA. When he was in school, he thought the Knights were “an amazing group of faithful and dedicated young men, helping one another grow in holiness.” Like McGuire, he too served as a volunteer at the Vigil Mass when he was in school.

“It left such an impression on me that I now oversee the pro-life activities of the Knights of Columbus on a global level,” said Lomnitzer.



On the March

Making sure that throngs of marchers begin and end the march in a safe and orderly way is a tough job, but one the Knights of Columbus have handled for years. Members of councils from around Virginia served as marshalls, and were present on street corners, around the front of the stage, and near the media and speaker areas.

Santiago Garcia, a Knight from Manassas, VA, has been in the Knights of Columbus for about two and a half years. He told CNA that he prayed to the Blessed Mother for her to “find something for me to do in the Church,” and then inquired about the Knights of Columbus. This is the second March for Life at which he has volunteered.

Garcia, along with Chris Sozio, an eight-year Knight but a first-time March for Life volunteer, was posted at the street corner by the Natural History Museum. The two worked to make sure that the sidewalks would stay open and free from loiterers before the march began, and then would walk ahead of the crowd of marchers to make sure nobody jumps ahead.



A long road

It is not unheard of for March for Life pilgrims to endure a several-hour bus journey to Washington for the march. John Moore, a Knight from Gallup, New Mexico, had by far the longest trip of all: he walked to Washington, DC from San Francisco, carrying a 20-pound wooden cross the entire way.

Moore, and his 26-year-old daughter Laura, stepped off from San Francisco on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2018. Laura drove ahead each day and provided assistance as needed, and they spent each night at hotels. She told CNA that her father spent years saving and planning the trip and was inspired by his first March for Life six years ago.

At 11:43 a.m. the morning of the March, their journey came to an end as they finally arrived at the National Mall, just in time for the start of the March for Life Rally.



Leading from the front

Carl A. Anderson, CEO and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, has the most public role of any member of the Knights of Columbus at the March, including an address to the massive crowd during the March for Life rally.

Anderson pumped up the crowd, and announced that his organization had recently donated its thousandth ultrasound machine to a pregnancy clinic.

“Science is on your side, and so is the American public,” said Anderson. He told the crowd that an end to abortion is “not far off” and that one day the March for Life will become a “victory parade.”

“Together we will celebrate the victory of both faith and science--both compassion and common sense.”



Keeping the momentum going

The Knights’ work does not end with the March. Local Washington-area and Virginia councils clean up the mess left behind by marchers, while out-of-town Knights board busses, planes, and cars and travel back to their homes. Once home, they continue the pro-life and other charitable work that the Knights of Columbus have done for decades.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus made $187 million in charitable donations and served over 85 million hours of volunteer time.  

Anderson explained to CNA that in addition to the ultrasound initiative, the Knights of Columbus are also involved in the distribution of educational materials each October for the USCCB’s Respect Life Month. Local councils work with area pro-life groups and do fundraisers and volunteer hours.

"I would say just about everywhere the pro-life movement is active, Knights are involved," said Anderson.

The Knights of Columbus’ core principles are charity, fraternity, and unity.

Over two days, between taking care of marchers and worshipers, distributing warm clothes and cleaning up after the crowds, all while raising thousands of dollars to help women in crisis pregnancy situations, the Knights of Columbus offered a clear picture of their notion of a commitment to charity.

It may not be “extreme,” but it is extraordinary.



 

Photo credits, in order: Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Christine Rousselle / CNA, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus.

Amid curriculum controversy, Franciscan University president calls for unity

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 18:01

Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 18, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville said Monday that the university is committed to a faithful Catholic approach to university education, and he invited university administrators, faculty members, and others to renew with him an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“As some persons raise questions about what it currently means to be faithful to the magisterium- what it means to be orthodox- it is important to remember that Catholic identity should thoroughly pervade our teaching, our research, and all other activities pursuant to which this university advances her mission,” Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, said Jan. 14, in his homily at the university’s opening Mass for its spring semester.

“In recent months, critics of Franciscan University have accused us of compromising our Catholic mission and witness,” Sheridan said.

“Is anyone here perfect? No. do people here make mistakes? Yes. But our particular Franciscan charism is rooted in ongoing conversion. That we resolve to continue to do better everyday.”

Sheridan’s comments seemed to refer to a recent public controversy over the university’s curriculum. On Jan. 8, the ChurchMilitant website drew attention to a book that had been taught by a university English professor in the previous academic year. The book, “The Kingdom,” by Emmanuel Carrère, included passages that ChurchMilitant described as blasphemous and pornographic.

Sheridan issued a letter Jan. 9 stating that while he believed “the professor’s intention in using this book in his class was not malicious, the book is scandalous and extremely offensive.” He said the book would not again be assigned at the university, and offered an apology to “Our Blessed Mother and Her Son, and to anyone who has been scandalized by this incident.”

Sheridan’s letter added that “Catholic education should prepare students to stand for the truth of the Catholic faith and to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today. To do so, the must be equipped with a firm knowledge of Catholic Church teaching as well as a thorough understanding of the views and philosophies of their opponents.”

Announcing that he had directed administrators to “review and revise our existing policy on academic freedom to prevent future use of scandalous materials,” Sheridan also wrote that university professors “must walk the fine line between underpreparing their students for the mighty tasks ahead and overexposing them to material that may cause them spiritual harm.”

The professor, Stephen Lewis, was subsequently replaced as chairman of the university’s English department.

“The Kingdom” was the subject of a December 2018 review in the magazine First Things. As the controversy erupted, First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz took to Twitter Jan. 14 to opine that: “Mobs are not well qualified to make decisions about literary quality or moral risk. In a more civilized age we allowed popes to compile the Index, instead of giving the job to bloggers.”

In a Jan. 18 essay published by First Things, Lewis wrote that he had assigned the book “in an upper-level course to students whose maturity and intellectual preparation I knew well.”

“Our class read the entire text, focusing not on a few lurid passages but on its appropriation of Renan’s method and its related atheistic concept of witness, so as to understand the superiority of Christian methods and concepts. The aim was not to shock, but to edify. I share the revulsion Catholics rightly feel toward lewdness and blasphemy, but in the end I decided that my students could benefit by reading this text.”

While “certain websites have taken a handful of obscene passages from the book and presented them to the public in a manner intended to shock and scandalize,” Lewis wrote, “the book provided my students with both insights into and questions about the meaning of the collapse of faith for contemporary men and women, from the standpoint of both believers and unbelievers.”

“Discussion of the book ... helped the students to understand more deeply what it means when we Catholics affirm that Jesus Christ cannot be known outside the Church. The Church, as the ongoing presence of Christ among us, is the only way by which we gain knowledge of him,” the professor wrote.

Each of the five students in the class “has claimed to have grown in faith by reading the work, despite its ugly aspects,” Lewis stated. “One has even stated that she feels her current work as a missionary has been made more effective because she frequently encounters people who display features of Carrère’s mindset.”

Sheridan’s homily said that the controversy “has been a serious disruption to our unity. We have stopped trusting one another. And it pulling us apart as a university.”

“With the help of our shared governance council in the next few weeks, I will be working to set up an ongoing commitment to our fidelity and freedom, to advance higher education within our entire faithful, orthodox Catholic university,” Sheridan announced.

That project, he said, “will help to restore that break in our unity.”

Sheridan added that he would be consulting with the leaders of other Catholic universities and Catholics involved in higher education, as well as those connected for Franciscan University, and drawing on the scholarship presented at a university symposium on Ex corde ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. Sheridan, a canon lawyer, wrote a doctoral dissertation on the document.

“It is the responsibility of everyone who belongs to the university family to advance the university’s Catholic identity. It is the responsibility of all of us to strive for unity within this university that we all love.”

In recent months, the university has also faced criticism amid 2018 reports that administrators have improperly addressed allegations of sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct. In response to those reports, Sheridan announced in August 2018 an independent review of university records by a law firm “specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence.”

A report from the firm will reportedly be delivered to the university’s board of trustees this month; university administrators have not announced whether it will be subsequently released publicly.

Sheridan’s homily encouraged a period of rebuilding.

“These days demand courageous Catholics who will stand up for our faith to go forth and rebuild. Our Church, our world, needs people who are willing to stand for truth,” he said.

Sheridan concluded his homily by inviting all members of the university community to join him in renewing the profession of faith and oath of fidelity he had taken upon assuming the university’s presidency in 2013. Members of the university’s theology and philosophy faculties already take the oath annually.

“God has entrusted his university to us to lead and guide,” Sheridan told university faculty members and administrators.

“May we always be courageous Catholics, empowered to fight together, for the fidelity of this university, and the work that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has entrusted to us.”

 

'Every life is worth protecting,' President Trump, VP Pence tell March for Life

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 15:05

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive Jan. 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.
 
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”
 
“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding.

Trump is something of an unlikely ally for the pro-life movement. Before he launched his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had a record of pro-abortion rights statements. That record, his personal character and other actions have drawn criticism and concern from some pro-life leaders. His presidency continues to be one of the most controversial in recent history, with his anti-immigrant crackdowns and rhetoric becoming major concerns for Catholic bishops.

For the 2018 March for Life, Trump had given a special live address to the March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden.

This year, following the Republicans’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, Trump pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine “protection for human life.”

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

Pence similarly touted Trump administrative actions, saying Trump “kept his promise” on judicial nominees and signed legislation allowing states to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Karen Pence thanked marchers for “standing in the cold for something that you believe in.”

“Thank you for your stories of courage. Thank you for your stories of regret and forgiveness and starting over,” she said. “Thank you for your stories of hope. Thank you for your stories of inspiration. Thank you for your stories of truth.”

Other elected officials spoke at the event, among them U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J., a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced the launch of what he said was “the first-ever pro-life caucus in the U.S. Senate.” This caucus, he said, “will allow us to accelerate the momentum of the past few years in promoting and protecting life.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., another co-chair of the House’s pro-life caucus, addressed the event. Lipinski is regarded as a leader among pro-life Democrats. In a tight 2018 primary election, he defeated a strong challenger who was pro-abortion rights.

“We don’t agree on everything We’ve got Republicans, Democrats, independents,” he said. “We all agree on one thing: every life is sacred. It needs to be protected. No one is expendable. Our highest priority has to defend life from the first moment. Everyone is unique from day one.”

“We will never ever give up,” said Lipinski. “Together we’ll march until one day life, especially the most vulnerable, are protected.”

Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, claimed Louisiana was the most pro-life state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, black or white, we fight for life,” she told the crowd. “When people ask me ‘Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?’ I say ‘Because I’m a Christian first’,” Jackson said.

Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast, faulted the Democratic Party’s strong pro-abortion rights stand, but also challenged Republican legislators’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood.

He depicted abortion as a betrayal of American efforts to secure “the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty.”

“We decided that we could safely blot out millions of souls who could not protect themselves,” he said. “We lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie,” Shapiro continued, criticizing “anti-scientific arguments” about life’s origins and “euphemisms” like “termination of pregnancy, abortion, choice.”

“We stand between America and the darkness, and we will march until that darkness is banished forever and all our children can stand in the sunlight,” he told the marchers.
 
A video sponsored by the Knights of Columbus showed the pro-life work of the Catholic men’s organization, including its ultrasound machine donation program. Its head, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, spoke to the rally and cited a Knights-sponsored poll showing strong support for “substantial restrictions” on abortion and policies to “protect mother and child before birth.”

He also asked eligible men to join the Knights of Columbus, which has about 1.9 million members worldwide. The group’s many friends and allies spoke out after a controversial December Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which two Democratic senators had questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights due to their views on abortion rights and marriage.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reflected on her journey away from performing abortions.

“If it was wanted, it was a baby. If it wasn’t wanted, it was a fetus,” she said.

While qualms about abortions arose during her neonatal rotation, when she tried to save babies the same gestational age as those she was abortion, only the birth of her daughter made her stop performing abortions.

After realizing that women who kept their babies did better compared to those who had sought abortions, and watching nearly aborted children in her church grow up instead, her views began to change further. Caring family and friends brought her fully to the pro-life cause.

The event emcee Jeanne Mancini said the country was “forever changed” by Roe v. Wade.

“Since that time, we have tragically lost over 60 million American children, little girls and little boys, to abortion. And many mothers and fathers regret having been involved in abortion,” she said.

“We’re marching to end the human rights abuse of our time, abortion,” Mancini told marchers. “That’s why we march. And that’s why you are so urgently needed.”

She encouraged marchers to share their story on social media, using the hashtag #WhyWeMarch.

Dr. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the closing prayer.
 

 

Senate fails to advance bill to ban federal abortion funding

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:56

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:56 am (CNA).- In a procedural vote on Thursday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate failed to advance a bill that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions.

The Jan. 17 vote to invoke cloture and end debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019 (S.109) need 60 supporters. Only 48 senators, including two Democrats, voted in favor of cloture, with 47 legislators voting against it.

There are 53 Republican senators in the 116th Congress. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the measure, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted in favor of bring the bill to a vote.

Shortly after the bill failed to advance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the pro-life SBA List, praised the vote itself, saying, “Today’s vote sends a strong signal that Leader McConnell and the pro-life Senate majority will be a ‘brick wall’ against pro-abortion House Democrats’ extreme agenda, which includes forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

“We are grateful to our Senate allies for standing with the majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion,” she added.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment, introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

The act would also have barred federal subsidies from being used to purchase insurance plans which include abortion coverage and ensure full disclosure of the extent to which insurance plans on Affordable Care Act exchange fund abortion.

The bill, which has the support of the White House, was sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“As thousands gather in our nation’s capital this week to March for Life, it is well past time Congress passed a comprehensive solution to the patchwork of regulations prohibiting federal funding for abortion services,” Wicker said, according to Politico. “Our legislation would create a permanent, government-wide prohibition on abortion funding so that not one taxpayer dollar goes toward the destruction of innocent human life.”

The Hyde Amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support, but in recent years the Democratic party has called for its repeal.

Also on Thursday, three Congressmen introduced an analogous bill in the House of Representatives.

Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced HR 20 to the lower chamber, which is controlled by the Democratic party.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives: because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise, these individuals survived, and their mothers benefited from prenatal health care and support,” said Smith. “Two million survivors have had the opportunity to live and enjoy the first and most basic of all human rights – the right to life. It’s time to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.”

Lipinski said the bill “would finally make sure the Hyde protections are placed in law. This is long overdue.”

An identical bill passed the House each of the last three years.

'You are renewing American society' nuncio tells Mass for Life

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Young pro-life marchers are charged with renewing American society. This was the message apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre delivered to a packed arena Friday morning ahead of the March for Life in Washington, DC.

 

Addressing the assembly before beginning the Mass at which he was the principle celebrant, the pope’s personal representative in the United States thanked those present “for the witness of your Catholic faith both now at Holy Mass, later on in the streets of Washington, and even more importantly when you return home.”

 

“Know that you are making a solid contribution to the renewal of American society,” he said.

 

“For the future of this vast country lies in the hands of young people like yourselves who believe that it has been created as one nation under God, and no human authority has the right to challenge the law of God.”

 

More than 18,000 pro-life marchers filled the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington January 18 for the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. Lines had already formed by the time the doors to the area opened at 6:15 am.

 

The yearly event, organized by the Archdiocese of Washington, begins a day centered around the March for Life.

 

The rally began with more than two hours of speakers and devotional music, in English and Spanish. Bus-loads of groups from parishes, schools, and colleges from around the country sat in different sections, with many groups wearing matching hats and sweatshirts.

 

The arena, normally home to the Washington Capitals and Wizards sports teams, appeared full. As a religious sister called out from the stage to groups from states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and Nebraska, cheering and crowd waves broke out, with the atmosphere more resembling a playoff game than an early morning prayer meeting.

 

Throughout the rally portion of the morning, long lines formed in the halls of the upper deck of the arena, where priests offered confession to the thousands of arrivals.

 

While the crowd was dotted with many priests, religious brothers and sisters, parents and teachers, the clear majority of the crowd were young people under 30 years old.

 

At 9am, the atmosphere shifted to devotional with the recitation of the rosary.

 

Mass began at 9:20, led by Archbishop Pierre, with Washington auxiliaries Bishop Mario Dorsonville and Bishop Roy Campbell representing the archdiocese. Among the other bishops present were U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Australia, who was greeted by some in the crowd waving inflatable kangaroos.

 

During his words of welcome, Pierre delivered a message from Pope Francis to the crowd-turned–congregation.

 

“His Holiness is deeply grateful for this outstanding witness to the right to life of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family,” Pierre read.

 

The pope wrote that upholding the inviolable dignity of human life and ensuring its protection in law was the challenge of every generation “and especially the young.”

 

“Respect for the sacredness of every human life is fundamental to the building of a truly good, just, and free society in which each person is valued and welcomed as a brother or sister,” the pope’s message continued.

 

The crowds emptied onto the streets of Washington after Mass, heading towards their assembly points for this afternoon’s march. As they made their way out of the arena, one religious priest was overheard encouraging the group he was leading.

 

“Today is about bringing life to people – we’ve been to confession and received Christ in the sacrament, that is the most life we can receive. Let’s bring life to someone else today.”

At pro-life Mass, Naumann calls for mercy

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 23:00

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 09:00 pm (CNA).- The pro-life movement must be one of mercy, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City Thursday night, at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

 

“The pro-life ethic challenges us to care about the sacredness of every human being throughout the life spectrum. We are called always and everywhere to promote the dignity of the human person,” Naumann said in his homily at the Mass, which preceded the nation’s annual March for Life Friday.

 

Attending the Mass were pro-life supporters, seminarians, priests and bishops from across the country ahead of tomorrow’s March for Life, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands from across the country.

 

The archbishop said the idea that pro-lifers care only about the unborn is “simply not true.” He pointed to the care and work of volunteers who give their time and money to support pregnancy centers and other programs to support pregnant women in difficult circumstances.

 

“We are concerned about the life and dignity of the human person wherever it is threatened or diminished,” said Naumann, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference pro-life committee.

 

“Anyone whose life is threatened and anyone whose human dignity is disrespected have a claim on our hearts.”

 

Mercy is a force that permeates the entirety of the pro-life movement, said Naumann. Pro-lifers should have mercy not only for an unborn child or for a frightened expectant mother, but also for post-abortive parents who “deeply regret authorizing the killing of their own child,” for abortion advocates “who verbally attack (pro-lifers) and label us extremists,” and for those who work in the abortion industry.

 

It was this mercy that led to “amazing Paul-like conversions of abortion advocates,” who have gone on to “become the powerful pro-life apologists,” said Naumann.

 

Naumann highlighted the examples of Norma McCorvey, who was the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, NARAL co-founder and former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and former Planned Parenthood employee of the year Abby Johnson. All three had been staunch defenders of abortion until they experienced a change of heart, discovered Jesus’ love, and re-dedicated their lives to ending abortion.

 

“Pray that through God’s grace there will be many more Norma McCorveys, Bernard Nathansons, Beverly McMillans, Carroll Everetts, Ramona Trevinos, Abby Johnsons, who will come to know they are made in the Divine Image and that they are of such worth that Jesus died for them,” said Naumann.

 

“May our advocacy awaken the hearts of others to know Jesus’ desire for them to experience abundant life in this world and to share with him eternal life in paradise.”

 

Among the bishops concelebrating the Mass were Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

New birth control patch would administer contraception via self-injecting needles

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 19:01

Atlanta, Ga., Jan 17, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Scientists and researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are working on a birth control patch that would inject a contraceptive drug into women’s skin through biodegradable microneedles.

The quarter-sized patch would be applied to the skin for five seconds, allowing the needles “painlessly” to pierce the skin and break away, remaining in the body to slowly administer the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel.

Currently, the needles are designed slowly to release the contraceptive hormone over the course of one month, though the team of scientists has said that the goal would be to develop a six-month patch.

In an article on the patch recently published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the authors said it could eventually be used instead of the birth control pill, or other forms of long-term birth control such as hormone shots or implantable devices such as IUDs.

“Non-hormonal contraceptive methods, such as condoms and diaphragms, provide physical barriers for pregnancy protection, but these barrier methods, even when accompanied by spermicide, usually have high failure rates due in part to poor patient acceptance and compliance with correct use,” the study, authored by Dr. Mark Prausnitz and team, states.

“Hormonal contraceptives, such as oral pills, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, subdermal injections and implants, generally provide a better level of effectiveness, but either require frequent dosing, which has significant compliance problems, or delivery by healthcare professionals, which can be especially problematic in low-income countries,” it adds.

“Hence, there has been tremendous interest in a contraceptive that is safe and effective, enables long-term contraception, facilitates good patient access and compliance through self-administration, and has low cost suitable for use globally.”

In the study, the scientists expressed hope that the patch could make long-term contraceptives more widely available, especially in developing countries, since women will be able to apply the patch themselves.

“To provide greater access to contraception, we developed a delivery system for contraception based on a microneedle patch designed to enable self-administration of a long-acting contraceptive that is safe, effective and low cost,” they said.

The study, which was received by Nature Biomedical Engineering in March 2018, was made possible through funding from the United States Agency for International Development.

The Western push to increase access to contraceptives and abortion has been denounced by critics as ideological colonization.

“By what moral right do Westerners send the message that the world would be a better place with fewer Africans in it?” Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, told CNA in 2018. She was responding to a report from the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, which declared a need for universal access to contraception and birth control within the next 12 years, particularly in the developing world.

“Such campaigns are going to look as ugly in history's rearview mirror as the twentieth-century eugenics movement does today,” she said at the time.

Nigerian Catholic Obianuju Ekeocha, the author of “Target Africa,” has also been an outspoken pro-life advocate who has opposed bringing contraceptives to Africa and other developing places.

“Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae. For these African women, in all humility have heard, understood, and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope,” Ekeocha wrote in a 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates.

The patch is still in development, and has only been tested on rats thus far. Scientists cited concerns about skin irritation at the site of the patch and the need for more clinical trials before the patch could be released to the general public.

The microneedle patch technology could also potentially be used to deliver vaccines throughout remote and underdeveloped areas as well, the study noted.

Indiana Catholic school opens 'adoration club'

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 18:15

South Bend, Ind., Jan 17, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- It’s not unusual for a school to offer an after school drama or Spanish club. Some schools even offer a robotics club. But few schools offer a club dedicated to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend, Indiana does just that.

“Our main purpose for starting the adoration club is for students in Kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade to have time to spend time in Eucharistic adoration, to teach them how to use their time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and [to] really deepen their relationship with Christ,” Katherine Soper, a second grade teacher at the school told CNA.

Sober said she is excited to offer students an opportunity to pray weekly in the presence of the exposed Eucharistic host. There are now 22 students enrolled in the club, Soper said, but more are expected to join.
 
The club, which will launch on Jan. 31, will start each after-school meeting  with a mini lesson and snacks.

The first few lessons will discuss reverence, proper manners in adoration, and expectations. The next series of lessons will review adoration history and miracles.
 
Afterward, the students will head to the chapel for an hour of adoration. During adoration,  students will be led in a rosary, the Gospel, and reflections on scripture. Music will also be incorporated into club, using contemporary and Latin hymns.
 
“We will be praying a guided rosary where it will walk you through the mysteries and then we will have time for reflection. We will have a Gospel reading with a Gospel reflection and then more silence for students to pray.”
 
“The goal for the Eucharistic adoration time is to give the students a time to reflect and silence. We see a need for students to have a time for silence [and] prayer.”
 
Soper was involved with a similar club in a prior teaching position, at St. Anthony of Padua’s School in South Bend. Having started at St. Joseph Grade School this year, she decided to bring adoration club to the new school.
 
She said many of the students in her second grade class have shown excitement for the club.

“One of my students leaned over to me and said ‘when are we going back? I really want to go back,’ and when she said that to me I know I couldn’t give up on my idea on starting the Eucharistic adoration,” she said.

“These students have a burning desire to deepen their relationship with Christ and her little statement of ‘when are we going back,’ even though she was kind of distracted, I took that as a sign that she felt God’s peace and she felt God’s comfort in Eucharistic adoration.”

Amid shutdown, DC Catholic Charities aids furloughed workers

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- It is a crowded-but-calm scene on Thursday morning, just before 9 a.m., in the lobby of the James Cardinal Hickey Center in downtown Washington, DC. About 50 people, including a woman with a seven-month-old baby girl, are packed in chairs against the walls, waiting for Catholic Charities of Washington, DC to officially open for the day.

 

A little after 9 a.m., people are asked to check in with a receptionist before they are led downstairs to begin meeting with Catholic Charities workers.

 

Unlike the majority of the people serviced by Catholic Charities, these people are not homeless, or even jobless: they’re furloughed government workers facing a partial government shutdown which has already lasted 26 days.

 

"We don't normally serve people who are government workers. That's not our normal population; (which is) people who are homeless, or have lost their jobs or don't have the ability to feed their families,” Catholic Charities President and CEO Fr. John Enzler explained to CNA.

 

“So this is a different group, and we want to be there for them as well, because this is a shock to their system to have no income, to have no paycheck."

 

This is the first time anyone can recall Catholic Charities of Washington being asked to provide assistance for furloughed workers.

 

For three days, at a set time and location, any furloughed government worker or federal contractor is eligible to receive up to $500 to help with rent, medical needs, or “essential home supplies.” Catholic Charities writes a check directly to the service provider. Catholic Charities explained on their website that they are not currently assisting with water, gas, or electricity bills because companies that service the Washington area have already established programs to help furloughed workers.

 

While the first two distribution days saw a “decent crowd” according to Enzler, Thursday’s was by far the largest. He told CNA that he suspected this was due to the location of the office, which is near all of the city’s metro lines. The first two locations were accessible only by car.

 

Catholic Charities of Washington got involved through a partnership with United Way of the National Capital Area. The President and CEO of United Way, Rosie Allen-Herring, reached out to Catholic Charities, and asked them to be one of the three charities to receive money to assist furloughed workers. Catholic Charities was picked because they have a "pretty broad spectrum of services," Enzler said, and are present throughout the southern Potomac area.

 

"It's a chance for us to become a player in trying to help people who have been affected by the shutdown," he added.

 

Catholic Charities COO Pat Dunne told CNA that he “didn’t know what to expect” when it came to assisting furloughed workers. He said that it was “a question of getting the word out, and our communications folks worked really hard to get the word out to everyone."

 

One of the people who received word that Catholic Charities would be providing assistance to federal employees was a woman named Zenola.

 

Zenola told CNA that she has worked for Housing and Urban Development for nearly 20 years. She has been furloughed the entire length of the shutdown.

 

She said that her daughter saw a notice about the program on Facebook, and she called Catholic Charities to ensure she would be able to receive assistance.

 

“They told me to come on down,” she said.

 

This past month without pay has been tough for Zenola and her family.

 

“We’ve been hit pretty hard as far as our January bills,” she said, and although she has tried to save money, she’s “exhausted” her savings account trying to keep up with bills for her mortgage, car, and other expenses.

 

Zenola was grateful to Catholic Charities for the assistance, and said she and her family “really, really, really” appreciates it.

 

Catholic Charities received $36,000 to allocate on a first-come, first-served basis, and Enzler expected that money would be exhausted on Thursday. His prediction looked to be accurate: by 9:45 a.m., the lobby was full once again.

He's walked 2,800 miles to the March for Life

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 14:01

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Last weekend, John Moore arrived at the Washington Monument in the US capital, after a walking pilgrimage from San Francisco that began in April 2018, in time to attend Friday's March for Life.

Moore has been accompanied in his 2,800 mile pilgrimage by Laura, one his six children, who drove and gave him assistance along the way.

The Moores are from Gallup, N.M., where they own a business renting space to RVs and campers, and John is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

“It’s from the site of the March for Life West Coast in San Francisco to the National Mall in Washington DC,” John told Voice of the Southwest. “I’ll end on January 18th of 2019 – that’s the March for Life there in Washington DC.”

Speaking to the Gallup diocese's paper in May, Laura said, “Usually if we’re close to the town we’re staying in, we settle in to a hotel and then [I] pick him up at the end of his walk, but today he’s going down a dirt road that doesn’t show up very clearly on maps, so every 20 minutes I’m driving up.”

Laura has been scouting the route for her father, making sure he has food and water throughout his day of walking, and picking up at the conclusion of each day's journey.

Once they got out of San Francisco, Laura said, they received a lot of support from people along the way.

“In San Francisco there were a lot of people who got in my dad’s face and were screaming at him pretty vulgarly. And then the further away we get from San Francisco the more support he gets. Not that he didn’t expect the bad stuff. He just kept his mouth shut and kept walking.”

“It actually surprises me how many non-religious people are intrigued by what he does. We’ve had a couple people stop to talk to us and they’re not religious at all. They don’t know anything about the March for Life,” said Laura. “People will stop and give my dad water, some people will walk with him for as long as they can, some people will give him money. A lot of people tell him how cool they think it is.”

John intends to donate the money he's received along the way to the Knights of Columbus for its effort to provide ultrasound machines to pro-life pregnancy centers; the project recently donated its 1,000th machine to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in the Diocese of Arlington.

He's been making walking pilgrimages for some time: he's walked at least 13 times to the shrine of Chimayo; made a Kansas pilgrimage in honor of Fr. Emil Kapaun, an army chaplain who died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean war; and walked to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta in Las Cruces, and to Mount Cristo Rey outside El Paso.

As he walks, John carries one of two wooden crosses: one displaying the Divine Mercy, and a chaplain's cross and barbed wire in honor of Fr. Kapaun, and another with the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Laura told Voice of the Southwest it would be an opportunity for spiritual growth for her, and a chance to grow even closer to her father.

“I think that God’s been preparing me to learn how to be alone, and I feel like that’s what this road trip is – gonna help me ultimately be alone with myself and be friends with myself and get closer to God in that aspect,” she said. “I feel like I’m really blessed with this opportunity to spend all day focusing on it instead of having to make time for it.”

John spoke recently to Columbia magazine about his cross-country pilgrimage, saying he walks “to humble myself before God, to be a witness for Christ and to pray for others … It’s a walk of faith.”

“If I’m out in the middle of nowhere on a trail, I’ll pray the rosary. But when you’re walking a pilgrimage like this, it’s very dangerous. You can’t be listening to music. You always have to pay attention and stay focused.”

He said his devotion to Fr. Kapaun is rooted in the fact that “his faith was greater than his fears. I’ll tell you what: I’m kind of a big chicken. I hate heights and have to go over big bridges. And the farther east we go, all this traffic makes you anxious.”

“It’s a daily grind and sometimes I don’t want to walk, but you just have to go and not do anything stupid. It takes a lot of faith. Faith has to be greater than your fears,” John told Columbia.

“This not a matter of me being successful. It’s a matter of keeping a promise – a promise I made to the Knights, to the people at the March for Life, to the unborn and to God.”

Senate passes ‘religious test’ resolution on Knights of Columbus

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 12:45

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- The Senate yesterday passed a resolution saying it would be "unconstitutional" to consider membership in the Knights of Columbus a disqualifying criteria for public office. The resolution passed by unanimous consent, meaning it went unopposed by senators of either party.

 

The Jan. 16 resolution was drafted and introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) in response to recent questions put to a judicial nominee, which suggested membership in the Knights could prevent someone serving impartially as a judge.

 

Citing the protection of religious liberty in the Constitution, the resolution noted that past candidates, including President John F. Kennedy, had suffered from “significant anti Catholic bigotry.”

 

“It is the sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to Federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates clause 3 of article VI of the Constitution of the United States,” the resolution states.

 

Article VI includes the provision that “no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

 

On Dec. 5, Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised concerns about membership in the Knights of Columbus while the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed the candidacy of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

 

In her questions to Buescher, Hirono said that the Knights have “taken a number of extreme positions.” Harris used her questions to label the organization as “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and against “marriage equality,” and suggested that Buescher could be unable to give a fair hearing to cases on these issues.

 

In his speech introducing the resolution, Sasse said that the anti-Catholic lines of questioning were "the same kind of garbage" which faced President Kennedy in 1960.

 

At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since the 2016 election.

 

The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.

 

A recent Marist Poll survey, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, found high levels of  support for religiously committed candidates for the federal bench.

 

The poll found that 59 percent of Democrats supported people for whom “religion is important” serving as federal judges. The same poll found 60 percent of independents and more than 7 in 10 Republicans (73 percent) also supported religiously committed judges.

 

“Americans rightly support religious freedom and reject religious tests for public office,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson in a statement.

 

Anderson said that the Constitutional bar against religious tests “continues to strongly resonate with the overwhelming majority of Americans” and that the Marist Poll results showed a clear majority for those who “believe that faith should not be a barrier to someone’s appointment to public service.”

 

The resolution was passed by the Senate the day after William Barr went before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings on his nomination for the post of Attorney General.

 

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Barr, who is a member of the Knights of Columbus, if he thought his religion disqualified him from serving in office, observing that “some of my colleagues think it might.”

 

Spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus Kathleen Blomquist welcomed the passage of the Senate resolution.

 

“The Knights of Columbus is grateful that the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed that membership in a religious organization does not make a person unfit for public office,” she told CNA.

 

“We have also been gratified by the reaction of people of different faiths—including Senator Sasse — who never want to see a litmus test imposed on individuals based of their faith, a position that the vast majority of Americans support.”

Bill to ban revenge porn introduced in Montana

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 02:04

Helena, Mont., Jan 17, 2019 / 12:04 am (CNA).- The state of Montana is considering a bill that would criminalize revenge porn - the circulation of nude photos of another person without their permission.

Montana is one of nine states in the U.S. that does not have a revenge porn law. The state failed to pass a bill banning revenge porn in 2017.

House Bill 192 has been sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Ryan, (D-Missoula), with help from Rep. Kimberly Dudik, (D-Missoula). A public hearing will be held at the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 24.

Unlike the 2017 attempt, this bill would add a clause to the state’s statute on privacy in communications. The law would make it a felony to publish or distribute any type of nude or sexualized photos or videos without the consent of the person depicted.

Violators would face up to six months in jail or $500 in fines for a first offense, with repeat offenses being punished by up to five years in jail or $10,000 in fines.

“It’s pretty cut and dried as to, if you distribute those without the person’s consent, then you’re guilty. We don’t have to show that you also intended to cause fear in them or anything like that. Just the fact that you did it on purpose is enough,” said Dudik, according to the Missoula Current.

The bill allows for some exceptions, such as images published for work purposes by law enforcement officials, medical analysts, and news reporters.

Victim and activist Kristine Hamill will testify about her experience with revenge porn at the hearing at the end of this month. Her ex-husband had shared sexually explicit images of Hamill without her consent.

Last November, a court granted a forensic review of her ex-husband’s laptop, which had been used to spread the photos. The only way for the images to be removed from the internet at this point would be to copyright the original images.  

According to Missoula Current, Dudik expressed hope that the bill will pass, unlike the 2017 attempt that was unexpectedly killed on a final vote.

“I’m hopeful that our Legislature this time will understand that this isn’t a game, that this detrimentally impacts too many people’s lives and that people shouldn’t be allowed to act that way toward others and terrify them by the use of these images,” Dudik said.

 

‘Unfathomable’ Wuerl forgot allegations, Ciolek says

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 19:12

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 05:12 pm (CNA).- The man who made a 2004 accusation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick said Wednesday he is in disbelief after Cardinal Donald Wuerl told him he forgot about the allegation sometime after becoming Washington’s archbishop in 2006.

In a Jan. 15 letter, Wuerl wrote to Washington, DC priests that “when I was asked if I had any previous knowledge of allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, I said I did not. Only afterwards was I reminded of the 14-year-old accusation of inappropriate conduct which, by that time, I had forgotten.”

In a previous letter to priests, sent Jan. 12, Wuerl did not mention forgetting the allegation, instead he said he was bound by confidentiality not to mention it, and that when he denied hearing rumors about McCarrick’s misconduct, he meant only that he had not heard rumors that McCarrick had sexually abused minors.

The 2004 complaint was made by laicized priest Robert Ciolek.

In 2004, Ciolek went to Wuerl, who was then Bishop of Pittsburgh, to relay an accusation of sexual abuse at the hands of a Pittsburgh priest. At the same time, he reported to Wuerl that McCarrick had, as Bishop of Metuchen, shared a bed with seminarians at a New Jersey beach house, pressuring Ciolek to do the same. Wuerl presented those accusations to the apostolic nuncio in Washington.

Ciolek told CNA he spoke with Wuerl by telephone on Jan. 15, and that the cardinal told him personally what he later said in his letter: that he had had “a lapse of memory” regarding the 2004 allegation.

When Wuerl told him that, Ciolek said, he asked the cardinal if he had already forgotten the accusations by the time he arrived in Washington as McCarrick’s successor in 2006, only two years after he reported the allegation. He told CNA that he also asked Wuerl if he had taken any steps to see whether the same behavior was being repeated in Washington.

He said that Wuerl told him: “I did think about that when I arrived in Washington, but because I had never heard any other allegation or rumor, or heard back from the nuncio, I didn’t feel it was something I needed to concern myself with in Washington at that time.”

Ciolek said he found it difficult to understand how Wuerl could have forgotten the substance of his accusations in the ensuing years, especially after recalling them as he arrived in Washington to replace McCarrick.

“It’s unfathomable to me that he has forgotten, I don’t believe it for one second.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment on Ciolek’s account of the conversation between him and Cardinal Wuerl, telling CNA that “the cardinal considers this a private conversation and will be respecting that.”

Ciolek told CNA that during their Jan. 15 telephone call, Wuerl also offered personal apologies for the abuse he had suffered, along with an apology for a “lapse of memory” regarding his 2004 allegation.

“I did not believe him when he said he did not remember,” Ciolek said, adding that the apology  “wasn’t making sense to me in the light of his statement last week.”
 
In his Jan. 12 letter to Washington, DC priests, Wuerl wrote that when he offered multiple denials about hearing rumors regarding McCarrick, he meant them more narrowly than they were perceived, saying he spoke “in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.”

“While one may interpret my statement in a different context, the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors,” Wuerl added last week.

Ciolek also told CNA he felt that Wuerl’s recent statements have sought to “minimize” the allegations by referring to them as “inappropriate conduct.

He also told CNA that he disliked having to discuss his abuse and experiences publicly, but considered it a necessary contribution towards reform.

“I saw this conversation as an opportunity for Wuerl to say ‘enough is enough,’ and finally own his own actions. Sadly that hasn’t happened yet.”

He said he told the cardinal Tuesday “while it was nice to hear all you’ve expressed, your last comments about your own forgetfulness about these things is actually causing me more pain than I’ve already endured.”

“I don't want any seminarian to endure what I did at the hands of a bishop again. I think the only way anyone can have hope that will happen is not just needed process changes, but ripping the band-aid off and exposing the wounds. People will be more willing to trust and believe [in reforms] if real honestly is part of the process,” Ciolek said.

“I’m sorry, if Cardinal Wuerl says he can’t remember..., there is only one conclusion [I can draw] and that is he is not being honest. He knew, he knew.”

Guam archdiocese files for bankruptcy following sex abuse lawsuits

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 19:01

Hagatna, Guam, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Agaña has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November, allows the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in millions of dollars' worth of abuse lawsuits.

"This path will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims," Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes said in November. "That's the heart of what we're doing."

The bankruptcy decision was made following mediation efforts.

Leander James, an attorney working with alleged victims in the territory, also said in November that filing for bankruptcy would provide “the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims."

There are approximately $115 million in lawsuits from more than 180 abuse claims pending against the Agaña archdiocese.

Some of these claims were brought against the archdiocese’s former leader, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who has been found guilty of certain unspecified accusations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Among those who have accused Archbishop Apuron of sex abuse is his nephew, Mark Apuron. This week, Mark named the Holy See as a defendant in a $5 million abuse lawsuit filed in local court. According to Kuam News, the suit states that the Vatican failed to implement recommendations from a 1985 report entitled: "The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner."

The archdiocese has announced plans to sell its chancery property and move offices, as part of a broader move to liquidate and sell property to settle sex abuse cases.

In 2016, Guam's territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.

Coadjutor Archbishop Byrnes has implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that he said will “help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese.”

Byrnes adopted in February 2017 the US bishops' conference's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

The Archdiocese of Agaña serves Catholics in Guam, a U.S. island territory in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

Pro-life Congress members ask Trump to veto any bills that expand abortion

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life members of Congress this week sent U.S. President Donald Trump two companion letters requesting that he veto any legislation that would weaken current federal pro-life policies and promising to sustain any such veto.

A total of 169 members of the House of Representatives and 49 Senators signed the respective letters.

“We ask President Donald Trump to continue to his work in defense of life. My colleagues and I are also committed to protecting both unborn children and their mothers from the violence of abortion,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who led the House letter, in a statement.

Smith added that he was “deeply encouraged” that there were 169 members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter willing to sustain a veto “on the grounds that any pro-life provision has been weakened or removed.”

“We will not allow hard fought protections for the unborn to be undone,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). “I stand strongly in defense of the President’s pro-life victories and will continue to work with my colleagues to advance our pro-life agenda.”

Daines was the leader of the Senate letter.

While both letters offered praise for Trump’s various pro-life policies throughout his time in office, the House letter emphasized the importance of the Hyde Amendment and the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, both of which restrict taxpayer funding for abortions domestically and abroad.

Recently, House Democrats passed a spending bill containing language that would overturn the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy. They have also pledged to work to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer funding of abortion in most cases.

The Senate letter focused on conscience rights for healthcare professionals, and requested that taxpayer funding under Title X (family planning) not go to “facilities that perform or refer for abortion.”

In May, the Trump administration instituted new policies that forbade Title X funds from going to organizations like Planned Parenthood. This move was touted as a “major victory” by pro-life advocates.

Similar pro-life letters were sent to Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush when they were in office. President H.W. Bush then proceeded to issue three pro-life vetoes, and all three were upheld by the House of Representatives.

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