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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 32 min 48 sec ago

Pro-life leaders invite GOP to discuss language surrounding abortion exceptions

57 min 54 sec ago

Washington D.C., May 24, 2019 / 12:26 am (CNA).- Shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that state pro-life laws should include exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life, a group of pro-life leaders invited the Republican party to discuss the way in which the pro-life message is discussed in America.

“The time has come for the Republican Party and pro-life advocates to reconsider the messaging that the abortion industry used and still uses to justify their deadly enterprise,” the letter read. “For too long the debate over protecting life left out children conceived in difficult circumstances, so it’s not surprising that opening up that discussion now reveals room to educate on protecting these children.”

On May 22, nearly 20 pro-life leaders released an open letter to Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee.

Signatories included Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America; Abby Johnson, founder of And Then There Were None; and Tom McClusky, president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund.

Arguing that the Democratic Party is becoming more extreme in its support for abortion without limits, the group encouraged the GOP to continue strengthening its stance against abortion, and to reconsider its view on children conceived in incest or rape.

“With such a widening gulf between the parties, we are asking that the Republican Party continue their support of the abolition of abortion as it supported the abolition of slavery,” they said.

“As a society, we don’t issue birth certificates with points ranking some people as better than others based on their parents’ race, income, marital status or events on the night of conception. A birth certificate tells a simple truth: a unique life is in the world.”

The letter followed a series of tweets from President Trump, who suggested that state-level abortion bans should include certain exceptions.

“I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan,” the president said on Twitter May 18.

“We must stick together and Win for Life in 2020. If we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one, all of our hard fought gains for Life can, and will, rapidly disappear!”

Trump’s tweets come after Alabama recently passed a law to make abortion a felony. The law does not have exceptions for rape or incest, but it does make an exception in cases where a doctor believes there is a risk to a woman’s health. Similar legislation passed in Missouri last week, banning abortions after eight weeks. It is expected to be signed into law soon.

With states across the country seeing a surge in pro-life laws, the letter stressed that now is the time for the Supreme Court to reverse the 1973 decision of Roe v Wade. The pro-life leaders said polls indicate that younger generations favor at least some types of abortion bans.

“In January of this year, Students for Life of America commissioned a poll and found that 65 percent of Millennials want a voice and a vote on abortion policy. A recent Marist poll found that 80 percent of Americans would like abortion limited to - at most - the first three months of pregnancy, if not outright banned,” the letter read.

The signatories stressed that those who commit acts of sexual assault should be penalized with the full force of the law. However, it is not the child’s fault that they were conceived during rape, they said, added that the person in the womb should not be punished.

Topics of incest and rape are not easily discussed, they pro-life leaders acknowledged, but these children are born with value that can make a difference in the world. They encouraged the Trump administration to meet with pro-life leaders to better advocate for a pro-life America.

“There are no better witnesses to the value of all life, no matter how a child was conceived, than pro-life leaders today whose birth stories began in such moments. We hope you will meet with us to learn more on how we can collectively advocate for a pro-life America at this moment in time, as life is too precious a national resource to waste.”

Georgetown Visitation alumnae respond to ‘heartbreaking betrayal’

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Former students of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School have published an open letter challenging a recent decision they say undermines the Catholic identity of the school.

“The false choice you have set up, between embracing the truth of Catholic teaching and loving our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, is already spreading a culture of fear” graduates of Visitation wrote May 23, in response to the school’s recent decision to announce the same-sex legal unions of graduates in its alumni magazine.

“If Visitation’s leaders will not affirm Catholic teaching, the school cannot promise to be a home for students and teachers who do.”  

Visitation’s policy change was announced earlier this month in an email sent to the school community by Sr. Mary Birchmans VHM, who is head of the Salesian monastery that runs the school and the past-president of Visitation.

The graduates’ letter was published on the website of First Things magazine, and addressed to Birchmans VHM.

“Above all else, we write with sadness,” the letter says, while outlining the alumnae’s concerns with the policy and the rationale offered for it.

Although Birchmans was the lone signatory of an email to the school community announcing the change in policy, a group of pro-LGBT former students indicated on a private Facebook group that they had been in contact with her and organized support for the decision.

In her May email to the school community, Birchmans said she had been “reflect[ing] upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our LGBTQ alumnae.”

“The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages,” Birchmans wrote. “But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love.”

The sister also wrote that she had been praying over what she called the “contradiction” between the Church’s perennial teachings on human sexuality and the Gospel imperative to love.

In their own letter, the alumnae affirmed that they “share [the] desire to ensure that Visitation is a welcoming and inclusive community,” but noted that even if the school is determined to share same-sex union news of former students “there are loving and faithful ways to do so.”

The alumnae letter said that Birchamns’ explanation of the school’s decision “signals a fundamental shift in the administration’s approach to Visitation’s Catholic identity and Salesian charism.”

The former students said that Birchmans’ communications suggested a false conflict between Church teaching on sexuality and loving one’s neighbor which “betrays a deep misunderstanding of Catholic sexual teaching.”

“For Catholic educators to suggest that Church teaching is in error is misguided and offensive,” the alumnae wrote.

“Sexual union in marriage is only one among many possible paths to a life full of love; human dignity does not depend on sexual expression, and it is perplexing to hear a professed religious sister insinuate otherwise.”

The open letter accused Birchmans of “a heartbreaking betrayal” of the Salesian order’s founder by using quotes from St. Francis de Sales in an argument which seemed to pit the Gospel imperative of love against the Church’s teaching on same-sex unions.

The alumnae said Birchmans implied that those who affirm Catholic teaching “act out of hate.”

That implication, they said, would be an indictment of Pope Francis, St. Francis de Sales, and millions of faithful Catholics around the world.

The letter’s four signatories said they had been overwhelmed with private messages of support from other recent Visitation graduates who shared their concerns but believed they would be “rejected and condemned” if they came forward publicly.

Before the open letter was published, CNA spoke to several parents of current students who voiced similar concerns. Those parents said they are concerned that the school’s decision to publish same-sex union announcements is part of a growing pro-LGBT agenda within a small section of the school community.

One father explained to CNA that he believes the new policy for the alumni magazine would serve as an example for other Catholic schools to break with Church teaching.

“This isn’t just being watched by the immediate community. I’ve spoken to parents from other schools concerned this could be the start of a national trend [by Catholic schools] away from the Church and towards a progressive agenda,” he said.

“This isn’t what we want for our daughters, we make sacrifices as a family to get them to a school where the faith will be taught and nurtured, not undercut by the administration.”

One mother told CNA that the alumni magazine decision had crystalized growing concerns among the wider school community.

“This isn’t about one or two or ten families taking issue with something in a newsletter,” she said.

“A lot of families - a lot of us - have been concerned for a while now about a real move away from a truly Catholic identity to something just ‘in the Catholic tradition,’ and that’s not what we signed up for.”

Several parents told CNA that they have been in touch with the Archdiocese of Washington asking for newly-installed Archbishop Wilton Gregory to review the situation. While the school is under the direct oversight of the Salesian Sisters and not the archdiocese, the local bishop has a general responsibility for ensuring that all Catholic schools are faithful to Church teaching.

On May 15, a spokesperson for Visitation told CNA that "I can't speak for the archdiocese, but I can say we have been in touch with them and our goal is to work with them as we move forward and remain committed to our Catholic identity."

An official spokesman for the archdiocese declined to comment on the situation.

CNA also confirmed that Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., had written to the school’s administrators expressing the concerns brought to him by Visitation parents living in his diocese.

Georgetown Visitation was founded in 1799, and is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States. Tuition is $30,100. Approximately 500 students are enrolled in the school.

Pro-life activist conceived in rape addresses Alabama abortion law

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed the Human Life Protection Act into law. The legislation would make performing or attempting to perform an abortion a felony in the state.

The bill permits exceptions if the life of the mother is at risk, but controversially makes no exception for victims of rape or incest.

In an interview to air May 23 on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, attorney and pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling said that she applauds Alabama for refusing to make such exceptions because they dehumanize people like her.

Kiessling is the founder and president of Save the 1, a pro-life advocacy group dedicated to supporting the rights of unborn children conceived in rape or incest, or with disabilities. She told Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro that she was conceived when her biological mother was abducted at knifepoint and raped, and that she owes her birth to abortion having been illegal at the time.

Adopted at birth, Kiessling met her biological mother for the first time when she was 19 years old. While her birth mother “was happy to meet me,” Kiessling said her mother told her that she would have had an abortion if the procedure had been legal at the time.

“She said, ‘it should have been my right,’” Kiessling said.

But, Kiessling said, her mother has since undergone a change of heart, and the pair are now both “thankful that we were protected by Michigan law at the time.”

Asked about the Alabama law and its lack of a rape exception, Kiessling said state Rep. Terri Collins, who introduced the bill, was defending the lives of people like her.

“He really went to bat for us,” Kiessling said, while noting that the rhetoric around the debate had been distressing for her and others like her.

“It really hurts when our people group are under attack,” Kiessling said, adding that Save the 1 has eight hundred members who were either conceived in rape or became mothers after rape.

Shortly after Gov. Ivey approved the bill, President Donald Trump opined on Twitter that although he considers himself “strongly Pro-Life,” he believes in “three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother.” Trump did not name Alabama, although the tweet was widely interpreted as commentary on the bill.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan. We have come very far in the last two years with 105 wonderful new.....</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1129954110747422720?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 19, 2019</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Asked about the president’s tweet, Kiessling called Trump “the most pro-life president we’ve had by far,” but that this only made his comments about rape exceptions “hurt so much more.”

“You want somebody like that to be willing to defend you,” Kiessling said.

Asked how pro-life advocates can discuss such a sensitive topic, Kiessling said that it is important to “appreciate people’s concern for rape victims who become pregnant,” without dismissing the humanity of the unborn children involved.

Kiessling said pro-life advocates should “appeal to the sense of justice, that we do not punish innocent people for someone else’s crime.”

“People respect that answer,” she said. “And I did not deserve the death penalty for the crime of my biological father.”

Kiessling said Save the 1 has “made a lot of progress” in working to terminate the parental rights of rapists.

“I tell people, look if you really care about rape victims who become pregnant, please, protect them from the rapist and the abortion,” she said. “The baby is not the scary enemy.”

Kiessling's full interview will air Thursday at 10:00 PM Eastern.

Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Chemical abortions may be slowing the decline in US abortions

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 14:19

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA).- While the number of abortions procured in the US has steadily declined in recent decades, recent data indicate that this decline may be slowing as the use of chemical abortions rises.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, issued a report this month that analyzed the 2017 abortion figures released by 37 states.

Chuck Donovan, president of Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that 2018 data from six states indicate a continuance of the increasing use of chemical abortions.

“What we may be seeing is that, through the promotion of chemical abortions and increasing the range of distribution ... the long-term climb could be coming to an end,” he said.

The reported stated that in 2017 more than 470,000 abortions occurred in 37 states and that 39% of these were chemically induced. Out of 31 states, it highlighted an increased tendency to procure chemical abortions, and, out of 25 states, it mapped the trend of these chemical procedures from 2008 to 2017.

“Since 2008, total abortions among these 25 states have declined by 23 percent, while chemical abortions have increased by 68 percent. Between 2015 and 2017, total abortions fell by three percent, while chemical abortions rose by almost 20 percent,” the report stated.

As opposed to surgical abortions, chemical procedures induce termination through a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration loosened restrictions on in 2000 and 2016. Since these have become more available, chemical abortions have widely increased.

Abortions have been decreasing since the '90s, but the decline has slowed in recent years, even showing a slight increase in abortions in some states. Out of 30 states that reported on both abortions and chemical abortions in the past two years, 14 of them saw an escalation in abortions, according to the report.

Donovan said the trend follows the abortion industry’s push for telemedicine. He said chemical abortives have a wider range of distribution than a medical associate at a physical clinic.

“When you get to chemical abortions, then one or two doctors with telemedicine or things like that can cover a wider area, and we see the abortion industry moving to make the distribution of chemical abortions available through every pharmacy in the country...as well as through the mail,” he said.

“Conceivably, a doctor could reach a 15, 20 county area and dispense the drugs without ever seeing the patent. Telemedicine and chemical abortions will be that much more aggressively marketed and reach a wider range of people.”

According to the report, there is an underestimation of abortions in the U.S. both in its numbers and potential dangers, especially some of the risks for chemical abortions. Ohio issued a report on the adverse effects of chemical abortives, noting that women are having increased difficulties as a result of mifepristone.

“Chemical abortions have a much higher complication rate than surgical abortions performed at the same point in pregnancy and result in more frequent visits to the emergency room,” the report read.

A major concern, the reported added, is the lack of information on abortion statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Among other issues, some states do not report their abortion numbers or problems, and some states only report on residents who received abortions.

For example, California, Maryland, and New Hampshire do not disclose their abortion information to the CDC, though together they account for 20% of all abortions in the U.S., the report stated. Ohio is also one of the only states to require abortion complications to be disclosed to the government. The FDA only tracks abortions that have resulted in a woman’s death.

“The lack of accurate chemical abortion data at the national level means that adverse events caused by chemically induced abortions may be much more common than researchers realize,” the reported stated.

Donovan said the CDC will receive real time information on a state’s births and deaths, but abortion numbers are about two years behind. To keep women better educated on the dangers, he said, the government should be more determined to use modern technology to track these statistics.

“These reports are not giving us a true picture of the harm that chemical abortions do, but that harm is higher than surgical abortions done at the same stage of pregnency. We should be on top of this, women should be warned of the heightened risk of using these drugs and it should be tracked by the medical monitory system. That’s not happening,” he said.

Although there is a concern for the future, Donovan expressed gratitude that there has still been a decline in abortions, noting that the pro-life movement and increase in pregnancy centers have likely impacted the decrease in abortions and changes in attitude toward unexpected pregnancies.

“Women are more inclined to keep an unexpected pregnancy than they were a couple of decades ago. Things like ultrasounds, more services, and, possibly, expanded health care coverage for women; those things have been beneficial,” he said.

“We don’t want to discount all of the decline, we are just concerned that it may be coming to an end and we should know why and be prepared to the health impacts of that.”

Pelosi says pro-life laws show ‘lack of respect’ for women

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 12:00

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has condemned the recent passage of pro-life laws in several states and accused pro-life lawmakers of being afraid of women.

“This is about lack of respect for women,” said Pelosi on Wednesday while speaking at a event for the Center for American Progress.

“This is about some fear that is in our community, our society about women having the ability to have the size and timing of their families working with their husbands, with their doctors, with their God whatever it is, but to just see it as a choice issue is one piece of it.”

Pelosi, who describes herself as a “practicing and respectful Catholic,” also accused the lawmakers of disrespecting women by failing to pass equal pay or family medical leave policies, and targeting birth control and in-vitro fertilization. She said the language used by pro-life lawmakers was untruthful.

“This is about family planning. It’s about birth control,” she said.

“They like to argue the case in some words that aren’t true but are alarming to people about abortions that must take place in the late term, the health of the mother whatever, but they describe it terribly, and it has a market. That’s why they do it. What woman should know is this is not about just that. It’s about family planning, and access to women’s health, it’s about in vitro fertilization to have babies.”

The Catholic Church is opposed to both birth control as well as in-vitro fertilization.

Pelosi also decried the discharge petition effort for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act currently on the House floor, saying it was a bunch of “guys, guys, guys, just white guys, guys signing for their discharge petition in a way that doesn’t represent the truth of what they are putting down there.”

The discharge petition has been signed by nearly every Republican representative, as well as three Democrat representatives. Eighteen more signatures are required before the bill can be heard.

The Born Alive bill does not impact abortion access, but would penalize doctors who do not perform appropriate care to infants who are born alive after an abortion procedure.

Pelosi’s comments follow a growing number of Democrats who have made prominent defences of abortion in recent days. Former Vice President Joe Biden, and Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg, who are both running for president, recently affirmed their support for the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Biden said that he would support federal legislation to enshrine access to abortion, and Buttigieg chastised men for not doing more to fight for abortion rights. Both Biden and Buttigieg were baptized Catholic, although Buttigieg now attends an Episcopalian church.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress, is facing a second successive primary challenege. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), canceled a fundraiser for Lipinski amid speculation she was pulling support in response to Lipinski’s support for life issues.

“I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” said Bustos in a statement, although she did not specifically cite this reason for why the fundraiser was canceled.

Last year, the DCCC declined to endorse Lipinski until it was pointed out that their bylaws required they support incumbent candidates.

Lipinski’s challenger, Marie Newman, is a strong supporter of abortion rights.

'The Eucharist is only in this Church'- How one 2019 convert found, and embraced, the Catholic Church

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Elise Amez-Droz’s journey to the Catholic Church began in a place well known for religious fervor, but not exactly known for Catholicism: Salt Lake City, Utah.

While at a conference in Salt Lake City, Amez-Droz, 24, met someone who was converting to Catholicism, which surprised her, she said. A native of Switzerland, Amez-Droz said the only Catholics she knew in her home country were not very devout.

“I was shocked that, clearly, he loved Christ, and I could see it,” she said. “But it just puzzled me that he was joining what I thought was a dead faith.”

Amez-Droz was raised an Evangelical Christian, and said that in her youth she had no thoughts of leaving her childhood faith.

But in gradute school, she struggled.

“I started really wondering about the purpose of life. It was a really rough time for me," said Amez-Droz. She started to feel as though her life was suddenly without purpose, she said.

In Salt Lake City, she decided to join her new friend for Mass - the first Catholic Mass she had ever attended.

“My first thought was 'well, it's not as heretical as I thought it was [going to be],’” she said.

She kept in touch with her friend, and asked him questions about converting and why he was becoming Catholic. After she moved to Washington, DC, she made many Catholic friends, and noticed “how good all these people were,” and that they practiced virtue, “without having an incentive to do it.”

She initially found their virtue “annoying,” and was “really struggling” with how nice her new friends seemed to be.

Still, she decided to learn more about the Catholic faith. In 2018, she entered RCIA. But before committing to an RCIA program, she checked out RCIA at several different parishes in the Washington, DC area.

“I was like, ‘this is a long process. I’m signing up for something that’s going to last seven, eight months,’” she said, describing her relatively unusual approach to RCIA.

“I wanted to make sure I could connect well with the leader of it and that I was going to be learning the true doctrine of the Church,” she added.

After a few weeks, she narrowed it down to two parishes, before deciding on St. Peter’s in Washington, DC. She said she was intrigued by the Dominican friars who taught RCIA at the parish.

Amez-Droz also appreciated the approach the parish took to RCIA, which was to include past participants who had already been received into the Church.

"I knew every Tuesday night that there would be a group of people who were going to be there every time," said Amez-Droz. "That really made a big difference for me, because it showed me that people were still learning and they wanted to do that journey with us."

Still, even though she had put in that much effort to find the right RCIA fit, Amez-Droz still was not entirely sold on entering the Church until just a few months before Easter Vigil.

She told CNA that she was convinced after a period of intense study and reading.

“It became more clear to me that I could never go back to my Protestant faith, just having read too much history,” she said. She also was particularly taken by Augustine’s “Confessions,” and she was intrigued by “The Benedict Option.”

“I thought [The Benedict Option] was really interesting. I think it really warmed me up to tradition, considering what community life looks like,” she said. Another huge influence on her conversion was Christopher West’s “Theology of the Body For Beginners.”

“That theology made so much sense,” she said. “I was like, this is one of the most compelling things I’ve ever heard, and it’s from a pope. So that’s what made me think.”

One of the biggest ideological hurdles for Amez-Droz was accepting the authority of the Church. Once she did, however, it was relatively smooth sailing from there.

"As a convert, it comes down to 'do I accept the authority of the Church?' If I do, then everything else is true,” she said, and one must embrace the Church’s teachings.

Amez-Droz chose St. Therese of Lisieux as her confirmation saint, after first learning about her at a retreat.

She told CNA that she appreciated that St. Therese “emphasizes being great by being small,” and that she admired her humility. She also found it interesting that St. Therese died at age 24, the same age Amez-Droz would be when she entered the Church.

Additionally, Amez-Droz spoke French as her first language, the same as St. Therese.

The Eucharist was another major factor for Amez-Droz, and was the reason she decided to stick with Catholicism even amid the “summer of scandal” that plagued the Church.

She also said that she appreciated that the Catholics she knew were open and willing to discuss the scandals, particularly those concerning former Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick.

"It helped me understand how Catholics were taking it,” said Amez-Droz. “It's true that every time I would hear 'but where else would we go? The Eucharist is only in this Church,’ and I thought that was true."

She explained that the scandals themselves did not impact her decision to join the Church, but did help her discern where to attend RCIA.

"I don't expect the Church to be perfect going forward, either. Ultimately, it didn't really affect my decision,” she said.

“I think the biggest impact it had for me was choosing an RCIA, because I wanted to make sure the priest wasn't involved with scandals himself."

Amez-Droz received the Eucharist for the first time on April 21, 2019 at the Easter Vigil.

She almost immediately broke down in tears.

She explained to CNA that she had spent the day with her best friend, and watched “The Passion of the Christ.” The movie, she said, made her feel as though she was “totally not worthy” of receiving communion.

“At the Easter Vigil, I was really happy and I was super-excited to get confirmed, but when it came to communion, it was like ‘this is what it's all about,’” she said.

“I was just overwhelmed that I could share in God’s very person in such a close way, even though I’m totally unworthy,” she said.
 
While she has only been a confirmed Catholic for a few weeks, Amez-Droz told CNA that she feels entirely supported by her parish, and that she is fond of the structure provided by Mass, and the requirement that Catholics attend Mass each Sunday.

“There’s so many ways that Christ exposes himself to you in life. It’s not like you finding him, it’s like ‘this is part of your schedule,”” she said.

“It’s making me a lot closer to God.”

 

This story is part of "The New Catholics Project," a CNA series profiling new converts to the Catholic faith. Look for additional profiles to come.

 

'Abortion saves lives'? Catholic doctor responds to NYT op-ed

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 18:51

New York City, N.Y., May 22, 2019 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- Following an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that all pregnancies are life-threatening, a Catholic doctor emphasized that pregnancy is a natural and healthy condition, and that complications which may arise can be treated without abortion.

“[Pregnancy] is not a serious health risk to the vast majority of women in this country. And unless these women have some underlying medical problems to begin with, most pregnancies are perfectly normal by any means,” said Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, a high-risk obstetrician and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami.

“There are pregnancies that are complicated by diabetes, hypertension, previous Caesarean sections, some of those things that he mentioned. But they are uncommon, and with good medical care there is no reason why a woman who is desirous of continuing her pregnancy cannot do so,” she told CNA.

In an op-ed published Tuesday in the New York Times, a Colorado-based late-term abortion doctor argued that because women are more likely to die in childbirth than from complications related to an abortion, “pregnancy is dangerous; abortion can be lifesaving.”

“Pregnancy is a life-threatening condition. Women die from being pregnant. We have known that for thousands of years,” abortion doctor Warren Hern wrote May 21.

Hern wrote the piece in response to recent developments related to abortion in Alabama, where the governor recently signed a near-total abortion ban into law. In Alabama last year, nearly six out of every 100,000 white women who gave birth died as a result of their pregnancy. Among black women, it was 27.6, he said.

Hern claimed from this data that a ban on abortion would disproportionately harm black women, citing data suggesting an abortion procedure is much less risky than giving birth. He offered a list of potential complications that can result from pregnancy, as well as risk factors that can make pregnancy, in his view, especially dangerous.

O’Sullivan argued, however, that the op-ed was “bombastic” and employed scare tactics. She reiterated that although any pregnancy carries some risk, it is not a “serious” threat to a woman’s health, especially in the United States. The United States has a higher maternal death rate than Europe, for example, but maternal deaths are still very rare, even in rural areas.

“She doesn't have a 50/50 chance of dying, unless she has some very serious cardiac problems. So I really think that this is scare tactics to prevent women from getting pregnant at all.”

O’Sullivan acknowledged that maternal death rates are higher in black women, especially those of lower socioeconomic status. She pointed out that these women also have a higher risk of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, poor nutrition, and previous Caesarean sections, all of which are risk factors for maternal death.

Better medical care to address these issues is what is needed, she said, especially for women who are at risk for conditions like hypertension, who should seek medical care earlier rather than later in their pregnancy.

For the United States overall, the maternal mortality ratio was 20.7 in 2018, meaning that about 20 mothers die for every 100,000 live births. The rate of death for mothers in Sierra Leone, with the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, is seventy times that.

In his piece, Hern argued, “Pregnancy itself poses a ‘serious health risk’ — including the risk of dying and losing all bodily functions.” He said that “A woman’s life and health are at risk from the moment that a pregnancy exists in her body, whether she wants to be pregnant or not.”

O’Sullivan expressed doubt that the statistics Hern quotes were entirely accurate.

“There are still issues with proper recording of maternal deaths,” she said. “We're getting better, but we're very poor at that in the United States. And also, what we call a 'maternal death' might be a different definition than other countries may use. So we have to be careful with that too.”

In addition, the statistics Hern used to demonstrate the “safety” of abortion procedures did not include adequate follow-ups on the women it studied, she added, meaning there may have been deaths or complications later on that the study missed.

O'Sullivan pointed out that throughout her medical career, she has aided women through many difficult pregnancies, and had never once had to perform an abortion.

“Abortion is not absolutely indicated under any circumstances,” she said.

There are occasions, she clarified, when a lifesaving procedure for a mother may indirectly result in a child’s death, but this is not the same as an abortion. An example, she said, could be the situation of a severe hemorrhage in a mother’s placenta, known as Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

“In that case, we have to deliver the placenta,” she explained.

“The secondary thing that's going to happen is that that baby is not going to survive...the intent is not to kill the baby, but the intention is to remove the placenta. So in that case, yes, if you do not deliver her, [the mother] could well die.”

Even a situation like DIC is extremely rare, she reiterated.

“The most important thing is that pregnancy is generally followed by a very good, healthy outcome for both mother and baby,” she concluded. “And with good medical care, even better.”

Users who left comments on the New York Times website argued that all successful abortion procedures, even if they may be “safer” for the mother, result in the death of the unborn child.

“Every child has a right to life. Every child,” O’Sullivan said.

These Franciscan University alumni expect 'great things' from new president

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 18:40

Steubenville, Ohio, May 22, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Franciscan University of Steubenville announced Wednesday the appointment of Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, as the university’s seventh president. Several prominent Catholic alumni of Franciscan said Pinvonka’s appointment is positive news for the university.

Pivonka is the first alumnus of Franciscan University to be named to its top post. The priest, who graduated from the school in 1989, will begin presidential duties immediately and be formally installed in a ceremony later this year. He has served previously as a vice president at the university, and in other administrative and teaching roles.

Curtis Martin is a 1993 master’s graduate of the university, and was given an honorary doctorate by the university at its commencement ceremony this month.

Martin is the founder of national campus ministry apostolate FOCUS. He told CNA that Pivonka’s appointment is “great news for Franciscan University!”

“In each of my encounters with Fr. Dave, I have been impressed by his commitment to Christ and the new evangelization. He is the perfect choice to keep Franciscan University as the leading force for equipping young leaders for a lifetime of dynamic, Christ-centered renewal.”

Lay evangelist Chris Stefanick, founder of Real Life Catholic, is also a graduate of the university.

Stefanick said he expects “great things” from Pivonka’s leadership.

“Franciscan University has remained the hub for dynamically orthodox Catholicism under the two presidents since Fr. Mike [Scanlan]. That said, get ready for a renewal like the university hasn’t seen since Fr. Mike took the helm in 1974.”

Stefanick referred to the renewal of Catholic identity the university experienced under the leadership of Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR. Scanlan led the university from 1974 to 2000. When he took the helm, the school was a failing regional college on the verge of financial collapse. By the time Scanlan retired, the university had gained a global reputation for “dynamically orthodox” Catholicism, and for graduates reaching leadership roles across the Catholic Church.

Dr. Timothy Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, a Colorado-based graduate school offering degrees in theology, is one such graduate.

Gray told CNA that “Fr Pivonka brings tremendous faith and passion to the leadership of Franciscan University and he will continue its amazing service to the Church in the new evangelization. I can think of no one better to continue Franciscan’s spiritual leadership than Fr David Pivonka. This is good news indeed!”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry earned a master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in 1996. Fortenberry told CNA that Pivonka is “faithful, sacrificial, and approachable.”

“America has been devastated by corruption and loss of once-great Catholic institutions— Franciscan must remain strong in a world screaming for meaning,” Fortenberry added.

National Catholic Register editor-in-chief Jeanette DeMelo is a 1998 graduate of the university, and received an honorary doctorate from the school in 2018.

DeMelo told CNA that “I have no doubt that Fr. Dave understands what makes Franciscan unique. He experienced it himself as a student and, in a way ever since then, has carried that experience to others through his pastoral ministry.”

“I remember Fr. Dave from my days as a student, when he had recently returned from his graduate studies and became a faculty member. Students loved him. He is energetic, vibrant and a convincing preacher much like Fr. Mike [Scanlan] was.”

Pivonka “will build well on the foundation built by his predecessors, especially the recent work of [outgoing president] Fr. Sean [Sheridan], who has led at a time of intense growth as well as pivotal moment in the wider culture,” DeMelo added.

Alumni of the university are not the only ones to praise Pivonka’s appointment.

The Diocese of Steubenville told CNA that Bishop Jeffrey Montforton sent a letter to Pivonka, congratulating the priest on his new role.

“I look forward to our collaboration along the lines of Franciscan University these coming years. I also look forward to our ministerial relationship and sharing our Lord Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters throughout the region,” Montforton wrote.

“I have every confidence you will be a great blessing to everyone at Franciscan, a university I hold in high regard.”

 

'Lust is a monster': Gay porn star quits industry, joins fight against porn

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 17:35

Salt Lake City, Utah, May 22, 2019 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- An actor who has been featured in dozens of homosexual pornographic films has announced his exit from the industry and his entrance into the anti-porn movement.

Markie More, a porn star of six years, disclosed on Monday that he is now working with Fight the New Drug - an organization that educates about the dangers of pornography addiction.

“I’ve decided that I’m officially done with the adult industry,” said More on Twitter.

“If you’re wondering, I’ve quit because I can no longer promote lustful and deviant behavior. Lust is a monster, and the more you feed it, the hungrier it becomes,” he added.

The 26-year-old’s former employer, Next Door Studios, still has some already-created pornographic content that may be released in the future, but More says he is not looking back as he exits the industry.

He said he is not out to spread hate but to show an accurate description of how pornography harms people.

“I’ve witnessed porn destroy numerous people, friendships, relationships, families, etc. It does far more harm than good for people,” he tweeted on May 18.

QueerTY reported that More’s resignation comes five months after he accused the vice president of production at Next Door Studios, Rocco Fallon, of making violent threats. Porn Star Paul Canon said he left for similar reasons.

According to Towle Road, More had previously decided to exit the industry in 2017, but later changed his mind, stating that the porn industry had helped him in self-discovery.

However, recently on Twitter, he said his actions in the porn industry were not always a true representation of himself.

“Unfortunately, telling people you fantasize real love isn’t something a studio wants you to say. So, instead I told lies, not even good ones either. I sincerely apologize for misleading you. I will only speak truths from this point forward,” he said.

More said he is now recovering from spending the last six years in the porn industry. In his Twitter bio, he directed those suffering from porn addiction to a link for Fight the New Drug.

Founded by Clay Olsen and Jason Carroll, Fight the New Drug has released numerous reports on the correlation between pornography addiction and various negative effects, including increases in violence to women, distorted sexual tastes, and damaged relationships.

The group describes itself as “a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.”

Biden backs federal abortion protections 'if necessary'

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., May 22, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Joe Biden would support federal laws protecting abortion rights, “should it become necessary.” The former vice president is the current frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination often references his Catholic faith in political speeches, publicly making the sign of the cross as a punch-line to jokes and displaying a rosary worn on his wrist.

Biden’s position was announced by campaign staff on May 21 in response to questions from the Associated Press. His staff further clarified that he would support immediate efforts to enshrine the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in Federal law.

The announcement marks the latest evolution in Biden’s views on abortion policy over a 50-year career in politics. Earlier on Tuesday he released a video criticizing recent state-level pro-life laws as “pernicious” and “wrong.”

Shortly after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision found a legal right to an abortion throughout a pregnancy, Biden said in a profile interview with the magazine “Washingtonian” that he did not agree with the court’s conclusion.

“But when it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother,” said Biden. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

By 2007, his last year in the Senate prior to becoming vice president, Biden had been given a zero rating by the National Right to Life Committee. The last time Biden received a score above zero from the National Right to Life Committee was in 2003-2004.

Biden received a 75% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America during his last year in the Senate, having received perfect 100% ratings from the organization in 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

Previously, Biden had been in favor of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions in the United States. In 1994, he reassured one of his constituents in a letter that he was guided by the principle that “those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” and that he had voted more than 50 times against the federal funding of abortions.

Twelve years ago, in his 2007 book “Promises to Keep,” he described his position on abortion as “middle-of-the-road,” and he reiterated his opposition to both federal funding of abortions and partial-birth abortions.

On May 4, he was asked by a volunteer with the American Civil Liberties Union if he supported “abolishing” Hyde, and he quickly answered “Yes.”

In the 2012 vice presidential debate against Rep. Paul Ryan, Biden described himself as agreeing with the Church’s view on abortion but that he “refuse(s) to impose that on others, unlike my friend here,” referring to Ryan.

“I do not believe we have a right to tell women that they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor,” Biden said.

Pivonka appointed Franciscan University president

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 11:58

Steubenville, Ohio, May 22, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- Franciscan University of Steubenville announced that Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, has been appointed the university’s seventh president.

“It’s both humbling and an honor to be chosen to lead Franciscan University of Steubenville,” Pivonka said in a May 22 statement.

“Over 30 years ago, I first arrived at Franciscan as an undergrad and received an outstanding education as well as life-changing spiritual formation as part of a dynamic, Catholic intellectual and faith community,” he added.

Pivonka will assume presidential duties immediately, and be formally installed as president at a date not yet determined.

A 1989 graduate of the university, the priest has a long affiliation with the school. He served in 1998 and 1999 as assistant to Fr. Michael Scanlan, and is closely associated with Scanlan’s tenure at the university.  

Scanlan is the long-time university president who is credited with imbuing a failing regional college with a sense of “dynamic orthodoxy,” introducing the charismatic renewal to its campus, stabilizing the college financially, and attracting faculty and students from across the country.

Pivonka played a key role in one of Scanlan’s major initiatives: the establishment of the “household” system at the university. Households, small single-gender, dorm-based faith communities, were among the aspects of university life Scanlan introduced in order to support the faith formation of students. Pivonka served as director of household support from 1996 to 1998.

The priest has also served as director of the university’s well-known youth conferences, a professor of theology, director of the school’s Austria program, and as vice president for mission and planning from 2003 to 2005.

In recent years, the priest has led Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic initiative of his Francscan province, focused on conversion, spiritual formation, and the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics. In that role, he produced “The Wild Goose” video series on the Holy Spirit, as well as other documentaries and pastoral videos.

Pivonka “brings a unique array of perspective, experience, and qualifications to this role. His work as a nationally known preacher and evangelist combined with prior senior-level administrative experience at Franciscan will serve the University well,” the university’s board chairman, Fr. Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, said in a March 22 statement.

In addition to an undergraduate degree from Franciscan University, Pivonka has an MA in theology from Washington Theological Union, a doctorate in education from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

The priest’s appointment follows the tenure of Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, who announced last month that he would resign after nearly six years in the role.

David DeWolf, vice chair of the university’s board of trustees, said that after Sheridan’s resignation, the university board searched for “ a president who was led by the Holy Spirit, a champion for dynamic orthodoxy, and an exceptionally strong executive who understands and values the unique culture and demands of academia and the importance of strong collaboration between the president and the faculty.”

“After significant prayer and a robust interview process, it quickly became clear that Father Dave Pivonka possesses all of these qualities,” DeWolf said.

Pivonka takes the reins after the university has faced questions about the handling of historical sexual harassment cases, and its manner of addressing sexual assault claims made by students. Scanlan, in particular, has been criticized for his apparent response to allegations of sexual misconduct made against a fellow Franciscan priest.

In his last year as president, Sheridan also faced criticism from some faculty members and internet-based groups and blogs, who questioned his commitment to ensuring a faithfully Catholic approach to university education, especially following a January incident in which a professor was found to have used a text with inflammatory passages – termed "blasphemous" and "obscene" by critics – for an advanced reading course.

Sheridan apologized to those disturbed by the text’s use, and highlighted the importance of forming students “to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today.”

Pivonka said May 22 that he is eager to being his new appointment.

“A lot has changed in our culture in the last 30 years, but Franciscan University continues its mission to provide a superior education in a vibrant faith community where students and parents alike can be confident in their choice of Franciscan University.”

States sue over HHS' stronger conscience protections for doctors, nurses

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 11:55

Washington D.C., May 22, 2019 / 09:55 am (CNA).- An array of states and cities filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a new Department of Health and Human Services rule allowing medical professionals to refuse to take part in procedures because of religious or conscientious objections.

The suit filed May 21 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York claims the conscience provision illegally favors healthcare workers over patients.

The HHS rule, announced May 2 and published May 21 in the Federal Register, strengthens a series of laws intended to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses. It is due to take effect two months from its publication in the Federal Register.

Under the rule, medical providers may opt out of direct participation, as well as having to refer patients to other providers who will perform procedures to which they object, such as abortion and sterilization.

Roger Severino, director of the HHS' new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, has said the rule “ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”

“Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law,” he stated. “Finally, laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law.”

Abortion activists have said that the new rule will severely curtail access to such procedures in rural and other communities.

New York is leading the suit against the new rule; its co-plaintiffs are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, Chicago, New York City, and Cook County, Ill.

The plaintiffs say the rule would force some healthcare facilities to hire more staff in case there are too many conscientious objectors to provide requested procedures.

California filed a separate lawsuit against the rule, saying it “impedes access to basic care” and “encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients.”

San Francisco also filed a suit against the rule earlier this month.

The text of the rule acknowledges that several submissions were made during consultation regarding the possible limitation on access to abortion and sterilization in some communities, saying these submissions proved the inadequacy of previous conscience protections.

“The Department observed that it was contradictory to argue, as many commenters did, both that the rule would decrease access to care and that the then‐current conscience protections for providers were sufficient,” the rule reads.

“If the Department’s new rule would decrease access to care because of an increase in providers’ exercise of conscientious objections, it would seem that the statutory protections that existed before the regulation did not result in providers fully exercising their consciences as protected by law.”

'If you want to be happy for the rest of your life' - Study finds women of faith most satisfied in marriage

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 02:00

Denver, Colo., May 22, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A new study examining the correlation between religion and marital happiness found that women who are part of a highly religious, traditional couple are most likely to report being happy in marriage, as well as sexually satisfied in their relationship.

In addition, a woman in a highly religious couple was most likely to report that she and her spouse share responsibility for important household decisions, rather than one spouse making all the family’s decisions.  

The study of families in 11 countries, conducted by the Institute for Family Studies, found that “highly religious couples in heterosexual relationships” enjoy happier marriages and more sexual satisfaction than less religious, mixed, or secular couples.

At the same time, however, religious couples are not any less likely to experience domestic violence than are less religious or secular couples, the study found.

“In many respects, this report indicates that faith is a force for good in contemporary family life in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania,” the authors, made up of a mix of sociologists, professors and researchers, wrote. Many of the religious respondents to the survey cited family prayer as an important factor in a flourishing family.

“Men and women who share an active religious faith, for instance, enjoy higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction compared to their peers in secular or less/mixed religious relationships. They also have more children and are more likely to marry. At the same time, we do not find that faith protects women from domestic violence in married and cohabiting relationships.”

The 11 countries studied were Argentina, Australia, Chile, Canada, Colombia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and the study drew on data from the World Values Survey (WVS) and the Global Family and Gender Survey (GFGS). Authors included those affiliated with Brigham Young University and Pew Research Center.

The authors focused on four outcomes regarding marriage: relationship quality, fertility, domestic violence, and infidelity. They note that many societies are experiencing a general turning away from “traditional” family life as fewer people marry and have children, and more people cohabitate or wait to marry later than in the past.

“Faith may buffer against this post-familial turn, both by attaching particular meaning and importance to family life and by offering norms and networks that foster family solidarity,” the authors wrote in the introduction.  

“But these questions are also important given that religion may be a force for ill—legitimating gender inequality or violence in the family—a concern that has taken on particular salience in light of recent headlines about religion, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse.”

Relationship satisfaction

The researchers defined “relationship quality” in terms of several factors, including a couple’s reported overall satisfaction, how important they view the relationship in their life, their satisfaction with their sex lives, and whether or not important household decisions are decided jointly or by just one of the partners.

In the sample used, 19% of couples reported never attending religious services, 60% attended only minimally, and 21% attended regularly.

Both women and men in “highly religious” couples— i.e. regular attendees— reported significantly greater satisfaction in their relationship than did both the other groups, with liberal, secular couples running a close second.

The difference was especially notable for women: women in “highly religious” relationships were  about 50% more likely to report that they are “strongly satisfied” with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.

“For women, then, there is J-Curve in relationship quality, with secular progressive women doing comparatively well, women in the middle doing less well,and highly religious women reporting the highest quality relationships,” the authors wrote.

“Among men, highly religious traditional men were found to be significantly higher in relationship quality than men in shared secular progressive and less religious progressive relationships.”

In addition, women in highly religious couples were most likely to report that she and her spouse practice joint decision-making in their relationship.

The researchers assigned a “relationship quality” score in order to compare different religious affiliations in their sample, with a higher score representing greater overall satisfaction. Catholic couples sampled reported an overall score of 15.83, which is equal to the score reported by Muslims and slightly higher than the score for nonreligious couples.

Protestants and Latter-Day Saints lead the table with scores of 16.36 and 17.24, respectively.

“In listening to the happiest secular progressive wives and their religiously conservative counterparts, we noticed something they share in common: devoted family men,” the authors wrote in a New York Times op-ed accompanying the release of the study.

“Both feminism and faith give family men a clear code: They are supposed to play a big role in their kids’ lives. Devoted dads are de rigueur in these two communities. And it shows: Both culturally progressive and religiously conservative fathers report high levels of paternal engagement.”

Relationship to domestic violence

The study found that “women in highly religious couples are neither more nor less likely to be victims of IPV [Intimate Partner Violence], and men in highly religious couples are neither more nor less likely to be perpetrators of IPV.”

Domestic violence— including hysical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behaviors— is neither more nor less prevalent among religious couples than among nonreligious ones, they concluded. Infidelity was highest among men in mixed or less religious couples than any other, however.

“Although women in less/mixed religious couples have a 26% probability of ever having been the victim of violence in their relationship, compared to a 21% probability for women in highly religious couples, and a 23% probability for women in shared secular couples, none of these differences are statistically significant,” the authors note.

Religion’s and fertility

In terms of fertility, the study found that people aged 18-49, who “attend religious services regularly have 0.27 more children than those who never, or practically never, attend,” and thus  “those with egalitarian gender role attitudes are less likely to be married and have slightly fewer children.”

The authors also examine a theory, which they say is common among academics in their field, that a shift in many societies toward greater gender equality, which often takes the form of married women continuing to seek work outside the home, may actually help to raise the fertility rate back to replacement levels in countries where it is especially low.

“In modern societies where women typically have high demands in the public (paid work) sphere of their lives, support from partners is necessary to make bearing two children commonplace,” the authors explained.

“Today, this support often comes in the form of a father involved at home with his family. If women commonly carry a “second shift” of work after they get home from paid work, they are more likely to retreat from childbearing than if they have a supportive partner on the home front...it is men’s sharing of the second shift—their involvement at home—that is expected to support replacement fertility.”

In contrast to this theory, however, the authors’ research demonstrated that those who hold egalitarian gender role attitudes have far fewer children than people of faith.

“Individuals who support workplace equality, those who embraced a progressive gender role ideology, actually had significantly fewer children than those who supported favoring men when jobs were scarce,” they noted.

Even in areas such as Europe where fertility rates are low, across the board people of faith have more children than their secular counterparts, they found.

“Across low-fertility countries in the Americas, Europe, East Asia, and Oceania, highly religious people are not decreasing in number, and neither are their more traditional gender role attitudes impeding their fertility,” the authors concluded in that chapter.

“We have shown that people of faith contribute toward sustainable fertility in modern low-fertility societies.”

 

Florida Catholic Conference asks governor to halt execution of serial killer

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 19:38

Tallahassee, Fla., May 21, 2019 / 05:38 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Florida are calling on the state’s governor to spare the life of Bobby Joe Long, a convicted serial killer who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday.

“Although [Long] caused much harm, society has been safe from his aggressive acts in the decades of his incarceration. Without taking his life, society can be protected while he endures the alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, in a May 20 letter to Governor Ron DeSantis.

Long has been on death row since 1985 and is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 23.

He pleaded guilty to killing eight women in and near Tampa Bay during an eight-month span in 1984. He also claimed to have raped dozens of women.

Long’s lawyer has argued that the 65 year old is mentally ill and suffers from epilepsy, which could lead to him having a seizure when the lethal injection drugs are administered. The lawyer said that Long is constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty.

The Florida Supreme Court recently denied Long’s appeal on procedural grounds.

On behalf of the state’s bishops, Sheedy asked the governor to consider commuting the sentence to life without parole.

“Floridians around the state are gathering in prayer for all who have been harmed by Mr. Long’s actions, for him, and for an end to the use of the death penalty. We also pray for you as you consider this request,” he said.

Sheedy acknowledged the heinous nature of Long’s crimes but said that capital punishment will not further public safety.

Since Long was sentenced, Sheedy said, modern medicine has gained a greater understanding of brain trauma and its effects on behavior. He highlighted the history of Long’s brain injuries.

“His attorneys have filed briefs that call attention to the multiple traumas he experienced throughout his life, including the motorcycle accident he suffered in 1974. That incident profoundly affected him and his behaviors. It contributed to his receiving a disability rating from the military, from which he was honorably discharged,” said Sheedy.

Even without these mitigating circumstances, the Florida Catholic Conference would still oppose the death penalty for Long, he said, pointing to a change in the Catehcism of the Catholic Church last year to hold the death penalty as inadmissible.

“The death penalty is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person and denies the possibility of redemption,” Sheedy said.

“Please promote a consistent pro-life ethic in our state. The cycle of violence – to which Mr. Long’s acts have contributed – must end. His execution would only perpetuate it.”

Democratic governor of Louisiana says he will sign heartbeat bill

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 19:05

Baton Rouge, La., May 21, 2019 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- The governor of Louisiana - a Catholic Democrat - says he will sign a bill banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, if the legislation arrives on his desk.

“My inclination is to sign it,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards, according to the Monroe News Star.

“It's consistent with my unblemished pro-life record in my years as a legislator and governor,” he said earlier this month.

Last year, Edwards signed a bill to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The governor has cited his Catholic faith as influencing his pro-life beliefs.

The bill still needs approval by the House. If enacted into law, it would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy. Similar laws have been passed in several other states this year, including Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio.

While the national Democratic platform is clear in its support for legal abortion, Edwards said on his monthly radio show that his views align with many members of his party in Louisiana.

“I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that's not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Edwards ran for governor on a pro-life platform. In a TV advertisement in 2015, his wife Donna had spoke about her first pregnancy. She said they were pressured to have an abortion by the doctor after they found out their daughter had spina bifida. They couple refused, and their daughter is now married and employed as a school counselor.

“I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first child when the doctor discovered she had Spina Bifida and encouraged me to have an abortion. I was devastated, but John Bel never flinched. He just said ‘No, no we are going to love this baby no matter what’,” said Donna in the video.

Edwards is up for re-election this year. According to the AP, his Republican opponents U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone have tried to associate him with the abortion advocacy of the national Democratic party.

But the governor rejects that characterization.

“This is not an easy issue to pigeonhole people - or especially me - on, at least, because I don't think the labels really work,” Edwards said.

Pennsylvania Catholic church vandalized with pro-choice graffiti

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 17:54

Philadelphia, Pa., May 21, 2019 / 03:54 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in Pennsylvania was vandalized with pro-choice graffiti over the weekend as the abortion debate escalates around the country, following the passage of a major abortion law in Alabama.

Parishioners at Notre Dame de Lourdes parish in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania were greeted at Sunday Mass by messages that had been spray-painted on the church’s doors and outside walls, according to CBS Philly.

A message painted in black on the front doors read: “You do not have the right to decide how others live.” Another message on the side of the church read: “#ProChoice.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A church in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DelawareCounty?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DelawareCounty</a> was vandalized with abortion rights graffiti. <a href="https://twitter.com/JoeHoldenCBS3?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@joeholdencbs3</a> has the story: <a href="https://t.co/MTdrO6GehW">https://t.co/MTdrO6GehW</a></p>&mdash; CBS Philly (@CBSPhilly) <a href="https://twitter.com/CBSPhilly/status/1130311097733582848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 20, 2019</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“It was very shocking to come up to the church and see that,” Jessica Prince told CBS Philly. “I’d have to say the first half of Mass was me crying the whole time because I was so upset somebody would do that to the church.”

“If people wanted to come and stand outside our church and protest our beliefs, go for it,” Prince added, “but vandalizing a property, I think, is taking it way too far.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia told CBS Philly in a statement that security footage of the incident had been found and handed over to police, who were investigating the incident.

“...the parish will cooperate with law enforcement as it investigates the incident. This afternoon, parishioners successfully removed the graffiti,” the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said.

In February of this year, an incident in which a man threw a statue of Mary into the trash and damaged the statue at a Brooklyn parish was investigated as a hate crime by authorities.

The graffiti incident comes after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that will outlaw nearly all abortions in the state. The law is intended to directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared it unconstitutional for states to prohibit abortions.

The Human Life Protection Act (HB314) will make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense for doctors, though women would not face criminal charges for undergoing an abortion.

It also comes just weeks after Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims posted videos to Twitter in which he harassed and doxed multiple people, including three minors, who were praying quietly outside of a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia.

Sims later apologized for violating Planned Parenthood’s policy of not engaging protestors, although he did not apologize to the woman he had confronted.

 

Burns: 'Sensational' raid on Dallas chancery was 'traumatic' and unnecessary

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 17:05

Dallas, Texas, May 21, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Dallas says that a May 15 police raid on diocesan offices was sensationalism, traumatic, and a waste of resources.

“This event was most traumatic for those who were present in the building at the time, as some of the approximate 40 law enforcement agents approached employees in ski masks and SWAT gear,” Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said in a statement.

Burns said that while a subpoena would have sufficed for obtaining documents from the diocese, “the Dallas Police Department chose the sensational action of conducting this unnecessary raid.”

“We find this week’s events to be most troubling and consuming of significant resources that could have been put to much better use.”

Investigators from the Dallas child exploitation unit arrived at the chancery the morning of May 15 to search for information and evidence in relation to five current or former clergy of the diocese.

According to a search warrant affidavit, the investigation focused on Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Richard Thomas Brown, Fr. Alejandro Buitrago, Fr. William Joseph Hughes, Jr., and Fr. Jeremy Myers.

Searches were also carried out at a warehouse storage facility and a nearby parish.

All five men were included in a list of names of clergy “credibly” accused of sexual abuse released by Texas’ dioceses in January. The Diocese of Dallas released the name of 31 accused clerics, including 24 incardinated in the diocese and seven priests either from other dioceses or religious orders who had worked in Dallas.

Burns said that the raid was executed because police falsely believed the diocese was hiding from police information that seemed to be missing from its files.

“But in reality, the Diocese cannot turn over what it does not have. All of the files for the names in the affidavit have been turned over, and the Diocese was working directly with Police on this, spending hours combing through thousands of files, some of which were decades old,” he wrote.

While some 51 pages were given to police well after initial documents were given to police, Burns said this was because they were discovered during an ongoing review of 221,855 pages of relevant documents in possession of the diocese.

“To imply that these documents were intentionally withheld in any capacity is to truly misrepresent the nature of our correspondence with the Dallas Police Department,” Burns added.

The raid, burned said, represented a breakdown in collaboration between police and the diocese.

“Despite months of working with members of the Dallas Police Department and civil officials with respect to the release of our list of credible allegations on January 31, 2019, some members of the Police Department still felt it necessary to write the affidavit and institute this raid,” the bishop lamented.

“In speaking to civil authorities, I say that the Catholic Church needs you; we do not want to feel as if we are your enemies, but that is precisely what we have been made to feel today. I will continue to work diligently in removing even the hint of sexual impropriety among the clerics in this Diocese, and I pray that the Dallas Police Department will help me to do this.”

Archbishop Gregory pledges openness at ‘defining moment’ in Washington archdiocese

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 14:51

Washington D.C., May 21, 2019 / 12:51 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Wilton Gregory expressed “deep gratitude and immeasurable joy” as he took charge of the nation’s capital see Tuesday.

“I want to be a welcoming shepherd who laughs with you whenever we can, who cries with you whenever we must, and who honestly confesses his faults and failings before you when I commit them, not when they are revealed,” Gregory said to applause during his May 21 installation Mass as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. in Washington’s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“We stand at a defining moment for this local faith community,” Gregory said.

“Our recent sorrow and shame do not define us; rather, they serve to chasten and strengthen us to face tomorrow with spirits undeterred.”

Calling his installation as the seventh Archbishop of Washington an “indescribably humbling moment,” Gregory pledged himself to a new era of openness in Washington.

The archbishop’s installation Mass was presided over by apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christoph Pierre and attended by eight cardinals, more than 50 bishops, some 300 priests, and nearly 100 deacons.

U.S. bishops’ conference president Daniel DiNardo, reportedly still recovering from a March stroke, was not in attendance.

The celebration was held at the National Shrine instead of Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral in order to accommodate the crowds, numbering about 3,000.

Members of the faithful from around the archdiocese gathered outside the basilica waving flags and banners of welcome before the Mass began.

A Gospel choir led the music during the Mass.

Acknowledging the scandals that have rocked the Church, both in Washington and around the world, Gregory said, “We have been tossed about by an unusually turbulent moment in our own faith journeys recently and for far too long.”

“We clerics and hierarchs have irrefutably been the source of the current tempest.”

Recalling the image of the apostles’ fear on stormy seas, Gregory told the assembly that true peace is found by remembering that Christ was in the apostles’ boat.

“He invites us to place our trust in Him - not in trite and easy programs - but in Him and Him alone.”

Despite the pressure of recent scandals, Gregory said he had already received an “affectionate and embarrassingly gracious welcome.”

“The example I wish to set forth for you is that of a man filled with the faith, hope and joy of knowing Jesus Christ is in the boat.”

Gregory thanked Pope Francis for the “righteous challenge - more an opportunity” to carry the Gospel message to the poor, the marginalized, and the neglected.

“Beginning today, that is my take here in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Lourdes Rivera, a local mother of 14, told CNA after the Mass that she was “overjoyed” with Gregory’s homily.

“He spoke like a father - a father. I am so happy. He’s our new father here in Washington and our family now feels even bigger.”

DC resident Everett Jacobs added his hope that Gregory's arrival will bring fresh impetus to the new evangelization in the archdiocese.

“Bishop Gregory's pastoral spirit represents a reaffirmation of God's love for the Archiocese of Washington. I look forward to his fresh proclamation of the gospel,” Jacobs said.

Gregory’s appointment was first reported on May 28, and his installation has been eagerly anticipated. Technically, Washington has been without an archbishop since Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s resignation was accepted by the pope in October last year, though Wuerl himself has served as interim leader of the archdiocese since that time.

Gregory paid tribute to his predecessor during his homily, calling Wuerl a “cherished friend” and “above all, a true Christian gentleman.”

The presence of retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles at the Mass generated some controversy among Catholics in attendance. Mahony has been accused of impeding police investigations of clerical sexual abuse in the 1980s, and was in 2013 relieved of public and administrative duties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Archbishop of Washington is generally viewed as one of the most influential Churchmen in the United States; the five most recent archbishops were all created cardinals - including the now-laicized Theodore McCarrick. While Gregory, 71, is widely expected to be named a cardinal in the future, it is usual for the pope to wait until the previous cardinal archbishop from the same diocese turns 80 years old and becomes ineligible to vote in a conclave. Wuerl will turn 79 in November.

As a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004, Gregory was responsible for helping to lead the American hierarchy through the fallout of the Church’s 2002 sexual abuse scandals. He oversaw the formation and implementation of the “Dallas Charter” and USCCB’s “Essential Norms” in 2002.

Gregory’s appointment is also historic because he is the first African-American to be appointed archbishop in Washington, D.C.; the city itself is more than 50% African-American. Gregory is also the first convert to Catholicism to be appointed Archbishop of Washington.

With record number of seminarians, Phoenix diocese pledges support

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 02:00

Phoenix, Ariz., May 21, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- With a record-high number of seminarians, the Diocese of Phoenix has dedicated more funds to support the formation of the Arizona diocese’s future priests.

There are 40 men studying to become priests in the Diocese of Phoenix, according to the Catholic Sun. That is the highest number of seminarians in diocesan history, and double the number of seminarians the diocese had eight years ago.

The formation costs of seminarians are often met through private donations. However, the diocese has allocated an additional $4 million from an ongoing fundraising campaign to support the education and living expenses of future priests.

The Catholic Sun reported that it costs $40,000 to support each seminarian per year. This covers expenses including, tuition, board, and health insurance. Each seminarian undergoes at least five years of official formation.

The money will be taken from the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante,” a campaign that began in 2017, and aims to raise $100 million in support of the area’s growing Catholic community. The money will help fund ministries, charities, schools, and churches.

Cande de Leon, director of the Office of Mission Advancement, told the Catholic Sun that a recent diocesan poll found that priestly development is a high priority for parishioners and Church leaders. The vocations aspect of the campaign, he said, will allow the laity to be directly involved with priestly formation by their donations.

“It is important to the Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix,” de Leon said. “It gives every Catholic an opportunity to help play a part in the formation of our priests by making a sacrificial gift. The seminarians are making great sacrifices for us — the ‘Together’ campaign is an opportunity to make a sacrifice to our seminarians before they are priests.”

Anthony Dang, a Phoenix seminarians, told the Catholic Sun that support from his family and the diocese has given him the opportunity to engage in his studies without stress about how to pay for them.

“I am appreciative of what the diocese has done to cover the high cost of seminary formation,” Dang said.

“I am very grateful for that …. I look forward to being with the people and meeting them where they are at and supporting them in their lives, in whatever situation they happen to be in - to be an instrument of God to bring the light of Christ to others.”

Trump insists abortion laws must allow exceptions for rape, incest

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 17:13

Washington D.C., May 20, 2019 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump over the weekend admonished pro-life advocates seeking to make abortion illegal in all cases. He called for pro-life Americans to be united around legislation that includes exemptions for cases of rape, incest, and when doctors deem the mother’s life to be at risk.

“I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan,” the president said on Twitter May 18.

“We must stick together and Win for Life in 2020. If we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one, all of our hard fought gains for Life can, and will, rapidly disappear!”

Trump’s tweets come after Alabama recently passed a law to make abortion a felony. The law does not have exceptions for rape or incest. Similar legislation passed in Missouri last week, and the governor is expected to sign it into law soon.

Pro-life leaders responded to the president on Twitter. Former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson, who now runs a ministry helping abortion workers leave the industry, argued that the president’s comments had “divided the [pro-life] movement.”

She posted a picture of her adopted son on Twitter, saying, “My son was conceived in rape. I would love for you to meet him, @realDonaldTrump, and tell me how his life isn’t as valuable as my children conceived in love. He deserved to live and I’m so thankful that he does.”

Lila Rose, president of the investigative group Live Action, also responded to Trump’s tweet, saying, “Thank you for the great work your administration has done on behalf of life. If we are pro-life, we must be 100% pro-life. A child of rape or incest is not a 2nd-class citizen. No woman or girl is served by abortion or immune to its trauma, including survivors of rape and incest.”

The tweets reveal a divide within the pro-life movement. While overturning Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide – is one of the key goals of the movement, there are differing views on how best to achieve that goal.

Some pro-life advocates have emphasized the need to ban abortion in all cases. Others insist that a complete abortion ban without exceptions is much more likely to be struck down by the courts, while a more moderate law is more likely to be upheld, and would eliminate the vast majority of abortions in the United States.

Dozens of pro-life bills have been introduced in states across the country this year. Pro-life advocates are hopeful that one of them may make its way up the Supreme Court, where the current justices are considered more favorable to the pro-life cause than in previous decades.

A few cases have reached federal appeals courts - including a Texas ban on dismemberment abortions and a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

A Marist poll released in February recorded a sharp drop in the proportion of Democrats identifying as pro-choice, from 75% to 61% since the beginning of the year. The same poll found a 19-point jump in pro-life identification among people under 45 years old. Forty-seven percent of people under the age of 45 now say they are pro-life, compared to 48% who say they are pro-choice.

An April poll by Rasmussen showed that when voters are told that a fetal heartbeat can be detected after six weeks of pregnancy, 56% support banning abortion at that point.

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