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California confession bill won't stop abuse, but threatens religious liberty, critics say

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 12:47

Sacramento, Calif., May 15, 2019 / 10:47 am (CNA).- The appropriations committee of California’s state senate will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of confession if they became aware of allegations of child abuse or neglect while celebrating the sacrament of penance. Critics say the bill would deny Constitutional religious liberty protections, and that there is no evidence it would actually prevent child abuse.

The bill, California SB 360, requires clergy members to report to law enforcement knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or neglect, “including when the clergy member acquires the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication.”

Clergy in California are already required to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse in most circumstances, though penitential conversations like sacramental confession are exempted, as are other kinds of privileged conversations, among them those covered by attorney-client privilege.

The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.” Hill’s office declined to respond to requests from CNA for clarity or specific instances of the abuse cited.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a May 15 column that Hill’s claim is “simply not true. Hearings on the bill have not presented a single case — in California or anywhere else ­— where this kind of crime could have been prevented if a priest had disclosed information he had heard in confession.”

“SB 360 claims to solve a crisis that does not exist,” Gomez said.

While priests are forbidden from disclosing the contents of sacramental confessions under any circumstances, and face excommunication for doing so, few believe Hill’s bill would prevent child abuse.

California Catholic Conference executive director Andy Rivas told Angelus News May 15 that “there is no evidence that forcing priests to disclose what is learned in the confessional would prevent a single case of child abuse.”

If penitents report being abused, several priests told CNA, they are generally asked to discuss the matter with the priest-confessor immediately after confession has ended. When such conversations take place after confession, clergy members in California are already required by law to report them.

The bill is not the first time Hill has taken issue with internal Church practices. In 2015, he signed a letter urging San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to end an archdiocesan requirement that Catholic school teachers live in accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

The letter said the requirement had “a divisive tone, which stands in stark contrast to the values that define the Bay Area and its history.”

The right to confidential religious communications has been recognized in Western legal traditions for centuries. The sacrament of confession is understood within Catholic teaching to be a revelation to God of sins, and confession is kept absolutely confidential in order to ensure that no penitent is discouraged from making use of the sacrament.

California’s bill would be a striking reversal of long-standing legal precedent preceding even the foundation of the United States. The state would be the first to explicitly revoke religious confidentiality while keeping protection for other kinds of confidential conversations in place.

Gomez’ May 15 column noted directly that the proposed measure “only targets Catholic priests.”

While the bill’s sponsor insists that’s not true, the bill was introduced shortly after the release a Pennsylvania grand jury reporting detailing decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations, and after the scandal that began June 20, 218, when credible allegations of abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick were made public.

Gomez also said this week that “from a public policy standpoint, if the goal is to prevent child sexual abuse, it does not make sense to single out Catholic priests and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which is the formal name for confession.”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California’s largest, has faced two allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the last ten years. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there are seven allegations of clerical sexual abuse made each year, across the United States.

Although all educators in California, as in most states, are mandated reporters, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 10% of public school students in the U.S. will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee before graduating from high school. 6,220,413 students were enrolled in California public schools in 2017-2018, according to the state’s department of education. If California does not significantly deviate from national statistics, 622,041 of those students are likely to experience sexual misconduct by public school employees before graduation.

Hill, himself a licensed teacher, has not weighed in publicly on another California bill that would remove the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims against employees of public schools and other California institutions.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, along with five other California dioceses, established May 14 an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.

Gomez, for his part, has called Catholics to oppose the confession bill, which he called “a mortal threat to the religious freedom of every Catholic.”

“The privacy of that intimate conversation — our ability to speak with total honesty from our lips to God’s ear — is absolutely vital to our relationship with God,” Gomez wrote.

At the same time, the archbishop encouraged Catholics to pray for the healing of abuse victims and their families.

“Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us bring healing to every victim-survivor of abuse and help us build a society where every child is loved, protected, and safe.”

 

 

Police search Dallas diocesan chancery

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 12:30

Dallas, Texas, May 15, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Police are conducting a search of Church premises in the Diocese of Dallas. Officers executed a warrant on the chancery offices at 7:30 am local time.

Investigators from the Dallas child exploitation unit arrived at the chancery Wednesday morning 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 is focused on Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Richard Thomas Brown, Fr. Alejandro Buitrago, Fr. William Joseph Hughes, Jr., and Fr. Jeremy Myers.

Local media have also reported that searches are being carried out at a warehouse storage facility and the parish of St. Cecilia in Oak Cliff.

All five men were included in a list of names of clergy “credibly” accused of sexual abuse released by the dioceses of Texas 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.

Local media have reported that police increased their investigations into clerical sexual abuse in the diocese following the January release of names.

Fr. Paredes is the former pastor of St. Cecilia’s. After serving in the parish for 27 years, he was suspended from ministry in June 2017, under suspicion of having stolen between $60,000 - $80,000 from the parish. In February of 2018, Paredes was accused of sexually abusing three teenage boys over the course of his time at the parish.

Paredes fled the diocese and his whereabouts are currently unknown, though Burns has previously said the diocese believes he returned to the Philippines, from where he originally came.

Both Meyers and Buitrago were removed from ministry in 2018.

On Wednesday morning, a diocesan spokesperson told local media that the diocese was “surprised” by the early morning search, but that chancery staff were "cooperating" with investigators. 

"We've been talking with and working with police throughout the process," said Annette Gonzales Taylor. "We're obviously surprised by it this morning."

The Diocese of Dallas is home to more than 1.2 million Catholics. Bishop Burns has served in the diocese since his appointment in December 2016.

Prior to his arrival, Dallas was led by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who now serves as the head of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in the Vatican.

This story is developing

It's time to fight for holiness, Bishop Barron tells 2019 Catholic grads

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 05:22

Santa Paula, Calif., May 15, 2019 / 03:22 am (CNA).- Contemporary America is “mission territory,” and young Catholics must step up to respond to the twin crises of Church corruption and increasing religious disaffiliation, Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles said in a recent speech.

Speaking to young graduates, Barron cited a “time to fight” by becoming saints and sanctifying the world.

“Don’t wait for other reformers to arise; this is your moment to meet this crucial moral challenge. And no pusillanimous people need apply,” he said at the May 11 commencement for Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., where the college’s graduating class numbered 83.

Barron, citing Pope Francis, said that corruption is not far behind when the Church fails to go outward and instead turns in on itself.

For Barron, the Thomas Aquinas College campus reminded him of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary because of its “distinctive blend of natural and man-made beauty.” He compared it to “something of a Catholic heaven on earth.” It is a campus he said offers liturgy, prayer, fellowship, and “deep communion with the saints and geniuses of the Catholic tradition.”

“Just as the students at Mundelein were not meant to stay on the grounds of the seminary, so you are not meant to stay at this lovely place,” he added. “Rather, you are meant to go forth, carrying what you have received and cultivated here, in order to sanctify our suffering world.”

In his remarks, Barron named two challenges that call forth “heroic moral excellence,” namely corruption in the Church and “the massive attrition of our own Catholic people, especially the young.”

“Wicked priests and clueless religious superiors are, sadly, nothing particularly new in the life of God’s people,” he said.

“Undermining the work of the Church in practically every way, the clerical sex abuse catastrophe has been the devil’s masterpiece,” the bishop continued, acknowledging that many Catholics face the temptation to leave the Church.

“But it is my conviction that this is not the time to leave; this is the time to fight,” said Barron.

He encouraged the new graduates to fight by entering the priesthood or religious life as well as to “fight by your very holiness of life, becoming the saint that God wants you to become.”

The young should fight by “calling for real reform” and “insisting that the guilty be held accountable.” He encouraged graduates to do a daily Holy Hour to purify the Church, to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to take part in the sacrifice of the Mass, and to evangelize. They should sanctify their family, their workplace, public life, and the realms of politics, sports and entertainment, he said.

Another great crisis, according to Barron, is the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. The religiously unaffiliated in early 1970s America made up only 3%, doubling to 6% by the early 90s. At present, they make up nearly 25% of Americans. About 40% of Americans under 30 describe themselves as non-affiliated.

For every one person who becomes Catholic, six leave the faith.

“Any way one looks at these statistics, one must conclude that we are hemorrhaging young people from religion in general and Catholicism in particular,” the bishop said.

Disbelief in the teachings of Christianity is the principal reason for people leaving the faith. They find Christianity “intellectually untenable,” Barron said.

However, he suggested that Thomas Aquinas College graduates are “specially qualified for the arduous task of engaging the army of skeptics who have wandered from the Church.” The graduates’ contemplation of great intellectuals is good in itself, but at this moment it should give rise to “active evangelization and compelling apologetics.”

Barron drew on St. Thomas Aquinas’ reflections on the virtue of magnanimity, “the quality of having a great soul,” and the vice of pusillanimity, faintheartedness or fear of attempting moral excellence.

“It seems to me that the entire purpose of the programs here at Thomas Aquinas College is to produce magnanimous people, young women and men of great souls, capable of high moral achievement, willing and able to undertake arduous tasks for which they will rightly merit great honor,” he said. “Thomas Aquinas College has no interest in giving rise to pusillanimous graduates, men and women with small souls, who would shrink from the difficult moral challenge of the present time.”

He told the graduates they faced “arduous tasks” and “choppy seas,” but he encouraged them that they had been prepared.

“Your four years here have given you great souls. Let them be unleashed!” his commencement address concluded. “God bless you all!”

Alabama Senate outlaws abortion, setting up Supreme Court Roe v. Wade challenge

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 22:57

Montgomery, Ala., May 14, 2019 / 08:57 pm (CNA).- The Alabama Senate approved a bill Thursday that will outlaw nearly all abortion in the state. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, is intended to be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional state measures prohibiting abortion.

The Human Life Protection Act (HB314), if signed into law, will make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense. Doctors who perform abortion would be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.

The penalty would apply only to doctors, not to mothers, who, according to the bill’s sponsors, would not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions.

The state Senate engaged in fierce debate last week, which ultimately erupted in a shouting match on the Senate floor,  over whether an exemption for cases of rape or incest should be included in the bill. A vote scheduled for May 10 was delayed after exemption was removed from the Senate’s bill following a voice vote May 9.

The measure does include a provision that would allow abortions “in cases where abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother.”

The bill defines a serious health risk as a condition requiring an abortion “to avert [the mother’s] death or to avert serious risk of substantial physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

Opponents pledged months ago to challenge the legislation in court. This is exactly what the bill’s sponsors expected. Supporters say court challenges could lead to a reversal  the Roe v. Wade decision.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham said in April that the legislation reflects “the strong commitment that the people of Alabama have to life.”

In an April 3 statement, the bishop praised the lawmakers’ efforts.

“I strongly support these bills and stand behind the efforts of these legislators to promote life and to, hopefully in the near future, eliminate this evil we know as abortion from within the boundaries of the State of Alabama; and, eventually, to make the killing of unborn children in our country something that is no longer viewed as anything but the horrendous and inhumane killing of the most innocent among us that it is,” he said.

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), sponsor of the House bill, said the bill passed Thursday is designed to “confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in a womb is not a person,” Collins added. "This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is.”

“It is meant to actually use some of the same language that is addressed in Roe vs. Wade. So, hopefully it just completely takes it all the way to the Supreme Court eventually to overturn.”

 

 

 

After alumni organize advocacy, Georgetown Visitation will recognize alumnae same-sex legal unions

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 19:16

Washington D.C., May 14, 2019 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- A Catholic girls’ high school has announced that its alumni magazine will publish notices of the same-sex legal unions of former students. The decision comes after a school alumnae group organized to advocate for a change to school policy.
 
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC, is run by the Salesian Sisters of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. The school announced its policy change in an emailed letter sent May 3 to school students, families, and alumnae.

Sister Mary Berchmans VSM, superior of the monastery responsible for the school, and the school’s former president, signed the email.

The letter was not signed by Dan Kerns, Head of School, nor by any other member of the Board of Directors. Karns is due to retire from the school in July.  

Berchmans’ email said a decision to recognize the same-sex legal unions of alumnae had been reached by “school and Monastery leadership after much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue.”

Part of that dialogue appears to have taken place with a small group of pro-LGBT alumnae and activists.

Before the decision was made, alumnae calling themselves the Georgetown Visitation Alumnae for Equity established a private Facebook group in which they discussed efforts to encourage the school to recognize same-sex unions of alumnae.

In the Facebook group, one former student posted the text of an email she sent to Kerns and Berchmans, in which she described herself as a “proudly gay alumna” and complained that the school had declined to publish in its magazine the notice of a same-sex union filed by another alumna.

“I understand that recently a fellow alumna submitted a wedding announcement and was denied publication. It is my further understanding that the administration’s rationale for the lack of inclusion is that you [the school] ‘have an obligation as a Catholic school to take no public position that is in conflict with the sated teachings of the Church at this moment.’”

The former student noted that notice of her own “marriage and same sex partnering” was included in the alumnae notes section of the magaizine in the early 2000s.

“When you talk about the teachings of the church, I want you to remember all of the teachings of the church. I want you to remember to Live Jesus,” the former Visitation student told Berchmans and Kerns.

The alumna posted to the Facebook group the text of a reply from Berchmans, who said that the school was working “towards a solution.”

In her May email to the school community, Berchmans used similar language to the former student's letter, writing that 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,” Berchmans 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 religious 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.

Noting that “the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes,” Berchmans said that she was compelled to make a “choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love.”

“Beginning with the fall issue of our alumnae magazine, we will publish news of our alumnae’s same-sex unions, along with all updates our alums choose to share with their classmates.”

There are divergent accounts of how the school’s decision has been received among the Visitation community.

A member of the Facebook group posted earlier this month that “Sr. Mary Berchmans is struggling from the amount of negative pushback from members of the Visitation community” after Berchmans announced the decision. The same member noted that Berchmans might be required to “defend” her decision to the school’s board of directors, and called for letters of support to be sent to her and the school.

The Washington Post reported May 13 that a Visitation spokesperson called responses to Berman’s email “overwhelmingly and heartwarmingly positive.”

The Post also reported that school officials had said there were “few complaints about the policy shift from students, parents and the school’s alumnae.”

Before the Washington Post’s story was published, a participant in the Georgetown Visitation Alumnae for Equity Facebook group posted that a Post reporter was working on the story, was a friend of another group member, and urged members of the group to contact him.


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One Visitation alumna told CNA that she only learned of the school’s decision when her daughter, a current Visitation student, received the email from Berchmans.

“It was a remarkable way to find out,” she said. “You don’t expect your child to be coming home and telling you about these things when they are supposed to be at a school forming them in the faith.”

The mother told CNA that many other parents objected to the decision but were concerned about confronting school administrators and faculty, noting that school officials seem to have already tacitly approved of retaining a teacher at the school who is widely known to be in a same-sex legal union.

A second parent with daughters at the school told CNA that within the school community there is pressure to conform and support “so-called LGBTQ values.” She said many parents feel pressure to support the same-sex union of one teacher, even if they feel it is inapproproate in the context of the school’s commitment to Catholic teaching.

“All the parents felt like we had to support this teachers ‘marriage,’ and we didn’t really know how to deal with it,” one parent said.

“You worry about soft discrimination against the children,” another mother said. “A’s become B’s very quickly, and you do not want to have a reputation as one of the ‘angry parents.’”

One parent also noted that the school holds an annual “diversity day” for which the students are assigned specific personas to assume, including homosexuality.

The same parents were also quick to insist that much of the school’s religious education and other programs are faithful to Catholic teaching.

“My daughter was taught the Theology of the Body, sound pro-life teaching, exactly what you would want in a Catholic school,” one mother said. “I think there is a minority among the faculty and staff that have gradually taken over parts of the school community and are just really committed to a very politically progressive agenda.”

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The Washington Post also reported May 13 that the Archdiocese of Washington said it had not been informed or consulted before Visitation’s decision was made and the email was sent.

While the school is not directly affiliated with the archdiocese, the archdiocese is responsible for ensuring independent Catholic schools maintain their Catholic identity, and is charged with providing advice and guidance on matters related to Church teaching.

An email circulated by school spokesperson Caroline Handorf to the school community May 13 said that representatives from the archdiocese supported the decision.

“We have been in touch with several contacts in the Archdiocese, including Bishop Michael Fisher, to ensure that we are aligned as we move forward and they are assured of our continued commitment to our Catholic identity and to the teachings of the Church,” Handorf wrote.

An archdiocesan spokesman told CNA May 14 that the archdiocese “was not made aware of the discussion on Catholic identity or the recent decision of the school to communicate the change for their alumni publication until after the letter announcing the decision was distributed to the wider Georgetown Visitation community.”

The spokesman also told CNA that Bishop Fisher had not been contacted prior to the email’s circulation.

Handorf has not responded to CNA’s requests for comment.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered” and constitute a trial for those who experience them.

People who experience same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, the Church says, and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Successive popes have condemned the move towards civil recognition of same-sex unions by the state and expressed their concern that the concept undermines the natural law of the family and marriage, which is between a man and a woman.

Pope Francis has spoken about a state of “critical confusion at the moment” regarding marriage and gender in the world, observing that the word “marriage” can never be used to describe same-sex unions.

Speaking about the essential nature of marriage as between a man and a woman, Francis said in 2017 that “we cannot change it.”

“This is the nature of things,” the pope said, while observing that “we do not joke around with truth.”

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.

California bishops announce compensation program for abuse victims

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 18:56

Los Angeles, Calif., May 14, 2019 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- Bishops in California announced May 14 a new program to compensate victims of clerical sexual abuse, through which any person sexually abused as a minor by a diocesan priest can apply for compensation— no matter when the abuse occurred.

“We have been providing pastoral care and financial support for victim-survivors here in the Archdiocese for many years. We will continue to do so,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a letter accompanying the announcement.  

“But we also understand that some victim-survivors are reluctant to come to the Church for assistance. Our hope with this new program is to give these people a chance to seek redress and healing through an independent program.”

The new program applies to six of California’s 13 Catholic dioceses— Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno. These six dioceses represent 80% of California’s Catholics, the announcement asserts.

The protocol for the program is still in draft form, so victims are not yet able to file claims, but a website dedicated to the program will be launched soon, spokesperson Amy Weiss told CNA.

Survivors can elect to enter this program as an alternative to pursuing their claims against the Church in court, the announcement notes. Victims will have to submit a claim form along with any supporting evidence.

Victims need not have a lawyer and there is no fee to participate; settlements for fully completed claims are to be paid within 90 days.

“Those harmed many years ago and barred from filing lawsuits because of civil statutes of limitations will be eligible to make claims under this new program,” the announcement says.

“Also, because this program has no proof-of-citizenship requirement, undocumented immigrants who may have been abused are also eligible to make claims.”

The program applies only to diocesan priests. Claims against members of religious orders active in California, or against deacons or laypeople, are not eligible. Victims who have previously entered into a settlement agreement resolving the claim of sexual abuse against a diocesan priest are also not eligible.

The bishops began been working with mediators Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros in November 2018 to develop the program. Feinberg and Biros will have full control over the amount of compensation each victim gets and the diocese will not be able to appeal their decision.

Feinberg is an attorney and mediator who led the Sept. 11 victims' fund and was involved in overseeing a compensation program in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012. He and Biros recently led the creation of abuse victims compensation programs in New Jersey, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. They also administer the Archdiocese of New York’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which began in Oct. 2016.

Former California governor Gray Davis, and Maria Contreras-Sweet, former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, are among the members of the independent oversight board overseeing the fund.

California’s diocese have paid out nearly $1.5 billion in settlements to survivors of sexual abuse in the past two decades alone, the announcement says. Safeguards diocese have implemented to protect children have included training on abuse prevention and reporting, and stricter background checks and reporting requirements.

“As a result, new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in the Catholic Church in California. Nonetheless, the Bishops undertake this program in their continued efforts to provide avenues for victim-survivors of abuse to receive assistance to continue their healing,” the announcement concludes.

 

New Jersey extends statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 18:56

Newark, N.J., May 14, 2019 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law this week a bill relaxing the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.

The law will allow increased time for civil action and will permit victims to seek compensation from institutions as well as individuals.

The Archdiocese of Newark objected to certain portions of the bill, but stressed that overall, the Catholic Church is in favor of its crucial goal of bringing justice and healing for victims.

“While we disagreed on specific elements of this legislation, the Catholic community, the legislature, and the Governor sincerely agree on one key position - the need to restore justice for the victims of sexual abuse in New Jersey,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Currently, the statute of limitations in New Jersey restricts sex abuse lawsuits to when the victim is 20 years old or two years after they first realize that they were harmed by abuse. In December, the new legislation will allow child victims of sexual assault to file civil lawsuits until they turn 55 or until seven years from the time they become aware of the injury, whichever comes later.

For those who have been previously barred from seeking damages, the law will also offer a two-year window to pursue legal action.

During a debate on the legislation in February, the state’s Catholic conference argued that only individual offenders, not institutions, should face civil action for past sexual abuse.

According to the Associated Press, Patrick Brannigan, executive director for the Catholic Conference of New Jersey, said the Church will fully comply with the government, noting that it “sincerely regrets that some in the Church failed to protect children.” However, he had requested the law’s start date be delayed.

Governor Murphy recognized the financial concern for organizations but highlighted the responsibility to the victims of sexual abuse.

“Survivors of sexual abuse deserve opportunities to seek redress against their abusers,” he said, according to North Jersey. “ This legislation allows survivors who have faced tremendous trauma the ability to pursue justice through the court system.”

In February, all the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey released lists of clergy who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1940.

On the list is disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who headed New Jersey’s Diocese of Metuchen from 1981 until 1986 and the Archdiocese of Newark from 1986 until 2000. He retired as Archbishop of Washington.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 after being credibly accused of abusing two minor boys. He was found guilty by the Holy See and was removed from the clerical state in February.

As part of efforts to foster the healing of victims and as an alternative to lawsuits, the five Catholic dioceses of New Jersey have set up their own compensation fund. The Catholic Conference said the compensation fund offers a quicker alternative to the litigation process with a lower level of proof than is required by the court.

According to North Jersey, Senator Joseph Vitale, the primary sponsor of the new law, expressed concern about the trustworthiness of institutions. He also said it is important that the names of abusers are released to the public.

“With a compensation fund, there's no discovery. You are offered a sum of money for your injury and therapy. But the public doesn't know what happened or who the pedophiles are, and that's critical to know so we can protect children,” Vitale said.

In the statement on Monday, the Archdiocese of Newark reiterated its current efforts to help promote the healing of sex abuse vicitms, as well as steps taken to prevent future abuse.

“The Catholic community is confident that the Independent Victims Compensation Program established by the five dioceses in New Jersey is a significant step towards restoring justice for those who, as minors, were abused by ministers of the Church,” the archdiocese said.

“Further, we are committed to the comprehensive healing of those harmed and we will continue our policies aimed at protecting children from abuse.”

Sale of consecrated hosts violates Etsy's policies, website confirms

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 14:28

Washington D.C., May 14, 2019 / 12:28 pm (CNA).- An Etsy representative has clarified that the sale of consecrated hosts for the purpose of desecration is a violation of the e-commerce website’s terms.

A petition asking Etsy to confirm that it does not allow the sale of consecrated hosts gained thousands of signatures overnight, following a listing claiming to offer hosts to abuse.

On May 7, the Etsy account “Pentagora” claimed to be selling “Real Catholic Hosts, consecrated by a priest.” The hosts were advertised “to abuse for classic black fairs or black magic purposes.” The listing claimed to be selling a package of nine hosts that had been consecrated in Germany.

In the following days, the listing drew attention on Twitter, with critics arguing that it violated Etsy’s policies. The popular online marketplace only allows for the sale of items that are handmade, vintage, or craft supplies. Stolen items are explicitly prohibited, as are items that “support or glorify hatred toward people or otherwise demean people based upon: race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.”

A few days later, the listing for the consecrated hosts was marked as “Sold Out.” It was subsequently deleted.

On May 13, a Change.org petition was started, calling on Etsy to clarify that the sale of consecrated hosts is a violation of the platform’s policies.

“Catholics believe that Consecrated Hosts are truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is the most precious thing in our religion,” the petition said.

“It is given freely, and so the only reason anyone could ever have to sell it would by definition be illicit. To sell them ‘for abuse’ is hateful against the Catholic Church, and should be prohibited by Etsy.”

The petition recognized that Etsy does not screen individual listings, but said that “to prevent this happening again, we ask that Etsy add ‘Consecrated Hosts’ to their already strict list of prohibited items.”

By the following day, the petition had gained more than 7,500 signatures. Jess Kallberg, policy manager for Etsy, responded to the petition May 14, confirming that “the reselling of consecrated hosts is a violation of our policies.”

Etsy removed the “sold out” listing promptly upon being notified of it, she said.

Kallberg reiterated Etsy’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment, including for religious users.

She noted that listings are not pre-approved before appearing on the site.

“We rely on each seller to ensure the items they list adhere to our policies, and our specialized teams take action when we see items that violate these policies,” she said. “We strongly encourage anyone who sees an item that violates our policies to submit a flag by clicking the ‘Report this item to Etsy’ link at the bottom of the listing.”

State abortion battles continue in Rhode Island, Michigan, Alabama

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 13:30

Providence, R.I., May 14, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Several states are considering new abortion measures, as the nation-wide trend of legislatures passing new laws to restrict or entrench access to abortion continues.

On May 14, Michigan lawmakers are set to vote on a bill to prohibit an abortion technique called “dilation and extraction.”

This technique is used during the second trimester of a pregnancy. Last year, over 1,700 abortions in Michigan were carried out using dilation and extraction.

Should it pass, the bill is unlikely to be signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who supports abortion rights. Other states who have attempted to ban this abortion method have seen their laws overturned by the courts.

In Rhode Island, legislators are attempting to pass a bill expanding and confirming access to abortion. The measure, similar to laws already passed in New York and Vermont, would codify near-unrestricted access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Unlike in New York and Vermont, where such measures passed virtually unopposed, Rhode Island has also seem concerted efforts to introduce restrictions on abortion past the point of fetal viability.

“I cannot support post-viability abortions that are based on undefined ‘health’ reasons and would permit very late term, up to date of birth, abortions. It simply goes too far,” said state Sen. Stephen Archambault (D).

Archambault described himself as someone who is both pro-choice and in favor of “reasonable restrictions” on abortion once the pregnancy has reached viability.

“Simply put, viability means when a fetus is so close to fully formed that it is likely to be able to survive outside the womb — if born. Reasonable restrictions are permissible under Roe v. Wade as currently interpreted by the US Supreme Court,” he added.

Archambault intends on introducing an amended piece of legislation that will include these safeguards.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, said on Twitter Tuesday that he is “Still counting on the Sen. Judiciary Committee to reject the radical pro-abortion bill being considered today.”

“It’s undeniable that it goes way beyond Roe v Wade. The vast majority in R.I. oppose late term abortions, the termination of viable children,” he added. “Pro lifers-stay strong!”

In Alabama, the state Senate is expected to vote during the evening of May 14 on the Human Life Protection Act. The bill would make abortion at any time during a pregnancy a felony crime, except in narrowly defined cases where the woman’s health would be at risk.

The measure arrived in the senate after passing a vote in the house by a margin of 74-3. Some politicians have said they are hesitant to support the bill, as there is no exception for abortion in cases of rape or incest.

State Rep. Terri Collins (R), the bill’s sponsor, said of the measure that it “says that baby in the womb is a person.”

Unlike other state bills, which ban abortion at a certain point of a pregnancy--such as the detection of a heartbeat or at the 20-week mark of a pregnancy-- the Alabama bill would outlaw abortion entirely. Doctors who perform abortion would be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.

As a result of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, abortion is considered to be a constitutional right through the point of fetal viability; about the 22nd week of a pregnacy. Laws that restrict abortion prior to this point are generally found to be unconstituional.

Supporters of the Human Life Protection Act hope that any subsequent legal challenge to the law could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which could revisit the Roe decision.

The Supreme Court has been reluctant in years past to consider laws that would influence abortion policy in the United States, but there are several pending cases that could be considered in the upcoming future.

In addition to the aforementioned laws banning dilation and extraction abortions, an Indiana law that banned abortion based off of sex, race, or disability has also been overturned by lower courts, and laws in four states have banned abortion prior to the 20th week of pregnancy.

 It is unclear as of now if the court will consider any of these cases.

Meanwhile in Georgia, state lawmakers say they are unconcerned about the effects of a planned “boycott” of the state by the entertainment industry. Georgia, which recently outlawed abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, was threatened with boycotts from actors and producers. So far, only three production companies have announced they will not be filming in Georgia.

None of the three had previously filmed in the state.

Deacon Drake: From Pentecostal preacher to Catholic priest

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 06:00

Steubenville, Ohio, May 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Deacon Drake McCalister is many things that most men about to become Catholic priests are not.

McCallister is 50 years old; the average age of men being ordained as Catholic priests in the U.S. this year is 33.

He is a husband and a father of five; most men about to become priests will promise never to marry, and will never have biological children.

He is a former Pentecostal preacher and Catholic convert; 89% of men about to be ordained were baptized Catholics as infants, according to data from CARA, a research center at Georgetown University.

“Why do you need to be a priest?” McCalister said he is asked many times, sometimes even from leaders in the Church.

“I don’t,” McCalister told CNA. “My only desire is to be obedient to Jesus Christ, period.” And McCalister believes that Jesus has called him to the priesthood.

It’s not the first time the Lord has asked him to do something radical, he said.

McCalister’s long and winding vocation story begins in his early 20s, when he, as a young Pentecostal, asked the Lord in prayer what he should do with his life. After high school, McCalister had started working; the idea of college just hadn’t appealed to him. But after a few years, he knew it was time to seek God’s plan.

“I was always ministry-minded,” he said. “I walked into a prayer meeting asking God: ‘What do you want me to do?’ And as clear as the Lord has ever told me anything in my life, it was there during that prayer session that the Lord made it clear: ‘Get equipped for full-time ministry and give me the rest of your life.’”  

“So I literally walked out of that room with a singular purpose,” McCalister said. He knew the call was from God, he added, because he found himself suddenly excited to go to college to get a theology degree - something that had never been part of his own plans.

Had McCalister been Catholic at the time, he told CNA, he would have become a priest - he was young, unmarried and childless at the time. But since he was not Catholic, “I went on with life and got married and had some kids,” he said.

After getting a theology degree, McCalister began a 13-year stint of Pentecostal ministry, becoming a youth minister, then a music minister and director, then an associate pastor, and finally the senior pastor of a church. He started his ministry in California, but moved to Seattle after about 4 years, where the rest of his Pentecostal ministry took place.

It was there, starting in 1999, that he first felt drawn to the Catholic Church - through the radio.

“It began through EWTN radio, that was my main source to the Catholic Church, I didn’t really know any Catholics,” McCalister said. He listened to an hour of Catholic Answers Live, and was drawn in —  not by what was being said, but how it was being said.

“I disagreed with all the theology,” McCalister recalled. “But they were charitable, evangelistic, they were Christ-centered, they knew their Bible, and they were Catholic. And I’d never encountered a Catholic that had all those (qualities).”

“I tuned back in the next day, not because I was interested in their content, but to find out if they were just the only two excited Catholics on the face of the planet or what,” he added.

He kept listening, and the more he listened, the more he felt drawn to the Catholic Church. He started doing his own research, reading Church documents, Church fathers, and writings from the popes and the Saints.

“I was less interested in what people had to say about Catholicism than what Catholicism said about itself in official documents and Church history,” he said.

After talking with his wife, and five years of study, the McCallisters decided to come into the Catholic Church with their children.

He calls himself an “Inter mirifica” convert - the title of a Vatican IIdecree on the importance of media and social communications in evangelization. He also credits Mother Angelica in his conversion, for starting EWTN.

“We need to use the media to advance the Gospel and the mission. I’m here because of that, because I didn’t meet one real live Catholic in person through my whole five years of study,” he said.  

Even though he and his wife were intellectually won over to the Catholic Church for some time, McCalister said, actually becoming a Catholic felt like a giant hurdle for a previously-Protestant family.

“There was a week, probably about 6 months before we resigned (to join the Catholic Church), where I was literally sick to my stomach and begging God: ‘Don’t make me become Catholic, I’ve never refused you anything, Lord, I’ve said yes to everything, but don’t make me become Catholic!’” he said.

The identity shift was a big one, he said.

“When you’re Protestant you’re defined by what you’re not, and that’s not Catholic,” he said. “It’s not just an apologetic data point, it really requires a reforming of the mind and the outlook in a unique way.”

Another big hurdle was the issue of authority, McCalister said.

“It really comes down to: ‘Ok, who has the authority?’” he said. In the Catholic Church, the Magisterium - the bishops and the pope - are understood to teach with authority in a way that is not found in Pentecostal theology.

“What that requires is surrender,” McCalister said. “I take myself off the throne as the final arbiter of faith and morals and I surrender to the Church as the final arbiter of faith and morals.”

In 2004, after much prayer and study, the McCalister family joined the Catholic Church.

Shortly thereafter, McCallister and his family moved to Steubenville, Ohio. McCalister earned a graduate degree in theology and catechetics from Franciscan University, where he now works as the coordinator of catechetical practicum in university’s catechetics department.

It wasn’t until 2010 that McCalister considered becoming a clergy member, when his diocese began its first diaconate program for permanent deacons.

“I want to be serving the people of my parish, so when the diaconate presented itself, I presented myself for the diaconate,” he said. “I thought - this is great, I can do this as a married man.”

But the Holy Spirit “kept prompting me that I needed to ask the question if I qualified for the dispensation of the celibacy requirement” for the priesthood, McCalister said.

A dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, or being unmarried, can be granted to men seeking the priesthood in limited circumstances, such as when someone who was formerly an Anglican or Episcopalian minister becomes Catholic and wants to become a Catholic priest. Such petitions are considered on a case-by-case basis, McCalister said.

When his bishop said that a dispensation could be possible in his case, McCalister started to consider the priesthood more seriously.

He told the director of his diaconate program, who responded: “Why do you need to become a priest?”

“I said that my only desire is to be obedient to Jesus Christ, period,” McCalister said. “That’s why I left everything from my denominational background to enter the Catholic Church, it was my love for Jesus Christ, and the Lord is opening this door and putting this on my heart. I don’t need to be a priest as if this is fulfilling some kind of desire I had, my desire is simply to be obedient.”

There were some natural pauses in the process, McCalister said - a transition of bishops, waiting for permission from Rome, further prayer and discernment. It took about 10 years in total to prepare for his upcoming priestly ordination - scheduled now for June 21.

When asked if the sex abuse scandals of the Catholic Church, including those of the past year, had affected his willingness to join either the Catholic Church or its priesthood, McCalister said that his background as a Pentecostal pastor had prepared him well.

“In my previous ministry, we had some unbelievably difficult years, of submitting to the Lord and church infighting and church split,” he said.

“Once you’ve been on the inside, you realize that if people are present, sin is present,” he said. “The Catholics don’t have the corner on sin. Nobody does.”

McCalister said he believes his unique background and vocation story will serve him well as a priest, in different ways than if he were coming into the priesthood as a “cradle Catholic.”

“There’s things that a cradle Catholic and our young men that enter the priesthood are able to bring that I’ll never be able to bring because I have a different background,” he said.

“There’s a way that I see life and ministry and the Church that is just different, because I had to wrestle with different things to get into the Church.”

One way that he differs from some others is “my desire for evangelism and to reach the people on the fringes. That was very much a part of the denominational soup that I was raised in. We were all about reaching the lost, and how we can articulate the Gospel in a way to draw people,” he said.

The Catholic Church has had a strong emphasis on evangelization in the years after the Second Vatican Council, he said, but some Catholics may not have had as much first-hand experience with it.

“Some people who grew up in the Church are still learning how to use words like evangelism without feeling like they’re being Protestant,” he said.

As for being married, he’s not sure what impact that will have on his ministry, other than that he plans on drawing from family life in his homilies. It is an unusual thing for Latin Catholic priests to be married, he said, though he noted that other ritual Churches in the Catholic Church do allow for married clergy.

“I’m not an activist,” he added. “Namely, I’m not here to advocate for the end of celibacy in the priesthood, anyone looking for me to jump on that bandwagon needs to look elsewhere. I’m here to serve Christ and lead people to Jesus.”

When asked what he’s most excited for in his priesthood, McCalister said: “Can I say everything?” “Mass and mission," he added. “Life in the spirit and engagement in the mission, those are the two things that I’m most excited about.”

'Unrestricted' abortion bill passes in Vermont

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 17:00

Burlington, Vt., May 13, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Legislators in Vermont have passed new measures to enshrine unrestricted abortion access in to law at any time for any reason during a pregancy. The legislature also advanced a measure that would make abortion a constitutional right.

As of Friday, H. 57, “An act relating to preserving the right to abortion,” passed both the state House and Senate. The bill seeks to “recognize as a fundamental right the freedom of reproductive choice and to prohibit public entities from interfering with or restricting the right of an individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.”

The bill, which would protect abortion at any time during preganacy for any reason, won large majority votes in both chambers of the legislature. In the House, it passed by 106-37, and 24-6 in the Senate.

The state’s governor, Gov. Phil Scott (R), has said that he supports legislation that would preserve a woman’s right to an abortion. It is unclear if he will sign this particular bill. If signed, the bill will go into effect upon passage.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, which encompasses the entire state, told CNA of his dismay at state legislature’s action, and his hopes that women will still choose life.

“I am disappointed that Vermont legislators have decided to move forward with H. 57, even amid many strong, authentic, and educated testimonies in opposition to the bill,” Coyne said.  

“Regardless of what the law allows, I hope that women will feel safe and supported in their pregnancies and motherhood and choose life for their children no matter the circumstances,” he added.

Coyne said that the Catholic faith “teaches that all human life is sacred -- meaning ‘of God’--from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and we are called to embrace and protect that sacred gift that is the very breath of each of our lives.” He reiterated the Church’s teaching that procured abortion is a “moral evil” that is contrary to natural law.

The bishop told CNA that he hopes the law will one day be reversed, and that he is “praying that the rights of unborn children will be recognized as the same human rights to which all are entitled.”

On May 7, Vermont’s legislature advanced Proposal 5, which would write a right to abortion into the state’s constitution. Before this can happen, it must be passed once again by the 2021-2022 legislature, and be approved by voters in the November 2022 election.

If the measure passes, Vermont would become the first state to list abortion as a constitutional right.

Officials from Planned Parenthood, the largest chain of abortion providers in the United States, took a decidedly different tone regarding the legislative actions.

Meagan Gallagher, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (which includes Vermont), said that the state was “the shining example for all other states.”

“Vermont lawmakers made history today by declaring that reproductive rights are human rights,” said Gallagher. “We applaud Vermont’s legislature for making its position clear on reproductive freedom, that protecting the health, dignity, and civil rights of Vermonters is urgently important. “

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that this was “history in the making.”

“With Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, it is more important than ever for states to enact proactive policies to create a critical backstop and protect access to safe, legal abortion care,” said Wen.

“We at Planned Parenthood commend reproductive health care champions for their leadership and their work to protect the lives and well-being of women and families in Vermont.”

If the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, abortion legislation and legalization would devolve back to the level of the individual states.

Supreme Court rejects Ohio Christian school discrimination case

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 15:30

Washington D.C., May 13, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from an Ohio Christian school that claimed it was singled out for exclusion when a city government denied zoning approval for a new location at a larger building.

The decision lets stand a lower court ruling that sided with the city.

In September 2018 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the zoning ordinance didn’t violate the law. However, dissenting from the ruling was Judge Amul Thapar, who has been listed as a possible Supreme Court nominee for President Donald Trump.

“The government isn’t being neutral toward religion when it chooses to treat religious organizations worse than other entities,” said John Bursch, senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy at the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Bursch argued that Upper Arlington, a Columbus-area city of about 34,000 people, violated federal law by discriminating against religious groups in zoning matters.

“The government can’t say ‘yes’ to daycare centers and other nonprofit uses of property but say ‘no’ to a Christian school that wants to educate children. For that reason, this issue will come back to the court someday in a different case,” Bursch said May 13.

Tree of Life Christian Schools had aimed to move its three-campus school network to a single campus. It bought the vacant former America Online / Time Warner building. It had hoped to double enrollment to 1,200 students and claimed the relocation would have brought 150 new jobs to the city.

However, the city denied zoning approval for the relocation.

In 2011, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit charging that the city wrongly excluded religious schools from the zone while allowing daycares and secular nonprofits. The lawsuit cited the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which bars treating religious institutions or assemblies on lesser terms compared with non-religious institutions or groups.

Angela Carmella, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, said the case focused on whether it is appropriate to consider a locality’s economic goals when deciding whether the religious use law was violated, the news site Bloomberg Law reports.

Shawn Judge, an attorney representing the city, said the building in question is the only large office building in the city and is “the last jewel of economic development in a land-locked inner-ring suburb.”

Zoning intended to encourage office use has “nothing to do with religion” but is “a simple, pragmatic approach to generating enough money to provide city services.”

Bush countered that the city would have received $1 million in tax revenue from the school had it been operating since the beginning of litigation.

Judge has said the school is advancing an interpretation of the federal law that would change it from a tool to fight religious discrimination into a federal mandate that allows any religious claims to invalidate zoning restrictions.

The federal religious use law has been interpreted in eight different ways by eight different courts of appeal.

Discrimination against religion has become ‘fashionable’ says Pence

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 12:00

Washington D.C., May 13, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Christians should prepare to be persecuted for their beliefs, Vice President Mike Pence told graduates during a commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday.

“It’s become acceptable, and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith,” said Pence during his speech on May 11.

The Vice President cited the case against the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as the reaction to his wife, Karen Pence, taking a job teaching art at a Christian elementary school as instances of a growing religious intolerance in American public life.

“When my wife, Karen, returned to teach art at an elementary Christian school earlier this year, we faced harsh attacks by the media and the secular left,” he added. Immanuel Christian School, where Mrs. Pence teaches art, requires that students and employees profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as follow certain moral codes.

After Mrs. Pence announced her new job, a reporter started the hashtag “#ExposeChristianSchools” and encouraged people to share negative experiences with Christian education. On Saturday, Pence described these incidents as “attacks on Christian education,” which he said were “un-American.”

“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” said Pence, warning the graduates to “be ready.” He also said that Liberty grads may soon have to endorse things that they find contrary to their faith, as “things are different now.”

“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian. It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible,” said Pence.

Liberty University, which is located in Lynchburg, Virginia, is the largest private university in the United States, as measured by total enrollment. It was founded by Jerry Falwell, an evangelical Southern Baptist Christian pastor who passed away in 2007.

Since Falwell’s death, the school has been led by Jerry Falwell Jr., his son. The younger Falwell has been a vocal supporter of President Trump, who he once referred to as a “dream president” for evangelical Christians.

Pence told the graduates that the administration was committed to defending religious liberty.

“I promise you, we will always stand up for the right of Americans to live, to learn, and to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience,” said Pence.

Who are the new priests of 2019?

Sun, 05/12/2019 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., May 12, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- This year, 481 men in the United States will kneel in cathedral churches and be ordained as Catholic priests for Jesus Christ.

The average man entering the priesthood this year looks something like this: he’s about 33 years old, which is slightly younger than the previous two classes of incoming priests. He was born in the U.S, he got his college degree and worked full time before entering seminary, and he was baptized Catholic as an infant, according to data collected by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) from 379 transitional deacons.  

Deacon Ambrose Dombrozsi is one of those incoming priests. A 28 year-old transitional deacon with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Dombrozsi said he first had the thought to become a priest while having a “vision” during Mass in second grade.

“This one day, during Mass, I was in second grade, I decided that I was going to have a vision, and so I did, as one does,” he told CNA. “And I decided - it was entirely make-believe, it was pretend - but it was St. Francis telling me to be a priest.” Dombrozsi wrote about the vision in his diary before, shortly thereafter, deciding that “diaries were for girls.” Although he eschewed his journaling practices, the idea of priesthood stuck with him. He told his family, who were supportive of the idea. Dombrozsi was homeschooled, and he said the saint stories that his mom taught him were also influential in his decision.

Then high school came and two things happened: he went on a retreat at the seminary, and he discovered girls.

According to CARA, 52% of respondents said that retreats at the seminary were influential in their decision to become a priest.

“I don’t remember very much except for thinking seminarians were cool, which may be the only time anyone has ever thought that,” Dombrozsi said.

Dombrozsi started dating and set his priestly aspirations aside - for a time. After dating a girl in college for three years, he proposed because, he said, that’s what you do.

“It was a small Catholic college, and the way small Catholic college campuses work is that you find someone (to marry) and then re-evangelize the culture by having like a million babies,” he said.
Ultimately it wasn’t meant to be, and the engagement broke off. It was around this time that Dombrozsi, feeling a bit lost, was invited back to the seminary for another retreat. It was there that he had an experience of God in adoration, and felt the call to enter the seminary.

“I knew I needed to go,” he said.

According to CARA, most transitional deacons entering the priesthood report having three of four people in their lives who were very influential in their discernment. For Dombrozsi, both of his parents, as well as a priest who was his spiritual director, played a key role, he said.

“I would definitely say my parents, both mom and dad had a very big influence on us. We were homeschooled so we were with them a lot of the time, and they were both holy people who prayed a lot and have given me fantastic advice,” he said.

“And Fr. Sean Landin, he definitely had a big impact,” he added. “He was my spiritual director at that time...he’s a very good priest, and an excellent preacher.”

Deacon Cassidy Stinson is another transitional deacon who will be ordained this spring, for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. Stinson differs from 89% of the CARA survey respondents in that he was not baptized a Catholic as an infant. Although he came from a “strong faith background”, he converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 12, along with the rest of his family, who had previously been Protestant.
The idea of the priesthood first came to Stinson while he was transitioning from community college to the College of William and Mary, he said. It was during that time that he experienced a renewal of his faith, and he committed to living as a Catholic in the secular environment of his college.

He decided to sign up for a retreat at the beginning of the school year, where he planned to pray over the experiences he had had that summer in Rome and throughout Europe, where he had traveled with his dad. A classics major, Stinson was tossing around the idea of becoming an archeologist and studying ancient ruins.

“As I was praying, I had no sense of peace about it. Then I remembered we’d passed the Pontifical North American College (the American seminary) in Rome, and I had this thought out of nowhere - ‘you could be a seminarian!’” Stinson said. “I imagined myself wearing the black clerics, dressed like a priest. And as soon as I imagined myself as that, I had this great sense of peace from outside of me. It was so striking because I knew it wasn’t from me, because I freaked out,” he said. Stinson said he had always been drawn to the Church’s vision of marriage and fatherhood, and was struggling with this new call to the priesthood. He couldn’t see how he could be happy as a priest if he couldn’t be a biological father.

But a talk at a discernment retreat helped Stinson realize that being a priest did not mean giving up fatherhood, he said.

“There was a priest who was a pastor in a military parish, and he talked about the challenges of being a spiritual father when you’re in a parish where there are a lot of losses,” he said. “Seeing how real the fatherhood of the priesthood was what made me see how I could be fulfilled in spiritual fatherhood in my vocation; that was really pivotal for me.” Besides his parents, Stinson said that one of the most helpful things for him in becoming a priest was watching a close family friend, also a convert, who came into the Church shortly before the Stinson family and eventually became a priest.

“It made the priesthood real for me because I knew a real human being who had gone from not being a priest to going through seminary and being ordained and being a priest,” he said. “I got to see someone I knew go through that process.”

Both Stinson and Dombrozsi had just been ordained deacons last year when the Theodore McCarrick sex abuse scandal broke in the summer of 2018, followed by the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of clerical sex abuse allegations. While the news made them sad and angry, it has also been convicting for them in their vocations, they said.

“There’s a strong negative light in the culture right now towards the priesthood, which to some extent makes it easier and more attractive because that ‘Oh I guess this is nice’ mentality is obviously false,” Dombrozsi said. “You have to be committed...it makes it more radical. And I think for myself and a lot of guys I’ve talked to, the fact that this is a radical, difficult thing is part of its attraction. The recent scandals and difficulties in the church have helped make that real and have helped people to live it and pray with it,” he added. Stinson echoed Dombrozsi’s sentiments, and added that the scandals will shape the ministry of the incoming priests for years to come.

“This is what God has called us to do, to heal the Church,” he said. “Our priesthood is going to be on some level dedicated to the rebuilding and healing of the image of Christ for these people.”

Bringing Christ to people is what it’s all about, Stinson added.

“I think we all signed up to bring Christ to people,” he said. “Everyone who’s becoming a priest at this time in the Church’s history is doing so because they’ve discovered a love for the priesthood and a love for Christ’s presence in the sacraments,” he said.

“So I think everyone is very excited to be getting out into their parishes and living the life of the priesthood.”

 

‘God weeps’: Catholic leaders help community cope with STEM school shooting

Sat, 05/11/2019 - 05:38

Denver, Colo., May 11, 2019 / 03:38 am (CNA).- When Fr. Gregory Bierbaum heard about the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, just two miles up the road, he drove to Rock Bottom, a restaurant where students who had escaped the school were gathering.

“One of my staff’s grandsons is one of them who escaped, so I went over just to be present,” he told CNA.

The STEM school falls within the boundaries of Bierbaum’s parish, St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and about a dozen of his parishioners are students at the school. The priest spoke with CNA on Thursday, May 9, which the parish designated as a day full of prayer, counseling, adoration and Mass for those impacted by the shooting.

While Bierbaum’s student parishioners at STEM were not physically injured in the shooting, they were in “close proximity” to the room of the shooting, and have endured some serious psychological trauma, he said.

“We just want to provide a safe haven for people to come and be together and interact with counselors if they need to,” Bierbaum said.

On Tuesday, May 7, one student was killed and eight others were injured when two shooters reportedly opened fire at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, a suburb south of Denver.

Two suspects in the shooting are now in custody, and have been identified by authorities as Devon Erickson, and juvenile Maya McKinney, who identified as male and went by Alec, according to reports.

While a motive is yet unknown, the Washington Examiner reported that the now-deleted Facebook account of Erickson included a post in which he expressed his “hate” for “Christians who hate gays.” On Instagram, he reportedly posted that he was “covered in ink and addicted to pain.”

Bierbaum said he credited Kendrick Castillo and the other students who reportedly rushed one of the shooters for the small number of fatalities and injuries. Castillo, an 18 year-old senior and a Catholic, active as an usher and with the Knights of Columbus, was the lone fatality of the shooting and is being hailed as a hero for his life-saving actions.

Bishops from around the country offered their sympathies and prayers after news of the shooting broke.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, who chairs the U.S. bishop’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a May 8 statement that the shooting “reminds us yet again that something is fundamentally broken in our society when places of learning can become scenes of violence and disregard for human life.”

“As Americans we must deeply examine why these horrific occurrences of gun violence continue to take place in our communities. Action is needed to attempt to reduce the frequency of these heinous acts. I call on Catholics around the country to pray for the dead, injured and for the loved ones left behind and for healing in the community,” he said. “May Jesus who came that we might all have life in abundance, bring consolation and healing at this time of great sadness.”

Bishop Michael Sheridan is the bishop of Colorado Springs, the diocesan boundaries in which the STEM school falls.

In a May 8 statement, Sheridan echoed Bishop Dewane’s sentiments that lamented the frequency of school shootings.

“I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the shootings that occurred yesterday at STEM School in Highlands Ranch,” he said.

“I call on all the faithful in our diocese to pray and offer sacrifice for the students, teachers and families impacted by this tragedy, that through the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, they may find healing and consolation.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said in a statement posted to Twitter on May 7 that “my heart goes out to all those school children, parents & teachers who were killed & injured in the tragic shooting at #STEMSchoolHighlandsRanch. Let us pray for them in this time of sadness and grief.”

Bishop Robert Cunningham of Syracuse, New York also tweeted his condolences: “Yesterday a tragic shooting took place just miles from Columbine High School. Along with the @USCCB I call on Catholics around the country to pray for the deceased, injured, and for healing in their community,” he said on May 8.

At St. Mark’s Catholic Church on Thursday, the day of prayer and counseling included adoration in the morning, Mass at noon, more adoration in the afternoon, and then a prayer service in the evening, which included counselors, priests, and fire and police chaplains who were available to talk with people.

“All of us are just here to listen, to talk, to allow everyone to come together, whether you and your kids were and are directly affected or if it was indirect. We are a family and we come together always, but especially in times like these, because one of the ways that God’s compassion is felt to us and known to us is with each other,” Bierbaum said in his homily during the noon Mass on Thursday.

Pax Christi, another nearby Catholic parish, hosted an hour of adoration and confessions on Thursday night for those impacted by the STEM shooting.

Ave Maria Catholic parish in Parker, Colorado hosted a night of prayer and conversation about the STEM shooting on Wednesday, May 8.

“I had always hoped I would never have to face a situation like the one we are facing in our community today. Whether your kids attend STEM or if you know someone who does, this has impacted our community, our youth,” Angelle M. Schott, MSW, the youth ministry coordinator for the parish, said in a post about the event on Facebook.

“I am not pretending to know what to say or even how to say it but I want our youth to know they are loved and to give them a safe place to share their concerns, worries, and/or fears without judgment,” she added.

Fr. Bierbaum told CNA that he was aware that times of tragedy like these are usually critical moments in people’s faith - it can draw them closer to God or push them further away.

He said that he encourages Catholics dealing with tragedy to beg God to make his presence felt in their lives during these times. He also said he wanted to emphasize that death and tragedy are not what God wants.

“God doesn’t desire death. This was not his plan,” Bierbaum said.

“(God) gives everyone complete and total free will because he wants us to love him freely, and the counterpoint to that is that free will can be used evilly, and Satan wants to take advantage of that,” Bierbaum said.

“So we legitimately say, God why do you allow this? Well, he allows it because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t truly be free...we wouldn’t be loving him freely,” he said.

“So that’s the key point that I try to emphasize is that God doesn’t will it, he doesn’t desire it, he weeps just like he wept at the tomb of Lazarus, even though he was about to raise him from the dead.”

“God would have wept for his son dying on the cross even though he sent him to do it. So it’s a matter of both-and, God loves us, but he also allows us to choose.”

High school founded by former NFL star aims to make virtuous students

Sat, 05/11/2019 - 02:00

Minneapolis, Minn., May 11, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Not everyone who goes to high school will go to college, the founders of a new Minnesota high school say, but everyone should be prepared for leadership, service, and virtuous lives.

Preparation for a good life, no matter what comes after graduation, is the goal of Unity High School set to open this fall in Burnsville, Minnesota.

The school was founded by Matt Birk, a retired football player who played with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, and Tom Bengtson, the owner of a small publishing company.
 
“At Unity, we are sure a lot of kids will go into college, some will go into the workforce, some will go into the military, some will discern religious vocations, and we think there is equal dignity in all of those things,” Birk told CNA.
 
“We are college prep but we are not only college prep. Not everybody is a candidate for college, people choose different paths and we believe that there is equal dignity in any of these paths. We are happy to prepare kids for post high school life regardless of what it looks like,” Bengtson added.
 
Birk has been involved with education programs in underprivileged communities since 2002, when he was playing professional football. As the father of eight, he said he knows that not all kids thrive in a competitive academic environment, noting that a “high-stakes” test-taking culture is not for everyone.

“If you look back at the genesis of the American education system, I think the original charter says the goal of education is to teach knowledge and develop character. As the U.S. keeps falling on the global list of test scores, we just keep focusing more and more on the testing,” he said.
 
“Character has been pushed out of mainstream education because it is all about the test now,” he added.
 
Birk said that because public school funding is tied to test scores, education models focus on test-taking skills, instead of adapting to the needs of each learner.
 
Birk added that while not every student is meant for college, but every person can be formed for success.

“If we are only doing it to show how well we can take a test, what’s the point?” he asked.

“If you go to an Ivy League schools is that a guarantee to a great life? No, no it’s not. I would say the most important thing to me … is that they would have a firm foundation in their Catholic faith, that would be number one, and then, number two, I would say to be equipped with some skills to be able to help them with whatever path they choose.”

Birk added that digital technology has been detrimental to some areas of ingenuity - communication, team work, and social and emotional intelligence. As a result of increased technology and media influence, he said students are suffering more narcissism and depression and incurring less empathy and abilities to handle anxiety.
 
Unity will aim to address those issues.
 
It will open this fall at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Burnsville. At first, the school will only teach high school freshmen, but it plans to add a new grade each year, until the first incoming class graduate as seniors.
 
The school will start small. It has about a dozen students enrolled right now, and its founders hope to bring in around 25 for the first year. It is also working to be recognized as an officially Catholic school in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
 
Unity will focus on practical opportunities for students to develop skills in academics, character, leadership, and service.

Birk said the school will “be vigorously Catholic,” including opportunities for students to engage with an instructor who can foster “interior life and their personal relationship with Jesus.”

The former NFL center's own faith is central to his life, he said. He is especially active in pro-life work. In 2013, after Birk's team won Super Bowl XLVII, he declined to attend a reception at the White House.

"I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, 'God bless Planned Parenthood.' Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year. I am Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement and I just felt like I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't endorse that in any way," Birk said.

He said he hopes Unity School will form students who are committed to faithful Catholicism.

“We really want the faith to be alive, to really be a part of the kids’ lives, not just taking a religion class,” said Birk.

Citing the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude, Birk said, the Catholic faith has a great framework for building character. To foster character development, the school will be involved with long term service projects, like monthly outings to nursing homes, where the teens can get to know the people they are serving.

A major component of the school will be its “Real World Wednesdays.” On those days, the students will take “life skills” classes and character development, including opportunities to listen to guest speakers and undergo field trips and service projects.

The teens will learn entrepreneurship, leadership, interview techniques, resumes, and financial literacy. The students will also be exposed to trades, through courses and workshops in auto maintenance, metal or wood shop, or home economics.

The school will also partner with an organization called Pursuit Academy, which teaches ethical enterprise, encouraging students learn to become entrepreneurs, to plan and manage their future goals, and to be leaders in their communities. Among other things, the teens will learn about engaging with peer pressure, managing risk, and public speaking.

Birk said a focus of the “Real World Wednesdays” will be developing what Birk calls “the-other-people-matter” mindset.

By identifying the good in themselves and in other people, students will establish better relationships in the community and a better relationship with God, he said.

Developing leadership skills and character “might not necessarily help them get an A on a test or score higher on their SAT, but they are going to be equipped with skills that they can use in their lives, whether it is in the careers or their marriages or as parents or as communities members.”

“Let’s get them some of that stuff,” he added.

In light of the school’s emphasis on both academic and practical skills, Unity has chosen two patron saints: John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These saints are not only modern figures for students to model after but fantastic examples of the school’s goals, Bengston said.

“John Paul II had all this rich philosophy of the dignity of the human person, which we will be teaching at Unity High School, including Theology of the Body,” said Bengston. “Then you got someone like Mother Teresa who took that theology and put it into practice - reached out to the poorest of the poor and saw dignity in folks who were in extremely dire circumstances.”

“In my mind, I seem them as both the hands and the heart at work together,” he added.  

Bengston said the school is convenient financially and geographically. Tuition will be $6,500 for the first year, which is half or even a third of the prices at other Catholic schools, Bengston said. He also said the school will fill a neighborhood need in the southern metro area of the Twin Cities.  

“It’s a large geographic area with 10 Catholic grade schools, through eighth grade, who collectively are graduating 300 students per year. Most of those students will go into public schools,” he said.

“About 75 students will stay in the Catholic school system and they have to travel quite a distance to Catholic high school.”

The lower price does mean there will be tradeoffs, Bengston said, noting that the school will have to improvise for a gymnasium, science lab, and auditorium. However, the school will have a thoroughly Catholic culture, he said, with Mass three times a week and a holy hour once a week, which is not offered at all Catholic schools.

Birk expressed enthusiasm for the new venture.

“We are still very much like a typical school in a lot of ways, but we are tweaking the model. I don’t know where this goes, but hopefully it will show people that there is a better way to do it.”

 

Alabama senate delays final vote on abortion bill; rape and incest exception removed

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 21:00

Montgomery, Ala., May 10, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on a bill to outlaw abortion, following a disagreement between Republican and Democratic state senators on Thursday over whether an exception for cases of rape or incest should be included in the bill.

The Human Life Protection Act (HB314) would make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense. Doctors who perform abortion would be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.

The penalty would apply only to doctors, not to mothers, who, according to the bill’s sponsors, would not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions.
 
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who presides over the Alabama Senate, removed the rape and incest exception amendment after a voice vote Thursday, meaning there is no record of how Senators voted— something the Democratic Senators wanted.

“I know this bill is going to pass. You’re going to get your way,” Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures protested.

“At least treat us fairly and do it the right way. That’s all that I ask.”

If the amendment had been added, the bill would have gone back to the House for a vote, leading to a delay, according to CBS News. Still, the president pro tem of the Senate moved to delay vote on the bill until next week to allow the senators to think it over. The Senate reconvenes May 14.

The Alabama House on April 30 passed the bill by a margin of 74-3. That version included an exception that would allow abortions in the case of a “serious health risk” to the mother. The Senate added, and then removed, the exception for rape and incest.

The legislation is designed to be a direct challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade, which found a constitutional right to abortion.

Unlike so-called “trigger laws” passed in other states, which would outlaw abortion in the event that the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade is overturned, the Alabama measure would come into effect within a year. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi all have “trigger laws” on the books.

Supporters of the Alabama bill have said their intention is to use the ensuing court battle to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v Wade. If the Human Life Protection Act becomes law, it would face an immediate challenge and likely be prevented from coming into force.

"The heart of this bill is to confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in the womb is not a person," sponsor State Rep. Terri Collins (R - Decatur) was quoted as saying by CBS News.

"This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is."

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to sign the bill into law.

“Ultimately, [the bill] is going to pass, and Alabama is going to lead the nation in protecting the sanctity of life,” State Senator Clyde Chambliss told the Washington Post.

“Planned Parenthood can try to derail the bill, as they did in spending over a million dollars to unsuccessfully oppose a pro-life ballot measure last fall in Alabama. But the outcome will be the same: Alabamians will stand on the side of life.”

Several states, including most recently Georgia, have also passed so-called “heartbeat bills” which would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The Alabama bill would prohibit performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

Proposed changes to poverty calculations could strip federal aid from millions

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 20:05

Washington D.C., May 10, 2019 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- A new proposal from the Trump administration would change the way the national poverty threshold is calculated, potentially leading millions of low-income Americans to lose federal assistance.

Earlier this week, the Office of Management and Budget announced a proposal to change the inflation measure used to calculate the poverty line in America. The proposed formula would show slower inflation growth over time. The administration is currently seeking public comment on the idea.

If enacted, the changes would likely mean fewer Americans would qualify for Medicaid, food stamps and other federal aid programs.

Currently, the poverty threshold sits at a $26,000 income for a family of four. The consumer price index is used to help calculate inflation in adjusting the poverty line each year. However, the administration has suggested switching to the “chained CPI,” which shows slower inflation because it assumes that individuals will buy cheaper goods if prices of items rise.

Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush attempted to use the chained CPI in calculating federal benefits. They met with strong opposition and were unsuccessful in implementing the changes.

Critics of the change argue that it would adversely affect vulnerable Americans, in particular families who are already struggling to make ends meet amid cost-of-living increases.

Last December, the 2018 American Family Survey found that the vast majority of Americans raising children are facing financial difficulties.

Of those who have children at home, 73 percent said they worry about being able to pay at least one monthly bill, and 44 percent have faced an economic crisis in the last year – being unable to pay an important bill or going without food, medical care or housing due to financial difficulty, the survey found.

Financial concerns were also cited as a significant factor in choosing not to kids, the survey found.

Amid federal budget discussions last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned against proposed cuts to federal assistance programs.

“We urge Congress – and every American – to evaluate the Administration’s budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need, and work to ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the USA Military Services, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who heads the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

They called for budget decisions to be “guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity.”

 

Pro-life rally draws 1,000 after Rep. Brian Sims' Planned Parenthood videos

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 19:10

Philadelphia, Pa., May 10, 2019 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- More than 1,000 people gathered May 10 for a public demonstration against recent social media videos that depicted a Pennsylvania lawmaker berating pro-life witnesses.

The “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” took place in front of a downtown Philadelphia Planned Parenthood facility. On May 2, state Rep. Brian Sims livestreamed video from the same location, posting two videos in which he denounced two women, three teenagers and a man.

Sims called for donations to Planned Parenthood while offering money to viewers who could provide the identities and addresses of the witnesses.

Shortly after the videos emerged on social media, the national organization Live Action organized the rally. It featured representatives from a number of local and national groups, including the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Family Council, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Sidewalk Servants and the Susan B. Anthony List.

Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, served as the gathering’s moderator. While calling for Sims’ resignation, Rose noted in her opening remarks that the event had been organized “for a much bigger reason … (to) stand for the dignity of human life,” a point emphasized throughout the speakers’ presentations.

Rose said “over 900 babies are killed every day at Planned Parenthood facilities across the U.S., and 2,600 across the nation at abortion clinics” on a daily basis in total.

Author and speaker Matt Walsh, who had called for the rally through a series of Twitter posts, said “abortion is not a reproductive issue, but a parenting decision,” since “by the time the abortion happens, reproduction has already occurred.”

Walsh said he hoped the rally would become a regular event.

Ashley Garecht, one of the women who had been confronted in Sims’ videos, drew cheers as she commended the longtime efforts of pro-life demonstrators and volunteers, noting they “are standing on the side of the angels.”

Garecht also observed that the demonstration took place just blocks from the one-time home of James Madison, a primary author of the U.S. Constitution, which enshrines “a self-evident, inalienable right to life,” she said.

Several speakers directly addressed Sims’ claims that the pro-life advocates he had filmed were racist.

Richara Krajewski of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia said she stood before the crowd “as a pro-life black woman.”

Noting that “it’s so popular now to call out racism,” Krajewski wished to clarify that application of the term, particularly “in the context of pro-abortion politics.”

“Real racism,” she said, “is co-opting the language of liberation to advocate for the destruction of the lives of the most vulnerable. Real racism is a so-called white ally telling black and brown women that they need to choose between their dreams and their babies.”

Toni McFadden, founder of Relationships Matter, described her own experience as an African-American teenager who had turned to Planned Parenthood for an abortion induced through an abortifacient prescription. Through speaking engagements, McFadden now shares her insights on post-abortion healing and spiritual development “so that no more babies need to die because of convenience.”

Abby Johnson, author of the book “Unplanned” and a nationally recognized pro-life advocate, met with an enthusiastic response as she announced she is now 37 weeks pregnant.

A former Planned Parenthood employee, Johnson took the organization to task for “covering up statutory rape of minors, not sterilizing instruments that are being used woman to woman” and repeatedly failing health inspections.

“That is the antithesis of health care and the antithesis of feminism,” said Johnson.

Earlier in the week, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in a statement had encouraged people to attend the rally and "meet the hateful actions of Representative Sims with the love of Christ and let us fervently pray for respect for life from conception to natural death."

Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre delivered a final blessing at the gathering, which had been marked throughout by the prayers of the attendees. Many of them carried rosary beads, while a few held crucifixes aloft in the crowd.

Some 20 patient escorts from Planned Parenthood, wearing bright yellow and pink vests, lined the sidewalk during the rally; they declined to offer comment on the rally.

Margaret Kuhar, a Philadelphia resident who has just finished her freshman year at the University of Mary, said the event was remarkable for its “shoulder-to-shoulder turnout” and the rapid manner in which it had been organized.

She has attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. more than 15 times with her family, and said she has seen “a big turnaround” in the attitude of younger generations to abortion, with more young adults less willing to seek it out.

A tourist to Philadelphia from Cape Coral, Florida, attended the rally by chance. Stacey McMahon stood against the exterior wall of the Planned Parenthood facility throughout the event as she silently “prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” she said, for both attendees and the abortion clinic’s staff.

“I prayed for a young lady who had been shielded by escorts to enter Planned Parenthood during the rally,” said McMahon, a Catholic.

“I was being the hands and feet of Christ, not making myself known as any type of Christian. That’s what Christ asks you to do, to stand silently for those who need him, the vulnerable.”

Montana governor vetoes Born-Alive Infant Protection Act

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 18:07

Helena, Mont., May 10, 2019 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- A leading national pro-life group has criticized Montana’s governor for vetoing a bill that would require medical professionals to save babies who survive an abortion attempt.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, decried Governor Steve Bullock’s veto of the Montana Born-Alive Infant Protection Act.

“Once again Governor Bullock sides with abortion extremists, going so far as to veto compassionate, popular legislation designed to provide care for children who survive failed abortions,” she said in a press release.

The veto was among seven measures blocked by Bullock this week.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Al Olszewski, the bill passed through the Senate and House in April. The legislation would have required medical professionals to provide “appropriate lifesaving or life-sustaining medical care” to any baby who survives an abortion attempt.

Under the bill, doctors would have been required to administer medical care to a baby, provided there was evidence of life - breathing, heart beat, definite movement, or umbilical cord pulsation. Medical professionals who failed to comply could have faced up to a $50,000 fine and 20 years in prison.

Critics of the bill argue that it would block late-term abortions, as doctors would be obligated to save a viable fetus. According to the Associated Press, Bullock stated that the bill would interfere with “deeply personal medical decisions.”

“If this bill were enacted, a woman could be subjected to forced caesarian section or inducement of labor if continuing her pregnancy after viability threatened her life – in violation of established legal precedent,” the governor said.

During a Senate Judiciary committee hearing in March, Olszewski stressed the important role this bill has in opposing infanticide, according to the Billings Gazette.

“There is a national debate attempting to legitimize the intentional killing of a baby born alive if the medical provider and the parents deem or decide that it is necessary or should happen,” he said.

In February, a federal Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed to achieve the 60 Senate votes necessary to move forward. At the state level, similar legislation has been introduced this year in Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Kansas.

A nationwide poll taken SBA List found that 77 percent of voters support legislation that ensures medical treatment for babies who survive abortions.

SBA List said that its current $200,000 ad campaign “exposes the extremism” of poltiicans like Bullock when it comes to abortion.

“Governor Bullock is no moderate when it comes to abortion, and we’re exposing his extremist record to the voters,” said Dannenfelser.

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