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Roe anniversary observed as National Sanctity of Human Life Day

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 17:16

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- US President Donald Trump has proclaimed that Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide, is being observed as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

“Today, we focus our attention on the love and protection each person, born and unborn, deserves regardless of disability, gender, appearance, or ethnicity,” began the president’s proclamation issued Jan. 19, the same day he spoke to March for Life participants via live video.

“This is why we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day: to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human,’” the President Trump explained in the proclamation.

The statement calls on Americans to recognize the human dignity of the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, the addicted, the mentally ill, single moms, orphan and foster children, pregnant mothers, and their unborn children. It also commends those who volunteer to assist pregnant mothers and legislators who work towards legal restrictions on abortion.

In the proclamation, the president explicitly highlights “the humanity of the unborn,” citing medical advances that make possible operations on babies in utero and images that “present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs – precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope.”

On Jan. 19, the White House also released a separate document with information related to the Trump administration’s commitment to the protection of life, stating: “President Trump has expressed strong support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would stop late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when science tells us that an unborn child can experience pain.”

The U.S. is one of seven countries globally that permits elective abortions after 20 weeks. The other countries are Canada, China, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The White House document cites a study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute that “taxpayer funding subsidizes 900 health care plans that cover abortions” in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has long held the sanctity of each human person as the foundation upon which stand her social teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church roots the dignity of the human person in humanity’s creation in the image of God with the powers of intellect and the will: “Endowed with ‘a spiritual and immortal’ soul, The human person is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.’ From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.”

Mexico City Policy ensures US funds won't force 'abortion ideology,' backers say

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- One year ago, President Trump reinstituted and expanded the Mexico City Policy, widening a ban on funding for NGOs that are involved in abortion—a ban that could shift tens of millions of dollars away from groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Backers and foes of the policy have voiced their views on the Trump administration’s expanded limitations on grants to international organizations promoting or providing abortion.

Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA the policy is needed “because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to promote abortion as an integral part of family planning – even in developing nations where abortion is against the law.”
 
“Abortion proponents assert that this policy is nothing more than powerful U.S. politicians forcing their policies on poor nations. But, frankly, the opposite is true,” Schleppenbach said, adding that the the policy “ensures that NGOs, as grantees of U.S. funds, will not themselves force their abortion ideology on countries without permissive abortion laws.”
 
The Reagan-era Mexico City Policy takes its name from the location of the 1984 United Nations conference on population and development, where the funding ban was announced. The policy was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001, repealed by Barack Obama in 2009, and again reinstated by President Donald Trump when he took office.
 
President Trump, who had not promised to implement the Mexico City Policy during his campaign, signed the executive order on Jan. 23, 2017. He instructed the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expand the Mexico City Policy, now called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” because of its increased scope. When fully implemented, it would apply to over $8.8 billion in foreign aid for global health assistance. By comparison, the previous version of the policy affected $600 million in U.S. aid for family planning programs.
 
Foes of the policy characterize it as a “gag rule.”
 
In January 2017, before the policy’s expansion, a spokesperson for International Planned Parenthood Federation said the organization could lose $100 million in annual funding for its non-abortion services. On Thursday Marie Stopes International, a U.K.-based abortion and contraceptive services provider, has estimated its own funding shortfall at $80 million, about 17 percent of its income from donations.
 
“Unless we can fill the $80 million gap created by the global gag rule, it will deprive millions of women of the contraception they need to prevent an unintended pregnancy, and it is the world’s poorest women and girls who will bear the brunt,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, Marie Stopes’ vice president and director of external affairs.
 
Marie Stopes claimed the lost resources would result in 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, and 6,900 maternal deaths.
 
The new policy could affect 1,275 foreign NGOs and about $2.2 billion in global health funding, the Kaiser Family Foundation has said.
 
Schleppenbach, however, said critics made “the same dire predictions” about widespread harm to global health care services in 2001 when President George W. Bush reinstated the policy. He thought such claims were “dishonest and sad.”

Past experience with the policy “provides little to no credible evidence to support claims that the policy will lead to dramatic adverse health consequences,” Schleppenbach said.
 
“The vast majority of Americans reject abortion as healthcare and do not want their tax dollars used for programs that promote or provide abortion as a method of family planning,” said Schleppenbach. He said the expanded policy aligns foreign aid with Americans’ views, and with other laws limiting funding for abortion and abortion providers, like the Helms Amendment and like the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which bars funding for organizations determined to be involved in coercive abortion or sterilization.
 
The NGO Human Rights Watch has advocated congressional action as a long-term strategy to provide “stability” to U.S. global health assistance.
 
“It is disruptive and counterproductive to the global health community to have the U.S. policy on foreign assistance change dramatically from one presidential administration to the next,” the NGO said in June 2017.
 
The organization advocated passage of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act, whose shortened name is the Global HER Act, which would permanently revoke the policy. Other backers of this legislation include Amnesty International.
 
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Susan B. Anthony List’s research arm, also backed the Trump administration’s policy, saying it “reflects the wishes of the American people who time and again have indicated they do not want their tax dollars used to provide abortions either domestically or overseas.”
 
He said that because some nations increase their funding for such programs when U.S. funding is cut, it is difficult to know how many millions of dollars are used for such campaigns.
 
The She Decides NGO was launched by the Dutch government to encourage donors to replace the funding cut by the Mexico City Policy. About $450 million has been raised from country donors, especially European governments, and private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In July, Melinda Gates announced the foundation would boost family planning funding by 60 percent, another $375 million over the next four years, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.
 
Lilianne Ploumen, former Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, founded She Decides. Ploumen was the focus of controversy upon news that she had been awarded the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The honor was later described by a Holy See press officer as simply a matter of protocol during a visit of the Dutch royal family, not an endorsement of Ploumen’s abortion views.
 
The pushback against the Mexico City Policy itself has funders, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Two $1 million grants from each foundation aim to track the policy’s effects in Kenya and Nepal through a research project based at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
 
The Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the school announced the research project and the grants which funded it Nov. 29, 2017, while the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported on the grants in December.
 
Another $500,000, four-year grant from the Hewlett Foundation to the Guttmacher Institute backs a “large-scale, multi-country study” on the Mexico City Policy’s impact on “sexual and reproductive health funding, services, and outcomes” in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda.
 
“Research findings will be useful for advocacy,” the foundation’s Oct. 6, 2017 grant listing said.
 
Since 2001, the Hewlett Foundation has given several million dollars to the Guttmacher Institute both for general support and support for various domestic and international projects, grant listings indicate.
 
The foundation is a major supporter of Planned Parenthood, giving tens of millions to the abortion provider’s local, U.S., and international affiliates. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Society Foundations indicated the Hewlett Foundation was a partner in a multi-million dollar campaign responding to investigations that appeared to implicate the abortion provider in the illegal procurement and sale of unborn baby parts and fetal tissue.
 

 

Why this man says abortion isn't just a woman's issue

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 02:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 21, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A man who lost his own child to abortion believes men have important things to say on the issue, and their voices need to be heard.

“We are told that men shouldn’t talk about abortion,” but it's an issue that affects them too, Jason Jones told CNA in a recent interview. “It’s a man’s issue and it’s a woman’s issue.”  

“As a man, I have something in me that wants to protect the vulnerable from violence. That is what men do,” he said.

Jones, a national pro-life advocate, said when he speaks frankly in those terms, men respond to him, because “we need to say the truth.”

“When men speak about abortion, it is very effective,” he added.

It might seem natural to think that women are better pro-life “spokespersons,” or that men should have a diminished role, Jones said. But “men have their place” in the discussion.

“Men share their stories, and their stories are sorrowful. Men who are scared, and manipulated or coerced into having an abortion. Men who can be humble and say 'I coerced my daughter or my girlfriend or my wife into getting an abortion.' We need to hear those stories.”

When men tell the truth about their own experience with abortion, “it changes people,” he said. “No one has a happy abortion story. When people tell the truth, it influences people.”

Jones, who often shares the story of his own child’s abortion, told CNA he was 17 when he and his girlfriend Katie found out they were pregnant. Still in high school, they planned to hide the pregnancy while he dropped out and joined the army so he could take care of the baby. He was excited to be a father, he said.

However, while still in basic training and during their third trimester, Jones got a call from his girlfriend's father saying their “secret” had been discovered and “taken care of.” He was devastated.

An atheist who didn't fully understand what abortion was, Jones said he realized his daughter, whom they had already named Jessica, had been murdered.

“That was it for me. It horrified me. It was unbelievable,” he said. “I had never been to church a day in my life, I knew nothing about politics. I was just a kid who was last in his class in high school, who to me, school was just something I had to do to play football.”

However, since the moment he found out that his daughter had been aborted, he says he has committed his life “to protecting women and children from the violence of abortion.”

Jones, 46, is now a film producer, author, and human rights worker known for his pro-life activism. He remained an atheist for years, though his contact with Christian organizations and study of political philosophy eventually led him, in 2003, to the Catholic Church. 

In his comments to CNA, Jones, who is now married with seven children, said that it can be hard to discuss abortion because the friends and loved ones of someone who has had an abortion often become defensive, saying that to condemn abortion is to condemn a person they care about.

“The irony is that you know your sister had an abortion because she called you crying about it, with a broken heart. And then when that person stumbles upon a pro-life activist, they get angry because they think you are calling their sister a bad person.”

“We need to help people understand that when a woman gets an abortion it’s...an act of desperation,” he said. “She’s a victim just like the child.”

Jones said the pro-life movement needs an “apologetic” that is able to get the truth about abortion across in a simple way, and which teaches men to defend women and children.

“You do not need sophisticated arguments to tell a man: you don’t pay a stranger to kill your baby. As a man, you defend your child from violence ... you defend the woman carrying your child from violence...it’s just very simple.”

He said that much of the language used in the pro-life movement is designed for women and to talk to women who are in a crisis situation, but men interact differently and need to be approached in a different way.

“When I talk to men about abortion, I talk to them as a man. I talk to them plainly,” he said. “I talk to them as a man that has lost his child.”

Many people can be cavalier and insensitive about abortion, he said, explaining that he can become passionate and wants to remind people that “we are victims in this too.”

When speaking about abortion, he says men should just be themselves: “Don’t talk about abortion differently that you talk about everything else, don’t put it off to the side. You are allowed, as a man, to talk about an issue like a man.”

Jones said his message to people who might be in a state of fear or crisis because of an unexpected pregnancy, said his message to them would be “what are you afraid of?”

“I had that experience, I became a teen parent,” but looking back, “what was I afraid of? … Being a father is such a beautiful gift ... there is no more beautiful thing in the world than being a father.”

 

Cardinal O’Malley: Pope’s words ‘a source of great pain’ for abuse survivors

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 17:25

Boston, Mass., Jan 20, 2018 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- The chairman of the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse has said that recent comments from Pope Francis were painful and alienating to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

"It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in a Jan. 20 statement.  

The statement refers to a comment made by Pope Francis to a Chilean reporter Jan. 18. The Pope was asked about Bishop Juan Barros, a Chilean accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding with their abuser to cover up his crimes. Barros, who has maintained his innocence, has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak," Pope Francis told the reporter. "There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

O’Malley said that “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The Pope has long been a defender of Barros.  

On May 6, 2015, five months after Barros was appointed to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Deacon Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean episcopal conference, told Pope Francis that the Church in Osorno “is praying and suffering for you.”

“Osorno suffers, yes,” Pope Francis said, “for silliness.” According to a video of the conversation released by Chile’s Ahora Noticias, the Pope told Coiro that “the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court.”

“Think with your head, and do not be carried away by the noses of the leftists, who are the ones who put this thing together,” the Pope added.

O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when it was established by the Pope in 2014. He is widely lauded for his leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, amid widespread reports of clerical sexual abuse under Law’s leadership.

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley’s statement read.

"My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain,” he added.

"In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again."

Warm weather greets marchers at the 45th annual March for Life

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 18:54

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- They came from across the country and the globe to Washington, DC. for one purpose: to stand in solidarity with unborn children.

With a quite a few groups donned in matching hats and scarves – quickly rendered unnecessary due to the unseasonably warm January day – and clutching some innovative signs, the 45th annual March for Life went off without a hitch Jan. 19.

While the rally made history as President Donald Trump became the first sitting president to address the march via livestream video, the individual marchers to whom Catholic News Agency spoke over the course of the day were more concerned with the need to protect the unborn and to promote the dignity of life.

And they were big fans of the nice weather, of course.

The crowd was overwhelmingly young, and large groups from all over the country were spotted on the National Mall. A group of around 400 from Baton Rouge, La., made an impressive entrance, and the wave of white hats continued as far as the eye could see.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">From earlier—here’s a small bit of the 400-strong contingent from Baton Rouge, LA at the <a href="https://twitter.com/March_for_Life?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@March_for_Life</a> <a href="https://t.co/XJN3oKe7ha">pic.twitter.com/XJN3oKe7ha</a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/954493345660919808?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The University of Mary had a three-bus contingent of about 150 students, faculty, and staff, who made the 30-hour car ride to Washington, D.C from Bismarck. The prospect of a long bus ride didn’t sway UMary junior Mary Kampa, who was returning to DC for her second March for Life in a row.

“Knowing that it’s not about the bus ride, and it’s not about me, and it’s for something much greater – standing up for the dignity of life,” Kampa told CNA. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless,” she continued.

Last year, the University of Mary contingent led the march. Kampa said that was an honor. This year, 20 students were present in the Rose Garden for Trump’s address.

And true to form, some UMary students were clad in short-sleeved shirts prior to the start of the pre-march rally. Kampa wasn’t surprised by this, considering the weather her and her classmates had left behind in North Dakota.

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/BeJeT5blJxh/" data-instgrm-version="8" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BeJeT5blJxh/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">We are the Pro-Life Generation! #marchforlife2018 #whywemarch #lovesaveslives #lifeatmary</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/universityofmary/" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> University of Mary</a> (@universityofmary) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2018-01-19T22:36:06+00:00">Jan 19, 2018 at 2:36pm PST</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

“It was negative 20 [degrees] last Sunday, so this is awesome,” she said, laughing.

Another big fan of the weather was Ave Maria University student John-Paul Arias. Arias was at his first March for Life, and unlike many of his classmates who were in DC, he flew up.

Arias said he thought it was important for men to “defend the life that we helped create,” and that they too had an important role in the pro-life movement. He said he was thrilled to be in Washington, and very excited to be at the march.

And despite AMU’s location in southwest Florida, it was somehow warmer in DC on Friday.

 

Commentary: Aziz Ansari's hookup was a game of Russian roulette

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 17:00

New York City, N.Y., Jan 19, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- There are better models of fraternal correction than telling the story of the horrible night you spent with comedian Aziz Ansari to a reporter from a casually crude website. But that was where “Grace” (a pseudonym) went to express what she didn’t have a way to say to Ansari—that he had hounded her physically; pressured her to go farther, faster than she wanted; and left her feeling wretched after their night together.

Grace spoke up, she said, because she saw Ansari wearing a “Times Up” pin and supporting the #MeToo movement, and she couldn’t see how he reconciled his support of women generally with the way he treated her particularly.

Grace’s story sparked many reactions. But if Aziz Ansari is reading all the thinkpieces about him, he must feel most ill-served by his allies. “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader” wrote Bari Weiss for the New York Times, exonerating Ansari in a singularly insulting way.

It’s unreasonable, Weiss and others write, to expect Ansari and other men to be able to know if they’re scaring or upsetting their one-night-stands. The solution isn’t for men to pay attention to women’s non-verbal cues, she writes, but for women to be much more aggressive in fending off men who make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

For all the worry about women defining themselves as snowflakes or victims, the defense offered to Ansari sounds much more cossetting than comforting.

What virtuous man would feel relieved to be told he is powerless to avoid harming the women he takes to bed? Who would be put at ease, after seeing a woman in tears, to be told that it’s not his fault, he couldn’t help it, there’s no way for him to know—he’s not a mind-reader.

If sex is always such a blind leap, with no way to take care of your partner, what good man could have an assignation and respect himself in the morning. The sexual culture Ansari’s supporters describe is a game of Russian roulette: eventually, every man will wind up deeply wounding a woman he’s taken to bed, but he may never even find out which lovers were the collateral damage of our hookup culture. (And, of course, he also may be coerced, objectified, or abused himself).

Ansari’s critics agree, in part, with his supporters. Those non-verbal cues are hard to read, so men (and women) should stick to a “Yes means yes” model of consent, waiting to hear explicit, enthusiastic consent before pushing things with a partner, they say.

The “affirmative consent” model, viewed simply as harm reduction, is an improvement over the “Not a Mind Reader” defense, but it still sells men and women short. It’s a way of camouflaging the fundamental problem: you can’t have generically respectful and ethical sex.

As long as men and women go to bed as strangers, it will be very difficult for them to take care of each other. The most egregious behavior can be minimized with affirmative consent, but who is aiming for a sex life that is simply “not assault?"

Sex that is a gift of self is intimate and particularized. You make a gift of your particular self to one other particular person. No one makes love to “a woman” or “a man” generically—those who try are engaged in something much more like mutual masturbation than intercourse.

Before couples get intimate—which starts, physically, well before sex—they must know and love each other. There must be trust, in each other, and trust that they share an understanding of what the good is, if each person is relying on the other to will his or her good correctly. (They must also be right about what that good consists of, but the other pitfalls are more obvious).

That means ethical sex starts long before clothes come off. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person” (CCC 2337) and purity as that which “frees one from wide-spread eroticism and avoids those things which foster morbid curiosity” (CCC 530).

Both must become a habit, before it is possible to offer the gift of one’s sexuality to another. These virtues are a prerequisite to the other step Ansari and Grace skipped, getting to know the other person, to the point where you do know their non-verbal signals, because you see and know them in all their particularity.

One schoold for these virtues (and corrective to the culture) is the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, a fellowship of men and women pursuing chastity through prayer. Even someone not enrolled in the Confraternity can join (from time to time, or even every day) in the 15 Hail Marys that Confraternity member pray daily for chastity and purity. Joining in the Confraternity’s daily prayer is a particularly good redoubt to flee to in the case of temptation.

 

Leah Libresco Sargeant is the author of Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers Even I Can Offer. Her writing has appeared at First Things, FiveThirtyEight, and The Washington Post.  Her opinions do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Catholic News Agency.

 

Pro-life strength lies in love, speakers tell March for Life

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 16:10

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 02:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The pro-life movement’s most powerful tool lies in its ability to love, speakers said Friday at the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

This year’s annual March, the theme of which was ‘Love Saves Lives’, was an historic event for numerous reasons - it marked the 45th anniversary of the March, it was an uncharacteristically balmy 50 degree day in January, and it was the first time the event was addressed live by the sitting President of the United States.  

“I want to thank every person here today who works with such big hearts to make sure parents have the care and support they need to choose life,” President Donald Trump told the crowds from the White House via a satellite feed.

“Because of you, tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full God-given potential...you are the living witnesses of the theme ‘Love saves lives,’” he said.

Some speakers shared personal stories of love in difficult moments and pregnancies to emphasize this year’s theme during the March for LIfe rally.

One such story was told by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), who was joined on stage by her family, including her 4 year-old “miracle” daughter Abigail, who punctuated her mother’s remarks with questions and exclamations.

Beutler told the audience that while she was pregnant with Abigail, an ultrasound revealed devastating news - their daughter was not developing vital organs properly within the womb, and she would likely suffocate to death as soon as she was born.

Beutler said that she and her husband were told the baby had a “zero percent chance” of survival, and that most parents in their situation opt to get an abortion.

“We prayed, we cried...and in that devastation, we saw God,” Beutler said. Unwilling to abort, the couple sought doctors and experimental treatments that could give their daughter a chance at life. She said their love of their daughter and unwillingness to give up would save her life.

“Through divine intervention, and some very courageous doctors who were willing to take a risk, we now get to experience our daughter Abigail, who is a healthy, happy 4 year-old big sister,” Beutler said. “She says that someday she’s going to be the boss of mommy’s work - look out Speaker Ryan.”  

Sr. Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life told the crowd the story of Raquel, a scared pregnant woman who came to the sisters for help and told them that while she believed abortion was wrong, she could never tell another woman what to do.

That all changed one day when Raquel met a fellow scared pregnant woman in an elevator. She took the mother’s hand and had her feel the kicks of her own unborn baby.

“Yeah, my baby’s gonna be a linebacker. He’s gonna be strong and he’s gonna be blessed,” Raquel told the woman. “Why is he gonna be blessed? Because he’s here.”

Raquel then told the woman that she would have a girl, and could name her Raquel Jasmine, after the “fabulous lady you met on the elevator.”

Two years later, Raquel met the woman again at the doctor’s office. She was pushing a stroller with twin girls - named Raquel and Jasmine.

“It was such a small thing, this loving exchange, and the impact reaches in to eternity,” Sr. Bethany Madonna said. “You may not see the impact of your love, but God sees it. The love in your hearts is totally unique to you...and your love saves lives.”

Other speakers addressing the March included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Pam Tebow, the mother of former pro-football player Tim Tebow, U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and well as Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church of America, and Bishop Vincent Matthews Jr., President of the International Missions Department of the Church of God in Christ.

Ryan encouraged the crowd - mostly made up of young people, he noted - that love is the reason the pro-life movement is on the rise in the United States.

“The pro-life movement is on the rise because we have love on our side,” Ryan said. “We believe every person is worthy of love and dignity.”

“That’s one thing that gets lost [in the political debate about abortion] - just how compassionate the pro-life movement really is,” he said. “I’m proud of what this movement has done for women who have gone through the pain of abortion, how it supports single mothers who are struggling to support their children...this is the face of the pro-life movement,” Ryan added.

He also noted several pro-life bills that have been passed by the House in the past year, including the just-passed Born Alive Survivors Protection Act, which protects the lives of babies who survive failed abortions.

“Most importantly, we are striving to do all of this without judgement in our hearts, but with compassion and love for all of the victims [of abortion],” he said.  

“Thank you for being here...this is one that we will win this day. Thank you. God bless you, tell everybody come back next year and bring three friends.”

House passes protections for abortion survivors

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the annual March for Life began just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol on Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring medical care for babies surviving botched abortions.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protections Act requires physicians and abortion clinics to provide proper medical treatment for babies born alive after an abortion.  The bill mandates fines and the possibility of imprisonment for medical professionals found to be noncompliant.  

“Justice and compassion took a great leap forward today,” Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List said of the bill’s passage..  

“We thank Leader McCarthy and our allies in the House for holding a timely vote on this crucial bill, as hundreds of thousands of pro-life Americans rally at Congress’ doorstep,” Dannenfelser said in a Jan. 19 press release.  

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), says that abortionists would be required to provide to meet the same standards of care for a child surviving an abortion as would be expected for infants of the same gestational age who were not subjects of an abortion. The law would also specifically require surviving babies to be transported to a hospital.

Women undergoing abortion could not be prosecuted under the law’s provisions, but it would give them a cause for a lawsuit if the a child surviving an abortion was uncared for.  

A bill already exists which orders medical professionals to provide emergency care for the infants who survive late term abortions, but the problem, according to Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), is that the current bill has little power to be enforced.  

“The problem with existing law, Mr. Speaker, is enforcement—the lack of legal implications,” Smith said on Jan. 18 in a speech on the House floor.

“The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act...requires appropriate health care to be given to any child who survives an attempted abortion,” Smith added.

Every Republican in Congress voted for the bill, as did six Democrats.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) was among Democrats opposing the bill, stating there was little evidence that doctors aren’t already providing health care for babies born after failed abortions.

“There is no evidence at all that doctors currently are failing to provide an appropriate level of care,” he said during the bills debate on Jan. 19.

But Smith said there is no evidence for the problem because it is swept under the rug. He cited Willard Cates, M.D., former head of the Centers of Disease Control Abortion Surveillance Unit.

“[Live births] are little known because organized medicine, from fear of public clamor and legal action, treats them more as an embarrassment to be hushed up than a problem to be solved. It’s like turning yourself in to the IRS for an audit,” Smith said, quoting Dr. Cates.

The legislation needs 60 votes to pass through the Senate, which has not yet passed a ban on abortions of 20 weeks of pregnancy, passed by the House last year.

“We urge the Senate follow their colleagues’ lead and pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act as well as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end cruel late-term abortions after five months of pregnancy,” Dannenfelser said.

In his remarks supporting the bill, Smith encouraged Americans to continue working to end abortion.  From the House floor, he offered “a call to increased prayer and fasting asking God to protect the weakest and most vulnerable and to heal.”

 

March for Life hears praise from President Trump

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 14:11

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 12:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump praised the pro-life movement’s support for pregnant women and touted his administration’s pro-life policy achievements in his remarks to the March for Life Friday.
 
“You come from many backgrounds, many places, but you all come for one beautiful cause: to build a society where life is celebrated, protected and cherished,” he told the March for Life Jan. 19 via videocast. “The March for Life is a movement born out of love.”
 
“You love every child, born and unborn, because you believe that every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God,” he told the marchers on the National Mall while speaking before an audience in the White House Rose Garden. “Because of you, tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full God-given potential. Because of you.”
 
Hundreds of thousands of people were in Washington, D.C. to attend this year’s March for Life, which is in its 45th year. The theme of this year’s march is “Love Saves Lives.” The march is held annually on or near the anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The president said he was “honored and really proud” to address the march. While previous presidents addressed the march while in office by phone or remote loudspeaker, organizers said he is the first president to do so via telecast.
 
Trump said the Roe decision resulted in “some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world,” making the U.S. comparable to countries like China and North Korea in permitting late-term abortions.
 
“It is wrong, it has to change,” he said. “Americans are more and more pro-life.”
 
Trump promised that his administration would always defend the right to life.

He touted his re-implementation of the Mexico City Policy, which bars federal funds for groups that perform or promote abortion overseas, and cited his administration’s reversal of an Obama-era policy that restricted state’s efforts to direct federal dollars away from “facilities that violate the law.” He voiced strong support for a House bill to ban late-term abortions in which supporters say the unborn child can feel pain. Trump called on the Senate to “pass this important law.”
 
He also cited his executive order protecting religious liberty and an effort to protect conscience rights and religious freedom of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.
 
The president also introduced Marianne Donaido, a woman whose parents supported her when she became pregnant at the age of 17. He praised her work with Room at the Inn, a Greensboro, N.C.-based maternity program that helps house and support pregnant homeless women. The charity is affiliated with Catholic Charities USA.
 
In a separate Jan. 19 statement, Trump declared that Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe decision, will be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, “to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human’.”
 
Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year’s March for Life in person, introduced Trump in the Rose Garden. He said the Roe Supreme Court decision “turned its back on the right to life” but began the pro-life movement that continues today, a movement defined by “compassion and love.”
 
“Life is winning in America, because love save lives,” he told the march. “Your compassion, your persistence your activism and your prayers are saving lives… this pro-life generation should never doubt that we are with you.”
 
“This president stands with you,” he said, contending that Trump was “the most pro-life president in American history.”
 
Trump once declared himself “pro-choice in every respect,” but increasingly advocated anti-abortion views ahead of and during his 2016 election campaign, Politico reports.
 
Other political leaders at the March for Life rally were House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).
 
In previous years Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush addressed the March for Life remotely.

'My mother was told to abort me', priest says to March for Life youth

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 13:56

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Martino Choi told some 18,000 teens and adults about his mother's decision in favor of life at a Youth Rally and Mass for Life held in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

“I know a woman who went in for her ultrasound, and was told by the doctors that the child’s organs were not developing properly. The child would probably not make it a year after birth, and they recommended abortion,” Fr. Choi said during his homily at the Capital One Arena Jan. 19.

“This woman is my mother, and I am that child,” he stated.

Choi is a parish priest at St. Patrick's parish in Rockville, Md., about 20 miles northwest of the District of Columbia. He said the doctors had told his mother that abortion would shield him and her from unnecessary suffering. He continued: “The devil knows who to disguise evil with a lie that somehow death is better than life … but death is never better than life.”

The young priest also shared stories from his parish where he has counseled parents who lost a child between days and months after the child's birth.

“Not a single one of those families comes to me and says, ‘You know what, Father, we wish we hadn’t had this child. We wish we hadn’t had to suffer through this.’ None of them say that. They all say, ‘Thank God that we got to love this child, even if it was just for a couple of days.'”

“One family, whose kid never left the hospital, said that in his three months of life their son taught them the depths of love and courage that we could not understand before his birth…”

These stories resonated with the teens at the Mass for Life, who came from dioceses both across the U.S. and internationally.

“I thought that it was really amazing,” Kelly Lambers, a high school student from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told CNA. “His mother didn’t give him up even though she knew he didn’t have that long to live, but now look at him; he’s a priest!”

Lambers traveled nine hours by bus with her classmates from Mother of Mercy High School to attend the rally and the March for Life. She said she is particularly proud of her friends’ signs that read, “Pro-Life is Pro-Women.”

Tajil Baptiste, a young man from the U.S. Virgin Islands, also shared why he and his friends traveled to D.C. for the March for Life: “It is a a religious event for us, traveling so far from a little island, but the message that we will be bringing back to our community and our Church is ‘Let’s be pro-life, let’s change the world.’”

There were nearly 200 priests, 20 bishops, and three cardinals concelebrating the youth Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Washington. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was the principal celebrant.

“We are gathered here to proclaim the value, the worth, and the dignity of all human life,” Cardinal Wuerl told the crowd before the Mass.

The Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, shared a message from Pope Francis with the youth and extended an invitation to tag the Holy Father as they stand up for life on Twitter and Instagram using #iStand4Life.

After the Mass for Life, the youth groups walked from the Capital One Arena to the National Mall for the March for Life.

For former abortion workers, kindness changes hearts

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 02:29

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Myra Neyer used to work a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood Baltimore. Today, she has left the abortion industry and is a pro-life advocate.

Instrumental to her conversion and decision to leave was a 40 Days for Life sidewalk counselor who gave her a rosary when she asked for one. She says this sidewalk counselor was far kinder than other protestors who had been outside her clinic.

“You don’t know where we’re coming from,” said Neyer. “Just be gentle.”

Neyer spoke at a Jan. 18 press conference in Washington, D.C. held by “And Then There Were None,” a nonprofit group that helps abortion clinic workers leave the industry.
 
The organization was founded by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who left her job in 2009. Through monetary assistance, emotional, social and spiritual support, and help in finding a new job, Johnson said the organization has helped more than 400 people leave the abortion industry, including seven physicians.

Johnson said that the “overwhelming majority” of And Then There Were None’s clients were completely unaware that they were applying to work in an abortion clinic. The former clinic workers echoed this statement.

One woman said that she did not know her clinic performed abortions until two weeks into her employment, when she was told she was going to assist with a surgical procedure - which turned out to be an abortion.

“Former clinic workers are the biggest threat to Planned Parenthood,” said Johnson, explaining that when one worker leaves a clinic, oftentimes their colleagues follow. Several of the women present at the Jan. 18 event had five or six colleagues leave the abortion industry after they had decided to quit.

When a clinic worker contacts And Then There Were None seeking to leave the abortion industry, they are assigned a client manager, who becomes their main contact and support during their transition. Throughout the year, there are retreats for former clinic workers to come together and assist each other in the healing process.

“These are normal women,” said Johnson, “that were caught up in something that is not normal.” She said that it was important for pro-lifers to remember that the people working in abortion clinics are humans and should not be dehumanized.

Johnson stressed that it is important for pro-life demonstrators to be kind to clinic employees and to avoid hostility and harassment. She credits a sidewalk counselor at her former clinic for helping her leave the industry.

She suggested that sidewalk counselors have some sort of job bank resource to help provide potential employment options for clinic workers who choose to leave the industry.

More information about And Then There Were None can be found at the group’s website.

Pray against 'powers of darkness,' Cardinal Dolan tells pro-life marchers

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:36

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the fight against abortion, it is crucial to recognize the reality of evil and the importance of prayer, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said on the eve of the annual March for Life.

The power of evil in the world, he said, is “stronger than any in creation save one, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who called Himself ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’”

“That’s why we come to this place of prayer to commence our project, a home the powers of darkness are scared of, a house where Mary is our Mother, where Jesus dwells, and where we are with family,” he said. “We come to admit realistically that there are powers of darkness in a culture Pope Francis calls ‘throwaway’ and St. John Paul termed ‘of death.’”

Cardinal Dolan delivered the homily at the Jan. 18 Mass of the Vigil for Life, which took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The Vigil for Life is held each year on the night before the March for Life, an annual event on or near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

The march routinely draws hundreds of thousands from across the country to witness to the dignity of every human life.

In his homily, Cardinal Dolan said that observers of the march – now in its 45th year – have compared it to the “peaceful yet so effective protests for civil rights organized by the prophetic pastor,” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“(L)ike the Reverend Martin Luther King, our prayers and witness are about civil rights, the civil right to life and to equal protection under the law, guaranteed by our constitution, for the most fragile, marginalized, and threatened – the tiny, innocent baby in the womb,” he said.

“Like Pastor King, our belief in the dignity of the human person and sacredness of all human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racial antagonism to justice for immigrants, from the war torn to the hungry.”

The cardinal pointed to the March for Life as a means of advocating for the unborn and showing that “millions, mostly young people, share a passion for a belief that the little baby has civil rights.” It is important for the nation’s lawmakers to see the strength of the pro-life movement, he said.

“Our elected representatives, executive and legislative, and the judiciary they appoint, need to see, and hear, and feel the grassroots power and sincere voices of millions who lack the cash of the abortion industry, who can’t find many in Hollywood to support them, who can’t seem to get a hearing on campus, and who are told not to even consider running for office in some states.”

The lawmakers need to hear “that we’re not going to give up, that reason and the grand American tradition enshrined in our foundational documents are on our side, and that our love for babies, their struggling moms and dads, and our passion for a society to assist and protect all vulnerable life will keep us at it,” he said.

He also noted that the march is a powerful way “to fight the temptation we must admit – the temptation to discouragement.” With the message of the pro-life movement ridiculed and harassed by much of the media, academia, entertainment industry and one of the two major political parties, the fight can at times feel lonely, he said.

Cardinal Dolan said that in his home state of New York, abortion is legal until birth and can be funded with taxpayer dollars, while those with conscientious objections can find their jobs threatened.

“What a paradox and heavenly sign that the Sisters of Life were founded in such a pro-abortion state!”

Despite challenges, the pro-life movement has reason for hope, the cardinal said.

He encouraged those present to be “apostles of life, apostles armed not with money, not with hate or destructive words, but armed, as our Holy Father exhorts, with love and joy.”

New HHS department created to protect religious freedom

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:21

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new division at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work to ensure the protection of religious freedom and conscience rights for Americans, government officials announced Thursday.

“The state should not force people to go against their integrated view of humanity,” said the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, at a Jan. 18 press conference.

This new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which falls under the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will focus on the enforcement of existing laws on rights of conscience and religious freedom. It will also provide an outlet to field Americans’ complaints of any discrimination they have experienced in the field of healthcare.

For examples, doctors or nurses who have been forced to participate in an abortion or an assisted suicide that violates their moral convictions will be able to file a complaint directly on the HHS website.

Sarah Hellwege, a nurse-midwife, spoke at the press conference announcing the new division. She said that she experienced discrimination in an interview process because of her membership in a pro-life medical association.

The number of these types of conscience complaints to HHS has increased dramatically since President Donald Trump’s election. Ten complaints were filed with HHS during the eight years of the Obama administration, whereas there have been 34 since November 2016.

Severino told EWTN News Nightly that he attributes this surge in complaints to “pent up demand” and that this new division has been established “to assess complaints, see which ones are meritorious, and to vindicate the interests of justice as the law requires.”

Also speaking at today’s announcement was Montse Alvarado, the Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who explained to CNA what this new division will mean for Catholic healthcare professionals across the country.

“For the past 10 years we have had attacks on conscience that manifested themselves particularly for the Catholic community in the area of healthcare and healthcare providers with individuals and institutions,” she said.

“Because Catholics play such a large role, they finally will have a place to bring their grievances to try to solve things and bring common sense solutions that are so important without having to resort to litigation. And if they do need to litigate them, they will have a partner in this division.”

Several other government officials and religious figures spoke at the press conference announcing the new division.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted a concern from his state of California, where a new law forces pregnancy centers to provide information about local abortion providers. This Supreme Court will hear this case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, this year.

Representatives from HHS cited President Trump’s executive order last May as an impetus for the new HHS division. The executive order called on all executive departments and agencies to “respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech” to the extent permitted by law. The order specifically requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services address conscience-based objections.

Earlier this week, President Trump recognized National Religious Freedom Day, saying in a Jan. 16 proclamation, “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”

When asked by EWTN News Nightly about the likelihood of the new department surviving in future administrations, Severino responded, “It would be very difficult to undo the division. This is a foundational civil right. Everybody should be in favor of civil rights for all and that includes our first civil right, which is our right to free expression of religion and conscience. This is enforced through our laws that have been passed by bipartisan congresses and presidents in both parties that have been with us for decades. Those are not going to go away and we have to enforce those laws fully.”

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will enforce existing protection statutes over which the Office of Civil Rights already has authority. This includes the Weldon Amendment, which stipulates that states receiving federal funds cannot discriminate against health plans that do not cover or pay for abortions. The division will also enforce Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act on assisted suicide.

“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions,” said Severino in a press release.

For Americans who are concerned that they have experienced a violation of their conscience rights, Severino told CNA, “We are going to make it as user-friendly as possible, so that people know that the doors are open and that every complaint will be treated appropriately and given the attention it deserves and then those that require enforcement will be handled appropriately.”

“We encourage anyone who believes that their conscience rights have been violated in a healthcare context to reach out to us. They are free to file a complaint. To get more information from our website, just google ‘Office for Civil Rights HHS’ and just add the word ‘conscience.’”

 

Arkansas bishop skips pro-life march over death penalty concerns

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:00

Little Rock, Ark., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock has said he will not attend the local March for Life because its keynote speaker opposed Catholic appeals for clemency for prisoners on death row.
 
The march’s keynote speaker Attorney General Leslie Rutledge “has good anti-abortion credentials but otherwise is decidedly not an appropriate pro-life speaker,” said Bishop Taylor’s Jan. 17 letter, addressed to the people of the diocese. The bishop charged that Rutledge “worked tirelessly to secure the execution of four criminals who posed no further threat to society.”
 
“You will recall that the Diocese of Little Rock was very vocal in appealing for clemency for these four men, but we were opposed at every turn by Attorney General Rutledge,” the bishop continued. “For this reason, I asked Arkansas Right to Life to choose a more appropriate keynote speaker, indicating that I could not participate in what was supposed to be a pro-life event otherwise. But Arkansas Right to Life has refused to do so.”
 
Bishop Taylor encouraged Catholics to attend one two Masses for Life to be held Jan. 21 at the Little Rock Cathedral.
 
Catholic bishops have always taken part in the march and have led prayers, though the event is organized by Arkansas Right to Life. Bishop Andrew J. McDonald of Little Rock, who retired in 2000 and passed away in 2014, supported the establishment of the local March for Life 40 years ago, the diocesan newspaper Arkansas Catholic reports.
 
Arkansas Right to Life sent CNA a Jan. 17 statement saying the march would go on as planned.
 
“Arkansas Right to Life is a single-issue organization dedicated to seeking protection for the lives of innocent unborn children,” it said, voicing hope that everyone who shares its views will “support and attend the march, regardless of their views on other issues in which Arkansas Right to Life does not take a stand.”
 
Bishop Taylor’s letter said he looked forward to seeing as many people possible at the cathedral “as we pray for an end to abortion in this country and that all human life may be protected from the first moment of conception to natural death.”
 
He said the Church teaches “a consistent ethic of life in which human life and human dignity must be protected from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between.”
 
“This means, among other things, that all lives have inherent God-given dignity. Even people who have been sentenced to death possess this dignity, which is why capital punishment must be abolished,” he said.
 
At Little Rock’s 2017 Mass for Life, Taylor wrote that “it is important for us to remember on this right to life weekend that the right to life is a seamless garment encompassing all of life, from the first moment of conception to natural death, and that any violation of human life and human dignity is contrary to our faith and must be actively opposed.”

In 2013, he testified against the death penalty before Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee, saying “no one will be fully secure until we reject everything that threatens human life or degrades human dignity. Jesus' teaching about the sanctity of life is a seamless garment.”

The term “seamless garment” was popularized by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, who advocated that abortion be treated as one issue among others which threaten the dignity of human life, including the treatment of immigrants and the elderly, the death penalty and nuclear proliferation.
 
Bernadin’s view has sometimes been criticized for appearing to diverge from the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II, who said in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that “among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.”
 
The state of Arkansas had initially planned to execute eight inmates before the end of April 2017. Three of the prisoners received stays of execution from the Arkansas Supreme Court, while one received a preliminary injunction from federal district court, the Death Penalty Information Center says.
 
In a March 1, 2017 letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Bishop Taylor had asked the governor to commute eight death sentences to life without parole.
 
“Though guilty of heinous crimes, these men nevertheless retain the God-given dignity of any human life, which must be respected and defended from conception to natural death,” the bishop said.

 

How this OneLife LA speaker is 'made for greater'

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 15:00

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 18, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Karen Gaffney has swum the English Channel, is the president of a global non-profit, and has an honorary doctorate.  She’ll share her story in Los Angeles this Saturday, at an annual event designed to celebrate human dignity.
 
She’ll also share the obstacles she’s had to overcome.

“You see, I have Down syndrome, and most of the general public thinks that’s a bad thing. Even the medical community, who should know better, sometimes says it’s a bad thing,” Gaffney told the National Catholic Register in a recent interview.

“They want to screen us out before we are born, because they don’t think we are ‘made for greater.’ I don’t think they have the right to do that,” Gaffney added.

Gaffney will speak at OneLife LA, a Jan. 20 walk and celebration sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  She’ll be joined by actress Patricia Heaton, Bishop Robert Barron, and evangelist Damon Owens.

Beginning in downtown LA, the event will start with a mile-long walk, leading to music, food, and speakers at Los Angeles Historical State Park.

Gaffney told the National Catholic Register that she hopes participants will walk away with an understanding that all lives are made for greatness, even lives with disabilities.

“I will be happy if people come away from the event wanting to learn more about Down syndrome and wanting to talk more about Down syndrome ... I want people to show by their actions that all lives really do matter,” she said

Gaffney found out she had Down syndrome when she was 6 years old. Her parents told her she would face challenges but not impossible obstacles.

“Yes, it is hard to live with Down syndrome, but isn’t it hard to live with any kind of disability?”

She explained the difference faith has made in her life.  “It was my junior year at St. Mary’s, and all the classes were getting very hard for me … Then in a religion class, I remember the teacher talking about how we live our lives, and she said that all lives are a gift from God, and what we do with our lives is our gift back to God.”

Gaffney is the founder of a non-profit group advocating for social inclusion of people with Down syndrome, called the Karen Gaffney Foundation.

She speaks often about the dangers prenatal tests pose to babies with Down syndrome.

“I always tell them that the prenatal-testing industry targets Down syndrome because it is the easiest test for them. If you can count to 27, you can evaluate the test!” she said.

Prenatal testing for Down syndrome made headlines last summer, when CBS News reported a dramatic decrease in the Down syndrome population of Iceland due to an increase in abortions.

“Iceland is on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome through abortion,” tweeted CBS News in August.

Actress Patricia Heaton tweeted in response, “Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.”

According to CBS News, 80-85 percent of pregnant women in Iceland take a prenatal test, and nearly 100 percent of women carrying a child with Down syndrome undergo an abortion.

When asked about the recent news, Gaffney said she was disappointed in some of the reports by CBS, but was also thankful for positive news coverage about people with Down syndrome.

“This summer, I read a story about a 17-year-old boy with Down syndrome who is a good open-water swimmer like me,” she said, noting how the boy and his father saw two young girls being pulled out to sea in Italy.

“They both dove in, and each one swam for one of the girls; they reached them and were able to bring them to safety, just as the lifeguards got there…Now, I wonder what the mother of that little girl thinks when she hears from someone in the medical community who says Down syndrome is ‘not compatible with life.’”

Survey: Americans overwhelmingly favor limits on abortion

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 11:12

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 09:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Most Americans, including those who identify as “pro-choice,” support limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy, at most, a new survey says.

“It is hardly surprising that after 50 million abortions in this country, an overwhelming majority of the American people want substantial limits,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said Jan. 17.

“This survey shows clearly that the ‘pro-choice’ label can no longer be assumed to mean support for abortion on demand,” Anderson added. “Nor can abortion be thought of as a partisan issue since majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans all agree that it should be substantially restricted. It is high time that our political debates reflected this national consensus and used it as a starting point.”

The survey found that 76 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to no more than the first trimester of pregnancy, with 92 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Democrats agreeing. About 60 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents supported such limits.

Only 12 percent of Americans said the procedure should be available at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, while 11 percent supported abortion up to six months into pregnancy.

Restrictions on abortion face legal hurdles due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973 ruling in the Roe v. Wade decision, which required permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The data drew on a Dec. 4-7 survey of 1,267 adults in the continental U.S. and another of 1,350 adults Jan. 8-10. The surveys were conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus fraternal Catholic society. They respectively claim a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 and 2.7 points.

About 52 percent of respondents agreed that abortion does more harm to a woman than good in the long run, compared to 29 percent who said it improves a woman’s life. The belief that life begins at conception was professed by 47 percent.

Abortion is “morally wrong” according to about 56 percent of respondents. Moreover, 64 percent said it is wrong for abortions to be sought because the unborn child has genetic conditions such as like Down syndrome.

The study also found that abortion plays a role in elections, with about 40 percent saying the issue is a “major factor” in their choice of candidates. Nearly 76 percent of Republicans identified as “pro-life,” compared to 41 percent of independents and just 25 percent of Democrats.

A majority of respondents said that medical professionals and organizations with moral objections should not be forced to perform abortions or provide insurance coverage for the procedure. About 60 percent opposed using tax dollars to pay for abortion.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans say laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child, a figure that has held steady in Marist survey results since 2009.  

 

Knights of Columbus praise increased US aid for persecuted Iraqis

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The federal government has pledged $55 million in aid for religious and ethnic groups that have faced ISIS persecution in Iraq’s Ninewa Province, drawing praise from the Knights of Columbus, a supporter of humanitarian efforts in the region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced last week that the government will provide $75 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for aid to Iraq, including the $55 million earmarked for communities of Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities. Future contributions from USAID will depend on the success of new accountability and transparency measures at the UN, according to the announcement.

The earmarked funds will help to rebuild communities in areas of Ninewa Province previously controlled by ISIS. According to USAID, the money will be used to restore basic services, like water, sewage, and electricity, as displaced religious minorities return to the region. Most of Ninewa’s religious minorities, including the majority of its Christian population, fled Mosul over the last decade. The Yazidi population had been persecuted by ISIS, and many Yazidi women were sold into sex slavery or killed.

The province, located in the northern part of Iraq, contains the city of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold until July of 2017, when it was decimated in the Battle of Mosul, which ousted ISIS and liberated the city.  Mosul has still not recovered from the battle, which lasted for more than nine months.

Last year, speaking at the In Defense of Christians summit, Vice President Mike Pence promised to provide assistance for Christian communities in the Middle East that were at risk of being wiped out.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus issued a statement Wednesday saying that the group is “grateful” for the increased funding, and that they look forward to continue collaboration with NGOs and government agencies to support Christians and other groups persecuted by ISIS.

“We are grateful for the actions of the American government in this regard, and look forward to continuing to work with our government and those affected by the genocide to ensure that needed relief reaches those most in need, and that these communities survive for generations to come,” the statement read.

The Knights also praised the funding increase, saying that the United States is now treating the genocide of Christians in the Middle East in a manner similar to other genocides, and will help to continue to weaken ISIS’ influence in the area.

“In addition, the U.S. government's actions bring America's foreign aid into line with our country's response to previous genocides and will also help defeat ISIS' overall strategy of eliminating minorities from the Middle East,” Anderson said.

In August 2017, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $2 million to rebuild the Christian town of Karamdes, which was decimated by ISIS.  The group has raised more than $11 million to support Christian refugees, especially in Iraq and Syria.  In 2016, the Knights, in partnership with In Defense of Christians, led a successful effort to persuade the US government to designate ISIS persecution of Christians and other minorities a genocide.
 

 

New Los Angeles ministry aims to help families of the imprisoned

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:49

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Families with loved ones in prison are feeling isolated, and a new initiative of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is setting out to change that.

Deacon Paulino Juarez and Deacon Louis Roche, both of the archdiocese, have headed up a new ministry that reaches out to families of the incarcerated and raises awareness in local communities of the suffering and challenges that these families face.

“I was a chaplain for 19 years, and during this time I saw all of these troubles of the inmates and their families, too, because sometimes they really don’t have any support – not just from official agencies and offices in the county, but also sometimes from the Church and their communities,” Deacon Juarez told CNA.

“They are isolated and rejected. After all of these years, we decided to do something to support these families and create a place where they feel welcomed,” Juarez continued.

The new program, which is part of the Archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, was launched Jan. 12 with a blessing which took place at the pastoral center of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in North Hollywood.

The parish’s associate pastor, Fr. Jeff Baker, led the blessing and opening ceremony for the Ministry of Assistance to the Families of the Incarcerated. The program reaches out to families in the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

According to Deacon Roche, the ministry takes place every Friday, where families of the incarcerated are welcome to seek any kind of aid. Usually, these families are referred to the ministry from other parishes or chaplains, but they do not have to be Catholic to participate in the program.

“We provide these families with food, clothes, resources as far as getting them identification cards and getting them medical help. Some people need help with substance abuse, so we are trying to pair these families with resources that they need,” Deacon Roche said.

“We are seeing these people face-to-face and aren’t just giving them a number to call. We are trying to take people from beginning to end and making sure we see results. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, and getting these people what they really need,” Roche continued.

In addition, Juarez said that part of their goal is to “break the cycle.” Because some of the inmates have children, the ministry is also trying to put the kids through school, so they have better opportunities in the future.

Both deacons have found that the majority of these families suffer greatly from isolation and rejection, and are really looking for a community of support.

“The day that we did the opening, one of the mothers of a man who had just been sentenced to the death penalty shared with me her experience of going to his church with her daughters. When people realized who she was, they moved from the pews,” Juarez said.

“They really feel not welcomed, and this was the kind of experience that they had on a daily basis. We want to stop that – we want to create consciousness within the community that these people are suffering, too.”

Roche stated he believes that “It’s part of our responsibility to take the needs of the people to church. We want to make progress and to make sure these people are getting what they need,” Roche said.

People of faith, especially Catholics, have the responsibility to put their faith into action, Juarez noted. When suffering people in the church community feel like outsiders, then he said it becomes the Christian’s duty to help them.

“The Gospel – the Good News – is for everyone. This is what Jesus did – he looked for people on the outside,” Juarez said.

While the LA ministry has only been running for a short time, the deacons have seen an overwhelming response, saying there is a universal need for this particular service.

“We would like to invite more dioceses into this ministry. We just started, but we already know that in every parish there are families who are in this situation,” Juarez said.

“There really is a need for this ministry and to take sensibility to the community that these people exist, that they are suffering, that they are our brothers and sisters, and we should do something for them.”

Why do some young people leave the Church? A new study investigates

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:29

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA).- A national two-year study released this week offers a look at why young people are leaving the Church as early as age 13.

The study was released today by St. Mary’s Press and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA).

Of those who left the Catholic Church, the median age for doing so was 13 years old, the study found. Seventy-four percent of the 214 former Catholics interviewed said that they decided to leave the Church between the ages of 10 and 20.

“We heard young people describe the beginnings of their questioning and doubts as early as fifth grade, some even younger,” said John Vitek, one of the principal authors of the study.
 
Vitek, who is the president and CEO of St. Mary’s Press, told CNA that this finding may surprise many adults “because many of the young people also told us that they never talked about their doubts and questions with their parents or their Church leaders.”

Young ‘Nones’

Many of the young former Catholics interviewed now fall into the category of “Nones” -  or people who have no religious affiliation. Thirty-five percent of the participants told the researchers that they no longer have a religious affiliation, whereas only 14 percent would label themselves as atheist or agnostic.

These results align with previous Pew Research Center findings that the “Nones” are a growing category in the U.S. The CARA researchers cite a 2015 Pew study that the number of religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S. increased by 19 million between 2007 and 2014.

In addition, 21 percent of young Catholics who left the Church responded that they are now “born again” or evangelical Christian.

Although the “Nones” represented the largest category of former Catholics, Vitek said that “the vast majority of young people who disaffiliated from the Catholic Church still believe in God and most still desire some type of religious community with which to affiliate.”

Reasons for leaving

The study, Going, Going, Gone! The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics, is based on a national survey and interviews with 214 former Catholics between the ages of 15 and 25.

“This study was all about young people telling their stories of why they left the Church in their own words, uncensored and unfiltered,” explained Vitek in a press release on the study.

CARA researchers identified patterns among the young people’s personal stories and described three archetypes for their Catholic disaffiliation: the injured, the drifter, and the dissenter.

The “injured” are young people who experienced a hardship or tragedy in which God seemed to be absent. Despite their prayers, their parents divorced or ill family members died, for example.

One young man told the researchers that he remembers family and loved ones praying  for his grandfather with lung cancer, “everyone is praying for him, probably over 150 people. Personally praying for him and still there was nothing done to help him and that was my first skepticism.”

The “drifter” is one who typically had trouble connecting their identity as a baptized Catholic to their concrete life experiences in the real world. They struggled to articulate why being Catholic matters, so they just drifted away from the Church.

The researchers noted the influence that parents can have on this drifting away from the Church and that a family unit can drift together when parents feel inadequate to explain why the faith matters.

Reachers encountered a more active rejection of the faith in those in the “dissenter” category. Some of these young people cited disagreement with Church teaching on birth control, same-sex marriage, and sexuality as the precipitating force for their departure.

Notably, only two percent of respondents cited the clergy sex abuse scandal as a reason they left the Church.

Vitek explained to CNA that there can be intersections between these three common categories, saying, “a young person may first have a disruptive experience that causes them to feel hurt or broken in some way, that brokenness might lead the young person to begin to question and doubt their faith, and their unresolved doubt may lead them to drift away.”

A final decision?

Before they left their faith, the young former Catholics were involved in the Church to varying extents. Twenty-eight percent told CARA that they rarely or never attended Mass at the time when they considered themselves Catholic. Only 17 percent surveyed said that they attended Mass weekly when they were Catholic. Three-fourths of the respondents never attended a Catholic school.

Eighty-seven percent of these former Catholics said that their decision to leave the Church is final.

Vitek noted that “this is a response given at a particular point in their life and they can’t predict the future. So there is always hope for the believing community.”

Studies do show, however, that “(m)ore and more, once a person chooses to disaffiliate from the Church they are not re-affiliating later in life,” he added.

As for what the Church can do to prevent young people from rejecting their faith, Vitek recommends, “We need to create a place where young people can freely wrestle with their questions of faith, including their doubt…”

“We found that young people want to talk about their faith but they aren’t sure if they can without judgment,” he said.

Join the 9 Days for Life campaign of prayer and action

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:01

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have beefed up their social media presence for the 9 Days for Life novena, calling Catholics not only to prayer but to action within communities, both virtual and local.

The novena takes place Jan. 18-26, and includes the Jan. 22 National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children (the anniversary of Roe v. Wade) and the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19.

“As Catholics we are proud to have our voices heard in support for the protection of life. We welcome every human life,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

“Please join me and my brother bishops in prayer and action during these nine days for life. Together we can help to build a culture of life in which every human life is cherished,” said the cardinal in a recent video on the People for Life Facebook page.

Cardinal O’Malley then encouraged individuals to join the bishops in a “digital pilgrimage” by downloading the 9 Days for Life smartphone application, which allows its users easily to share on social media the prayers, sacrifices, and other actions conducted in support of life.  

The novena also includes a daily reflection, intercession, and challenge to follow throughout the nine days. The application will remind the participant of that day’s prayer schedule, opportunities for sacrifice, and challenges to take the pro-life message even further.

Anne McGuire, the USCCB’s Assistant Director for Education and Outreach for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, encouraged Christians to take action and to engage in this year’s virtual pilgrimage.  

“Wherever we are, wherever the Lord places us, we are called to be witnesses to [life]. So many of us are on social media … it can be an incredible opportunity to share that Gospel of life,” McGuire told CNA Jan. 16.

The novena outlines different actions people may take to support life, whether it is through parish or private prayer gatherings, fasting from coffee, or participating in a local march for life. McGuire expressed hope that this year people will share this experience by sharing a selfie or a short video on their social media accounts using #9daysforlife.

McGuire said the 9 Days for Life app also includes pro-life images that easily transfer to the social media platform of the person’s choice or pro-life frames which may be added to an individual’s Facebook profile.

She clarified that the primary goal of 9 Days for Life is an end to abortion, but other pro-life intentions are also encouraged. She said this year’s novena will intercede for “Share the Journey,” an international campaign in support of victims of human trafficking.

However a person decides to support life this year, McGuire said it is responsibility of Christians to aid a culture conducive to human life.

“It’s incumbent upon us to work to protect human life and to cherish it, both in the sense of defending it from the attacks as well as, again, following John Paul II’s call to build a culture of life and a civilization of love,” she said.

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