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FEMM fertility app CEO says women have the right to understand their bodies

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 20:30

Denver, Colo., May 30, 2019 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- The maker of a popular fertility awareness app says it is built on peer-reviewed research and a scientific approach to women’s health, after a recent report criticized the app’s developers and funders  as “anti-abortion, anti-gay Catholic campaigners.”

A May 30 report in the Guardian said the FEMM app “sows doubt about birth control” and “features claims from medical advisers who are not licensed to practice in the U.S.”

The app, sold by the FEMM Foundation, markets itself as a period and ovulation tracker with three options for users - to achieve pregnancy, avoid pregnancy, or track their health.

Anna Halpine, CEO of the FEMM foundation, told CNA that “FEMM is a science and evidence based program for women's health, and our app allows us to provide personalized health care information to women directly.”

“We think that this knowledge is basic women's health literacy, and we think every women has the right to know how her body works, in order to make an informed choice about how she wants to manage her fertility,” Halpine added.

The app primarily serves as a tracker for various markers of fertility and health for women, with options to track periods, cervical mucus, medications, hormone levels, basal body temperature, and a host of physical and emotional symptoms.

The app has been downloaded more than 400,000 times in the past 4 years, according to the Guardian. It has 4.8 out of 5 stars in more than 1,000 reviews in the Apple store. The FEMM Foundation also offers classes on ovulation and fertility charting, as well as “medical management” training in “protocols for the management of ovarian dysfunction, menopause and infertility.”

The Guardian’s report said that FEMM appears to be biased against hormonal birth control.

“The FEMM app’s literature sows doubt about the safety and efficacy of hormonal birth control, asserting that it may be deleterious to a woman’s health and that a safer, ‘natural’ way for women to avoid pregnancy is to learn their cycles,” The Guardian reported.

Halpine told CNA that FEMM aims to help women understand their own bodies.

“FEMM sees reproductive endocrinology (hormones) as the unifying element in women's health. Our approach is to empower women to understand their hormones and fluctuations, and to use our, or other charting systems, to monitor their own personal hormone patterns. The critical element is their pattern; based on the observations that they make of changing biomarkers in their body (temperature, or cervical fluid or dryness) women can 'see' their own changes of estrogen and progesterone cycle to cycle.”

“Ovulation is the sign that these hormones, plus many others, are at the right level at the right time. This is why we say that ovulation is a sign of health,” Halpine said.

Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola, an OB-GYN with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, told The Guardian that: “The birth control pill is one of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century” and is “standard” in women’s health care.

The Guardian did not, however, mention risks of artificial contraception identified by scientific research.

According to a study posted on the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies are classified as carcinogenic to humans (group 1) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, the use of oral contraceptives is associated with increased risk for breast cancer, endometrial cancer and cervical cancer, while it is also associated with a decreased risk for cervical cancer.

The Guardian also reported an outdated claim on the efficacy of fertility-awareness based methods (FBAMs) of birth control, also called Natural Family Planning methods, which FEMM facilitates. The Guardian reported that the efficacy rate of FBAMs is about 75%.

In fact there are a variety of FBAMs available, each with varying levels of efficacy, depending on the method and the real-life use. For example, the Marquette Method, an FBAM, has been reported to be 89% effective with typical use, compared with an 87% efficacy rate for real-life use of condoms as a birth control method.  

The Guardian reported that implants and IUDs are among the most effective of birth control methods. However, IUDs can also cause some of the most severe side effects, including migration of the device and the perforation of organs.

The Guardian’s report noted that a financial supporter of the FEMM app is the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a non-profit whose chairman is Sean Fieler, a wealthy philanthropist and businessman who lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and who has previously backed pro-life politicians and causes in the past.

The mission of the Chiaroscuro Foundation is “to renew in our culture a deep awareness of the composite unity of our shared human nature.” According to The Guardian, the foundation donated between $350,000 and $1 million to FEMM each year between 2015-2017, or the majority of its operating budget.

Halpine told The Guardian that FEMM does not comment on abortion, or advocate on political issues.

“FEMM has never commented on the abortion issue. And doesn’t work in that area. FEMM is an organization committed to expanding information research and knowledge about women’s reproductive health around the world,” Halpine told The Guardian.

The Guardian noted that some of FEMM’s medical advisors are based in Chile, and are not licensed to practice in the United States.

“The Reproductive Health Research Institute (RHRI) provides FEMM’s medical assertions, research and training. The two physicians leading RHRI are listed on its website as Pilar Vigil and Patricio Contreras. Vigil is listed as the medical director of RHRI, which has two addresses, one in New York City and another in Santiago, Chile,” the Guardian reported.

“Vigil is listed as an OB-GYN and Contreras as a ‘medical doctor’, but neither is licensed to practice medicine in the United States,” The Guardian noted.

Halpine explained that “FEMM works with medical researchers and providers around the world. Our growing network of health educators and providers in the United States and other countries serves our users worldwide. Our global network is inclusive, and FEMM benefits from the diversity of experience and ideas that our health educators and providers bring to us around the world.“

On its website, FEMM provides health center locators and doctor referrals, and lists licensed health centers and doctors located in the United States.

 

 

Manchester bishop welcomes repeal of death penalty in NH

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 20:01

Manchester, N.H., May 30, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester welcomed Thursday the New Hampshire legislature's override of a veto by the governor on capital punishment repeal.

“I welcome the vote by the New Hampshire Senate today that repeals the death penalty. As a citizen of New Hampshire, I offer my deep appreciation and sincere empathy to the members of the Legislature for their deliberate and often very difficult process of debate and decision-making that is so much a part of their office and was especially so in this most serious matter,” Bishop Libasci said May 30.

“As good citizens we must not look upon this vote as a victory, for that would dishonor the grief of those whose lives have been tragically altered by the crimes committed against their loved ones and society in general. Instead, we need to stand together as a citizenry and live by what we said when we spoke of human dignity, incarceration that rehabilitates, especially in cases of life without possibility of parole.”

The bishop added: “Being part of a society that is committed to dealing with the ills that lead to the decomposition of personhood and the evil crime of murder is the work of a noble people who uphold the sacredness of human life. Now is the opportune time to recommit ourselves to participating in this responsible movement forward.”

The vote makes New Hampshire the 21st state to abolish capital punishment.

The New Hampshire legislature voted to repeal the death penalty this spring, but the bill was vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Sununu earlier this month.

The Senate voted 16-8 to override Sununu's veto May 30. The House voted last week to override.

Sen. David Starr had initially voted to repeal capital punishment, but did not vote to override the governor on Thursday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

Bishop Libasci had submitted written testimony in favor of the repeal.

Those convicted of capital murder in New Hampshire will now face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The repeal applies to convictions from today onward.

Currently on New Hampshire's death row is Michael Addison, who in 2006 murdered a Manchester policeman, Michael Briggs.

“I have consistently stood with law enforcement, families of crime victims, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty because it is the right thing to do,” Sununu said May 30. “I am incredibly disappointed that the Senate chose to override my veto.”

Patrick Cheetham, a police captain and a former president of the New Hampshire Police Association, said the death penalty repeal “doesn’t make New Hampshire safer; it doesn’t make it safer for New Hampshire police officers and it’s extremely disappointing. The death penalty has been used sparingly, judiciously and appropriately at a time when New Hampshire’s police officers are confronted with greater and greater violence.”

The Church has consistently taught that the state has the authority to use the death penalty, in cases of “absolute necessity,” though with the qualification that the Church considered such situations to be extremely rare.

Both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice of capital punishment in the West.

St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”

And Benedict XVI exhorted world leaders to make “every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and told Catholics that ending capital punishment was an essential part of “conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

In August 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a new draft of the catechism's paragraph regarding capital punishment.

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the new paragraph states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Reasons for changing the teaching, the paragraph says, include: the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person, and leaving open the possibility of conversion.

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Fr. Petri continued.

Equality Act 'creates right to demand an abortion,' congresswoman warns

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., May 30, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has warned that a proposed anti-discrimination law could be used to compel medical professionals to participate in abortion procedures.

The Congresswoman made the comments during an interview that will air May 30 on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

The House of Representatives recently passed the Equality Act, legislation that would add anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation. The bill would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to define "sex" to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as "pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition."

Speaking to Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro, Foxx called the Equality Act “bad for women” and “bad for our culture,” and said that she opposed the bill because of “what it does to encourage the opportunity for women to have abortions in this country.”

Foxx pointed to the phrase “related medical condition” as one that should alarm pro-life Americans, setting up the possibility for patients to be able to insist on an abortion from an individual doctor.

“The phrase ‘related medical condition’ has been recognized by the courts and the Equal Opportunity Commission as a coded reference to abortion,” Foxx said. “So [the bill] creates a right to demand an abortion. And I do not believe that that’s what we need to be doing in this country.”

Pro-life leaders, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Susan B. Anthony list, have urged lawmakers to reject the bill. They argue that it could be used to undermine conscience rights by threatening health care providers with discrimination charges if they refuse to perform or facilitate an abortion procedure.

Foxx said she offered an amendment to the bill that would have clarified that the Equality Act could not force those with a moral objection to abortion to be compelled to participate in an abortion procedure. “Unfortunately,” she said, “that amendment was rejected.”

The rejection of the amendment, Foxx said, “speaks volumes to me about where the Democrat party is,” adding that she thinks the abortion industry played a role in crafting the legislation.

The Trump administration has expressed opposition to the bill and the Republican majority in the Senate is not likely to hold a vote on the measure.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that there are currently “no scheduling announcements regarding Senate action” on the bill.

Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

Kamala Harris proposes federal restrictions on state abortion laws

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 14:01

Washington D.C., May 30, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the two dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls, announced Tuesday a plan that would bar some states from changing their abortion laws without federal approval.

“As President, I will stop dangerous state laws restricting reproductive rights before they go into effect,” Harris, California's junior Senator, wrote May 28 on Twitter.

Harris announced her proposal during a town-hall on MSNBC.

Her plan would require that states and municipalities that have restricted abortion rights in the past to get permission from the Department of Justice before any new laws regarding abortion can take effect.

Under Harris' proposal, the Justice Department would have to determine that a law complies with the standards of Roe v. Wade and the Women's Health Protection Act, a bill she is co-sponsoring which would bar any government from imposing a wide variety of limitations on abortion, and which is stalled.

The senator's plan would require 60 votes in the Senate.

It is modeled on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which disallowed nine states and many counties and municipalities from modifying their electoral laws without federal sanction. Major parts of the law, which mainly affected southern states, were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2013.

Her proposal is in response to legislation in states such as Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia. Earlier this month Alabama adopted the Human Life Protection Act, making the the attempt or performance of an abortion a felony.

On MSNBC Harris, who was California's attorney general from 2011 to 2017, said, “I got a real problem with that.”

“We cannot tolerate a perspective that is about going backward and not understanding … women have authority to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies,” she stated.

Harris' proposal was welcomed by NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Along with Sen. Mazie Hirono, Harris raised concerns in December about membership in the Knights of Columbus while the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed the candidacy of Brian Buescher, who has been nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” which is “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and against “marriage equality.” In the light of his Catholic faith and membership of the Knights, both senators questioned Buescher’s ability to apply the law fairly and objectively as judge.

Democratic presidential candidates are vying to codify protections for abortion amid the wave of pro-life laws being passed across the US.

Joe Biden's campaign said May 21 he would support federal laws protecting abortion rights “should it become necessary,” and he called recent state pro-life laws “pernicious” and “wrong.”

And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said May 29 she disputes Church teaching on the priesthood, sexuality, and abortion: “I think [the Church] is wrong on those three issues. And I don’t think they’re supported by the Gospel or the Bible in any way. I just – I don’t see it, and I go to two Bible studies a week. I take my faith really seriously.”

Louisiana governor to sign heartbeat bill

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 09:45

Baton Rouge, La., May 30, 2019 / 07:45 am (CNA).- The Louisiana House of Representatives has passed a fetal heartbeat bill, making it the latest state to move towards adopting such legislation. The bill passed the house with bipartisan support on May 29, by a margin of 79-23 in favor.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has previously spoken in favor of the bill. Following its passage by the house, the governor said he would sign the legislation.

The bill, which passed the state senate earlier this month with equal cross-party support, would ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected in the unborn child, usually between six to eight weeks of pregnancy.  

“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me – and I respect their opinions,” Edwards said in a statement.

“As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”

Edwards was elected governor in 2015 on an expressly pro-life platform. His promise to sign the bill comes as several Democratic candidates for president have reiterated their uncompromising support for abortion rights. Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski, one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in the House, is currently facing a second consecutive primary challenge over his pro-life stance.

The Louisiana governor said he considered himself to be pro-life in a broad sense, highlighting his efforts to expand healthcare coverage in the state, provide extra resources for education, and pass criminal justice reforms.

“I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years. As governor, I have been true to my word and beliefs on this issue. But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth,” said Edwards.

“For each of the last three years, my administration has set records for the number of children being adopted out of our foster care system.”

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a stay against another pro-life law in Louisiana. That measure, which requires that any abortion doctor have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. Abortion providers have argued that since only one abortionist in the state has such privileges, the legislation effectively outlaws abortion.

Louisiana is the fifth state to pass a heartbeat bill in 2019, with Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio having already passed similar laws.

Other states, most notably Tennessee, have considered heartbeat laws alongside so-called “trigger bans” which would outlaw abortion in the event Roe v Wade were overturned. Alabama recently passed a sweeping pro-life measure making abortion a felony offence.

Are single women actually happier? Study misinterprets data, researchers say

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 01:01

Washington D.C., May 29, 2019 / 11:01 pm (CNA).- Are childless, spouseless women actually happier than their married counterparts?

A widely-circulated finding from a study by a London professor suggests that while marriage increases the happiness of men, married women are actually more miserable than single women.

“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother,” Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, said at a presentation of his data analysis this weekend, reported on by The Guardian. The study is the basis of a new book by Dolan called Happily Ever After.

But other researchers have suggested that Dolan seems to be basing at least some of his conclusions on a misreading of data from the American Time Use Survey, which he analyzed for his study.

Particularly, Dolan seems to have misread a question that asks about whether a spouse is present or absent, W Brad Wilcox, a professor and family researcher with the Institute of Family Studies said on Twitter.

Dolan concludes that the question from the ATUS survey refers to whether a woman’s spouse was in the room as she responded to the survey, Wilcox said, but the question seems to refer instead to whether a spouse was present or absent in the respondent’s life.

“But Dolan appears to have misread ATUS survey questions regarding whether or not spouse was in the household to refer to whether or not the spouse was present for the interview--and thereby drew incorrect conclusions about marrieds' happiness, especially wives' happiness,” Wilcox said on Twitter.

Gray Kimbrough, a researcher and adjunct professor with the American University’s School of Public Affairs who tweeted that he “doesn’t have a dog in the fight” in whether single women are happier or not, also said on Twitter that Dolan appears to have misanalyzed the question about a spouse’s presence or absence.

“This claim, repeated breathlessly by many media outlets, appears to be based on a flawed analysis that actually compared slight differences in reported activity-level happiness for married people whose spouses live in the same household from those whose spouses live elsewhere,” Kimbrough said.

The ATUS question on presence or absence of a spouse “isn't measuring a spouse's presence for the interview, or even for any activities--just presence *in the household*,” Kimbrough added.

In other words, the decrease in happiness Dolan found appears to occur when spouses are absent in a married woman’s life for various reasons, instead of married women admitting their misery only when their spouse leaves the room during a survey, both Wilcox and Kimbrough concluded.

Furthermore, Wilcox said, Dolan’s findings do not align with other studies on marriage and happiness for women.

In data from the General Social Survey between 2010-2018, analyzed by Wilcox and researcher Nicholas Wolfinger, married women between the ages of 18 and 50 reported significantly higher rates of happiness than their divorced, separated, or single and never married counterparts.

According to GSS data, married women without children reported being “very happy” at a rate of 45%, while married women with children reported being “very happy” at a rate of 41%. Women separated or divorced without children reported “very happy” rates of 27%, while separated or divorced women with children reported “very happy” rates of 21%.

For single, never-married women, their reported rates of being “very happy” were at 24% for those without children, and 19% for those with children.

The pattern held when adults were questioned about rates of unhappiness, Wilcox and Wolfinger found.

Wolfinger noted that he was unable to reach Dolan for comment on an article he wrote about his data analysis, but Wolfinger said that “the story becomes clearer after looking at the ATUS questionnaire. First, it’s important to note that general happiness is being measured, not happiness within one’s marriage. The two are related to be sure, but far from perfectly. The GSS has separate measures of marital happiness and overall happiness, and the correlation coefficient between the two is .39.”

Secondly, he said, one ATUS question does ask about people present in the room during the survey, but respondents do not specify whether it was a spouse, child, parent, or cable repair guy, Wolfinger noted.

“Instead, respondents are asked this question: ‘Were you interacting with anyone during this time, including over the phone? (Yes/No).”

“But let’s put all these concerns aside and take Dolan’s finding at face value. How can his finding be explained? Here’s what he has to say about it on page 69 of his book: ‘It appears that people are more likely to say they feel happy if their spouse can hear what they are saying. Or it could simply be that their spouses put them in a better mood, which influences how they recall their experiences yesterday. (My money is on the former.)’”

“I’d like to think he’s wrong here,” Wolfinger concluded, “and his data do little to convince me one way or another.”

Democratic presidential hopeful: 'Church is wrong on abortion, priests, LGBT'

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 18:10

Des Moines, Iowa, May 29, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has said that she disputes Church teaching on the priesthood, sexuality, and abortion.

The Democratic presidential candidate made the comments while discussing her own beliefs in an interview for Iowa Public Radio the NPR Politics Podcast posted on Wednesday.

Gillibrand was raised in the Church and said she still “identifies” as a Catholic, even though she attends religious services at non-Catholic churches. The senator said she disagrees with Catholic teaching on “many things,” listing abortion, LGBT issues, and the all-male priesthood as points of dissent.

“I think [the Church] is wrong on those three issues,” said Gilibrand. “And I don’t think they’re supported by the Gospel or the Bible in any way. I just--I don’t see it, and I go to two Bible studies a week. I take my faith really seriously.”

Gillibrand is an outspoken supporter of abortion rights and has a zero percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee on life issues.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in line with unchanging Church teaching, declares abortion to be a grave moral evil and the taking of an innocent human life.

The catechism cites biblical references in illustration of its teachings on abortion, and on the institution of the priesthood and human sexuality, while stressing that all persons, regardless of sexuality, are made in the image and likeness of God and are to be treated with respect.

Gillibrand said she is usually reluctant to discuss her faith on the campaign trail as she does not want to alienate voters, and because she wants to keep a separation of church and state.

“So it's not an issue that I talk about really outside of a worship service or a faith-based community because it can be offensive to some people, can be troubling to some people,” she explained.

Gillibrand went on to criticize Republicans for what she considers a lack of Christian charity.

 “When they don't feed the poor and don't vote for food stamps, when they don't care about families struggling and living in poverty, when they continue to invest in for-profit prisons, they aren't doing what the Gospel tells them to do: feed the poor, help the sick," she said.

A 2018 study found that among Republicans, and in Republican-voting counties overall, charitable giving was higher on average than among Democrats and in Democrat-voting counties, which instead registered a higher overall higher tax burden.

Despite her campaigning efforts, Gillibrand remains a relative outside-contender for Democratic nomination. She has garnered an average of less than one percent of the polls, and is not one of the top 10 candidates at the national level.

'No priest may obey' proposed law, California bishop says

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 18:00

Oakland, Calif., May 29, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of the Diocese of Oakland, California, has said he would sooner accept arrest and prison than comply with a state law that would force priests to violate the seal of confession. Barber made the statement in a letter released to the diocese on Tuesday.

“I will go to jail before I will obey this attack on our religious freedom,” wrote Barber.

“Even if this bill passes, no priest may obey it. The protection of your right to confess to God and have your sins forgiven in total privacy must be protected. I urge you to contact your State Senator today to protest this bill.”

The bishop said he is entirely in favor of laws that protect children from abuse, and supports the work undertaken by the Church to ensure the safety of minors. But, he insisted, this support does not extend to Senate Bill 360, a proposed state law which would force priests and other religious ministers to report suspected cases of child abuse involation of priest-penitent priviledge.

Barber said that a local priest had come forward to tell him his teenage parishioners were now afraid to receive the sacrament of reconciliation out of fear the priest would go to the police with their sins. He called the bill “misguided,” and said it “does nothing to support our efforts” to promote safe environments.

Senate Bill 360 was amended to require the sacramental seal be violated in instances where a presit learns of or suspects abuse while hearing the confession of a fellow priest or colleague. The bill was originally drafted to require priests to violate the seal if they came to suspect abuse following the confession of any penitent whatsoever.

The bill passed the California Senate on Thursday by an overwhelming margin, with legislators voting 30-2 in favor of the measure.

In a statement after that vote, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said he was “deeply disappointed” by the result and that, even with the amendments that had been made to it before the vote it “still denies the sanctity of confession to every priest in the state and to thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries.”

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.”

Despite recent investigations into the clerical sexual abuse crisis in different countries and jurisdictions, no data exists establishing or indicating the use of sacramental confession either to facilitate or perpetuate the sexual abuse of minors.

Per Canon Law, priests who violate the seal of confession by sharing anything learned within the sacramental context to anyone, at any time, for any reason is subject to automatic excommunication and and further punishments, including loss of the clerical state.

Catholic school free from legal threats, Ohio city says after lawsuit

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 16:58

Cleveland, Ohio, May 29, 2019 / 02:58 pm (CNA).- A private Catholic school in Ohio has dropped its federal lawsuit after the city of South Euclid clarified that the school was not affected by a new ordinance on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression that the school feared would leave it vulnerable to legal action.

“No one should have to file a federal lawsuit simply to find out whether they are violating a vague law with criminal penalties,” Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said May 28.

“We’re disappointed that the city didn’t do the right thing right from the start, but we’re pleased that it now acknowledges that The Lyceum’s parents, students, and faculty have the freedom to seek out this unique, faith-based education and maintain community standards rooted in Catholic teaching.”

The Lyceum, which opened in 2003, is a Catholic school independent of the Diocese of Cleveland. It is now based in a building owned by the diocese’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, the news site Cleveland.com reports. The school had 53 students as of April, ranging from sixth grade through high school.

Its leaders had filed suit in early April, seeking a federal injunction against the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance. They feared the law’s provisions protecting sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in employment, housing and public accommodations would affect the school’s ability to follow Catholic teaching on marriage as a union of one man and one woman, on premarital sex, and on gender.

The ordinance, passed unanimously in April 2018, also protects ethnic groups, recipients of public assistance, former military personnel, and those who may be judged on public appearance. It passed despite concerns from critics that it would violate religious freedoms. These critics included The Lyceum’s headmaster Luke Macik.

Each violation of the law could result in a fine up to $500, restitution, or up to 60 days in jail, if a civil rights review board sides with the complainant.

The Lyceum questioned whether it would be permitted under the law to hire employees who adhere to Catholic beliefs and to publish an employment statement about adherence to Catholic teaching.

While the law protected religious entities hiring for ministerial positions, it did not explicitly protect hiring teachers at religious schools.

Initial drafts of the ordinance explicitly provided legal protections so that religious organizations could act consistently with their mission and teachings, Alliance Defending Freedom said. However, the city council removed these provisions from the final law.

Alliance Defending Freedom charged that the city illegally refused to answer the school’s public records request.

“And when the school directly asked the city whether its ordinance applies to The Lyceum, the city refused to say and suggested the school hire legal counsel and figure it out,” the legal group said May 28. The school’s leadership decided to file a federal lawsuit because they feared that operating the school according to Catholic standards in employment, admission and other ways would violate the law.

The school dropped its lawsuit following the clarification from the city.

“Religious schools like The Lyceum have the freedom to operate consistently with their faith without fear of unjust government punishment—and we’re glad South Euclid now affirms this reality,” said Holcomb.

Keith Ari Benjamin, director of South Euclid Community Services director, helped draft the law. He criticized the legal group representing the school.

He charged that Alliance Defending Freedom “has spent the last month working to divide our community and spread falsehoods and hate.”

The dropping of the lawsuit is “a victory for our community, our residents, the LGBT community and all those working to stop the spread of hate and all discrimination across our nation,” he said, claiming that the dropping of the lawsuit shows that the ordinance is legal and “that their own allegations don’t make out a claim,” according to Cleveland.com.

Holcomb, the attorney, said the case was about constitutional protections.

“We’re hopeful that other cities avoid such an unforced error and remain mindful that the First Amendment protects religious schools from government hostility, targeting, and discrimination,” she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio represented the city. It opposed an injunction against the law on the grounds that the private school is not considered a place of public accommodation. According to the ACLU affiliate, the school’s hiring practices were exempt.

Gwen Stembridge, Northeast Ohio coordinator for the LGBT advocacy group Equality Ohio, an ordinance supporter, said in April 2018 that Christian entities are still protected in all hiring matters and language regarding moral conduct codes can be legally part of an employee contract before he or she is hired.

The national ACLU and several state affiliates are campaigning against religious freedom protections in several areas such as abortion rights and legal compliance with LGBT demands.

These protections benefit many Catholic organizations at present, but in some states organizations like Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close because of requirements that they place children with same-sex couples. In California, the ACLU is suing a network of five Catholic hospitals after one hospital refused to perform a hysterectomy on a self-identified transgender man.

The proposed federal Equality Act would recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories of civil rights and strip religious freedom protections from anti-discrimination lawsuits. On May 17 the legislation passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives for the first time by a vote of 236-173, split largely along party lines. The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Pro-life Democrats have key role in party and society, organizer says

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 05:10

Philadelphia, Pa., May 29, 2019 / 03:10 am (CNA).- Pro-life Democrats not only have a place within the Democratic Party today, but can act as a bridge in society during a time of intense polarization, said a leader in the movement.

“Really I think pro-life Democrats hold the key to ending the incivility and gridlock in today’s American politics, which have been increasingly focused on abortion,” said Christian Matozzo, state chapter coordinator for the Pennsylvania Democrats for Life.

Other Democrats, he contended, “will realize our message, the ‘whole-life message’, is something that the majority of Americans are completely in favor of. And that will translate to positive change in our society.”

Matozzo spoke to CNA in the wake of the controversy surrounding State Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat who made waves with social media videos of his confrontations with pro-lifers outside a local Planned Parenthood.

In videos posted online, Sims approached several people, including two teenage girls, at prayerful protests outside Planned Parenthood. He accused them of bigotry and asked internet readers’ help in publicizing the identities and addresses of the protestors.

“At the very least it’s completely unacceptable for a public official to speak in that manner to anyone,” Matozzo told CNA.

He said Sims’ behavior was not a one-time incident, but showed him “making an effort to humiliate peaceful sidewalk counselors.”

Such action, known in internet parlance as doxing, is illegal in most jurisdictions if intended to harass or in other specific circumstances. The tweets caused intense scrutiny and Sims locked his Twitter account.

Facing mounting criticism, Sims, a past abortion clinic escort, apologized for violating Planned Parenthood’s non-engagement policy. He did not apologize to the women he confronted.

“My emotions took over because I was, and am, angry,” Sims said May 18, according to CBS Philly. “I’m angry that despite abortion being legal everywhere, anti-choice zealots are causing panic, anger, confusion, and rage for so many women.”

State Democratic leaders only made brief comment on the issue.

“Democratic leaders addressed the matter with Sims privately and are satisfied it will not be repeated,” Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Democrats, said May 16, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Matozzo, a committee person of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, reflected on Sims’ actions and the party’s response.

“Frankly, I was disappointed in his behavior and in the fact that my own party has not denounced his behavior,” he said. According to Matozzo, there are many pro-life Democrats serving as elected officials in state and local politics in Pennsylvania.

“Not only do they win, they win in convincing fashion,” he said. “I think we need to tell members of our party that. Do we want to be purists on an issue that many people are extremely morally opposed to, and that scientifically doesn’t really back you up? Or are we going to advocate for everyone, including those of us in the womb?”

“As long as there is one Democrat in elected office who will vote their conscience and vote pro-life, we still have a place,” he added.

Matozzo pointed to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ May 14 passage of H.B. 321, which bans abortion in cases where the unborn baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome. The bill, still under consideration in the Senate, passed by a vote of 117 to 76.

“Thirteen Democrats voted in favor of that bill,” Matozzo said.

In Matozzo’s view, pro-life Democrats are best positioned to reach other Democrats and to counter many arguments against pro-life advocates, like claims about not caring about women, not caring about children after they are born, or not caring about social welfare programs.

“I’m in favor of universal health care, I’m in favor of food stamps, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), crisis pregnancy centers,” he said. “These things the government can and does currently fund to support women in crisis pregnancies.”

Pro-life Democrats can argue against Planned Parenthood from the angle that it is “a multi-million-dollar business that is trying to monopolize their heinous industry.”

“They’re not in it for care, they’re in it to make money,” he charged.

“These are the kinds of arguments we can make as pro-life Democrats to other Democrats to show them [that] abortion is never the solution to a problem, it only creates another problem,” Matozzo told CNA. “When we come at it from those angles I think we have a winning message.”

As for practical politics, he said, pro-life Democrats must get elected in the same way as any other candidate: “It’s organization, it’s showing up, and it’s making sure that the pro-life issue is not a partisan one.”

He suggested pro-lifers in general need to work on showing support “for everybody who votes pro-life,” regardless of their political party. Many pro-life Democrats are afraid and face pressure to change their views, he said, noting that Democrats for Life is “serving as their voice.”

“Pro-life organizations don’t step up for Democrats nearly as much. That’s why we need to exist,” he said.

On May 10, a “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” drew 1,000 people outside of the same Planned Parenthood where Sims had allegedly harassed people. Pro-life speakers at the event called for Sims’ resignation. Leaders from local and national pro-life groups attended the rally, 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.

Matozzo, who attended the rally, praised the event as “a way for the pro-life community to come together in Philly at a critical time.”

He suggested that people who are not pro-life are “feeling the heat” in a changing climate.

“They’re reacting in a way that is not acceptable,” he said. “I think we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We can’t be intimidated, we can’t be harassed, we can’t be bullied into not witnessing in front of clinics in defense of life.

“When we stop doing that, then we’re the losers,” he said, suggesting continued prayer that gives “the same witness that those brave women did.”

Illinois bishops denounce rush to advance 'Reproductive Health Act'

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 20:24

Chicago, Ill., May 28, 2019 / 06:24 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Illinois criticized a push to pass a bill enshrining abortion in state law in the final days of the legislative session, without hearings or the public release of a final text.

They said the bill is a drastic overhaul of current abortion law that would go “further than Roe v. Wade in stripping human rights and dignity from the unborn child.”

“The fundamental premise of the bill is flawed, and no amendment or tweak to the language will change the fact that it is designed to rob the vulnerable life in the womb of any trace of human dignity and value,” the six bishops of the state said in a May 26 statement.

Illinois’ Reproductive Health Act – which the bishops said is misleadingly named – would declare abortion to be a “fundamental right.” It would remove several parts of the state’s current abortion laws, several of which are not currently being enforced due to court injunctions.

Among the provisions that the bill would remove are regulations for abortion clinics, required waiting periods to obtain an abortion, and a ban on partial-birth abortion. In addition, it would lift criminal penalties for performing abortions, remove conscience protections for health care personnel who object to abortion, and prevent further state regulation of abortion.

The legislation passed the Illinois House by a vote of 64-50 on May 28, two days after the bishops’ plea against it. The bill will now move to the state Senate.

In their statement, the bishops noted that the current legislative session ends May 31, leaving less than a week to wrap up critical bills.

“Major issues that will require bipartisan cooperation and unity among lawmakers remain, such as passing a balanced budget for the health, education and safety of Illinois residents and crafting a statewide construction plan with unresolved funding,” they said.

“Conversations on these matters need to take place in an atmosphere of comity and civility and any talk of abortion will only sow more divisiveness and disharmony in today’s polarized political climate.”

The bishops of Illinois implored lawmakers to avoid chaos and consider the common good by dropping the legislation, which they called divisive and politically charged, for the remainder of this session.

“We ask that lawmakers set aside consideration of the ‘Reproductive Health Act,’ especially since no final form of the bill has been published, vetted through hearings or fully discussed,” they said.

The Illinois Catholic Conference called the House’s approval of the bill “a grave tragedy and a collective moral failing.”

“Illinois has previously distinguished itself by recognizing and upholding human dignity. It has welcomed and defended the rights of immigrants and refugees and eliminated the death penalty,” the conference said May 28.

“It is therefore incomprehensible to us that the General Assembly has prioritized denying protection to the most vulnerable among us by enacting some of the most liberal abortion access laws in the nation.”

While the bill is being depicted by some of its supporters as “a simple clean-up bill,” the conference said, the legislation is actually “an extreme measure, allowing for the abortion of unborn life at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason.”

“It sends a message to everyone in our state that life is cheap. This is a truly sad day for Illinois,” the conference said. “We will continue to make our case against such callous disregard for human life whenever it appears in society.”

US bishops pray for tornado victims in Midwest

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 19:19

Washington D.C., May 28, 2019 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- While hazardous weather continues to affect the Midwest, the US bishops have mourned for those killed by the storms.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the US bishops' domestic justice committee, issued a statement May 24 encouraging people to help the victims by prayer and donations.

“I am profoundly saddened by the loss of life and the damage caused by the tornadoes and storms throughout the Midwest and related regions these past few days,” he said.

“A call is made to all for prayers for the victims and their grieving families and communities. Further, now is the time to offer assistance to those facing this great loss,” he further added.

In the past week, tornadoes and heavy storms have hit several Midwest states, including Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, and Iowa. According to the Dewane, the storm has affected millions of residents and killed several people.

“As of this writing, millions of people in at least seven states have been affected by the powerful winds, rainfall and rising water levels caused by these conditions. Seven people have been killed in Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma,” he said.

One of the heavily damaged areas was Missouri, where a tornado touched down in Golden City last Wednesday. It has killed three people, injured nearly two dozen, and cut power to thousands. Missouri’s capital, Jackson City, was badly affected. The tornado damaged several buildings, including a school.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, according to NPR. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state.”

The New York Times reported that over the past 11 days, eight tornadoes have occurred in Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. In Ohio alone, at least 40 houses were damaged or destroyed, and one death has been reported.

Catholic Charities in Central and Northern Missouri has launched a 2019 tornado and flood relief fund to help support those affected by the weather. Dewane encouraged families to donate to the organization.

“Further, now is the time to offer assistance to those facing this great loss. We are grateful that Catholic Charities and other organizations are in place working to provide for emergency needs and to help rebuild," he said.

'A giant step forward': Archbishop applauds Missouri abortion ban

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 16:19

St. Louis, Mo., May 28, 2019 / 02:19 pm (CNA).- Banning abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy is a “giant step forward for the pro-life movement,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis said in a statement on Friday, after Governor Mike Parson signed an abortion ban into law.

Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” which criminalizes performing abortions after eight weeks in the state, except when the life of a mother is determined to be in danger.

The law criminalizes the performance of abortions or the prescribing of medical abortions, punishable as a Class B felony, for doctors and medical professionals. It does not penalize women who obtain abortions. Class B felonies are punishable by 5-15 years in prison in the state of Missouri.

“In recognition that Almighty God is the author of life, that all men and women are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life’, and that...the Constitution of Missouri provides that all persons have a natural right to life, it is the intention of the general assembly of the state of Missouri to: (1) Defend the right to life of all humans, born and unborn; (2) Declare that the state and all of its political subdivisions are a ‘sanctuary of life’ that protects pregnant women and their unborn children; and (3) Regulate abortion to the full extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States, decisions of the United States Supreme Court, and federal statutes,” the act states.

The bill was passed despite strong opposition from Democrats in the state legislature, NPR reported.

“Over more than two hours of debate, Republicans and Democrats delivered forceful arguments about the bill, with Democrats - at times yelling and at other moments sobbing - attempting to persuade the body to reject the measure,” Bobby Allyn reported at NPR.

Missouri is following suit with a number of states that have recently passed signfiicant abortion legislation, including Georgia, which recently passed a law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, and Alabama, which passed a law this month outlawing all abortions, except those deemed by a doctor as necessary to save the life of a mother.

Supporters of the Missouri law have said that it differs from Alabama’s law in that it was not set up to directly challenge Roe v. Wade, but to restrict abortion as much as possible without posing a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, according to NPR.

Rep. Nick Schroer (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, told NPR that the goal is “to save as many lives as we can while withstanding judicial challenges.”

“We want to get as close to the line as possible on what previous judges have thrown out,” he said.

In his statement, Archbishop Carlson said that Catholics “need to continue to show persistence and determination in proclaiming a culture of life.”

Multiple resources are available through the Archdiocese of St. Louis for women who are pregnant, or for women who have had abortions, including a downloadable brochure highlighting pro-life clinics in the St. Louis area, and retreats and counseling for post-abortive women.

“Know that the Archdiocese of St. Louis is committed to providing support, services and life sustaining education to women during and after pregnancy, especially those who may feel frightened, alone or are contemplating abortion,” Carlson said.

 

Supreme Court upholds Indiana fetal remains rule, but stops short of major abortion ruling

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 13:09

Washington D.C., May 28, 2019 / 11:09 am (CNA).- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld part of an Indiana law requiring aborted babies to be cremated or buried, while declining to take up another part of the law that banned abortions based solely on the sex, race, or disability of the baby.

The 2016 Indiana legislation had been signed into law by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of the state. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law from taking effect.

In an unsigned three-page opinion, the Supreme Court cited a previous decision that states have a “legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains.”

“The Seventh Circuit clearly erred in failing to recognize that interest as a permissible basis for Indiana’s disposition law,” the court said.

However, the court declined to consider the other part of the law, which banned abortions that are based on solely on race, sex, or disability, saying the law raises issues that have not yet been adequately considered by appellate courts.

The court’s ruling was welcomed by pro-life advocates as a partial victory. Dozens of cases currently in the court system involve various state-level abortion restrictions, and many pro-life groups have voiced hope that one of the challenges will become the impetus for the Supreme Court to reconsider the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

“Unborn infants shouldn’t be disposed of as ‘medical waste’ when they die before birth, regardless of whether their deaths are spontaneous, accidental, or induced,” said Denise Burke, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a pro-life legal group that had filed a brief in the case.

“Further, the broken bodies of aborted infants shouldn’t be exploited for scientific experimentation,” she said. “Since the horrific 2015 revelations that Planned Parenthood harvested and sold the body parts of aborted infants—including brains, hearts, livers, lungs, and muscle tissue—it has become apparent that this must be addressed in state law.”

However, while Burke praised the justices for upholding the fetal remains provision of the law, she also expressed disappointment that they did not rule on the other aspects of the legislation.

“Indiana law also sends a clear message that all victims of discrimination – born and unborn – are worthy of protection,” she said. “We had hoped the Supreme Court would take this opportunity to revisit the 7th Circuit’s deeply flawed ruling, which endorses a lethal form of discrimination, as long as it occurs in utero.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, had a similar reaction.

“The Justices got it right that aborted infants need to be buried and cremated respectfully as they are human beings, not trash, but it’s tragic they didn’t see their humanity when they still have a chance at life,” Hawkins said in a May 28 statement.

However, she said, “with so many cases advancing on the life issue, we believe that another opportunity to do the right thing will soon be presented.”

In a 20-page concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas stressed that the court will eventually need to consider the question of abortions chosen for eugenic reasons.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion,” he said, pointing to the eugenic views of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who advocated birth control as a means “to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.”

With abortion rates of children with Down syndrome approaching 100% in some countries, and sex-selective abortions in Asia leading to as many as 160 million “missing” women, Thomas argued that “abortion has proved to be a disturbingly effective tool for implementing the discriminatory preferences that undergird eugenics.”

“Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope,” he said.

New study supports decades of Catholic research on progesterone in pregnancy

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 18:05

Omaha, Neb., May 27, 2019 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- A recent study in the UK found that taking progesterone supplements during pregnancy is associated with a decreased risk of miscarriage, at least in some cases. To Teresa Kenney, a women’s health nurse practitioner in Omaha, the study came as no surprise.

That’s because the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, where Kenney works, has been using progesterone to support and maintain pregnancies for decades.

“The research that we’ve done here has identified progesterone as a significant factor in pregnancies who are at risk for miscarriage or premature labor. We’ve been using it here for three decades safely and effectively, and our outcomes are very good with that,” Kenney told CNA.

She noted that progesterone is routinely used during the in-vitro fertilization process to maintain and support pregnancy, but is not used regularly during typical pregnancies.

“Doctors for years have known how important it is. But in routine pregnancy, it’s really not the standard of care to look at progesterone levels,” she said. “The only time it’s usually done would be in a higher risk situation,” such as when a woman has a history of miscarriages or is bleeding during pregnancy.

The research trial out of the University of Birmingham was conducted on 4,000 pregnant women who had experienced bleeding in early pregnancy – a symptom that can be, but is not always, associated with early miscarriage.

Half of the women were given progesterone supplements and the other half received a placebo. Those who took the progesterone saw a 15% increase in live births.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that not all the women benefited from progesterone. The greatest benefits appeared to be experienced among women who had previously had three or more miscarriages.

The head of the study told the BBC that he hoped the new data would be used to update national guidelines. Currently, monitoring and supplementing progesterone is not part of standard prenatal care in the U.S. or UK.

Research on progesterone in pregnancy dates back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, Kenney said. Scientists know that progesterone supports the uterine lining to provide a healthy environment for the developing baby.

Dr. Thomas Hilgers, founder and director of the Pope Paul VI Institute, contributed to the existing research on the subject throughout the late 1980s-90s, she said.

“He was trying to look at those high-risk people and figure out what made them high-risk for potentially miscarrying a pregnancy,” she explained. Using the Creighton model of fertility care, a method of fertility awareness and tracking that he had developed, he began to find patterns of abnormality, such as luteal phase deficiency, ovulation problems, and follicular cyst problems, Kenney said. Much of this research was done on women before they became pregnant.

“He found that those patients actually had abnormal progesterone levels” in many cases, Kenney said. “And he surmised that if you treated those patients, you could reduce the risk of miscarriage.”

Hilgers was also able to identify and treat other complications that can contribute to increased risk of miscarriage, such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

His second main area of research was in establishing what constitute normal levels of progesterone throughout pregnancy, Kenney continued.

“He looked at thousands of pregnant women who carried out very, very healthy normal pregnancies, and he looked at their progesterone levels in each week of pregnancy, all the way through the third trimester, to establish a normal range of progesterone levels in pregnancy.”

Hilgers then compared these to pregnancies that were not normal – for example, those that ended in miscarriage or experienced premature labor, placental complications, or fetal distress. He found that pregnancies experiencing poorer outcomes often had lower than normal progesterone levels.

“And so in practice, what we do here at Pope Paul VI Institute is to treat those pregnancies that have lower than normal progesterone in pregnancy, and we reduce the risk of poor outcomes,” Kenney said.

Dr. Kathleen Raviele, an OB-GYN and former president of the Catholic Medical Association, said that if a woman has undergone a miscarriage – particularly very early in pregnancy – she recommends that her progesterone levels be tested following ovulation during a normal cycle. If numbers are low, she recommends supplementing progesterone.

“That seems to be the most effective at preventing subsequent miscarriages if progesterone deficiency is the problem,” she told CNA.

Kenney and Raviele both stressed that there can be many reasons for miscarriage, and progesterone does not solve all problems. Somewhere between 10-25% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Fifty percent of miscarriages happen because the baby has a chromosomal problem,” Raviele said. “There are also structural problems with a woman’s uterus that can cause miscarriages, infection in the mother, other problems such as diabetes and thyroid disease.”

However, for those patients who do experience low progesterone, offering a simple solution that allows them to carry a healthy pregnancy can be “so healing” for them, she said.

She recalled one woman who came to her after having six consecutive miscarriages. Raviele tested her and found that the woman had a progesterone deficiency. The woman was given supplemental progesterone and had two healthy babies.

“It’s such an easy thing to do, if that’s what the problem is,” Raviele said.

While hundreds of doctors have been trained in Hilgers’ methods, the FDA has never approved the use of progesterone in pregnancy for the prevention of miscarriage. As a result, it is not part of the standard of care followed by most doctors in the majority of pregnancies.

And even if a doctor does decide to test for progesterone in pregnancy, the reference range that is generally used by laboratories is much broader than that established by Hilgers, Kenney said.

“So what we see as suboptimal progesterone is not always what a traditional lab will. We have a lower threshold for treatment because our research has proven that there is a tighter window that progesterone levels should be in pregnancy.”

Raviele said that in her experience, “treatment with progesterone in early pregnancy is very often regional. There are different parts of the country where it’s used frequently, like in the Southeast, and then there are other parts of the country where they don’t have any confidence that progesterone is making a difference.”

But some concerns that are attributed to the use of progesterone are actually the result of the form used and the timing of administering it, she said.

Synthetic progesterone is associated with certain types of birth defects. But the form used by Kenney and Raviele is bioidentical – it perfectly matches the progesterone made by the woman’s body herself, and it does not carry the same risks associated with synthetic versions.

Timing is also important, Raviele said. Beginning progesterone after a woman has already started to show signs that she is miscarrying is not as effective as beginning to supplement with progesterone right after ovulation. Early supplementation can help the baby grow properly and stay implanted in the uterus.

Kenney said that new study out of Birmingham is a hopeful sign. While Hilgers and his colleagues have collected data from thousands of women, there is also a need for randomized, controlled trials, with publications in peer-reviewed medical journals.

“That’s why it’s so important that research get done, and that more evidence like [the Birmingham study] comes out.”

Part of the problem, she said, is that “people have not had a strong interest in the natural physiology – what’s happening in the woman’s body, either in pregnancy or just in the menstrual cycle. So the research has become kind of stagnant in this area.”

“Having a miscarriage is devastating to women. Having repeat miscarriages is more devastating, for women to go through it over and over again,” she added. “So having the ability to say that science has proven that progesterone can decrease your risk of losing a pregnancy is very pro-woman, and we should be investigating this further.”

Kenney said the new study also supports the science behind the abortion pill reversal.

The abortion pill is actually a two-pill regimen. The first blocks progesterone in the woman’s body, and the second, taken 24 hours later, induces contractions to expel the fetus.

Some women experience regret after taking the first pill. Doctors including Hilgers have found that giving women a high dose of progesterone can sometimes override the effects of the initial drug, leading to a normal pregnancy with no increase for health complications.

Critics have argued that the procedure is experimental and lacks scientific basis. However, Kenney said, the new U.K. study “gives validity to the fact that progesterone is the main hormone that supports pregnancy.”

“A medical abortion is just a forced miscarriage. It makes absolute scientific sense that progesterone is the hormone that should be given when you give [women] a medication that basically blocks their progesterone,” she said.

“It’s frustrating to me that these pro-abortion people are saying that this science is completely bogus, when we have studies like this [Birmingham study] that prove the absolute essential nature of progesterone to support and maintain pregnancy.”

Archbishop Broglio: Service to nation is faithful to the commandment to love

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 05:01

Washington D.C., May 27, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Ahead of Memorial Day in the United States, the Archbishop of Military Services commended fallen soldiers and emphasized sacrificial love.

“Certainly those we honor today served the Nation and put their lives in peril without knowing everyone they were serving: whether they were good or bad. They simply served all,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said during a homily at a Mass said May 19 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.

“Does not authentic service to the Nation also express fidelity to the commandment of love? It is recognition of that service that beckons us this afternoon.”

The 25th Annual Memorial Mass was attended by active military members, veterans, and their families.

“The sacrifice of the military also pushes us forward in the quest for a lasting peace. It is impossible to look at the faces of young men and women committed to bearing arms in service of the Nation and not shudder at the tragedy of losing even one young life.”

Archbishop Broglio said the powerful message of love in the Gospel is rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ. This concrete action of love drew the disciples together and pushed them to evangelize the whole world.

“The supreme moment of glorification is the passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord, considered as the hour in St. John’s Gospel. Not exactly what we consider when we think of glory. Jesus recognizes this moment as the highlight and purpose of His mission,” he said.

“The love of the Risen One pushed the apostolic community out of its comfort zone into new horizons,” he further added.
It is the obligation of Catholics to emulate this love and self-gift, he said, noting that acts of charity make Christ present to the giver. This strength, he said, must come from the sacraments, especially Holy Communion.

The archbishop further added that love is not a gift to be withheld from certain people but it is for everyone. He pointed to the example of Christ, who washed Judas’ feet even with the knowledge of the discple’s betrayal.

“That powerful example is useful in our world where people are so often categorized and dismissed. Christians cannot faithfully behave that way. We cannot simply follow the world, divide people into camps, and choose which ones merit our love and which not. Fidelity to the precept of charity prevents us from determining its meaning,” he said.

Broglio said members of the military live this example by their willingness to sacrifice and authentic service for the good of the nation.

“They exhibit an understanding of the divine commandment, so fundamental and emblematic of the Christian community for all times and in all places,” he said.

He encouraged his listeners “to foster dialogue and understanding between people.

Broglio also encouraged those assisting at Mass to pray for the men and women who have died during or after military service. He drew special attention to the military chaplains, veterans, and those suffering from spiritual and physical battle wounds.

“You know that this annual celebration is an occasion to pray especially for the eternal repose of those who have fallen either on the battlefield or years later,” he said.

“We beg divine mercy upon all of them and we ask for the stamina to imitate their love.”

7 priests ordained in 7 years: What's the 'secret sauce' at this Ohio parish?

Sun, 05/26/2019 - 18:52

Hudson, Ohio, May 26, 2019 / 04:52 pm (CNA).- Starting in 2013, and every year since for the past seven years, one young man from the parish of St. Mary’s in Hudson, Ohio, has been ordained a priest of Jesus Christ for the Catholic Church.

It’s a rarity in the Catholic Church in the United States to have that many priests coming from one place in such a short time span. The timing of it all was something that could have only been orchestrated by God, said Fr. Ryan Mann, one of the “seven in seven” priests, who was ordained in 2014.

Between staggered entrances to seminary after high school, college, or the start of a career, and some of the men dropping out of seminary for a year or two only to come back, “the seven in seven could not have been orchestrated ahead of time,” Mann told CNA.

CNA spoke with three of the “seven in seven” priests to find out what it is about St. Mary’s parish that is fostering so many vocations.

‘The first fool’ - Seminarians and priests as role models

Before the seven, there was Fr. Stephen Flynn, a priest from St. Mary’s who was ordained in 2008.

He “got the ball rolling” among the young men at St. Mary’s, Mann said.

“Once the ball got rolling, it was easier to call this guy and say, ‘Hey what’s it like?’ or if he was home in the summertime you can see - ‘Is he weird? Oh he’s normal, oh good, I can be normal and do this,’” he said.

“In many ways he was kind of the first fool who went to seminary” and had the courage to make the leap, added Fr. Patrick Schultz, a priest from St. Mary’s who was ordained in 2016.

Schultz said that, starting with Flynn, the seminarians from St. Mary’s would return to the parish on their breaks from seminary and spend a lot of time with the youth group, which allowed other young men to get to know seminarians on a personal level.

“When you talk about the ‘secret sauce’, I think it’s the fact that...you get one seminarian, and you make him as visible as possible to demystify what being a seminarian is,” he said.

“That’s how you create a culture of vocations. It helps you see that there’s such a thing as discerning priesthood - when you’re signing up for seminary, it’s not signing up to be a priest, you’re discerning priesthood.”

Additionally, he said, the formation that seminarians receive help them not only to become holier, but to become more fully human and more fully alive, which is helpful for others to see who are considering a vocation.

“So you enjoy life, you love movies, you love bonfires, you love chips and salsa, you love watching Nacho Libre - you’re not just this cloistered off, speaking in Latin, far-removed ethereal person,” he said.

Fr. Rich Samide, a priest from St. Mary’s who was ordained in 2016, told CNA that it “helped immensely” in his discernment to know someone who had already gone to seminary.

“Seminary was not some unknown place with unknown men studying for priesthood. I knew that if I went to seminary, I would already know several of the seminarians,” he said.

“They were real to me, and made the idea of going to seminary real. I knew them as men who had normal interests, and diverse personalities. I could see that I could flourish as a seminarian, and as a priest, through their example.”

Each priest that CNA spoke with mentioned the example of happy and holy priests who were already at the parish - in particular, Fr. Damian Ference, who served as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s parish for several years.

He encouraged vocations, he prayed for them and mentioned them in homilies and intentions, and he spent time investing in the young people at the parish, Samide said.

“He mentored so many of us who were considering the option of priesthood or religious life, and, especially for the young men considering the priesthood, he gave a lived example of how priesthood might look for us. I had never really gotten to know a priest personally before him, and that helped so much in my discernment,” Samide said.

Schultz said he knew Ference when he was in high school and Ference was a “freshly ordained” priest, and that his enthusiasm for Christ and for life was attractive.

“This is a dude who had a rock band as a priest at the parish, he knew culture and movies and books, and he lived his vocation with such an intensity and a joy, that it was like well, if that’s priesthood, that’s not that bad!”

The importance of an active youth group

The second thing that each priest highlighted was the importance of the Life Teen program at the parish - a youth group that has engaged 5th graders through high schoolers at the parish for 25 years now.

“I would be remiss...if I did not mention the pivotal role that Life Teen had in my faith formation and in my eventual discernment of a priestly vocation,” Samide said.

“Life Teen provided me with a solid community of disciples that encouraged me to go deeper in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and, quite frankly, catapulted me into discipleship.”

While he had always attended Mass on days when he was obligated to, Samide said Life Teen helped him make his faith his own, and introduced him to friends who encouraged him to seek God.

“From that place of discipleship, I began to discern the priesthood,” he said.

Schultz also pointed to the active Life Teen program as a key to fostering vocations, and encouraged parishes to heavily invest in their young people.

“Have a disproportionate, unreasonable commitment to helping young people meet Jesus,” Schultz said. “Like as a budget item, helping young people meet Jesus, encounter Jesus, and choose to live life with him as the greatest adventure is one of the most important things.”

For Mann, Life Teen was not something he became too involved in until was a young adult, and he was asked to help with the program.

But St. Mary’s has always been a place where young people have been welcomed and involved in parish life, he said, which helped foster a culture of vocations.

“We always have young people around, they always felt very welcome and at home here,” he said.

“We had priests hanging out with our youth group during adoration, or teaching them night prayer, or praying a rosary with them, or praying to saints with them, being with them, sharing the spiritual tradition of the Church,” he added.

A personal invitation

Another thing all three priests mentioned to CNA that helped foster their vocation was that someone, at some point, looked each of them in the eye, called them by name, and encouraged them to at least consider discerning the priesthood.

“For almost every guy someone looked us in the eye and said: ‘You should be a priest, I think you’d be really good at it. You should consider it,’” Mann said. It’s biblical, he added, because Jesus called each of his disciples by name.

“I think the average high school guy going to our youth group at some point is seriously asked to consider this. And our parish is very supportive,” Mann noted.

Samide said he was also given a personal invitation to consider the priesthood. He also noted that a personal invitation can sometimes be the confirmation a young man has been looking for in his discernment.

“...members of the parish were not afraid to approach me and other young men and ask us if we had considered the option of priesthood. That boldness was invaluable to me,” he said.

“A young man might be thinking about the possibility of priesthood, but often he is too afraid to articulate it to anyone else. When someone else approaches him and says that he/she sees gifts in him that could make him a good priest, it serves to reassure him that what he is perceiving in his heart is real and merits more discernment,” he added.

The priests also each mentioned specific prayer for vocations as a key aspect of their parish. There were prayers for vocations during the parish’s daily rosaries, during weekly holy hours, at Mass and on other occasions.

But ultimately, Mann said, there’s not necessarily a 5-step program that will ensure the fostering of vocations - it’s about making disciples of Jesus, he said.

“It’s very tempting and alluring to say, ‘Give me the five steps to have vocations at my parish, and you could probably write a book and make a lot of money with that, but it doesn’t work that way,” he said.

“Those steps tend to put everything in our control...like its a vending machine. If I do these 5 things, the output has to be vocations. But really it’s much more biblical, what happened here,” he said.

“When people have a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ, and seek to do his will in their lives, vocations will develop organically,” Samide noted.

“As parish communities seek to grow as disciples, they will encourage younger members to consider ways that they might serve the Lord. Discipleship is the key.”

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How this mom of disabled children is helping others to 'accept the gift'

Sat, 05/25/2019 - 06:00

Berlin, NJ, May 25, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Kelly Mantoan doesn’t have a lot of free time. Between mothering 5 children, homeschooling some of them, getting her two youngest sons on the school bus on time, and juggling a writing career and a successful blog, she has a full schedule.

Her days even look a little different from those of the typical mother to a large family, because the Mantoan family’s two youngest children, Fulton, 10, and Teddy, 8, were both born with a rare degenerative genetic disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA.

Both boys use motorized wheelchairs full time for mobility, and require round-the-clock care to ensure their health needs are met. Kelly and her husband,Tony know something about the strain that can accompany such comprehensive care.

That’s where the idea of a day-long conference designed especially for caregiving, special needs parents called “Accepting the Gift” was born.

“There's really nothing else out there like it for Catholics – there are Protestant ministries to support parents of special needs children, but we looked and couldn’t find anything that ministered to Catholic parents, whose needs can be really unique,” Mantoan explained.

“From a theological standpoint, the Catholic faith is so instrumental in how I deal with my struggles as a special needs parents, we have such a rich theology of suffering.” Mantoan said, explaining that her Catholic faith has uniquely equipped her to accept her sons’ diagnoses.

“As a Catholic, I've been able to see that there is nothing wrong with my child, and God can bring joy in this, and this is who he is.’

Mantoan wanted to bring that kind of spiritual and emotional support to other parents of children with special needs, too.

“Last summer I started looking around and couldn't find anything like what I was envisioning. We asked our pastor in August of 2018 if he would be supportive - he has a brother with Down’s syndrome who is very involved in our parish life, so we thought he would - and we got permission, set the date, and went ahead and started asking other special needs parents, you know, ‘What kind of talks and things would you want?’”

“We just started throwing things together willy nilly, and I quickly realized realized I needed to fundraise, it was very haphazard, a couple at our church stepped up and did all food and meals and logistics.”

“I'd run a conference before, I've run a major homeschool conference, so I'm like, 'Wow I'm totally qualified to plan something like this,'” Mantoan told CNA.

She called the conference’s inaugural installment  a “trial by fire learning experience,”

“It didn't totally squash my spirit,” she clarified. “It was hard for me at first to figure out how to get the word out reliably to everybody. I have an online presence, our keynote has an online presence, I just figured, well, if we get the word out...”

What Mantoan didn’t count on, however, was that she would find few diocesan offices had staff members responsible for ministry or formation with disabled Catholics.

Still, despite those initial difficulties, the first conference was an encouraging start, she said.

Several dozen parents came to Mater Ecclesiae Church in Berlin, NJ, for the April 27 conference, and a larger remote audience streamed online.

The conference featured a series of talks and expert panels by author Mary Lenaburg, David Rizzo, creator of the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit, and National Catholic Bioethics Center ethicist DiAnn Ecret, onhand to provide insight into complex ethical scenarios including adverse prenatal diagnoses and known genetic susceptibility.

Rev. Matthew Schneider, the priest behind the Twitter handle @AutisticPriest, was also in attendance. Since announcing his autism diagnosis this spring, he has started a YouTube channel where he speaks openly about his life and ministry through the lens of autism.

Mantoan called Schneider, who live-tweeted the event, “a real ray of hope to parents of autistic kids who are wondering what the future may hold. He advocates for those with autism, but also speaks from the perspective of a priest and offers a unique insight on how to make parishes more open to disabled people.”

Keynote speaker Mary Lenaburg reminded attendees “my daughter - your children - are heralds for a new world … our children show us the face of God every single day.”

Looking toward next year’s event, Mantoan said, “I have to work at getting the word out more in advance so it's not such a surprise – logistics, not being well-known or established...it’s a work in progress, and there is no major network for Catholic special needs parents to connect – so we’re asking ourselves, how can we connect and share resources?”

“Many special needs parents are full time caregivers. They can’t leave. They can’t fly somewhere for multiple days of travel for an event. They are on 24/7. That’s who we most want to reach, and that’s why we streamed the content,” she said.

“This is for the frazzled stay-at-home caregiver who feels like they really can't get out, for whom it’s so hard to get that face to face support.”

“I know what it's like when you have a lot of little kids, a lot of special needs kids, you might feel isolated, might be the only special needs family in your parish,” she explained.  

When asked whether other factors affect Catholic special needs parents uniquely, Mantoan pointed out that family planning can be a big difficulty and source of stress.

“In so many families, you have a special needs child - especially with a grave medical condition, and that’s it, you’re done. You get sterilized, you stop having kids.”

Mantoan continued, “If you're a faithful Catholic and you have kids with genetic diseases or you are disabled with a genetic disease that makes childbirth dangerous, if you have a large family with disabilities, do you keep being open to life? How do you manage special needs parenting and continue living your life?”

“For us, for a long time, the whole family planning aspect was a huge struggle...When we got their diagnoses, it was like, oh, I have a 1 in 4 chance of having a child who also carries this disease.”

“It was difficult for a long time,” Mantoan admitted.

“Probably I can say within the last 3 years we've finally reached a point of peace. Basically up until that point, we were doing what the Church taught because we knew it was right, but we weren't happy about it.”

“We're still very, very prudent and very, very cautious with NFP, and I'm really excited we didn't go ahead and do something drastic like get sterilized. Thankfully we hadn't taken any permanent steps during all that difficulty.”

“I think that's the thing, you get to a point where you say ‘thank goodness we were faithful;’ it strengthened us as a couple. And my feelings now are totally different. My heart is in a different place in terms of what I can accept. We were really angry, and now we're really happy we were faithful. Because there is peace now, and our marriage is stronger.”

Online access to “Accepting the Gift” is still available at the Catholic Parents of Special Needs Children (CPSNC) website, and planning for next year’s event is underway.

“If you're in the middle of nowhere and your parish is telling you, ‘We don't know how to give your kids sacraments;’ if you don’t have support, if you feel isolated, we want to alleviate some of that for you, to help you understand what your rights are as Catholic parents, to help you navigate that,” Mantoan said.

“The message is that there is joy here; joy in accepting your kids and who they are, and joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship.”

 

Five men charged amid Michigan clergy sex abuse investigation

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 17:26

Lansing, Mich., May 24, 2019 / 03:26 pm (CNA).- Five men who served in Michigan as Catholic priests have been charged with 21 counts of sex abuse, the state attorney general announced Friday.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at May 24 press conference, reported by the New York Times. “We anticipate many more charges and arrests.”

She added: “Although we have charged these men with very serious crimes, I want to remind everyone that they are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.”

The five men are accused of abusing five individuals: four of them male, and one of them female, M-Live in Michigan reported. Four of the alleged victims were minors.

Those charged are: Timothy Crowley, 69, and Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, of the Diocese of Lansing; Patrick Casey, 55, of the Archdiocese of Detroit; Jacob Vellian, 84, of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Kottayam, who served in the Diocese of Kalamazoo for one year in the 1970s; and Neil Kalina, 63, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, who served in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

One of the men was arrested in Michigan, while three others were arrested in Arizona, California, and Florida. The fifth, Vellian, could be extradited from his home country of India.

Casey was removed from ministry in 2015, and faces an ongoing canonical process. Kalina left active ministry in 1993. DeLorenzo was removed from ministry after the Lansing diocese receiving a complaint against him in 2002, and the diocese is seeking to have him dismissed from the clerical state. Crowley was removed from ministry after an allegation was made against him in 1993, and he has been dismissed from the clerical state.

Vellian is retired and resides at Bethsleehe Seminary, according to the MSP Society at the website of his archeparchy.

The charges were made during the ongoing statewide investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic Church.

Michigan launched an investigation into Catholic clergy in September 2018, following the release of a Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania which detailed decades of abuse allegations against 300 Catholic priests in that state. It also followed the suspension of the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct with seminarians. McCarrick was suspended from public ministry in July 2018, and was dismissed from the clerical state in January 2019.

After the announcement of the investigation in the fall of 2018, the dioceses said they welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit said at the time that they “looked forward” to cooperating with state officials and actively participating in the investigation. The archdiocese also emphasized its confidence in its safe environment practices already in place, but added that the investigation would be the next step toward healing.

So far, the Michigan investigation team has reviewed hundreds of tips, as well as hundreds of thousands of abuse-related documents that were seized in police raids of all seven Catholic dioceses in the state, M-Live reported. Most of the tips have come through a hotline established specifically for abuse.

Nessel said at the press conference that she believed only 5-10 percent of the documents had been reviewed thus far.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg...This is about taking on large-scale institutions that turn a blind eye to victims and making certain we hold all of them accountable – that includes unapologetically pursuing any and all individuals who abuse their power by victimizing our residents,” she said.

Ned McGrath, the public affairs director for the archdiocese, said at the news conference that the Archdiocese of Detroit continues to promise its full cooperation with authorities in the investigation.

In March of this year, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the state’s legislature for an additional $2 million in funding for the abuse investigation, which is expected to last two years.

In April of this year, Michigan State Rep. Beau LaFave told CNA that he was concerned that Nessel appeared to demonstrate an anti-Catholic bias over multiple previous statements made either in public or on social media.

Similar clergy sex abuse investigations have been launched in multiple states throughout the country, including in Georgia, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Nebraska.

Last year Michigan extended the statue of limitations in sexual assault cases to 15 years after the incident in criminal cases and 10 in civil cases. Indictments for abuse of minor victims can be filed within 15 years of the crime or by the victim's 28th birthday, whichever comes later. First-degree criminal sexual abuse, such as rape of a minor, has no statute of limitations in the state.

Newark church asks school to cover LGBT mural

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 17:00

Newark, N.J., May 24, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Newark has instructed a charter school to cover a pro-LGBT mural painted on church property.

Fr. Paul Prevosto, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Hackensack, instructed administrators at Bergen Arts and Science Charter School to paint over the mural on a cafeteria pillar, after parishioners complained that church property was being used for the display.

Bergen Arts and Science leases the school building from Holy Trinity. Both the church and the school share use of common spaces including the cafeteria, which the church uses the space for events and parties.

Several charter schools in different dioceses rent space from empty school buildings owner by parishes.

The mural was painted by a 16 year-old student “to support the LGBT community.” The painting featured a rainbow heart and interlocking abstract male figures, which were covered following the instruction.

Fr. Prevosto said that parishioners had come to him with concerns about the “sexual” depiction and that he had instructed the school to “take care of it.”

The lease agreement between the school and church states that “due to the Catholic nature of the Landlord, [the] Tenant promises to conduct no affairs or establish any organizations that would be contrary to its Catholic moral values, ethics and faith.”

According to reports in the Bergen Record, Fr. Prevosto was simply applying the terms of the lease in the light of concerns expressed by the church community and that anything "that would be contrary to our Catholic sensitivity should not be displayed or seen."

The non-profit organization which manages the school, iLearn Schools Inc., stressed the importance of mutual respect in resolving the situation.

“As a public school, we are inclusive, supportive, and respectful of the artistic expression of our students, and likewise are respectful of the directives of the church as a private entity and owners of the property,” iLearn said in a statement to local media.

LGBT activist organization Garden State Equality released a statement Friday demanding that the mural be restored and calling the church instruction “militant opposition to LGBTQ people.”

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Newark on May 23 said that the facts of the matter had been “grossly misrepresented” in local media reports, calling the situation “unfortunate.”

“The Archdiocese of Newark embraces and welcomes all within our faithful community,” the statement said.

“The Holy Trinity Church simply raised two concerns. First, that the school refrain from consistently painting on the building surfaces. Secondly, that the school remove some content in a new painting, which included some symbols of sexuality that were inappropriate for the building, as the building is utilized by parishioners of the Church, as well as the School.”

“Holy Trinity simply has asked the tenants to be cognizant of this when displaying information and materials. The mural violated that understanding in its permanent nature – directly painted on the surface – and in some of the content.”

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