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Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

Meet the spiritual powerhouses of the pro-life movement

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 02:01

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Walk along in the March for Life or Walk for Life and you will see them: a swarm of women – many of them young – dressed in long blue habits, white veils blowing in the breeze.

They are the Sisters of Life and they have  a message for women and for the pro-life movement: “You are not alone.”

“We really see ourselves primarily as a spiritual entity that intercedes for and upholds the work of the pro-life movement,” explained Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV, Vicar General of the Sisters of Life.

She also said she hopes that the pro-life movement knows that they can depend upon the Sisters’ prayers and support: “They are not alone and they have a family of Sisters who love them very much and are praying for them daily.”

Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York, where the Sisters of Life were founded, said he believes the Sisters of Life have already made a tremendous impact on the culture since their founding. “It’s about 25 years later and the Sisters of Life are growing, they’re thriving and they’re everywhere” he told CNA.

“Help Wanted: Sisters of Life”

While it may be impossible to quantify the full impact of the Sisters’ prayers and efforts, Zwilling said, “I truly believe that they have helped through their prayer, through their example, they’ve helped to change people’s minds and hearts about this issue.”

“I think that in the long run that’s going to be their greatest contribution.”

The Sisters’ journey began in 1990 with a newspaper column by then-Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. “This really was the brainchild of Cardinal O’Connor,” Zwilling said.

In the 1990s Cardinal O'Connor was a prominent leader in the pro-life movement in the Church and in the country, and saw the issue of abortion as one of the most pressing need of the time. Before acting, the cardinal reflected on the long history within the Church of the Holy Spirit giving life to religious communities able to meet these these challenges.

Cardinal O’Connor suggested  in his column that it was time for another order able to respond to the challenges of abortion. The piece was titled simply: "Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.”

Eight sisters answered the call, formally founding a community on June 1, 1991. During this time, they lived temporarily with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in the Bronx, praying, fasting, attending Eucharistic adoration, and discerning their vocations.

Sr. Josamarie, SV, was one of these first women to join the Sisters of Life. “None of us had been religious sisters before,” she said of herself and the other seven women who were part of the initial novice class. Moreover, God “called us from various things” – the young women had such backgrounds as scientists, college professors, and librarians.

As the sisters prepared themselves for a life of prayer and ministry to the most vulnerable in society, Cardinal O’Connor also introduced the Sisters of Life to members of the pro-life movement, including Mother Theresa.

Today, the order is thriving, with 106 Sisters, whose average age is around 35. In addition, the Sisters of Life are preparing for even more new sisters, with 15 postulants and 18 novices currently in formation.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth joined the Sisters of Life in 1993 after graduating from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, having heard the cardinal talk on campus during her junior year. Already involved in pro-life activism, Sr. Mary Elizabeth explained that she “wanted to be part of the solution, offering other options to women” who felt like they had no options and turned to abortion out of desperation.

A Life of Prayer

The foundation of the Sisters of Life ministry and daily life is prayer and contemplation, explained Sister Mary Elizabeth. “Our spirituality is Eucharistic-centered and Marian,” she told CNA. In each of their convents, the Sisters participate in Mass and spend a Holy Hour in Eucharistic adoration daily. In addition, the sisters gather together to pray the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day.

As part of the group’s Marian focus, the Sisters of Life also pray a rosary together “to support the works of the pro-life movement in our country and throughout the world each day.”

The Sisters of Life also draw upon the example of Mary in their spirituality, and from there, the way they engage other aspects of their lives: “A deep part of our spiritual life is living out a spiritual maternity, and so we take Mary as our model.” Sister Mary Elizabeth said the sisters’ goal is to carry Christ’s presence with them and to echo Mary’s “yes” to life and to Christ.



The Sisters of Life from The Sisters of Life on Vimeo.

One of the examples of Mary’s maternity they seek to emulate is her decision to journey forth and visit her cousin, Elizabeth, after the Annunciation. “Just as at the Visitation the presence of Jesus in Mary radiated out” and filled her cousin with joy, Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “so we can have the same life and power dwelling within us and radiating out from us to touch all those women that we encounter every day who are pregnant and in need and hopefully them with joy and with hope.”

The sisters also seek to bring the example of Mary’s receptivity and welcome into the way they treat people – by recognizing the unique dignity of every person. When sisters encounter someone, Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “we’re not in a rush, we’re not in a hurry.” This patience and attention, she continued, is “deeply rooted in our belief that every human person is created as a unique manifestation of God.”

“It’s a way we live out our spiritual maternity,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth noted.

As a contemplative and apostolic order, however, their prayer life does not stop at the sanctuary doors, but carries over into their ministry, too. “Our prayer kind of fuels our apostolic efforts, and then our apostolate brings us back to prayer,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth noted. “We can bring all those people we are working with to the Lord throughout the day.”

A Mission to Save Lives

The ministry of the Sisters of Life’s apostolate is focused upon the defense of life in all its forms. Sisters in each of the convents participate in a range of missions, from ministry to women facing crisis pregnancies or regret after an abortion to study of bioethics and theology.

At the center of the Sisters of Life’s apostolate is the Holy Respite Mission, a sanctuary in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for women in crisis situations to come and live with the sisters, join in the community and prayer life of the sisters, and stay until they are ready to go back into the world after the birth of their child. Women typically stay with the sisters between six months and a year.

Just a few blocks uptown lies the sisters’ Visitation Mission, which offers “practical support and compassion to women who are pregnant and find themselves in a crisis,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth explained. “Most of the women that come to us have been abandoned be everyone and are unsure of what they’re going to do.” Every year, the Sisters of Life serve around 1,000 women each year.  

The sisters, along with a crew of volunteer lay helpers called the Co-Workers of Life, provide women with the practical support they need. “We provide everything,” she elaborated, enumerating a list ranging from physical needs like diapers, bottles, strollers, cribs, baby clothes, and maternity clothes, to other forms of help like helping women find safe housing, moving help, navigating challenges with college administrators or employers, writing resumes, and finding jobs.

In addition, some Co-Workers of Life open their homes as a safe space for women in crisis and offer their friendship and support. Even simple gestures like meeting to talking or texting with expectant mothers can be an immense help for women with few other sources of support.

“They’re being pressured into having an abortion by their family, by their friends, by the medical community, their employers – it’s really outrageous,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth exclaimed. “They just need someone who’s supporting them and encouraging them in their decision to keep their child.”

Another important service the Sisters of Life provide is hope and healing outreach to women who have had abortions and are seeking healing. “From the beginning, Cardinal O’Connor was very sensitive to those who had suffered the wounds of abortion,” explained Sr. Josamarie. Many women, she continued, feel pressured into abortion and then are left to suffer through the emotions alone afterwards.

Sisters provide opportunities to “work through” feelings of grief, anger and other emotions by counseling women, as well as offering specialized retreats where women also have access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, in addition to someone who will listen to them as they process their experience.

“It’s our experience that women hold this secret and don’t speak about it to others,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth added on the experience of post-abortive women. “It’s a tremendous burden that they handle alone.”

Finally, the sisters engage in a range of outreach and evangelization activities through their retreat center in Stamford, Conn., and their presence at pro-life and Catholic events such as World Youth Day, and the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and the Walk For Life in San Francisco in January. These activities compliment the education work the sisters do through their pro-life library, their support of the Respect Life/Family Life Office for the Archdiocese of New York, research in their House of Studies in Maryland, and talks on college campuses and in parishes.

With their lives dedicated to the defense of life every day of the year, the Sisters aim to revitalize a love for life in the world.

Their hope, Sister Mary Elizabeth said, is to be “a spiritual force that generates a new culture of life within the minds of hearts of men and women across the world.”

If the thousands of lives they touch every year are any indication, they are well on their way.

Cardinal Dolan: Abortion undermines everyone's human rights

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 19:06

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2017 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a culture where abortion is prevalent, no one’s rights are safe, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York insisted at a national pro-life Mass before the March for Life.

“We come together this sacred evening in a church we claim as a sanctuary, in a land historically termed a sanctuary, on a planet the creator intended as an environment of sanctuary,” said Cardinal Dolan, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, in his homily at the March for Life vigil Mass on Thursday.

“Why?” he asked. “To reclaim the belief that the mother’s womb is the primal sanctuary, where a helpless, innocent, fragile, tiny baby is safe, secure, nurtured and protected.”

The March for Life vigil Mass was held Thursday evening at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The national march is the largest pro-life rally in the world, annually drawing hundreds of thousands of walkers. It is held on or around the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of Jan. 22, 1973 that mandated legal abortion throughout the nation.  

Cardinal Dolan celebrated the Mass, joined by four other cardinals, 40 bishops, 320 priests, and 90 deacons. In addition, 545 seminarians were present, and an estimated 12,000 participants attended.

The Mass began a 14-hour overnight prayer vigil for life featuring devotions, confessions, and holy hours, that will conclude with a closing Mass at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans. At estimated 20,000 pilgrims will attend the Masses and vigil.

“In order for us to have a joyful pro-life witness, we need to be in a good place with God,” Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat on Pro-Life Activities, told CNA.

Churches and cathedrals were in ancient times places of shelter for refugees fleeing violence and persecution and “claiming the right of sanctuary,” Cardinal Dolan noted in his homily.

The pilgrims thought of America as a “sanctuary” as they fled persecution in 17th century England, he said, and “today refugees and immigrants continue to believe that this nation is still a sanctuary, as they arrive with relief and thanksgiving, and we pray this evening they are never let down!”

The environment is also a “sanctuary” for human life, he said.

However, as the “primal sanctuary,” if the mother’s womb is not a safe place for human life and is threatened by abortion, then no one is safe, Cardinal Dolan warned.

“Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked.

A host of evils occur if abortion is prevalent, he explained. “Should it shock us, my friends, as Pope Francis asks in his ongoing global examination of conscience, that a culture that violently intrudes upon the life of baby in the sanctuary of his or her mother’s womb, would soon lose reverence for all places intended by God as safe, secure, and nurturing?”

“That such a society would begin to treat, for instance, the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump? Would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered? Would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers? Would burden the dying with guilt for just wanting peacefully and patiently to savor each day until God takes them, pressuring them instead to suicide?”

St. Peter’s Square, Cardinal Dolan noted, was constructed by the architect Bernini to resemble, with its sets of colonnades opened wide, “the arms of God the Father, the outreach of Jesus gathering us in, the embrace of our Mother Mary and holy Mother Church, all tenderly protecting her children.”

Likewise, the Church must be a sanctuary for all peoples, and the womb must be a sanctuary for all life, he insisted.

“So this evening, in this sanctuary, we praise you, dear God, for those assurances and encouragement of this evening; we have confidence in the sacredness of sanctuary, the sanctuary you intended this earth, this life, your Church, the womb to be, to protect your children and we entrust to you all our efforts to uphold the sacredness, the sanctuary, of human life itself,” he concluded.

 

Young baker with Down Syndrome an international sensation

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 18:05

Boston, Mass., Jan 26, 2017 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Meet Collette: a talented young baker from the Boston area, who has been working on her own original cookie recipes since 2011. She is also a young woman with Down Syndrome.

Despite her passion for cookies and her talent with baking, she was unable to find a job.

“After rejection over and over again when applying for a job and being told she had great skills but was not 'a good fit,' she was determined to own her own business,” reads her website.

Fueled with ambition, Collette opened a production facility in Boston, where she creates and bakes all her own cookies. Within the first 10 days, over 50,000 cookies were ordered.

She has also received over 65,000 letters from fans across the world, including 100 offers from volunteers who want to help with her new company.

Her business, called Collettey's, also has a website where her cookies can be ordered, shipped and delivered with a note from Collette herself. Currently, her facility in Boston handles about 4,000 daily orders of cookies.

But there is more to Collettey's than just the cookies. The ambitious young baker plans to grow her business, eventually creating facilities in every state across the U.S., which would offer jobs to individuals with disabilities who have trouble finding employment.

Behind every cookie is Collette's dream to employ the disabled. According to her website, 76 percent of the disabled community are unemployed, and she is setting out to change that number.  

After months of perfecting her original cookie recipe, Collette's most popular treat has been a chocolate chip cinnamon cookie, dubbed 'The Amazing Cookie.' She also has created 'The Healthy Breakfast Cookie,' which is made with oats, almonds and dried cranberries.

The determined young baker has become an international sensation, appearing in news articles around the world. Her story has been shown on CBS Nightly News, Good Morning America, CBS local Boson, and countless other magazines and journals.

Collette has started a GoFundMe page, where any donations made will be contributed to her growing business. She has currently reached over $18,000 of her $125,000 goal.

When it comes to choosing abortion, just one person can tip the scales

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 17:39

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2017 / 03:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Just one decision can have a major effect on future generations, pro-life activists told a group of young people at the March for Life conference in the nation’s capital on Thursday.

“When you pull one life out of this world, it changes everything,” said Ryan Bomberger, founder of the Radiance Foundation.

The Radiance Foundation is a “faith-based, life-affirming organization to help people understand and embrace their God-given Purpose.” Bomberger, a black pro-life activist who has brought attention to abortion’s “disproportionate impact in the black community,” delivered the keynote speech at the 2017 March for Life Conference in Washington, D.C., the day before Friday’s march.

Bomberger was conceived in rape. His mother chose to bear him, and his foster parents adopted him along with nine other children into their family of 15.

“This is my family. This is the result of the power of one,” Bomberger said, citing the theme of the 2017 march.

That theme – “the power of one” – is in part drawn from the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring,” from the quote “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

It also was meant to draw attention to the actions of one man, Rep. Henry Hyde, who successfully worked to pass an amendment banning the use of federal Medicaid dollars to directly fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake.

The policy, 40 years old, has been estimated to have saved over 2 million lives that otherwise may have been aborted.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, rather than requiring that it to be attached as an amendment on an appropriations bill, which needs new approval each year.

Bomberger used the march’s theme to point to the “power” of one person making one decision to choose life, and the effect that has upon the future.  

“It was one singular decision of my courageous birth mom,” he recalled, noting that “someone had to have spoken life into her” since she “could have gotten a therapeutic abortion” instead.

As for his adoptive mother, Bomberger said that she grew up in a “very rough home” and spent a year in a children’s home when her parents separated. At five years old, she noticed another disabled girl in the home who had no visitors.

“That so profoundly impacted a five year-old girl,” Bomberger said, that she prayed one night “God help me be a mommy to those who don’t have one.”

“Obviously, she followed through, as you can see,” he said, referencing a picture of his extended family which is 62 persons strong through three generations.

“Adoption isn’t just something that transforms the child. It transforms the family, it transforms the community, and sometimes, it even transforms the world,” he said.

“My family gave me love, and God gave me purpose,” he said. “My life has purpose…my children’s lives have purpose.”

A panel following Bomberger’s speech echoed the theme of “the power of one.”

Dr. Jeff Pauls of the Vitae Foundation, which conducts “right-brain research” of pregnancy centers and Planned Parenthood for the pro-life cause, said that according to research, “the vast majority of women who have chosen abortion would not have done so if just one person would have supported them.”

“You be the one,” he told the audience. “If you have somebody that comes up to you, tell them ‘you can do this, and I will help,’” and then “follow that up” through action.

Amy Ford, founder of the group “Embrace Grace” which helps churches minister to and help young mothers who experience unplanned pregnancies, recalled the story of one mother whose life changed after just one encounter with a stranger.

The young girl, who was unmarried and pregnant, had been told by her father that she would “be a horrible mother” and should have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. However, in an answer to prayer, she met a complete stranger who directed her to others who could help her.

Ford recalled the girl’s words: “My dad said that he thought I would be a horrible mom, but that guy at the UPS store said he thought I would be a good mom.”

Just one person changed her life, Ford said. “We have to be the light of the world,” she said, “and we have to be that to every person that we meet.”

 

Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the March for Life

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 12:13

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2017 / 10:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Weeks of speculation were confirmed on Thursday, when the White House verified that Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the national March for Life on Jan. 27.

According to the New York Times, a senior White House official confirmed the news the day before the march, which is generally held close to the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

The presence of a sitting vice president is a major boost for the annual pro-life march, which regularly sees hundreds of thousands of attendees from across the country, but generally receives minimal coverage in major media outlets.

Other speakers at this year’s rally and march include Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to President Donald Trump; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson; and former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson.

Pence, who formerly served as governor of Indiana, has long been known for his pro-life stance. During the Vice Presidential debate, he stressed that his Christian faith hinges upon upholding the “sanctity of life.”

“It all for me begins with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value of every human life,” Pence said on the debate stage. “For me the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief that ancient principle that where God says before you were formed in the womb I knew you.”

He harshly criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine for their support of abortion.

“The very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me. And I can’t conscience about a party that supports that,” he said.

The first week of the new presidential administration has included two major victories for the pro-life movement. On Monday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order restoring the Mexico City Policy, which states that foreign non-governmental organizations may not receive federal funding if they perform or promote abortions as a method of family planning.

In addition, the House of Representatives passed a bill to permanently enshrine in law an annual appropriations provision that bars federal funding of abortion.

Next week, Trump is expected to announce his pick for Supreme Court Justice. He has promised to pick a pro-life replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year.

.....

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US bishops dismayed as Trump vows to build border wall

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 11:27

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2017 / 09:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A leading bishop expressed alarm and dismay on Wednesday following President Donald Trump’s executive orders to increase immigrant detention centers and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Every day, my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches,” said Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”

President Trump issued multiple executive orders Wednesday on immigration.

He ordered a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border. An estimated 650 miles of the 1,900 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border have a wall constructed currently.

“The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation's southern border, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely,” he said.

Saying that he is disheartened by Trump’s decision to prioritize the wall, Bishop Vasquez added that it will “put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way,” could increase the risk of women and child migrants being trafficked, and “destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border.”

Trump also ordered the construction of more immigrant detention facilities staffed with more lawyers and personnel to determine asylum claims, and said deportations and asylum hearings should be expedited.

The bishops have already spoken out about abuses of immigrants at detention centers, and Bishop Vasquez expressed “alarm” at Trump’s proposals to build more detention centers and step up deportations.

“It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities,” he said.

“While we respect the right of the federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals.”

President Obama had previously set records for the number of deportations during his presidency, with over 2.5 million deportations of immigrants.

On Wednesday, Trump also called for “sanctuary cities” that harbor undocumented immigrants to be barred from federal funding.

“Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety,” he stated.

“The recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico has placed a significant strain on Federal resources and overwhelmed agencies charged with border security and immigration enforcement, as well as the local communities into which many of the aliens are placed.”

Responding to the announcement, Bishop Vasquez said, “We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country.”

“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families,” he continued. “We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God.”

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Leader's resignation unrelated to lawsuit, SNAP says

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 02:04

Chicago, Ill., Jan 26, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A longtime leader of a controversial advocacy group for clergy sex abuse victims resigned weeks before a former employee filed a lawsuit charging the group was receiving kickbacks from attorneys who filed sex abuse cases, the group has said.

David Clohessy resigned as executive director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests effective Dec. 31, SNAP told CNA on Wednesday.

As of Jan. 17, Clohessy was still listed as executive director on the group's website.

The organization voiced gratitude for Clohessy’s dedication; he had worked for the organization since 1991.

Clohessy told the St. Louis Dispatch that the lawsuit had nothing to do with his departure.

“I am just ready for something different,” he said. “It was almost 30 years. I’ve read a lot about nonprofits and organizational development. It’s clear that some new blood always helps.”

He said the lawsuit’s claim that SNAP was getting kickbacks from attorneys was “utterly preposterous.”

The news of his resignation followed the Jan. 17 filing of a lawsuit from former SNAP development director Gretchen Rachel Hammond, who claimed wrongful termination for challenging the organization’s misbehavior. She had worked at the organization from July 2011 through February 2013.

Accusations against the group included alleged kickbacks from attorneys who were suing the Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims. Donations from sex abuse attorneys made up more than 40 percent of its annual contributions, Hammond said.

The lawsuit alleged that the organization disregarded the interests of abuse victims, neglected to provide sufficient counseling for victims, and used publicity about the victims to drive fundraising,

SNAP, together with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Benedict XVI and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity related to sex abuse by U.S. clergy. The group traveled to The Hague to make its case.

Hammond claimed SNAP used the funds raised for the trip “for lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses for its leadership.”

The lawsuit charged that “SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”

The lawsuit prompted a flat denial from SNAP president Barbara Blaine.

“The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court,” she said.

Previous legal cases have also involved Clohessy and SNAP.

In a January 2012 deposition, Clohessy declined to answer whether SNAP has a list of attorneys to whom it refers people. He also denied to answer how much money the group receives from attorneys.

He additionally refused to respond to questions about how he has been able to publicly post lawsuit information on the group’s website before it was filed with the court, although he did admit that part of what SNAP does “is to publicize lawsuits against priests.”

That deposition took place after Clohessy lost an effort to avoid being forced to testify in court concerning whether a court-imposed gag order had been violated in the case of a Missouri priest accused of abuse.

In August 2016, a federal judge in Missouri ruled that SNAP made false statements “negligently and with reckless disregard for the truth” against a St. Louis priest to try to convict him on abuse charges. The court established that SNAP sought to convict the priest due to “discriminatory animus against plaintiff based on his religion, religious vocation, race, and national origin.”

Trump wants to halt refugee intake – and Catholic leaders are worried

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 18:32

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2017 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- Amid reports of an imminent executive order to halt most refugee resettlement in the U.S., one international Catholic charitable group is speaking out.

“When we look at what’s happening in Syria and the needs of 21 million refugees around the world, we think that this is our time as Catholics to be the Good Samaritan, regardless of what is expected of us from countries overseas,” Jill Maria Gershutz-Bell, senior legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services, told CNA of the proposed order.

“It’s our turn to show – or really, to maintain – our leadership in welcoming the lost and the least,” she continued, saying CRS was “very concerned” about the reported executive order.

President Donald Trump will reportedly sign an executive order this week halting the influx of refugees into the U.S., except in the cases of religious minorities fleeing persecution. He could also be suspending visas issued to persons from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya.

The temporary ban could last four months, and presidential approval could be required to renew refugee resettlement from Syria.

The reports came the same day as Trump signed executive orders directing that a wall be built on the U.S.-Mexico border, “sanctuary cities” harboring undocumented immigrants be barred from federal funds, and deportations be sped up.

Americans must remember that refugees “are victims” themselves, Gershutz-Bell insisted.

The number of persons worldwide displaced from their homes is at its highest ever recorded at over 65 million, including over 21 million refugees, according to the United Nations’ refugee office in a 2016 report.

“Wars and persecution” have caused massive numbers of people to flee their homes, including a years-long civil war in Syria, and conflicts in the South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Yemen.

Three countries have produced half the world’s refugees, the UN noted: Syria (4.9 million), Somalia (1.1 million), and Afghanistan (2.7 million). Two of those countries, Syria and Somalia, would be on Trump’s reported visa ban list.

Refugees “need to have the opportunity to demonstrate that they don’t intend any harm to the United Sates, but in fact they’re fleeing the same kind of violence that we’re trying to protect ourselves from,” Gershutz-Bell said.

Accepting and resettling refugees is part of the Catholic mission, she added.

“Pope Francis has been unequivocal about this, and the Catholic Church in the United States has been a leader in responding to refugees for really decades now. It’s part of what it means to be Catholic,” Gershutz-Bell told CNA.

Catholic University of America president John Garvey also spoke out against policies restricting immigration in an op-ed on Tuesday, calling for “an immigration policy rooted in charity and hospitality.”

“We should ‘welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin,’” he said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2241. “And nations should respect the natural right ‘that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him’,” he continued.

“This generous approach to immigration is neither politically expedient nor free of risk,” he noted. “Many citizens have argued in good faith for a more restrictive policy. But would you not love and admire a country that opened its doors to the tired, the poor, the wretched and the homeless, even if they could not promise it a fair return for its hospitality?”

CRS also reported “indications” that another executive order might direct the State Department and the Defense Department to set up “safe zones” for refugees in and around the Syrian conflict.

“We have really serious concerns about that. The details of a safe zone and how that would be implemented would be critical,” Gershutz-Bell said. “They can actually end up putting targets on the backs of civilians if they’re not carefully executed.”

 

'Endow' women's group launches outreach to Latinos, millennials

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 08:02

Denver, Colo., Jan 25, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to meet the Church's growth in diversity, the Catholic women's apostolate Endow has announced a new program that will cater to various demographics in the church, including Latino women and millennials.

“With the advent of new technologies, rapidly changing social issues, and changing demographics in the Church, we recognize the need to remain flexible, leveraging the new tools and data available via digital to test unique approaches, while continuing to support the core audiences who have come to benefit from our ministry,” said Martha Reichert, the president of Endow, in a recent press release.

Endow was founded in 2003 in a collaborative effort between lay women and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. Now, the program is a leading women's apostolate that is present in over 130 dioceses and reaches approximately 33,000 women.

Endow's goal is to inspire, uplift and educate women through the teachings of the Catholic Church, mainly drawing from Pope St. John Paul II's “Letter to Women.” Their programs also offer a space for community and encouragement, where women from all areas of life can meet and learn more about themselves through the lenses of church teaching.

“Endow has paved the way over the last 15 years, bringing the Church's beautiful teaching on the 'genius' of women and the 'new feminism' to women all across the United States,” said Archbishop Gomez in the press release.

Now, Endow is revamping their outreach in a big way to include programs in Spanish, which has already been implemented in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – an area that is about 70 percent Latino.

“Through our Hispanic Program, developed on the ground in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and our new visual identity and social-data driven approach for online outreach, we believe we have found the right strategy to allow us to reach new women, while at the same time providing a better way to connect with our core constituency of women across the country,” Reichert stated.

So far, the program has produced about 45 groups, reaching over 2,000 women.

Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles spoke highly of Endow's new effort, saying that he has been inspired by the Latino program, and has high hopes for future endeavors.

“The great success of Endow's outreach to Hispanic women and parishes here in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California has been inspiring. I am hopeful that we can continue to grow and bring this beautiful teaching to Hispanic women in every diocese in the country,” Archbishop Gomez said.

In addition to the Hispanic program, Endow has also made steps to update the overall digital underworkings of the program, giving a facelift to their website and kick starting a newly revised social media strategy.

By implementing these steps, Endow hopes to also reach the new millennial generation of women in the Church, while maintaining their current audience of women.

Endow is hopeful that their new steps in creating a more diverse outreach will only bring more women together in the name of Christian education. More information about Endow can be found at www.endowgroups.org.

Snapchat's new guidelines will restrict sexually suggestive content

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 19:47

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 24, 2017 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Snapchat users tired of frequently seeing scantily-clad members of the Kardashian family in Discover stories will be happy to hear that the popular social platform has heard their complaints.

In response to criticism and a lawsuit, Snapchat announced yesterday that it was updating its policies on its Discover section, which features syndicated snap stories from select publishers that are viewed by more than 100 million users every month.

The new guidelines more explicitly restrict news and photos that lack editorial value, and clarify ambiguous language regarding policies on stories containing nudity, profanity and violence.

Snapchat also created a tool that allowed publishers to prevent users under 18 from seeing certain content. The company has also reserved the right to block inappropriate content from users under 18.  

Social media experts told the New York Times that the changes could have a positive effect on potential advertisers, who now may be more willing to place stories in the cleaned-up section.

The changes came in response to a class action lawsuit that was brought against the company in July which alleged that the Discover section intentionally exposed minors “to harmful, offensive, prurient and sexually offensive content without warning minors or their parents that they would be exposed to such explicit content,” according to a report from the New York Times.

The lawsuit cited examples of offensive content, including a Buzzfeed story that featured sexualized Disney characters, and a story from Cosmopolitan about an artist who let others touch her inappropriately.

The lawsuit was dismissed in November, as both sides agreed to settle.

Also at this time, a separate petition was started against Snapchat by Malissa Richardson, a Millennial Snapchat user who said she was tired of seeing the “sexually explicit headlines and pictures” that “bombarded” the Discover section of her feed.

“I do not care to see articles about how to improve my sex life, how to lose my virginity, or what I should know about what guys like in bed. To me, that is offensive and disgusting. What frustrates even me more is that I am not the only person exposed to this pornographic material. I hate to think that my younger siblings, friends, and millions of other young people as young as 13 years old are exposed to this content multiple times a day without the option of blocking it,” Richardson wrote in the description of her petition on change.org.   

The campaign, entitled #NoThanksSnapchat, rapidly caught on, and easily surpassed its goal of 10,000 signatures overnight. The petition currently has more than 26,000 signatures.

Fight the New Drug, an organization that fights pornography addiction among young people, applauded Richardson’s efforts and Snapchat’s new guidelines in a recent blog post: “Moral of the story? Never be afraid to speak out and fight for real love, no matter what. You never know what kind of change it can create.”

 

US House votes to permanently ban federal abortion funding

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 17:28

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2017 / 03:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. House of Representatives passed its first major pro-life bill of the new year on Tuesday, one which would solidify in law the current policy of no federal funding of abortions.

The bill would “protect Americans’ conscience rights by ensuring that their hard-earned tax dollars are not used to fund the destruction of innocent life,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said on the House Floor before the vote.

Federal funding for abortion is largely prohibited under the 40-year-old Hyde Amendment, named after its original sponsor Rep. Henry Hyde. However, that amendment has to be passed by Congress every year as a “rider” to appropriations bills, clarifying that the taxpayer dollars cannot abortions.

The amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support. The most recent Democratic National Committee platform, however, called for its repeal.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, passed Tuesday by a 238-183 vote and sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), would solidify this policy in law, so that it does not need to be annually reapproved by Congress.

It would expand on current protections against taxpayer funding of abortion to other areas, such as federal employee health plans. It would also extend to the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that no federal subsidies fund abortion coverage in plans offered on the exchanges.

A 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office found loopholes where insurers were not following the protocol to make sure abortions were billed and itemized separately from other health coverage paid for by federal subsidies, leaving open the possibility that federal dollars were funding abortions.

“More than 20 peer-reviewed studies show that more than two million people are alive today because of Hyde,” Rep. Smith stated on Tuesday.

He said there is a “megatrend” showing “that the American public not only does not support taxpayer funding for abortion but the public increasingly supports actions to protect unborn children and women from the violence of abortion.”

According to a Marist poll released earlier this week and commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, 61 percent of respondents opposed the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. That included 53 percent of Millennials and even 41 percent of Democrats.

President Trump has signaled that he would sign the bill if it was passed by Congress. The Senate will have to pass it first.

Rep. Black stressed that pro-life women would be represented by the bill.

She recalled that “it was just a week ago that the groups of women marched in the streets of D.C. and other cities across the country,” referring to the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington where pro-life groups were explicitly denied official partnership in the march by its organizers.

“There were millions of pro-life women who were explicitly told that they were unwelcome at this event,” Black said. “So today, the people’s House is giving them and the more than 60 percent of Americans from all political persuasions who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, a voice.”

As a registered nurse who worked for decades in health care, Rep. Black said she opposed abortion and any funding of the practice with tax money.

“During my years in the health care industry, I saw the joy in young parents’ eyes when they met their newborn for the very first time,” she said. “And sadly, I witnessed a young woman lose her life due to the effects of a botched abortion. These experiences inform my view that all life is a previous gift from God. I pray that in time, this truth will be reflected in our nation’s laws. But until then, can’t we at least do this much?”

Abortion is not women’s health care, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) insisted. “What we are vehemently opposed to is the killing of innocent lives,” she said, adding that “there is no place in the federal budget for abortion funding.”

“Madame Speaker, someday future generations of Americans will look back and wonder how and why such a seemingly smart and enlightened society could have permitted over 60 million children to be exterminated by abortion often with government enabling and subsidy,” Rep. Smith stated.

 

At Planned Parenthood, 'women's health' often does not include prenatal care

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 16:56

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2017 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Scalding new charges from a pro-life investigative group say that despite Planned Parenthood’s claims to be a premier women’s health care provider, the organization generally does not offer prenatal care.

“Planned Parenthood says it’s a champion of women’s health care, yet prenatal care, which is an essential service for expectant mothers, is virtually nonexistent,” said Lila Rose, president and founder of the group Live Action.

The group released a video Tuesday morning that it says will be the first in an “Abortion Corporation” series of reports investigating Planned Parenthood.

The video features audio of clinic workers allegedly telling Live Action representatives posing as potential clients that, contrary to advertisement, the clinics do not provide prenatal care.

“No, we don’t do prenatal services. I mean, it’s called ‘Planned Parenthood,’ I know it’s kind of deceiving,” one clinic worker at a Merrillville, Ind. clinic allegedly told Live Action.

“No, see, we don’t see pregnant women as a way of giving prenatal care. We see pregnant women, um, you know, if they are considering other options,” a Santa Fe, N.M. clinic worker allegedly told the group.

The report was conducted through phone calls, undercover visits to clinics, and investigations from the Live Action team. Inquiries were made of 97 clinics at 41 Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country. Only five of them said they offered prenatal care.

“We found that at all these facilities that prenatal care is virtually non-existent for mothers,” Rose stated.  

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion organization, performing around 330,000 abortions annually. The group also offers contraceptives and abortifacients to clients, and on a much smaller scale, performs other services like cancer screenings and pap smears.

Despite the group’s claims, Planned Parenthood does not primarily offer “women’s health care,” but is rather a lobby for “abortion on-demand,” opposing even partial-birth abortion bans, Rose charged.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said in 2011 that “prenatal care” was part of “the kinds of services that folks depend on Planned Parenthood for.”

Yet as the group Americans United for Life noted in 2015, the number of prenatal services Planned Parenthood claimed to have offered fell drastically from 2009 to 2013, according to its annual reports. The organization reported offering 40,489 prenatal services in 2009, but only 18,684 in 2013.

And Richards has stopped touting the organization’s record on prenatal services in her interviews on why Planned Parenthood should continue receiving federal funding. Speaking with the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah last week, Richards discussed the services Planned Parenthood offers as including “well-woman visits,” “cancer screenings,” and STI/STD testing and treatment, but made no mention of prenatal care.

The organization has been at the center of controversy in recent years. A previous Live Action investigation showed clinics in six different states failing to report suspicious cases of statutory rape of minors seeking abortions.

Another investigation by the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom showed that, according to federal and state audits, taxpayer dollars were funding abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics, despite federal regulations which forbid federal funding of abortion.  

And in 2015, the Center for Medical Progress aired a series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood doctors discussing prices of fetal tissue from aborted babies with investigators posing as representatives of a tissue procurement company.

A movement is underway in Congress to strip the organization of federal funding and redirect the money to community health centers that do not perform abortions. President Donald Trump has voiced his support for such a measure.

Planned Parenthood claims that abortions account for only three percent of the total services they provide, although fact-checkers – at the Washington Post among others – have taken issue with that claim, pointing out that Planned Parenthood counts each small procedure like a pregnancy test or a pap smear as a service provided, but abortion accounts for much greater cost and revenue for the organization.

And while the organization performs only two percent of cancer screenings in the U.S. and one percent of pap smear tests, it performs 30 percent of abortions in the country, Live Action says.

“Our investigators who wanted to keep their babies were turned away by 92 out of 97 Planned Parenthood centers. It’s clear that despite its claims, abortion is the priority and the only option for pregnant women that visit Planned Parenthood,” Rose said.

 

Poll: 6 in 10 Americans favor 20-week abortion ban

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 20:07

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 06:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. a survey shows a “consensus” favoring a 20-week abortion ban, which President Trump has pledged to sign into law if passed by Congress.

“There is a consensus in America in favor of significant abortion restrictions, and this common ground exists across party lines, and even among significant numbers of those who are pro-choice,” Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson stated Jan. 23.

“This poll shows that large percentages of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are united in their opposition to the status quo as it relates to abortion on demand. This is heartening and can help start a new national conversation on abortion.”

A new Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus surveyed over 2,700 adults on abortion restrictions like bans on taxpayer funding of abortions and laws restricting elective abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy.

The poll was released days ahead of Friday’s March for Life, the 44th annual pro-life march in Washington, D.C. held on or around Jan. 22 since 1974. It commemorates the date the Supreme Court decided a woman’s right to an abortion in the Roe v. Wade decision on Jan. 22, 1973.  

Almost six in ten Americans (59 percent) supported a ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception of when the life of the mother is at stake, according to the poll.

“Pain-capable” legislation enacting a similar ban has been passed by the U.S. House and in 19 states. Medical research has shown that unborn babies can feel pain at around 20 weeks of pregnancy.  

There was “strong support across the board” for this ban in the poll, Andrew Walther, vice president of communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus, said in a conference call with reporters, including among “a majority of those who identify as pro-choice.”

63 percent of African-Americans and 58 percent of Latinos favored such a ban, poll numbers showed, and even 49 percent of Democrats supported it. 59 percent of Independents favored the ban.

Almost three-fourths of respondents favored restrictions on abortion either to the first trimester of pregnancy (22 percent), in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother (30 percent), only to save the life of the mother (12 percent), or never under any circumstances (10 percent).

Over one in three thought restrictions limiting abortion to the first trimester except to save the life of the mother to be an “immediate” priority.

There was a “groundswell of support across a number” of demographics for abortion restrictions, Walther said, including among many African-Americans, Latinos, and even a significant portion of political Democrats.

The vast majority of African-Americans (79 percent), Latinos (79 percent), and political Independents (72 percent) wanted “significant restrictions” on abortion like limits to the first trimester, or bans except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake, the poll revealed.

Since 2008, poll respondents favoring one or all these restrictions has totaled “consistently about three-quarters or better,” Walther explained.

Also, a majority of Americans do describe themselves as “pro-choice,” the poll revealed, with 52 percent saying they were “pro-choice.” 42 percent of respondents said they were “pro-life.”

However, the survey shows that “when we go beyond those labels” of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” that Americans identify with and start “asking questions about what people actually feel in terms of their positions,” Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll explained on the conference call, “there’s actually a consensus that people really do want restrictions” on abortion.

“A lot of people” who identify as “pro-choice” may not favor legal abortion in all scenarios, Walther explained, and may actually want significant restrictions on when it can take place.

And, when respondents were asked about their “intensity” for their pro-life or pro-choice position, pro-lifers were “about 10 points more intense in that support” than pro-choicers, Walther said, revealing “stronger intensity on the pro-life side.”

While the majority of Millennials said they were “pro-choice,” a majority of them wanted abortion limited either to the first trimester (23 percent) or to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother (29 percent).

Almost six in ten Millennials supported a 20-week abortion ban, and almost just as many non-practicing Catholics (61 percent) as practicing Catholics (62 percent) supported the ban.

Almost six in ten Americans expressed “moral objections” to abortion, including 59 percent of political Independents, 63 percent of African-Americans, 62 percent of Latinos, and even 40 percent of Democrats. Half of Millennials said abortion was “morally wrong.”

Half of respondents said abortion “does more harm than good” to a woman’s life in the long-term, including more Millennials (44 percent) who said it does than who said it improves a woman’s life (40 percent).

Other restrictions, like on taxpayer funding of abortion, were met with widespread support in the poll.

61 percent of respondents – including 87 percent of Trump supporters and 39 percent of Clinton supporters – opposed taxpayer funding of abortions in the U.S., which is currently policy under the Hyde Amendment.

The No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, expected to be voted on by the House on Tuesday, would solidify this provision in law, as it currently must be passed every year by Congress as a budget rider.

Regarding the direct taxpayer funding of abortions in foreign countries – prohibited in U.S. foreign assistance by the Helms Amendment – 83 percent of respondents opposed such funding.

President Trump signed an executive order on Monday reinstating the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. assistance to international non-governmental organizations that perform or “promote” abortions.

Doctors and medical providers who conscientiously refuse to perform or participate in abortions should be allowed to do so, 6 in 10 respondents said, including 45 percent of pro-choice respondents and 62 percent of Independents.

Other recent polls on abortion have shown a majority of Americans in favor of some restrictions, though to what extent they support these restrictions is not always clear. Earlier in January, a Quinnipiac poll showed 34 percent of Americans saying abortion should be “legal in most cases,” while 32 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. However, statistics show that the vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy.

In that same poll, Americans were equally divided on a 20-week abortion ban in their home state, with 46 percent both supporting and opposing such a ban.

Back in October, a Pew Research poll showed 36 percent of Americans saying abortion should be legal in most cases, with 22 percent saying it should be legal in all cases. 23 percent said it should be illegal in most cases, and 14 percent said it should be illegal in all cases.

The Marist Poll numbers also broke down the views of practicing and non-practicing Catholics on the issue.

Six in ten practicing Catholics said they were pro-life while 37 percent said they were pro-choice. However, among non-practicing Catholics those numbers switched, with 64 percent identifying as pro-choice and 31 percent as pro-life.

84 percent of practicing Catholics said abortion should be limited to the first trimester of pregnancy, allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, or not allowed at all. 71 percent of non-practicing Catholics favored some or all of those restrictions.

Pro-lifers carve space for themselves at Women’s March

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:52

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid signs proclaiming “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries,” “#IstandWithPlannedParenthood”, and a host of other homemade posters ranging from the snarky to the explicit at the Women’s March on Washington, pro-life women staked a spot in support of women’s dignity – and against abortion.

Their presence became a point of contention earlier in the week after pro-life feminist organization New Wave Feminists had their partnership in the Women’s March revoked for their pro-life views.

The withdrawal of partnership status, however, didn’t stop pro-life women from joining in the Women’s March on Washington, nor from promoting their pro-life views.

“Since when do we wait to be invited to stuff?” Destiny Herndon de la Rosa, president of New Wave Feminists, said to CNA at the Women’s March. “If you don’t feel like you have a spot carved out, then be the one to forge that platform, be the one to carve out that spot.”

The Women’s March on Washington was held Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. While the march was held primarily to support women and other groups seen as marginalized within American society, organizers said the event was also meant to send a “bold message” on a variety of topics. Earlier in January, the group released a list of guiding principles –  including “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people.”

More than 100 organizations, including Planned Parenthood, were listed as official partners of the main Washington, D.C. March. Originally the list included New Wave Feminists and other pro-life organizations such as And Then There Were None, but their status was removed because of their pro-life stance.

The Women’s March on Washington drew at least an estimated 400,000, with hundreds of thousands of participants in similar marches around the country.

Reagan Barklage, Midwest Regional Director for Students for Life of America, said the opposition to the pro-life message was felt by herself and other pro-life women with whom she marched.

“It was ridiculous and it was just really vulgar and disgusting to see the signs these women had, the chants they were saying,” Barklage told CNA. The group’s presence and pro-life banners drew stiff backlash, she recalled. Some men tore up Barklage’s signs, while others “spit on one of our staff and shoved the megaphone into her face.”



The opposition became even more physical as march participants shoved and pushed over Barklage and former Planned Parenthood manager and And Then There Were None president Abby Johnson, who is pregnant with twins.

“It was really intense and it was crazy,” Barklage recounted.

Despite the pushback, Barklage told CNA the pro-life message needed to be heard at the Women’s March. “We actually wanted to partner with them before we knew that abortion was going to be involved.”

After Planned Parenthood was announced as a partner and abortion became a part of the event’s platform, she continued, Students for Life solidified their determination to participate and to represent women who have been harmed by abortion.

“We are going to represent women who have been betrayed by abortion and the preborn women who don’t have a voice.”

Barklage added that the group ended up technically leading the Women’s March, jumping in front of the crowd with banners stating, “Abortion Betrays Women.”

Hernon de la Rosa told CNA that while initially the response to their anti-abortion position was negative and lead to the removal of their partnership status, the New Wave Feminists actually received support in the face of opposition.

She pointed in a Facebook post to a message she had received from one of the organizers of the Pussyhat Project, a cat-ear hat knitting project organized for the March. De la Rosa recounted that one of the organizers asked New Wave Feminists to march with them, explaining that she was pro-life herself and had chosen life during an unplanned pregnancy.

Throughout the March, New Wave Feminists and other pro-life groups near them received sharp questions and some derisive looks, but they also received numerous messages of encouragement and support from fellow protestors. During the course of the rally, several people asked if they could take a “I am a Pro-Life Feminist” sign for themselves, sharing that they were pro-life. Similar shows of support and requests to join were also experienced by pro-lifers marching with Students for Life of America.

Other protestors, like Jennifer – a pro-choice participant in the March from Chicago – told pro-life feminists that while they were not pro-life themselves, they were happy to see a pro-life contingent at the Women’s March. “It’s just frustrating because it’s not an either or-situation –  it’s just another way to divide us,” Jennifer told CNA of the march’s opposition to pro-life groups. “They should be here. We should welcome each other.”

Pro-life women also held their own events outside of the Women’s March in support of women. The Archdiocese of Washington hosted an online Women’s Rosary the morning asking women to “pray a rosary in thanksgiving for the gift of the feminine genius and for the grace to become guardians of culture.”

“It is sad that all women are not included in the March for Women tomorrow, and we felt like we wanted to do something that celebrated all women,” Kim Fiorentino, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in the Archdiocese’s publication, The Catholic Standard. “We believe the Blessed Mother is a wonderful role model for all women, and we know she intervenes for us.”

Cessilye Smith, a doula and representative of New Wave Feminists, told CNA that despite varying opinions, there is much that people at the march had in common. She pointed to her own belief that “every life is valuable from the womb to the tomb” and added that that belief in a consistent ethic of life drives her to help address other women’s issues, such as providing food and financial support to help women choose life during a crisis pregnancy.

“We have so much more in common than we do apart,” Smith exclaimed. “We can really get some things done, we can really provide excellent resources and excellent care for the whole woman and her baby.”

Cardinal Wuerl prays for unity at Inaugural Prayer Service

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:24

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious leaders gathered in prayer for the country and the Trump administration on Saturday, continuing a decades-old tradition of national prayer at the start of a new presidential term.

“Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage. Make us always remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. prayed the “Prayer for Our Country” near the end of the National Prayer Service for the 58th Presidential Inaugural.  

The National Prayer Service at the Presidential Inauguration is a tradition that dates back to 1933 with the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Religious leaders gather to pray for the new president and his administration at the beginning of their term.

Saturday’s prayer service at Washington National Cathedral in Northwest Washington, D.C. featured calls to prayer from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders, as well as prayer by Hindu, Sikh and Ba’hai leaders.

President Trump and his wife Melania were present, along with Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen. Several nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor were also present in the audience.

The service was preceded by a choral prelude including the Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Catholic Church choir, from their parish in Southeast Washington, D.C., performing Gospel pieces.

Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, began by praying for God to “take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us.”

Alveda King, niece of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, led a “Prayer for Those Who Govern.”

Archbishop Demetrios of America, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, prayed for God to “deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you have given us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good.”

Near the end of the service, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. led the “Prayer for Our Country.”

“Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil way,” he prayed.

“Make us who come from many nations with many different languages a united people.”

On Friday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York read from the Book of Wisdom at the Presidential Inauguration on Capitol Hill, minutes before Trump took the Oath of Office and was sworn in as the country’s 45th president.  

Pope Francis asked President Trump to remember the poor as president, and promised him his prayers in a Jan. 20 message.

“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding farsighted and united political responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide,” Pope Francis said.

 

President Trump restores pro-life Mexico City Policy

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 10:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, an international pro-life regulation that is generally seen as an indicator of an incoming president’s views on abortion.

The executive order was signed January 23, one day after the anniversary of the far-reaching Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion throughout the U.S.

Originally instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the Mexico City Policy states that foreign non-governmental organizations may not receive federal funding if they perform or promote abortions as a method of family planning.

In the years that followed, the Mexico City Policy has become emblematic of a new president’s stance on abortion. Incoming presidents generally overturn or reinstate the policy within their first week of office, symbolizing the stance that they will take on abortion issues over the course of their presidency.

President Bill Clinton overturned the policy on January 22, 1993. President George W. Bush reinstated it January 22, 2001. President Barack Obama once again rescinded it on January 23, 2009, drawing swift criticism from the Vatican.

Restoring the policy was not among Trump’s campaign promises, leading to some concern over whether he would institute the policy if elected.

Trump did make other pro-life campaign promises, including pledges to nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices; sign into law a ban on late-term abortions; defund Planned Parenthood and reallocate funding to community health centers that do not perform abortions; and make permanent a ban taxpayer funding of abortion.

 

Want to get close to your (Heavenly) Mother? Check out this book.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 18:00

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 22, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For Catholics, it’s fairly par for the course to be questioned by non-Catholics about the Blessed Virgin Mary at some point.

And that’s probably because the Catholic Church has a lot to say about her. Church teaching holds that Mary was conceived without sin, that she maintains perpetual virginity, that she conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that she was assumed into heaven, among many other things.

A new book, the Manual for Marian Devotion, provides the context and answers for all kinds of questions about Marian doctrine, as well as prayers and stories for growth in personal devotion.  

The Manual was produced by TAN Books in conjunction with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, and so has a touch of Dominican flavor throughout.

“They wanted it to reflect the charism and the spirituality of our community to a certain extent, so it was really great to work with them,” said Sr. Albert Marie, who along with another Dominican Sister helped write the book.

The manual is divided into two sections. The first part provides explanations of Marian teachings and doctrines, while the second includes various Marian prayers and stories of Marian miracles for personal devotion.

“It’s not an aggressive apologetics, it’s just: this is what the church teaches, this is why it’s beautiful, this is how it can touch your life,” Sr. Albert Marie told CNA.

It also differs from a Marian consecration book, such as the one by St. Louis de Monfort, in that it provides context and information about Mary rather than focusing on one particular path of devotion, Sr. Albert Marie said.

“This might be coming out of my own personal prayer life and spirituality, but before I do something - whether it’s a particular prayer or devotion - I want to know the why and the big picture before I’m taken by the more particular details,” she said.

“I think there’s a lot of people in the Catholic Church who are growing up realizing that the Catholic Church is beautiful, or who are interested in Mary, but need a little more of that intellectual formation to see where exactly does she fit, or how clearly do we think about her,” which is where the manual can be particularly helpful, Sr. Albert Marie added.

One of the biggest roadblocks to Marian devotion for some people is that they seem to get caught up in the otherness and special graces granted to Mary, which can make her seem distant or inaccessible, Sr. Albert Marie said.

But the faithful shouldn’t be intimidated by Mary, she added. She received special graces necessary for her particular role, but her privileges do not mean that she “shines down on us” as something separate and different forever, but rather as someone who paved the way to Christ and to Heaven.

Mary also provides women with a unique example of Christian holiness, she said.

“The way that a mother models to her children what it means to be an adult woman, there’s a way that Mary’s privilege and holiness...gives us an image of Christian holiness to move towards,” she said.

The manual also comes during the 100th anniversary year of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, in which Mary appeared to three children for six months in 1917. She brought messages about the importance of prayer and making reparation for sin, as well as messages about the World Wars and the future of the Church. During the sixth and final apparition, on October 13, the sun appeared to miraculously dance in the sky.

This anniversary year is important because it’s a time in which the whole Church turns with special and renewed devotion to Mary, Sr. Albert Marie said.

But her favorite Marian miracle described in the manual is much less dramatic than Fatima or some of the other more well-known Marian miracles, she said.  

It’s called “She Helps the Friars Preach”, and recalls a simple story of a Dominican Friar who decided at the last minute to ditch his prepared sermon in favor of one that was divinely inspired.

A Cistercian monk who witnessed the small miracle said he could see Mary next to the friar, holding up a book. The Cistercian said the preachers seemed “to speak better and with greater profit to souls, and farm more fervently than he had done for a long time.”

It’s a simple story, but close to Sr. Albert Marie’s heart in her roles both as a Dominican and as a teacher, she said.

“That’s one story that will never be brought for anyone’s canonization, nothing will be done with it, it’s just the testimony of one person,” she said. “But it’s an example of that very simple presence and help of Mary in daily life.”

Sr. Albert Marie also said that she hopes the different stories of Marian miracles and the different quotes about Mary from various saints will help readers foster their own unique relationship with their Mother.

“For everyone who reads the manual or prays to our lady, there’s going to be a particular feel to that relationship, and it’s going to be unique because it is a personal relationship between them and with her,” she said.

The manual is available through TAN books on their website at: https://www.tanbooks.com/index.php/manual-for-marian-devotion.html. It is the second in a series of devotional books being produced by the publisher.

Virginia bishops: Death penalty won't heal a broken world

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 08:17

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2017 / 06:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For two Catholic bishops in Virginia, the execution of a man convicted of brutally killing a family of four was a time to reflect on God’s mercy.

“Our Creator, who made us out of love for love, has dominion over all life,” Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said in a joint statement Jan. 18.

“As children of this loving, merciful God we are led to a profound respect for every human life, from its very beginning until its natural end.”

They said that the death penalty should be abandoned because the state can protect itself in other ways.

“Our broken world cries out for justice, not the additional violence or vengeance the death penalty will exact,” Bishop DiLorenzo and Bishop Burbidge said.

The state of Virginia on Wednesday executed by lethal injection Ricky Gray, age 39.

He and his nephew went on a killing spree in January 2006, murdering seven people in a six day period, CNN reports.

He was convicted of killing a family of four who left their front door open on New Year’s Day 2006. The family had been beaten, bound, and repeatedly stabbed. Their house was then set on fire.

The death sentence concerned the murders of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and her 4-year-old sister Ruby. He was also sentenced to life in prison for killing their parents.  

Gray had issued a public apology in the days before his execution, saying, “I’m sorry they had to be a victim of my despair.”

“Remorse is not a deep enough word for how I feel. I know my words can't bring anything back, but I continuously feel horrible for the circumstances that I put them through. I robbed them from a lifelong supply of joy,” he said in an audio message posted on a website advocating his clemency.

Bishop DiLorenzo and Bishop Burbidge also reflected on the victims.

“We again express profound sorrow and offer our continued prayers for all victims of violence, whose lives have been brutally cut short, and their loved ones, whose grief continues,” the bishops said.

“We pray for a change of heart and a spirt of remorse and conversion on the part of the perpetrators of this violence and ask God to give all of us the grace to work for peace and respect for all life in our communities and our Commonwealth.”

Gray also confessed to the November 2005 killing of his own wife.

His attorneys had filed constitutional challenges with the U.S. Supreme Court against the execution, citing the failure of the lethal drug cocktail to make prisoners unconscious during executions in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma. The Supreme Court denied a stay of execution.

Lawyers had also appealed his sentence on the grounds that jurors did not receive a clear explanation of the severe abuse that shaped his life and his use of PCP and the drug’s potential to cause psychosis.

Gray’s nephew, Ray Dandridge, is serving a life sentence due to other killings.

 

 

Cardinal Dolan prays for wisdom as Trump takes office

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 16:47

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2017 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York prayed for God’s wisdom as Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday.   

“Give us wisdom, for we are Your servants, weak and short-lived, lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws. Indeed, though one might be perfect among mortals, if wisdom which comes from You be lacking, we count for nothing,” Cardinal Dolan prayed from the ninth chapter of the Book of Wisdom at the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Friday, on the steps of the West Front of the U.S. Capitol building.

Republican Donald Trump took the Oath of Office administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. An official estimate of the Inauguration attendance was not made, although estimates revealed the attendance to be significantly less than President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in attendance, as well as Barack Obama. Former vice presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney were also present.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke amidst a noticeable chorus of “Trump!” chants from the crowd.  

The prayers at the Inauguration were openly Christian, with a reading by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an invocation by Pastor Paula White-Cain of the New Destiny Christian Center, and benedictions by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rev. Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse, and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International.

In his Inauguration reading, Cardinal Dolan prayed for God’s wisdom for the country.

“Send her [wisdom] forth from your holy heavens, from your glorious throne dispatch her, that she may be with us and work with us, that we may grasp what is pleasing to you,” he read. “For she knows and understands all things, and will guide us prudently in our affairs and safeguard us by her glory. Amen.”

Chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) called the ceremony a “celebration of democracy” and praised the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power between rivaling parties and administrations that dates back to the beginning of the country.

President Trump, in his First Inaugural Address with former President Obama seated behind him, cited the peaceful transfer of power but immediately pledged to return power “to you, the people.”

“For too long,” he said, “Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”

He described a bleak picture of “American carnage” outside of Washington, D.C.:

“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation. An education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

“This American carnage stops right here, and stops right now,” he said.

President Trump pleaded with Americans to look to the future and promised to put “America first” economically and in foreign policy.

“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” he said. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.”

He promised to “get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”

Regarding foreign policy, Trump promised to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”

And the new president cited the Bible in promoting a “solidarity” among Americans, albeit one first rooted in patriotism and “allegiance” to the country.

“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” he said. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

“The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.” He promised that America “will be protected by God.”

“A new national pride will stir ourselves,” he said, “and heal our divisions.”

“Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same American flag.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., in a blog post on Friday, quoted from the “Prayer for Government” written by the first bishop in the U.S., Bishop John Carroll, for the first president George Washington, in 1791, in his prayer for the Inauguration.

“We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude President Donald Trump of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.”

 

Social doctrine is about solidarity, Catholic leaders insist

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 13:08

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics must fight the societal ills of contempt, poverty, and unemployment through solidarity, recent speakers at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. insisted.

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, quoted the Gospel of Luke in his Jan. 17 address to Catholic University students on “bringing America together.”

“We're sought. We seek others,” he continued. “If we want to change public policy and we want to change American culture, it’s not good enough to burn a bunch of money to help poor people. What are you going to do today to need somebody at the peripheries of society?”

Brooks gave the first CEO lecture of 2017 at the Busch School of Business and Economics, in which he emphasized the importance of work in human dignity.

There are many poor or unemployed persons living “at the periphery” of society who “we prefer not to see,” he said, asking the students in attendance, “If all the poor people in Washington, D.C. suddenly disappeared, how would your life change?”

“I daresay that most of you, your friendships wouldn’t change,” he answered to the students, adding that “really, intimately,” their lives would “not change very much” without the poor nearby.

“This is a country that has split in two so much” that “we don’t need the poor,” he said. “We don’t need millions and millions of our fellow Americans in any meaningful way.”

One in six “able-bodied men” are not even looking for work, he noted, and rising rates of alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicides among white working-class middle-aged men without college degrees are “unseen and unheard.”

Yet this phenomenon of not “needing” the poor is toxic to society, he said, because “we need every human.” Every person “has the same inherent dignity,” he insisted.

“That is the source, all the politics aside, of the divisiveness” in society, he said, of “what’s pulling us apart.” The problem of “contempt” for fellow human beings, what he described as “the utter conviction of the worthlessness of another human being” is also at the heart of societal problems.

How can Catholics fight this? By going to the peripheries, befriending those with whom they disagree, and creating jobs that give human dignity back to the poor and the marginalized, he said.

He used the example of a program of the New York -based Doe Fund “Ready, Willing & Able,” which helps formerly homeless persons by employing them.

They “get back on their feet through work, through ordinary, sanctified, hard, honest work,” Brooks said. “That’s the equalizer. Human dignity is equalized when we all work in a sanctified way.”

The previous week, on Jan. 10, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston addressed a conference on “Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work.”

When global markets and institutions are divorced from morality, human dignity is threatened, they insisted. Catholic social teaching challenges the autonomy of markets by emphasizing the dignity of the worker and the right of workers to organize to protect their rights, they said.

“Increasing international trade and financial relationships, combined with rapidly advancing technological innovation and the world of the internet, have produced what we call globalization,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

“This development has produced enormous amounts of wealth but not a fair and just distribution of the proceeds,” he added.

Three current social trends are operating apart from morality and pose special dangers to the common good, Bishop McElroy observed.

“The first of these is the drive for the sovereignty of markets. The second is the technocratic paradigm which seeks dominance over the environment and culture. The third, and most worrying, is nationalism.”

“In a very real way they have been evacuated of moral substance and operate autonomously from any moral anchors as principles of politics and governance in our national life,” he said.

Globalism was said by St. John Paul II in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus annus to “lack morality,” Cardinal O’Malley noted. Thus, leaders “have the responsibility to establish a moral framework which can assess and direct the purposes and the consequences of globalization.”

Human dignity is “the cornerstone” of the Church’s social teaching, Cardinal O’Malley said, citing Pope Francis.

“This means that each individual is to be protected by a moral framework of human rights and that the work a person does, whether manual labor, mining, or intellectual and professional work, is understood as an expression of their dignity.”

The Church must work with unions to ensure the dignity of workers is protected against markets that are separated from morality, Cardinal O’Malley maintained.

“The case for unions is rooted in the Catholic sense of our responsibilities to each other as members of the human family; we are not to be left alone in society and or in the economy,” he said.

“We are called to support the right of workers, all workers, private and public sector workers, to organize and be represented in the marketplace and in negotiations by an institution, the union, which gives workers leverage and a voice in the major decisions affecting them and their families.”

Pope Francis “has been a strong public advocate for the dignity of labor, including making interventions when companies were intending significant elimination of jobs,” he continued, noting that the Pope “has argued strongly that in the midst of the forces of technology and globalization, people cannot be reduced to arguments for greater efficiency.”

Health care, the minimum wage, and immigration are all present-day issues closely tied to Catholic social teaching and the dignity of the worker, Cardinal O’Malley explained.

“Debates about minimum wages are most relevant to those closest to poverty,” he said. “Catholic teaching about the option for the poor places us in support of reasonable initiatives to raise the minimum wage.”

“Affordable health care is foundational for the well-being of individuals and families and lack of health care directly threatens human dignity,” he said, emphasizing that “our moral obligation not to abandon people in their times of need is clear.”

Just this past week, the U.S. bishops’ conference asked Congress not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement plan in place that would ensure health care coverage for those who most need it.

“While every country must balance numerous factors in determining immigration policy, particularly with regard to security, our national history and our principles call us to be a welcoming society,” Cardinal O’Malley continued.

“For decades the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference has called for systematic immigration reform, including protection of undocumented individuals and families.”

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