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Supreme Court must return abortion debate to voters and legislatures, says Mississippi brief

Lynn Fitch, the Mississippi Attorney General. / LibandJustice via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Denver Newsroom, Oct 13, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court’s precedents on legal abortion are so tangled and misguided that abortion law should be returned to the people and their representatives in the legislatures, backers of a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks have said.

“Finally forced to defend those cases, respondents drive home the stark reality: Roe and Casey are indefensible,” said the Oct. 13 Supreme Court brief filed by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and other state officials.

“It is true that the judiciary cannot provide a workable half measure—it cannot produce an enduring compromise. But the people can,” the brief continued. “When this court returns this issue to the people, the people can debate, adapt, and find workable solutions. It will be hard for the people too, but under the constitution the task is theirs—and the court should return it to them now.”

The brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization involves Mississippi’s ban on most elective abortions after 15 weeks. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 1.

The challenge could mean the Supreme Court will re-examine its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, as well as its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that reaffirmed legal abortion.

The respondents’ brief, led by attorneys from the pro-abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights, sought to defend the current viability standard, allowing abortion restrictions only after the unborn child may survive outside the womb. The brief said this is 23-24 weeks into pregnancy. The respondents argued that the viability standard serves the court well, has a grounding in the constitution, and has not been challenged by the facts. Defenders of the Mississippi law, they said, do not provide an alternative framework that could sustain a stable right to abortion.

“Each of the state’s purported alternatives would upend the balance struck in Casey and ultimately extinguish ‘the woman’s liberty to determine whether to carry her pregnancy to full term’,” said the pro-abortion rights brief. Upholding the Mississippi ban would lead to “attempts by half the states in the nation to forbid abortion entirely, and a judiciary left without tools to manage the resulting litigation.” The brief argued that the state should reaffirm precedent, which holds that a state’s interest in protecting fetal life falls short of overriding individual liberty claims.

Fitch and other Mississippi leaders faulted this response.

“Respondents’ effort to narrow this case—or avoid any decision—shows what they know: that Roe and Casey are deeply flawed and that those flaws have finally been presented to the one tribunal that can do something about them,” said their brief.

There is “no constitutional basis” for Roe, Casey, or the viability rule, the brief said. The logic for abortion rights decisions appear selective and unique, rather than part of American constitutional tradition.

 “(T)his Court has never endorsed another privacy or liberty interest that involves purposefully ending a human life,” the brief said.

Backers of the Mississippi law depicted Roe as a departure from precedent, and Casey as similarly “egregiously wrong” in a way that weakens claims they should serve as continued precedent.

The common law long condemned and restricted abortion and most states broadly restricted abortion at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was passed. Abortion is a matter that “unites state interests in protecting women’s health and unborn life” but current pro-abortion rights precedent “uniquely limit the states and cut off the democratic process,” said the brief.

The viability line has no constitutional or principled basis and could just as meaningfully be drawn at 14 weeks into pregnancy.  At minimum, the brief argued, the court should reject a rule based on viability.

“Saying that a state’s interest becomes compelling at 15 weeks’ gestation is just as plausible as saying that it becomes compelling at viability,” said the brief, arguing that such “line-drawing” is legislative task and another sign that abortion decisions should not rely on the courts.

“Abortion—as both a jurisprudential and policy matter—is as divisive and unsettled as ever,” said the brief. “Protecting unborn life and women’s health are as compelling as ‘preserving public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary’— an interest this Court has found compelling,” it added.

States should be able to decide on disputed questions, such as to what extent either continued pregnancy or abortion may create health risks for the mother. Similarly, the states should be able to account for advances in knowledge of when the unborn child becomes sensitive to pain.

“This court need not resolve who is right on fetal pain. It need only recognize that knowledge changes and that the constitution does not bind States to a long-outdated view of the fact,” the brief said.

The reasoning of the pro-abortion precedents did not take into account policy changes that better allow women to have both careers and families or the provision of “safe havens” to shelter newborn children without penalty. These precedents were based in outdated ideas about contraception effectiveness and access.

Any claim that preserving Roe and abortion access is critical to women’s advancement is a “demeaning view of women.” The claim “boils down to the view that millions of women have a meaningful life only because 50 years ago seven men in Roe saved them from despair—and that women’s success comes at the cost of ending innumerable human lives,” the brief argued.

“Women’s extensive political participation and share of the population ensure that they strongly influence public policy—and would do so without a judicially managed right to abortion,” the brief continued.

“This court has before it the strongest arguments for and against overruling— from the parties, the United States, and 130 amicus briefs exploring every relevant issue,” the brief said. “The fundamental question at issue here will keep returning until this court addresses it. This is the case to confront— and reject—Roe and Casey.”

Biden administration pushes death sentence for Boston bomber at Supreme Court  

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev / Public Domain

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2021 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday, Oct. 13 concerning whether or not to reinstate a federal death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

Although he was sentenced to death in 2015, Tsarnaev’s sentence was overturned by a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2020. The panel unanimously found that he had not received a fair trial.

In May 2021, the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider the death sentence, and in June, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to sentence Tsarnaev to death. The Biden administration’s push to execute Tsarnaev came weeks before Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a moratorium on federal executions.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, an organization which seeks to end the death penalty and to promote restorative justice, told CNA that Wednesday’s arguments were a reminder “that the federal death penalty is an incredibly tumultuous, broken system that is almost always retruamatizing for victims of families.”

"We pray for Mr. Tsarnaev’s victims, their families, and the city of Boston today as they prepare for what will surely be another emotional ruling,” she said. 

During Wednesday’s arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned what the “end game” of the federal government was in light of the execution moratorium. 

“So the government has declared a moratorium on executions, but you're here defending his death sentences,” said Barrett. “And if you win, presumably, that means that he is relegated to living under the threat of a death sentence that the government doesn't plan to carry out. So I'm just having trouble following the point.”

Eric Feigin, deputy solicitor general, replied that Attorney General Garland could “presumably” review “the current execution protocol.”

“And what we are asking here is that the sound judgment of 12 of Respondent's peers that he warrants capital punishment for his personal acts in murdering and maiming scores of innocents, and along with his brother, hundreds of innocents at the finish line of the Boston Marathon should be respected,” he said. 

In 2015, Tsarnaev was convicted on four murder charges and sentenced to death for orchestrating the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon with his brother Tamerlan. The bombing killed three and injured hundreds. 

During their ensuing run from police, the two brothers shot and killed one police officer, and another police officer died from injuries in a shootout with them. Tamerlan died after being run over by an SUV driven by Dzhokhar, while he was fleeing police.

Vaillancourt Murphy said it was “concerning” to see the Biden administration push to execute Tsarnaev, especially considering that President Joe Biden is the “first-ever president to openly oppose the death penalty” while actively serving as president.  

“The reality is, if Mr. Tsarnaev’s death sentence should remain overturned, he would never leave prison,” she said. “His execution would bring little healing to those he harmed, and would serve only as state-sponsored vengeance. We have other ways of keeping society safe than resorting to executions — methods that don’t violate the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and inherent dignity of the human person."

While the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have now all pushed for the federal death penalty for Tsarnaev, the Boston archdiocese has instead called for life in prison without parole.

“The pain and suffering caused to the victims of the bombing and to their loved ones is as clear and real today as it was nearly eight years ago,” the archdiocese told CNA in May. “As we have previously stated, Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice.”

For Catholic school teachers, new credential program promises formation in faith and reason

Participants in the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education's Catholic Educator Formation and Credential Program at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Denver. / Courtesy photo.

Denver, Colo., Oct 13, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic schools’ unique goals and qualities are the focus of a new program that aims to provide teachers with the formation and credentials for the task, and the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Denver are collaborating with the program.

“The men and women who have responded to a vocation in Catholic education deserve to be fed spiritually and intellectually to help them fulfill their ministerial role: to form joyful disciples of Jesus Christ,” Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, told CNA Oct. 12.

The institute and the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools on Oct. 7 announced the launch of the Catholic Educator Formation and Credential Program to help prepare “well-formed” Catholic school teachers.

Sullivan said the institute’s decades of teacher formation work have helped schools achieve renewal as “vibrant communities of faith and learning.”

“The credential program draws upon and expands this formation into an even deeper grounding in the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition,” she said.

If new applicants for teaching positions in the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools do not have a state teaching license, they can complete the formation and credential program instead.

The program consists of several requirements: five courses; two retreats or workshops; and supervised teaching over 18 months. Those who complete the program will receive the institute’s Catholic Educator Credential.

The pilot program launched in August with 28 participating teachers. The program aims to become nationally recognized, with its credentials recognized across dioceses. It draws on Church teaching on Catholic education, especially as presented in the book The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools, by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B. of Vancouver.

The institute’s certification program aims to provide “a robust alternative to state teacher licensure that provides rich formation in the philosophy and practice of Catholic intellectual tradition, which is distinct from the secular approach,” Sullivan said.

“Many have not recognized that this pragmatic, utilitarian approach undermines the wonder and mystery at the heart of faith,” she told CNA. “In addition, contemporary education is failing to form students who can think well, speak well, and write well.”

Dr. Alyssan Barnes, the director of the institute’s credential program, said that the certification program teaches educators basics, including lesson planning, literacy instruction, and effective pedagogy. She said the program also goes beyond a utilitarian sense of “best practices” by “rooting these essentials in the human person made for holiness.”

“The Lord has called us to tend his sheep,” Barnes told CNA. “What we are doing in Catholic schools is exactly that: caring for the upcoming saints of the next generation. We believe these children need not only something more than what the public school is offering; they need a different paradigm to understand the world around them. We want to support their teachers so they can convey this gift.”

For Barnes, Catholic liberal education “puts the Christ as the Logos at the center” and all truths are “fragments of this Truth.”

“Our credential program seeks to recover the Catholic intellectual tradition of uniting faith and reason – a long tradition that has shaped our world for the better,” she said. “We grow educators in teaching skills, yes, but we also focus on something absolutely essential for the Catholic teacher: developing a sacramental imagination that sees truth as one, as accessible, as communicable.”

The formation program will help educators “fulfill their ministerial role and instill in their students the joyful hope that is the foundation for discipleship,” the joint statement from the Denver archdiocese’s schools and the institute said.

The Denver archdiocese has over 35 schools, about 800 teachers, and over 8,000 students.

The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, based in Ventura, Calif., was founded in 1999 with the goal of renewing Catholic education. It aims to promote “the Church’s vision and practice of liberal learning, which puts Jesus Christ, the Logos, at the center of the content, pedagogy, and school culture.”

Its president and founder, Michael J. Van Hecke, served as headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura for 20 years. The institute’s board of directors includes Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles; Father John Belmonte, S.J., Superintendent of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Venice in Florida; and Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Its board of advisors includes Archbishop Miller; Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura; Bishop James Conley of Lincoln; and Sister Mary Anne Zuberbueler, O.P., principal of Mary Immaculate School in Dallas.

Archbishop Broglio: COVID-19 vaccines morally permissible, but troops may conscientiously object

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services outside the meeting hall during the 2019 USCCB General Assembly, June 12, 2019. / Kate Veik/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2021 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Service members should not be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine against their conscience, the archbishop of the U.S. military archdiocese said on Tuesday.

In a Oct. 12 statement “on Coronavirus Vaccines and the Sanctity of Conscience,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA stated that “no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience.”

“The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” he said.

In August, the Pentagon announced that all service members would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In advance of that announcement, Archbishop Broglio said that receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States was morally permissible, and that a vaccine mandate “seems prudent” and would be “very similar” to mandates already enforced in the military.

The Pentagon press secretary said in August that a possibility existed for religious vaccine exemptions, but that the process of obtaining exemptions would differ among the various branches of the military.

On Tuesday, Broglio reiterated statements of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that use of COVID-19 vaccines with connections to abortion-derived cell lines is morally permissible.

All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have some link to cell lines derived from a baby believed to have been aborted in the 1970s. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested using the controversial cell lines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed, tested, and produced using the cell lines.

The connection of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to abortion “has been for centuries considered remote material cooperation with evil and is never sinful,” Archbishop Broglio noted on Tuesday. He added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “more problematic,” and while it is still “morally permissible” to use, Catholics should note their preference for the other two vaccines if possible.

Hundreds of thousands of service members are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an Oct. 10 Washington Post report. There are more than two million members of the U.S. military. Military branches have instituted various deadlines for the vaccination of all troops.

Regarding troops who are seeking a religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccines through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Broglio stated that although the vaccines are morally permissible to receive, they can be refused in conscience.

However, he added that those refusing vaccines must act to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through other means, out of “charity for their neighbors and for the common good.”

These acts would include “wearing face coverings, social distancing, undergoing routine testing, quarantining, and remaining open to receiving a treatment should one become available that is not derived from, or tested with abortion-derived cell lines,” he said.

Why women didn’t need Roe to get ahead: An interview with the head of Secular Pro-Life

Pro-life feminists participate at the Women's March in Washington D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. / Addie Mena/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

This December, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many legal experts say it presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

Kelsey Hazzard, an attorney and the founder and president of the group Secular Pro-Life, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s pro-life law. The brief argues that women’s “social, economic, and political opportunities” were already increasing before Roe, and that abortion is not necessary for women’s socioeconomic success 

The following is a transcript of CNA’s interview with Hazzard. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about yourself. What is your personal and faith background? How did you come to the place where you are professionally?

I grew up attending a United Methodist church, which is officially a “pro-choice” denomination. Abortion was never discussed, from the pulpit or anywhere else. As a result, the pro-life position was not framed as “religious” for me. Once I was old enough to understand what abortion was, I came to the pro-life movement simply by applying my general values, e.g. sticking up for the “little guy.” When I left Christianity for unrelated reasons (it just stopped making sense to me), my pro-life position was unaffected because it was always secular. 

Professionally, I am a lawyer in private practice; my pro-life advocacy is 100% volunteer. I earned my B.A. at the University of Miami and my J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law, and held leadership roles in the pro-life student organizations for each [university].

The amicus brief lays out an argument that, contrary to the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement and, in fact, has hurt women. Can you walk me through the brief’s argument and evidence?

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said that even if Roe was wrong, it couldn’t correct its deadly error because American women had come to rely upon abortion for their professional advancement. This is the infamous “reliance interest.” And yet in the decades since Casey, abortion rates have plummeted dramatically while women have enjoyed ever-increasing gains in the workplace. Forget “correlation does not equal causation”—they don’t even have correlation! 

As a professional woman myself, the fact that the highest court in the land attributes my success to the mass slaughter of preborn babies fills me with disgust. That is the polar opposite of my values, and I deserve credit for my own hard work. 

How did it come about that you signed the amicus brief in this case?

One of Secular Pro-Life’s board members heard about the pro-life feminist brief in progress from another signatory, and we jumped on it!

Have you signed amicus briefs in similar cases in the past? If not, why was this case different for you?

This was my first opportunity to join an amicus brief. 

Many are saying this case has a chance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Do you agree?

Yes, it does! 

Have you always considered yourself to be pro-life, or was there a moment or event that convinced you of the position?

I can’t point to a moment. I’ve been pro-life ever since I heard about abortion.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions or myths about the pro-life position that you encounter in your professional environment?

That we’re all Trump supporters, that we’re all Bible thumpers, that we’re all… anything, really, is a myth! Our movement is incredibly diverse.

Do you ever feel you are treated differently from others because you are a pro-life woman? In the pro-life movement, do you feel as though you are treated differently due to your atheism? 

The pro-life movement has welcomed me with open arms. In my experience, women are the majority of engaged pro-life advocates. Pro-life female leadership is commonplace and unremarkable. Pro-life atheism is less common statistically – according to Pew, religiously unaffiliated people are about 12% of abortion opponents in the United States – but most religious pro-lifers welcome the collaboration.   

We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science.” Do you face this accusation often? If so, how do you respond? 

Pro-life is pro-science. The pro-choice movement has become almost a caricature of itself at this point. I mean, talking about “cardiac activity” or “flutters” to avoid saying “heartbeat”? Come on. 

That said, I think the “clump of cells” talking point is on its way out; the truth is just too difficult to avoid. Instead it’s the ad hominem attacks taking the lead: “you hate women,” “you don’t care about kids after they’re born,” that sort of thing.

What is it like leading an organization of secular pro-lifers? How do you counter the "get your rosaries off my ovaries" criticism? 

Leading an organization of secular pro-lifers is an honor, and also reminiscent of herding cats. Secular Pro-Life has become a home not only for pro-life atheists and agnostics, but also for members of minority religious groups like Wiccans, Mormons, Muslims, and more liberal Christians who don’t fit the “religious right” label. 

I’ve gotten to meet people from all walks of life. It’s really emphasized for me how unique every human being is – and how great a loss the world experiences with every abortion.   

What do you hope for the future of the pro-life movement? How can other faithful women support your efforts?

We must remember that success in Dobbs is only the beginning. I worry that people will get complacent, thinking that reversal of Roe was the goal. No: saving lives is the goal.  The post-Roe abortion industry is not going to accept defeat quietly. They are going to enact ever more extreme laws in pro-abortion states. They are already trying chemical-abortion-by-mail schemes. Increasingly, abortion advocates dehumanize not only children in the womb, but their defenders as well. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Is there anything you would like the pro-life movement, or pro-life people in general, to try to improve on, especially as the possibility of a post-Roe country becomes more and more likely?

Pro-lifers have spent decades building up an infrastructure of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and other support systems for pregnant mothers in crisis. We need to continue that investment and also do a much better job of advertising what is already out there. 

What good is a scholarship for pregnant students if the candidate who needs it doesn’t hear about it? 

More broadly, we need to fix the mainstream media’s capture by pro-abortion interests, so pro-life efforts to help needy families can get fair coverage.

Before Supreme Court, Kentucky’s attorney general asks to intervene in defense of pro-life law

Matthew Kuhn, Principal Deputy Solicitor General of Kentucky (right), along with Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky (center) and his wife Makenze (left), outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 12, 2021. / Matt Hadro/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 14:10 pm (CNA).

The office of Kentucky’s attorney general appeared at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking to be allowed to intervene in defense of the state’s dismemberment abortion ban.

Kentucky’s pro-life law, H.B. 454, passed the state legislature in 2018 and was signed into law by then-governor Matt Bevin (R). It bans the practice of live dismemberment abortions, a second-trimester abortion procedure, after eleven weeks of pregnancy. The law was subsequently challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, and was overturned in a federal court.

While the current governor and health secretary do not support the law, Kentucky’s attorney general Daniel Cameron (R) is seeking to intervene in defense of the law and to have it reconsidered at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. When the Sixth Circuit would not allow Cameron to intervene in the case, the attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court.

After oral arguments concluded on Tuesday, Cameron said he was “excited” and “optimistic” about his case, calling it an “honor” to seek to defend the law.  

“Basically, what it [the law] said in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, is in Kentucky, we want to make sure that we show the compassion in the heart of the men, women, and children of all 120 counties in saying that if this [dismemberment abortion] procedure is occurring – again, we don’t necessarily want it to occur but if it is to occur – you don’t want the baby to feel pain in the womb,” Cameron said.

Cameron noted that he and his wife are expecting a baby in January. “The issue is more important to us,” he said, “knowing that we’ve got a little one on the way.”

“This is an important issue for Sisters for Life, this is an important issue for Kentucky Right to Life. This is important, again, for the men, women, and children of all of our 120 counties.”

The court is considering not the constitutionality of the law itself, which was struck down by a federal district court, with the Sixth Circuit upholding that decision. Rather, the court is considering whether Cameron is lawfully allowed to intervene in the case. As Cameron had only moved to defend the law once the Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court's decision, the circuit court ruled he could not intervene in the case.

In his brief at the Supreme Court, Cameron argued that as attorney general he had the “final say” on whether to accept the lower court’s decision. On Tuesday, the state’s principal deputy solicitor general Matthew Kuhn argued that the office should be allowed to defend the law in court.

Cameron is seeking to intervene “so the commonwealth could exhaust all appeals in defense of its law,” Kuhn said. Cameron is not doing so in a personal capacity, but in his lawful capacity as state attorney general, Kuhn said.

“This court’s case law instructs that acting for a state is a distinct capacity, because everyone agrees that the attorney general did not participate in that capacity in district court, he is not jurisdictionally barred from doing so now,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn told reporters on Tuesday that the state had created a “failsafe” for situations when government officials would not defend state laws. According to Kuhn, state law allows the attorney general to intervene in court in such cases to uphold the law.

Pro-life groups advocated on Cameron’s behalf on Tuesday.

“As chief enforcer of the Commonwealth’s laws, Attorney General Cameron should have the power to defend the will of the people to protect the unborn, stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The legislature of Kentucky, elected by the people of Kentucky, passed the law to prevent the horrific deaths of unborn babies by dismemberment abortions,” stated Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. 

Cordileone prayer update: 10,688 roses and counting for Nancy Pelosi

Roses gathered by Catholics representing a rosary prayed for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. / Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Twitter / Benedict Institute

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).

More than 10,000 people have committed to pray the rosary and to fast on Fridays for the ideological conversion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the subject of abortion, the Benedict XVI Institute announced Tuesday.

"As of Saturday, October 9, we have 10,688 Catholics who have committed to praying one rosary each week and fasting on Fridays through the end of October,” said Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the Benedict XVI Institute. The institute is administering the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign with the support of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Pelosi's bishop in San Francisco.

“We hope the Blessed Mother will touch her maternal heart, as the Archbishop has put it so beautifully, and extend her compassion and respect for the equal dignity of all people to children in the womb," said Gallagher.

The announcement coincides with the launch of a new advertisement featuring Cordileone. 

"This is a critical time in our country when we especially need to pray for our political leaders as we see our country moving more and more in the direction of the culture of death,” Cordileone says in the video advertisement. “Our leadership is very important, so I invite you all to join me in prayer and sacrifice for the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from here in San Francisco.”

“Please join me in the Rose and Rosary for Nancy Campaign. Pray a rosary once a week for her. Fast on Friday, and you can sign the petition at BenedictInstitute.org. And if you commit to the rosary and fasting, we will send a rose to her as a symbol of your prayers and sacrifices,” Cordileone says in the video. 

The initial call to pray a rosary and to fast for Pelosi came on Sept. 29, following the House of Representatives’ passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021. The bill, which is not likely to pass in the Senate, would codify the legal right to an abortion into law. 

Pelosi championed the bill, despite her Catholic faith. In his message on Sept. 29, Cordileone singled her out as someone in need of ideological conversion on the issue of abortion. 

“A conversion of heart of the majority of our Congressional representatives is needed on this issue, beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” he said. 

“Speaker Pelosi speaks fondly of her children. She clearly has a maternal heart. Pope Francis has called abortion murder, the equivalent of hiring a hitman to solve a problem,” Cordileone said. 

“The solution to a woman in a crisis pregnancy is not violence but love. Please join me in praying the rosary and fasting for a conversion of Speaker Pelosi’s maternal heart to embracing the goodness and dignity of human life not only after birth, but in the womb as well.”

Two days after the initial call for prayer, 1,000 roses were delivered to Pelosi’s office in San Francisco. Gallagher called the number of people who signed up to pray for Pelosi “remarkable,” and said she hoped more people would commit to prayer and fasting as the month continues.  

“This is more than a moment, it is a movement," she said. "In less than a week, more than 10,000 Catholics responded to the call. By the end of October, Respect Life Month, let's make it a shower of 50,000 roses and rosaries for Nancy."

Gallagher noted that Pope Francis “recently called for us to take a pastoral approach to those who are not in full communion with our faith,” and said that Cordileone’s “Rose and Rosary For Nancy” campaign served as “a wonderful example to us all.” 

"The really hard teachings of Jesus are not really about chastity but about charity: Do good to those who do you wrong, or who do wrong to others —no matter what stage or condition of life they may be in," she said. 

The Benedict XVI Institute is located in San Francisco. According to its website, the goal of the organization is to provide “practical resources for more beautiful and reverent liturgies and energizing a Catholic culture of the arts.” Cordileone is a board member of the institute. 

Millennial and Gen Z Catholics love Carlo Acutis. Here's why

Carlo Acutis. / carloacutis.com

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Blessed Carlo Acutis was beatified on Oct. 10, 2020, and became the first member of the millennial generation to become officially known as a “blessed.”

Interest in the life of Carlo Acutis has been intense all over the world. And while research shows that a growing number of millennials and Gen Z Americans do not practice any religious faith, CNA spoke with some Catholic contemporaries of Acutis, who said the video-game playing Italian makes them want to grow closer to God.

Born on May 3, 1991, Carlo Acutis died at the age of 15 on Oct. 12, 2006 after suffering from leukemia.

During his life, he made a website dedicated to Eucharistic miracles, and maintained a deep devotion to the Eucharist until his death. He also loved PlayStation, which is probably a first for anyone canonized or beatified.

Acutis serves as an example for how millennials and Gen Z should live their lives, Cecilia Cicone, a 25-year-old from Delaware, told CNA.

“Carlo puts flesh on what a saint who plays video games and goes on the internet looks like. He challenges me to examine my conscience and say, ‘Ok, I'm called to be a saint who uses the internet too. Am I using it to make God's love known?’”

Acutis, she said, is a concrete example of “what holiness looks like in the 21st century.”

“We see that holiness can involve awkward middle school phases with popped collars and video games,” she said.

“With the beatification of Carlo Acutis, for the first time I experience the peace and joy of recognizing that I, too, can be a saint of the 21st century. It's not a hypothetical anymore.”

Fr. John LoCoco, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is about six months younger than Acutis. And when he first heard about Acutis in 2014, he said he was “wholly unimpressed by his witness at first.”

“I never cared much for computers or video games, so it never made him ‘familiar.’ He was just a kid who blogged about the Eucharist,” LoCoco told CNA.

Gradually, however, LoCoco’s views on Acutis began to change, and now he thinks that Acutis “will be a stalwart saint in the modern age.”

“I think that what I have come to love is what seems to be the very gentle nature of Carlo,” LoCoco said. “His care for those who are picked on in school, his care for those whose parents were divorcing; Carlo seems so emotionally invested in the lives of people.”

LoCoco told CNA that he now finds the “profoundly quiet, honest sense that he had of God’s presence in all things” to be “remarkable.”

Maria Roberts, a 26-year-old computer programmer, is excited that her profession is about to gain its own patron saint, and she thinks that Acutis is a good example for how Catholics should be using the internet. 

“It is important for us as Catholics to think about how technology can be used for good and for evangelization, and not as a way to take advantage of others or demoralize young people,” she said.

“There is so much good to be done and so much suffering nowadays- young people should know that their talents can be used for God’s glory in many ways through our technological advances.”

Acutis’ age has been a sort of a spiritual wake-up call for some Catholics.

“The fact that we were alive at the same time and are so close in age seems to highlight even more the gap between our ‘levels’ of holiness,” Taylor Hyatt, a 28-year-old from Canada, told CNA. She was born the same year as Acutis.

“That said, I really appreciate his deep love for the Eucharist and interest in the Internet. We shared those interests, back when I was his age and up to now,” she said. Hyatt also admired Acutis’ interest in disability rights, a cause she is also involved with.

Fr. Paul, a recently-ordained priest in Ontario, was more blunt in his assessment of his life to Acutis’.

“For me personally, knowing how holy Blessed Carlo was makes me feel like a piece of crap,” he said. “I was born the same year as him and as a teenager wasn't particularly saintly.”

“But I talked about him to our young adults group last week and showed them the picture of his tomb and more than a few people commented on the fact that he was wearing normal clothes, and that he played video games and was good with computers,” said Fr. Paul.

“I have tried to use Pier Giorgio as an example young people can relate to but perhaps Blessed Carlo might be better these days given how contemporary he is.”

It is Acutis’ “normalcy” that makes him so interesting, some Catholics told CNA.

Acutis “is someone we can look at and quite literally picture ourselves,” Alex Trevino, a 30-year-old from Dallas, told CNA. “He’s buried in the clothes that I wore as a teenager.”

Trevino said that Acutis’ beatification shows young people “that you don’t need to be a priest, a bishop, or even a pope to be holy.”

“We need to see as a Church that sainthood, heaven, and eternal life with God is real and attainable,” he added. 

Ani, a 24-year-old from Texas, agreed. She described Acutis as “just a regular dude who grew up Catholic, as we all do, got sick like so many people do, and built a website to post about his specific interests like we do.”

“We talk about everyday sanctity a lot in Schoenstatt, the concept of doing things extraordinarily well,” Ani said to CNA. “I feel like Carlo’s maybe the first saint I’ve seen that’s had an actually normal, human, attainable way to do that.”

Unlike other saints who died young, such as St. Kateri, St. Therese, or St. Maria Goretti, Acutis had “no supernatural influence at any point,” said Ani.

“No visions, no tilma, no stigmata. Just a dude and his computer and his love of God. That stuff’s cool,” she said. 

This article was originally published on Oct, 9, 2020.

USCCB pro-life chairman urges Biden to act like the ‘devout Catholic’ he says he is

Joe Biden. / Drop of Light via www.shutterstock.com

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 12, 2021 / 10:53 am (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops’ pro-life chairman is expressing disappointment with President Biden as his administration reverses a Trump-era rule that restricted funding over abortion.

“It’s really sad,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who heads the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told EWTN News Nightly on Oct. 8. The Biden administration, he added, is “in the control of abortion extremists.” 

The archbishop reacted to the administration’s reversal of the “Protect Life Rule,” which barred tax dollars from Title X recipients that provide or promote abortion and required Title X clinics to be physically separate from abortion clinics. A federal program, Title X subsidizes family planning services, including contraceptives, for low-income communities. 

The archbishop challenged President Biden – the second Catholic president in U.S. history – to defend and cherish human life.

“He likes to call himself a devout Catholic. I would urge him to begin to act like one, especially on the life issues,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann said. “And to let his faith really inform his conscience and the decisions that he’s making, not the platform of his party.” 

President Biden has repeatedly demonstrated support for abortion. After decades of backing the Hyde Amendment, which barrs taxpayer funding from going toward abortion, he switched his position while running for president. More recently, in the wake of Texas’ new abortion law, he confirmed that his administration is “deeply committed” to abortion as a constitutional right. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the president “believes that it's up to a woman to make those decisions and up to a woman to make those decisions with her doctor.”

Right now, the archbishop said, the Biden administration is “looking for every opportunity to expand abortion,” and this latest reversal is “just one more casualty along that train.”

In an Oct. 7 statement, Archbishop Naumann stressed that Title X was “intended and authorized to be a program entirely separate from abortion.” Abortion, he concluded, is not family planning. Instead, it wounds women and “takes the life of an already-conceived and growing child.”

Papal envoy crowns Florida's Our Lady of La Leche

Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid crowns the image of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, Florida. / St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski.

St. Augustine, Fla., Oct 11, 2021 / 16:09 pm (CNA).

The image of Our Lady of La Leche was canonically crowned Sunday, during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida. 

“The Church that walks in St. Augustine is aware that a mother accompanies us in our mission: Our Lady of La Leche and Happy Delivery, whom we crown as queen and lady of all creation,” said Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain, through a translator, at the Oct. 10 Mass. The cardinal served as an envoy for Pope Francis.

“I have been told, and I have noticed, these few days that I have been with you, the affection and devotion that you have for the Blessed Virgin Mary, our mother. I thank God because you are a people who have known how to fulfill what we have just heard in the Gospel and will have accepted with all its consequences the gift that Christ from the Cross, made through St. John to all men and women: ‘Behold, your mother.’ To accept such a great gift makes the people greater.”

Following the homily, the cardinal placed crowns, crafted of gold from Italy and Spain, on Mary and the child Jesus, depicted in the image of Our Lady of La Leche.  

“Today, this Diocese of St. Augustine also says the same words as the woman in the crowd, who listened to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breast at which you nursed”,” the cardinal said. 

“May she intercede for us today and make us feel her words in the depth of our hearts: “Do whatever he tells you,” as she said.”

Our Lady of La Leche is the fourth image in the United States to be canonically crowned. The first was Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans, in 1895. St. Pius X crowned Our Lady of Mount Carmel of New York in Manhattan in 1904, and Benedict XVI crowned Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 2013. 

The practice of canonical coronations dates to the 17th century. It is a formal crowning of an image of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or St. Joseph, in the name of the Holy Father. A crowning honors an image’s universal importance for the Catholic Church. 

The image of Our Lady of La Leche has roots in Bethlehem, but Spanish settlers from Madrid brought the image to what is now Florida in 1577. 

Since then, a National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche was constructed— the first Marian shrine in U.S. history, according to Bishop Felipe Estévez of St. Augustine. The shrine has become a popular pilgrimage site, especially for women hoping to become pregnant or praying for a safe delivery. 

Her full title is Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto, which is Spanish for “Our Lady of Milk and Happy Delivery.” 

The image of Our Lady of La Leche is unique in that it features the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus. The National Shrine commissioned a new image of Our Lady of La Leche in honor of the coronation. The image was sculpted in northern Italy.

“It is kind of a Nativity of the Lord, because it is the child, recently born, in the hands of Mary,” said Bishop Estévez. “The image is Mary embracing the child— Emmanuel— and nursing him in his vulnerability...Her eyes are gazing on him, almost an invitation to us to always have our gaze on Jesus.”

Bishop Estévez said the image can be especially powerful within the pro-life movement. 

“To look at this devotion, and to nurture this devotion, is to affirm the dignity of the human person, the protection of human life, the welcoming of the child, the dignity of the woman,” he said. “It wraps up such good news, such good values that our culture is in desperate need of.”