We strive to be a living and growing community of prayer, support and service formed by the Gospel.

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Reacting to pontifical academy, theologian says teaching of Humanae vitae can't change

St. Paul VI / public domain

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2022 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

The teaching of Humanae vitae on contraception is an instance of the ordinary and universal magisterium, and as such is irreformable, a moral theologian has said in response to a statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Father Thomas Petri, O.P., president of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., noted that even critics of the teaching on contraception have “acknowledged that this was always the Church’s teaching” and that nowhere in the Church’s teaching has there been permissiveness, of any form, of contraception.

“This suggests that this has always been the teaching of the Church, so it's part of the ordinary, universal magisterium,” Petri said. “So even if it's the case that any particular encyclical” such as Humanae vitae “is not infallible, the teaching that it presents is in fact irreformable, because it's part of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church.”

In Humanae vitae, his 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth, St. Paul VI wrote that “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means” is “excluded,” as an unlawful means of birth control.

The Pontifical Academy

The Pontifical Academy for Life, an institution associated with the Holy See but which is not itself a magisterial body, hosted a 2021 seminar on ethics in which a participant discussed “the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases.”

A synthesis of the seminar was recently published by the Vatican Publishing House, which has given rise to questions about whether the Church’s teaching on birth control is reformable.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has defended the discussion it hosted of the permissibility of contraception, tweeting Aug. 5 that “History records by Abp. [Ferdinando] Lambruschini confirmed that Paul VI said him directly that HV were not under infallibility.”

Then in an Aug. 8 statement, the academy wrote that “many people on Twitter seem to believe that Humanae Vitae is an infallible and irreformable pronouncement against contraception.”

It noted that “when the moral theologian of the Pontifical Lateran University Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini presented Humanae Vitae in a press conference … he stated under the mandate of Paul VI — that the encylical Humanae Vitae is not to be considered part of the infallible pronouncements. Lambruschini stressed that Humanae Vitae did not express a definitive truth of faith granted by ‘infallibilitas in docendo.’”

The statement added that as Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła asked Paul VI to define Humanae vitae’s teaching as infallible. “Pope Paul VI did not do it and neither did Pope John Paul II during 26 years of his pontificate," the academy's statement said.

Father Petri’s response

Petri noted that St. John Paul II had confirmed Humanae vitae’s teaching as part of the ordinary and universal magisterium. 

“In Veritatis splendor — which the Pontifical Academy does not note — in Veritatis splendor John Paul II does say that contraception is an intrinsically evil act, so there can be no reason or purpose for contraception. Benedict XVI gave several speeches in which he spoke about contraception, and it can't be changed. What was true yesterday is true today.”

While there can be “legitimate discussions of how to present it or how to help people understand it, or how to help people who are in difficult situations, whether medically or even because of moral pressure,” the teaching itself is not a topic for debate, explained Petri, author of "Aquinas and the Theology of the Body" (Catholic University of America Press, 2016).

“There could be a real discussion about how to do that, but there can't be any sort of rollback of the teaching, because it's what’s always been taught, and that's how Catholic theology, and Catholic doctrine, works.”

“These things aren't really meant to be argued over Twitter,” he reflected. “It's not the forum to sort of put these things out there.”

Petri added that “It's not helpful to simply focus on infallibility and what is named infallible in an extraordinary way. The First Vatican Council, when it spoke about papal infallibility, was very clear that it was supposed to be an extraordinary act.”

Petri compared an infallible statement to an ecumenical council. He described it as “a very extraordinary act, and which usually only happens when the matter at issue, whether it's a doctrinal matter or a moral matter, has become so entirely embroiled in conflict … that it requires such an extraordinary act as a pope or a council declaring something infallibly.”

“That's not normally how Church teaching works — that's why the ordinary magisterium is important.”

When a pope does not intend to teach infallibly, “that doesn't mean we're supposed to ignore what he's teaching, or to act like his opinion is just one opinion among many," Petri said.

“Even if he's not intending to proclaim something infallible, especially when he's teaching things that popes have been teaching for centuries, it has a certain weight to it.” 

While one might disagree with how things are expressed, “that doesn't mean that what he's teaching is up for grabs," Petri said.

“All the more so when you're talking about a teaching which multiple popes have repeated over multiple decades. And in the case of contraception we could say centuries," he said.

"You simply can't say, ‘Well, Humanae vitae wasn’t declared infallible, Paul VI didn’t declare it infallible, therefore because it’s not infallible, it’s up for grabs.' This is not a binary.” 

A similar point was made in a 2019 article by Augusto Sarmiento.

Sarmiento wrote about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1990 instruction on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian, which discusses various levels of magisterial statements. The article appeared in “Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità,” edited by Father José Noriega and René and Isabelle Ecochard.

A professor at the Univerisity of Pamplona, Sarmiento noted that “the pope, with Humanae vitae, did not will to propose an extraordinary teaching of the Magisterium ex cathedra.”

To support this, he quoted from Lambruschini’s comments at the press conference presenting the encyclical: “However, it is always an authentic pronouncement, especially since it is part of the continuity of the ecclesiastical magisterium.” 

Sarmiento wrote: “On the nature of the authority with which the norm of Humanae vitae is proclaimed, there is no doubt that it is part of the ordinary, universal magisterium,” and that the encyclical “is a teaching of the ordinary universal Magisterium of the Pope and of the bishops that must be considered definitive.”

Humanae vitae and its precedents

In Humanae vitae St. Paul VI taught that “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive” is thereby “intrinsically wrong.”

The pope discussed artificial birth control in the context of defining and analyzing marital love and responsible parenthood.

“The Church … in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life,” St. Paul VI wrote, adding that this doctrine has been “often expounded by the magisterium of the Church.”

He presented his statements as a reply, given “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ,” to questions on the moral doctrine of marriage.

St. Paul VI referred especially to the teaching of Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world. 

Gaudium et spes stated that spouses “must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel … Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate.”

This statement, in turn, referred in a footnote to Casti connubii, Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical on Christian marriage, which proclaimed “any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

In that encyclical Pius XI referred to “frustrating the marriage act” as a “criminal abuse," and said that “those who in exercising [the conjugal act] deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

Casti connubii also states that “Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime,” and cites St. Augustine’s interpretation of Scripture as such.

The present day

Pope Francis was asked about a re-evaluation of the Church’s doctrine on contraception, or whether the use of contraceptives may be considered, on his July 29 flight from Canada to Rome.

The pope responded that “dogma, morality, is always on a path of development, but always developing in the same direction.” He cited St. Vincent of Lerins as saying “that true doctrine, in order to move forward, to develop, must not be still, it develops … it is consolidated over time, it expands and consolidates, and becomes always more solid, but always progressing. That is why the duty of theologians is research, theological reflection. You cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front. Then it is up to the Magisterium to say, ‘No, you’ve gone too far, come back.' But theological development must be open, that’s what theologians are for. And the Magisterium must help to understand the limits.”

He referred to the acts of the Pontifical Academy for Life’s seminar, saying, “those who participated in this congress did their duty, because they have sought to move forward in doctrine, but in an ecclesial sense, not outside of it, as I said with that rule of Saint Vincent of Lérins. Then the Magisterium will say, ‘yes, it is good’ or ‘it is not good.'”

Mónica López Barahona, a board member of the academy, told ACI Prensa last month that “It’s not true that the Church or the Magisterium have changed their moral criteria regarding some questions of bioethics; not even that the Vatican has begun a process of reviewing these issues.”

López stressed that "the book is not an official declaration of the Pontifical Academy for Life on these issues" and that it does not represent "the moral criteria of all its members,” adding that “some were disconcerted when they saw the news about the publication of the book and the seminar, about which they knew nothing until that moment."

Drive-by gunshots target Denver-area Catholic church

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. / Courtesy of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2022 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

A gunman shot at a Denver-area Catholic church in separate early morning incidents Saturday and Monday. No one was hurt, but one estimate suggests the gunshots caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Parish staff stressed the need to pray for the perpetrator and emphasized that they are taking the utmost security precautions.

“We are praying for the conversion of whoever did this,” Deacon Derrick Johnson of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church told CNA Aug 8. “If there’s any opportunity to speak to that person, we’d be happy to speak with them and have a dialogue.”

Johnson spoke after two separate rounds of gunshots hit the parish church in unincorporated Adams County just north of Denver. The Adams County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.

“In the early morning of Aug. 6 and 8 there were two separate incidents of shootings that hit the front doors at Assumption Parish,” Johnson recounted.

Security footage of the first incident, the deacon said, appears to show “a single motorcyclist shooting what we believe to be a pistol as he drove by.”

“These incidents happened after hours,” Johnson said. “We don’t believe they are targeting people. Just targeting the church for whatever reason.”

Photos of the church sent to CNA show damage to the church exterior, including a bullet hole in a window. Doors and doorframes also were damaged. Photos show a broken outer window above a set of double doors, with shattered glass beneath.

“The first morning we discovered three shots, two into the door and one through the stained glass in the door,” Johnson said. “Two of the bullets were recovered and given to the Adams County sheriff.”

“On Monday morning, another bullet impact was discovered, this time above the doors, impacting the protective layer of the stained glass. The projectile was also given to the sheriff’s office,” the deacon added.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. Courtesy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. Courtesy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

News of the shooting has not yet become widespread among parishioners, Johnson said, though the first incident took place hours before a wedding.

Johnson wanted parishioners to know that parish staff is committed to their safety.

“We are absolutely conscious of security, between our security team and ensuring that we have adequate camera coverage and lighting in front of the parish. We’ll do our best to make sure that whoever did this is prosecuted,” he told CNA.

Though the bullet fractured one outer window, it did not break through a stained-glass window behind it.

The church’s custom-fit doors were recently completed at a cost of $75,000. The deacon described Assumption as a “very, very old parish.” The parish church was first dedicated in 1912, though the structure has gone through several renovations and expansions incorporating the original building.

Johnson estimated the damage at about $75,000.

The parish church is on the same property as Assumption School, which serves about 130 students in pre-K through eighth grade. The shooting has not affected the school, as the school year has not yet begun.

“Hopefully it’s limited to a late-night incident,” Johnson said. “We will be taking the highest security precautions for the school like we always do.”

Though the parish wants the perpetrator brought to justice, the parish is praying for its attacker.

“We’re praying for whatever is going on in the life of the person who did this,” the deacon said. “The parish is here for them.”

CNA contacted the Adams County Sheriff for comment but did not receive a response by publication time Monday.

Indiana’s broad abortion ban overshadows another pro-family law passed the same day

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signs bills in Indianapolis, March 10, 2022. / Governor Eric Holcomb via Flickr (public domain)

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 8, 2022 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

The same day last week that Indiana adopted an abortion ban with limited exceptions, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law another measure the state’s Catholic conference says has the potential to help families.

Known as SB2, the legislation, which received broad bipartisan support, provides for a tax exemption for an adopted child, cuts the state’s tax on children’s diapers, caps the gas tax, and increases the adoption tax credit, the Indy Star reported.

It also creates a $45 million fund for a variety of family-related programs and initiatives, the Criterion, the newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, reported.

“The Catholic Church has a history of providing aid, comfort, and support for mothers and families,” said Angela Espada, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, the Criterion reported.

“It hopes that the allotted $45 million will improve the lives of Hoosiers by supporting adoption, pregnancy planning, the health of pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and infants, along with supporting the needs of families with children less than 4 years old,” she said. “Additionally, there are funds to address the barriers to long-acting reversible contraception.” 

The legislation was overshadowed by the sweeping abortion ban Holcomb signed into law the same day, Aug. 5.

The law represents the first state abortion ban passed in the U.S. following the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, giving states the authority to regulate abortion.

Set to take effect Sept. 15, Indiana’s law outlaws all abortions with exceptions for abortions performed to preserve the life of the mother, as well as exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or “fatal” fetal anomaly.

The law stipulates that doctors must certify in writing to the hospital or center in which the abortion is to be performed that the abortion is necessary, under their reasonable medical judgment, to preserve the mother’s life or health, or that the unborn baby will not survive because of an anomaly. 

The Indiana Catholic Conference wrote ahead of the final vote that it supports the measure, while also highlighting the bill’s flaws.

“Most importantly, the bill needs stronger enforcement mechanisms and a continued tightening of the language around exceptions,” the Indiana Catholic Conference wrote July 27. On that point, the conference has noted that while direct attacks on unborn human life ought to be prohibited, that need not preclude medical interventions that indirectly result in a loss of unborn life when the intention is to save the life of the mother. 

Any abortion law should, however, convey the equal dignity of the mother and child, the conference said. 

Alexander Mingus, associate director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, said the conference supports the bill under the teachings of St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which urged support for laws that would limit the harm done by intrinsic moral evils such as abortion if a complete ban is not politically possible.

The new Indiana law came just days after voters in Kansas failed to approve a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state’s legislature to pass new abortion restrictions. A 2019 Kansas State Supreme Court ruling found that the state’s constitution supports a right to abortion, preventing lawmakers from passing new restrictions on abortion beyond the current 22-week limit.

Meet Michael McGivney Schachle, the miracle baby who helped make his namesake a Blessed

Daniel and Michelle Schachle with their son, Michael McGivney Schachle, 7, at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus held Aug. 1-4, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 7, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Seated in a small black wagon pulled by his father, 7-year-old Michael McGivney Schachle happily rolled along the hallways of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville last week, innocently unaware that people were staring at him in awe as he passed by.

His parents noticed. They’re used to it by now.

“He's like a living relic,” his mother Michelle Schachle said.

Numerous U.S. prelates and other Catholic dignitaries attended the Knights of Columbus’ annual convention at the hotel on Aug. 1-4. But few could match Michael’s star power, which radiated from his megawatt smile.

Doctors gave Michael McGivney Schachle "zero" chance of survival before his birth. Thanks to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, he was miraculously healed in the womb of a life-threatening condition. Courtesy of the Schachle family
Doctors gave Michael McGivney Schachle "zero" chance of survival before his birth. Thanks to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, he was miraculously healed in the womb of a life-threatening condition. Courtesy of the Schachle family

For good reason: Michael, whose family lives in Dickson, Tennessee, is the boy whose miraculous healing in his mother’s womb from a life-threatening condition led Pope Francis to beatify Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, placing him one step from sainthood.

Michael’s parents — his father Daniel is a knight and an insurance agent for the fraternal order — spoke to CNA at the convention about their son, their faith, and the miracle that will follow Michael for the rest of his life.

‘Zero’ chance of survival

Michelle found out that she was pregnant with Michael, the couple’s thirteenth child, in December 2014. It was only one month later that Michael, who was originally intended to be named Benedict after Michelle’s grandfather, was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

In February 2015, an ultrasound revealed another complication: Michael had a rare condition called hydrops fetalis, in which fluid builds up in the baby’s tissues and organs, causing swelling. The doctor told Michelle that the baby’s condition was fatal and encouraged her to abort the child.

According to Michelle, the diagnosing doctor said that she had worked at the hospital for 30 years and had never seen a child survive as severe a case of the condition as Michael had.

“Daniel wanted a percentage [for chances of the child’s survival] and he was hoping she'd say like 10% or 15%,” Michelle recounted.

“She said, ‘Zero. There’s no chance.’”

Because of their Catholic faith, however, abortion was not an option.

So, the couple turned to prayer. 

It was Daniel who decided to seek the help of Father McGivney (1852-1890), an Irish-Catholic priest who ministered to immigrant families in New Haven, Connecticut, and founded the Knights as a mutual aid and fraternal insurance organization.

“Father McGivney, we both need a miracle. Please pray if it's God's will that this cup will pass from me and that my son will be healed. But not our will, but his will be done,” Daniel says he prayed, kneeling in his bedroom, the night after the diagnosis.

Daniel said he promised that if his son were cured, the boy would be named after the Knights’ founder.

He had not consulted with this wife on that part of the deal, however.

“She was like, ‘We're gonna name him Benedict. You can't change his name!’” 

The next day the couple began asking their friends to pray for their son’s healing through Father McGivney’s intercession.

Despite the dire diagnosis, the couple decided to go forward with a pre-planned pilgrimage to Europe sponsored by the Knights.

The couple said they were given many signal graces on the trip. One of those graces came in Rome, while their priest, Father Michael Fye, offered Mass at the Vatican. Daniel said that the priest chose a random chapel in the church to celebrate Mass, and it turned out to be the same chapel that the Knights of Columbus had paid to restore an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Help, a few years earlier.

The Schachle family of Dickson, Tennessee. Courtesy of the Schachle family
The Schachle family of Dickson, Tennessee. Courtesy of the Schachle family

A watershed moment came in Fatima, Portugal.

As the couple was praying for a miracle during Holy Mass, they were astounded by the scripture reading of the day from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. In the reading, a royal official whose son was sick in Capernaum asks Jesus to heal the boy.

Jesus responds, “You may go; your son will live.” Hearing those words, the Schachles were stunned. Daniel’s jaw dropped.

“There were just a thousand little things like that that happened on the trip,” Daniel said. “So, by the time we left, I was almost sure that God had done something because of all of those signs.”

‘A kiss from God’

When the couple arrived back home, Michelle went for her next ultrasound. What she saw that day would later be accepted as evidence in support of McGivney’s beatification.

After reviewing the image, Dr. Mary Carroll told Michelle that she would need to see a certain pediatrician with expertise in caring for Down syndrome pregnancies because the baby could be born a month early.

Confused, Michelle said that she thought the baby had a 0% chance of survival and that there was no hope. 

“Honey, you just came back from Fatima. There's always hope,’” Michelle remembers the doctor telling her. Their son still had Down syndrome, but the ultrasound showed there was no trace of hydrops.

It was that day that the child received the name Michael McGivney Schachle, Michelle said. 

Michelle began to weep. But according to Michelle, Carroll said to her, “Sweetheart, don't cry. That's the prettiest baby I've ever seen in my life.” 

Mikey Schachle, whose life was saved by an officially recognized miracle through the intercession of Fr. Michael McGivney. Photo courtesy of the Schachle Family.
Mikey Schachle, whose life was saved by an officially recognized miracle through the intercession of Fr. Michael McGivney. Photo courtesy of the Schachle Family.

Michael was born on May 15, 2015. Providentially, May 15 is the anniversary of the chartering of the first Knights of Columbus council.

The Schachles have other curious connections to McGivney: Michelle and McGivney have the same birthday, and both Michael and McGivney were born into families of 13 children. The family also had named their homeschool after McGivney.

Michael’s miracle was approved by Pope Francis on May 27, 2020.

Today, “Mikey,” as he’s known, loves making people laugh with his jokes. He knows he was healed in his mommy’s tummy and says he loves God.

And those who know his incredible story stop and smile when he’s around.

On Aug. 2, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly made a special mention of the Schachles in his annual address. A large video screen showed Daniel raising his smiling son in the air.

The crowd cheered.

Seeing him, his mother says, is like “a little kiss from God — proof that God exists and that he loves you.”

Unborn babies are tax exempt under Georgia’s heartbeat-based abortion law

The Georgia capitol in Atlanta. / Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

An unborn baby is now recognized as a dependent who will qualify expectant parents for a $3,000 deduction in Georgia tax rules, under the same law which bans abortion based on a detectible fetal heartbeat.

Georgia’s Department of Revenue issued new guidance stating that “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat” is eligible for Georgia’s individual income tax dependent exemption, National Public Radio reports. A heartbeat is detectable about six weeks into pregnancy, sometimes before women know they are pregnant.

A woman six weeks pregnant as of July 20 may list her unborn child on her tax returns next year, with relevant medical records or other supporting documentation. More specific instructions are expected later this year, the New York Times reports.

Georgia’s 2019 law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectible recognizes the unborn child as a “natural person.” The same law which allows expectant parents to claim their baby as a dependent also requires a father to pay child support for “direct medical and pregnancy-related expenses” for an unborn child.

In June the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which mandated legal abortion nationwide in 1973.

In light of that decision, a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on July 20 ruled that Georgia’s abortion ban can become law.

Legal protections and benefits for the unborn child and expecting parents have drawn criticism from some abortion advocates, but there are also legal questions to be answered.

In a July 2020 ruling against the state law, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones questioned whether a pregnant woman with an eating disorder could be found guilty of child cruelty and whether health care providers required to report child abuse could be liable for failing to report a pregnant woman living with an abusive relationship partner, the Georgia Recorder reports.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, the campaign manager of Georgia’s strongly pro-abortion rights Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, questioned whether a woman who claims the tax deduction but later miscarries could be investigated for tax fraud and procuring an illegal abortion.

However, the Georgia law exempts miscarriages, stillbirths, and ectopic pregnancies from legal penalty.

The law allows abortions in cases of medical emergencies to prevent the death or physical impairment of the pregnant woman.

Though the law recognizes the unborn child as a person, it still allows abortion up to 20 weeks into pregnancy targeting unborn children allegedly conceived in rape or incest, if an official police report was filed.

Alabama and Arizona also have abortion laws that broadly define the unborn child as a person.

Another 40 states, including Texas and California, define the unborn child as a legal person in cases involving homicide, the New York Times reports.

Some states have passed pro-abortion laws explicitly stripping legal rights from an unborn child. A 2022 Colorado law, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, says that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”

Two-year-old lawsuit accusing Theodore McCarrick of repeatedly raping boy still pending in NJ

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick arrives at Massachusetts' Dedham District Courthouse for his arraignment, Sept. 3, 2021. / Andrew Bukuras/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

One of the more graphic sexual abuse lawsuits against former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick is still pending in New Jersey after the parties recently failed to settle the nearly two-year-old case, court filings show.

The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark in September 2020, accuses McCarrick of raping and sexually assaulting an unnamed adolescent boy on more than 50 occasions from 1985 to 1990.

The lawsuit also names the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen as defendants, alleging that they failed to protect the boy from McCarrick while he led those New Jersey dioceses. All the defendants deny the claims against them.

The parties met with a private mediator June 23 but were unable to settle the case, court records show.

“At this juncture, the parties do not believe that another settlement conference will be productive,” the plaintiff’s lawyers, Mark Lefkowitz and Kevin Mulhearn, wrote in a July 21 letter to U.S. District Court Evelyn Padin.

The lawyers revealed in the letter that the Newark Archdiocese has produced 172,734 pages of documents requested by the plaintiff’s legal team, which is still reviewing the records.

Depositions of McCarrick and the plaintiff, who is now in his late thirties, have taken place, the letter said. Other individuals have yet to be deposed.

McCarrick, 92, was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sexually assaulting minors and adults.

Dozens of alleged assaults

The New Jersey lawsuit is one of several civil complaints still pending against McCarrick.

The disgraced prelate also faces criminal prosecution in district court in Dedham, Massachusetts, for allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

In that case, McCarrick entered a not guilty plea in September 2021 to three counts of indecent assault and battery. Each charge carries up to five years in prison.

No trial date has been set in the criminal case. The next hearing date is Sept. 8, a spokesman for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office told CNA Friday.

The New Jersey civil case involving the alleged rapes of an adolescent boy has received significant media attention due to the graphic nature of the allegations. The 108-page lawsuit also chronicles in detail McCarrick’s steady rise up the Catholic hierarchy, despite multiple warnings and complaints about his alleged predatory behavior toward minors, seminarians, and young priests.

According to the lawsuit, McCarrick was “deeply revered, respected, and highly trusted” by the plaintiff’s “extremely devout Catholic” parents and extended family.

“Plaintiff’s parents were thrilled that McCarrick, a high-ranking Catholic bishop whom they viewed as God’s emissary, had decided to single out their family (and their son) for special attention and could not even begin to imagine that McCarrick’s desires toward Plaintiff were sexual or predatory in nature,” the lawsuit states.

“They thus strongly encouraged Plaintiff to spend considerable time with McCarrick, as they viewed his actions toward Plaintiff as a blessed manifestation of God’s grace,” according to the complaint.

In 1985, while McCarrick was bishop of Metuchen, the then-12-year-old boy stayed overnight at the Metuchen rectory with his parents’ approval, the lawsuit states.

The next day, McCarrick took the boy to a beach house owned by the diocese in Sea Girt, New Jersey, where McCarrick sexually assaulted the boy for the first time, the lawsuit alleges.

Subsequent sexual assaults allegedly took place in a variety of other locations, including the rectory in Metuchen, a fishing cabin in the woods at the Eldred Preserve in the Catskills in New York State, and a hotel in Ireland, the lawsuit states.

The assaults continued when McCarrick became archbishop in Newark, the lawsuit states. In one incident alleged to have taken place at McCarrick’s private Newark residence, McCarrick brought another, unidentified priest to the apartment.

“This is my friend. He’s like us. We all do the same thing,” McCarrick allegedly told the then 13- or 14-year-old boy by way of introduction, according to the lawsuit. “I’m gonna leave now. And you two enjoy yourselves.”

The other priest then sexually assaulted and raped the boy, the lawsuit states. After the priest left, McCarrick raped the boy again, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that McCarrick’s alleged predatory behavior was known within the dioceses and spoken of at high levels of the Catholic Church, yet nothing was done to stop him, in part “because McCarrick was an exceptional fundraiser for the Catholic Church, and was charismatic and viewed by many as a rising star in the Church.”

Lasting damage alleged

The plaintiff had been a straight A student prior to McCarrick's abuse, the lawsuit states.

"Upon suffering sexual abuse by McCarrick, however, Plaintiff’s grades slipped dramatically, as he was unable to concentrate, and his behavior at school worsened considerably," the complaint alleges.

"Plaintiff attended three separate high schools, as he was expelled from several high schools for excessive fighting and general bad behavior. He became a wild, unruly child, prone to bursts of anger and untamed aggression, and frequently got into fights with other children (particularly when other boys touched him, as he hated physical contact with other males)," the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff never attended college and instead joined the U.S. Coast Guard, requesting to be stationed in Alaska "to separate himself from McCarrick and his nightmarish experiences to the greatest extent possible," the lawsuit states.

Lawyers for McCarrick, the Archdiocese of Newark, and the Diocese of Metuchen could not be reached for comment Friday.



  




Little Sisters of the Poor to close Denver nursing home after 105 years

Little Sisters of the Poor. Courtesy of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. / null

Denver, Colo., Aug 5, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

After years of service to the elderly in the Archdiocese of Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor announced this week their intention to withdraw from a nursing home they have operated for more than a century, citing the need to dedicate resources to other projects. 

The Mullen Home complex, located in Denver’s West Highland neighborhood, received its first residents in 1918 after the sisters moved in the year prior. The home includes private rooms for assisted living, apartments for the elderly, a library, and a chapel. It was expanded and renovated between 1975 and 1980. 

The order’s leader in Denver said the decision to close the home had come about following a “lengthy period of prayer, much consultation and much study.”

“As part of a strategic plan aimed at strengthening our ministry and the quality of our religious and community life, we Little Sisters have recognized the need to withdraw from a certain number of Homes in the United States, while at the same time dedicating our resources to much needed upgrades and reconstruction projects in others,” Mother Julie Horseman said in an emailed statement Aug. 3. 

“While it is always difficult for the Little Sisters to withdraw from any of our Homes, know that our immediate concern is for our Residents and Staff members. We will be working with all of them in the coming weeks and months, assisting with this difficult transition.”

According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the land on which the nursing home sits was given to the Little Sisters by John K. Mullen and his wife Catherine in 1917. Mullen was a Denver-based Irish-American entrepreneur and philanthropist who supported many Catholic causes in Denver and elsewhere.

The deed by which Mullen transferred the land to the religious order had a provision whereby the land and buildings would be transferred to the Archdiocese of Denver if the Little Sisters ceased operating the nursing home. The archdiocese is “studying its new purpose with prayerful consideration,” the Little Sisters said. 

“Their intention is to use it to further the mission of the Church and preserve our legacy in the Denver area,” Mother Horseman said. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor began in France in 1839, when the order’s founder, Saint Jeanne Jugan, offered her bed to an elderly woman who was blind and lying paralyzed in the cold. Today, the order serves in 30 countries, with 27 homes in the United States. Because the sisters care for the low-income elderly, they trust in God for financial support. Sources of income such as Medicaid and pensions from the residents generally only cover about half of their expenses, so they beg for the remainder. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver thanked the Little Sisters for their more than 100 years of ministry in the city, adding that the archdiocese is “still in the process of determining the next steps for the property.” 

“I want to offer my heartfelt and sincere gratitude for their work. Whenever I would visit Mullen Home as a priest and later as a bishop, I was always edified by their witness to the Catholic faith and their living out of the corporal works of mercy. Their compassionate care for the elderly provided a witness to Jesus Christ and his love for the poor and the sick,” Aquila said. 

The nearest Little Sisters-run nursing homes to Denver after the Mullen Home closes will be in Gallup, New Mexico and Kansas City, Missouri. 

Visa, Mastercard pause ad buys with Pornhub following controversy

sxc.hu.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 16:37 pm (CNA).

On Thursday, Visa and Mastercard temporarily suspended ad purchases with Pornhub and its parent company, MindGeek, after the latest court ruling in a child pornography lawsuit. 

The action follows a court ruling last week that denied Visa’s request to be removed from the case, which alleged that the company was complicit in a child pornography crime involving a 13-year old girl. 

The ruling determined that “Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn,” but continued to process financial transactions that MindGeek profited off of from “sex trafficking” and distributing explicit content involving children. 

In an Aug. 4 statement addressing the news, Visa’s CEO Alfred F. Kelley Jr. declared that the company “strongly disagree[d]” with the court’s decision and was “confident” in its position. 

“In our view, our company’s role, policies, and practices have been mischaracterized,” Kelley wrote, adding that the allegations were “repugnant and stand in direct contradiction to Visa’s values and purpose.”

Kelley later added that Visa does not make any “moral judgments” on legal purchases made by consumers and that Visa can only be used to purchase content on sites that feature “adult professional actors in legal adult entertainment.”   

But Patrina Mosley, a women and children’s policy advisor, points out the hypocrisy of such a statement. 

“[Visa] acknowledge[s] that sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse are illegal, then goes on to say ‘we do not make moral judgments on legal purchase made by consumers,’” she wrote in an email to CNA. 

“Visa and Mastercard knew exactly what type of business they were getting into when they allowed payments for ads to be processed on Pornhub. It is only after being sued have they relented, further toppling one of the world's largest exploitation sites.”

Mosley, who has over a decade of experience in combatting sexual exploitation, referenced the fact that 16 states in the U.S. have already declared pornography a public health hazard. 

But it’s not enough, she added: “The only way to help prevent exploitation is to make pornography illegal.”

How to comment on Biden rule forcing doctors to perform transition surgeries, abortions

null / Darko Stojanovic via Pixabay (CC0).

Washington D.C., Aug 5, 2022 / 16:36 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration’s proposed rule that would force doctors and hospitals to provide gender transition procedures and abortions went live Wednesday, beginning the 60-day comment period during which members of the public can voice their objections before it becomes the law of the land. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule was published in the Federal Register yesterday. Outside groups and individuals have until October 3, 2022, to submit comments that may be considered in the rule-making process. 

The rule would revise the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “reproductive health care services” including “pregnancy termination" to existing “protections against discrimination on the basis of sex.” 

The action would reverse Trump-era conscience protections for medical professionals. It would also expand the Obama-era version of the rule to include abortion. 

Catholic medical organizations have already stated they will submit comments opposing the rule’s mandate, but a former HHS official is encouraging citizens to speak out too.

Arina Grossu, former senior communications advisor in the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, wrote in an email to CNA that “It is critical for individuals and organizations to express their unique voice through the public comment process while there still is time.

“If you care deeply about protecting conscience rights and the integrity of health care, this is your chance to speak up,” she added.

Grossu, a fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, recommends a guide from the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) that explains how concerned citizens can submit impactful comments on rules. 

“Comments are the public’s last best chance to influence agency rules that will bind or affect them with the force of law,” the resource emphasizes. 

The guide emphasizes that it is important for commenters to submit individual, unique arguments for how the rule would negatively impact them or their organizations. Including relevant expertise and citing personal stories or examples is also helpful.

How to submit comments 

To submit comments online, individuals can navigate to where the rule is posted in the Federal Register and click “Submit a Formal Comment” in the top right-hand of the page. 

An online form with required fields will pop up, asking commenters to submit their comments and specify whether they are an individual, group, or prefer to remain anonymous. 

There is also an option to leave an email address to receive confirmation of one’s submission along with a tracking number, or attach additional documentation to support a comment.

Catholic medical organizations to comment 

Catholic Healthcare Leadership Alliance (CHCLA) released a statement Thursday morning saying it would be adding its comment in opposition to the rule. 

Dr. Steven White, president of CHCLA, called the proposed regulation a “terrible affront” to the rights of doctors who practice in line with their consciences. 

“Catholic hospitals and Catholic health care professionals are bound to follow the long-standing tradition of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and His Church,” he said in the statement, which includes “providing life-affirming care from conception to natural death and upholding the dignity of the human person made in the image of God as male and female.”

You can submit your comments on the rule here

U.S. bishops urge support for mothers and babies after Biden abortion executive order

null / Credit: Unsplash

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 11:42 am (CNA).

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the U.S. bishops’pro-life chair, on Friday called on President Joe Biden to increase support and care for mothers and children.

The Aug. 5 message was in response to an executive order from the president that facilitates abortion by allow states to use Medicaid to pay for abortion services for women traveling from other states.

“I continue to call on the President and all our elected officials to increase support and care to mothers and babies, rather than facilitate the destruction of defenseless, voiceless human beings,” Lori said.

He added that “Even preceding the Dobbs decision, my brother bishops and I have implored the nation to stand with moms in need, and work together to protect and support women and children.”

“Continued promotion of abortion takes lives and irreparably harms vulnerable pregnant mothers, their families, and society,” Lori stated. “It is the wrong direction to take at a moment when we should be working to support women and to build up a culture of life.”

Biden’s Aug. 3 executive order directed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to “consider action to advance access to reproductive healthcare services” for women, particularly those who travel out of state to have abortions. It was not clear from the language of the executive order exactly which abortion services would be covered.

Under the Hyde Amendment, the use of federal funding for abortions is prohibited except in the cases of rape, incest, or a “life-endangering physical condition” that places the mother “in danger of death.” 

At an Aug. 3 press briefing White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that the order “paves the way for Medicaid to pay for abortions for women having to travel out of state” by allowing states to apply for Medicaid waivers.

When asked by a reporter how the administration would accomplish this in light of the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on federal abortion funding, Jean-Pierre said, “we’re going to leave it to HHS to come up with the details on the specifics on how they’re going to work with states — if a state asks for a waiver — and what that’s going to look like.” 

This is the second executive order the administration has released since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

The order, which calls traveling across state lines for abortions a “bedrock right,” also reaffirms a rule the Biden administration proposed last week that would force doctors to provide abortions. 

In addition, the order calls for data collection and research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to measure accurately “the impact that diminishing access to reproductive health care services has on women’s health.”

Pro-life groups have also criticized the executive order.

Amy Gehrke, Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life, said Aug. 3 that “the women of Illinois and beyond don’t need more ‘help’ obtaining abortions, they need resources that truly give them choices when facing unplanned pregnancies. They need practical resources such as diapers, food, health care, and counseling. We know that over 60 percent of women feel pressured into abortions they don’t really want. They need to know aid is available to help them choose life for their children.”

The executive order, Gehrke said, “is cause to mourn that our president is doing everything he possibly can to degrade women by expanding access to abortion.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the executive order an illegal effort to “force taxpayers to fund abortion on demand until birth in Democrat-led states.”