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What the same-sex marriage vote means for Catholics

null / Gutzemberg / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

With Congress now poised to enshrine same-sex marriage into federal law — largely thanks to Senate Republicans — opponents of the measure warn that Catholics and other people of faith should brace for incoming attacks on their faith. 

The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and did not force states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Democrat-led RFMA goes further than the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage — Obergefell v. Hodges — by mandating that all states must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. 

The bill also elevates married same-sex couples to receive Medicare and Social Security benefits. 

The Senate’s passage of RFMA — successful due to the support of 12 Republican senators — has provoked widespread outcry from religious groups and conservatives, with some calling it the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage bills. 

Will the act threaten Catholics and religious organizations?

The text of RFMA claims the bill will have “no impact on religious liberty and conscience.” 

But policy experts and Church leaders say the opposite is true: The bill will empower the government to come after those who believe in the sanctity of marriage.

Jon Schweppe, policy director for American Principles Project (APP), explained that the religious protections that did make it in the RFMA are “really limited.”

“My biggest concern with this is that now we’re pretty much relying on the courts to uphold the First Amendment,” Schweppe said. “You can’t rely on the court system to save you. They’re going to find ways to persecute you.”

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee’s amendment to include explicit religious liberty protections for those who hold to the sanctity of marriage failed by a vote of 48-49. 

Lee argued the RFMA will lead to litigation attacks against those who believe in traditional marriage unless the bill provides viable protections for them instead of solely the possibility of a court defense.

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” Lee wrote in a November letter to his fellow senators. 

Schweppe told CNA that the RFMA “also doesn’t protect conscience for individuals.”

“Ultimately there are going to be religious believers who will have their lives destroyed because of this bill,” he said. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is alarmed about what the bill’s passage will mean for people of faith. 

“Senators promoting the Act have claimed that their amended bill ‘respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties,’ but the provisions of the Act that relate to religious liberty are insufficient,” the USCCB wrote in a Nov. 17 statement opposing the bill. 

“The Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages,” the letter said, citing bakers, adoption providers, and other faith-based organizations at risk of discrimination. 

How many Republicans voted for the bill? 

Earlier in November, 12 Republican senators — Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana — joined 50 Democrats to vote for advancing the bill past a filibuster so it could reach a final vote.

The same Republican senators voted for final passage of the bill Tuesday, for a 61-36 vote total. 

The critical role Republicans played in passing the RFMA is viewed by many conservatives and people of faith as an egregious breach of trust.

“It's a stunning betrayal from the party that’s supposed to be fighting against wokeness; fighting against this evil movement on the left,” Schweppe said. 

Paige Agostin, policy director of the conservative think tank Center for Renewing America, called the passage “the Roe v. Wade of marriage bills.”

“[It] will weaponize the entire Left to go after people of faith,” she told CNA.

Wasn’t same-sex marriage already legalized? 

The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage rights in the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, obliterating the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Under Obergefell, all states are required to allow same-sex marriages.

However, Democrats have pushed for the RFMA bill to further embed same-sex marriage protections into law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. In that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggested the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including Obergefell. 

What’s next? 

The RFMA faces another round of voting in the House, where it is nearly certain to pass by the end of the year. It will then go to the desk of President Joe Biden, who has already promised to sign it into law. 

Louisiana priest confirmed as victim in double homicide, archbishop offers prayers

Father Otis Young, the former pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana, was killed in a double homicide less than a year after his retirement. / Screenshot 2020 YouTube video

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2022 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

Authorities have positively identified Father Otis Young, a local Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, as one of the victims of a double homicide.

The St. Tammany Coroner’s office said Tuesday that the cause of death was “sharp- and blunt-force trauma.” The homicide occurred either Sunday night or Monday morning, the office said. 

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond released a statement Wednesday offering prayers for both Young and Ruth Prats, who worked closely with Young as a church staff member until Young’s retirement earlier this year. Aymond said that she is listed as a missing person. 

CNA contacted the local police to confirm that Prats is still listed as missing but did not hear back by time of publication.

“The horror of the events that have unfolded here in Covington is beyond shocking. The pain, sadness, and disbelief that something like this could happen will stay with us, but particularly those who are most directly affected, for a very long time,” Aymond said in the statement.

Aymond said that “as we await confirmation of the second victim, I offer my prayers for both victims of this heinous crime. In a particular way we prayerfully remember Father Otis, a beloved pastor who touched the lives of so many with his faith, warmth, and pastoral heart. This is a loss for our Church and for the entire community.”

Young, 71, who retired in July, was pastor for approximately 10 years at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana. His body, along with another victim’s body, was found “burned beyond recognition” less than a mile away from the church, according to police. Fox8live.com reported that the bodies were found behind a glass store in downtown Covington.

Fox8live.com reported that the bodies of Young and the other victim were found hours after Young and Prats were reported missing.

The coroner’s office says it expects to have an identification of the second victim by the end of the week.

“Let us continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Father Otis and for Ruth Prats who remains missing, and for both their families and all who are suffering. Let us pray that we may all know God’s love, mercy, and hope,” Aymond said. 

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. 

Fox8live.com reported that Tyson was released from prison in August after serving part of a sentence he received in 1993. The outlet reported that he was serving time for charges of forcible rape and home invasion. 

Nola.com reported that Tyson was working as a landscaper with his brother since his release a few months ago. Tyson’s sister, Leslie Tyson, said that she was “numb,” according to nola.com. 

“He was always with his family. He went to church every Sunday. I’m in disbelief,” the sister said, according to the outlet.  

“The St. Peter Parish community is devastated at the announcement that one of the victims in yesterday’s double homicide in downtown Covington is confirmed to be that of Father Otis Young, Jr. We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Father Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” Aymond said in his statement. 

“I extend my prayerful support and that of the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese to the Covington community and in particular for the parishioners of St. Peter Parish. I also want to extend my gratitude and prayers to the law enforcement personnel, the coroner, and all authorities who have worked so carefully and thoroughly through these very difficult circumstances,” Aymond said.

“For all those who are hurting and asking how this could happen, may I humbly offer that we turn to Our Lord Jesus in this time of mourning,” he added. 

St. Peter Catholic Church said in an online post Tuesday that the parish is “devastated” at the news of Young’s death. 

“We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Father Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” the post said. 

On Monday night, an hour of eucharistic adoration was held at St. Peter Catholic Church to offer prayers for the victims. 

Father Daniel Brouillette, pastor of the church, said at the Holy Hour that “we are in a state of shock, horror, and disbelief.”

“Even as we grieve we must forgive. That is hard tonight,” he said.

Imploring the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brouillette said: “May she wrap them in her heavenly mantle, may she do the same for us.”

Senate passes same-sex marriage bill, sending it back to the House

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St. Louis, Mo., Nov 29, 2022 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday evening to pass the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), sending the bill back to the House for a final vote before it reaches the president’s desk. 

The bill, which would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and provide for federal recognition of same-sex marriages, has drawn criticism from Catholic leaders for not providing strong enough legal protections for individuals who believe marriage to be between one man and one woman, as taught by the Catholic Church. 

The present bill would not require any state to allow same-sex couples to marry, but would require states to recognize any and all marriages — regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin” — contracted in other states. 

The bill garnered bipartisan support, clearing the Senate Nov. 29 by a vote of 61-36, and will return now to the House. Should the House pass this amended version, the bill will proceed to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, which he has pledged to give. Biden first signaled his support for same-sex marriage a decade ago, putting him at odds with the teaching of his Catholic faith. 

The Senate had voted 62-37 in mid-November to end debate on the bill by reaching the required 60-vote threshold. Twelve Republicans crossed the aisle to join all the Senate’s Democrats in that vote, and the same number joined in the Nov. 29 vote.

The final version of the bill includes a bipartisan amendment meant to ensure that nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage. It also provides for individual conscience protections to the extent provided under the Constitution and federal law, and makes clear the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriage. 

DOMA, which the present bill would repeal, is a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage federally as the union of a man and a woman, reserved federal benefits to heterosexual couples, and permitted states not to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. DOMA was already effectively nullified by the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. 

The Catholic bishops of the United States had urged Senators in July to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act, expressing concerns about the bill’s effect on the religious freedom of those who hold to a traditional definition of marriage. 

And in November, following the bill’s advancement in the U.S. Senate, the nation’s Catholic bishops reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage. They also reiterated their concerns that “the legislation could lead to discrimination against individuals who hold to a traditional view of marriage.”

“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a Nov. 17 statement. 

“[T]he act offers only limited protections. Those protections fail to resolve the main problem with the act: in any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages,” Dolan continued. 

Ahead of the Nov. 29 vote, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah called on the 12 Republican senators who voted to advance the RFMA to adopt explicit protections, by way of an amendment he introduced, for individuals who believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Lee had argued that the RFMA will lead to more litigation against those who hold to a traditional view of marriage, unless the bill explicitly provides protections for them and not merely the possibility of a defense in court. 

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” Lee wrote in a November letter to his fellow senators. 

“As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance.”

Lee’s amendment ultimately failed Nov. 29 by a vote of 48-49. 

The RFMA represents one of the first legislative responses to the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. While the majority opinion in Dobbs said that “this decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” Democrats have pointed to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggesting the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.

Pray with the cast of ‘The Chosen’ this Advent season on Hallow

Hallow's Advent feat. The Chosen: #Pray25 Prayer Challenge / Hallow

Denver, Colo., Nov 29, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Advent is a season of preparation, hope, and joy as we await the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As in every Advent, we are called during this time to prepare our hearts for his miraculous birth. 

This Advent, Hallow, a Catholic meditation and prayer app, invites us to dive further into the journey that led to Christ’s birth by participating in the Advent #Pray25 Challenge featuring the cast of “The Chosen," the hit streaming series about Jesus and his first disciples. 

Join Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus; Elizabeth Tabish, who plays Mary Magdalene; George Harrison Xanthis, who plays John the Evangelist; Paras Patel, who plays Matthew; Vanessa Benavente, who plays Mother Mary; David Amito, who plays John the Baptist; and Dallas Jenkins, the director and founder of “The Chosen," in daily reflections, prayers, and meditations that tell the story of salvation. 

These daily reflections will take the listener back to the beginning with Adam and Eve, continue with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, and the prophets in the Old Testament, and end with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nativity in the New Testament, showing how God has called people throughout the generations.

The 25-day prayer challenge starts “in the beginning” with a meditation on the opening of the Gospel of John, read by Xanthis, and then turns its focus back to the Old Testament with the Book of Genesis. Each session starts with prayer followed by a reading from Scripture and ends with thought-provoking questions to guide your meditative prayer. 

When asked what his favorite part of the challenge was during an Instagram livestream Monday, Roumie explained that the imaginative prayers with Benavente, who plays Mother Mary, were particularly “impactful.”

“A lot of the placing yourself in the time periods and the moments before, and the moments leading up to Christmas, I think a lot of those readings were really impactful for me personally,” he explained. “Especially having that on-screen relationship with Vanessa Benavente, who plays Mother Mary, and then just thinking about our interactions and thinking about some of the stuff coming up this season even.”

Roumie added: “I think it was a really powerful instinct to move forward to try to execute this for Advent this year. I think people are really going to come away from it changed on another level.”

“I am excited for people to pray with their favorite characters on the show,” he said.

Alex Jones, CEO of Hallow, said in a press release on Nov. 23: “We’ve been blessed at Hallow to partner with a lot of amazing content creators, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to announce a partnership than I am today. ‘The Chosen’ has changed my own life and brought so many millions of folks around the world closer to Christ. We’re blessed to be able to journey together with some of our favorite folks from the series this Advent season in a one-of-a-kind prayer experience.”

“The Chosen,” created and directed by Jenkins, an evangelical Christian, premiered on Christmas Eve in 2017. During its first season, the show was the largest-ever crowdfunded television series. The series has been translated into 56 languages and has more than 420 million views worldwide.

The first two episodes of Season 3 are being shown in theaters through Dec. 14. The production was among the top 10 grossing films over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, outselling “She Said,” the film about Harvey Weinstein and the “Me Too” movement.

“The Chosen” can be streamed for free through The Chosen app for iOS or Android systems and the website of its distributor, Angel Studios. From the app you can stream to your TV using another device, such as Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast. Season 1 was recently released on Netflix. The seasons are also available to purchase on DVD/BluRay.

Hallow bills itself as “the No. 1 Catholic app in the world” and the “No. 1 Christian app in the United States.” Launched in 2018, it has had more than four million downloads and has been used to pray more than 100 million times across 150 countries, according to the press release. It can be downloaded on the App Store and Google Play. 

Watch the trailer for Hallow’s “Advent featuring The Chosen: #Pray25 Prayer Challenge” here: 

Major win for Catholic doctors fighting Biden’s transgender mandate after appeal deadline passes

null / Credit: Chodyra Mike 1/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

President Biden’s controversial transgender mandate has been blocked after the administration failed to meet last week’s deadline to appeal a court ruling that struck down the mandate earlier this year.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the mandate Aug. 26, ruling that religious groups could not be required to perform procedures that violate their beliefs. The deadline for the Biden administration to appeal the decision passed Nov. 25.

“The final demise of this unconscionable mandate is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel for Becket Law, told CNA.

“Thousands of doctors will be able to do their jobs without the government requiring them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise,” Goodrich added.

Becket, a religious liberty nonprofit legal firm, served as counsel to thousands of Catholic and other religious medical professionals in a federal lawsuit — Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra — challenging the mandate in a continuation of a long legal battle stemming from a similar rule enacted by the Obama administration in 2016. 

Religious medical groups including Franciscan Alliance, Christian Medical and Dental Society, and Specialty Physicians of Illinois fought to to stop the requirement from taking effect.

Goodrich applauded the decision on Twitter Monday, adding that “the Admin has declined to appeal to #SCOTUS — meaning this win is FINAL.” 

According to Goodrich, the fight will continue in a similar case pending in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to issue a decision in the coming weeks. 

Mandating ‘unconscionable’ procedures

If finalized, Biden’s rule would have empowered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries, in addition to expanding the Obama-era version of the rule to include abortion.  

The rule revised Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act 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.” 

It also reversed Trump-era conscience protections that sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures against their beliefs.

The proposal met with strong opposition from religious doctors, medical organizations, and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, which condemned the move in a statement July 27.

“[The] proposed regulations threaten our ability to carry out our healing ministries and others’ to practice medicine,” the bishops wrote. “They mandate health care workers to perform life-altering surgeries to remove perfectly healthy body parts. Assurances that HHS will honor religious freedom laws offer little comfort when HHS is actively fighting court rulings that declared HHS violated religious freedom laws the last time they tried to impose such a mandate. This is a violation of religious freedom and bad medicine.”

The HHS did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.

Canadian fashion retailer runs ad promoting assisted suicide 

null / HQuality/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

A new ad campaign from a Canadian fashion retailer features a terminally ill woman who ended her life by assisted suicide.

“Dying in a hospital is not what’s natural. It’s not what’s soft,” 37-year-old Jennyfer Hatch says at the start of the three-minute video. “In these kinds of moments, you need softness.”

Produced by La Maison Simons, a popular fashion chain better known as Simons, the video has received more than one million views since its release on Oct. 24 — the day after Hatch died. 

Hatch sought medical assistance in dying (MAID) after being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of inherited disorders that affect connective tissues, CBC News reported.

Since Canada legalized assisted suicide in 2016 the number of MAID deaths has increased each year. In 2016 the number of people who chose assisted suicide was 1,018. In 2021 there were 10,064 MAID deaths, making up 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.

The Simons ad, titled “All is beauty,” follows Hatch as she draws in the sand, watches the waves, blows bubbles, and laughs with friends while soft music plays in the background. The words “The most beautiful exit” float across the screen.

“Last breaths are sacred,” Hatch says at one point. “Even though as I seek help to end my life, with all the pain and in these final moments, there is still so much beauty.”

In another, separate video, Peter Simons, chief merchant for the fashion chain, says he felt inspired to tell Hatch’s story after meeting her earlier this year. He insists that it is “not a commercial campaign.”

“It’s more an effort to use our freedom, our voice, and the privilege we have to speak and create every day here in a way that is more about human connection,” he says. “And I think we sincerely believe that companies have a responsibility to participate in communities and to help build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow and leave to our children.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes Church teaching, explicitly condemns euthanasia. 

“Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible,” it says. “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.”

It also forbids “an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering,” saying that it “constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.”

Simons did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

U.S. bishops express outrage at increase in antisemitic attacks

People participate in a Jewish solidarity march across the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 5, 2020, in New York City. / Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2022 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops strongly condemned in a Nov. 28 statement what they called a “reemergence of antisemitism in new forms.”

“Outraged by the deeply hurtful proliferations of antisemitic rhetoric, both online and in person, and the violent attacks on Jewish individuals, homes, and institutions, we wish to convey our sincere support to the Jewish people,” the bishops wrote.

“In unequivocal terms, we condemn any and all violence directed at the Jewish people, whether motivated by religious, racial, or political grievances,” said the statement, which was signed by the nine bishops on the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee.

The statement was issued on the 60th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Nostrae Aetate, which made clear the Church’s condemnation of hatred and violence against Judaism, beginning a new era of understanding and cooperation between the two faiths.

Since Nostrae Aetate, the bishops’ statement explained, “the Catholic and Jewish faiths have learned to encounter each other in a spirit of goodwill and a sincere desire to encourage our respective faithful to live together.”

The bishops called on Christians to join them in opposing acts of antisemitism:

“As the 60th anniversary of this prophetic document approaches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has issued a statement urging all believers in Christ once again to decry all ‘hatred, persecutions, displays of antisemitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone’ (Nostra Aetate, 4).”

The bishops went on to remind the faithful of Christianity’s shared heritage with Judaism.

“We continue to remind ourselves of the shared spiritual patrimony that remains the foundation of our relationship with the Jewish people. We affirm that the Jewish people cannot be held responsible for the death of Christ or be depicted as rejected or accursed in theological discourse. It must always be remembered that Jesus, Mary, and his apostles were all Jewish.

“Finally, we remain firm in our dedication to a just political solution — a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestine,” the bishops wrote.

Antisemitism in the form of violence and online rhetoric has been a growing issue in recent months. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 2,717 antisemitic incidents across the nation in 2021, a 34% increase in incidents from 2020 and an all-time high since ADL began tracking.

“As partners and neighbors, we seek to foster bonds of friendship between members of the Body of Christ and the Jewish people,” the bishops stated, recalling that Pope Francis said “a true Christian cannot be an antisemite.”

In a statement to CNA, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, one of the bishops who signed onto the document, said, “as the documents from the committee called, mutual understanding and respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters,

 this is all the more important since we find ourselves in a culture that permits, if not encourages others to demonize or dehumanize our elder brother and sisters of the Jewish faith.”



In a statement to CNA, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, one of the bishops who signed onto the document, said, “as the documents from the committee called, mutual understanding and respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters,

 this is all the more important since we find ourselves in a culture that permits, if not encourages others to demonize or dehumanize our elder brother and sisters of the Jewish faith.”

In a statement to CNA, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, one of the bishops who signed onto the document, said, “as the documents from the committee called, mutual understanding and respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters,

 this is all the more important since we find ourselves in a culture that permits, if not encourages others to demonize or dehumanize our elder brother and sisters of the Jewish faith.”



In a statement to CNA, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, one of the bishops who signed onto the document, said, “as the documents from the committee called, mutual understanding and respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters,

 this is all the more important since we find ourselves in a culture that permits, if not encourages others to demonize or dehumanize our elder brother and sisters of the Jewish faith.”

In a statement to CNA, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, one of the bishops who signed onto the document, said that speaking up against antisemitism is today, “all the more important since we find ourselves in a culture that permits, if not encourages others to demonize or dehumanize our elder brother and sisters of the Jewish faith.”

Early medical abortion increased 154% in past decade, CDC report finds

Ultrasound. / CDC/Jim Gathany, public domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2022 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Americans are increasingly relying on chemical abortion, or abortion by pill, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Early medical abortion increased 22% from 2019 to 2020 and 154% from 2011 to 2020, the CDC found when looking at 37 areas that provided continuous data on medical abortion during 2011−2020.

The federal agency reported that, in 2020, the highest percentage of abortions (51%) were early medical abortions performed at or before nine weeks’ gestation based on data from 46 areas. An additional 2.4% accounted for medical abortions after nine weeks’ gestation.

The CDC usually releases its annual abortion surveillance report around the Thanksgiving holiday, as it did this year. The report, which lags two years behind, shows abortion data for 2020 — the year the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation.

The CDC’s data relies on voluntary reporting from the central health agencies of 49 reporting areas (47 states; Washington, D.C.; and New York City). The incomplete data set excludes three states: California, Maryland, and New Hampshire. Together, those states account for approximately 20% of all U.S. abortions, the report said, citing the Guttmacher Institute.

Other limitations with the CDC data include incomplete information reported.

On medical abortion, researchers agree that its use is increasing. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive research organization once associated with Planned Parenthood, found earlier this year that this type of abortion accounted for more than half of all U.S. abortions in 2020.

A CDC spokesperson confirmed to CNA that early medical abortion, here, is defined as “the administration of medications (typically mifepristone followed by misoprostol) to induce an abortion” at or before nine completed weeks gestation, in accordance with the FDA’s labeling for mifepristone that was implemented in 2016.

She added that other drugs (“typically serial prostaglandins, sometimes administered after mifepristone”) also might be used with abortion after nine weeks gestation.

The increase in medical abortion comes before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted restrictions on mifepristone, a drug approved for use in medical abortions, in 2021. But the FDA’s move represented a continuation of 2020, when a federal district court blocked the FDA from enforcing its requirement that women seeking abortions must receive mifepristone in person rather than by mail.

Abortion by the numbers

According to the CDC, a total of 620,327 abortions were reported to the federal agency for 2020. This number represents a 1.5% decrease since 2019 (with 629,898 total abortions reported) and a 15% decrease since 2011 (with 730,322 total abortions reported).

The decrease comes after the number of reported abortions increased in 2018 and 2019.

The Guttmacher Institute, which offers more comprehensive data, counted 930,160 abortions in the United States for 2020. That number represented an increase — not decrease — from 2019, when it listed 916,460 abortions.

The CDC, while looking at the 48 areas that reported data continuously from 2011 to 2020, reported overall decreases during that time in the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions. Most recently for those areas, from 2019 to 2020, the CDC saw a 2% decrease in both the total number of abortions and abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years), but a 2% increase in the total abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births).

For those same 48 areas, a total of 615,911 abortions were reported for 2020, with 11.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and 198 abortions per 1,000 live births.

Of the states providing data, Florida saw the the highest number of abortions at 74,868, followed by New York (63,142) and Texas (55,132). Washington, D.C., had the highest abortion rate (23 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (498 abortions per 1,000 live births).

Balenciaga apologizes amid outcry over ad featuring sexualized children

null / Roman Zaiets / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

Top luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has issued an apology after outcry over the company’s recent ad campaign featuring young children surrounded by sexualized symbols.

In the ad, young children — appearing to be no older than 6 years old — hold stuffed teddy bears that are dressed in leather bondage gear, including fishnet tights and chains used in BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission, and sadomasochism).

 

The images went viral on social media, provoking public outrage over other disturbing elements in the photographic ad series, including court documents in one photo that reference child abuse and pornography. 

“The ads blatantly exploit the innocence of children to glamorize perversity and sell merchandise,” Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Person and Identity Project for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA. 

Balenciaga has since removed all traces of the ad campaign and deleted or hidden all of its Instagram posts.

Kim Kardashian, a frequent partner with the Spanish-based designer and wearer of its products, said Sunday she was “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand.

“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” Kardashian tweeted. “The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period.”

Kardashian said she would base her assessment on the company’s “willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with” and “the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”

The company issued an apology on Instagram shortly after Kardashian’s reproof, stating it “strongly condemn[ed] child abuse” and that the “BDSM-inspired outfits” “should not have been featured in a photoshoot with children.”

“It was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” the post read. “We could have done things differently.”

The post blamed third-party entities for providing court documents of a real Supreme Court ruling on child pornography for the photoshoot. 

“All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents,” the post read. 

“The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.” 

The brand has since sued production company North Six, Inc. for including the legal documents in the ad for damages of $25 million.

According to Hasson, Balenciaga’s “thin apologies” are “calculating and ultimately meaningless.”

“Balenciaga and its elite designers had no qualms about surrounding children with perverse sexual images to push its products. They care about money, not morality,” Hasson said.

Social media activists have also drawn attention to disturbing content posted by the brand’s main stylist, Lotta Volkova, featuring photographs of children mutilated or held hostage.

Patrina Mosley, who formerly worked in leadership at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told CNA that Balenciaga’s advertisements are part of a growing push to “normalize pedophilia.” 

Mosley currently serves as a national advisory board member for Project 21, a Black leadership network that promotes the voices of conservative and moderate African Americans. 

“From Jeffery Epstein to Balenciaga, elite society is telling us exactly what they want — and that’s to normalize pedophilia. We still do not have the client list of those who frequented Epstein’s pedo-island, and who knows how long Balenciaga has been incorporating insidious nods to child sexual abuse in their campaigns. This is evil and just flat-out satanic,” Mosley said.

“As adults we have a responsibility to protect children, and they are grooming our children right in front of our faces for the next phase of liberalization: pedophilia, or as they have already begun to call it, MAPs: minor-attracted people,” Mosley warned.

Balenciaga did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Louisiana Catholic church community ‘rocked’ by reports of double homicide

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Boston, Mass., Nov 28, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana, says its community has been “rocked” by news of a double homicide that local police announced Monday morning, amid an unconfirmed report that the victims were the parish’s former pastor and a former employee.

A local Covington man has been arrested and charged in connection with the murders.

“Our community has been rocked by this morning’s news of the double homicide in downtown Covington. Please join us for a Holy Hour in St. Peter Catholic Church at 7 p.m.,” the post on the parish’s website says. 

The Covington Police Department has yet to release the identities of the victims, whom the department said in a Facebook post Nov. 28 were “burned beyond recognition.” 

However, a local reporter posted online that the parish’s former pastor and an employee of his at the church were reported to be the victims by “multiple people with knowledge of the situation.”

CNA is withholding the names of the alleged victims pending confirmation from authorities. 

WGNO reported Monday that one of the victims may be a “long-time prominent member” of the community, according to “witnesses.”

Earlier on Monday, St. Peter Parish posted online: “We are aware of news reports of an apparent double homicide in downtown Covington. There is speculation about the identity of the victims, but until this is confirmed by the coroner’s office, we cannot speculate about their identities.”

“Please pray for the victims and their families while we wait for final confirmation,” the post said.

Police said that the bodies were found by police “in the 500 block of E. Gibson Street,” which is about a half-mile from the church.

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of second degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. 

“We urge members of the public who may have knowledge of this incident to contact the Covington Police Department at 985-892-8500. Citizens can also submit tips anonymously through our free app, called ‘Covington PD,’” police said.

Police said that the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office; and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office were involved in the investigation.

The police department will be holding a press conference Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 10 a.m. CST. 

This is a developing story.