Don’t believe in hell? You haven’t seen Syria lately, cardinal says

March 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Mar 30, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Six years after the start of the Civil War, Syria’s apostolic nuncio said that the country is in a “bloodbath” – a situation so desperate it leaves you with the impression of being in hell.

“I do not know how to describe these atrocities,” Cardinal Mario Zenari told CNA March 25. “I always say, whoever does not believe in hell, just go to (Syria) and it will convey the weight of hell.”

“In Damascus ten days ago we saw on the television, this display, these Kamikaze, seventy dead, forty dead, it is a bloodbath,” he said.

Cardinal Zenari has been the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to Syria since 2008. A new cardinal, he was appointed by Pope Francis in the last consistory in November and came to Rome from Syria for his installation Mass at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie alle Fornaci March 25.

March 15 marked the sixth anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War. What began as peaceful demonstrations protesting ongoing human rights abuses and suppression of free speech erupted into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions from their homes.

Today an end to the violence is nowhere in sight. The majority of Syria’s population has been displaced. And new threats that have grown out of the situation – most prominently ISIS – have only added to the chaos.

Asked if Pope Francis is likely to visit Syria, Cardinal Zenari said that “he’s ready to come,” but it’s a question of security, not only for him, but also for the people there.

“If the Pope comes to Syria he would have to stay at the nunciature” for safety, he said, but this causes problems because when the Pope visits a country he “must meet the people, meet the crowds.”

With the danger of suicide bombers in Damascus right now, the responsibility is too high for him to come, Zenari said. “If he’s ready, he’s ready but you have to say wait a bit just for the safety of all, of the faithful… because of what we see, really, these huge bloodstains.”

It is very important, the cardinal said, to continue to raise awareness of the “enormous suffering.” He is afraid that after a few years, people will gradually forget the trauma, stop talking about it. It is necessary that we keep talking, praying, and working to influence governments to help as well, he said.

“There are so many of our brothers and sisters here, and, I would say, all-in-all, there are people of all faiths suffering…”

However, minority groups such as Christians are under the highest risk from others, he said. They understand very well the Christian view of suffering as universal and like the cross.

But though there is so much atrocity, Cardinal Zenari explained that “there are also many beautiful examples of altruism.”

Many volunteers, probably more than one thousand by now, have lost their lives bringing aid to Syria, he said, so they have these examples of generosity, people he calls, “desert flowers.”

Several times he has heard people list these atrocities before international communities, Zenari said, and every time, they see and do nothing.

“You should notice more of this suffering of the civilians, especially women and children,” he said. “It is time to notice and not just read about this but realize it means to do something.”

Alvaro de Juana contributed to this story.


Spanish bishop interprets Amoris Laetitia through ‘the preceding Magisterium’

March 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Alcalá de Henares, Spain, Mar 30, 2017 / 01:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Spanish bishop last week published criteria for the accompaniment of the divorced-and-remarried, inviting them to a “catechumenal itinerary” by which they come to live according to Christ’s words.

“The Church has only one goal to propose to man: the way of life that Jesus taught us and to which he introduces us in the sacraments,” Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcalá de Henares wrote March 20 in Accompanying the baptized who have divorced and live in another union, a set of provisions for his diocese.

The bishop began by noting the interest in and debate over pastoral care for the divorced-and-remarried  which has increased since the publication of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

He first recommended the indications found in a vademecum produced by Fr. José Granados, Dr. Stephan Kampowski, and Fr. Juan José Pérez-Soba, of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. The guide had been presented at a family congress in Alcalá de Henares March 10-12.

“The Church in her beginnings, when she saw that many asked for the sacrament of baptism while living a life far removed from Christian demands, proposed a catechumenal itinerary which included an important change in their mode of living which had to be verified in order to access the sacraments,” Bishop Reig then said.

“She did so with the conviction that the approach to the Christian community and to her way of life was the necessary support so that the person could respond to the grace of God and convert to the live proper to a Christian.”

He also explained that “penitential itineraries” were also developed “which permitted to be received again fully into the Christian community the baptized who, having moved away from life according to the Gospel, repented of their sins.”

The bishop stated that “in this sense and as a principle to avoid any gradualness of the law which the Synod of Bishops rejected and which Pope Francis disqualified in his apostolic exhortation, I encourage all our divorced brethren in irregular situations to draw near to the Christian community in order to participate in her life and accompaniment.”

By doing so they can “thus set out on a path which, step by step, brings them closer to Christ, going deeper into the Gospel of marriage, instituted by God in the beginning as an indissoluble union of man and woman and transformed by Christ into a living and efficacious sign of his love for the Church.”

“The goal of this path will be for these baptized persons to be able to live in accord with the words of Jesus,” Bishop Reig wrote. “Only when they are disposed to take this step will they be able to receive sacramental absolution and the Holy Eucharist.”

He emphasized that “the objective conditions required by the Magisterium of the Church in order to be able to be admitted to the reception of the sacraments remain in force. These objective conditions were expressed by Pope St. John Paul II in the exhortation Familiaris consortio 84, ratified by Benedict XVI (Sacramentum caritatis 29) and contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1650. Moreover, in 2000 the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts published its Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried.”

“It is by following these principles that we are to receive the magisterium of Pope Francis expressed in chapter eight of the exortation Amoris laetitia. That is, in continuity with the preceding magisterium (cf. Amoris laetitia chapter 3).”

Bishop Reig said that Pope Francis’ proposal “consists in promoting a greater outreach” to the divorced-and-remarried and “in promoting an itinerary that permits those who are in irregular situations to return to a life in conformity with the words of Jesus.”

“The discernment which the Pope asks of us refers to the path which we are called to travel, and not to the goal we must reach.”

He added, quoting from Familiaris consortio, that it is necessary to remember particularly that on the basis of Sacred Scripture and Tradition, the Church does not admit the divorced-and-remarried to Communion, because “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist … Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.’”

“That is an objective requirement which does not admit of exception and whose fulfillment must be the object of careful discernment in the internal forum; no priest may be considered to have the authority to dispense with this requirement,” Bishop Reig taught.

He noted that the diocesan office for family counseling and its tribunal are both available as an aid to priests and families dealing with irregular situations.

Amoris laetitia “encourages us, as was already affirmed in Familiaris consortio 84, to open paths of accompaniment which will help these persons to take steps to have the capacity to live the sacramental truth of their situation,” the bishop concluded.

“This is the concrete way to live mercy toward these brethren, offering them a Love which heals their wounds and permits them to live the plenitude of Communion with God and with the Church.”


This pregnant woman found her faith in 1930s Spain – and died for it.

March 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Madrid, Spain, Mar 30, 2017 / 05:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A pregnant woman who found her faith in a Spanish prison, refused to give up the name of her Christian catechist to her persecutors, and died for lack of medical care was beatified on Saturday.

“Emilia is a martyr of suffering, because she died some 10 days after giving birth for lack of medical attention, clutching her rosary. She had a chance to apostatize, to betray the one who taught her the faith, but she did not. She’s an example,” Historian Martin Ibarra told CNA.  

On March 25, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Causes of Saints, beatified Emilia Fernandez and 114 other martyrs of religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936-1939.

Emilia became the first Romani – or Gypsy – woman to be beatified by the Catholic Church.

“Emilia’s life up to 24 years of age was normal for an Andalusian Gypsy woman at the beginning of the century,” Ibarra said. “She devoted herself to her family, her work as a basket maker. She was a hard working woman, a Gypsy and honest.”

She and her husband, Juan Cortes and were imprisoned for trying to prevent Juan from being conscripted into the war.

Although Emilia was pregnant when she went to prison, she did not receive any additional care. Officials assigned her the same insufficient food ration as the rest of the female prisoners.

Emilia “carried her pregnancy in the prison under terrible conditions, and suffered a lot from hunger,” Ibarra said.

It was in prison where she discovered her faith.

“Even though she had been baptized, she never set foot in a church. It was especially through the rosary that her catechist Dolores del Olmo taught her,” Ibarra recounted.

“Every afternoon the female prisoners prayed, even though it was forbidden. Emilia wanted to know more about her faith and she asked Dolores del Olmo to explain it to her. There she realized that she belonged to the Church, and she learned the ‘Our Father,’ the ‘Hail Mary’ and the ‘Glory Be’.”

The warden for the women’s prison, Dolores Salmerón, knew that Emilia and the other prisoners were praying. She offered the woman more food and offered to release her and her husband on one condition: she must reveal the name of whoever taught her to pray.

Emilia refused to betray her catechist and so she was punished with solitary confinement.

A few months later, Emilia gave birth. “Between the cries and sobs, her catechist was saying prayers which Emilia repeated, although she could not continue because of the pain,” Ibarra added.

Dolores del Olmo, her catechist, baptized Emilia’s newborn daughter with the name Angeles. The new mother died 10 days later.

Ibarra is the author of the book “Emilia, the Basket Maker, Martyr of the Rosary,” which tells of her life and death. He said that Emilia’s devotion to the rosary led her to love Jesus Christ more.

“She fulfilled her maternity, risking her life and in fact she died for lack of medical attention,” the historian said. “She died from her sufferings, for being faithful to her faith, for bringing a life into the world and did not give in to her jailer’s desire that she apostatize.”

For Ibarra, Emilia’s beatification shows the vitality of the Church.

“She is a call to hope and responsibility, who teaches us with her life that God is at our side, even in difficulties,” he said. “Emilia went to prison hardly knowing the faith and when she died, she did so as a friend of God. That is beautiful.”

She was beatified in a group of martyrs from Almeria, Spain. They include cathedral dean Father Jose Alvarez-Benavides y de la Torre and 114 companion martyrs: 95 priests, 20 laymen and two women, including Emilia.

Emilia is the first Romani woman to be beatified. The first male Gypsy blessed, Ceferino Giménez Malla, known as El Pelé, was beatified by Saint John Paul II in 1997. He died in the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War for protecting a priest. Before his persecutors shot him, he held a rosary in his hand and cried out “Long live Christ the King!”

Iberra characterized both Emelia and Ceferino as “martyrs of the rosary” because both of them refused to stop praying it.

“This demonstrates that the Virgin leads us to God. For those two martyrs, she was the Gate of Heaven,” he said.





Archbishop Gomez: English wasn’t America’s first language

March 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In recent months, national debates over immigration and deportation have reached a fever pitch in the wake of President Trump’s election.

But for Archbishop Jose Gomez, both Catholic principles and the history of America as a home to people from a variety of backgrounds means that the immigration debate has higher stakes than just law enforcement or national sovereignty.

“For me, and for the Catholic Church in this country, immigration is about people. It is about families,” the archbishop said in a March 23 talk at the Catholic University of America.

“We are talking about souls, not statistics.”

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, the archbishop explained that he too was an immigrant, even though he has been an American citizen for more than 20 years. He pointed out that his family has been living in what is now Texas since the early 19th Century, and his family’s relationship to both America and immigration reaches back generations.

He also explained that his archdiocese – the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – is not only the largest, with around 5 million Catholics, but the most diverse.

Within the archdiocese, Mass is celebrated and parishioners ministered to in more than 40 languages, from nearly every country in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“The Church is alive here – and active,” he said. “And we are really a Church of immigrants.”
Nearly one million of these immigrants who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are undocumented.

Archbishop Gomez argued that this issue of large numbers of undocumented persons is something his adopted country desperately needs to address. This is incredibly important, he said, not only for immigrants and their families, but for America as a whole.

“Everybody right now knows that our immigration system is totally broken and needs to be fixed,” the archbishop said. However, while the United States has a right to secure its borders and enforce its laws, it also has to take responsibility for creating and benefiting from the situation that lead more than 11 million people to come to the country without documentation, he said.

“For many years our country did not enforce its immigration laws,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Why not? Because American businesses were demanding ‘cheap’ labor. So government officials looked the other way.”

The archbishop argued that “we need to recognize that we all share some of the blame for this broken immigration system.”

“Business is to blame. Government is to blame,” Archbishop Gomez said. “And you and I – we have responsibility, too. We ‘benefit’ and depend every day on an economy that is built on the backs of undocumented workers. It is just a fact. Immigrants grow our food, they serve us in our restaurants; they clean our rooms and our offices, they build our homes.”

He noted that while undocumented persons may be living here in violation of the law, “we aren’t putting business owners in jail or punishing government workers who didn’t do their job.”

“The only people we are punishing is the undocumented workers,” he charged. “They are the only ones.” While some punishment, such as community service or other requirements to stay in the United States may be appropriate, Archbishop Gomez commented, it is unfair to the families of nearly 11 million people to deport people with families – some of whom have been here for years.

“That is not fair. It is cruel, actually,” Archbishop Gomez said. “These are just ordinary moms and dads – just like your parents – who want to give their kids a better life.”

To balance love, laws, justice, and mercy, Catholics should consider principles that focus on the human person. The first principle, he said, is to recognize that “every immigrant is a human person, a child of God,” regardless of their legal status or background. The second Catholic principle to consider is that”immigration should keep families together.”

Archbishop Gomez pointed out that over a quarter of deportations break up families, and overwhelming majority of these deportations do not apply to violent criminals.

“I do not believe there is any public policy purpose that is served by taking away some little girl’s dad or some little boy’s mom. We are breaking up families and punishing kids for the mistakes of their parents. And that’s not right.”

While some common place policies could quickly resolve the issues surrounding immigration, Archbishop Gomez argued that the real conflict has more to do with ongoing questions about America – questions like what it means to be an American and what America’s mission is in the world.

The archbishop noted that almost all Americans are of immigrant heritage. “But immigration to this country has never been easy.” He pointed out that immigrant groups like the Irish have faced discrimination and hardship.

Yet, the history of America owes much to its immigrant – particularly Hispanic – roots, which long predate the arrival of English settlers, the archbishop said.

“For me – American history begins with Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Archbishop Gomez reflected. Before the founding fathers were born or before the Revolutionary War was fought, Spanish and Mexican missionaries and Philippine immigrants were settling in what is now the United States, celebrating the nation’s first Thanksgiving and establishing churches.”

“Something we should think about: the first non-indigenous language spoken in this country was not English. It was Spanish. We need to really think about what the means,” he said.

What it means, in his opinion, is that we “can no longer afford to tell a story of America that excludes the rich inheritance of Latinos and Asians.”

Conceptions of American identity that don’t incorporate the rich history of these groups, he said, are not only incomplete and inarticulate, they are not as well-set to adjust to the changing landscape of the United States. America is changing, and if America wants to be great, he argued, it needs to speak to the conscience and realities of the United States.

“That is what’s at stake in our immigration debate – the future of this beautiful American story,” Archbishop Gomez concluded. “Our national debate is really a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul.”


Moving forward amid crisis: A talk with the Order of Malta’s chancellor

March 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Mar 29, 2017 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- After what has been a tumultuous few months for the Order of Malta, Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager has opened up about the process of reform and the work they are currently doing to help migrants, refugees and those displaced by war and poverty.

“This crisis has been a bit challenging for me personally,” Boeselager told CNA March 29. While the order itself undergoes an intense spiritual reform after a recent crisis involving the Vatican shook up their leadership, Boeselager said, “I hope spiritual renewal will come out of it for me too.”

However, despite the difficulties the reformation of the order currently presents, the Grand Chancellor stressed the importance of staying on task, and not letting their humanitarian work, specifically with migrants and refugees, be set aside.

Boeselager spoke to CNA during a sit-down interview just over a month after outlining the order’s priorities following his reinstatement as Grand Chancellor and the resignation of their former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, at the request of Pope Francis.

Tensions in the order initially spiked after Boeselager, whose brother Georg von Boeselager was appointed a member of the Board of Superintendents of the IOR Dec. 15, was ousted from his position as Grand Chancellor in December. That prompted the Holy See to establish an investigative group to look into the circumstances surrounding his dismissal.

A public row between the order and the Holy See ensued, eventually resulting in Festing’s resignation upon the Pope’s request, the reinstatement of Boeselager as Grand Chancellor, and the appointment of a papal delegate to oversee the “spiritual reform” of the order until a new Grand Master is elected during an April 29 convocation.

In his interview with CNA, Boeselager speaks not only of the current state of the reform, but also provides some background on his own history with the order and highlights the important humanitarian work they are doing with migrants and refugees, which forms the backbone of the order’s activities.


Please read below CNA’s full interview with the Grand Chancellor:

One of the main priorities of the order that you outlined in your press conference in January was humanitarian work with migrants and refugees. Can you explain some of the initiatives the order is currently doing with migrants and refugees specifically?

The order is very much involved in the care of migrants and refugees in different parts of the world, in countries from where they come, on their way and in countries where they wish to go to. So we are active in the countries surrounding Syria: Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon, to help refugees from Syria and also, if security allows, displaced people within Syria. We are active in South Sudan, which is in a big crisis at the moment, and in other countries where there are migrants and refugees or problems of displacement of people. Often it’s internally displaced people. In Asia, in Thailand, we care for Rohingya refugees. In almost all the hotspots for migrants and refugees we are active. Here in Italy, our medical personnel serves on the Italian board to provide medical care to those saved in the Mediterranean, and in Austria, Germany, Hungry, France, we care for refugees that arrive in these countries.

Do you see any specific challenge that might arise with the increased migrant flow into Europe?

In fact at the moment, since about 12 months, the flow has reduced very much, so I don’t see at the moment a crisis of numbers in general. In the mid ’90s 0.5 percent of the population in Europe were refugees or asylum seekers and at the moment it’s 0.4 percent, so it’s less than before. I think in Europe it’s more of a crisis of leadership and communication than a crisis of receiving refugees or migrants at the moment. But that does not mean that we are not faced with a great challenge, because Africa is on the move, one can say, and we certainly need a more long-term policy to deal with the challenges which will certainly be coming.

On this point, I wanted to ask about a meeting you had last week on the situation in Libya. What were some of the major points brought up in that discussion?

The political situation in Libya is at the moment again deteriorating, and human trafficking as become a big business in Libya, and all of the parties in Libya, I think, are aware that this is an additional threat to the stability of the country. So on this issue they agree, but they are helpless to deal with it. Many migrants are held in detention centers, which recently someone compared to concentration camps. I’ve never been to one of those camps so I cannot judge by myself, but what we hear from the migrants we serve coming from Libya are terrible stories, so everything that can be done to mitigate the situation should be done. Even if the steps forward are very small, we should not give up and that’s why we try now for the third time to convene a meeting with representatives from Libya and from other international organizations to start discussing what can be done to help. We are at the moment also giving training to the Libyan coast guard. That has been discussed in our ranks for long, because normally we are very hesitant to get directly involved in military or police actions, but giving training to these people who in the future will rescue people from the Mediterranean I think is necessary, and we hope that we can build trust toward the institution in Libya so in the future we may be able to help.

In the communique you guys sent out about the meeting it said some new collaborations were discussed. What would some of these collaborations look like?

We hope that in the not-too-far future security would allow us to go into Libya and to start medical care for migrants in Libya.

Moving to the topic of the spiritual reform the Order is currently undergoing, what would you say is the ultimate goal of this reform in light of everything that has happened?

I think starting with the term ecclesia semper reformanda, we need to start with the person, personal reform and reflection on our way all the time. I think in a bigger time, steps, also institutional reforms, have to be considered. So it’s in this frame of permanent reflection; I think in Lent it’s a good time to reflect on these things. We have to look at the recent crisis, try to access where institutional weaknesses were at the base of the crisis, so it was more personal controversies which caused the crisis, and to see where we can reform the order so that we can go forward with more strength to fulfill our mission. The Holy Father has put a special focus in his letter on the First Class of the order, so those are the members of the order who have professed the three vows. Unfortunately there are only a few in the order – this is a situation we are living with for more than 200 years, so that’s not new for the order. And to see mainly what could be done or what’s necessary to allow more vocations to the First Class.

So would you say this idea of ecclesia semper reformanda was perhaps what Pope Francis had in mind when he spoke of a specifically “spiritual” reform?

Yes, yes.

What are some of the current steps being taken as this reform takes place?

The next immediate step is to elect a new successor of Fra Matthew in just four weeks, so in a month. So that’s where we concentrate on at the moment, to prepare this election. But we have already started to collect, just to collect from the order, from the membership, where they see a need for reform. We are not yet evaluating them, we are just assembling them and sorting them, and after the election we will first decide how to structure the process, which steps we take to organize the process and then start discussing issues of reform. This will take some time because we have to do it in great transparency, and transparency means communication and time so that nobody can have the impression that something is cooked in a secret kitchen.

Part of what was also mentioned in the Pope’s letter was the need to re-visit specific parts of the order’s constitution. What are the parts that might need to be changed or revised in some way?

It’s a bit early to say exactly what will come out. As the Pope mentioned, specifically the First Class, maybe something needs to be changed there, but that’s something especially the First Class members have to reflect on themselves, that’s not our matter. The recent crisis has shown some weaknesses in the check and balances and the governance, so we have to look at governance issues and I’m pretty sure that we will have to do some reforms in this regard. And maybe we have also to look at issues of training and preparation of members in the different classes, to strengthen their background.

Is there a specific outcome that you in your role as Grand Chancellor are hoping to achieve?

In my role as Grand Chancellor I see my duty to help moderate this process and trying to help to bring peace and unity in the order. So I will at the moment will help so that all these suggestions will be fairly considered and brought together, but not take a special direction, because I think that’s not my role at the moment

Moving forward, what do you see your role as? Could you possibly be elected Grand Master at the Council Complete of State April 29?

That’s fortunately impossible, because I am not a member of the First Class. The Grand Master has to be a member of the professed with solemn vows and the professed members of the order are the members who constitute the order as a religious order, and the head of the order has to be chosen from among them.

So you’ll continue as you are then?

I think this special feature will not change.

I also wanted to ask you some personal questions about your own background. Can you explain a bit of your own story and how you came into contact with the order?

My father and my mother were members of the order. My father in fact started the initiative to bring sick and handicapped to Lourdes after the Second World War. So these annual pilgrimages of my parents were part of our normal family life because it always took some preparation. With four children it took also a special moment we didn’t like so much when our parents went away for 10 days or so. Then I remember the first, most spectacular operation of the order in 1956 during the Hungarian crisis, when the order started to rescue refugees coming from Hungry and the Hungarian-Austrian border. Our dining room and the office of my father were the same room, and my father coordinated the interventions from Germany. So I still remember this as a very specific time in my youth, so the order was part of my youth. After my military service I went for the first time to Lourdes a bit sceptical, like sometimes children are when they are doing something their parents have done all the time. So I was observing a bit, and then (as I was) serving in front of the bath in Lourdes, one of the helpers in the bath came out and said ‘I need help inside’ and just dragged me in without asking. So I came into a cabin where the really severely (sick people) were taken into the bath and there were two Dominican fathers who literally kissed the sore bones of the sick and that really took me. Since then I have gone every year perhaps with one exception.

So you would say this was really the moment that inspired you to make a greater commitment with the Order of Malta?

Yes, absolutely. Lourdes is, I would say, the spiritual heart of the order. If you talk of reform, I think the experience of Lourdes for many members is a real source of renewal. Reform is not a theoretical process. Reform has as a condition personal renewal and reform, and I think Lourdes is the deepest source for us and for me too.

Is there a sense of personal renewal that you are hoping for moving forward?

I think this crisis has been a bit challenging for me personally, and I hope spiritual renewal will come out of it for me, too.

Anian Christoph Wimmer contributed to this report.


Planned Parenthood investigators reject ‘bogus’ felony charges

March 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 29, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The undercover journalists whose work appeared to implicate Planned Parenthood officials in the illegal sale of unborn baby body parts now face 15 felony charges in California, but one insists the allegations are phony.

David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress characterized the allegations as “bogus charges from Planned Parenthood’s political cronies.”

“The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress and DV Biologics – currently being prosecuted in California – who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law,” he said March 28.

California Attorney General Xavier Beccerra has charged that Daleiden and his co-investigator Sandra Merritt filmed 14 people without their consent in Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Francisco and El Dorado. The two are also charged with conspiracy to invade privacy.

Beccerra said his office “will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” he said Tuesday.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan funding watchdog, appear to show that Beccerra has received several minor donations from Planned Parenthood, totally some $6,000 in the last 20 years.

In the current case, court papers claim the undercover investigators’ surreptitious recording of officials involved in Planned Parenthood and other sections of the abortion industry were illegal. An affidavit filed in San Francisco Superior Court justified the conspiracy charges on the grounds the investigators used pseudonyms, fake California drivers’ licenses, and a front medical research company, Biomax Procurement Services, in order to secure a booth at the National Abortion Federation’s 2014 conference in San Francisco.

Daleiden compared the California charges to Texas charges that had been filed against him and dismissed in June 2016, including a charge he had used a fake California driver’s license to access a Texas Planned Parenthood building.

“They tried the same collusion with corrupt officials in Houston, Texas and failed: both the charges and the district attorney were thrown out,” he said.

The Center for Medical Progress videos gave great momentum to efforts to end state and federal taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, which receives about half a billion dollars in federal funds annually, about 40 percent of its operating budget. While this money is forbidden by law from funding abortions, critics charge that these rules may not always be followed, and that any federal funding frees up other money for abortions.

In January 2017, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Select Investigative Panel investigating fetal tissue procurement released its report declaring that there are abuses and possible criminal violations in the area. The procurement of fetal tissue for profit is illegal.

Although a dozen states opened investigations into the organizations involved, they did not find legally admissible evidence of wrongdoing.

Backers of Planned Parenthood have charged that the videos were deceptively edited, a charge Daleiden has strongly contested, releasing the full videos to support his claim.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Mary Alice Carter said that the California charges show “the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes.” Carter denied that Planned Parenthood has done anything wrong.

Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation charged that the videos resulted in a “flood of hate speech, threats and violence” to abortion providers.

Daleiden, however, defended his work.

“We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased video tapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all,” he said Tuesday.

On March 29, the Center for Medical Progress released its latest video, which involved Dr. DeShawn Taylor, a past medical director of Planned Parenthood who served as an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

The video appeared to show Taylor saying her facility’s treatment of babies who show “signs of life” after an abortion depended on “who’s in the room.”

The release of the investigation’s first video took place in July 2015. It and subsequent videos have drawn a massive response from Planned Parenthood and its allies. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Societies Foundation, published after a foundations’ computer system was hacked, found a planned $7-8 million campaign to respond to the videos. The Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Alliance were named as other partners in the campaign.