Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 06:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. a survey shows a “consensus” favoring a 20-week abortion ban, which President Trump has pledged to sign into law if passe… […]
Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid signs proclaiming “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries,” “#IstandWithPlannedParenthood”, and a host of other homemade posters ranging from the snarky to the explicit … […]
Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious leaders gathered in prayer for the country and the Trump administration on Saturday, continuing a decades-old tradition of national prayer at the start of a new presidential term.
Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2017 / 10:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, an international pro-life regulation that is generally seen as an indicator of an incoming president’s views on aborti… […]
Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 22, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For Catholics, it’s fairly par for the course to be questioned by non-Catholics about the Blessed Virgin Mary at some point.
And that’s probably because the Catholic Church has a … […]
Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2017 / 06:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For two Catholic bishops in Virginia, the execution of a man convicted of brutally killing a family of four was a time to reflect on God’s mercy.
“Our Creator, who made us out of love for love, has dominion over all life,” Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said in a joint statement Jan. 18.
“As children of this loving, merciful God we are led to a profound respect for every human life, from its very beginning until its natural end.”
They said that the death penalty should be abandoned because the state can protect itself in other ways.
“Our broken world cries out for justice, not the additional violence or vengeance the death penalty will exact,” Bishop DiLorenzo and Bishop Burbidge said.
The state of Virginia on Wednesday executed by lethal injection Ricky Gray, age 39.
He and his nephew went on a killing spree in January 2006, murdering seven people in a six day period, CNN reports.
He was convicted of killing a family of four who left their front door open on New Year’s Day 2006. The family had been beaten, bound, and repeatedly stabbed. Their house was then set on fire.
The death sentence concerned the murders of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and her 4-year-old sister Ruby. He was also sentenced to life in prison for killing their parents.
Gray had issued a public apology in the days before his execution, saying, “I’m sorry they had to be a victim of my despair.”
“Remorse is not a deep enough word for how I feel. I know my words can’t bring anything back, but I continuously feel horrible for the circumstances that I put them through. I robbed them from a lifelong supply of joy,” he said in an audio message posted on a website advocating his clemency.
Bishop DiLorenzo and Bishop Burbidge also reflected on the victims.
“We again express profound sorrow and offer our continued prayers for all victims of violence, whose lives have been brutally cut short, and their loved ones, whose grief continues,” the bishops said.
“We pray for a change of heart and a spirt of remorse and conversion on the part of the perpetrators of this violence and ask God to give all of us the grace to work for peace and respect for all life in our communities and our Commonwealth.”
Gray also confessed to the November 2005 killing of his own wife.
His attorneys had filed constitutional challenges with the U.S. Supreme Court against the execution, citing the failure of the lethal drug cocktail to make prisoners unconscious during executions in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma. The Supreme Court denied a stay of execution.
Lawyers had also appealed his sentence on the grounds that jurors did not receive a clear explanation of the severe abuse that shaped his life and his use of PCP and the drug’s potential to cause psychosis.
Gray’s nephew, Ray Dandridge, is serving a life sentence due to other killings.
Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2017 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York prayed for God’s wisdom as Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday.
“Give us wisdom, for w… […]
Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics must fight the societal ills of contempt, poverty, and unemployment through solidarity, recent speakers at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. insisted.
“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, quoted the Gospel of Luke in his Jan. 17 address to Catholic University students on “bringing America together.”
“We’re sought. We seek others,” he continued. “If we want to change public policy and we want to change American culture, it’s not good enough to burn a bunch of money to help poor people. What are you going to do today to need somebody at the peripheries of society?”
Brooks gave the first CEO lecture of 2017 at the Busch School of Business and Economics, in which he emphasized the importance of work in human dignity.
There are many poor or unemployed persons living “at the periphery” of society who “we prefer not to see,” he said, asking the students in attendance, “If all the poor people in Washington, D.C. suddenly disappeared, how would your life change?”
“I daresay that most of you, your friendships wouldn’t change,” he answered to the students, adding that “really, intimately,” their lives would “not change very much” without the poor nearby.
“This is a country that has split in two so much” that “we don’t need the poor,” he said. “We don’t need millions and millions of our fellow Americans in any meaningful way.”
One in six “able-bodied men” are not even looking for work, he noted, and rising rates of alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicides among white working-class middle-aged men without college degrees are “unseen and unheard.”
Yet this phenomenon of not “needing” the poor is toxic to society, he said, because “we need every human.” Every person “has the same inherent dignity,” he insisted.
“That is the source, all the politics aside, of the divisiveness” in society, he said, of “what’s pulling us apart.” The problem of “contempt” for fellow human beings, what he described as “the utter conviction of the worthlessness of another human being” is also at the heart of societal problems.
How can Catholics fight this? By going to the peripheries, befriending those with whom they disagree, and creating jobs that give human dignity back to the poor and the marginalized, he said.
He used the example of a program of the New York -based Doe Fund “Ready, Willing & Able,” which helps formerly homeless persons by employing them.
They “get back on their feet through work, through ordinary, sanctified, hard, honest work,” Brooks said. “That’s the equalizer. Human dignity is equalized when we all work in a sanctified way.”
The previous week, on Jan. 10, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston addressed a conference on “Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work.”
When global markets and institutions are divorced from morality, human dignity is threatened, they insisted. Catholic social teaching challenges the autonomy of markets by emphasizing the dignity of the worker and the right of workers to organize to protect their rights, they said.
“Increasing international trade and financial relationships, combined with rapidly advancing technological innovation and the world of the internet, have produced what we call globalization,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
“This development has produced enormous amounts of wealth but not a fair and just distribution of the proceeds,” he added.
Three current social trends are operating apart from morality and pose special dangers to the common good, Bishop McElroy observed.
“The first of these is the drive for the sovereignty of markets. The second is the technocratic paradigm which seeks dominance over the environment and culture. The third, and most worrying, is nationalism.”
“In a very real way they have been evacuated of moral substance and operate autonomously from any moral anchors as principles of politics and governance in our national life,” he said.
Globalism was said by St. John Paul II in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus annus to “lack morality,” Cardinal O’Malley noted. Thus, leaders “have the responsibility to establish a moral framework which can assess and direct the purposes and the consequences of globalization.”
Human dignity is “the cornerstone” of the Church’s social teaching, Cardinal O’Malley said, citing Pope Francis.
“This means that each individual is to be protected by a moral framework of human rights and that the work a person does, whether manual labor, mining, or intellectual and professional work, is understood as an expression of their dignity.”
The Church must work with unions to ensure the dignity of workers is protected against markets that are separated from morality, Cardinal O’Malley maintained.
“The case for unions is rooted in the Catholic sense of our responsibilities to each other as members of the human family; we are not to be left alone in society and or in the economy,” he said.
“We are called to support the right of workers, all workers, private and public sector workers, to organize and be represented in the marketplace and in negotiations by an institution, the union, which gives workers leverage and a voice in the major decisions affecting them and their families.”
Pope Francis “has been a strong public advocate for the dignity of labor, including making interventions when companies were intending significant elimination of jobs,” he continued, noting that the Pope “has argued strongly that in the midst of the forces of technology and globalization, people cannot be reduced to arguments for greater efficiency.”
Health care, the minimum wage, and immigration are all present-day issues closely tied to Catholic social teaching and the dignity of the worker, Cardinal O’Malley explained.
“Debates about minimum wages are most relevant to those closest to poverty,” he said. “Catholic teaching about the option for the poor places us in support of reasonable initiatives to raise the minimum wage.”
“Affordable health care is foundational for the well-being of individuals and families and lack of health care directly threatens human dignity,” he said, emphasizing that “our moral obligation not to abandon people in their times of need is clear.”
Just this past week, the U.S. bishops’ conference asked Congress not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement plan in place that would ensure health care coverage for those who most need it.
“While every country must balance numerous factors in determining immigration policy, particularly with regard to security, our national history and our principles call us to be a welcoming society,” Cardinal O’Malley continued.
“For decades the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference has called for systematic immigration reform, including protection of undocumented individuals and families.”
Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A reported drop in the United States abortion rate by the Guttmacher Institute is good news to pro-life leaders, who nevertheless acknowledge that optimism should be tempered.
“The news that there may be fewer abortions taking place in the United States is a great start to the New Year, though we have to take the abortion industry’s claims with a grain of salt,” the acting president of Americans United for Life, Clarke Forsythe, stated.
The accuracy of the numbers could have been affected by the lack of a “national reporting requirement” for clinics, he said.
Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University, echoed that claim, saying the numbers were “good news” but cautioning that “a confluence of factors” was behind them.
Abortion rates in the U.S. fell to their lowest recorded level since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the Guttmacher Institute, which provides research and analysis to “advance sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said in a report released Jan. 17.
The rate of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in the U.S. fell by 14 percent from 2011 to 2014, Guttmacher reported, with the current rate at 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. There were 926,200 recorded abortions in 2014 overall, they said.
And the number of pregnancies ending in abortion, excluding miscarriages, also fell by 11 percent since 2011, the report noted.
This continued a marked decline in the abortion rate, which had already dropped by 13 percent between 2008 and 2011. The overall abortion rate has seen a steady decline since 1980-81 when it was at its peak of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women, NPR reported.
Pro-life leaders have welcomed the overall finding of a smaller abortion rate, although they raised some questions about the accuracy of the report.
“That’s the core question,” Chuck Donovan of the Charlotte Lozier Institute told CNA of the accuracy of the numbers. For instance, he noted that California has no reporting of abortion numbers from its state health agency. The report itself states that “we obtained responses from only 58% of facilities that we believed provided abortions in 2014.”
This points to a “crying need” for better reporting of abortion numbers on a state and national level, Donovan said.
Nevertheless, among all the sources that are reporting abortions, they show a sharp decline in the abortion rate, he emphasized, from state reports to Guttmacher’s report to reports by the Centers for Disease Control.
The biggest cause driving the decline, Guttmacher suggested, could have been the use of contraceptives.
Dr. Rachel Jones, principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, told CNA, “we think the most important contributing factor is improvements in contraceptive use … That couples are using contraception more effectively, and in particular, there are indicators that more women are using long-acting methods such as IUD.”
There was increased utilization of certain contraceptive devices such as intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). The “reliance” on those two devices had increased by 130 percent between 2007 and 2009 and “continued, albeit at a slightly slower pace, through 2012,” the Guttmacher Institute said.
Jones added that “fewer women were getting pregnant in 2014 than in 2011…we think this is because the best available evidence suggests that more women are using highly-effective methods and therefore there [are] fewer unintended pregnancies. So that means more of the pregnancies that do occur are intended. And so, by default, these women chose to get pregnant and they choose to have a baby.”
Other, smaller causes for the decline in the abortion rate could have been state laws restricting abortions or regulating abortion clinics, Guttmacher said.
“Improved contraceptive use in recent years has led to a decline in the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate, suggesting that women are increasingly able to plan their pregnancies and therefore have a decreased need for abortions,” they stated.
“However, the wave of abortion restrictions passed at the state level over the last five years could also have contributed to the decline by making it more difficult for women to access needed services in highly restrictive states.”
19 states have passed “pain-capable” bills, or 20-week abortion bans, since 2010. Regulations of abortion clinics have also been passed by several states in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell incident, in which the Philadelphia abortionist was convicted in 2013 on three counts of first-degree murder of babies and prosecutors described his clinic as a “house of horrors” full of serious health violations.
There are a “whole host of factors” that could be behind the abortion rate decline, Donovan said. “We think there’s an awful lot going on.”
He pointed to surveys showing young people trending more pro-life, due to an increase in the use and quality of ultrasounds that show a baby in the womb. The violence of abortion would also be a turn-off to many young people, he said. A higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term, he added.
Teenage sexual activity has overall decreased, Donovan said, pointing to numbers from the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention showing the percentage of high school students who had ever had sex declined from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2013.
There have also been “changing understandings of abortion,” Camosy said. The unborn child was formerly referred to as a “clump of cells,” but the rise of technology such as 3D ultrasounds have enabled people to see a living, moving child in the womb.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards attributed the decline to contraceptives, NPR reported. “It shows that we’re finally doing a better job of helping women get access to birth control that’s affordable and that’s high-quality,” Richards said.
In the Guttmacher report, there was a 14 percent increase in “early medication abortions” that were “in non-hospital facilities,” like the use of the RU-486 pill in the first eight weeks after gestation. Donovan admitted this is a “worrisome number.”
It is also a “clarion call” for better tracking of the number of abortion injuries, he insisted, as the RU-486 pill can be taken by a mother at home and the complications or injuries arising from it are “outside of the clinic.”
And only just over half of states require reporting of abortion complications, he said.
Overall, the numbers reflect progress, Donovan said, pointing to factors like more resources for pregnant women as driving more women to carry their children to term.
Chicago, Ill., Jan 19, 2017 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former employee of the controversial Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests has filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination for challenging the organization’s misbehavior, including alleged kickbacks from attorneys who were suing the Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims.
In the lawsuit, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, a past development director of SNAP, claimed to have been fired after coming to learn “SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors – it exploits them.”
Although the plaintiff “had explicitly stated to potential donors that SNAP did not engage in kickback schemes,” Hammond’s discoveries while employed there allegedly showed otherwise – and the reputed proof is on an external hard drive.
“SNAP routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations.’ In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church,” the lawsuit charges. “These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”
Hammond’s attorneys filed the lawsuit against SNAP on Jan. 17 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Hammond was employed at SNAP from July 2011 through February 2013, the complaint said.
The lawsuit prompted a flat denial from SNAP president Barbara Blaine.
“The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse,” she said in a statement provided to CNA.
According to the SNAP website, Blaine herself says she was abused as an eighth grader by a priest who taught at her Catholic school.
The lawsuit claimed that the organization receives “substantial contributions” from attorneys sometimes totaling more than 40 or 50 percent of its annual contributions. A prominent Minnesota attorney who represents clergy abuse survivors reportedly donated several six-figure annual sums, including over $415,000 in 2008. Other unnamed attorney-donors who represent abuse survivors reportedly came from California, Chicago, Seattle, and Delaware.
Hammond claimed that the SNAP leadership provided a list of attorneys who were regular donors and “ordered Plaintiff not to reveal to anybody that SNAP received donations from attorneys.”
The lawsuit alleges that during 2011 and 2012, SNAP “concocted a scheme to have attorneys make donations to a front foundation” in order to conceal attorneys’ “kickbacks.”
SNAP describes itself as “an independent, confidential network of survivors of institutional sexual abuse and their supporters” who aim to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth in an effort to “hold church institutions responsible for enabling abuse and shielding predators.”
Despite the organization’s self-portrayal, the lawsuit charged, “SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”
The lawsuit cited an April 26, 2011 email from executive director David Clohessy recommending an abuse victim pursue a claim against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: “every nickle [sic] they don’t have is a nickle [sic] that they can’t spend on defense lawyers, PR staff, gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc.”
Hammond’s lawsuit questions the organization’s treatment of victims. It claims that SNAP “callously disregards the real interests of survivors” and pressures them to “pursue costly and stressful litigation” instead of the survivors’ best interests.
SNAP allegedly uses publicity about victims’ lawsuits to drive fundraising. The group “regularly communicates” with victims’ attorneys, often receives drafts of complaints and “other privileged information” which it would allegedly use “to generate sensational press releases on the survivors’ lawsuits.”
“SNAP and survivors’ attorneys would often base their case filing strategy on what would generate the most publicity for SNAP – instead of the best interests of the survivors,” the suit charges.
It cites an email of SNAP leaders discussing whether publishing a newsletter item would prompt more donations or upset abuse survivors. One leader said: “my initial response is that we err on the side of using it to raise money.”
The lawsuit suit claims the organization would “ignore survivors who reached out to SNAP in search of assistance and counseling” and had no grief counselors or rape counselors on payroll at relevant times.
The suit says Hammond helped the organization improved its donation-tracking software system, streamlined its donor list, and helped raise its Better Business Bureau ranking and received a raise for this work.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff oversaw the fundraising for SNAP’s trip to The Hague where the group filed charges against Pope Benedict XVI in the International Criminal Court. SNAP, together with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked the court to investigate Pope Benedict and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity related to sex abuse by U.S. clergy.
Hammond reportedly raised “some $1 million” during and after the trip for a public relations campaign premised on these charges.
SNAP allegedly used the funds “for lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses for its leadership.”
In May 2013 the international court dismissed the case as outside its jurisdiction.
The suit also recounts SNAP’s alleged efforts to counter a blogger critical of the organization, and gives what it claims to be background of several trials and legal disputes involving SNAP and priests accused of abuse.
The suit claims that when Hammond attempted to confront superiors about the practices, they engaged in retaliation resulting in the firing. Now, the lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and other relief.
Hammond, who identifies as a transgender woman, is currently a journalist for the Chicago LGBT newspaper the Windy City Times.
CNA contacted attorneys for Hammond but did not receive comment by deadline.