Abortions declined following Texas law regulating abortion clinics

3 days 19 hours ago

Austin, Texas, Mar 14, 2019 / 01:51 pm (CNA).- A recent study found that the number of abortions procured in Texas decreased 18 percent after the application of a 2013 law regulating abortion clinics.

Though the total number of abortions fell, the number of abortions procured during the second trimester increased.

A study published March 13 in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that second-trimester abortions increased by 13 percent while the total number of abortions declined by 18 percent following the implementation of a law regulating abortion clinic safety standards in 2013.

Texas House Bill 2 introduced two key regulations of abortion clinics in Texas: that abortion doctors had to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and that clinics had to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

HB 2, which was passed in July 2013 and resulted in the closure of about half the state’s abortion facilities, was struck down by the Supreme Court 5-3 in June 2016.

The March 13 study, conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, examined the 12-month period before HB 2 was introduced and passed (November 2011-October 2012) and compared it to the 12 months after the law was implemented (November 2013-October 2014).

The research found there to have been a total of 6,813 second-trimester abortions performed before the law’s implementation, and 7,720 after.

Meanwhile, there were 64,902 abortions performed in the first 12-month period studied and only 53,174 in the second period after the implementation of the regulating legislation.

The study’s authors concluded that the regulations of HB 2, though overturned in 2016, caused delays in abortion access for Texas women, resulting in more second-trimester abortions, largely because of increased distance from an abortion clinic, and waits of three or more days for the initial state-mandated consultation visit.

The study found women in Texas, on average, waited one week longer for an abortion in the 12-month period after the implementation of HB 2.

The study was published as New York legislators in January passed the Reproductive Health Act, a law allowing abortions “within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or (when) there is an absence of fetal viability, or at any time when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.”

The state law removes the act of abortion from the criminal code and places it in the public-health code. It strips most safeguards and regulations on abortions and allows non-doctors to perform abortions.

The bill aimed to protect legal abortion in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns pro-abortion rights precedents.

Catholic Charities Maine receives grant to expand elderly ministries

3 days 21 hours ago

Portland, Maine, Mar 14, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA).- Catholic Charities Maine has received a $100,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support 165 volunters aiding the state's senior citizens.

Maine's U.S. Senators, Angus King and Susan Collins, made the announcement this week.

“In Maine, hundreds of seniors make significant contributions through our state’s Senior Corps programs, including the RSVP program,” the senators said in a joint statement March 11.

“One of the many ways these selfless individuals help their communities is through home visits and other volunteer activities, which prevent social isolation. We welcome this funding, which supports Senior Corps volunteers’ efforts to address the unmet needs in our communities.”

Through the Corporation for National and Community Service's Senior Corps RSVP program, the volunteers will be trained under the Catholic Charities’ program SEARCH - Seek Elderly Alone, Renew Courage & Hope. The grant is a three-year program.

“The RSVP Program... strengthens public and nonprofit agencies like Catholic Charities Maine by building the infrastructure needed to efficiently and effectively mobilize experienced and skilled volunteers to support key programs,” Kathy Mockler, communications director for Catholic Charities Maine, told CNA.

The volunteers will provide home visits, chore assistance, and companionship. The volunteers will also help senior citizens with transportation to doctor's appointments, grocery stores, and other health care resources.

Catholic Charities will be launching this ministry in Somerset County and expanding its outreach in Kennebec. The ministry already has 190 volunteers providing aid in Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, Franklin, Lincoln, and Cumberland counties.

Programs such as these help elderly people facing issues like abuse, financial exploitation, loneliness, and addiction. Mockler said the volunteers will help solve the problems unique to senior citizens, noting that Maine has a high rate of poor senior citizens.

“The median age is the oldest in the nation (44.6 years in 2015) and, according to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly half of older adults in Maine are economically vulnerable,” she said.

For the last 50 years, Catholic Charities Maine has used Independent Support Services to connect volunteers to isolated seniors. The SEARCH program was founded in 1975.

Michael Smith, director of mission at Catholic Charities Maine, told CNA the agency was grateful for the grant and expressed joy for the benefit it will bring to the community.

“We are thrilled to receive this award as it helps fulfill our mission in a personal and compassionate way to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31) and we know how much it means to those we serve as they often note that without their volunteer they would ‘rarely get out of the house’ and that ‘it wouldn’t be possible to make important doctor’s visits and appointments without them.’”

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona was also a recipient of a grant from the CNCS, for $235,443, as was Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, for $73,110, and Catholic Charities Chemung/Schuyler, for $42,367.

Board members say Chicago seminary closure lacks transparency

3 days 22 hours ago

Chicago, Ill., Mar 14, 2019 / 11:35 am (CNA).- Members of the advisory board for Chicago’s college seminary have written to Cardinal Blase Cupich, saying that his recent decision to close the seminary was made without consultation or transparency, and will negatively impact the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“The complete lack of transparency surrounding this decision (neither the Board nor the Rector were consulted) seems symptomatic of many issues currently affecting the church,” advisory board members at St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago wrote to Cupich in a March 11 letter published by NBC 5 Chicago.

“Aside from the horrible impact this decision will have on the seminarians and our church in the future, we feel compelled to tell you that this unfortunate approach to decision-making is driving people away — not encouraging opening and healing to a broken church.”

Cupich announced in January that the college seminary would close in June.

In a Jan. 14 press release, the archdiocese cited declining enrollment figures and the changing demographic of aspirants to the priesthood, saying that the need for undergraduate seminaries like St. Joseph has diminished because men more frequently have completed college before applying to the seminary than they had in times past.

Undergraduate seminarians for the Archdiocese of Chicago will after June matriculate at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Minnesota, the archdiocese announced.

When the closure was announced, some complained that the news had come without warning during a visit of Cupich to the seminary.

In their letter, board members said they “expected more” from Cupich “than just an 11-minute announcement with no advance warning or dialogue. Discussion with the Board regarding your concern about the ‘numbers’ would have been our expectation and a far more appropriate approach.”

According to an archdiocesan report, college seminary enrollment at St. Joseph is in fact on the decline. In 2014, the year Cupich was installed as Archbishop of Chicago, there were 45 students at St. Joseph College Seminary. By 2017, that number had fallen to 28, and, according to the archdiocese, dropped to 20 students by January 2019.

The number of Chicago seminarians in postgraduate “major seminary” formation at the archdiocesan Mundelein Theological Seminary is also on the decline. While there were 63 Chicago seminarians at Mundelein in 2013 and 66 in 2014, by 2016, there were 48 Chicago seminarians at Mundelein, and 53 in 2017.

The advisory board’s letter said those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“While the very recent numbers have been disappointing to us as well, we’ve been more focused on the quality of young men over quantity. Moreover, the Quigley Scholar Program for High School students was just beginning to bear significant fruit.”

Indeed, archdiocesan figures suggest that while college seminary enrollment has declined, the number of graduates continuing priestly formation in postgraduate “major seminary,” could be on the rise: while in 2013, 2014, and 2016 only two graduates continued on for further formation at Mundelein Seminary, that number doubled in 2015 and 2017 to four.

The names of the seminary’s advisory board members are not publicly available, and calls to the seminary were not returned by press time. But the letter noted that some board members have been active fundraisers for the seminary.

“When veiled in complete secrecy, how can we, as a Board of Advisors with years of dedicated service and millions of dollars raised conclude anything other than this was a decision bereft of objective criteria and prayerful discernment? While talk about ‘transparency and accountability’ is a noble goal, here there was neither.”

The news of the college seminary’s closure came seven years after St. Joseph College Seminary moved into a new home. While the seminary had before then rented dorm space at Chicago’s Loyola University, in 2012 a new building opened with capacity for 68 students, and six suites for priests and faculty members.

Father Paul Stein, who was in 2012 rector of the seminary, called the new facility “a statement of faith and hope about the future of the priesthood here in this archdiocese and in the many dioceses and religious orders which we serve.”

In their March letter, advisory board members said that when the building was dedicated “Cardinal Francis George once again renewed the Archdiocese of Chicago’s long-time commitment to the young men discerning priesthood.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago did not respond to requests from CNA for comment.

The advisory board members said they will be waiting for a response from the archdiocese, and from Cupich.

“Your total disregard for the Board of Advisors, our Rector-President and others in the Archdiocese who have made significant financial contributions to the college seminary over many decades, together with the lack of any apparent consultation in making this decision, speaks volumes about the value, or lack of it, that you place on us, as financial supporters and  Board members, and on the long history of Niles College and St. Joseph College Seminary. We await your response with prayerful anticipation.”

Senate confirms Neomi Rao to Circuit Court of Appeals

3 days 22 hours ago

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Senate voted confirm Neomi Rao to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, with a 53-46 party-line vote. All Senate Republicans voted in favor of Rao’s confirmation, and no Democrats voted for her.

Rao will fill the vacancy created when President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She previously served as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and also taught law at George Mason University’s Scalia School of Law. She worked in the White House counsel’s office under President George W. Bush, as well as on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

During her confirmation process, Rao came under close scrutiny for her opinions on a range of issues.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is now running for president, questioned Rao about morality during her confirmation hearings. Booker asked Rao if she believed that marriage was between a man and a woman, and if she thought that two people of the same-sex in a relationship was “immoral.” He explained it would be akin to her thinking that two African-Americans in a relationship would be immoral.

Rao said that she would follow all judicial precedent when it came to these kinds of decisions, and that she would put any of her personal beliefs “to the side” as a judge.

She has not publicly commented on her religious beliefs, although her nomination was announced during the White House celebration of the Hindu holiday Diwali.

Rao also faced questions over her college newspaper writings, in which she appeared to argue that women bore some responsibility in preventing sexual assault by how they behave. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), a survivor of sexual assault, expressed reservations about supporting her nomination, but eventually voted her out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rao wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leadership where she said she regretted her editorials.

Concerns were also raised about Rao’s possible views on pro-life issues. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) threatened that he would not advance Rao out of the committee unless he was confident that she was not in favor of abortion rights. Hawley, too, eventually decided to vote her nomination out of committee.

Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels dies at the age of 85

4 days ago

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2019 / 09:16 am (CNA).- Cardinal Godfried Danneels died Thursday at the age of 85 in his native Belgium. Danneels served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and leader of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference for more than thirty years.

In later life, Danneels was widely recognized as an influential member of the college of cardinals and an at times controversial figure.

“This zealous pastor served the Church with dedication not only in his diocese but also at the national level as President of the Conference of Bishops of Belgium, while being a member of various Roman Dicasteries,” Pope Francis wrote March 14 in a telegram to the bishops of Belgium expressing his condolences.

“Attentive to the challenges of the contemporary Church, Cardinal Danneels took an active part in various Synods of Bishops, including those of 2014 and 2015 on the family. He has just been reminded of God at this time of purification and of walking toward the Resurrection of the Lord,” Francis said.

Considered among the more progressive churchmen of his generation, Danneels was an enthusiastic supporter of the liturgical reforms which followed Vatican Council II. He was also a prominent advocate for decentralized Church governance and interreligious dialogue.

As leader of the Church in Belgium, the cardinal was an established figure in national life, keeping close company with politicians and members of the royal family. He was sometimes criticized for his apparent willingness to embrace secular-liberal politics, once controversially describing same-sex marriage as a “positive development” in Belgium.

In recent years, accusations of mismanagement and cover-up of clerical sexual abuse cast a shadow over his past leadership of the church in Belgium.

Danneels was at the center of a national scandal when the Belgian newspapers De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad published transcripts of a recording in which he appeared to pressure a victim of sexual abuse to remain silent.

The victim had been abused by his uncle, Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, beginning at the age of 5. When the victim met with Danneels to report the abuse and insist on his uncle’s removal from office, the cardinal told the man that Vangheluwe would retire in a few months.

“I don’t think you’d do yourself or [your uncle] a favor by shouting this from the rooftops,” Danneels was recorded saying.

The cardinal denied that he intended any cover-up.

Danneels was born June 4, 1933 in Kanegem, diocese of Bruges, and grew up in a family of six in Eastern Flanders.

Ordained in 1957, Danneels went on to teach theology at the Flemish Catholic University of Louvain as a professor for ten years, after earning a doctorate at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome.

Danneels was appointed as the bishop of Antwerp by Pope Paul VI in 1977, became archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in 1980, and created cardinal by Pope John Paul II three years later.

After his retirement in 2010, Danneels would infrequently speak in public.

In 2013, Danneels stood next to the newly elected Pope Francis on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis later invited Danneels to attend the two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the family as a special delegate.

In a 2015 authorized biography of the cardinal, Danneels was listed as being part of a group of cardinals who coordinated efforts ahead of the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

The funeral for Cardinal Danneels will take place in the Cathedral of St. Rombouts in Mechelen, and will be celebrated by the current Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels Cardinal Jozef De Kesel.

In a March 14 statement announcing the death, Cardinal Kesel recognized Danneels’ years of service, “We are very grateful to Cardinal Danneels. For many years he has exercised shepherding in the Church in a period of fundamental changes in Church and society.”

“He has experienced trials, and in the end he was greatly weakened and exhausted. We continue to thank him gratefully. May he rest in God's peace,” he said.

 

Thursday of the First Week in Lent

4 days 6 hours ago
Reading 1 Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25 Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
"God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.

"And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness."
Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8 R. (3a)  Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Verse Before the Gospel Ps 51:12a, 14a A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the  joy of your salvation.
Gospel Mt 7:7-12 Jesus said to his disciples:
"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets."


- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Family researcher says conservatives should be on board with AFA child allowance

4 days 9 hours ago

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A newly-proposed U.S. child allowance policy could support families, boost fertility rates, and reduce childhood poverty according to one economist focused on family research.

The American Family Act is a broad expansion of the currently existing Child Tax Credit (CTC) - so broad, in fact, that researcher Lyman Stone said it could almost be considered something entirely different.

“...it’s almost better to think of the plan, not as expanding the CTC, but rather as implementing a new child allowance. For example, the bill calls for the benefit ($3,600 per child) to be paid out in monthly checks, rather than as part of a tax refund,” Stone, a research fellow with the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), wrote March 12.

The 2019 AFA is a Democrat-proposed and supported initiative, first introduced by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and backed by a majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress.

While the IFS typically leans right-of-center politically, Stone said most conservative arguments against the AFA fall flat, and that while the legislation is not without its flaws, a child allowance is something that should be supported across party lines.

“With a major child allowance now on the table, and with a real shot of being implemented in the next few years, it’s time for conservatives to take stock of the evidence on the issue and decide if we are really willing to support families,” Stone said.

The AFA would not only “dramatically boost the incomes of poor families,” Stone wrote, but it would also “be a net positive for virtually all single parents making under $150,000, and all married parents making under $200,000.” “That’s the overwhelming majority of parents,” Stone noted.

The policy is similar to those that have been implemented in multiple countries in Europe, as well as Australia and Canada, and could potentially have similar benefits of strengthening families, boosting fertility rates and reducing childhood poverty, he added.

“Some of the most compelling evidence comes from Australia, where numerous studies of their ‘baby bonus’ program found both short- and long-term increases in births and birth intentions,” Stone wrote. He estimated the cost of the Australia program to be about $100,000-$150,000 per child.

While population researchers have long sounded the alarm about overpopulation, the opposite now may be a bigger problem: in many countries throughout the world, fertility rates have dipped below replacement levels. In the United States, data from the National Center for Health Statistics suggests that the fertility rate is 16 percent below what it should be for replacement levels.

Australia saw a fertility increase of 1.73 to 1.96 kids per woman following their baby bonus, Stone noted, and the U.S. could see the number of births increase by tens or even hundreds of thousands if the AFA passes.

“Beyond these benefits, by reducing financial strain on families and creating an explicit benefit for childbearing, the AFA would support stronger families across a wide range of incomes. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that it could reduce the prevalence of divorces motivated by financial strains, as well as yielding other positive family outcomes. Australia’s baby bonus, for example, has been shown to improve child health and even eventual test scores,” he said.

One major concern among conservatives about child allowance programs such as the AFA is the cost, Stone said, and the AFA is estimated to cost the U.S. about $90 billion.  

Stone suggested that this money could come from a slight increase on taxes on excisable goods such as tobacco, alcohol, guns and gasoline.

“And while many conservatives may be upset about bullets costing 9 percent more than they currently do, that’s a small price to pay for cutting child poverty in half, making Social Security more solvent, strengthening middle-class family life, and pushing the birth rate back towards something that can actually sustain a civilization without needing mass migration to prop it up,” he wrote.

Even a family that spent a considerable amount on ammunition every year would only be spending potentially a couple hundred dollars more a year, compared with the potential of several thousand dollars per year earned through the child allowance, he said.

Overall though, Stone said he was not attempting to propose exactly how the child allowance could be funded but only "to note that while conservatives may balk at a $90 billion expense, it’s easy to find ways to pay for it that conservatives can endorse. Charging urban progressives a few cents more for their $18 cocktails to pay for parents to buy diapers is worth it.”

Another concern of conservatives over child allowances has been that it is just another government hand-out that would allow some people to quit their jobs and live off of government benefits, Stone noted.

However, most child allowance studies have shown that such policies have the biggest impact on the number of married women who work, meaning that the benefit, by and large, allows married women in two-income households to quit their jobs and stay home to raise their children, rather than allowing single moms to quit their jobs and live off the benefit, Stone said.

“Is it really conservative to say that both parents should always have to work? Since when were conservatives opposed to stay-at-home parents? Are we suddenly supposed to believe that conservatives want to see every adult in the workforce and every child raised in a daycare center? Of course not,” Stone said.

Furthermore, he noted, because the AFA would be nearly universal, it could be considered a benefit similar to Social Security or Roth IRAs, rather than a welfare hand-out.

“A simple, flat child allowance with a high phase-out will have only very modest work-discouraging effects, and mostly among married moms who want to raise their kids at home. It won’t eat away at anybody’s dignity for society to say ‘thank you’ to parents for their hard work in the form of a check,” Stone wrote.

Still, the AFA is not without its flaws, Stone said. For example, it removes the requirement for those applying for the benefit to list the social security number of each child, creating the potential for fraud. How the benefit is paid for will be another source of contention between parties, he added.

The AFA is also not totally universal, and would penalize some married people who are high earners.

“By not making the child allowance fully universal, the AFA creates distortionary work incentives, marriage penalties, and it excludes high-earners, who tend to be politically influential. Adding the children of high-earning households doesn’t add that much to the cost, and can solve all these problems,” Stone said.

Stone believes the AFA is unlikely to pass until Democrats have both a majority in Congress, and a Democrat president. Still, he said he thinks conservatives and progressives should work together to implement the policy because of the many ways it could strengthen and benefit families.

“The American Family Act would dramatically reduce child poverty while increasing the number of children born. Those kids would be born into families of all types, but those born into married families would be more likely to benefit from having at least one parent stay home with them in their early years. That’s a world I think most conservatives would like to see.”

 

 

With Venezuela in turmoil, how one religious sister cares for the elderly

4 days 14 hours ago

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 13, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Mother Emilia Rivero runs the Providence Nursing Home Foundation in Caracas, Venezuela. Even in ordinary times, caring for lonely, poor, and often forgotten elderly Venezuelans is not easy. And in Venezuela, where political unrest has heightened shortages of food, medicine, and water, these are not ordinary times.

“This is our charism, our work, to serve them, care for them, make sure that they have their food, are dressed, have clean clothes, have water, which has been such a problem,” the sister told Sky News March 2.

The elderly suffer the crisis in Venezuela acutely, as in some cases their relatives have fled the country, and in other cases simply find themselves financially destitute.

Some experts have estimated that the majority of Venezuelans over 60 depend on charity to survive, with the Catholic Church at the forefront.

The Catholic charities supporting elderly Venezuelans are themselves struggling for resources, especially since electrical blackouts began March 7 in many parts of the country.

Mother Rivero told journalists that many of the appliances in her nursing home’s kitchen, for example, no longer work, and the home has had problems getting water, especially since the blackout began.

Sky News reported that the nursing home where Mother Rivero serves can ordinarily care for 100 residents, but, due to the crisis, can accommodate now only 40.

Speaking to Aporrea TV in December 2018, the nun also clarified rumors about the deaths of the elderly at the nursing home. “Some people out there have said that the elderly here are starving to death. Thanks to benefactors, they can get their three meals a day, and we also welcome visitors who encourage them and bring them snacks.


“We have here at the nursing home 40 people, we also take in for lunch another 15 people, and some other people come for supper,” she added.

“We don’t have aid from any governmental institution” nor “do we receive money because they withdrew all aid,” the nun lamented, explaining that the nursing home she runs is sustained by donations.

According to CNN en Español, Venezuela has suffered blackouts for several hours for each week. While the Maduro government says the blackouts are caused by a cyber attack from the United States, experts have blamed an overtaxed and outdated electrical grid.

For his part, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who also claims the presidency of Venezuela, said that 16 states in the country continue to be without electric power while six have partial service.

Guaidó indicated the private sector has lost at least $400 million because the power outages affecting Venezuela.

According to some media, the lack of electricity has also left t24 dead in the country’s healthcare facilities.

The blackouts have also resulted in a failed clean water supply in some parts of the country.

 

A version of this article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Northern Ireland anti-abortion law has saved 100,000 lives, pro-lifers say

4 days 16 hours ago

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Mar 13, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- Efforts to protect the unborn from legal abortion in Northern Ireland continue despite efforts to bypass self-governance and go directly through the U.K. Parliament—efforts backed by a U.N. committee and pro-abortion rights politicians and groups.

Last month pro-life advocates marched on the U.K. Parliament in Westminster opposing any imposition of legal abortion on Northern Ireland. Ten women marchers each held a box symbolizing 10,000 people they say have been born because of laws that protect the unborn from abortion.

“100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because Northern Ireland did not accept the same abortion law that was introduced into Britain in 1967,” Dawn McEvoy, co-founder of the Belfast-based group Both Lives Matter, said Feb. 26. “These people are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. Abortion pressure groups have no mandate from us the people of Northern Ireland to impose abortion on Northern Ireland from Westminster. We urge the British Government to respect the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives.”

On March 9, several hundred pro-abortion rights protesters paraded to Belfast’s City Hall, calling for legal abortion in Northern Ireland. Some marchers accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of violating women’s rights. The demonstration aimed to mark International Women’s Day observed the previous day, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Abortion is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health. Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the U.K. up to 24 weeks.

May has said abortion should remain a devolved issue for Northern Ireland, which has self-governing powers.

However, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont is currently suspended due to disagreements between the two major governing parties: the anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party, which has traditionally drawn support from Protestants, and Sinn Fein, which has traditionally drawn support from Catholics but has taken a strong turn towards permissive abortion laws in recent years.

The DUP is a member of May’s coalition government in Westminster at a critical time in British politics, amid much controversy over the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

Amnesty International is backing changes to Northern Ireland abortion law.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s campaigns manager in Northern Ireland, called on the U.K. government to introduce “abortion reform” legislation in Westminster without delay. In a March 11 statement, she said devolution “does not relieve the U.K. government of their responsibility to uphold human rights in Northern Ireland.”

The group welcomed the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women report published March 11.

The U.N. committee charged there were “grave and systematic violations of women’s rights” in the region and criticized the failure of the U.K. to “ensure women’s access to abortion services,” including decriminalization of abortion, on the grounds that it is a matter for Northern Ireland authorities. The committee cited the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which requires the Westminster Parliament to legislate as necessary to ensure that the U.K.’s international obligations are met with respect to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s abortion law has been under increased pressure in recent years. Since abortion became legal after strong voter support in the Republic, abortion advocates have said “the North is next,” while pro-life advocates have said “The North Protects.”

Labour Party MP Stella Creasy had intended to propose an amendment to a draft domestic abuse bill to change abortion laws in Ireland, but the ruling Conservative government restricted the bill to England and Wales.

Creasy has joined MPs from multiple parties and more than 70 groups calling on the government to remove the restriction, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

“The Government has restricted the extent of this bill to try and avoid upsetting the DUP,” she said.

A DUP spokesperson said any attempt to change the law without approval of the Assembly would breach the devolution settlement allowing self-government in Northern Ireland.

“The government should respect the right of the Assembly to legislate on abortion,” said the spokesperson.

Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP representing Congleton in Cheshire, England, joined Both Lives Matter in urging the government to reject any effort to expand legal abortion.

“Abortion pressure groups are trying to undermine devolution and impose change to abortion law for Northern Ireland,” she said Feb. 26. “This is bad for devolution everywhere and contrary to Government policy.”

“These extreme proposals are out of touch with the will of the Northern Irish people, and in particular women,” she said. “It is clear that a strong majority of Northern Irish women reject interference from Westminster and believe that this is a decision for Northern Ireland.”

Both Lives Matter cited the polling group ComRes’ online poll in October 2018 of 1,013 Northern Ireland adults. It found 64 percent said abortion law should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives, not MPs from other parts of the U.K.

A Belfast woman plans to bring forward a personal challenge to Northern Ireland's abortion law to court this week.

In June 2018 the U.K. Supreme Court threw out a previous challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion law, saying the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which brought the case, did not have standing to do so. However, a majority of the judges said that the Northern Ireland abortion law framework is incompatible with human rights laws insofar as it bars abortion in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest or in cases of fetal abnormality. The U.K. government has so far not legislated any change.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

Some members of the House of Lords are attempting to require that same-sex marriage be legally recognized in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph reported March 1.

“In the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland, there are members on all sides and in both Houses of Parliament who want to get this matter resolved,” said Conservative peer Lord Hayward, who with Labour peer Lord Collins of Highbury is backing such an amendment to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill.

“Westminster has already passed Northern Ireland legislation in the absence of Stormont, so we know that we can and should address the issue of marriage equality," Lord Hayward said.

The amendment would allow the Assembly six months to overturn the provision after the bill becomes law.

Courage conference to focus on 'Courageous friendship'

4 days 17 hours ago

Chicago, Ill., Mar 13, 2019 / 04:19 pm (CNA).- A Catholic ministry announced Tuesday the theme for its upcoming conference for people who experience same-sex attraction and the families of those identifying as LGBT.

Courage International’s event will be held July 18-21 at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago. The theme of the conference is “Courageous Friendship: Inspiring Hope and Renewal.”

A clergy day will proceed the event to prepare deacons, religious, and priests on how best to minister to people with same-sex attraction.

With more than 150 chapters across 18 countries, Courage International looks to support individuals with same-sex attraction who have decided to live a chaste life.

The conference attendees will be able to hear a variety of discussions, consisting of topics such as pastoral ministry and psychology. Participants will also be able to be involved with opportunities of prayer, like daily Mass, confession, and Eucharistic adoration.

The speakers at the event will include Adam Minihan and David Niles, hosts to The Catholic Man Show; Avera Maria Santo, a young adult blogger and member of courage; Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum; Mark Houck, co-founder and president of The King’s Men; and Father Michael Gaitley, Director of Evangelization of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

Founded by Fr. John Harvey, the first Courage chapter meeting was held in 1980. The five foundational goals of Courage are chastity, prayer, fellowship, support, and good examples.

DeVos allows religious groups to provide educational services

4 days 17 hours ago

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Department of Education will no longer enforce a provision that forbids religious organizations from providing federally-funded educational services to private schools. The decision was announced in a March 11 letter addressed to congressional leadership.

 

“Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization,” wrote Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the Monday letter.

 

“The Trinity Lutheran decision reaffirmed the long-understood intent of the First Amendment to not restrict the free exercise of religion,” she wrote, referencing the 2017 Supreme Court decision in the case Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

 

That decision found that the state of Missouri acted illegally in not awarding Trinity Lutheran Church a grant for resurfacing a playground located at its preschool and daycare center. The grants were awarded to similar, but non-religious, organizations. Trinity Lutheran was denied solely because it has a religious affiliation.

 

In the decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court said that Missouri had violated the First  Amendment by denying the grant to to the church.

 

Citing the decision, DeVos said the department will stop enforcing the specific provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--sections 1117(d)(2)(B) and 8501(d)(2)(B)-- that prevent religious groups from providing specific services, including tutoring, special education programs, and mentoring.

 

The ESEA says that those enrolled in both public and private schools must receive “equitable services,” which can be provided by contractors. Until the Monday announcement, those contractors could not belong to any sort of religious organization, and in the case of private schools they must be independent of the school.

 

In the letter addressed to Congressional leadership, DeVos said these two provisions were unconstitutional.

 

“After consultation with the Department of Justice, I have concluded that the requirement in ESEA sections 1117(d)(2)(B) and 8501(d)(2)(B) that an equitable services provider be ‘independent of . . . any religious organization’ impermissibly excludes a class of potential equitable services providers based solely on their religious status, just like the State policy that was struck down in Trinity Lutheran,” said DeVos in the letter.

 

The secretary said that the exclusion of religious organizations by virtue of their beliefs constituted a “status-based prohibition” that “cannot be justified.”

 

DeVos wrote that allowing both religious and secular organizations to provide these services would not violate the Establishment Clause, and that “the Department generally considers faith-based organizations to be eligible to contract with grantees and subgrantees and to apply for and receive Department grants on the same basis as any other private organization.”

 

All other provisions of the ESEA, including that the equitable services provided be “secular, neutral, and nonideological” would still be enforced, DeVos said.

 

Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a professor at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told CNA that he believes the change is “actually constitutionally required."

 

"What the Department of Education said was they understand that the Constitution and the Supreme Court's recent decisions about the Constitution make clear that the government can't exclude religious people and religious organizations from participating in otherwise neutral programs,” Rienzi told CNA.

 

Rienzi explained that it would be different if the government were hiring people to preach religion or to celebrate Mass, but in this case, it involves hiring teachers from a religiously-affiliated school to teach secular subjects, such as English as a second language classes.

 

“What the Department of Education said is that the Constitution does not allow the government to exclude religious groups and religious organizations from participating on equal terms with everybody else in those kinds of programs," he explained.

 

The idea that the government forbids religious groups from equal participation in programs is “just not the law,” he said.

 

Rienzi compared the past Department of Education policy to one that would forbid the fire department from putting out a fire at a church.

 

“The church is a building in town just like the library, the bookstore, and the drugstore and everything else. And of course, the government can and should provide equal services and let them participate on equal terms with everybody else.”

California bishops praise death penalty moratorium

4 days 18 hours ago

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 13, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The imposition of a state moratorium on the use of the death penalty by Gov. Gavin Newsom was hailed as a positive step by California’s bishops Wednesday. But the state’s Catholic leaders cautioned the state’s criminal justice system was still in need of reform.

 

Newsom announced March 12 that he would issue an executive order to remove the state’s lethal injection protocol and close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. The moratorium will not result in anyone being released from prison on pardoned.

 

“This is a good day for California and a good day for our country,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles in a statement. Gomez said that the death penalty does not deter crime, nor does it provide “true justice” to those who were victims of crime.

 

Gomez, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has long called for an end to capital punishment throughout the United States.

 

In his statement, Gomez said that he believed the moral arguments for ending the death penalty were clear.

 

“Every human life is precious and sacred in the eyes of God and every person has a dignity that comes from God. This is true for the innocent and it is true for the guilty. It is true even for those who commit grave evil and are convicted of the most cruel and violent crimes,” said Gomez.

 

In the executive order, issued Wednesday, Newsom said that the death penalty was costly, ineffective, and racially biased in its application.

 

Gomez agreed with these claims, and said that he hopes action will be taken to “address the inequities in our criminal justice system, to improve conditions in our prisons, and to provide alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent crimes,” as well as to properly rehabilitate prisoners.

 

“Much more needs to be done in California to address social conditions that give rise to crime and violence in our communities,” said Gomez.

 

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco issued a statement March 13 on behalf California Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s 26 bishops. Cordileone welcomed an end to the death penalty in the state, and expressed hope that the moratorium could be soon codified into law.

 

San Quentin State Prison is located in Cordielone’s archdiocese.

 

The California bishops’ statement encouraged Newsom to “use well the time of the moratorium to promote civil dialogue on alternatives to the death penalty, including giving more needed attention and care to the victims of violence and their families.”

 

“Capital punishment is not a cure for the suffering and turmoil inflicted by violent crime; the restorative healing of victims and their families to the extent possible is an essential part of justice.”

 

California’s last execution was on January 17, 2006. Clarence Ray Allen, 76, was put to death by lethal injection for arranging the 1980 murders of Bryon Schletewitz, 27, Douglas Scott White, 18, and Josephine Linda Rocha, 17, while Allen was already serving a life sentence for murder.

 

There are 737 people on death row in California, the largest in the country and comprising nearly one quarter of the total number of condemned prisoners in the United States. California has not conducted an execution in over a decade due to a lack of availability of the drugs needed for lethal injection.

Arkansas moves to ban abortion at 18 weeks

4 days 19 hours ago

Little Rock, Ark., Mar 13, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The Arkansas Senate approved a bill Monday that would ban most abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Three Democrats joined 25 Republicans to pass the bill 28-6.

 

The original text of the bill only allowed exceptions for medical emergencies but State Sen. Jason Rapert, a co-sponsor of the bill, offered an amendment to include exceptions for rape and incest.

 

House Bill 1439 faces one last vote in the House, which must approve the Senate’s amendments, before being presented for executive signature by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. According to the Associated Press, the governor is supportive of the measure and is expected to sign the bill into law.

 

Should it become law, the ban is expected to face legal challenges. If enacted, the 18-week abortion ban would be the strictest abortion limit on the statute books in the U.S. Arkansas already has a 20-week abortion ban, enacted in 2013, which has yet to be challenged in court.

 

Gov. Hutchison signed a “trigger law” last month which would ban most abortions in the event the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade court decision that recognized abortion as a constitutional right in the United States.
 



The Diocese of Little Rock welcomed the trigger law, which would outlaw abortion except in the case of a medical emergency.
 



Arkansas is the fifth state to pass a law to ban abortion if Roe is overturned. Trigger laws have also been passed in Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi.


Similar bills are advancing through the legislature in Kentucky and Tennessee.
 



Tennessee’s Catholic bishops have voiced strong support for the measure in that state, while opposing attempts to pass a bill that would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat but would likely fail an inevitable court challenge.
 



In Georgia, state legislators are also close to passing a fetal heartbeat law, though the Georgia Health and Human Services Committee tabled a second piece of legislation that would have banned abortion following a reversal of Roe v Wade.
 



Democratic lawmakers are working to repeal a similar statute which has been on the books in New Mexico since 1969.


Last month the Arkansas Senate voted to advance a bill to require doctors to inform a patient in writing that a medication abortion could be reversed after the first pill is taken, an expansion of a 2015 law. Idaho, South Dakota and Utah have passed similar laws.

Former New Jersey priest, credibly accused of abuse, shot dead

4 days 19 hours ago

Las Vegas, Nev., Mar 13, 2019 / 01:50 pm (CNA).- John Capparelli, a former priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, was found dead in his Nevada home Saturday. Caparelli had been included in a list of clerics credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors released last month.

Capparelli, 70, was found dead in his kitchen March 9 with “a single gunshot wound to the neck”, the New York Times reported. His death is being investigated as a homicide. According to The Star-Ledger, his body was found about 5:10 p.m.

He lived in Henderson, part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. He had purchased the Nevada home in 2016.

According to the New York Times, the Henderson police have not yet identified a suspect, but are “following up on developed leads.”

The Newark archdiocese released Feb. 13 a list of clerics credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. Capparelli was among the 63 names.

Capparelli was ordained in 1980, and was assigned at three parishes, a prep school, and as a temporary chaplain at a hospital. The school, Oratory Prep in Summit, N.J., currently serves boys in grades 7-12.

According to the archdiocese’s list, Capparelli had multiple victims, and had been “Permanently removed from ministry/Laicized”. Accusations against him date from the 1970s through the early 1990s. The Star-Ledger reported that he was removed from parish ministry in 1989, suspended from any ministry in 1992, and was dismissed from the clerical state around 2013.

In 2011, the archdiocese said that though he had not been dismissed from the clerical state, he was not receiving a stipend.

In 1993, one year after being suspended from ministry, Capparelli became a public school teacher in Newark. In 2011 he was teaching math to ninth graders, according to The Star-Ledger.

The Newark school district learned of the allegations from the The Star-Ledger in 2011, and reviewed his record, but said there were no allegations against his time as a teacher. Spokeswoman Renee Harper said, “we will remain vigilant in ensuring student safety for all of our kids acting in accordance of the law.” He was soon after removed from the classroom and given an administrative position at the school district’s headquarters. Harper said that “he has not been demoted and remains an employee in good standing.”

He also served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University from 1990 to 2009, The Star-Ledger found.

Capparelli was never prosecuted or convicted of a crime, but he was at the center of lawsuits against himself, the Newark archdiocese, Theodore McCarrick, and the Boy Scouts of America. He was accused of groping, abusing, and photographing underage males, often in the context of wrestling.

He was the subject of at least two lawsuits in 2011.

One suit alleged that Capparelli sexually abused Andrew Dundorf for more than 10 years in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Another suit, filed by Rich Fitter, said that Capparelli groped, photographed, and brutalized him from his fifteenth to his seventeenth year. Fitter came to a settlement with Capparelli and the Newark archdiocese.

Capparelli was also accused of the embezzlement of about $30,000 by a business for which he worked part-time as a bookkeeper in the late 1980s. According to The Star-Ledger, the business heads “decided not to press charges” after meeting with the Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick, and after Capparelli’s family repaid the money.

He was sent to a treatment center in Jemez Springs, N.M., for several months in 1989, “on McCarrick’s recommendation.”

Analysis: What's next for Cardinal Pell?

4 days 20 hours ago

Melbourne, Australia, Mar 13, 2019 / 01:11 pm (CNA).- On Wednesday, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years in prison following his conviction on five charges of sexual abuse of minors. He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.
 
While the passing of sentence normally marks the end of a case, Pell’s situation is far from resolved. Although he remains in prison, his appeal is expected to be heard in June. Meanwhile in Rome, a canonical process is due to be held to examine the same charges against him.
 
For the time being, Pell remains a prisoner of the state and a sitting cardinal – a combination unprecedented in modern times.
 
Commentators, both Catholic and secular, continue to question how the jury reached their unanimous verdict on the evidence. At the same time, victims’ advocates are demanding that Pell be removed from the college of cardinals, and even the clerical state, with the same haste used to deal with Theodore McCarrick.
 
In the middle of this situation, many have been left asking: what is next for Cardinal Pell?
 
Although the Vatican has announced that a canonical process will examine the charges against Pell, those looking to McCarrick’s case as an example are likely to find it a false comparison.
 
McCarrick faced a litany of accusations and accusers – minors and adults –  stretching back decades. Cardinal Pell is facing a single accuser in criminal court. While it looks likely he will also face a lawsuit over allegations dating back to the 1970s and his time as a priest in Ballarat, prosecutors have already dropped plans for a criminal trial on these grounds.
 
McCarrick, of course, never faced a day in civil court. Consequently, there were no court documents or witness transcripts to consider during the canonical process. Given the strength and volume of the accusations he faced, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dealt with McCarrick using a stream-lined administrative process.
 
Pell’s canon lawyers are likely to argue for, even insist on, a full trial in Rome – itself a far lengthier process which could take at least as long as Pell’s civil trial.
 
Before this can even begin, the initial stages of the canonical process involve a preliminary investigation charged with gathering readily-available information on the charges. This will almost certainly include the evidence used in court to convict Pell in Victoria, but Vatican investigators and Pell’s own canonists will be equally interested in any new material that becomes available during his appeal.
 
While a canonical process against Pell may well be officially underway in Rome, it is highly unlikely to begin in earnest until he is either vindicated by an Australian appeals court or exhausts his appeal options.
 
Back in Victoria, Pell’s legal team are basing their appeal to the Supreme Court in Victoria in part on the “unreasonableness” of the jury’s finding.
 
“The verdicts are unreasonable and cannot be supported, having regard to the evidence, because on the whole of the evidence, including unchallenged exculpatory evidence from more than 20 Crown witnesses, it was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone,” his lawyers wrote in their filing.
 
At the center of much of the criticism of the decision against Pell is the apparent lack of corroborating evidence or testimony. Pell’s lawyers were not permitted to question the wider reliability of his accuser, despite the supposed second victim having died in 2014 after repeatedly denying he had been abused.
 
While the eight men and four women were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Pell’s guilt, a previous jury returned a split decision of 10-2 in favor of acquitting Pell, multiple sources told CNA, resulting in a mistrial. Many have asked if the second verdict was a condemnation of the Catholic Church in Australia, rather than Pell in particular.
 
Others have noted the decades of media focus and vilification directed personally at Pell, but having nothing to do with the charges he faced. During the hour-long televised reading of the sentence, Judge Peter Kidd noted “it is fair to say that in some sections of the community [Pell is] a publicly vilified figure.”
 
“We have witnessed, outside of this court and within our community, examples of a witch-hunt or a lynch mob mentality in relation to you, Cardinal Pell. I utterly condemn such behavior,” Kidd said.
 
The extent to which this mob mentality might have played a role inside the court will likely feature in Pell’s appeal. Such a mentality was crucial in overturning the conviction of Archbishop Philip Wilson last year, when a judge found that the conviction was aimed at the Church as an institution and did not reflect the evidence against Wilson.
 
With the threat of a second trial lifted, it also seems unlikely the appeal process could be subjected to the same draconian media restrictions that covered the first hearing of the case, allowing the evidence against him to receive the same scrutiny and criticism to which Pell has been subjected for decades.  
 
In the interim, despite calls from advocates and victims’ groups, Rome seems unlikely to take any further action regarding Pell in the near-term. While the official Vatican response has remained scrupulously respectful of the Australian courts, privately many in Rome have expressed horror at the verdict, including many of those relieved to see Pell removed from his work reforming the Vatican finances.
 
Pope Francis will have no desire or incentive to preempt Pell’s appeal or appear to vindicate a contentious verdict by removing him from the college of cardinals, still less run the risk of being seen to have hung him out to dry if the appeal should prove successful.
 
Before his incarceration, Pell was under precautionary measures not to engage in public ministry or have contact with minors during his trial. Now, with Pell reportedly in solitary confinement for most of the day, these measures are somewhat redundant.

According to Australian prison authorities, prisoners are not permitted to lead religious services or have wine, meaning that Pell cannot say Mass, even privately, under his current conditions.
 
With no definitive result in either the civil or canonical courts, and no further limits on Pell’s freedom possible, what follows now for his critics and supporters, both in Rome and Australia – and for Pell himself – is likely to be a long wait until June.

Ohio can defund Planned Parenthood, court rules

4 days 22 hours ago

Columbus, Ohio, Mar 13, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A state law in Ohio that effectively defunds Planned Parenthood is legal, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday in a split decision. The state passed a law in 2016 that banned state funds from going to medical providers that offer abortions.

 

In 2018, the Sixth Circuit unanimously found that Ohio’s law was unconstitutional. The state appealed, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the earlier decision March 12 with a 11-6 vote.

 

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who authored the majority opinion, said that Ohio had no constitutional requirement to provide money to any private organization, Planned Parenthood or otherwise.

 

“The state may choose to not subsidize constitutionally protected activities,” wrote Sutton. “Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech,” the state has “no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion.”

Planned Parenthood operates 26 clinics in Ohio, and will lose about $1.5 million in state funds as a result of this decision.
 

Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, told CNA that she agreed with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that Planned Parenthood has “no constitutional ‘right’ to offer women abortions, nor to receive public taxpayer dollars for doing so.”

 

“I applaud the court’s strong denunciation of Planned Parenthood for claiming to represent the best interests of women when it advocates for unlimited abortion, as if that were either a health-based or justice-minded approach to the gift of human life,” said Foster.

 

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio CEO Iris E. Harvey described the decision as a “devastating blow” for the people of Ohio, and pledged to “continue to fight” for its patients.

 

Dr. Leana Wen, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the decision will result in serious damage to public health in Ohio.

 

“I recently visited our Ohio health centers where I saw for myself the public health necessity of our Planned Parenthood programs that reduce maternal and infant mortality, cut STI and HIV rates, and provide breast and cervical cancer screenings,” said Wen.

 

No Planned Parenthood clinics provide mammography services, and last year Planned Parenthood performed 58,612 more abortions than pap smears in its clinics nationwide. Last year, Planned Parenthood provided 2,831 adoption referrals--a rate of one adoption referral for every 117 abortions.

 

None of Planned Parenthood’s locations in Ohio advertise that they offer prenatal care services. All advertise that they provide either abortion services or referral for an abortion.

 

Due to the numerous legal challenges, the law never had a chance to go into effect. It is unclear when this will happen.

Vatican spokesmen: Pope Francis’ seventh year will be ‘synodal’

4 days 23 hours ago

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- On the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election Wednesday, the Vatican's chief spokesman said Francis will continue to lead the Church as a synodal “field hospital” in the year ahead.

 

Pope Francis “has a vision of an ‘outgoing’ Church and a ‘field hospital’ Church,” Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office told Vatican Media March 13.

 

“The outgoing Church presupposes that you walk … and ‘synodal’ means walking together,” he continued.

 

Gisotti connected Pope Francis’ vision of the Church, from the beginning of his pontificate, as a field hospital to the Vatican’s recent sex abuse summit on the protection of minors.

 

“With the meeting on the protection of minors we have seen a Church that has the courage to bind the wounds of women and men of our time,” Gisotti said.

 

The Vatican spokesman reaffirmed that last month’s Vatican summit necessitated concrete follow-up on the global issue of the protection of minors. This next phase will include the publication of a motu proprio, a handbook from the Congregation on the Doctrine of Faith with a series of regulations, and a task force with experts that can consult bishops’ conferences on the issue of child protection.

 

“Many had some doubts that it was appropriate to hold this meeting, while the Pope in this regard showed courage and also, in my opinion, a prophetic courage, because for the first time - in the face of a terrible scandal that puts at risk not only the credibility, but in some respects the very mission of the Church - he convoked all the presidents of the episcopates,” Gisotti said.

 

Vatican Media Editor Andrea Tornielli also said that pope’s sixth year will be “marked at the beginning and the end by two ‘synodal’ events,” the Vatican sex abuse summit and the special Synod on the Amazon respectively.

 

“But a look at the past year cannot ignore the re-emergence of the abuse scandal and the internal divisions that led the former nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò last August to publicly demand the resignation of the Pope for the management of the McCarrick case, just as Francis celebrated the Eucharist with thousands of families in Dublin proposing the beauty and value of Christian marriage,” Tornielli wrote in an Italian editorial on the eve of the pope’s anniversary.

 

“The Church, as Pope Francis reminds us today, is not self-sufficient precisely because she too recognizes herself as a beggar asking for healing, in need of mercy and forgiveness from her Lord and she bears witness to the Gospel to many wounded men and women of our time,” he said.

 

“Perhaps never before as in the troubled year just gone by, the sixth of his pontificate, has the Pope who presents himself as ‘a forgiven sinner,’ testified to this essential and most relevant fact of the Christian faith,” he continued.

 

The pope spent the sixth anniversary of his election as the 265th successor of St. Peter on a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman curia, held outside of Vatican City.

 

At the retreat Wednesday, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told Pope Francis and 64 members of the Roman curia that “we are asking that the Lord be your light, support and comfort in your task of confirming your brethren in faith, of being the foundation of unity, and of showing everyone the way that leads to heaven.”