Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis: The true measure of success is what you give, not what you have

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

“Do you want to be first? Serve. This is the way,” the pope said.

The Vatican Nativity scene 2021 will include llamas and superfood for Baby Jesus

A screenshot of a 3D rendering of a Peruvian Nativity scene that will be featured at the Vatican during the 2021 Christmas season. / ACI Prensa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Last year, the Vatican nativity set came, for some, from outer space; in 2021 it is coming from the Andes.  

The 2021 manger that will be placed in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to celebrate Christmas will arrive from the town of Chopcca, Peru, a small town nestled in the Andes over 12,000 feet high. 

"As of December 15 and for 45 days, more than 100 million tourists and followers of the media will be attentive to the Christmas celebrations in the Holy See that will revolve around the Andean manger," indicates a note from the Andina news agency, the official media outlet for Peru.

Last year's nativity scene, a set of 54 figures dating to the 1960s and 1970s, was panned by many on social media. One detractor described it as "some car parts, kid toys, and an astronaut."

The Vatican has not announced the details yet, but the local news agency released a video with a 3-D rendering of the nativity scene. You can a video from ACI Prensa (in Spanish) about the 3D rendering below:

Chopcca's nativity scene will have more than 30 pieces and will be made by five renowned Huancavelica artists. Huancavelica is located nearly halfway between Lima and Cusco.

The images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the Child Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds will be made on a realistic scale with materials such as ceramics, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will wear the typical Chopcca clothing.

The Child Jesus will be represented by a "Hilipuska" child, wrapped in a “chumpi” or woven belt and covered with a typical Huancavelica blanket.

The Three Wise Men, or Magi, will carry saddlebags or woven sacks from the region with popular superfoods, such as quinoa, kiwicha, cañihua, and potatoes, they will be accompanied by llamas that will have the Peruvian flag on their backs.

Several other local Peruvian animals such as alpacas, vicuñas (a more beautiful relative of the llama), sheep, vizcachas (related to rabbits with squirrel-like features), parihuanas or Andean flamingos, and the condor will also be present.

The Regional Government of Huancavelica will present the manger to Pope Francis in gratitude for having chosen Peru in the year in which it celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.

Canadian archbishop: Only fully vaccinated can attend Mass

Coronavirus vaccine, stock image. / M-Foto/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 22:48 pm (CNA).

Anyone age 12 or over attending a gathering at Catholic churches, rectories or community centers under the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Moncton must present proof that they are fully vaccinated, the archdiocese announced Friday.

The new policy applies to all religious celebrations, Sunday and weekday Masses, baptisms, wedding and funerals, parish and pastoral meetings, catechesis, and social meetings.

The archdiocese's announcement comes in the wake of new provincial government rules set to take effect Tuesday requiring proof of vaccination to access certain events, services, and businesses. Fewer than 50 people have died from COVID-19 in the province of New Brunswick since the pandemic began, out of a total population of more than 780,000, according to government statistics. But provincial officials say they are concerned about a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

The New Brunswick rules apply to those 12 and older seeking to attend “indoor organized gatherings,” including weddings, funerals, conferences, workshops and parties, excepting parties at a private dwelling.

Other events requiring such proof include indoor festivals, performing arts and sports events; movie theaters, nightclubs, bowling alleys and casinos; gyms, indoor pools, and indoor recreation facilities; and indoor and outdoor dining and drinking at restaurants. Proof of vaccination also is needed to visit a long-term care facility.

Events, business and services must have proof of vaccination and government-issued identification from all participants and patrons aged 12 and older. Individuals who claim a medical exemption must show proof. Failure to follow the rules can be fined for amounts between $172 and $772 Canadian, about $135 to $605.

There have been 48 Covid-19-related deaths in New Brunswick out of some 3,200 total cases since the epidemic began. However, there are now some 370 active cases, higher than its previous peak of 348 on Jan. 25, CBC News reports. The province recently witnessed its largest single-day report of new COVID cases, when active cases jumped by 63.

About 17 people in the province are currently hospitalized, 10 of whom are in intensive care.

“As we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic, it is imperative that we do what is needed to protect our residents while living with the reality that the virus is still with us,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. The premier had loosened COVID restrictions on July 30.

“These changes are necessary to ensure that our province is able to remain in Green and avoid lockdowns, which we know are detrimental to businesses and people’s mental health. We also need to avoid overwhelming our health-care system. The vaccine is an effective tool that can help us combat this virus, but more people must get vaccinated to provide us all with better protection.

Dorothy Shephard, the provincial minister of health, met with religious leaders after the Sept. 15 announcement of the new rules, Archbishop Valery Vienneau of Moncton said Sept. 17.

“While explaining new guidelines, she indicated that they had only one goal: to increase the rate of people fully vaccinated in the province,” the archbishop said in a statement.

“We ask you to implement these new measures in each of your Christian communities not only to respect the government's request but above all to help stop the spread of the virus among our population. We would not want one of our places of worship to be the location of a COVID exposure due to our negligence,” Archbishop Vienneau said. “The Minister of Health is counting on our cooperation.”

The archbishop said volunteers are expected to be at the church doors to ask attendees for full proof of vaccination and to collect their names. This list can be used again each Sunday to avoid repeated requests for proof of vaccination from repeat visitors.

“This list may eventually be requested by the government,” the archbishop noted.

The rules apply to everyone present, excepting those under age 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

The only possible other exception to this mandate is for someone with a proof of medical exemption, which is rare. Parish employees who do not seek vaccination must wear a mask at all times and take a COVID test periodically. Any parish office visitor may be asked to wear a mask if not vaccinated.

Health authorities are concerned that the vaccinated can still pass on the virus to vulnerable groups, like children too young to be vaccinated. Some 80% of new positive coronavirus cases in the province are among the unvaccinated. Over 77.5% of New Brunswick residents have been fully vaccinated, while over 86% have had at least one dose. The province’s population numbers over 750,000 people, about half of whom are Catholic.

The government aims for a vaccination rate of about 90% and the health minister aims to allow gatherings only of fully vaccinated people “to keep people safe and to act as an incentive for the unvaccinated,” the archbishop said. A return to previous measures like masking and social distancing is not being promoted for this reason, he reported.

Under the new rules, anyone entering New Brunswick will have to register with health authorities. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 14 days or wait for a negative test 10 days into their stay.

A provincial bill to remove religious and philosophical exemptions from the mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren narrowly failed last year and could be reintroduced.

Vaccine mandates have prompted debates among Catholics about conscientious exemption, the risks and benefits of the available COVID-19 vaccines, and the ethics and legality of vaccine mandates imposed by governments and employers, including some U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and therefore “must be voluntary.” In its December 2020 note, it said that the morality of vaccination depends on both the duty to pursue the common good and the duty to protect one’s own health, and that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

Justice Clarence Thomas credits Catholic nuns’ anti-racist example

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 16:41 pm (CNA).

Catholic nuns and his grandparents’ example helped instill in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas the belief that all people were children of God and that the racist flaws of American society were a betrayal of its best promises, he said in a lecture Thursday.

“My nuns and my grandparents lived out their sacred vocation in a time of stark racial animus, and did so with pride with dignity and with honor. May we find it within ourselves to emulate them,” Justice Thomas said at the University of Notre Dame Sept. 16.

“To this day I revere, admire and love my nuns. They were devout, courageous and principled women.”

Thomas, only the second Black Supreme Court justice, delivered the Tocqueville Lecture at the invitation of the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, a new Notre Dame initiative that focuses on discussions and scholarship related to Catholicism and the common good.

“In my generation, one of the central aspects of our lives was religion and religious education,” he said. “The single biggest event in my early life was going to live with my grandparents in 1955.”

His grandfather was a “very devout” Catholic convert, while his grandmother was a Baptist. Thomas, then a second grader, was sent with his brother to St. Benedict the Moor Grammar School in Savannah, Georgia. He was not Catholic at the time, but would convert at a young age.

“Between my grandparents and my nuns, I was taught pedagogically and experientially to navigate through and survive the negativity of a segregated world without negating the good that there was or, as my grandfather frequently said, without ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water,’” the Supreme Court justice said.

“There was of course quotidian and pervasive segregation and race-based laws which were repulsive and at odds with the principles of our country,” he said, but there was also “a deep and abiding love for our country and a firm desire to have the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship regardless how society treated us.”

Said Thomas: “There was never any doubt that we were equally entitled to claim the promise of America as our birthright, and equally duty-bound to honor and defend her to the best of our ability. We held these ideals first and foremost because we were raised to know that, as children of God, we were inherently equal and equally responsible for our actions.”

Thomas spoke of his second grade teacher Sister Mary Dolorosa’s catechism lessons, during which she would ask the class why God had created them.

“In unison our class of about 40 kids would answer loudly, reciting the Baltimore Catechism: ‘God created me to know love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next,’” he said.

“Through many years of school and extensive reading since then, I have yet to hear a better explanation of why we are here. It was the motivating truth of my childhood and remains a central truth today," he said.

“Because I am a child of God there is no force on this earth that can make me any less than a man of equal dignity and equal worth,” he said. This truth was “repeatedly restated and echoed throughout the segregated world of my youth” and “reinforced our proper roles as equal citizens, not the perversely distorted and reduced role offered us by Jim Crow.”

Thomas questioned what he saw as a “reduced” image of Blacks today, deemed inferior by bigots or “considered a victim by the most educated elites.”

“Being dismissed as anything other than inherently equal is still, at bottom, a reduction of our human worth,” he said. “My nuns at Saint Benedict's taught me that that was a lie. In God's eyes, we were inherently equal.”

His grandparents also believed in equality before God. Because of that, “not only did we deserve to be treated equally, but we also were required to conduct ourselves as children of God. Hence, we were to live our lives according to his word. My grandparents repeatedly stressed that because of our fallen nature we had to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows.”

Thomas continued: “There was no room to doubt this and even less for self-pity. As they saw things, on judgment day we would be held accountable for the use of our God-given talents and our opportunities.”

Thomas became a Catholic seminarian and studied for a year at Conception Abbey Seminary in Missouri, but left after the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elsewhere, Thomas has said he was repelled to witness fellow seminarians make disparaging comments about King. That experience led to years of distance from Catholicism, and he only returned to the Catholic faith after becoming a Supreme Court justice.

He said he regretted that he ignored or rejected the lessons of his youth, including “not to act badly because others had acted badly.” For a time he saw this morality “as a sign of weakness or cowardice.” After King’s assassination, he said, “I lost faith in the teachings of my childhood and succumbed to an array of angry ideologies.”

“Indeed, that was why I left the seminary in May of 1968. I let others and my emotions persuade me that my country and my God had abandoned me. I became disoriented and disenchanted with my faith and my country and deeply embittered, and perhaps worst of all, I let my family down,” he said.

At the age of 19, his grandfather asked him to leave his house. He then became a student at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where, he said, “I fell in quickly with radical ideologies such as Black Power. It was an era of disenchantment and deconstruction. The beliefs of my youth were subjected to the jaundiced eye of critical theories or, perhaps more accurately, cynical theories.”

His grandfather warned him that he had taken the wrong path, and Thomas later came to believe that “the theories of my young adulthood were destructive and self-defeating.”

“The wholesomeness of my childhood had been replaced with emptiness, cynicism and despair,” he said. “I was faced with a simple fact that there was no greater truth than what my nuns and my grandparents had taught me: We are all children of God and rightful heirs to our nation’s legacy of civic equality. We were duty-bound to live up to obligations of the full and equal citizenship to which we were entitled by birth.”

In April 1970 Thomas returned to his college campus from a riot early one morning. There, he said, “I stood outside the chapel at Holy Cross and asked God to take hate out of my heart.”

This was his background for his later encounters with the Declaration of Independence and the legacy of the founding of the United States. He praised the “self-evident” truths of the Declaration, which had been “beyond dispute” in the society, school and home of his youth,

“As I rediscovered the God-given principles of the Declaration and our Founding, I eventually returned to the Church which had been teaching the same truths for millennia,” he said, reflecting on American history and its fierce debates about slavery and racial equality.

While radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison depicted America as “a racist and irredeemable nation,” Thomas sided with those who “were unwilling to give up on the American project.”

“Equal citizenship was a black man's birthright and to give up on America was to concede that America's Blacks never were equal citizens as the Declaration of Independence had promised them,” he said. “To demoralize freedmen and slaves in that way, as Frederick Douglass argued, served only to increase the hopelessness of their bondage.”

Douglass, a former slave who became a famous American orator, aimed to convince Americans “that the country was unmoored but not lost.” Both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King similarly emphasized the promise of equality in America’s founding documents.

“While we have failed the Declaration time and again, and the ideals of the Declaration time and again, I know of no time when the ideals have failed us,” said Thomas.

“Ultimately, the Declaration endures because it articulates truth. … As Lincoln taught us, the Declaration reflects the noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures, and the enlightened belief that ‘nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows.'"

In his other comments, Thomas reflected on his friendship with the late justice Antonin Scalia and the possibility that despite their different backgrounds they both thought similarly because of their shared Catholic background, their shared formation in Catholic schools, and a “common culture.”

Thomas knew Supreme Court Justice Amy Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, from her time as a clerk for Scalia. “I pray that she has a long and fruitful tenure on the court,” he said of the newest justice.

The justice was introduced by Notre Dame student Maggie Garnett, whose mother was clerking for Justice Thomas while pregnant with her. Garnett said she claims to be “the first unborn Supreme Court clerk,” though she joked that Justice Thomas might not agree that that is a “faithful interpretation of the original meaning.”

A new pro-life saint? This Italian mother sacrificed her life for her unborn baby

Facebook screenshot of photo of Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin, an Italian mother who sacrificed her life for the sake of her baby. / Facebook

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 12:07 pm (CNA).

“Riccardo, you are a gift for us.” These are the words a 26-year-old Italian mother wrote to her newborn 26 years ago. They were words she was willing to live by – and die for.

On Aug. 30, Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin, who sacrificed her life for the sake of her baby. Catholics already are comparing her to another saint, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, because both women refused medical treatment that would have endangered their unborn babies, according to EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. After close examination, the Church now recognizes Maria Cristina as a “venerable” for leading a heroically virtuous life.  

This is the story of that life.

Maria Cristina was born in 1969 in a town called Cinisello Balsamo, located in Milan. According to La Stampa, she grew up next to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret, and served as a catechist and youth leader. She strongly considered religious life while still a young teenager. 

“Lord, show me the way: it doesn't matter if you want me as a mother or a nun, what really matters is that I always do your will,” she wrote in her spiritual diary in 1985.

Her vocation became clear when, at 16 years old, she met Carlo Moccellin. She was called to marriage – a marriage with him. She never wavered from that conviction, even when doctors discovered a sarcoma in her left leg, Vatican News reported. 

“I realized that everything is a gift, even a disease, because if lived in the best way it can really help to grow,” she wrote to Carlo in 1988.

She was successfully treated, and finished her high-school education before marrying Carlo in 1991. They soon welcomed two children into their home, Francesco and Lucia. They were expecting a third – Riccardo – when they found out that her cancer had returned. 

Her first thought was of her unborn baby boy. 

“My reaction was to say over and over: ‘I am pregnant! I am pregnant! But doctor I am pregnant,’” she wrote in a 1995 letter to her little Riccardo. “I fought with all my power and did not give up on the idea of giving birth to you, so much so that the doctor understood everything and said no more.”

Maria Cristina refused the chemotherapy treatments that would have threatened her unborn baby’s life. Instead, she waited until after Riccardo was born, in 1994. But at that point, the cancer had already spread to her lungs and caused her tremendous suffering. 

“I believe that God would not allow pain if he did not want to obtain a secret and mysterious but real good,” she wrote. “I believe that one day I will understand the meaning of my suffering and I will thank God for it.”

On Oct. 22, 1995, she died at 26 years old. 

But her story – and her baby – live on. In her letter to Riccardo, which she penned a month before she died, she stressed the beauty of his life.

“Dear Riccardo, you need to know that you are not in the world by chance,” she began. “The Lord wanted your birth despite all the problems there were… when we found out about you, we loved you and wanted you with all our heart.”

“It was that evening, in the car on the way back from the hospital, that you moved for the first time. It seemed as if you were saying, ‘Thank you mamma for loving me!’ And how could we not love you?” she added. “You are precious, and when I look at you and see you so beautiful, lively, friendly, I think that there is no suffering in the world that is not worth bearing for a child.”

Maria Cristina wrote regularly, and kept a spiritual journal, according to The Associazione Amici di Cristina (Friends of Cristina Association), which promotes the dignity of human life in honor of its namesake. The association’s website includes excerpts from her diary and from her letters.

“Lord I only want You! I only love you! I'm just looking for you!” the organization quotes her as saying. “What does it matter to suffer in life if you are around the corner waiting for me to give me immense joy?”

Joy appears repeatedly in her writings.

“It is my motto: ‘Do everything with joy!’” she stressed in a 1985 letter to Carlo. “Even if sometimes it costs me a lot, especially when my morale is low or when … ‘it seems to you that all things are against you …’ as you say, in your beautiful letter. But, as light comes after darkness, so, after despair, rediscover joy.”

This joy shaped her love of God and her love for Carlo.

“Don't you think it’s extraordinary?” Maria Cristina asked Carlo in 1987. “If it weren't for you and I who love each other, the world would lack that something that no one else in our place could give.”

You can learn more about the extraordinary life of Maria Cristina in this video from EWTN Pro-Life Weekly:

She also wrote of God’s love – and the call to perfection.

“I become holy to the extent that I empty myself of everything, I remove every impediment from my mind, heart and life to allow myself to be completely penetrated by the love of God,” she stressed to Carlo in 1990. “More concretely, it means living everyday life with great simplicity, in the family, in the study, in the relationship with you, Carlo. My place is in the simple and ‘routine.’”

In the simple, she found the miraculous. In the ordinary, she discovered the extraordinary.

The year that she died, she wrote in another letter that “Although my health is precarious… I AM HAPPY!” She concluded, “I am ashamed to ask the Lord for anything else, for us the miracle is already there: if He loves us and we love each other, nothing else matters.”

Pope Francis invokes Abraham Lincoln in message to safeguarding summit

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace Jan. 27, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

The pope referred to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

Pope Francis: Synodal process not about ‘gathering opinions,’ but ‘listening to the Holy Spirit’

Pope Francis greets Catholics from Rome diocese in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 18, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 07:25 am (CNA).

He was addressing Catholics from the Diocese of Rome.

Virginia March for Life highlights importance of gubernatorial election

The Virginia March for Life in Richmond, Sept. 17, 2021. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Richmond, Va., Sep 17, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Virginians took to the streets of Richmond on Friday as part of the third annual Virginia March for Life.

The Sept. 17 march took place in the literal shadow of the Virginia capitol, and in the figurative shadow of the upcoming gubernatorial election. Early voting began Friday, and the election was a main point of many of the pre-march rally speeches. 

“Today is the first day of early voting. So we're excited to be ushering in this voting season with pro-lifers,” Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, told CNA prior to the rally. Cobb’s organization assisted with orchestrating the march. 


Virginia, said Cobb, has “a pro-abortion majority in our legislature and a pro abortion governor, and we're sending $6 million straight out of our tax dollars, straight into the hands of the abortion industry.”

“These folks are here to say enough is enough. And today they're going to March and they're gonna March around the Capitol and make their statement,” she said. “And then they're going to March on over to the registrar's office and they're going to go vote for pro-life candidates.”

Volunteers were on hand to register people to vote as they left the capitol grounds. 

If the election in November results in pro-life candidates getting elected, Cobb told CNA that she thinks their first priority should be to defund the abortion industry. 

“We've got to immediately strike all that funding that goes to the abortion industry out of the budget,” she said. “And we've got to get back the pro-life laws that we had for years and years on the books.”

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, also spoke at the pre-march rally. Quigley told CNA that Friday was an important day for “the future of pro-life policy here in Virginia.”

“We want to make sure that pro-life Virginians know who the pro-life candidate is in this very important upcoming race,” said Quigley, “Virginia's gubernatorial race is going to be a bellwether for 2022.” 

The leading candidates in the race are Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

Quigley said that it was important to remind people that Gov. Ralph Northam, who actively supported a law that would allow abortion until birth and removed protections for babies born alive after botched abortions, had endorsed McAuliffe. 

“Last night during the debate McAuliffe said that the two of them have been a brick walls against pro-life policy here in Virginia,” said Quigley. 

With the conversation from the speakers at the rally mainly highlighting the need to elect pro-life candidates, at least one pro-life Democrat was at the march.

Craig Rew, from Short Pump, was clad in a pro-life Democrat hat and was toting a Democrats for Life of America sign. He told CNA that he was at the march “to show that there are pro-life Democrats.” 

Rew explained that he believed that “life is a progressive idea,” and that “abortion is not the solution to any problems.” 

Abortion, he said, “is the problem.” 

Hannah Clarke of Richmond came to the march along with her church, Staples Mill Road Baptist Church, and her nearly-four-month-old baby. She told CNA that while she had long considered herself to be pro-life, the experience of becoming a mother made her even more so. 

“What better reason to fight for life now that I have my own? I’m even more pro-life now that I have a baby. I didn't know if that was possible,” said Clarke. 

For Clarke, her pro-life beliefs are rooted in both faith and reason. 

“The root of the issue is that [those in favor of abortion] don't mind killing babies because they don't see them as human,” she said. “And that's where we need to get back to science. Like you don't even have to argue it from a religious standpoint, if you don't want to. The majority of scientists agree that life begins at conception.” 

She said it was particularly challenging to see the reaction to the law recently enacted in Texas. 

“I just want everyone, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof, to realize you're just laughing in the face of science and damaging people more than more than they realize,” she said. 

Adulthood and motherhood reinforcing pro-life beliefs was a common theme among the attendees CNA spoke to. 

“I was always pro-life--my family was pro-life--but I think that it really came home for me as an adult,” Liz Ferraro, from King George, Va., told CNA. “When you learn how gruesome abortion is, when you learn what it is, and you learn what it looks like, and how it ends a human life.”

Abortion, she said, “is not just a choice, it’s a person.” 

The experience of having her own children, and “seeing the sonograms when they’re only six weeks old” with their “little nubs” for limbs, helped cement her views. 

“It’s just unbelievable that (people think) it’s okay to murder them,” said Ferraro. 

The Virginia March for Life is one of several state-specific marches this year. With the Supreme Court considering Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which will decide the constitutionality of pre-viability restrictions on abortion, abortion could once again become an issue to be decided by states. 

For Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, this represents an opportunity for the pro-life movement. In recent years, even prior to knowing that the Supreme Court would be considering Dobbs, the March for Life has focused on certain states to drum up pro-life support. 

“We’re very active in the states as well,” she said. “Last month we were in California. Here we are today in Richmond, and in two weeks, we’ll be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” 

She said it would be “interesting” to see how the state-level continues to progress. Virginia, Mancini explained, has undergone “a radical shift in the direction of abortion extremism” over the past two years. 

“So, in Virginia it is important to win it back,” she said. “I mean, the two candidates that are running for governor right now could not be more different in this particular issue. Do we want a Northam 2.0, or do we want to try to take Virginia back for life?” 

Looking ahead, Mancini told CNA that she is hopeful things will be changing both in the cultural and legal realms. 

“I certainly hope that the Supreme Court goes in the direction of sending these questions to the states,” she said.  

“Our goal at the March for Life is to make abortion unthinkable. I can’t tell you how happy I’d be to work myself out of a job. That would be wonderful.”

Bishops warn against abortion funding in reconciliation bill

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' pro-life committee / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Friday warned against abortion funding in a massive spending bill being considered by Congress.

“Congress can, and must, turn back from including taxpayer funding of abortion, in the Build Back Better Act,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee.

“We urge all members of Congress and the Administration to work in good faith to advance important and life-saving healthcare provisions without forcing Americans to pay for the deliberate destruction of unborn human life,” they stated.

This week, House committees advanced portions of a federal spending package that could ultimately total $3.5 trillion. The package would include various policy priorities of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, such as funding of universal pre-K, free tuition for two-year community college, investments in “green” energy, and a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.

Included in the health care portions of the package are some proposals supported by the U.S. bishops’ conference. These include expansion of Medicaid coverage, postpartum coverage for mothers, and funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“Catholic bishops have been strong advocates for proposals at both the federal and state level that ensure all people will have access to affordable healthcare,” both Naumann and Coakley said on Friday.

“However, the legislative text advanced by the two House committees also funds abortion, the deliberate destruction of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters - those in the womb. This cannot be included,” they said.

Pro-life leaders have warned that health care spending in the bill could fund abortions, unless specific pro-life language is added to the legislation to block such funding. Federal dollars could fund abortion coverage through Affordable Care Act health subsidies and through the creation of a parallel Medicaid structure for states that refused to expand Medicaid.

Some members, such as Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), tried to insert amendments to the reconciliation bill prohibiting abortion funding; those attempts were blocked this week, in hearings of the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The budget package would need to pass through the process of "reconciliation," the process by which budget-related items can pass the Senate with only a simple majority vote. It is being considered in addition to the normal government funding "appropriations" bills for the 2022 fiscal year.

Supreme Court poised to hear biggest challenge to Roe v Wade in 48 years

An unborn baby at 20 weeks -- well within the second trimester, when dilation and evacuation abortions are commonly performed. / Steve via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Sep 17, 2021 / 14:31 pm (CNA).

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, presented its legal argument Monday for why the U.S. Supreme Court should strike down the state’s 2018 law prohibiting abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, setting the stage for a momentous showdown over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The filing means that both parties in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, have now laid out their legal strategies. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case during its fall term, which begins Oct. 4.

While the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law is the primary question before the Court, both sides make clear in their respective briefs that the law is meant to be a direct challenge to Roe itself, and the decision that affirmed Roe’s central argument 18 years later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In its brief, the State of Mississippi explicitly asks the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”

The parties' opposing arguments focus largely on two key points of contention: the legal doctrine known as stare decisis, which holds that legal precedents should not be easily overruled lest the rule of law be eroded, and the concept of fetal “viability,” or the point at which fetal life can survive outside the womb.

Christine Hadro of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly interviewed Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves about the Dobbs case earlier this year. You can watch the interview below:

Citing Roe and Casey, courts have repeatedly shot down state efforts to restrict abortion prior to viability as unconstitutional. But in Dobbs, the State of Mississippi and other parties filing briefs supportive of its petition, argue that the Court’s viability standard — approximately 24 weeks into a pregnancy — is scientifically outdated and legally unworkable.

In their amicus brief, legal scholars Mary Ann Glendon and O. Carter Snead argue that stare decisis obligates the Court to overturn Roe and Casey, because doing so would protect the Court’s integrity.

“These precedents are notoriously badly reasoned, and involve unworkable, constantly shifting standards that have sown confusion in this and other areas of the law,” Snead, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told CNA in an email.

“Indeed, there are not five justices on the Supreme Court now who agree on what these precedents require,” he wrote. “Moreover, they have caused grievous real world harms; there have been more than 60 million abortions because of these lawless, anti-democratic, incoherent precedents.”

In its brief, Jackson Women’s Health claims Mississippi is “re-litigating” Casey, which held that a woman’s “liberty interest” is stronger than the state’s interest in protecting fetal life before a baby is viable.

The brief maintains that the Casey Court “carefully considered every argument Mississippi makes here for overruling Roe,” asserting that no “legal or factual change occurred that justifies giving any less protection for that liberty interest today.”

In Jackson Women’s Health’s view, the need to rely on past precedents is compelling, since “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” and have “organized intimate relationships and made choices … in reliance on the availability of abortion.”

Additionally, the brief asserts that “no changed factual circumstances related to viability exist on this record,” and that “[m]edical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey.”

Jackson Women’s Health asserts that the viability line must be maintained because it is the only standard that can consistently be applied by the courts.

“There is no heightened scrutiny framework (stripped of the viability rule) that lower courts could administer against the inevitable cascade of abortion bans that would follow if the Court does anything other than affirm” the lowers courts' rulings that Mississippi's law is unconstitutional, the brief states.

Countering that assertion is an amicus brief filed by a group of women obstetricians and gynecologists and the Catholic Association Foundation. That brief calls the viability standard established by Roe and Casey “outdated according to current science,” adding that “’viability’ no longer means what it did at the time of Roe and Casey.”

The same brief also details the advances in ultrasound technology since Casey, now available in vivid 4D renderings, that have provided more precise knowledge about fetal development. At 15 weeks, the brief states, all the fetus’ major organs are fully formed and functioning, as is the cardiovascular system.

“This is the living reality of what is at issue in this case: a tiny boy or girl who, at 15 weeks, kicks, breathes, and hiccups, who has little fingers that open and close — and who has undeniably ‘assum[ed] the human form,’” the brief states.

Although viability remains a matter of debate, the State of Mississippi and others argue that it ought to be left to democratically elected state legislatures to decide how to handle such contentious questions, not the courts.

“The legal standard, set forth in Gonzales v. Carhart (upholding the constitutionality of the federal partial birth abortion ban act), is that when there is a disagreement among learned scientific experts, the state is free to legislate according to its best judgment,” Snead wrote in his email to CNA.

“There need not be unanimity among experts for a state to legislate in a contested domain,” he explained.

“But the deeper point here is that because this is an area of scientific and medical disagreement, the Supreme Court lacks the institutional competence to serve as the nation's ad hoc abortion medical review board of last resort,” Snead wrote. "That is best [left to] the political branches.”