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Sen. Mike Lee challenges Republicans backing ‘Respect for Marriage Act’

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 11:20 am (CNA).

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is calling on the 12 Republican senators who voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) to adopt protections for Americans who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

“The undersigned ask that you oppose cloture [closing or ending debate] on the Respect for Marriage Act unless the Lee amendment is added to the bill,” Lee, together with 20 other Republican lawmakers, wrote Thursday. “The free exercise of religion is absolutely essential to the health of our Republic. We must have the courage to protect it.”

If added to the act, the proposed Lee amendment would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against anyone who holds a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is a union between one man and one woman or is a union between two individuals.

The U.S. Senate voted 62-37 Wednesday to move forward with the RFMA — a bill that would federally recognize same-sex marriage and provide legal protections for interracial marriages. Reaching the 60 votes necessary, the legislation moved closer to becoming law.

Lee directed his letter to the 12 Republican lawmakers who joined Democrats in support of the RFMA, The Daily Signal reported. They are: Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana.

In the letter, Lee listed his concerns.

“Obergefell did not make a private right of action for aggrieved individuals to sue those who oppose same-sex marriage,” he wrote, citing the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage. “It did not create a mandate for the Department of Justice to sue where it perceived an institution opposed same-sex marriage, but the Respect for Marriage Act will.”

He added: “What we can expect should this bill become law is more litigation against those institutions and individuals trying to live according to their sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

He called for protecting such institutions and individuals.

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” he wrote. “As we move forward, let us be sure to keep churches, religious charities, and religious universities out of litigation in the first instance.”

His amendment, he said, would offer protections.

“My amendment would ensure that federal bureaucrats do not take discriminatory actions against individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.,” he urged. “It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest convictions even outside of their church or home.”

Lee’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Exclusive interview: 7 questions for Archbishop Cordileone 

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco / Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco sat down with CNA for an interview during a break in the proceedings of the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore last week.

Cordileone, a staunch advocate for the unborn, spoke out against Proposition 1, a ballot initiative to add the “right to abortion” to California’s constitution, which received over 66% of the vote in the 2022 midterm elections. One week later, the archbishop shared his thoughts on what is next for the pro-life movement, his hopes for the bishops’ eucharistic revival initiative, and how to address a lack of trust that priests have for their bishops. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The pro-life movement suffered a defeat in California with the passage of Proposition 1. What advice do you have for opponents of abortion in this post-Dobbs political climate? 

We have to keep doing what we have been doing. I think the key is this Walking with Moms in Need [the U.S. bishops’ nationwide initiative to assist pregnant and parenting women]. We have to continue holding up what is real compassion for a woman in that situation, who’s scared, isolated, full of anxiety, under all kinds of pressure, and feeling lonely. She needs to be surrounded with love and support.

The answer is not violence. The answer is not killing. The answer is love and support. And we need to hold up, and I would hope — but I see a growing resistance to it — that even those who favor keeping abortion legal would favor giving women the full range of options. If she’s given information about what’s going on inside of her, if she’s given information about what her options are, and is given love and support and we walk with her, she will opt for life. I know this from crisis pregnancy clinics, that when they’re given that information, and they’re given love and support, 95% opt for life. So what we really need is for women to have real choice. 

Unfortunately, women who are in the lower income [brackets] don’t really have choice. So we need to give them real choice. I think that’s the way we build the culture of life. Laws are important, and political advocacy is important. Our pro-life manifestations are important to help raise consciousness about it. But in a bitterly polarized society, we need to support the women in these situations and show where true love and compassion is. 

That’s why I’m horrified at the hostility toward crisis pregnancy clinics. That’s all about love and support, and even beyond the birth of the child, making sure she and her baby are OK. This is the most worrying sign to me — the attacks on the crisis pregnancy clinics. And our leaders are not speaking out against it and being active in protecting them, and in fact, are denigrating them.

Considering how Proposition 1 succeeded, how can you move the needle on this issue? Do you put more money into Walking with Mothers in Need? Or do you put your efforts into doing a better job on communications?

Well, it’s all of the above. That’s a good question, “Where do we put the emphasis?” We do need better communication about it. Because we’re up against a lot with that, especially with the false narratives that are being perpetrated about these clinics. And I think the best thing is for women to tell their stories, women who have gone through this experience. We need women to tell their stories and let it get out there because it’s the personal story that touches hearts. And that’s what begins to change the conversation.

How do you reach young women who support abortion because they think it may be necessary for their personal success?

Yes. I think they need to be walked with, as well. Why would it get in the way of their career or their education? Why can’t she continue with her education, or begin her career and bring the baby to term, and if she wants to, put the child up for adoption? We need to emphasize adoption a lot more. Are universities prepared to support their women students in giving birth? Are the health care services offered? Do they have that prenatal care available? What if she has to absent herself from class? Can she do online instruction during the time she has to be away? Even something as simple as diaper-changing stations? So do they have all of that? And if not, then where’s the equality? The man doesn’t have to worry about that. We can just walk away and continue, but the woman can’t. She’s facing very hard choices. Why aren’t they giving her the support? Where’s the equality in that?

In your view, what is the most troubling issue of our day?

The most urgent crisis today is the attack on life in the womb, and the lack of support for women who are in need to be able to make a choice for life. I’d say, the celebration of abortion as a good. You know, it was originally something that people said was a necessary evil, then it became a choice. And then it became health care. Now they’re calling it reproductive freedom, which can mean all kinds of things. And now it’s celebrated as a good. So I’d say that’s the most, most urgent and critical issue we need to react to.

What are your hopes for the eucharistic revival? Are you seeing enthusiasm for it, and do you think the initiative will bear fruit?

We’re having these processions with the Blessed Sacrament from the four parts of the country. And the one from the West Coast, as it turns out — I didn’t suggest it — but it’s starting from our cathedral. So as plans start coming together it’s starting to generate some excitement. So I’d say that it has a lot of potential, but it’s always the takeaway: What’s going to change afterwards? It can’t be just a happy memory. It has to change the way we treat the Eucharist, the way we regard it, the way we prepare for Mass, and the way Mass is celebrated and carried out. All of that has to change — the quality of preaching, the frequency of confession, all these. There has to be some change. That’s the takeaway, but I’m hoping that this three-year eucharistic revival will be a catalyst for that.

What in particular about the Mass needs to change?

How the Blessed Sacrament is handled and how people prepare to receive Communion respectfully. There’s a lot of goodwill out there. I think people just need better formation and awareness about it. So I do think there’s a lot to work on.

Some Catholics think the only way to properly and respectfully receive Communion is on the tongue. Could this be an idea that could resonate with most people or even many bishops?

I wonder the same thing. That’s a good example of the casualness with which a lot of people treat the Eucharist. It’s very easy to be casual when receiving in the hand. It’s a lot more challenging to preserve reverence for the Eucharist when it’s given in the hands. If we are going to do it, we have to be very intentional about it. When I was a pastor, I would regularly instruct people about how to receive Communion properly. Actually at Sunday Mass for the homily, I would demonstrate how to receive on the tongue as well as in the hand. I’d see it happen, and the priests on Monday would find hosts on the floor, under the pews, or in the pages of a missalette. So I had the ushers at the Communion station to make sure people did not walk off with the host.

You know, [Catholics] used to have to fast from midnight [the night before Mass], and be on their knees, and receive only on the tongue. We need to have some kind of practical measures in place, reminders to people of who they are receiving when they are receiving Communion. Never has Communion been treated so casually, In any of the apostolic churches, in any of the Eastern rites, or in the West. So this is a new thing we’re trying to grapple with. 

Advent 2022: Check out some of our favorite Advent calendars for 2022

null / nito/Shutterstock.

Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

It’s that time of year again! Time to decorate the Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and grab your favorite Advent calendar. 

What exactly are Advent calendars, and how did they come about?

It is said that the Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries and then spread to other Christian denominations. Gerhard Lang is credited with creating the first printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s. However, his company was forced to close during World War II.

By the late 1940s, Richard Sellmer took up mass production of Advent calendars. These calendars began to be imported to the U.S. in the 1950s, and his company continues to operate to this day. In 1958, the first chocolate Advent calendar was produced.

Advent calendars typically begin on Dec. 1 and end on Christmas Day. The secular world has picked up on these countdown calendars by using them to provide a small treat or gift on each day leading up to Christmas. However, Advent calendars can also be faith-based by offering a daily prayer or meditation as the world awaits the birth of Jesus.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says Advent calendars “can help you fully enter into the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ” and serve as a reminder of the true meaning of the season.

So, what are some of our favorite Advent calendars this year?

The Precious Moments Nativity Advent calendar offers a wonderful way to relive the Nativity story. Wooden boxes contain little figurines of the wise men, shepherds, farm animals, and, of course, the Holy Family that correlate to a short reading. This is a great way to bring the family together to join in reading part of the Nativity story as you place each figurine in the stable atop the calendar. 

If you’re looking for something to get children more involved, Loyola Press has a printable Advent calendar that encourages children to perform an act of kindness each day during Advent. Some acts include: “I will be a peacemaker today in school and at home,” “I will be grateful and thank God today for all the food I have,” and “I will speak kindly to all I meet today.”

The EWTN Religious Catalog has several Advent calendars that retell the Nativity story. As you open each flap on the calendar, text from the Bible will tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Depending on the calendar you choose, you might even get to enjoy a sweet treat!

For adults looking to dive deeper into their faith this Advent season, consider Good Catholic’s Journey to Christmas led by Father Matthew Kauth. In this program, you will receive daily devotional emails, weekly guidance videos, written reflections, and more. This series can help you steer clear of the business of the season and remain focused on the true reason for the season.

If you prefer listening to daily meditations and prayers, Hallow will be doing its Advent #Pray25 challenge. Participants will meditate on passages from Scripture that led to the birth of Jesus. The daily reflections will focus on how God has called people throughout generations, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. This year’s challenge will be guided by the cast of “The Chosen,” which includes Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus; Elizabeth Tabish, who plays Mary Magdalene; George Xanthis, who plays John the Evangelist; and Dallas Jenkins, director and creator of the show, among others. 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember that Jesus’ presence is the only true present that matters this Christmas.

Meet the U.S. Catholic bishops’ new pro-life chair

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore, Nov. 16, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The new pro-life chair for the U.S. Catholic bishops wants pregnant women who are struggling or feeling scared to know that they are not alone. 

“I would like to say and, in such a heartfelt way, for them to know that they are not alone,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, told CNA hours after being elected to his new position Nov. 16. 

“We, as the Catholic Church — to anyone of any denomination — we will be there for you,” the 65-year-old bishop added.

“We are willing to accompany you and provide you the support that you need,” he said, listing everything from prayers and counseling to financial help and medical assistance. “We are there for you every step of the way. So please don’t be afraid.”

A longtime advocate for the unborn, Burbidge was chosen as chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. The surprise election took place after Burbidge’s predecessor, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, was elected as the bishops’ new vice president.

Born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Burbidge entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary after high school and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1984. He later became an honorary prelate to Pope John Paul II, beginning in 1998, and was appointed the rector of his former seminary in 1999.

Before coming to Arlington in 2016, he served as an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia starting in 2002 and as the bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning in 2006.

His election as pro-life chair came as a surprise, Burbidge revealed to CNA, emphasizing that he feels “very honored.” 

The focus of his new position will be the “joy of the Gospel,” or “reaffirming the joy that so many mothers and fathers have in bringing a child into the world,” he said.

“That’s the Gospel of Life, to share that joy of life itself, the tremendous gift that it is,” he explained. “The joy of being — all of us — created in the image and likeness of God and to see each other that way.”

He called for building a culture of life where abortion is unthinkable. 

While he acknowledged what he called the “harsh reality in which we’re living,” with misinformation and extreme proposed laws, he also stressed that the Catholic Church holds the truth — the truth that “all life is sacred, it comes from God.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in a ruling that frees states to decide abortion policy, Burbidge said that the priorities of the pro-life committee will remain consistent, with a focus on advocacy, witness, and service.

“I think what we have learned in the post-Dobbs decision is that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said, referring to the decision that overturned Roe. “We’re celebrating victory in the sense of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, but the work is just beginning.”

That work includes, he said, engaging public officials, bringing the faith into the public arena, and energizing the Catholic faithful.

He called the overturning of Roe a “tremendous victory.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to, I think, remember and honor all those who have gone before us, maybe who are only seeing this from heaven, who for years and years and years, when abortion first became legalized, began to pray the rosary outside of abortion clinics, to participate in the national March [for Life],” he added. “And to see that God never allows our efforts to be in vain.”

Burbidge recalled being in high school when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, in 1973. 

“I remember, even at a young age, just being traumatized. And certainly, in going to a Catholic high school, we were made aware of what was at stake,” he said. “I could never fathom that … in our country, we’re legalizing the taking of innocent lives.”

He added: “I never tired of doing my little part, like we all try to do, to say this … is not right. This cannot be.”

How a Cincinnati parish became home to the first church dedicated to ‘Christ the King’

Our Lord Christ the King parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first in the world to have a church with that name. An earlier church building gained that distinction in 1926. This is a photo of the current church, built in the 1950s. / Courtesy of Amber Dawson

Denver Newsroom, Nov 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, celebrated this year on Nov. 20, also is referred to as the feast of Christ the King, Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday.

While the concept of Jesus Christ as King is as old as the Gospels, the feast is fairly recent in the Roman Catholic calendar. 

The feast was introduced in the Western liturgical calendar in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, via the encyclical Quas Primas.

Surprisingly, the first parish in the world to be consecrated in honor of Our Lord Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI not in Europe but in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1926. 

“The 225 worshippers who attended Our Lord Christ the King’s first Mass on December 5, 1926, embodied the essence of what it means to be ‘church.’ With neither bricks nor mortar to call their own, this gathering of believers placed their faith in Providence and celebrated early liturgies in humble surroundings,” reads an account posted on the parish’s website. “There was no electricity for the first Eucharist, so the room was illuminated by headlights beamed from parked cars. Pastor Father Edward J. Quinn, a former World War I chaplain, used his Army Mass kit.”

The current church, built in the 1950s, was designed by famed church architect Edward J. Schulte in what is known as a Brutalist style.

Our Lord Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1926, an earlier church building became the first church in the world to bear the name Our Lord Christ the King. Courtesy of P.J. Daley
Our Lord Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1926, an earlier church building became the first church in the world to bear the name Our Lord Christ the King. Courtesy of P.J. Daley

Despite the fact that the first parish ever to be dedicated to Christ the King was in the United States, some American clergy originally had difficulty explaining the new solemnity in the context of American Protestant patriotism, which frowned upon kings and kingdoms as opposed to democracy as the most perfect form of government.

A key passage from Quas Primas provided Catholic preachers with a helpful synopsis. “This kingdom (of Christ) is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things ….The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.”

Pope Pius XI established the feast to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, so that it would always take place before the celebration of the solemnity of All Saints. But in the new liturgical calendar of 1970, its Roman rite observance was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. Therefore, the earliest date on which it can occur is Nov. 20 and the latest is Nov. 26.

U.S. bishops make ‘the suffering of Lebanon’ priority with election of Maronite to key post

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles is the chairman-elect for the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. / Screenshot of YouTube video

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

One of the two Maronite bishops in the United States was elected to lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace this past week in Baltimore. 

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, who originally hails from Lebanon, spoke with CNA after his election about the Church’s role amid the political and economic turmoil in his home country. 

“The Lebanese people are suffering,” said Zaidan, who will serve a term from November 2023 to November 2026. 

“Definitely with all the difficulties Lebanon is facing — and now, Lebanon is somewhat ignored — it’s not a priority for many of the countries, especially with the war in Ukraine and other fronts.” 

The committee’s mission is to advise the U.S. bishops on international issues. Zaidan, who has been a committee member, was chosen as chair over Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia by a vote of 148-95. He succeeds Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois. 

Zaidan listed a plethora of struggles causing instability in the country including its seeming inability to elect a new president, its devalued and inflated currency, and high unemployment rates. 

“Plus, everything is becoming more expensive. Unemployment is very high in Lebanon because of the uncertainty and corruption,” he said, adding that due to a lack of infrastructure for electricity and other necessities “people have to do it on their own.”

Zaidan said that if Lebanese citizens have family outside the country who can financially support them in small ways “that little hundred dollars makes a big difference for them.”

But, he added, “if they don’t have anybody it’s very difficult, and that’s why people would like to leave.”

Despite the many unfortunate circumstances burdening the Lebanese people, Zaidan said that the Church in Lebanon is doing whatever it can to be close to the suffering people. He praised the work of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s humanitarian arm, in using its resources to keep people alive.

“Often the priest is what we call the main person you go to because he knows his people. He knows who are the needy, who don’t have any other one to help them,” he said. 

Zaidan said that many priests are calling their bishops and taking the initiative to assist their flock.

He said he wanted to send a message of thanks to the parish priest in Lebanon and to “commend him for standing with his people and being part of that and serving them with all the difficulties going through himself and to stay there and do his best for his people.”

Zaidan also urged “everybody here and wherever they are to first keep Lebanon in your mind. Keep our brothers and sisters in your mind, in your prayers, and whatever you could spare here could make a big difference in Lebanon,” he said.

Zaidan said that Christ is closest to the people who are suffering and needy. 

“We need to know [that] anyone who’s in need, whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me, Christ told us,” he said. Zaidan said that there are many inspiring stories about people who are in need, and who assist someone who is in a worse situation than they are. 

“It’s amazing,” he said. 

Zaidan said that the Maronites in Lebanon played a significant role in making Lebanon a great country. He said that Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoyaek de Helta, who served from 1898-1931, “was instrumental in making Lebanon great as in its own borders today.”

Zaidan said that it’s important for Lebanon to be a “beacon of hope” and a “haven” for Christians in the Middle East. 

“Lebanon, as John Paull II said, is a message between the East and the West, between the Christians and the Muslim — and also among the Christians — between the Catholics and Orthodox, as well.

“It’s a unique mission from that perspective,” he said. 

Zaidan said that many Lebanese migrated to the United States over the past 100 years.

“We always think about Lebanon as the mother church and the branches who are spread all over the world and are present in different parts of the world,” he said. 

“Hopefully, we could bear fruits and let the mother church enjoy some of those fruits as well,” Zaidan said.

Senators urge Biden to rejoin coalition finding no ‘international right’ to abortion

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma (pictured) along with Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, introduced a resolution Nov. 17, 2022, requesting that President Joe Biden recommit the U.S. to the Geneva Consensus Declaration. Daines and Lankford, together with Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, served as congressional honorary co-chairs of a GCD commemoration luncheon held in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 19, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

U.S. Senators are calling on President Joe Biden to rejoin a growing coalition of 37 nations finding that there is no “international right” to abortion, after he previously withdrew the United States’ support.

Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and James Lankford of Oklahoma introduced a resolution Thursday requesting that Biden recommit the U.S. to the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD) — a declaration that promises to support women’s health and well-being, the family as the foundation of society, and the right to life of every human being.

Two years ago, in 2020, the U.S. hosted the signing ceremony of the GCD. At that time, 35 nations signed on, representing more than 1.6 billion people. The United States later withdrew its signature under the Biden administration.

“President Biden should reverse this decision and have the United States rejoin the Declaration,” Daines said in a press release. “Protecting the most vulnerable among us is an all-hands-on-deck battle and together we can work towards a future that recognizes the dignity of every life, everywhere.”

Lankford added: “It is embarrassing that the United States would surrender its moral leadership on the international stage, but this resolution affirms the United States’ commitment to protect life and uphold families.”

Daines and Lankford, together with Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, served as congressional honorary co-chairs of a GCD commemoration luncheon held in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

A host of foreign dignitaries, U.S. legislators, and representatives of nonprofits attended the event sponsored by the Institute for Women’s Health (IWH), a women’s health policy organization. Valerie Huber, IWH’s president and CEO, served as the GCD’s architect while at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I saw the needs for girls’ and women’s health around the world going unanswered because of ideological agendas, and the GCD was created in response to that — to give countries a way to bind together around common values and to promote health and thriving,” she told CNA.

At the event, she announced that Kazakhstan was joining the coalition. She called the country’s addition a “hopeful indication of more in 2023.”

Along with leaders from around the world, Daines and Lankford also delivered remarks at the luncheon.

“Despite President Biden sadly, tragically removing the United States from the declaration, I will tell you this does not represent the view of the American people,” Daines said.

Citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave the issue of abortion up to the people and their elected representatives, he added: “What the U.S. has accomplished on the issue of life in the last year is a cause for thanksgiving.”

“The fact that the United States now recognizes that there is no right to abortion written in invisible ink in our nation’s Constitution,” he stressed to world leaders, “should encourage all of us in our shared efforts that international law and international agreements are not really written to invent an international right to abortion that would override the duly and active laws of your countries protecting preborn babies.”

Daines called life a gift and a “precious miracle given to us by God” that no government or court can take away.

Lankford hoped that, one day, the U.S. will view the protection of the unborn as unquestionable.

“I believe, in the coming decades around the world, nations will look back at their history, when they used to destroy children because they were inconvenient, and will say, ‘Why did we ever do that?’” he said. “Just like we do in our nation, when we look back and say, ‘Why did we ever have slavery in our nation? Why did we ever have a time when women couldn’t vote in our nation?’”

In 2021, Daines and Lankford also introduced a concurrent resolution in celebration of the first anniversary of the GCD’s launch.

At the time of its signing, in 2020, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said that it was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, with more nations and supporting U.N. agencies considering abortion a “universal human right.”

On abortion, the GCD condemns the use of abortion as a “method of family planning” and maintains that there is “no international right to abortion.”

FBI investigating crimes against churches, pro-life groups, director affirms

Vandalism at St. John XXIII parish in Fort Collins, Colo., May 7, 2022. / Eileen Pulse

Denver, Colo., Nov 18, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

FBI Director Christopher Wray has reaffirmed the bureau’s commitment to investigating crimes against pro-life groups and churches, reporting that they face about 70% of abortion-related threats since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

“My view — plainly expressed to all of our people, including in the context of abortion-related violence — is that I don't care what side of the issue you're on, you don't get to engage in violence, and we are equal-opportunity when it comes to that,” Wray said at a Nov. 15 hearing of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, Fox News reports.

He spoke in response to Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, who questioned Wray about the FBI’s response to crimes against churches, pro-life pregnancy centers, and other pro-life organizations motivated by pro-abortion sentiment.

Wray said the FBI has “quite a number of investigations” into “attacks or threats against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and other pro-life organizations.”

The FBI director said that since the Dobbs decision in late June, “probably in the neighborhood of 70% of our abortion-related violence cases or threats cases are cases of violence or threats against … pro-life organizations.”

As of Sept. 22, CNA had recorded attacks on 33 churches, 55 pregnancy centers, three political organizations, and one maternity home since early May where the public evidence points to a pro-abortion motive. The crimes include vulgar graffiti, property damage, threats, theft, and even arson.

Peaceful protests, as well as crimes, followed the leak in May of a draft of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which revealed that Roe v. Wade would be overturned and end a nationwide requirement that states allow legal abortion.

Wray told the Senate hearing that the bodies investigating crimes against pro-life churches and organizations bodies include “about 20 field offices,” he said, as well as joint terrorism task forces. He cited the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, known as the FACE Act, which since 1994 has barred the blocking of access to abortion clinics and places of worship. The Department of Justice has said the legislation also protects pro-life pregnancy centers.

“We take it very seriously,” Wray said. “And again, I don't care if you're motivated by pro-life views or pro-choice views. You don't get to use violence to express it,” he said.

Last month Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate asked why the FBI and the Department of Justice appear to be targeting pro-life people disproportionately under the FACE Act. They contrasted these actions with an apparent lack of investigations or Department of Justice prosecutions related to the rise in violence against pro-life individuals and institutions.

At the Nov. 15 hearing, Sen. Scott pressed Wray about whether the public thinks the FBI is more concerned about prosecuting pro-life advocates and not those who threatened him.

“We don't have the time for me to tell how frustrated I sometimes get by some of the news reporting about our work and the misreporting of our work,” he said. “The circumspection that we display with regard to discussing our investigations is based on rules and practices that are important to people having confidence in the integrity of our work and go back decades, multiple administrations.”

The Department of Justice continues to have a National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers. It was established in November 1998 after an abortionist was shot and killed in western New York. According to the task force’s website, its functions appear to focus on investigating violence against abortion clinics and providers.

9 key things the U.S. bishops did at their fall meeting in Baltimore

The U.S. bishops met in Baltimore for their annual fall general assembly on Nov. 14-17, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Baltimore, Md., Nov 18, 2022 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops are headed back to their dioceses after gathering in Baltimore this week for their annual fall meeting.

Here’s a summary of key actions taken at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) fall plenary assembly:

1. They elected Archbishop Timothy Broglio as president.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, was elected president of the USCCB for a three-year term, succeeding Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. Broglio, 70, brings to the job diplomatic experience, having served the Vatican in Ivory Coast, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and in Rome from 1990 to 2001. As archbishop for the Military Services, USA, since 2008, he defended the religious freedom of service men and women when he called for a religious exemption for the COVID vaccine mandate and raised concerns about religious freedom issues involved in allowing homosexuals to serve in the military.

2. Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori was elected vice president.

The newly elected vice president, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, is a strong advocate for the unborn. In his role with the bishops’ pro-life committee, Lori has spoken out repeatedly in favor of assistance for pregnant women and against the Biden administration’s proposals to expand the availability of abortion. He has been a vocal proponent of the bishops’ 2020 initiative Walking with Moms in Need to help struggling pregnant women, mothers, and babies.

Lori has served as supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus since 2005 and joined the Knights last month on a trip to Poland and Ukraine to distribute aid. At 71, he will not be eligible to be president when Broglio’s term expires three years from now, as the bylaws of the conference say the president needs to be no older than 75 by the end of his term. This is the second consecutive time that the bishops have opted to install a vice president who can’t be considered an heir apparent to the presidency. Lori succeeds Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, 74, who was elected vice president in 2019.

3. In a moving farewell address, Archbishop José Gomez called for bishops to be missionaries in a secular culture that is searching for meaning.

In a stirring speech, the outgoing president of the USCCB, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, told the assembled bishops that a secularized society has lost its way but is experiencing a “spiritual awakening” and a desire for meaning. He called on all Catholics to evangelize and bishops in particular to share their personal encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist as part of the upcoming eucharistic revival. “The Church exists to evangelize,” Gómez said. “There is no other reason for the Church. To be a Christian is to be a missionary disciple.” His complete address can be read here.

4. The bishops decided to begin rewriting their Catholic voting guide after the 2024 election.

The bishops voted to postpone embarking on a full revision of “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a sort of voting guide for Catholics, until after the 2024 election.The “teaching document” asserts abortion should be “the preeminent” political issue for Catholics. In deciding to leave the document as it is, while adding a new introduction and supplemental inserts, the bishops effectively decided to reaffirm its opposition to pro-abortion policies in the political realm. The additional materials, however, could introduce new language, Archbishop Paul Coakley, head of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said.

“Whether it’s a world war raging in Ukraine, people’s questioning of our democratic system, or whatever it might be, we need to help provide some kind of guidance in any number of issues,” he said. “We’ll try to discern what we can offer to people and help them apply teaching in a way that’s meaningful to them.”

5. The bishops showed their support for Ukraine.

The bishops gave a standing ovation after an impassioned speech on the war against Russia by Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak. Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, who was named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in May, urged the USCCB to stand by Ukraine. Referring to the possibility that a Republican majority in the House of Representatives might back out of the nation’s commitment to the war effort in Ukraine, McElroy called on the bishops to act with haste to ensure continued U.S. military aid. In his speech Gudziak thanked the bishops and U.S. Catholics for their continued monetary support for humanitarian aid.

6. The bishops elected a steadfast defender of life to the pro-life committee.

The election of Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, a staunch defender of life, as head of the USCCB’s pro-life committee is another signal that the bishops’ resolve in the defense of the unborn has not weakened despite the failure of pro-life measures in the midterm elections.

7. The bishops cut the budget for the three-day Eucharistic Congress.

Plans for the Eucharistic Revival and Eucharistic Congress were unveiled along with an announcement that the cost of the three-day event would be reduced from $28 million to $14 million with the help of donors and sponsors. Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, who is leading the eucharistic revival initiative — an effort to revive an understanding and a love for Jesus in the Eucharist among Catholics — said 80,000 people are expected to make a pilgrimage to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the congress will take place starting July 17, 2024. Pilgrims will depart from four different locations, he said: one in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, at the site of the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus; in San Francisco at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption; and a fourth site in Crookston.

8. The bishops approved a prayer book for laypeople ministering to the sick.

The bishops voted to move forward with the creation of a new prayer book for laypeople who work among the sick. Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, told CNA that he hopes the potential new prayer book will be helpful for laypeople who want to minister to the sick. “A pastor can put this book into the hands of the folks who help him in visiting the nursing homes, hospitals, and places where there isn’t a priest-chaplain every day, but there might be a layperson there,” Menke said.

9. The bishops voted to advance the causes for sainthood for three American women.

The U.S. bishops decided to advance on the local level the causes of beatification and canonization for Servants of God Cora Louise Evans, a mother and Catholic convert considered to be a mystic; Michelle Duppong, a young campus missionary who struggled with cancer; and Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy, a religious sister who ministered to the poor and to the African American community.

‘Shame, remorse, sympathy’: Maryland AG seeks to release major report on sexual abuse

The Baltimore Basilica / Public domain

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 18, 2022 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The Maryland attorney general’s office is seeking to release a major report chronicling information about Catholic clerics accused or prosecuted for sexual abuse in the state, following a four-year investigation drawing on hundreds of thousands of documents subpoenaed from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said his office had compiled the information given by the archdiocese, along with information gathered from interviews, into a 456-page report that claims to identify more than 600 victims. It is currently unclear whether the report will lead to any new criminal charges.

In a 35-page legal motion dated Nov. 17, Frosh asked permission from a judge to release the documents provided by the archdiocese, which were given in response to a January 2019 subpoena from a grand jury. The documents provided by the archdiocese, which number in the hundreds of thousands, pertain to “the last 80 years relating to allegations of sexual abuse and the response by the archdiocese to these allegations.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore apologized to victims of abuse in a letter released Thursday and reiterated the archdiocese’s current zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

“Upon reading today’s motion, we feel renewed shame, deep remorse, and heartfelt sympathy, most especially to those who suffered from the actions of representatives of the very Church entrusted with their spiritual and physical well-being,” Lori said in a Nov. 17 statement.

“The information contained in the motion will no doubt be a source of renewed pain for many, most especially those harmed by representatives of the Church, for the lay faithful of our archdiocese, as well as for many good priests, deacons, and religious,” Lori said.

“Ever-aware of the pain endured by survivors of child sexual abuse, I once again offer my sincere apologies to the victim-survivors who were harmed by a minister of the Church and who were harmed by those who failed to protect them, who failed to respond to them with care and compassion and who failed to hold abusers accountable for their sinful and criminal behavior,” Lori added.

Frosh says the report names 115 priests who were prosecuted for sexual abuse and/or identified publicly by the archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse. It also includes an additional 43 priests — 30 of whom are deceased, and the identities of the rest redacted — accused of sexual abuse “but not identified publicly by the archdiocese,” for a total of 158 names.

The archdiocese’s own online list of credibly accused clergy includes 152 names, including many priests from other dioceses or religious orders and 17 religious brothers who served in or had a connection to the archdiocese, the Catholic Review reported. The list was last updated in June.

Frosh, who is retiring in January, said the final report chronicles such instances as one parish that was assigned 11 allegedly abusive priests in a 40-year timespan. He noted that while the archdiocese “reported a large number of allegations to police, especially in later years, for decades it worked to ensure that perpetrators would not face justice.”

The motion to release the report came on the final day of the U.S. bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore, during which Lori was elected vice president of the national conference.

Addressing the apparent discrepancy between the number of priests named in the attorney general’s report and the number of credibly accused priests listed by the archdiocese, Lori said that the archdiocesan list does not include the names of priests or brothers who died before a single accusation of child abuse was received, unless the allegation could be corroborated by a third party or unless a second allegation was made against the same deceased cleric.

In 1993 the Archdiocese of Baltimore created an independent review board, which today is primarily made up of laypeople, to investigate allegations of abuse, and the 2002 reforms known as the Dallas Charter created national norms for responding to sexual abuse.

Lori said the archdiocese has long cooperated with law enforcement, reporting all allegations of child sexual abuse. Under Maryland law, any person who has reason to believe a child has been subjected to abuse must report the suspected abuse to civil authorities, even if the potential victim is now over 18 years old and even in cases where the alleged perpetrator is deceased, the Catholic Review reported.

Lori said they have sought to be open and transparent about abuse allegations they have received.

“We know horrifyingly well the enormity of the grievous harm caused to individuals, families, and entire communities from our past experience of publicly naming the 152 priests and brothers we believe have abused children,” Lori said.

The release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018 — which claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests as well as efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations — spurred numerous investigations of dioceses in the U.S. and around the world.

Most recently, Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel in late October released a report compiling allegations of sexual abuse directed at priests in the Diocese of Marquette, stretching back to the 1940s. Nessel pledged that the Marquette report, which does not represent an investigation into the credibility of the allegations it chronicles, will be the first of seven from her office on sexual abuse allegations against priests in each of Michigan’s Catholic dioceses.