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What Catholics can learn from ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’

Denver, Colo., Jan 20, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- “Does it spark joy?”

That question has become a rallying cry for fans of Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo, whose 2012 book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has become a New York Times bestseller and sold more than 3 million copies.

Adherents of the KonMari Method, as it is known, are instructed to gather every piece of clothing in their house and put them all together in a pile. One-by-one, they take each item in their hands, asking themselves, “Does this spark joy?” as a way of determining which items to keep and which to discard or donate. The process is repeated with all of their books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental belongings, in that order.

The bestselling book was recently turned into a popular Netflix reality show, in which Kondo visits the houses of people living in various situations – a family with young children whose home feels chaotic and cluttered, a recently retired couple who have spent decades collecting clothes and baseball cards, a widow who cannot bring herself to get rid of any of her late husband’s possessions. Kondo works through the process with them, showing the dramatic results that can be achieved by decluttering.

The KonMari tidying ritual bears some striking similarities to the annual purging of possessions undertaken by the Companions of Christ in Denver.

An association of diocesan priests and deacons who live a common life of prayer and fraternity, the Denver Companions of Christ emphasize the observance of poverty, chastity and obedience in their ordained ministry.

As part of this commitment, they annually purge their possessions, on or around Ash Wednesday. If they are living in a community, they purge as a household.

They begin by physically laying out all of their belongings, a practice that Kondo also promotes, as it allows people to see how much they actually own, and to recognize where they have excess in their lives.

Following a series of guiding principles, the Companions then question each item as they make decisions about what to keep and what to discard.

“It kind of pushes you to admit whether or not you really need things,” says Fr. Mike Rapp, a member of the Denver community.

In an interview with CNA, Rapp said that taking a simple approach to material goods is something that can benefit all of the faithful – not just priests.

“For the Christian, this is a way of taking away those things that nickel-and-dime our lives, so that we can really have what we need and value that, and then have the space in our life, that sort of openness, that quietness, to really follow the Lord – to hear his voice, to pay attention to God…serving other people and loving them.”

He noted that one of the instructions given by John the Baptist to prepare people for the coming of Christ was, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

“You don’t need anything excessive,” Rapp said. “If you have excess in your life, it can be a distraction. Just get rid of it.”

The Catholic Church teaches that the evangelical counsel of poverty – along with chastity and obedience – is proposed by Christ to all disciples, as a way of growing in the Christian life and cooperating with grace.

Rapp pointed to Mark 10, in which a rich young man asks Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life. In addition to following the commandments, Christ instructs him to “Go sell what you have, give to the poor…then come, follow me.” But Scripture says the young man went away sad, “for he had many possessions.”

Material possessions are not inherently evil, Rapp clarified. But when we become attached to them, they go from being necessary items that help us in life to becoming “a real detriment, a distraction from the priorities” we should have.

Members of religious orders take a vow of poverty, which is generally lived in a very radical way, while canon law suggests that diocesan priests should live a simple life and give away any excess that they have to the poor, Rapp said.

“I think that’s a pretty good general rule for everybody.”

Determining what is excess in one’s life is a matter of personal discernment, the priest said. In his community, members are guided by the principle, “Start with nothing, and keep only what you really need.”

Other guidelines include trying to limit belongings to what can be packed in a car – fitting for the life of mobility to which priests are called – and asking the question, “Have I used this within the last year?”

“If you haven’t, you might not need it. You might not use it in the next 20 years,” Rapp said.

While they are purging, the Denver Companions pray in gratitude to God. This is a key part of the process – acknowledging that everything they possess is a gift from God and asking him to help them see what they should be letting go of and detaching themselves from.

“We do the purge communally, so you show everybody what you have. There’s a certain accountability to it,” Rapp added. Their fellow priests can also challenge them on specific belongings, inviting them to reflect on whether they actually need a certain item.

“We don’t actually need what we think we need,” he said.

For lay people, especially families with children, the criteria for what to keep may look different.

“It is really difficult when you have children of various ages to keep possessions simple, because there are various needs in the home happening all at the same time!” said Alicia Hernon, a mother of 10 children and the co-director, alongside her husband, of The Messy Family project and podcast.

“It’s hard for moms to give away clothes when you know you will have a child who will wear those clothes or play with those toys in just a few years,” she told CNA. “Yes, I would love to get rid of all the extra toys and clothes, but not if I will have to replace them for the next child hitting that stage just a short time from now.”

“For us, living simply means that I had to have an effective storage system for clothes and a set time to take them out when needed. It also means that we had to do the same with certain toys.”  

But while simplicity may look different for families – especially large ones – Hernon said there are still benefits to a simple lifestyle, especially because it helps family members “focus on the people around us.”  

“The fewer possessions we have, the less there is to clean, maintain and manage,” she said. “The fewer possessions children have, the more they will be encouraged to play outside and play with each other.”  

Catholics seeking to implement Kondo’s methods may notice that some of her practices display a sense of animism, the idea that inanimate objects have spirits. Kondo, who served for several years at a Shinto shrine in Japan, greets the houses that she enters before tidying them. She encourages people to talk to their possessions, thanking them for the role they have played in their lives. She suggests that the used items that one has discarded “will come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now.”

While Catholics should not take part in practices that do not align with the Catholic faith, this does not mean they need to reject the KonMari Method of tidying altogether, Rapp said. Catholicism has long understood how to embrace what is good in other cultures, without accepting ideas that are problematic.

Some of Kondo’s ideas can be adapted to a more Catholic worldview, the priest said. For example, rather than thanking a book or piece of clothing for its usefulness, Catholics can offer prayers of thanks to God, who is the true source of all material blessings.

“Thank you, Lord, for giving me this. It’s been very valuable for my life in these ways. I’m going to let go of it now,” he suggested as a prayer to offer while purging.

Recognizing everything as a blessing from God makes it easier to be detached, he noted. “Because God has given me all of these things, I can let go of them. I can give them away.”

Ultimately, Rapp said, simplicity in possessions is about building gratitude, detachment, and trust.

“If you want to follow Jesus’ way of simplicity, you have to accept that it’s a bit radical, and you have to be willing to detach. I think that’s the big key, this attitude of detachment.”

“You have to sort of trust that ‘I can let go of things, and my needs will be taken care of’,” he said, pointing to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ reminds his followers of how God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, instructing them to trust that God will also take care of their material needs.

“We as human beings feel a need to provide for ourselves,” Rapp said. “Letting go of things is an invitation to really trust in the Lord, and to celebrate and feel the providence of God, that God really does provide for us, that God has provided for us in remarkable ways.”

For the Denver Companions, purging physical things is a reminder to reflect on spiritual poverty, which is more important than material poverty.

Rapp said the community undergoes a similar process of seeking to identify excesses or unhealthy attachments in the spiritual life, asking themselves, “What do I cling to? My time, my energy, my friendships, my talent, my opinions?”

This helps them recognize all of these things as gifts from God, and opportunities to give thanks and practice detachment, fostering spiritual poverty, since God promises his kingdom to the “poor in spirit.”

“That’s what we’re really looking for,” Rapp said. “We don’t find our peace and happiness in things.”

'I survived my mom’s abortion appointment:' Voices from the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Attendees at the 2019 March for Life saw an unannounced appearance from Vice President Mike Pence, a video message from President Trump, a strong bipartisan speaker line-up, and a secular science theme. But the most surprising sight of the day, at least for one 12-year-old first-time marcher, was the number of children.

“There are more kids here than adults!” said Angela from Rockville, Maryland.

A crowd of 100,000 people marching on the politically divisive issue of abortion, in the middle of the country’s longest-ever government shutdown no less, might not seem like the place for kids. But Robin Diller was one of thousands of mothers present who would enthusiastically tell you otherwise: “It’s such a positive environment, a happy and joyful place.”

The March, held Friday, traced the annual route along the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was the Dillers’ second march as a family. Their group of 14 included the Diller brothers, their wives Robin and Lisa, and their collective ten children. The crowd did not intimidate even the smallest Diller, a 10-month-old blinking out from Mr. Diller’s chest, zipped into his dad’s jacket for warmth.

In addition to the fun, Mr. Diller said he sees the March as a lesson in civic responsibility: “It’s important to show our kids what positive activism looks like.”

High school history teacher James Flannery loves the March for a similar reason. He said that his biggest concern for his students is apathy. “That’s why it’s so reassuring to see so many of them here, to see them stand for something.”

Though often labeled “anti-abortion,” people like Mary Bonk from Lexington Park, Maryland, think of themselves as marching for many different life issues-- not just against abortion.

Bonk adheres to the consistent life ethic, which opposes all forms of violence against the human person, including things like war, torture, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.

Bonk acknowledged that her anti-death penalty views put her at odds with many right-leaning pro-lifers. This does not phase her: “I don’t think that being pro-life is a right-wing position.”

Plus, she added, “I feel welcomed here.”

Krista Corbello and Alex Seghers, 26-year-olds from Pro-Life Louisiana, shared Bonk’s expansive sense of what it means to be pro-life.

Corbello agreed that it takes humility to welcome diversity into the movement. But in her experience, the spirit of “welcoming hospitality” is always present “when change is really happening.”

One such change is the growth of “pro-life feminism.” Seghers identified herself and her unborn daughter as pro-life feminists: “She’s marching before she’s even born.” To them, pro-life feminism means advocating nonviolence and nondiscrimination for all people, including those in the womb.

“It’s inclusive of anyone from any background.”

These women appear to have struck a nerve with their inclusive message: their group brought 1,500 young people to D.C. for the March this year.

“Consistency is key for young people,” Corbello said, adding that young people from Louisiana are lucky to have a legislature that is bipartisan on life, including Democrat Rep. Katrina R. Jackson, who spoke at the March this year. Seghers attributes the bipartisanship to Louisiana’s diversity and “culture of family values.”

Though “family values” often connotes religion, Pro-life Louisiana’s events are mostly secular in tone. “Abortion is wrong because it is violent,” Corbello said. “That’s not a religious belief.”

Family is a common theme among young people at the March. Though many of them march for religious, political, and educational reasons, almost all point to their families first when asked about their interest in pro-life issues.

Mother and daughter Claudia and Taylor Turcott did this in a literal way, carrying signs with arrows drawn toward each other. Claudia’s reads: “25 years ago, I thought abortion was the only way, but I walked out of that clinic with my baby that day.” Taylor’s read: “October 1994: I survived my mom’s abortion appointment.”

Taylor began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy clinic in college after learning about her mother’s near decision to abort her. The Turcotts see their advocacy, especially the March, as an opportunity to share their gratitude.

Although many people who saw Claudia’s sign thanked her for choosing life, she simply said: “I just feel so, so grateful. I don’t think I’m unusually brave.” Claudia wants to encourage young women facing unplanned pregnancies: “You will be amazed by how many resources there are to help you.”

Friday’s crowd was full of extraordinary stories like the Turcotts.

One woman, Francis Reciniello, has attended the March for over 30 years. As an immigrant from Honduras, she said she had never supported abortion because it was antithetical to her culture and upbringing. So when a friend got pregnant in college, Reciniello offered help and begged her to choose life.

It worked. “She told her boyfriend and he married her, and they named their child ‘Francois,’ after me” Reciniello said.

Though Reciniello’s own children are active pro-lifers, most years she marches with her friend, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. “She’s a cancer survivor, and every year we say: ‘Can we make it?’ And we do. Even though we go at our own pace now.”

The two expressed their amazement at how young the March has become. “Young people are really stepping up!”

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of the March for Life was that the thousands of people who attend each year think of their peaceful activism, loving families, and joyful sacrifices as ordinary.

“This is just, like, normal,” said Garrett, a high school student from Philadelphia, about being young and pro-life. “It’s how we grew up.” His classmates Evan, Miguel, and Charlie nodded.

“It’s normal to respect each other, to have respect for other human beings.”

NY bishops lament bill to expand abortion in state

Albany, N.Y., Jan 19, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of New York decried Thursday the likely passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which would expand abortion access throughout the state, noting it will only increase family suffering.

The bill was first introduced in 2007, but was often blocked by a Republican-led state senate.

The New York state senate recently returned to Democrat-majority control for the first time since 2010, and the bill is widely expected to become law.

The Reproductive Health Act would allow health care professionals like nurse practicioners and physicians assistants to perform abortions, and permit late- abortion at any time throughout pregnancy in case of fetal inviability or “when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.”

Under current New York law, abortion past 24 weeks is illegal except when necessary to save the life of the mother.

The bill would also decriminalize abortion, transferring it to the health code from the criminal code.

“Words are insufficient to describe the profound sadness we feel at the contemplated passage of New York State’s new proposed abortion policy. We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result,” the bishops of New York state said Jan. 17.

“The so-called 'Reproductive Health Act' will expand our state’s already radically permissive law, by empowering more health practitioners to provide abortion and removing all state restrictions on late-term procedures. With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction.”

The bishops recalled their pledge “to offer the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services to any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, to support her in bearing her infant, raising her family or placing her child for adoption. There are life-affirming choices available, and we aim to make them more widely known and accessible.”

They noted that Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators “hail this new abortion law as progress.”

“This is not progress,” the bishops countered. “Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?”

Americans United for Life CEO Catherine Glenn Foster told CNA earlier this month that the bill would not protect women’s health, but rather trip away health and safety regulations on abortion providers.

“Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, New York nail salons will be more regulated than abortion facilities,” Foster stated.

Cuomo has also called for the addition of a provision to the state constitution “protecting a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.” Such an amendment could not be passed before 2021.

When a baby dies, faith and medicine aim for compassion

Denver, Colo., Jan 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Grieving a miscarriage or stillbirth can be heart-wrenching. As awareness of that difficulty grows, medical professionals and clergy strive to offer meaningful ways to help parents mourn.

Frequently periods of mourning after a stillbirth or miscarriage are quiet, and perhaps too quick. Now, new medical devices allow parents of stillborn babies to spend more time with a stillborn baby’s earthly remains, possibly giving new ways to aid grieving families.

“To God, no life is lost, no life is insignificant,” Fr. Christopher Zelonis, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown in Virginia, told CNA. “Parents who have suffered miscarriages are parents and have every right and, we would say, need, to regard themselves as such.”

“The community around them, in doing the same, would create greater reverence and respect for the life that those parents have carried. Certainly, no parent wants to bury a child or wants to grieve that loss,” said Zelonis.

The priest spoke about the significance of stillbirths and miscarriages in the life of parents, community, and the Church. He has been a priest for 15 years and a part-time hospital chaplain for the last four years, in addition to his current duties as a parish pastor.

Newly developed cooling cots, also called cold cots, aim to help parents of stillborns. The New York Times profiled an eight-pound device called the CuddleCot, a describing it as a “kind of refrigerated baby bed that helps preserve the body of a deceased newborn for days.”

“The device gives parents a chance to bond with their babies — to love and hold them, take pictures, even take them home and take them for walks, creating memories to last a lifetime,” the New York Times personal health columnist Jane E. Brody wrote Jan. 14.

The twin babies of Chris and Emily Fricker of Pingree Grove, Ill., were born too early to live longer than 90 minutes. The Frickers said the CuddleCot helped them so much they donated one to an Illinois hospital.

“I can’t imagine not having one, it helped us so much,” Emily Fricker told the New York Times.

“Brittany, our labor and delivery nurse, told us we could spend as much time as we wanted with our babies,” Chris Fricker said. “We held them, told them how much we loved them and had them baptized. We got to choose when to say goodbye to them, about 12 hours later.”

The bodies of babies who die in utero or during delivery are often quickly placed in hospital morgues, and parents cannot spend much time with them. Parents are sometimes discouraged from seeing their babies.

“When women find out that they’re pregnant, they immediately begin making plans for the baby,” Dr. Tracy Arghavani, obstetrician-gynecologist at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, told the New York Times. “When they lose that baby, it’s like someone stole their dreams. The loss of an unborn child can be just as heart-wrenching as the loss of a born child.”

For Fr. Zelonis, parents’ various responses to grief and loss “just reflect the variety of people.”

“I don’t know if there’s any right or wrong or better or worse about it,” he said.

Physical contact with the baby is considered important at a “crucial bonding time” that happens with mothers and fathers after a typical birth, and the new devices could help.

“That could certainly make the actual humanity of that child, which was always present at every stage, more palpable to the parents,” he said.

The U.K.-based manufacturer of the CuddleCot, Flexmort, says 92 percent of British hospitals have at least one device. The device costs about $2,700. It is designed to be cleaned and sterilized for reuse.

“Dealing with the death of a baby is clearly an incredibly difficult event for parents and bereaved parents should be given the option of spending time with their baby,” the CuddleCot website said. “This is usually in the hospital maternity/labor ward or hospice but increasingly babies are also being allowed home.”

This time helps the family bond with the baby and helps them deal with the loss, the manufacturer claimed.

The CuddleCot site cited a testimonial from Sutton Jones of South Carolina: “I can’t even explain how helpful the cuddle cot was to us. We have memories with our daughter that we never would have had. We got to hold her, kiss her, change her, take pictures with her, spend the night with her, just love her as our child.”

Zelonis said that after the loss of an expected child, parents can react in any number of ways. The loss of a child is grievous in itself, and grief over lost dreams and expectations for the child also follow. Feelings of guilt are also possible, with parents’ thoughts focusing on “anything they may or may not have contributed to the death of the child.”

“There can be anger at God for allowing it to happen,” he said. “You might hear sometimes the phrase ‘taking away their baby,’ as you might hear from any loved ones who died regardless of age.”

“I tell people who are grieving that God is big enough to handle it,” the priest told CNA. “I think people get angry with God and then get ashamed or afraid for being angry with God.”

Parents who miscarry should show “compassion towards themselves.” The should also respond with “candor with God.”

“Regarding miscarriage, no life is lost in the sight of God, though a life might not have reached full maturity,” Zelonis said. “No life is lost. God knows. In heaven, that child may for all we know come to possess full understanding and insight in the presence of God, with God completing any defects or any deficits in understanding and freedom.”

“And if not, either way, this is a person loved into existence by God and by his or her parents.”

Zelonis said Catholics should respond to the loss of a baby with compassion, understanding and “respect for the life that was and is present to God, even if it is no longer present to the world.”

Medical professionals also have guidance in responding to stillbirth or miscarriage. The CuddleCot website links to a copy of the National Health Service Scotland and Children’s Hospice Association Scotland January 2016 document “Collaborative guidance for staff to support families who wish to take their baby home after death.”

The document aims to make parents aware of their choices following their baby’s death and to “support their decision-making.” It aims to “ensure that the baby and their family are treated
with dignity and respect.”

Staff should advise parents that their baby’s body will undergo changes after death, and should reassure them and instruct them on how to minimize these changes.

It notes that taking a baby home after his or her death is “not the right choice for every family” and this should be respected. To ensure a dignified, respectful treatment for the baby and his or her family, the guidelines said, “the use of the baby’s name acknowledges their baby as a person and affirms them as parents.” Parents have a role in caring for their baby and hospital staff should remember “to respect their choices at this difficult time.

Zelonis said the Church has “prescribed rites and proper prayers” for infants who pass away.

“Catholic cemeteries have plots for infant and fetal remains, with some people who assist in donating resources the space and services,” he said.

Those who suffer the loss of a baby in miscarriage “should certainly allow themselves to give voice to any feelings,” he continued.

“Certainly, they should have patience and be willing to, in an appropriate time, not according to a timeline, work through those emotions.”

Insensitive responses from clergy or lay Catholics can have such severe effect as to drive people away from religious practice, warned Zelonis, saying this happened in his own family history.

There is also a temptation for both the chaplain and the lay person to “default to platitudes.”

“I think of the friends of Job who before opening their mouths first sat with him and said nothing,” he said. “They were just there.”

Even though it can be uncomfortable to be in the presence of such loss, he encouraged people to resist the temptation “to speak too much or not enough.”

“Well-meaning people might rush to rationales, presuming the mind and will of God,” said Zelonis. “As a chaplain I try to steer clear of that… Better, I say little or nothing, except to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of life—our own or the child’s—asking the Lord of the living and dead to receive the child as His beloved and to receive us in all our emotions, and unfulfilled expectations.”

 

Appeals court rules in Texas' favor over effort to defund Planned Parenthood

New Orleans, La., Jan 18, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated Thursday a previous injunction barring Texas from stripping Planned Parenthood affiliates of Medicaid funding.

The injunction was based largely on undercover videos released by the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) during the summer of 2015 which show Planned Parenthood workers negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted children.

“The [Texas Office of Inspector General]...concluded, based on the videos, that [Planned Parenthood affiliates] at a minimum violated federal standards regarding fetal tissue research and standards of medical ethics by allowing doctors to alter abortion procedures to retrieve tissue for research purposes or allowing the researchers themselves to perform the procedures,” Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote in the court’s Jan. 17 opinion.

Many media reports since 2015 have characterized CMP’s undercover videos as “deceptively” or “heavily” edited, undercutting their credibility.

“The district court stated, inaccurately, that the CMP video had not been authenticated and suggested that it may have been edited...In fact, the record reflects that OIG had submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited,” Jones wrote. “And the plaintiffs did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”

In the videos in question, two individuals including journalist David Daleiden posed as representatives from a fetal tissue procurement company, and claimed to be interested in purchasing liver, thymus, and neural tissue from fetuses aborted during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Melissa Farrell, Research Director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is shown in the videos discussing the possibility of a research partnership, providing a tour of her clinic’s surgical facilities, and displaying tissue samples from recently aborted fetuses, according to the court ruling.

An Aug. 2016 grant proposal attributed to George Soros’ Open Society Foundations indicated at least $7-$8 million would be spent in a campaign to counter the CMP videos and “transform the narrative, charging that the videos were doctored.”

Following the release of the videos, the Texas Office of the Inspector General (OIG) subsequently informed Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in October 2015 that they were “no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, and legal manner” and their funding would be terminated, and sent final notice of the decision during December 2016.

Planned Parenthood’s 30 affiliates in Texas currently receive $3.4 million in Medicaid funds.

The affiliates sued in federal court to block the termination of funding, and the district court granted an injunction for the plaintiffs in part because, in the February 2017 opinion of district judge Sam Sparks, the undercover videos had not been authenticated and appeared to have been edited.

The district court also discounted statements from Farrell because she claimed on the witness stand that she had no personal knowledge of the medical aspects of abortion procedures and “had never even been in the room when an abortion was performed.”

Jones affirmed that the state has the right to exclude a healthcare provider from Medicaid funds, and criticized the Planned Parenthood affiliates’ argument that the OIG has insufficient expertise to determine the qualifications of abortion providers.

“That the Chief Medical Officer is a surgeon – and not himself an abortion provider – does not mean that he deserves no deference when deciding whether a provider has failed to meet the medical and ethical standards the state requires,” Jones wrote.

“It is even odder to claim that federal judges, who have no experience in the regulations and ethics applicable to Medicaid or medical practice, much less in regard to harvesting fetal organs for research, should claim superior expertise.”

The case is now remanded to the district court for further review, which has been ordered to apply a different legal standard to determine the final outcome.

The Texas House of Representatives first passed a budget that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of its state funding in April 2017. Texas’ Inspector General had sought to strip the abortion provider of state funding because the videos “indicated noncompliance with accepted medical and ethical standards,” according to the lawsuit.

“Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, so we are confident we will ultimately prevail,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a Jan. 17 statement.

Sister resigns from Detroit seminary after sex abuse allegations

Detroit, Mich., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit announced this week the resignation of Sr. Mary Finn, 84, a long-time faculty member and assistant professor of theology, after allegations surfaced that she had sexual contact with young adult novices under her charge in the 1970s.

“In recent days, information came to my attention regarding inappropriate conduct over fifty years ago by Sr. Mary Finn,” Msgr. Todd J. Lajiness, the rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said in a statement published Wednesday.

“After a series of conversations with her, her superior, Archbishop Vigneron and members of the Archbishop’s team, I have accepted her resignation from the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, effective today.”

In a story reported by Deadline Detroit, Theresa Camden, a former novice with the Home Visitors of Mary, recalled “confusing” experiences with Finn, then the novice director for the order, such as being made to lie very close to her on exclusive retreats.

Camden told Deadline Detroit that in hindsight, she knew something felt wrong. After Camden and another novice, who has remained anonymous, were suddenly kicked out of the order in 1972, they sought therapy for their experiences with Finn. The anonymous novice confirmed to Camden that she had had a sexual relationship with Finn.

Michael Betzold with Deadline Detroit reported that Finn’s resignation was announced by the seminary as his story on the allegations was being prepared.

In her resignation letter, posted to the seminary’s website, Finn admits to having “misused my position of authority as a director of novices in the Home Visitors of Mary (HVM) Order, engaging in inappropriate conduct with two adult novices. I regret that behavior, have repented of my actions, and sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused.”

The Home Visitors of Mary hung up the phone when CNA attempted to contact the order about Finn. Subsequent attempts to contact the order went unanswered.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, chairman of the board of trustees at Sacred Heart, was quoted in the seminary statement supporting Finn’s resignation, citing “additional information and what we have come to learn about how best to respond to these situations.”

He said that “While serving as rector of Sacred Heart in the late 1990s, I was given partial details about Sr. Mary's inappropriate conduct that had occurred in the early 1970s. At the time, I thought the matter had been resolved. I regret this was not the case.”

In a Jan. 18 statement, Archbishop Vigneron went on to say: “It is only in recent days that I have come to know new and additional details and context regarding Sr. Mary's misconduct. Based on this information, the current rector, Msgr. Lajiness, accepted Sister Finn's resignation and I endorse this action.”

In 1969, three years before Camden and the other novice were expelled from Finn’s order, Finn began working at Sacred Heart Seminary, where she has served in various positions ever since.

Most recently, Finn was an assistant professor of theology and served on the Priestly Formation Team for the College of Liberal Arts, among other roles, according to a cached website of her seminary page, which had been removed from the school’s website by Friday, Jan. 18.

Edward Mischel, director of community psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, was in the seminary at Sacred Heart about 10 years after Finn started there, in the late 1970s.

Mischel, who completed four years of college at the seminary before discerning that he was not called to the priesthood, told CNA that he chose Finn for his spiritual director and remembers her fondly. They still maintain contact to this day.

“She’s been this quiet, spiritual, loving, easy-going person,” Mischel told CNA. “The guys in the seminary, they adore her.”

News of the allegations of sexual misconduct in the early 1970s was “disheartening,” Mischel said, but he rejected any insinuations that Finn “was dominant or in this old boy’s club, that’s like the antithesis of her. I’ve never seen that in the 30, 40 years I’ve known her, nothing like that at all.”

Mischel said he knows Finn to be a staunch advocate for the people of Detroit, and a very kind and forgiving person.

When asked if he had any concerns that she was placed in charge of young seminarians, after having been accused of sexual misconduct with young women, Mischel said he was not concerned, because he had seen “nothing like that at all” by Finn against the seminarians.

But not all former seminarians of Sacred Heart remember Finn as fondly, and the news of her resignation and the allegations against her as a novice master have also raised serious questions and concerns about her conduct at the seminary.

Two former seminarians at Sacred Heart seminary have told CNA that Finn had a reputation for being overly “handsy” with seminarians - extended hugs, smooches, squeezes and generally unwanted contact were to be expected from Finn.

“In legal terms, it was unwelcomed touching. But if a seminarian reported it, they became a problem,” one former seminarian, who asked for anonymity, told CNA.

Another former seminarian, who also asked for anonymity, told CNA that Finn had become such a “fixture” of the seminary and was so well-liked and considered so holy that she became “untouchable” - any complaints against her were promptly dismissed.

This same seminarian told CNA that Finn was always “touching people,” and while he doesn’t know of any explicitly sexual touching, he said her behavior was “grossly inappropriate.” He recalled on instance where Finn almost pushed a seminarian over a balcony, only to pull him back at the last second, as a joke. When the seminarian turned to throw a punch, assuming it had been a fellow seminarian, he instead saw Sr. Mary.

“She had no sense of boundaries,” the former seminarian said. Her meetings would often run late, and seminarians were expected to listen to her for hours, in what felt like “indoctrination lectures,” he said.

In another example of boundary violation, both former seminarians told CNA separately that Finn was known for wandering the residence wing of the seminary late at night unannounced, and would often walk past seminarians who were in their towels or boxers, coming to and from the communal showers.

One time, Finn wandered in on a priest in the shower, but that issue was “promptly addressed,” one of the former seminarians said.

At some point after the late 1970s, Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary. While she would wander the wing belonging to the seminarians, her room was in the faculty wing.

Mischel told CNA that Finn was still living with her community during his time at Sacred Heart. He said he suspects she may have been moved to the seminary due to health problems - she eventually developed Parkinson’s disease, which may have made it difficult for her to drive.

Mischel said he had never had any experience of Finn intentionally walking past half-dressed seminarians, and said he wondered whether it could have been a sign that Finn was entering stages of dementia.

One of the former seminarians who spoke to CNA also said Finn seemed to be “detached from reality” at times, and had difficulty remembering dates. Both of the anonymous former seminarians included in this article were at Sacred Heart in the early and mid-2000s.

When asked why Finn had been moved from her community to live at the seminary, Mary Henige, Strategic Communications Director for Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told CNA that “We do not know when and why Sr. Mary Finn moved to the seminary.”

Both former seminarians also told CNA that Finn’s theology was “unsound.” Part of her theology classes, they said, included “feelings lists” where seminarians were asked to recall an experience from their lives and describe their feelings. The lists, provided by Finn, included “feeling words” such as “sexy”, “hot,” or “horny”, they recalled.

One of the former seminarians told CNA that multiple men had attempted to register complaints against Finn’s conduct, but they were ignored because of the reputation she enjoyed. Many of the faculty at Sacred Heart had been formed by Finn during their time in seminary, and believed her to be saintly. He said at one point, he had heard a faculty member refer to Finn as the “Holy Spirit Incarnate.”

He said on the one hand, she did seem to have a genuine love and concern for people. She saw Christ in people in a way that was “beautiful,” he said.

But she acted like she “was everyone’s mom, but she wasn’t and she’s not,” he said. “There were clear boundary issues. She was very emotionally manipulative of people, very passive aggressive.”

“She had a cult-following, so this is devastating to a lot of people,” he added.

When CNA asked the archdiocese about these claims about Finn’s conduct at Sacred Heart seminary, the archdiocese referred all questions to Sacred Heart.

When asked whether the faculty at Sacred Heart were aware of Finn’s alleged reputation for unwanted touching, inappropriate contact or for allegedly wandering by seminarians in towels, Henige told CNA that “We’re not going to respond to character allegations, nor would that be our role. Sr. Mary’s resignation letter outlines the reasons why she resigned.”

 

Knights on parade: With the Knights of Columbus at the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- Their activism has sparked controversy in recent months, after a U.S. senator called the Knights of Columbus and their pro-life work “extreme.” But the Knights of Columbus say their work in the pro-life movement is a part of their Catholic identity, and that they’re proud of their long-standing involvement in the annual March for Life  

In fact, according to Supreme Knight and CEO Carl A. Anderson, when the March for Life began in the early 1970s, the Knights of Columbus was one of the first groups to lend a hand.

Anderson told CNA that the Knights now play a part in “just about everything that needs to be done” on the days leading up to, and during, the march.

CNA spent the 2019 March for Life getting a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Knights of Columbus during the nation’s largest annual pro-life gathering.

Standing guard

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic Church in North America; it was designed to hold about 10,000 people. The night before the March for Life there were at least that number present for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. People filled the pews, and nearly every space around them in the aisles.

At 5:30 p.m., a procession of priests, bishops, and cardinals entered the basilica. When they did, Knights of Columbus from 19 different local councils were among the volunteers serving as ushers to help keep the crowd in order.

One of those ushers was Alec McGuire, a sophomore at the Catholic University of America.

McGuire told CNA that joined the Knights of Columbus because his grandfather was a Knight. At Catholic University, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest student groups on campus. On Thursday, it was his job to “make sure people are where they're supposed to be."

Patrick McAleer is a field agent for the Knights of Columbus, selling the insurance policies the organization offers to its membership. He is also the chairman of the Shrine’s usher ministry. He’s been a Knight for 25 years.

For McAleer, volunteering at the Vigil Mass and other events is “a way to serve and be around so many young people who travel long distances to take part in the Mass and March.”

As an usher, McAleer said it is his job to “welcome to all our visitors to the Basilica, handle the congregation with care when we have to move people for the processional and recessional, as well as the most important duty: protecting the Blessed Sacrament, at communion time.”



‘An amazing group’

The day of the March for Life began bright and early at 7:30 a.m. for Tyler Lomnitzer, the Knights of Columbus’ program manager for pro-life activities. He spent the morning unloading signs for marchers from a U-Haul, and organizing the volunteers who would help disperse those signs.

“We successfully distributed 10,000 ‘Love Life, Choose Life’ Knights of Columbus signs,” Lomnitzer told CNA. In addition to signs, the Knights of Columbus distributed drawstring bags, fleece headbands, and beanies emblazoned with their logo.

Lomnitzer said he got involved in the Knights of Columbus when he was a freshman at CUA. When he was in school, he thought the Knights were “an amazing group of faithful and dedicated young men, helping one another grow in holiness.” Like McGuire, he too served as a volunteer at the Vigil Mass when he was in school.

“It left such an impression on me that I now oversee the pro-life activities of the Knights of Columbus on a global level,” said Lomnitzer.



On the March

Making sure that throngs of marchers begin and end the march in a safe and orderly way is a tough job, but one the Knights of Columbus have handled for years. Members of councils from around Virginia served as marshalls, and were present on street corners, around the front of the stage, and near the media and speaker areas.

Santiago Garcia, a Knight from Manassas, VA, has been in the Knights of Columbus for about two and a half years. He told CNA that he prayed to the Blessed Mother for her to “find something for me to do in the Church,” and then inquired about the Knights of Columbus. This is the second March for Life at which he has volunteered.

Garcia, along with Chris Sozio, an eight-year Knight but a first-time March for Life volunteer, was posted at the street corner by the Natural History Museum. The two worked to make sure that the sidewalks would stay open and free from loiterers before the march began, and then would walk ahead of the crowd of marchers to make sure nobody jumps ahead.



A long road

It is not unheard of for March for Life pilgrims to endure a several-hour bus journey to Washington for the march. John Moore, a Knight from Gallup, New Mexico, had by far the longest trip of all: he walked to Washington, DC from San Francisco, carrying a 20-pound wooden cross the entire way.

Moore, and his 26-year-old daughter Laura, stepped off from San Francisco on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2018. Laura drove ahead each day and provided assistance as needed, and they spent each night at hotels. She told CNA that her father spent years saving and planning the trip and was inspired by his first March for Life six years ago.

At 11:43 a.m. the morning of the March, their journey came to an end as they finally arrived at the National Mall, just in time for the start of the March for Life Rally.



Leading from the front

Carl A. Anderson, CEO and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, has the most public role of any member of the Knights of Columbus at the March, including an address to the massive crowd during the March for Life rally.

Anderson pumped up the crowd, and announced that his organization had recently donated its thousandth ultrasound machine to a pregnancy clinic.

“Science is on your side, and so is the American public,” said Anderson. He told the crowd that an end to abortion is “not far off” and that one day the March for Life will become a “victory parade.”

“Together we will celebrate the victory of both faith and science--both compassion and common sense.”



Keeping the momentum going

The Knights’ work does not end with the March. Local Washington-area and Virginia councils clean up the mess left behind by marchers, while out-of-town Knights board busses, planes, and cars and travel back to their homes. Once home, they continue the pro-life and other charitable work that the Knights of Columbus have done for decades.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus made $187 million in charitable donations and served over 85 million hours of volunteer time.  

Anderson explained to CNA that in addition to the ultrasound initiative, the Knights of Columbus are also involved in the distribution of educational materials each October for the USCCB’s Respect Life Month. Local councils work with area pro-life groups and do fundraisers and volunteer hours.

"I would say just about everywhere the pro-life movement is active, Knights are involved," said Anderson.

The Knights of Columbus’ core principles are charity, fraternity, and unity.

Over two days, between taking care of marchers and worshipers, distributing warm clothes and cleaning up after the crowds, all while raising thousands of dollars to help women in crisis pregnancy situations, the Knights of Columbus offered a clear picture of their notion of a commitment to charity.

It may not be “extreme,” but it is extraordinary.



 

Photo credits, in order: Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Christine Rousselle / CNA, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus.

Amid curriculum controversy, Franciscan University president calls for unity

Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 18, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville said Monday that the university is committed to a faithful Catholic approach to university education, and he invited university administrators, faculty members, and others to renew with him an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“As some persons raise questions about what it currently means to be faithful to the magisterium- what it means to be orthodox- it is important to remember that Catholic identity should thoroughly pervade our teaching, our research, and all other activities pursuant to which this university advances her mission,” Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, said Jan. 14, in his homily at the university’s opening Mass for its spring semester.

“In recent months, critics of Franciscan University have accused us of compromising our Catholic mission and witness,” Sheridan said.

“Is anyone here perfect? No. Do people here make mistakes? Yes. But our particular Franciscan charism is rooted in ongoing conversion. That we resolve to continue to do better everyday.”

Sheridan’s comments seemed to refer to a recent public controversy over the university’s curriculum. On Jan. 8, the ChurchMilitant website drew attention to a book that had been taught by a university English professor in the previous academic year. The book, “The Kingdom,” by Emmanuel Carrère, included passages that ChurchMilitant described as blasphemous and pornographic.

Sheridan issued a letter Jan. 9 stating that while he believed “the professor’s intention in using this book in his class was not malicious, the book is scandalous and extremely offensive.” He said the book would not again be assigned at the university, and offered an apology to “Our Blessed Mother and Her Son, and to anyone who has been scandalized by this incident.”

Sheridan’s letter added that “Catholic education should prepare students to stand for the truth of the Catholic faith and to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today. To do so, the must be equipped with a firm knowledge of Catholic Church teaching as well as a thorough understanding of the views and philosophies of their opponents.”

Announcing that he had directed administrators to “review and revise our existing policy on academic freedom to prevent future use of scandalous materials,” Sheridan also wrote that university professors “must walk the fine line between underpreparing their students for the mighty tasks ahead and overexposing them to material that may cause them spiritual harm.”

The professor, Stephen Lewis, was subsequently replaced as chairman of the university’s English department.

“The Kingdom” was the subject of a December 2018 review in the magazine First Things. As the controversy erupted, First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz took to Twitter Jan. 14 to opine that: “Mobs are not well qualified to make decisions about literary quality or moral risk. In a more civilized age we allowed popes to compile the Index, instead of giving the job to bloggers.”

In a Jan. 18 essay published by First Things, Lewis wrote that he had assigned the book “in an upper-level course to students whose maturity and intellectual preparation I knew well.”

“Our class read the entire text, focusing not on a few lurid passages but on its appropriation of Renan’s method and its related atheistic concept of witness, so as to understand the superiority of Christian methods and concepts. The aim was not to shock, but to edify. I share the revulsion Catholics rightly feel toward lewdness and blasphemy, but in the end I decided that my students could benefit by reading this text.”

While “certain websites have taken a handful of obscene passages from the book and presented them to the public in a manner intended to shock and scandalize,” Lewis wrote, “the book provided my students with both insights into and questions about the meaning of the collapse of faith for contemporary men and women, from the standpoint of both believers and unbelievers.”

“Discussion of the book ... helped the students to understand more deeply what it means when we Catholics affirm that Jesus Christ cannot be known outside the Church. The Church, as the ongoing presence of Christ among us, is the only way by which we gain knowledge of him,” the professor wrote.

Each of the five students in the class “has claimed to have grown in faith by reading the work, despite its ugly aspects,” Lewis stated. “One has even stated that she feels her current work as a missionary has been made more effective because she frequently encounters people who display features of Carrère’s mindset.”

Sheridan’s homily said that the controversy “has been a serious disruption to our unity. We have stopped trusting one another. And it pulling us apart as a university.”

“With the help of our shared governance council in the next few weeks, I will be working to set up an ongoing commitment to our fidelity and freedom, to advance higher education within our entire faithful, orthodox Catholic university,” Sheridan announced.

That project, he said, “will help to restore that break in our unity.”

Sheridan added that he would be consulting with the leaders of other Catholic universities and Catholics involved in higher education, as well as those connected for Franciscan University, and drawing on the scholarship presented at a university symposium on Ex corde ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. Sheridan, a canon lawyer, wrote a doctoral dissertation on the document.

“It is the responsibility of everyone who belongs to the university family to advance the university’s Catholic identity. It is the responsibility of all of us to strive for unity within this university that we all love.”

In recent months, the university has also faced criticism amid 2018 reports that administrators have improperly addressed allegations of sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct. In response to those reports, Sheridan announced in August 2018 an independent review of university records by a law firm “specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence.”

A report from the firm will reportedly be delivered to the university’s board of trustees this month; university administrators have not announced whether it will be subsequently released publicly.

Sheridan’s homily encouraged a period of rebuilding.

“These days demand courageous Catholics who will stand up for our faith to go forth and rebuild. Our Church, our world, needs people who are willing to stand for truth,” he said.

Sheridan concluded his homily by inviting all members of the university community to join him in renewing the profession of faith and oath of fidelity he had taken upon assuming the university’s presidency in 2013. Members of the university’s theology and philosophy faculties already take the oath annually.

“God has entrusted his university to us to lead and guide,” Sheridan told university faculty members and administrators.

“May we always be courageous Catholics, empowered to fight together, for the fidelity of this university, and the work that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has entrusted to us.”

 

'Every life is worth protecting,' President Trump, VP Pence tell March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive Jan. 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.
 
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”
 
“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding.

Trump is something of an unlikely ally for the pro-life movement. Before he launched his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had a record of pro-abortion rights statements. That record, his personal character and other actions have drawn criticism and concern from some pro-life leaders. His presidency continues to be one of the most controversial in recent history, with his anti-immigrant crackdowns and rhetoric becoming major concerns for Catholic bishops.

For the 2018 March for Life, Trump had given a special live address to the March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden.

This year, following the Republicans’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, Trump pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine “protection for human life.”

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

Pence similarly touted Trump administrative actions, saying Trump “kept his promise” on judicial nominees and signed legislation allowing states to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Karen Pence thanked marchers for “standing in the cold for something that you believe in.”

“Thank you for your stories of courage. Thank you for your stories of regret and forgiveness and starting over,” she said. “Thank you for your stories of hope. Thank you for your stories of inspiration. Thank you for your stories of truth.”

Other elected officials spoke at the event, among them U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J., a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced the launch of what he said was “the first-ever pro-life caucus in the U.S. Senate.” This caucus, he said, “will allow us to accelerate the momentum of the past few years in promoting and protecting life.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., another co-chair of the House’s pro-life caucus, addressed the event. Lipinski is regarded as a leader among pro-life Democrats. In a tight 2018 primary election, he defeated a strong challenger who was pro-abortion rights.

“We don’t agree on everything We’ve got Republicans, Democrats, independents,” he said. “We all agree on one thing: every life is sacred. It needs to be protected. No one is expendable. Our highest priority has to defend life from the first moment. Everyone is unique from day one.”

“We will never ever give up,” said Lipinski. “Together we’ll march until one day life, especially the most vulnerable, are protected.”

Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, claimed Louisiana was the most pro-life state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, black or white, we fight for life,” she told the crowd. “When people ask me ‘Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?’ I say ‘Because I’m a Christian first’,” Jackson said.

Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast, faulted the Democratic Party’s strong pro-abortion rights stand, but also challenged Republican legislators’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood.

He depicted abortion as a betrayal of American efforts to secure “the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty.”

“We decided that we could safely blot out millions of souls who could not protect themselves,” he said. “We lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie,” Shapiro continued, criticizing “anti-scientific arguments” about life’s origins and “euphemisms” like “termination of pregnancy, abortion, choice.”

“We stand between America and the darkness, and we will march until that darkness is banished forever and all our children can stand in the sunlight,” he told the marchers.
 
A video sponsored by the Knights of Columbus showed the pro-life work of the Catholic men’s organization, including its ultrasound machine donation program. Its head, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, spoke to the rally and cited a Knights-sponsored poll showing strong support for “substantial restrictions” on abortion and policies to “protect mother and child before birth.”

He also asked eligible men to join the Knights of Columbus, which has about 1.9 million members worldwide. The group’s many friends and allies spoke out after a controversial December Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which two Democratic senators had questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights due to their views on abortion rights and marriage.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reflected on her journey away from performing abortions.

“If it was wanted, it was a baby. If it wasn’t wanted, it was a fetus,” she said.

While qualms about abortions arose during her neonatal rotation, when she tried to save babies the same gestational age as those she was abortion, only the birth of her daughter made her stop performing abortions.

After realizing that women who kept their babies did better compared to those who had sought abortions, and watching nearly aborted children in her church grow up instead, her views began to change further. Caring family and friends brought her fully to the pro-life cause.

The event emcee Jeanne Mancini said the country was “forever changed” by Roe v. Wade.

“Since that time, we have tragically lost over 60 million American children, little girls and little boys, to abortion. And many mothers and fathers regret having been involved in abortion,” she said.

“We’re marching to end the human rights abuse of our time, abortion,” Mancini told marchers. “That’s why we march. And that’s why you are so urgently needed.”

She encouraged marchers to share their story on social media, using the hashtag #WhyWeMarch.

Dr. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the closing prayer.
 

 

Senate fails to advance bill to ban federal abortion funding

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:56 am (CNA).- In a procedural vote on Thursday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate failed to advance a bill that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions.

The Jan. 17 vote to invoke cloture and end debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019 (S.109) need 60 supporters. Only 48 senators, including two Democrats, voted in favor of cloture, with 47 legislators voting against it.

There are 53 Republican senators in the 116th Congress. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the measure, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted in favor of bring the bill to a vote.

Shortly after the bill failed to advance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the pro-life SBA List, praised the vote itself, saying, “Today’s vote sends a strong signal that Leader McConnell and the pro-life Senate majority will be a ‘brick wall’ against pro-abortion House Democrats’ extreme agenda, which includes forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

“We are grateful to our Senate allies for standing with the majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion,” she added.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment, introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

The act would also have barred federal subsidies from being used to purchase insurance plans which include abortion coverage and ensure full disclosure of the extent to which insurance plans on Affordable Care Act exchange fund abortion.

The bill, which has the support of the White House, was sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“As thousands gather in our nation’s capital this week to March for Life, it is well past time Congress passed a comprehensive solution to the patchwork of regulations prohibiting federal funding for abortion services,” Wicker said, according to Politico. “Our legislation would create a permanent, government-wide prohibition on abortion funding so that not one taxpayer dollar goes toward the destruction of innocent human life.”

The Hyde Amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support, but in recent years the Democratic party has called for its repeal.

Also on Thursday, three Congressmen introduced an analogous bill in the House of Representatives.

Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced HR 20 to the lower chamber, which is controlled by the Democratic party.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives: because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise, these individuals survived, and their mothers benefited from prenatal health care and support,” said Smith. “Two million survivors have had the opportunity to live and enjoy the first and most basic of all human rights – the right to life. It’s time to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.”

Lipinski said the bill “would finally make sure the Hyde protections are placed in law. This is long overdue.”

An identical bill passed the House each of the last three years.