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CPAC speakers urge lawmakers to embrace life, end coerced abortions

Stanton Healthcare CEO Brandi Swindell and Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance speak at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference. / Credit: CPAC Screenshot/Rumble

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

With elections in the United States less than nine months away, pro-life speakers at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference are urging candidates for public office to embrace the issue of life and for lawmakers to crack down on coerced abortions. 

“At 16 weeks, a little baby girl has all her major organs, has fingernails and eyebrows, can hear and respond to her mother’s voice, and can feel pain,” Penny Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said during a panel titled “Babies-R-Us.” 

“She’s an important part of our human family,” Nance said. 

The panel addressed the upcoming elections in the U.S., which includes races for the presidency, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 seats in the United States Senate. In 13 states, there will be elections for governor and several states will also hold local races. 

Nance criticized the “media” and the Washington, D.C., “consulting class,” which she claims has fed false narratives of the abortion issue.

“The other side thinks abortion should be legal any time, any reason, any number, at any point in gestation, all paid for by the taxpayer,” Nance continued. “That is an extremist position.”

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, more than 20 states have passed into law stricter limits on abortion. However, in every state in which abortion policy was directly placed on the ballot via a ballot initiative since the overturning of Roe, every pro-life ballot initiative has failed and every pro-abortion initiative has succeeded.

Brandi Swindell, the founder and CEO of the pro-life pregnancy center group Stanton Healthcare, also spoke on the panel and emphasized the need to end coerced abortion. 

“If you are a victim or a survivor of abortion abuse, we believe you, we stand with you, and we will not abandon your stories, and there is help and hope,” Swindell said. “We have got to end abortion abuse as a society.” 

Stanton Healthcare is launching a new initiative and website to combat coerced abortion, which includes seeking criminal charges against anyone who has forced a woman to abort her child. Swindell said the organization already has 2,000 affidavits for confirmed cases of abortion abuse that they are looking into.

Swindell claims that the pro-abortion movement, including Planned Parenthood, “has normalized and enabled” abortion abuse. She said pro-life pregnancy centers provide alternatives for women who desire to keep their children.

“We stop the cycle of substance abuse, of domestic abuse, all these different things, of poverty, economic issues,” Swindell said.” When a woman finds hope through unexpected pregnancy, she gets her life together and does what’s best for her baby and what’s best for her if she has access to quality health care services that are life-affirming.”

During the panel, Nance encouraged women who regret their abortions and men who regret their participation in abortions to join the pro-life movement. “Our movement is replete with people who deeply regret their abortions,” Nance said.

“At the cross of Jesus Christ, he forgives all sin,” Nance continued. “There’s nothing you could ever have done that’s bad enough that he won’t love you, he won’t forgive you, and he won’t be in a relationship with you and want to spend eternity with you.”

CPAC is an annual event that features leading conservative speakers from the U.S. and around the world. The event, which is held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?

The National Eucharistic Revival recleased a detailed map of the upcoming pilgrimage routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 18:25 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage released a schedule of all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes planned across the country and ending at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis this July. 

The stops, which were announced by organizers on Thursday, include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks.  

At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

“It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way,” Glemkowski said. “Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life-changing for the Church across America.”

He also stressed that Catholics in communities across the country are “invited to be part of the historic movement to set hearts ablaze.”

What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

The organizers are calling it “our national Emmaus moment” after the biblical passage in which Jesus walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus. Through this campaign, the bishops plan to rededicate the country to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Where can I meet up with it? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s four routes are the Marian Route from the north, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the east, the St. Juan Diego Route from the south, and the St. Junipero Serra Route from the west. 

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here

The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.

The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 

The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

Who will be leading the pilgrimages? 

According to the statement, each route will be led by a team of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims,” who have already been selected and whose names will be announced on March 11. 

A “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will provide “ecclesial support” for the pilgrims. 

How can I participate? 

Participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is simple and costs nothing. Exact details on individual events at pilgrimage stops, including registration information, are available on the route pages

You can also participate by walking portions of the pilgrimage with the Perpetual Pilgrims. To do so, organizers ask that you register, which you can do by clicking here.

After Alabama Supreme Court’s embryo personhood ruling, what comes next?

Technician does control check of the in vitro fertilization process using a microscope. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

An Alabama Supreme Court decision that established the personhood of frozen embryos drew praise from pro-life groups. The possible wider effects of the decision, meanwhile, remain shrouded in uncertainty. 

The state Supreme Court ruled that frozen human embryos constitute children under state statute, a decision that could have wide-reaching effects on in vitro fertilization treatments.

The nine-judge court said in the 8-1 ruling that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is “sweeping and unqualified” and that its provisions extend to children “regardless of their location.”

“It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation,” the ruling said. “It is not the role of this court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy.”

The court’s decision came about as part of a lawsuit brought by several parents whose frozen embryos had been accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The plaintiffs had argued that the destruction fell under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Pro-life advocates praised the decision. Katie Daniel, the state policy director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement to CNA that the court in its ruling “recognized what is obvious and a scientific fact — life begins at conception.” 

“That does not mean fertility treatment is prohibited,” Daniel said. “Rather it means fertility treatments need not carelessly or intentionally destroy the new life created.” 

“Alabama or anyone concerned by this decision can look to Louisiana, which has had a law in place since the 1980s that requires IVF be practiced in a more ethical way,” she said. She noted that “1,000 babies are born every year in that state as a result of IVF.”

Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action, likewise said after the ruling that the decision “affirms the scientific reality that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization.”

“This ruling, which involved a wrongful-death claim brought by parents against a fertility clinic that negligently caused the death of their children, rightly acknowledged the humanity of unborn children created through in vitro fertilization,” Rose said, calling the decision “an important step towards applying equal protection for all.”

Will it affect other states?

Though the ruling was understandably welcomed by pro-life advocates, it is less certain how the court decision may play out beyond the state of Alabama.

The question before the state Supreme Court was whether or not frozen embryos should be considered children under Alabama state statute. Jay Tidmarsh, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, told CNA that the ruling “decided only a question of state law.”

“On whether this will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, I think many people do not realize that the U.S. Supreme Court decides only issues of federal law,” Tidmarsh said. 

“On matters of [Alabama] state law, the Alabama Supreme Court has the final word, not the United States Supreme Court,” Tidmarsh said. 

“For the United States Supreme Court to become involved in this case, therefore, the Alabama decision must involve an issue of federal law,” he said.

The Constitution established the Supreme Court as overseeing cases involving “controversies to which the United States shall be a party,” as well as “controversies between two or more states.” The Alabama decision “does not decide or invoke any matter of federal law,” Tidmarsh pointed out. 

“I could well imagine some theories of federal law that the decision might implicate, but none of those theories was mentioned in the opinion,” he said. 

Danielle Pimentel, who serves as policy counsel at Americans United for Life, echoed Tidmarsh’s assessment. 

“Right now I don’t see there are any federal questions to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said. The decision was “focused on Alabama law and will stay within Alabama,” she said.

The ruling “doesn’t limit IVF or access to it,” she pointed out. “It simply ensures that both the parents and the children are protected under the Wrongful Death of the Minor Act. If the fertility clinic is acting negligently, parents can potentially bring a civil claim.”

The state Supreme Court’s decision, meanwhile, is only part of the lawsuit brought by the parents whose embryonic children had died at the fertility clinic, Pimentel noted. 

“[The court’s ruling] wasn’t a ruling on the merits,” she said. “We still don’t know what a trial court will decide on whether the defendants have violated the act. I think we’ll have to wait and see what the trial court decides.”

The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of embryos. There are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted.”

The Holy Father had noted at the time that there “seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.” 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, meanwhile, wrote in the 1987 document Donum Vitae that even an IVF and embryo-transfer procedure that is “free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it.”

CPAC speakers stress the role of faith in healing from sex trafficking

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Faith plays an important role in the healing process for those who have survived human trafficking, a victim of sex trafficking and a founder of a shelter for victims shared during a panel discussion at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Just remember that when you were little, when all of you were small, just like myself, there are dreams … ideas and thoughts about life and what you want to be; who you want to be,” said Tanya Gould, who was a victim of human trafficking and now serves as the director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.

“It takes faith to believe that you’re still that person after all of that has happened to you,” Gould said.

An important part of the recovery process, according to Gould, was “having people and places and folks that believe in … just me being human — who I am and being [made] in the image of God.”

Elizabeth Ameling, the founder and executive director of The Latisha’s House Foundation, which provides housing for sex trafficking victims, said those who work at her shelter tell women that “they’ve always been loved and there’s no one like them,” adding that the group’s housing manager tells them: “You’re the apple of God’s eye, he only made one of you, [and] you’re perfect.”

“We say that to them because [most of them] don’t have moms and dads — overwhelmingly their parents are dead or in prison,” Ameling said. “They have to have that connection. If they develop that while they’re in our house, they do better going through counseling, they do better dealing with addiction and it is transformative because it lets them know they’re loved.”

The panelists also discussed efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement and government initiatives.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, another member of the panel, encouraged officials to go after those who purchase sexual services from women, noting that many of the women are victims of trafficking. He said that this emphasis, which his state is focusing on through Operation Buyer’s Remorse, ensures that women who are victims are not being prosecuted.

“Don’t buy sex in Ohio,” Yost said. “If the money dries up, the trafficking will dry up.”

Yost added that the influx of people immigrating into the United States illegally has heightened the problem of sex and labor trafficking in the United States. He argued that this problem is “dispersing everywhere” and is not just taking place in states that border Mexico.

“There’s no such thing as a border state anymore,” Yost said. “Or maybe I should say every state is a border state.”

Gould also highlighted the importance of raising awareness of sex trafficking as a means to combat the illicit market. She said a major part of Virginia’s efforts includes awareness to businesses and employees.

CPAC is an annual event that hosts conservative and Republican speakers. The event, which is located at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

Catholic University installs Crucifixion artwork by imprisoned Catholic activist Jimmy Lai

A drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai is unveiled by Lai's godfather, William McGurn, and his wife and daughter at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024. / Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C., has installed a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Hong Kong Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.

Father Robert Sirico, a supporter and friend of Lai’s, said during the installation ceremony on Thursday that the sketch is a testimony “not just of Jimmy’s struggle but the struggle of all people of Hong Kong” and “all of the people of China, who will, by faith, resist [oppression].”

The large drawing depicts Christ on the cross flanked by eight orange flowers. It was created by Lai in prison, where, according to Sirico, he has been kept in solitary confinement for close to 1,500 days.

A drawing of the Crucifixion created in prison by Catholic Hong Konger and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai now on display at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
A drawing of the Crucifixion created in prison by Catholic Hong Konger and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai now on display at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

The picture was blessed by university chaplain Father Aquinas Guilbeau. It is now on permanent display by the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel in Catholic University’s Busch School of Business.

Catholic University Chaplain and Vice President of Ministry and Mission Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, blesses a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai on Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America
Catholic University Chaplain and Vice President of Ministry and Mission Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, blesses a drawing of the Crucifixion by imprisoned Catholic and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai on Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

Who is Jimmy Lai?

A successful entrepreneur, newspaper owner, Catholic, and outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Lai has been in a Hong Kong prison since 2020 for his pro-democracy and free speech advocacy.

The activist, a convert to Catholicism, was originally arrested in August 2020 under that year’s controversial national security law, which was passed by China’s communist-controlled government. The law sharply curtailed free speech in Hong Kong in an effort to quash what the Chinese Communist Party considered subversion and sedition in the separately administered region.

The plaque below Lai’s drawing at Catholic University explains that he “cites his Catholic faith as the basis for his refusal to be silenced or flee to save himself from arrest.”

Sirico said that the Hong Kong activist willingly chose to give up his comfortable, affluent life by resisting the CCP and refusing to leave Hong Kong. Although Hong Kongers have for years enjoyed a greater degree of freedom than that found in mainland China, that is now quickly changing as Chinese officials crack down on the region.

“If I go away, I not only give up my destiny, I give up God, I give up my religion, I give up what I believe in,” Lai said in 2020. “I am what I am. I am what I believe. I cannot change it. And if I can’t change it, I have to accept my fate with praise.”

Sirico told CNA that Lai sees his imprisonment as a way of joining in Christ’s passion on the cross. He said that the drawing should serve as an inspiring reminder that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Father Robert Sirico, founder of the Acton Institute and producer of a documentary on Jimmy Lai called "The Hong Konger," gives an address at the installation and blessing of a drawing of the crucifixion by Lai at The Catholic University of America's Busch School of Business, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America
Father Robert Sirico, founder of the Acton Institute and producer of a documentary on Jimmy Lai called "The Hong Konger," gives an address at the installation and blessing of a drawing of the crucifixion by Lai at The Catholic University of America's Busch School of Business, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: Patrick G. Ryan/The Catholic University of America

In prison, Sirico said that Lai has devoted himself to religious reading and prayer. He has also begun creating religious drawings, mostly pictures of the Crucifixion, like the one now on display at Catholic University.

A symbol of resistance

CUA has been a vocal supporter of Lai in previous years. In 2022, the university awarded Lai an honorary degree.

Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, Catholic University’s president, told CNA that Lai “represents resistance to real oppression” and that he “represents freedom.”  

Kilpatrick said that he hopes students will look at the drawing and learn about Lai and his resistance in Hong Kong and realize that “there are still people in the world who are willing to fight for the truth and who are willing to fight for freedom.”

“I see freedoms being denied all around the world,” Kilpatrick said. “In 2024, we may have to fight harder … not just in Hong Kong, but perhaps right here in the United States, for freedom to worship as we should and must, for the freedom and the dignity of the human person, which is under assault.”

Chen Guangcheng, a world-renowned Chinese human rights activist known commonly as the “barefoot lawyer,” was also at the dedication ceremony. He told CNA that he came to show his support for Lai. 

“Jimmy Lai is a good person,” Guangcheng said. “He used his media to see the truth; that is why the CCP persecuted him.” 

Guangcheng urged Americans to do more in support of freedom in Hong Kong and mainland China.

“I think if the Western people and government stand with them, the situation still can change,” he said.

She left a wild lifestyle but thanks to the Virgin Mary found true happiness in God

Irasema Ángel, 43, describes her past life as "a glass box full of lies," where there was no freedom or full happiness. / Credit: Courtesy of Irasema Ángel

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Irasema Ángel, 43, exchanged a life of comfort for a life that now seeks to please God. Her testimony is proof of the importance of conversion in the lives of Christians.

From a very young age, Ángel — a Mexican national who resides in the United States — was involved in “a life full of luxuries,” a reality that she herself described as “a glass box full of lies,” where freedom and complete happiness did not exist.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Ángel shared that her relationship with her father was always distant, which marked her youth. “At a certain point my father was unfaithful to my mother, and that’s when my heart broke,” she said.

When she was only 14, Ángel adopted a rebellious lifestyle, marked by feminism, hedonism, and self-sufficiency. This superficiality led her to distance herself from everyone, including her family, but especially from God and the sacraments.

“I thought I was the master of my own life and that I didn’t have to answer to anyone,” she said.

Born in the Mexican state of Baja California, she commented that “it was very common” for American influence to be very strong there — especially Hollywood — and she recognized that it had a profound impact on her way of conceiving the world.

“Hollywood knew how to sell me movies, fashion, music, and pornography. This deforms your identity and dignity as a daughter of God,” Ángel said. In addition, she noted that at that time she only thought about “having a good time and having fun.”

Thus the years went by: between bars and nightclubs, from Thursday to Sunday nonstop. Soon the parties became an occasion for drugs and lust. 

“No one educated me and it was very easy not to control myself. That made me a slave to passions,” she said. “In my case, I didn’t know the difference between love and lust. I was without shame or modesty.”

This way of living, Ángel said, permeated all aspects of her reality with frivolity from her way of dressing to the way she spoke and behaved — a situation that after several years changed radically when the Mother of God intervened in her life.

The Virgin Mary 

After a long personal process in which Ángel left her past life behind and began to be formed in the faith, she began to attend Mass at a parish in San Diego. There she “strived to fulfill the will of God,” but it was still difficult for her to overcome some situations that had been ingrained in her for a long time.

At that moment when her faith began to falter, a friend invited her to participate in a traditional dance in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At each of the meetings, the dance group prayed the rosary before and after each rehearsal in preparation for the pilgrimage on Dec. 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

That day Ángel was just one of the pilgrims who venerated the Virgin. She commented that during the trip she didn’t feel anything in particular, but when she entered the church at the end of the procession, she was overcome with tears, which she still cannot explain. 

“I didn’t know what was happening. I had never asked the Virgin for anything directly, but I did ask God for my conversion every day. Then [Our Lady] came and rescued me from the clutches of Satan,” she recounted.

From that moment on, Ángel left behind the sins of her past life. 

“That’s how Mary came into my life and I made a clean break with mortal sin,” she said, adding that “I started to heal my wounds. God gave me another chance.”

The Mexican woman has been “walking hand in hand with Christ” for 18 years now. For her, the only goal that a human being should aspire to is to achieve holiness. She calls on young people to “not settle for less” and for “their standards and expectations to always be high.”

“Aspire to holiness. It’s a path that’s not easy, but with Jesus and Mary it really is possible,” she said. “For me that is true success, not what the world offers you. This is true heroism.”

“The success you seek is God’s dream for your life because it protects you from false love, it makes you less selfish, more generous, it gives you back your personality, your identity, and your character,” Ángel explained.

To learn more about Irasema Ángel and her conversion story, you can follow her on Facebook and on X.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

CPAC panelists sound alarm amid transgender-related parental rights battles

Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project discusses gender policy for minors with Dr. Eithan Haim and CPAC panel moderator Meg Brock of the Daily News Foundation. / Credit: Screenshot of CPAC 2024/Rumble

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 22, 2024 / 22:08 pm (CNA).

The president of the American Principles Project, Terry Schilling, warned that the “transgender industry” is waging a “war on families” amid efforts by states to tear children away from parents who refuse to facilitate their children’s gender transitions.

“They are declaring war on families,” said Schilling, a Catholic, during a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on Thursday.

The panel — titled “Genesis 1:27” in reference to the biblical affirmation that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” — delved into concerns about state governments imposing gender ideology on families and allowing surgical sex-change operations to be performed on children in more than half of the country.

The panelists specifically referenced the situation in Indiana, where the state government took a 15-year-old out of his parents’ custody after the teenager began to identify as transgender. The Catholic parents, Mary and Jeremy Cox, refused to refer to their son as a girl based on their belief that sex is immutable, and he developed an eating disorder.

Although the Indiana Court of Appeals could not substantiate any abuse or neglect from the parents, the judges still removed the child from the home and placed him with a family that would refer to him as a girl as a means to address the eating disorder. The appellate ruling occurred in October 2022, but the parents asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case last week.

The panelists also discussed the growing trend in states such as California, Washington, and Minnesota to pass laws that allow out-of-state runaway children to receive transgender surgeries without the knowledge or consent of their parents. 

Schilling said these laws and state actions “incriminate parents for doing their jobs” by punishing them “for protecting their children from this [transgender] industry that will quite literally chew them up and spit them out with destroyed bodies.” 

The Catholic father of six criticized what he called the “transgender for-profit industry,” which he said is enriching itself by providing transgender drugs to children and facilitating sex-change operations.

Schilling was joined on the panel by Dr. Eithan Haim, who was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for leaking details about a secretive program to facilitate sex changes for children at the Texas Children’s Hospital.

Haim encouraged doctors to speak up about the harm caused by facilitating gender transitions for children, arguing that “we take an oath when we go into medical school and we follow this path that we should do no harm, [and] that doesn’t just apply to the clinic [or] to the operating room … but it applies outside of that.” 

“These doctors [who facilitate sex changes for children] have believed they can become God and create something new when the actual goal of medicine is to preserve and strengthen what’s already been created,” Haim added.

The panel was hosted by Meg Brock of the Daily Caller News Foundation. This year’s CPAC proceedings continue through Saturday, Feb. 24.

Art as a leap of faith: Kansas artist quits job to paint murals to revitalize parish

A triptych of Pentecost with Mary at the center in the Temple by Mattie Karr at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. / Courtesy: Mattie Karr

CNA Staff, Feb 22, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

An artist in Kansas is revitalizing her parish by painting two 15-foot-tall triptychs of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the presentation of Jesus with parishioners as the subjects. 

Mattie Karr’s three-paneled recently-completed murals will be installed at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.

Karr studied illustration at the University of Kansas but left behind her dreams of filmmaking to move into a more secure corporate role after school. But when Father Anthony Oulette, pastor of Holy Name, discovered Karr was an artist, he told her about his idea for the parish.

“He took me to the church and was like well, I have this idea; I have tons of ideas to renovate the church,” Karr recalled. “And he told me on the left side there would be Pentecost and St. Michael at the top and Mary in the middle, and then on the right side would be St. Joseph presenting Jesus at the Temple with Gabriel at the top. He wanted them to mimic the beautiful stained-glass windows that we have.”

Karr accepted the mural commission in 2020, and in September 2022, she left her full-time job and launched her career in sacred art, beginning with the Holy Name commission. Oulette organized fundraising and built the panels for the art in his garage.

A triptych of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mattie Karr at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. Credit: Photo courtesy of Mattie Karr
A triptych of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mattie Karr at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. Credit: Photo courtesy of Mattie Karr

“I remember leading up to it, this voice in my head, like ‘what if God’s not even real.’ It was crazy,” she said. “I love Jesus so much and I know that he is real, but there was really this temptation of like, you’re gonna base your entire life and your entire career and your safety, security, money off of this person who you think is alive and is real — like what if God’s not even real?” 

But the leap of faith slowly began to prove itself. 

When Karr needed visual references for the figures in the art, she and Oulette decided to ask parishioners to volunteer. They both had the same parishioner in mind for Mary: Leticia DeCaigny.

When Karr was taking photos of the parishioners in costume for reference, she found out there was a deeper connection for DeCaigny.

DeCaigny and her husband lost their 8-year-old son after his five-year battle with cancer. 

“She was like, ‘We lost our son to cancer about 10 years ago, so I know what it’s like to walk with the suffering son. I feel very close to Mary and this is a confirmation that she sees me and that she’s with me,’” Karr recalled DeCaigny saying. “She came with her husband; her husband’s in it too as a disciple … and he was just in tears, and it was very moving.”

This affected Karr’s view of the project. 

“This project really is not mine: that’ what I felt like in my heart,” she recalled. “I’m participating in this, I’m painting it, and gathering models, but this is so much bigger than me. Because there’s no way I could have known that, I just chose her because I liked her hair. I didn’t know that her story was really linked to Mary. And so that was a huge gift I think for her, but also for me.”

“It’s not just a piece of art,” she continued, “but it’s really something to impact the people who are going to be involved in it and the people who are going to see it, for hopefully many many years.”

A digital commission from 2023 by Mattie Karr. The digital painting is based on Zechariah 2:5, "For I will be unto her a wall of fire round about and will be the glory in the midst of her." The image symbolizes that anyone who is baptized is anointed priest prophet and king, with a robe symbolizing priest, sandals for prophet, and a ring and crown for king. The pose recalls someone taking a "blind step of faith." Credit: Courtesy of Mattie Karr
A digital commission from 2023 by Mattie Karr. The digital painting is based on Zechariah 2:5, "For I will be unto her a wall of fire round about and will be the glory in the midst of her." The image symbolizes that anyone who is baptized is anointed priest prophet and king, with a robe symbolizing priest, sandals for prophet, and a ring and crown for king. The pose recalls someone taking a "blind step of faith." Credit: Courtesy of Mattie Karr

The scenes Oulette chose mean something special to the parish, Karr explained. 

“The Lord has such unique things to say to all of us,” she said. “My parish, for instance, is very Holy Spirit-driven. I don’t know if I’d call it a charismatic parish per se, but we love the Holy Spirit, and so having a scene of Pentecost is really important for our parish. And then our name is Holy Name of Jesus, and so the other [triptych] is the scene of Jesus the day of his circumcision, which is when he would receive his holy name.”

Karr’s depiction of the presentation of Jesus features Joseph holding Jesus before a priest, when he was presented with his holy name, with Joseph’s ancestors gathered in the background, holding candles. The archangel Gabriel looks upon the scene from above, holding a lantern over the blue, candlelit scene.

“And so these paintings, they could be replicated in another parish, but I don’t know if they would have the same effect,” she said. “The Holy Spirit has something so unique for each community, for each person, because he knows us so well.”

The Pentecost and Holy Name triptychs are scheduled to be installed at Holy Name by Easter or Pentecost, Karr said, noting that much of the work is volunteer-based. 

When asked about the importance of art, Karr shared about the intimate effect beauty can have. 

“[Art] really helps draw people out of despair and depression,” Karr said. “I’ll be the first one to tell you that beauty has drawn me out of my own depression.”

Karr recalls a moment when she was painting the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. 

“Even with this triptych, I was painting little baby Jesus at a time that I was not doing very well, and just looking in his eyes and looking at his face, it was like he was communicating with me, like I was having this conversation with him,” she said. “And it just broke through in a way that I can’t really explain.” 

Catholic mural artist Mattie Karr at work. The Kansas-based artist quit her job to revitalize her parish by painting two 15-foot-tall triptychs of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the presentation of Jesus with parishioners as the subjects. Credit: Courtesy of Mattie Karr
Catholic mural artist Mattie Karr at work. The Kansas-based artist quit her job to revitalize her parish by painting two 15-foot-tall triptychs of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the presentation of Jesus with parishioners as the subjects. Credit: Courtesy of Mattie Karr

When asked about her own faith journey, Karr shared the role of beauty and art in it. 

“I always wanted to go on an adventure for God,” Karr said. “This was something that was really a desire of mine from a young age. I remember reading ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ as a family, and my dad explaining how Aslan was like God and Jesus, and how there are all these analogies. I think deep down I just knew that if I said yes to God I’d be on a wonderful adventure just like Narnia.”

"Defenses Down" commission by Mattie Karr, oil on canvas, 2023. Credit: Mattie Karr
"Defenses Down" commission by Mattie Karr, oil on canvas, 2023. Credit: Mattie Karr

“And obviously life is difficult,” she continued. “It wasn’t always this adventure and I got into some pretty dark moments … in college, [I] had some pretty dark depression. But God, he rescued me in real, personal, and deep ways through those moments of depression.” 

After an experience of someone praying over her, Karr said that her work in healing ministries and art helped strengthen her faith. 

“I call it my tomb year. There was a summer, in 2018, that I was just dead; I just felt depressed and I hated God and I didn’t understand — and he seemed far from me,” she said. “I wasn’t living this adventure that I thought I would, I just felt embarrassed all the time and insecure and I didn’t think that anyone really loved me even though they said they did — just depression, really. And he came through in a really powerful way through somebody praying over me.”

Through that experience, Karr became more involved in healing ministries and says that since then she “really [has known] that Jesus is really good, and he loves me, and he wants to be in every part of my life.”

“But I think that has really played a role in my art, too, because I think that art can have a really important role in healing; because our wounds are so dark and ugly and we often times think that we are dark and ugly, and so we mask up and try to create these false identities and these false selves to make us feel better,” she said. “But beauty has this way of just shining a light through that and being vulnerable and getting to the heart of the issue.”

Our Lady Undoer of Knots commission. Painting by Mattie Karr. Credit: Mattie Karr
Our Lady Undoer of Knots commission. Painting by Mattie Karr. Credit: Mattie Karr

Karr says it’s important that churches are different from other buildings. 

“I don’t want my church to look just like another retreat hall or a school or something. I want it to look different because church is different; because Mass is different; Mass is supernatural,” she continued. “We’re communing with God; we’re receiving God into our bodies, so it should look different.”

“The Catholic Church used to be the leader in the arts and I don’t think we’re the leader in the arts anymore,” she said. “People are creating beautiful art in Hollywood and in video games. And our churches … we’re just lacking so much, is what I can see. And so if we’re going to be Catholic artists we need to be excellent. We need to strive for excellence.”

“If you want your space to be beautiful, you need to invest in it,” Karr said. 

“We need art in our churches to draw people up higher and to recognize when you come into church, it’s different than any other place that you’re going to be,” she said. 

Art is now Karr’s full-time job. She takes commissions for churches and individuals, sells prints on her website, and does live wedding paintings. Karr shares project updates for the Holy Name triptychs on her social media.

Catholic mural artist Mattie Karr at work. The Kansas-based artist quit her job to revitalize her parish by painting two 15-foot-tall triptychs of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the presentation of Jesus with parishioners as the subjects. Courtesy of Mattie Karr
Catholic mural artist Mattie Karr at work. The Kansas-based artist quit her job to revitalize her parish by painting two 15-foot-tall triptychs of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the presentation of Jesus with parishioners as the subjects. Courtesy of Mattie Karr

Texas attorney general targets Catholic nonprofit, alleges it facilitates illegal immigration

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2021. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 21, 2024 / 21:15 pm (CNA).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying to shut down a Catholic nonprofit organization in El Paso based on allegations that the group may be facilitating illegal immigration, harboring immigrants who entered the country illegally, and engaging in human smuggling. 

Paxton filed a lawsuit against the nonprofit Annunciation House, which has operated in the state for nearly 50 years. The lawsuit asks the District Court of El Paso County to revoke the organization’s nonprofit registration, which would prohibit it from continuing to operate in Texas.

“The chaos at the southern border has created an environment where [nongovernmental organizations] funded with taxpayer money from the Biden administration facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling,” Paxton said in a statement. “While the federal government perpetuates the lawlessness destroying this country, my office works day-in and day-out to hold these organizations responsible for worsening illegal immigration.”

In response to the lawsuit, Annunciation House issued a statement that called Paxton’s actions “illegal, immoral, and anti-faith” and his allegations “unfounded.” According to the statement, the organization has “provided hospitality to hundreds of thousands of refugees for over [46] years” and that if its activities are illegal, “so too is the work of our local hospitals, schools, and food banks.”

“Annunciation House has kept hundreds of thousands of refugees coming through our city off the streets and [has] given them food,” the statement read. “The work helps serve our local businesses, our city, and immigration officials to keep people off the streets and give them a shelter while they come through our community.”

The attorney general’s office first approached Annunciation House on Feb. 7 of this year with concerns that it may be facilitating illegal immigration. Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in illegal activities. 

Annunciation House’s lawyers requested 30 days to respond, but the attorney general’s office refused. Rather, Paxton’s office informed the organization that if it did not provide the requested documents by Feb. 8, which was the following day, that it would “be in noncompliance.”

Annunciation House quickly filed a lawsuit against the attorney general’s office on Feb. 8, which argues that the demand violates the nonprofit’s right to due process. In its public statement, Annunciation House stated that it wants the court to decide which documents the attorney general’s office is legally entitled to receive. 

“There is nothing illegal about asking a court to decide a person’s rights,” the statement read. “The [attorney general’s office] has now made explicit that its real goal is not records but to shut down the organization. It has stated that it considers it a crime for a Catholic organization to provide shelter to refugees.”

A spokesperson for Annunciation House declined to speak about the lawsuit when reached by CNA but said the organization will hold a news conference on Friday, Feb. 23.

When contacted by CNA about Annunciation House’s response to the legal action, the attorney general’s office referred back to Paxton’s original statement.

Cardinal Dolan on St. Patrick’s funeral: ‘We don’t do FBI checks on people who want to be buried’

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

CNA Staff, Feb 21, 2024 / 18:05 pm (CNA).

Priests at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City were surprised by the “irreverence and disrespect” that occurred during a funeral for a transgender activist last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in his first public comments on it. 

“We didn’t know the background. We don’t do FBI checks on people who want to be buried,” Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said during his podcast Tuesday. 

He said cathedral staff try to be welcoming when someone requests a funeral.

“All they know is somebody called and said, ‘Our dear friend died. We’d love to have the funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It would be a great source of consolation. She’s a Catholic. It would be a great source of consolation for us, her family and friends.’ And of course, the priest at the cathedral said, ‘Come on in. You’re more than welcome,’” Dolan said. 

The priests at St. Patrick’s made a decision at the beginning of the service not to celebrate a funeral Mass but to conduct a funeral service with no Mass instead. 

It was the right thing to do given the situation, the cardinal said. 

“I applaud our priests who made a quick decision that, ‘Uh-oh, with behavior like this, we can’t do a Mass. We’ll do the Liturgy of the Word, which is the readings, and the sermon, and the prayers of petition, and the Our Father, and then we’ll stop it. The Mass is not going to go on,’” Dolan said. “Bravo for our cathedral people, who knew nothing about this that was coming up.” 

Meanwhile, though, supporters of the deceased are demanding an apology from the Archdiocese of New York for what they described as “cutting short” the Feb. 15 funeral service of Cecilia Gentili, 52, a male who identified as a woman who died Feb. 6. Supporters of Gentili also want an apology for what they called “the painfully dismissive and exclusionary language” used in a statement released by the pastor of the cathedral after the funeral. 

“The current narrative from St. Patrick’s Cathedral leadership that they were manipulated by funeral organizers of the identity of Ms. Gentili is simply not true,” an organization called Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society said in a written statement. “Funeral organizers advised cathedral staff to look up Cecilia Gentili, her work, and the community she served. To now place responsibility on the funeral organizers to have affirmatively disclosed the gender identity of their loved one is imposing a burden upon the mourners that would not be expected of a non-transgender person.”

However, the New York Times reported that the funeral’s organizer did not disclose to the cathedral that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a biological man who identified as a woman.

“I kept it under wraps,” Ceyeye Doroshow, the service’s organizer, told the outlet.

The organization also suggested that cathedral staff violated the Catholic Church’s law. 

“Still reeling from the pain of Cecilia’s loss, community members are asking for an explanation for this decision which seemingly violated Catholic Canon Law governing the denial of funeral [M]asses,” the organization said. “… Ms. Gentili’s service ended an hour earlier than had been scheduled, thus denying her the full funeral Mass that was agreed upon.” 

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, contacted by CNA on Wednesday said the archdiocese had no immediate comment on the Gentili supporters’ statement. 

Asked by email who decided to replace the funeral Mass with the shorter funeral service, Zwilling said the decision “was made by the priests at the cathedral after witnessing what was taking place.” 

A video of the service posted online last week shows that shortly after the procession down the aisle, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, looking out into the crowd, said with a laugh: “Well, welcome to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Except on Easter Sunday, we don’t really have a crowd that is this well turned out, you know?” 

After a short delay, the crowd responded with more than 40 seconds of clapping, standing, and cheering, with occasional chants of “Cecilia.” 

During the ovation, the video shows, a priest dressed in black approached Dougherty and told him, “No Eucharist,” eventually followed with the words “a funeral service, no Mass.” 

Outburst at funeral

As CNA reported last week, the prayers of the faithful during the service included a call for “Cecilia’s community” to “have access to life-affirming health care” — an apparent reference to gender transitioning — to raucous applause. 

Two of the three eulogies were critical of Catholic teaching on human sexuality. The organizer of the funeral, Doroshow, a male who identifies as a woman, who wore a purple dress, said Gentili “worked so hard to make sure girls like me, boys like you are safe, are grounded, got health care, that sex workers are free.” A standing ovation followed the “sex workers” reference. 

A man who delivered a third eulogy used a Spanish word for “whore” several times. Another man lauded the deceased as “This whore, this great whore, St. Cecilia, mother of all whores.” Raucous applause and a standing ovation followed. 

On Tuesday, Cardinal Dolan addressed the Gentili funeral about five minutes into his podcast after discussing a few other topics, including the recent shooting at the Super Bowl parade in Kansas City. Dolan mentioned that he had received “a note of solidarity” from Harrison Butker, the Kansas Chiefs kicker, about what Dolan described as “the irreverence and disrespect” of the crowd at the funeral, and the “very irreverent and disrespectful” eulogies. 

The cardinal asked the cathedral staff to celebrate a Mass of reparation after the funeral service, which the pastor, Father Enrique Salvo, said last week was done. 

“In a way, it’s redundant,” Dolan said Tuesday. “Because every Mass, every Mass is the renewal of the infinitely powerful act of reparation that Jesus did on the cross, correct? He’s the one that made reparation. We can’t do much. All we can do is unite with him on his cross in his sacred act of reparation. There is a bit of an arrow in the quiver of the Church’s treasury of prayer that if a particularly sacrilegious or scandalous act has occurred in a church, it would be good to offer a Mass in particular reparation for that act of irreverence. So we did that.” 

Salvo released a written statement Feb. 17, two days after the funeral, acknowledging what he called “outrage over the scandalous behavior” during Gentili’s funeral. 

“The cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic, and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way,” Salvo said in the statement. 

Some mainstream media news stories last week hailed the funeral as a shift in the Catholic Church’s approach to gender identity. Dolan expressed frustration Tuesday with criticism by some Catholics of the cathedral staff and his archdiocese. 

“We have a lot of misunderstanding. Why in the world our people out there still believe what the secular press reports is beyond me,” Dolan said. 

Later, he added: “Our policy at the cathedral is to be as open and welcoming of anybody who wants to be buried from here. And we had absolutely no idea about this. But why people still think the cathedral purposely did that? Well, a lot of people always want to believe the worst. And they don’t like us any more than the protesters did, in the cathedral. But who knows.”