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Catholic saints among those to be honored in garden of American heroes announced by Trump

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2021 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- The National Garden of American Heroes will include statues of many notable Catholic figures, including five saints and numerous people who are on the path to sainthood.

President Donald Trump announced in an executive order Jan. 18 that a garden will be built to “reflect the awesome splendor of our country’s timeless exceptionalism,” and to serve as a response to the spate of vandalism on statues during the summer of 2020.

“On (the National Garden’s) grounds, the devastation and discord of this moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism,” said Trump. “America is responding to the tragic toppling of monuments to our founding generation and the giants of our past by commencing a new national project for their restoration, veneration, and celebration.”

The executive order included a list of names who will be featured in the park; Trump referred to these figures as people who embody “the American spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love.”

“Astounding the world by the sheer power of their example, each one of them has contributed indispensably to America’s noble history, the best chapters of which are still to come,” said Trump.

Among those who will be memorialized in the National Garden of American Heroes include St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint; St. Katharine Drexel, the first born-U.S. citizen to be canonized; St. John Neumann; and St. Junipero Serra, the first saint canonized on U.S. soil.

Ven. Fulton Sheen and Ven. Augustus Tolton, one of the first black priests in the United States, as well as Servant of God Dorothy Day, will be honored.

Archbishop John Carroll, S.J., the first Catholic archbishop in the United States, will also be included, as will March for Life founder Nellie Gray, poet and activist Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO, and Fr. John P. Washington, a US Army chaplain who died helping save soldiers on the sinking Dorchester during World War II.

The first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, is one of the 17 presidents who will be featured in the National Garden. Other Catholic political figures who will be honored include Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence; William F. Buckley; 20th century playwright and Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce; and Antonin Scalia.

Catholic athletes who will be enshrined in the garden include Kobe Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Vince Lombardi, Babe Ruth, and Jim Thorpe.

Not everyone on the list was a U.S. citizen, or even lived in what is now the United States. Christopher Columbus, statues of whom were frequently targeted over the summer of 2020, is set to be honored in the National Garden of American heroes.

“The National Garden will feature a roll call of heroes who deserve honor, recognition, and lasting tribute because of the battles they won, the ideas they championed, the diseases they cured, the lives they saved, the heights they achieved, and the hope they passed down to all of us — that united as one American people trusting in God, there is no challenge that cannot be overcome and no dream that is beyond our reach,” said Trump in the executive order.

Death of pro-life icon on MLK's day is "fitting," family says

CNA Staff, Jan 18, 2021 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- The passing of pro-life icon Joseph M. Scheidler, 93, former National Director of the Pro-Life Action League on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day, is "absolutely fitting," his son Erik Scheidler told CNA after confirming his father’s death on Monday, January 18.

Joe Scheidler left his career in public relations to devote his life to the pro-life movement in 1973, immediately after the Supreme Court decided Roe v Wade in favor of legalizing abortion. 

He was especially famous for his long legal battle against the National Organization for Women (NOW), which cost him and his wife Anne many years of financial and emotional distress but ended in a landmark decision securing the right to protest abortion facilities around the country.

"The Pro-Life Action League is grieved to report the passing away of our founder, Joe Scheidler, ‘the Godfather of Pro-Life Activism.’ Joe died this morning peacefully, surrounded by the family of which he was so proud," tweeted his organization on Monday.

His son Erik, Executive Director of the Chicago-based pro-life organization, said “He marched with Dr. King in 1965, and the impact it had in him is to see that regular people can have a real in the cause of justice, and thus decided to recruit regular Americans to the fight in favor of life and against abortion.”

Scheidler started the pro-life "direct action" of protesting and witnessing pro-life options in front of abortion clinics, something many early pro-lifers considered as counterproductive. 

He created the Pro-Life Action League to train regular citizens to learn how to organize and protest locally. 

For that purpose he wrote the original book on fighting abortion, "CLOSED: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion" in 1985, which he updated in 1993; and produced the landmark video on sidewalk counseling, "No Greater Joy."

Scheidler was the first proponent of the massive use of large pictures depicting unborn babies and graphic images of aborted babies. The strategy was constantly criticized by the secular media and by some members of the pro-life movement, but Scheidler insisted in its necessity,  arguing that the truth about what actually happens in an abortion was being systematically hidden from the American public. 

To oppose his activism, in 1986 NOW filed a lawsuit against him and other pro-life activists on the basis of  the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO,) a law passed by the US Congress in 1970 with the declared purpose of seeking to eradicate organized crime.

 The lawsuit dragged on for two decades and put the Scheidlers on the verge of financial ruin several times. NOW's argument was that (RICO) could apply to pro-life organizations protesting abortion clinics even without economic motives, since an organization without an economic motive can still affect interstate or foreign commerce, and thus allegedly  satisfying the Act's definition of a racketeering enterprise.

According to the official account of the legal battle from the Pro-Life Action League, Scheidler originally won in the lower courts, but the case was sent back to the Federal Court by the Supreme Court in January, 1994. After a seven-week trial, Scheidler and the other defendants were found guilty of racketeering by a six-member jury. That finding was finally overturned by the Supreme Court in February 2003. 

Unwilling to concede defeat, NOW appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to undo the Supreme Court’s mandate. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case again in November 2005 and issued a unanimous decision in favor of Scheidler in February 2006. However, NOW continued to wrangle over the details of the final judgment in district court and did not finally conclude until 2014, when NOW was ultimatley required to pay final costs to the Pro-Life Action League.

His memoir of more than forty years as a pro-life activist, "Racketeer for Life", was published in November, 2016. 

In a conversation with CNA in 2011, on the occasion of his birthday, Joe Scheidler recalled that “I spent eight years in the seminary, and four years in the monastery, wanting to be a priest. But when I was preparing for ordination, I thought, 'Nope – this is not what I'm called to do.' And then suddenly, everything started to fall together.”

“I read the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973, and it was an atrocity – it was a great big lie. There is no 'constitutional right' to kill children. I was working as an account executive for a public relations firm at the time, and I just had to quit and do full-time pro-life work.”

“I rented a cheap little office only a block from my house, and started from there. At that time you could go into the clinics to talk to the girls, and try to talk the doctors out of abortion. We'd pass out thousands of leaflets, and then we started making films of what we were doing.”

Erik Scheidler will replace his father in the role of President of the pro-life organization. "I am standing in the shoulder of giants," he told CNA.

Joe was a mentor for me and a great example of a man and father who gave his life for the unborn. His unwavering passion to end abortion, energy, and classic sense of humor will be missed by all those who love him. May he go to his eternal Home in peace.

--Shawn Carney https://t.co/qd1zTW4owL

— 40 Days for Life (@40daysforlife) January 18, 2021 We are saddened to hear about the death of #ProLife hero, Joe Scheidler. He was an inspiration to the movement.

We pray for his family as we celebrate all he accomplished in his life. Rest In Peace. https://t.co/DFK9Ai7Dm0

— Heartbeat Int'l (@HeartbeatIntl) January 18, 2021 Today we mourn with the world upon the passing of Joseph M. Scheidler. We extend our deepest condolences to Joe’s wife, Ann and the entire Scheidler family on behalf of Pro-Life Wisconsin and all our supporters. https://t.co/zz8VV5KKnB

— Pro-Life Wisconsin (@ProLifeWI) January 18, 2021 FOLLOW Youth Ministry extends our deepest condolences to the Scheidler family. Joe Scheidler, founder of Pro-Life Action League, the godfather of the pro-life movement, died Monday at the age of 93. Joe was a such a powerful advocate for the unborn & will be missed.@ProLifeAction pic.twitter.com/cmNZhvZb63

— FOLLOW Youth Ministry (@followyouthmin) January 18, 2021 Today's death of Pro-Life Action League founder Joe Scheidler marks the end of an era. Joe credited his strategy of non-violent protest to the example of Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, with whom he marched with in Selma. Fitting he is called home on the day we honor Dr. King's legacy. https://t.co/9yayOM1w5g

— Mary H. FioRito (@maryfiorito) January 18, 2021 Please pray for the soul of Joe Scheidler, founder of @ProLifeAction and the “Father of the Pro-Life Movement,” as he passed away.

His style of activism is greatly needed today more than ever, and his love for our Lord is something we all should yearn for.

— David Scott Cordaro (@davidcordaro) January 18, 2021

Bishop calls for renewed fight against racism on MLK Day 

CNA Staff, Jan 18, 2021 / 02:49 am (CNA).- As Catholics and other Americans observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, they should renew their commitment to fighting racism, said Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington.

“Through Dr. King's witness and the power of his echoing words, he championed the inherent God-given dignity of all persons, particularly those subjected to bigotry and prejudice,” Burbidge said in a Jan. 15 statement.

“In his courageous fight against racism and bigotry, Dr. King relied upon faith and prayer. Hope and transformative love were central to his message, as he reminded us, ‘hate is too great a burden to bear.’”

Unfortunately, the bishop said, bigotry is still prevalent today, noting that the “sin of racism continues to affect men, women and children in communities across the nation.”

The Virginia General Assembly this week discussed a resolution that would declare institutional racism to be a public health crisis in the state. It was first introduced by Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird (D-Petersburg), during a special session in August, but the topic was postponed until the regular session on Wednesday.

If passed, the resolution would permanently establish the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, expand the power of Virginia’s Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity, and launch anti-racism training for all state elected officials and employees.

Thirty states, including North Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland, have declared racism to be a public health crisis.

Bishop Burbidge said the diocese has worked to fight racism through prayer, education, and action. He pointed to the diocese’s recent creation of an Advisory Council on Racism.

The council, he said, “works to identify how instances of racism, prejudice and bias have impacted individuals and communities in the Diocese and to develop a plan to bring about positive change in light of the Gospel and the teachings of our Faith.”

“As we work to address this evil, we must remember that what we ultimately seek is a genuine conversion of hearts that will compel change,” the bishop added.

“Together, let us pray that those harboring the burden of hate yield to the Prince of Peace, the source of salvation and love, Jesus Christ.”

 

Catholic theater company launches radio plays, with theme of quarantine

Denver Newsroom, Jan 17, 2021 / 02:00 am (CNA).- For decades, radio was Americans’ primary source of news and entertainment, before being largely superseded by television, and eventually the internet. 

Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, radio theater has returned— with the goal of conveying Catholic themes in highly-produced, entertaining, 10-minute packages. 

The Merry Beggars is a Catholic theater company based in Manhattan. Peter Atkinson, a stage actor and CEO of the Merry Beggars, banded together with several fellow actors to help found the nonprofit in 2019. 

Atkinson described The Merry Beggar’s mission as bringing together “professional artists who are excellent at their craft and seeking to tell stories for the glory of God.”

As anyone who has worked in the entertainment industry knows, it can be very difficult for writers to get their work produced, especially when it comes to films, plays, or television. And this is especially true for works that convey an authentic Christian message. 

Similarly, it can be difficult for Catholic actors to make their way in the entertainment industry— a world in which many projects may clash with a Catholic worldview.

“I've seen so many Christian and Catholic artists want to go into the acting industry and the entertainment industry, and it's a really hard industry to make your way in,” Atkinson told CNA, adding that he knows many Catholics who have given up acting careers, or have abandoned their faith in the hopes of advancing in the industry. 

“One of the things that I'm really passionate about is supporting Catholic artists and Christian artists to make work that can transform our culture,” he said. 

Before the pandemic took hold, The Merry Beggars were planning numerous in-person events for 2020, including a conference for high school drama teachers and local events for artists in New York and Washington D.C. 

When lockdowns and restrictions made in-person events impossible— or at least far less popular— Atkinson said he and the nonprofit’s board of directors set about adjusting their plans, while keeping their mission the same. 

Atkinson has long been a lover of radio theater, having grown up listening to classic programs such as "The Lone Ranger" and "The Shadow." So, he suggested the idea of producing radio plays as a way to support actors and writers while theaters remained closed amid the lockdowns. 

Moreover, they decided to make the initiative a competition, calling on prospective playwrights to send in scripts for 10-minute radio plays. The plots would be entirely up to the playwrights, prompted only by the theme: “quarantine.”

Atkinson said the idea for the theme came from one of the board members, a Catholic priest, who noted that some aspects of quarantine are similar to cloistered religious life.  

The response to the contest was almost overwhelming, he said— they received over 120 submissions, from all over the world, even as far away as Kenya. Atkinson assembled a team of 37 judges to pore over the scripts and select their top three. 

The plots of the 10-minute plays, despite all being inspired by “quarantine,” varied widely— from allegorical retellings of Adam and Eve in the garden, to astronauts conversing on the International Space Station, to something as simple as two young people’s inner monologues during lockdown in New York. 

While not every play they received was good enough to produce, Atkinson said it was so difficult to choose just the top three, they committed to producing their favorite twelve. As of Jan. 2021, The Merry Beggars have released three plays so far.  

The first play The Merry Beggars released is titled “Do You Remember? With Relaxabot 938.” The play features a fictional radio broadcast within a post-apocalyptic soundscape.

The latest play to be released, “I Do Like The Rain,” follows the interplay between members of a young family stuck in a late-night traffic jam, and touches on themes of resentment and grace. 

“It's a really simple script, but it's really beautiful,” Atkinson commented.

“The script is about a husband and wife's interior journey to some old family wounds that they have, and then the beginning of a journey of healing.”

Atkinson worked with the artists whose plays they picked, to hear from them about their ideas for how to turn the script into a compelling radio play. 

Producing the plays presented technical challenges, as the voice actors they selected— out of many hundreds of auditions— each had to record their own voices in home studios, with the editors stitching the dialogue together in post-production. 

Atkinson coached the voice actors as they were recording, observing and offering direction to the actors via video chat. 

Despite the asynchronous nature of the recording process, Atkinson’s coaching and careful editing helped make the dialogue sound natural. 

The setting of “I Do Like the Rain” features a family of four— including two child actors— in a minivan, none of whom ever actually occupied the same space during the recording process. 

“Even though they were never in the same room and they're recorded at completely different hours of the day, it sounds like they're all in the same minivan together. And it's just magical to me,” Atkinson said. 

Atkinson says they plan to release a new Quarantine Play every month, along with smaller plays called The Dailies. He said The Merry Beggars hope to eventually put on workshops for Catholics looking to connect with entertainment industry professionals, in New York City and beyond. 

“To me, the way that you heal the culture is you tell the truth about the human person. And the truth about the human person is that we're made for God,” Atkinson said. 

“I think these stories do a really tender and beautiful job of touching upon our need for God and how, in quarantine, that quiet desire for God can surface in a really beautiful, tender and fragile way.”

Kate Olivera contributed to this report. 

This interview originally aired on Catholic News Agency’s podcast, CNA Newsroom. It has been adapted for print. Listen to the interview below, beginning at 18:40. 



CNA Newsroom · Ep. 89: Taking Back the Year  

Open letter calls for investigation into mistreatment of Uyghurs

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 16, 2021 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Fifty human rights professionals and organizations have signed an open letter calling for an investigation into crimes against humanity and potential genocide of the Uyghur people in China.

The letter, published Jan. 14, was spearheaded by the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

“The international community has the responsibility to respond to these crimes and protect Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples through diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means,” said the letter. “The atrocities being perpetrated are no less egregious if they are found to constitute one international crime or another.”

The letter claims that the Chinese government, using programs they say are for the prevention of religious and political extremism, has “intensified widespread and systematic policies to repress Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples on the basis of their religious and ethnic identities.”

Over 1 million people have been in “arbitrary detention” in camps due to their religion or ethnicity, says the letter, along with being subjected to “a widespread program of political indoctrination, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural sites, forced labour,
disproportionate rates of prison incarceration, and coercive birth prevention campaigns and policies.”

Since 2017, says the letter, about 80,000 Uyghur people have been in “conditions that strongly indicate forced labour.”

The letter also points to evidence that the Chinese government is taking steps to reduce birth rates among Uyghur women, including the use of forced abortions and sterilizations. Despite being less than 2% of China’s population, 80% of IUD placements in 2018 were in Uyghur women.

“These measures meet the threshold of acts constitutive of genocide, core international crimes under the Genocide Convention, which prohibits ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births’ among an ethnic or religious group,” said the letter.

“We also believe that the Chinese government may be perpetrating the following acts prohibited under the Genocide Convention: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

There have been many reports of Uyghur children being removed from their families, the letter states.

The 50 signatories of the letter are encouraging countries to “convene a special session at the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations taking place in the Uyghur Region and develop strategies to end these violations”’; implement new diplomatic and bilateral efforts to prevent further genocidal activity; and “independently investigate and make appropriate legal determinations regarding the treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim-majority peoples in China.”

“It is our collective responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities, including crimes against humanity and genocide,” says the letter.

“We must act now to prevent further atrocities against this long-persecuted group.”

How do you foster Catholic community in quarantine?

Denver Newsroom, Jan 16, 2021 / 02:00 am (CNA).- Like many in 2020, Catholic author Leah Libresco Sargeant found much solace in the past year in spiritual reading— as well as in copious amounts of baking. 

“The big thing this year, especially with the new baby, is making large batches of cookies and then freezing a bunch of the dough so that there could always be fresh cookies, even if it's a very busy day and it's not plausible to make any. It's great,” she laughed. 

Leah is a convert from atheism, and writes and thinks a lot about ways to build up strong Christian communities. In fact, she wrote a book about it a couple of years ago, called “Building the Benedict Option,” in which she encourages Catholics to create opportunities in their lives to interact more with their faith community.

These additional, intentional interactions can include taking the initiative to host people more often for dinner or events at your home, especially on feast days. Her book offers tips on how to make these interactions more successful in building tight-knit Christian communities. 

Although many of the suggestions in Leah’s book are predicated on face-to-face interactions, she said she has found ways to adapt her community-building practices during coronavirus times. 

“I think one of the hard things is just having a routine shattered; some of the connections you have with other people vanishing. And it takes a bit of work, then, to build up from scratch what you otherwise could rely on from other people,” she noted. 

For example, she’s taken the initiative to maintain several penpals, keeping friendships alive by conversing via snail mail. A habit Leah practiced even before the pandemic was sending things to people that she found spiritually enriching— such as book passages, or information about interesting saints— in the hopes that they would find it spiritually enriching too. 

Most dioceses in the United States, save for a few in the West, have reopened almost all their churches for Mass with continued precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing. Catholic churches in Princeton, New Jersey where the Sargeants live have generally been accessible since the summer of 2020, but Leah says there have been times when the Sergeants have had to miss in-person Mass and instead participate from home via livestream. 

“We try and make that an opportunity to pray for people who are in more remote places, who have a traveling priest who doesn't come every week, even in normal times— or people who are living under persecution,” Leah told CNA. 

“To try and take this unexpected and unwanted fast from the Mass as an opportunity to pray for people for whom [access to the sacraments] is an ongoing struggle, pandemic or no.”

Part of the key to making it through “unexpected fasts” from the sacraments is to reach out to others and offer to walk through it with them, she said. 

“If you can't go to Mass, or can't go to Mass as often as you used to, part of the question might be: do you have a friend who is also in this position?” she said, adding that you could call that person on the phone and offer to pray with them. 

“Is there a way that this can become something you share with others, rather than just a time of isolation?

Adding that she does not want to “sugarcoat” the difficulties in keeping a sense of community alive during the pandemic, Sergeant said restrictions on public gatherings, including Mass, have made spontaneous, organic interactions with her neighbors more difficult. 

“I think in some ways what the pandemic has done is strengthened some of my ties with people who I've fallen out of touch with a little, and who don't live nearby, and weakened them a bit with my actual neighbors,” she said. 

On the other hand, Sergeant said she has found that the extra time spent at home during the pandemic has helped her and her family to pray more in their home. 

Leah and her husband Alexi welcomed their first child in January 2020, so a lot of their domestic church traditions in the past year have been shaped by that joyful fact. For example, the Sargeants decided against putting out a physical Advent wreath in 2020. 

“A lot of our traditions have to be things that are less tangible, because literally everything in the house goes into [the baby’s] mouth,” she laughed. 

One “intangible” habit that Leah and her husband have gotten into is doing spiritual reading every Sunday, out loud, to each other. They’ve made their way through works such as the biblical poetry of Gregory of Nazianzus and “The Day is Now Far Spent” by Robert Cardinal Sarah. 

Leah has also continued her habit of blogging, attracting several hundred followers to an email newsletter in which she writes on topics such as motherhood, the benefits she has found from working from home, and a variety of others from a Catholic feminist perspective. 

One of the keys to a healthy spiritual life is silence, and cultivating periods of silence every day for prayer and peacefulness. Leah says she’s been working on this for a while, and added that the birth of her first child has, perhaps paradoxically, helped her to find quieter moments than she had before. 

“For me, a baby is sometimes an excuse not to find those periods of silence. But...a baby forces you to be fully present in the moment, to put aside some of your own goals or own plans for the day,” she explained.  

“And if she falls asleep on top of you after what's been a rough afternoon, suddenly it is enforced silence...and if you weren't planning to have any silent prayer too bad, now is the time!”

The human toll of the pandemic has a lot of people thinking about death— not only the deaths of others, but their inevitable own. Leah says for Catholics, who believe in resurrection, thinking about death is not necessarily a bad thing. 

“The Church has always told us to meditate on our own death, and to make that part of our spiritual practice,” she pointed out.

“[God] defeated death and freed us from fear of it, but that doesn't make it easy. That's why we talk about this as a spiritual practice, something we have to do deliberately again and again, to build up that trust in God and that knowledge of who He is. And so I think the pandemic is really forcing that good spiritual practice on us in a much more stressful and frightening way than if we'd chosen it ourselves.”

This meditation on what it means to die, and for things to end, applies not just to individuals, but to the Church as a whole. Even in non-pandemic times, there are always going to be people at Mass who are journeying through grief and suffering, and pastors shouldn’t shy away from addressing that, Sergeant said, seeking to assure people that experiencing spiritual aridity and grief does not make them “bad Christians.”

“There's always someone in your neighborhood, in your parish, who's going through a time that's just as hard as it is now [in the pandemic], but it isn't shared,” she said.  

“So part of the question is: Whatever's going on now that's helping us take care of each other, how do we continue that when there isn't the shock of a pandemic to remind us that people around us are suffering?”

The pandemic hasn’t only brought challenges, however. There have also been some fun opportunities for enhancing the Sargeant’s family life— several of which involve baking. Leah recommends seeking out a sourdough starter, as it makes for a fun baking activity as well as a potential gift to pass on to others. 

“If you're only feeding one thing in your house, it should be the baby, not the sourdough starter,” she laughed. 

This interview originally aired on Catholic News Agency’s podcast, CNA Newsroom. It has been adapted for print. Listen to the interview below, beginning at 9:40. 



CNA Newsroom · Ep. 89: Taking Back the Year  

US bishops applaud Supreme Court ruling in favor of FDA abortion pill regulations

CNA Staff, Jan 15, 2021 / 10:06 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ pro-life chair on Friday praised a Supreme Court decision allowing federal regulations of the abortion pill to stand during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision reversed a federal judge’s injunction on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) safety regulations of the abortion pill.

The ruling allowed the FDA to use its authority as requested and continue to prohibit remote prescriptions and dispensing of the abortion pill during the pandemic.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the FDA’s ability to enforce important and long-standing health and safety requirements related to chemical abortion drugs,” stated Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.

In Tuesday’s 6-3 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the federal district court did not have sufficient authority to mandate regulatory changes to the FDA’s public health standards, due to the pandemic.

Since 2000, the FDA had placed the abortion pill regimen on its REMS list, reserved for higher-risk drugs and procedures. This listing meant that the abortion pill could only be prescribed in a health clinic setting, in-person, by a certified prescriber.

Pro-abortion groups sued, however, claiming that the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic warranted that women be able to obtain the abortion pill via mail without having to make a visit in-person to a health clinic. Judge Theodore Chuang of the Maryland district in July ruled in their favor and placed an injunction on the FDA regulations during the pandemic.

Roberts on Tuesday wrote that “courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence, and expertise to assess public health.’”

“In light of those considerations, I do not see a sufficient basis here for the District Court to compel the FDA to alter the regimen for medical abortion,” he wrote.

On Friday, Archbishop Naumann said that the FDA is right to regulate chemical abortions, which if prescribed and dispensed remotely could carry special health risks for women.

“Mail order mifepristone compounds the risks and trauma of abortion by encouraging women to end the lives of their children in their own bathrooms, often without any medical attention or follow-up care,” he said.

“This dangerous, painful, and emotionally bleak process results in the death of innocent unborn lives and often has lasting negative impacts on women,” he said. “The inalienable dignity of women and their unborn children deserves so much more.”

After Chuang’s initial decision, Justice Department attorneys appealed the case to the Supreme Court; the court sent the case back for reconsideration, instructing that the administration be able to present new evidence.

In a Dec. 9 decision, Chuang did not lift the injunction, saying that the challenges of the pandemic had not changed. The administration then appealed its case again to the Supreme Court.

 

Becerra, Biden’s HHS pick, has shown ‘hostility to nonprofit institutions’, scholars argue

CNA Staff, Jan 15, 2021 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Conservative scholars argued this week that Xavier Becerra, president-elect Joe Biden’s pick for HHS secretary, has a history of “hostility to nonprofit institutions and the donors who support them,” particularly religious nonprofits.

In a Jan. 13 opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote that Becerra, currently serving as California’s attorney general, has a history of supporting initiatives aiming to “use the tax code to redirect charitable giving toward causes [he] finds worthwhile.”

Notably, they say, Becerra has taken steps to attempt to force organizations such as pro-life pregnancy centers and religious foster-care agencies to violate their principles.

“Religious organizations run many of America’s hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, foster and adoption agencies, after-school programs and hospices. Mr. Becerra seems to want the power to cast their principles aside in favor of his own ideological mission,” the authors assert.

“He holds many views of this kind, well outside the American mainstream, and would have broad discretion to act on them as health and human services secretary.”

As California attorney general, Becerra has frequently taken legal action against pro-life organizations and other religous groups. The authors of the op-ed expressed worry that in his likely new position as head of HHS, Becerra will use his influence to pressure such groups.

The HHS has authority over a broad range of concerns, including federally-funded adoption agencies, regulation of the abortion pill, refugee resettlement, anti-human trafficking efforts, global health, and family planning. HHS works with many nonprofit organizations, the authors asserted.

Becerra has said in the past that tax exemptions for charitable foundations lead to “disproportionate giving...skewed against people of color,” and that the government has an obligation to ensure that the tax exemptions enjoyed by charities serve a public good.

The IRS lists 29 types of organizations that qualify as tax-exempt charitable organizations. These include 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes most religious nonprofits and churches.

“Many foundations fund medical research, schools and religious organizations that benefit people of all races...Foundation money is private money and foundation leaders have a moral and even legal obligation to disperse it in the way donors have directed,” the authors asserted.

Becerra’s predecessor as California attorney general, Kamala Harris, prosecuted journalist David Daleiden for his undercover videos claiming that Planned Parenthood unlawfully profited from the trade in fetal tissue of aborted babies. Becerra continued that fight in court.

Becerra also defended a 2014 state mandate that employers cover abortions in health plans, despite religious communities such as the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit not being exempted from the mandate.

Becerra had defended the state’s Reproductive FACT Act, a law passed in 2015 before his tenure as attorney general, which required pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. Pro-life groups claimed the state actively worked with the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) to craft the legislation.

During January 2020, the HHS Office for Civil Rights concluded that California had violated the Weldon Amendment—which bars federal funding of health care groups that force the provision or coverage of abortions— and gave the state 30 days to comply with the law. Becerra refused to comply with the HHS demand, saying that the state “has the sovereign right to protect women’s reproductive rights.”

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a message of faith, hope and love, niece tells EWTN

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2021 / 05:23 pm (CNA).- In an interview with EWTN News Nightly (ENN), the niece of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Alveda King, highlighted that her famous uncle was a man of faith, who always looked for "nonviolent and Bible-based" solutions to the challenges of his time.  

ENN's host Tracy Sabol opened the interview, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Jan. 15, highlighting that "honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. still give us as a nation an opportunity to pay tribute to his enduring legacy," before asking King, director of Civil Rights for the Unborn for Priests for Life, about the civil rights icon's place in history.

"When I remember my uncle during the Martin Luther King holiday week, I think about his messages of faith, hope and love,” she said, adding that in "all of his life, he exemplified solutions that were nonviolent and Bible-based.”

King remembered that her uncle used to say that faith is "like climbing a staircase; you take one step at a time and the faith builds. And so he was very sure that if he continued to trust in the Lord and to have faith and hope and love, then he could carry a message that God had given him to carry."

"My uncle was a nonviolent man. He believed that we were one human race … God made all people to live together on the face of the earth. And as one human race, we really could learn to live together as brothers and sisters and not perish together as fools. All of his sermons and his messages led us to understand that our answers would come from God and that we must unite and learn to get along,” King also said.

She also recalled that Martin Luther King Jr. "decided to stick with love." 

"Hate is too difficult a burden to bear. And then we bear each other's burdens and concerns, seeing each other as human beings, regardless of skin color. We could see skin color, of course, we really are not colorblind. We could see, but we should see ethnicity as something to be celebrated, not to be fought over,” she said.

"Martin Luther King Jr. lived a life of service and love," said his niece in closing. 

"If he were here today, he would be praying for us and with us and encouraging us to set aside strife and to come together in love. And as we do that, we can surely be blessed, and 2021 will be a very different year than 2020 turned out to be."

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year. The holiday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 but was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

 

What happens to the pro-life movement in a post-Trump era?

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2021 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first president in American history to be impeached by the House of Representatives twice.

The vote came a week after supporters of the president breached the U.S. Capitol, delaying the formal certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election by several hours and instigating a deadly riot.

Both the violent scenes from the riot and the second impeachment vote—which followed unproven claims from Trump that the election was stolen from him—are likely to loom large in Trump’s legacy.

And the pro-life movement that largely embraced Trump will have to grapple with this legacy, even as it braces for an incoming presidential administration that ran on a heavily pro-abortion platform.

Catholic theologian Charles Camosy told Catholic News Agency that as he watched coverage of the riot at the Capitol, “Like so many of us, including the overwhelmingly large number of pro-lifers I know, I was disgusted and horrified.”

“Especially with respect to the loss of human life that happened and, due to the now clear plans of many who put the Capitol under siege that day, the even greater loss of life that could have taken place,” Camosy said.

Camosy is a former Democrats for Life of America board member, who resigned from the position in 2020, saying the party’s embrace of extreme positions on abortion left him no choice but to abandon the party and join the American Solidarity Party.

Asked if the pro-life movement should sever its ties with Trump, Camosy said, “I've been warning against this relationship from the very beginning.”

“Significantly, many of the pro-life leaders and organizations who have been in some kind of friendly relationship with him over the past four years, themselves warned about Trump during the 2016 GOP primaries,” Camosy said. “Something changed. Proximity to power in order to do genuine good in the short run is a huge temptation, and those of us who never supported Trump should acknowledge the good things that were gone, but we are now seeing what many of us warned about.”

Camosy added that he thinks “it would have been difficult enough to try to undo the damage that having the pro-life movement associated with Trump even without the assault on the Capitol.”

“But now the task is absolutely gargantuan,” he said. “It is far too late to sever ties now.”

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists, told Catholic News Agency she watched in horror, but not surprise, as the riot at the Capitol unfolded last week.

“I think for a lot of us who were opposed to Trump four years ago, we saw this coming,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “This was an inevitability and I think for the pro-life movement to have attached itself to him so strongly—really any political candidate is always a dangerous thing—but especially as volatile as he is. He has shown us his true colors all along.”

Trump won the 2016 election after campaigning heavily on pro-life promises, including a pledge to appoint only pro-life Supreme Court justices. But his candidacy and election posed a dilemma for the pro-life movement, with some arguing that his record--particularly his treatment of women--made him a poor choice to represent a cause claiming to be pro-woman.

But despite these misgivings from some, Trump became a de facto face of the pro-life movement. In 2018, Trump became the first president to address the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., via satellite from the White House, although previous Republican presidents had done so by phone. Two years later, Trump became the first president to attend the March in person.

While these high-profile appearances drew attention to the annual D.C. event, not everyone in the pro-life movement was happy with the president’s attendance. Then-Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), among the most prominent pro-life Democrats, backed out of the 2018 March for Life, where he was scheduled to be a featured speaker, after Trump’s satellite address was announced. Lipinski said at the time he could not put himself in the “potentially morally compromised situation” of sharing a stage with a president whose words were unpredictable and often offensive.

Lipinski, who recently left Congress after a primary defeat last year, called the Jan. 6 riot “unbelievable.”

“The U.S. Capitol is the symbol and the real seat of our democratic republic and to see it attacked was just very concerning,” he told CNA. “It’s still something that’s hard to comprehend.”

 Lipinski said he had expressed concern about tying Trump too closely to the pro-life movement from the beginning. He acknowledged some positive policy accomplishments on pro-life goals by the administration, but said “we have to win the hearts and minds of people.”

“He’s hurting us in terms of recruiting more people over to our side,” Lipinski said. “We need more people who are with us, and one way that you get people with you is to have a good image of what it means to be pro-life, what type of person is pro-life. And so it’s good to have people who are viewed positively, who are good role models, to be seen as pro-life leaders. And in that respect I think Donald Trump was harmful over the last for years and in the long run.” 

As Trump’s presidency ends with a second impeachment--and polls showing a majority of Americans saying he should be removed from office--some pro-lifers worry that the president’s legacy could continue haunting the pro-life movement for years to come.

While some tout legislative and judiciary victories on pro-life goals, other pro-lifers worry that the president’s reputation could drive people away from the pro-life cause--or portray the pro-life movement as oppressive to women. While polls consistently show voters favoring substantial limits on abortion, support for Roe v. Wade hit an all-time high during Trump’s presidency.

Herndon-De La Rosa offered a biblical analogy to the pro-life movement’s association with Trump.

“The Supreme Court nominees that Trump promised, those were the 30 pieces of silver, and so we were willing to overlook these grievous offenses and problems with his character, because those Supreme Court seats were so vital and now we’re suffering the repercussions of that,” she said.

Trump’s legacy, Herndon-De La Rosa said, would still have been difficult to come to terms with prior to the riot, pointing to remarks Trump made about women revealed during his presidential campaign.

“We spent decades trying to show people how we are pro-woman,” she said. “The second we aligned ourselves with a man who made such degrading comments about women, we lost credibility. This was always a dangerous alliance, and now we’re seeing that it was more of a suicide pact.”

As for Trump’s association with the pro-life movement, Herndon-De La Rosa argued, “I don’t know that there’s recovering from it.”

“This is going to have to be a phoenix rising from the ashes moment where we really do some introspective soul-searching,” she said.

Herndon-De La Rosa said she and some of her allies have adopted terminology like “consistent life ethicist” to differentiate themselves from some other facets of the pro-life movement.

“And that’s either going to go nowhere, or it’s going to be something that is ultimately a bigger tent,” she commented.

Camosy offered a more hopeful view of the future. While he thinks the pro-life movement will be “tarnished” by its association with Trump “for at least a generation - maybe longer,” he also thinks there are things pro-life advocates can do to promote healing.

Looking forward, he said, pro-lifers must “pursue our goals in a very non-partisan way.”

“[We should] work, especially at the state level, for prenatal justice--which is most likely to come from alliances with Republicans,” he said, but “we should also work to save babies' lives--and support their mothers--by working on the ‘demand side’ of abortion,” pointing to steps to address poverty and intimate partner violence.

“We must work to resist the social-structural problems which push so many women to have abortions and this likely will mean alliances with Democrats,” he said.

“Though perhaps, as the GOP figures out what it wants to be, we can help push Republicans to join us in this approach as well,” he added. “Political idolatry is poison more generally--just to human nature--but it is particularly poisonous to the pro-life movement. We must be more politically nimble and non-partisan in our pursuit.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and a vocal supporter of President Trump, did not immediately respond to an interview request through a spokesperson. But during the riot, she condemned the violence, writing in a tweet that it is “not reflective of pro-life Americans and Trump supporters who align with his call to support police today.”

 

Violence in pursuit of upholding justice and the dignity of the human being is nonsense at best. What is happening in the Capitol now is not reflective of prolife Americans and Trump supporters who align with his call to support police today.

— MarjorieDannenfelser (@marjoriesba) January 6, 2021