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Synod of Bishops removes resource page link to New Ways Ministry

The opening of the Amazon synod at the Vatican's Synod Hall, Oct. 7, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2021 / 12:40 pm (CNA).

Officials at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops have removed a link to New Ways Ministry from a resource page after they became aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the LGBT outreach ministry in 2010.

Thierry Bonaventura, communication manager of the General Secretariat, told CNA on Dec. 7 that the link on the website synodresources.org had been taken down.

Writing on his Twitter account on Dec. 6, Father James Martin, S.J., had hailed the link as “a small but historic step forward for #LGBTQ Catholics.”

Martin, the author of “Building a Bridge,” a book advocating stronger ties between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, wrote: “As Pope Francis has said, all voices must be heard at the Synod…”

New Ways Ministry was founded in 1977 in the Archdiocese of Washington by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, who were the subject of a notification by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999.

The notification, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, said that their positions “regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.”

In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement emphasizing that New Ways Ministry “has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”

Bonaventura told CNA that synodresources.org is an initiative of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for sharing resources among dioceses, bishops’ conferences, and official Catholic organizations.

But he noted that the website’s address does not end in “.va,” the internet country code top-level domain for Vatican City.

“It means that the content published doesn’t express the view of the General Secretary of the Synod or of the Vatican,” he explained.

“At the same time, even if we are open to receiving any useful resources without a particular censoring of the material, it is our desire to welcome inputs from officially recognized organizations by the Catholic Church.”

“In this case, my team was not aware of the situation of the New Ways organization and of the clarification given by the USCCB President in 2010.”

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is currently overseeing what has been described as one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

A handbook released by the Vatican in September urged dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.

It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”.

The Vatican announced in May that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October 2021.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

The “About” section of synodresources.org says that the website is “a platform for sharing resources, stories, and experiences in the journey of the Synod 2021-2023.”

Bonaventura said: “At the same time, you have to be aware that we are studying the way to listen to all the faithful and also those organizations who are not officially in communion with the Catholic Church as it is a question of consistency of the message we want to spread out, but synodresources.org is not that place.”

WATCH: Students at Catholic college target pro-life talk with obscenity-laced protest

Pro-choice protesters at the University of San Diego on Nov. 11, 2021. / Screenshot of Students for Life in America video

Boston, Mass., Dec 7, 2021 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

The University of San Diego will not say if any students who shouted obscenities and displayed vulgar signs during a recent pro-choice demonstration on the Catholic college’s campus will be disciplined.

The students were protesting a talk by a pro-life speaker hosted by a student College Republicans club. 

“The protest got absolutely out of control, and it was an embarrassment for the university,” senior Jack Uribe, the club’s secretary, told CNA. 

Prior to the Nov. 11 event, an administrator informed the club that the pro-choice demonstration was supposed to be a “silent event” held at the Plaza de San Diego, a screenshot of an email shows. 

Instead, dozens of students assembled outside Maher Hall, adjacent to the plaza, where pro-life speaker Kristen Hawkins was giving a talk. Demonstrators held signs that said, “Thank God for abortion,” “Hoes before embryos,” and “Public Cervix announcement, F--- You,” and shouted obscenities.

A video clip Uribe shot during the demonstration captured one female protester using a bull horn shouting, “You can't dictate what we do with our “f------- bodies.”  

Uribe said the demonstrators also chanted a sexually explicit insult at an 84-year-old deacon and his wife as they were leaving the event.

“It was the loudest silence I ever heard,” Uribe said. “It was so silent that it could be heard from the apartment complex a 10th of a mile away.” 

The protest was organized by the Gender Equity and Sex Positive Collective. The group is not affiliated with the University of San Diego but is run by students at the school. The group did not respond to CNA’s email requesting comment on Dec. 6.

The university issued a statement to CNA on Nov. 24 about the incident.

“The event was focused on an issue of significant import that continues to be discussed and debated in our country and within our campus community,” the statement said. 

“A university is exactly the kind of place where such discussion and debate should occur. As a Catholic institution, the University of San Diego supports Pro-Life tenets. As an academic institution, we also support the rights of students of all viewpoints to peacefully assemble for the purpose of exercising free speech or dissension,” the statement said.

The statement said the university does not support hate speech, intolerance, or targeting “of members of our community or any other group.” 

“The actions of a few protesters at the event were antithetical to our values of inclusion, respect and acceptance of all,” the statement said.

“We in no way condone actions that denigrate others, and we have a student code of conduct by which we address policy violations. We do not share with the media details of policy violations by members of our campus community.”

Hostility prior to event

In the weeks leading up to the event, posters advertising the event were torn down and A-Frame structures holding the posters were damaged. 

Mary-Logan Miske, president of the College Republicans club, and Alyssa Jackson, the club's human dignity chair, took turns monitoring advertisements for the event. In one incident, they say they caught a student on camera tearing down their posters.

“I'm sitting down on the ground in the hallway waiting with my video camera in a kind of awkward, low key, hidden spot, and there's this girl who goes by the posters and she tears it down right in front of me,” Miske told CNA.

Miske asked the woman if she knew ripping down the posters was vandalism of USD property. The woman responded, “‘Yeah, I did actually know that,’ and then she tears down another one, rips them up and throws them at me,” Miske said.

An anonymous student told a student news program that she tore down some of the signs because she was upset that the speech was happening on campus.

“I was using my own voice in retaliation to something that I thought was disturbing on my campus,” said the student, whose appearance on camera was distorted to protect her identity. “I just wanted them down.” You can watch the segment in the video below, beginning at the 2:26 mark.

In the interview, the student accused the university’s administration of only paying lip service to promoting free discourse on campus.

“I think USD likes to do a really good job of pretending like they air both sides of things,” she said. “Like they pretend that we’re allowed to have this all this discourse and woke conversations, if you will, about things like sex ed, or healthy sex, or healthy relationships, and they really don’t.”

But the pro-life students who spoke to CNA say they feel that views in support of Catholic teaching on abortion and other issues are the ones being marginalized on campus.

Miske believes the university is more focused on promoting diversity than Catholic teaching.

“I think a big problem is shown in what we've seen this past week that there are people who truly believe you can be pro-choice and Catholic,” Miske said. “I don't know how you can think that way, I truly don’t.”

Pro-life speaker responds

The invited speaker, Kristan Hawkins, president of the national pro-life organization Students for Life of America, went ahead with her speech. She also attempted to engage protesters in discussion outside the auditorium.

Hawkins told CNA that the USD opposition is not the first time she has experienced hostility at one of her events.

“We've had staff who have been struck, items stolen, signs defaced and even set on fire inside of school buildings, and even a bomb scare,” Hawkins said. “While we always hope for a real conversation, we often meet harsh opposition. But we believe in using our free speech rights and will not be stopped from passionately advocating for the preborn, whose humanity is being ignored in abortion.”

Hawkins, a Catholic, said that she believes it is important “to remind our Catholic schools, institutions, and leaders that we need a strong defense of Church teaching so that we can pass on our values to future generations who must be taught that we need to care for the least of these.”

Hawkins said the event in San Diego was a success and fostered “real conversations,” noting that more than 8,000 people watched the conversation online.

“Even though some events are harder than others, it's worth it to share the truth that we can love them both, women and preborn children, and that many of us stand ready to help,” she said.

Report: Pro-life pregnancy centers in Latin America unfairly attacked by Spanish newspaper

null / ACI Prensa

Madrid, Spain, Dec 7, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).

Pro-life pregnancy centers in Latin America were unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in a recent article published by a Spanish newspaper, an investigation by ACI Prensa has found.

The article, titled “The New Anti-Abortion Tactics of the Far Right in the Americas" was published on Oct. 23 by the El País newspaper.

Based on undercover reporting by journalists who posed as pregnant women, the El País ­­article accuses pregnancy centers in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico of using “strategies that include deceptive advertising, shelters for pregnant women and false promises of adoption to convince vulnerable women to not interrupt their pregnancy.”  

These organizations “are promoted on the internet as feminist sites and with deceptive language in favor of abortion, but in reality they function as avenues to manipulate and instituionalize women and try to get them to carry their pregnancy to term,” El País claimed.

A subsequent investigation by ACI Prensa, the Spanish-language sister news agency of CNA, found that El País article contained a host of misleading and unsubstantiated claims. Among ACI Prensa’s findings:

El País uses the misleading term “institutionalize” to refer to the housing, medical, psychological, and material assistance these pregnancy centers provide women in need. El País’ own reporting acknowledges that “some of these women, according to their own testimony, were grateful to have a place to live and carry their pregnancy to term; others, of having been able to get out of a situation of domestic violence.” 

The two “experts” El País cites to verify its claims are both pro-abortion activists. One has stated that she does not believe “that adoption is a morally superior option to abortion, or that increased adoption would be good for women and families.” The other heads a Peruvian NGO that has received more than $1 million in funding from Planned Parenthood.

There is no evidence that any of the pregnancy centers have been sanctioned for offering to provide illegal adoption services, as El País suggests. The article alleges that a child protection agency in Costa Rica has taken legal action against one of the pregnancy support organizations, but the organization’s director told ACI Prensa that she’s never been notified about any legal action and said, “we work according to the law.”

The pregnancy centers cited in the report aren’t posing as abortion clinics, as El País claims. El País accuses the same Costa Rican organization of presenting itself as an abortion clinic, but the director says that the organization’s website clear states that it provides counseling and other support, not abortion services.

●  The “false information” El País alleges the pregnancy centers share about the dangers of abortion are supported by medical studies. The El País article states that their undercover reporters “were shown videos and pamphlets with false information about abortion,” including increased risks of suicide and breast cancer, and the possibility that using chemical means to induce the killing of a fetus can result in an incomplete abortion and dangerous heavy bleeding. But there is medical evidence to support all these advisories, ACI Prensa found.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform in Colombia, told ACI Prensa that the El País article "has a clear tendency to promote organizations that want to impose abortion on us in the region."

“It’s not true that the women's aid centers carry out any activity that is illegal in relation to adoption” in Colombia, Magaña explained. 

“On the contrary: They are women's support centers where they are welcomed, received, listened to and supported; and thanks to this work it is possible to save the lives of mothers and babies,” he said.

The El País journalists who produced the article did not respond to ACI Prensa’s requests for comment.

Pro-abortion support for article

To validate their report, El País journalists cite two abortion advocates as “experts”: Susana Chávez and Gretchen Sisson.

Chávez is a veteran activist in support of legal abortion, with many years at the head of Promsex, a Peruvian NGO that has received more than a million dollars in 16 years from Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion multinational organization.

This money came from both its parent company, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and its U.S. branch, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which has been accused of trafficking in organs and tissues from babies aborted at its facilities. Chávez failed in her bid to win a seat in Peru’s Congress in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Chávez also led Promsex in its failed attempt to silence ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, and hide its ties to Planned Parenthood.

A recent ruling by the Second Constitutional Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Lima dismissed all charges filed by Promsex against ACI Prensa for allegedly making false statements and defamation.

In early October 2021, Planned Parenthood awarded the “We Are Courage” award to Promsex, calling the NGO “one of the most courageous and inspiring voices for sexual and reproductive rights.” 

Chávez told El País that it’s a lie that the organizations that give shelter to women in crisis pregnancies really help them with the adoption procedures when they don’t want to keep their children.

"In reality, what they seek is to discourage the girl, the adolescent, the women, from having an abortion with a false promise that they will never keep," Chávez charged.

Sisson, the other expert cited in El País’ report, is the principal investigator of the "Abortion on Screen" program of the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIHR) at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Abortion on Screen" is a program that is dedicated to evaluating and listing films and television productions with “stories about abortion."

Sisson told El País that she’s not sure "that there are many women interested in abortion who then turn to adoption unless they are given a lot of misinformation about the accessibility or safety of abortion itself."

Sisson has been explicit in the past that she doesn’t believe "that adoption is a morally superior option to abortion, or that increased adoption would be good for women and families."

The El País article itself was funded by a pro-abortion foundation supported by CNN, CBS, and other U.S. media outlets, ACI Prensa found. El País states that the reporting for the story was done “with the support of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) as part of its initiative for the Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice in the Americas program.” 

IWMF says on its website that “this initiative supports reporting on issues that impact women and girl’s daily lives in the region, including abortion and contraception access, maternal health, reproductive health policy and abortion bans.”

The El País presents the article as a “follow-up to an Open Democracy investigation of Heartbeat International's operations” in Latin America.

That report was published in February 2020 and leveled accusations against Heartbeat International and Latin American pro-life centers.

Open Democracy is a publication that claims to seek to "educate citizens and challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world."

Between 2016 and 2020, Open Democracy has received more than $1.6 million from the Open Society Foundations, an organization established by George Soros, who is an open promoter of legal abortion in the world, ACI Prensa found. The CIDE, where Eliezer Budasoff teaches, has received between 2016 and 2018 more than $470,000 from the Soros foundation, the news agency reported.

Interview distortions

Isabella Cota, one of the authors of the El País article, made a phone call Oct. 18 five days before the publication of the article to Dr. Miguel Ángel Salazar, medical advisor to the Latin American network of Women's Aid Centers (CAM), a pro-life organization.

El País includes brief segments of Salazar's response in the article and ends by saying that he "abruptly hung up."

ACI Prensa reported that its review of an audio recording of the interview shows that Salazar ended the conversation in a friendly manner in the face of a series of false accusations from the El País journalist.

Salazar provided ACI Prensa with a sworn statement that Cota had identified herself to him as a journalist from the New York Times. ACI Prensa sent a query to the Times on Nov. 2 about its contractual relationship with Isabella Cota but did not receive a response.

Salazar told ACI Prensa that “from the beginning, far from being an interview, [Cota] described all the false accusations aimed at CAM by the group that allegedly infiltrated it. Acting as a judge and a prosecutor, and in an inquisitorial way, she asks me for comments on the aforementioned accusations.”

Salazar stated that "it was clear" that "Isabella Cota's intention was to create a provocation that was intended to manipulate me and make me mention accusations that [the journalists] themselves could use against CAM."

Salazar said that “none of the CAMs carry out adoption procedures. For this we work with sister and respectable institutions such as Vida y Familia A.C. (Life and Family) which for many years has been dedicated to promoting a culture of adoption and performs these services in a professional, legal and transparent manner, always in accordance with the legal framework in force in our country and in each state of the Mexican Republic.” 

In addition, Salazar stressed that “before going to a CAM” none of the women “are deceived or informed that an abortion will be performed there,” as the El País article claimed.

On the contrary, Salazar explained, "they are offered support where we assess their situation, respecting the decisions of each one of them."

Although Cota and her fellow journalists from El País present the protection of pregnant women as a series of “new tactics,” the CAM network has provided the same services for 32 years, ACI Prensa noted. The first of the Women's Help Centers opened its doors in Mexico City in 1989.

In the photographs that accompany the article, games for children can be seen as an example of a safe and welcoming environment.

‘They want to torpedo something so good’

Another organization attacked in the El País article is Vida y Familia A.C. (Vifac) is even older than the CAM network and has assisted more than 46,000 pregnant women during its 36 years of work. 

On its website, Vifac explains that its objective is "to support vulnerable pregnant women who face an unexpected pregnancy and require help and support to move on in their lives with their children and achieve better living conditions."

Vifac offers lodging, food, medical and psychological care, job training workshops, talks for the prevention of teen pregnancy, and help with the adoption process for women at risk.

Despite noting the gratitude of the women served at the Vifac facilities in the state of Mexico, El País cites a source from the National System for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF), stating that the Mexican government agency has advised Vifac of “possible illicit practices concerning adoptions.”

Vifac denies that it has violated the law. “The trafficking of minors is a criminal offense. Vifac has never been tried for this crime,” the organization states on its website.

Vifac denies “forcing” women to give their children up for adoption, stating that each woman who seeks the organization’s assistance “comes of her own free will with the intention of being helped, supported and to move on in life with her child.”

Vifac claims that only 10% of its clients choose to place their children up for adoption. “In 2020 of the 3,535 babies that were born under our protection, only 51 were given up for adoption and in accordance with DIF regulations,” Vifac states.

Mariana Ariza is a 22-year-old Mexican woman who was adopted thanks to the help of Vifac. Her two younger brothers are also adopted.

"I’m disappointed they want to torpedo something so good,” she said of the El País article.

For Ariza, now a pro-life leader as director of the Juventud y Vida (Youth and Life) platform in Puebla, Mexico, the story of "happy adoptive parents" should be known.

"They have to meet the women who have given testimonies of ‘thank you because I was able to go on with my life and I was able to give life to a baby and that it could have parents and be happy,’" Ariza said.

"Really these associations, foundations, what they do is create families, save lives, help women," she said.

While Ariza doesn’t know the exact life story of her biological mother, she told ACI Prensa that "because of Vifac she was able to make the best decision."

"Thanks to that support, she had the courage to say 'yes, I give her life, I give her the opportunity to live.' And that option saved her at that time and saved me, because thanks to all that support, she was able to say yes to life," Ariza said.

For the Women’s Institute for Comprehensive Health of Costa Rica (IFEMSI), another of the organizations accused by El País, the article is nothing more than "a rehash," a text that collects old reports and makes them pass for something new.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, Priscilla Díaz García, executive director of IFEMSI, warned that the Spanish newspaper’s journalists “are getting involved with a very sensitive issue because they are claiming that adoptions are taking place outside the framework of the law, which is totally false.”

"The reason why they’re doing it, according to my reading, is that, as the first time they did an article, they were ridiculed, this time they tried to introduce the legal issue to create more controversy,” Díaz García said.

El País accuses IFEMSI of presenting itself “on the internet as an abortion clinic,” which Díaz García denies.

The organization’s website, www.quieroabortarcr.com, which means “I want to abort,” [SM2] states “at all times that we provide counseling, unlike what this media says: that we deceive women and all those kinds of things they mention,” Díaz García said.

“What our organization does through this page is to give counseling to these girls so that they have more alternatives, one of them is to continue with the pregnancy through the support they receive from our organization," she stressed.

Díaz García also denied the assertion in the El País article that the National Children’s Trust (PANI), a government agency that safeguards the rights of children and adolescents in Costa Rica, has taken legal action against IFEMSI.

Díaz García told ACI Prensa that "I haven’t received any kind of notification," about any legal action. “We work according to the law,” she stressed.

"The government agencies know how we work," she continued, noting that "if this possible complaint comes, we have a record of visits from government agencies to learn how we operate," she said.

Another pro-life organization targeted in the El País article is the Fundación Hogar Margarita (Margarita Home Foundation) in Costa Rica.

The article charges that the foundation “promises to facilitate or arrange adoption, even if they are false or illegal.” The article claims that the organization gave an undercover journalist “confusing messages” suggesting “that the foundation would be in charge of the process outside the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, the agency in charge of adoptions in Colombia.”

The foundation denies the charges and has demanded that “the El País newspaper rectify the information they gave."

The foundation states that it has spent "34 years dedicated to the comprehensive protection of pregnant women in a vulnerable state and in conflict with their pregnancy, with a No. 3102 operating license dated March 31, 2020 from the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare in the category of a Home."

When mothers decide to give their babies up for adoption, they are referred "to the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, which is the only regulatory agency for childhood in the country, therefore the only one authorized to carry out adoption processes,” the foundation states.

Abortion warnings aren’t ‘false’

The El País article states that their reporters who visited the pregnancy help centers “were shown videos and pamphlets with false information about abortion, such as that it could lead to suicide and they could suffer from post-abortion syndrome, a kind of psychological impact whose existence has not been proven.” 

The El País journalists continue: “They said that the use of the misoprostol pill can lead to an 'incomplete' abortion that can cause an infection; that an abortion can cause breast cancer, uncontrollable hemorrhaging, death and even a possible leg amputation.”

Dr. María José Mancino, a psychiatrist and specialist in psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology, told ACI Prensa that "post-abortion syndrome is a reality, it’s a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome."

Mancino, who is also founder and president of Doctors for Life Argentina, as well as a professional advisor to Project Rachael, which helps women who have undergone an abortion, said that "the most characteristic symptoms" of post-abortion syndrome "are depression, anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping.” 

Psychological symptoms, she said, “range from general symptoms of denial in the early years, followed by depression, feelings of guilt, the need to make amends for or change what happened, recurring nightmares, behavioral disturbances, flashbacks (constant memories of the abortion), avoidance and/or rejection of stimuli that recall the episode.”

You can also see "impulsive disorders," she continued, such as "increasing addictions, alcoholism, and suicide, depending on the woman's personality base and her prior psychological condition."

Dr. Guillermo Kerz, a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics and vice president of Doctors for Life and academic vice-rector of the Catholic University of Santa Fe in Argentina, stressed that “abortion is a violent intervention performed on women, not to mention that the baby is cruelly killed in the act.”

“Every medical surgical intervention has its consequences and this is no exception. It’s reckless from every point of view to argue that it is false that women do not suffer after an abortion, medicine is a factual science, based on facts,” he said.

MedlinePlus, an information service of the United States National Library of Medicine, recognizes the risks of an abortion performed with medications such as misoprostol, including the possibility of "an incomplete abortion,” after which "it will be necessary to have an abortion at the clinic to complete the abortion.” MedlinePlus also states that "heavy bleeding," "infection" and "blood clots in the uterus" may occur.

Heavy bleeding may entail that the woman "is soaking 2 sanitary napkins every hour for 2 hours," while "blood clots for 2 hours or more" can be expelled, in some cases "larger than a lemon." These cases, MedlinePlus notes, "should be dealt with immediately for your safety."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that it has been reported that the use of misoprostol to induce labor, as is the case with chemical abortions, can cause “pelvic pain, retained placenta, severe genital bleeding, shock, fetal bradycardia and fetal and maternal death.”

Pro-life centers ‘work as they should’

El País says its undercover journalists went to pregnancy help centers in El Salvador, but, as in the case of Argentina, it doesn’t say which ones.

If they had contacted the Yes to Life Foundation of El Salvador, their journalists would know of the nearly 12,000 lives that they have managed to save from abortion.

For Julia Regina de Cardenal, president of the Yes to Life Foundation, the text of El País is an “absurd article,” since its authors “defend the indefensible, a legal barbarism against defenseless little people.” 

"In our Help Center, almost 12,000 lives have been saved just by showing them the reality of abortion," she said.

The women whom they receive at their shelter, she said, “are the ones who have nowhere else to go. All receive shelter, a balanced diet, clothing, if they are poor, training, medical care, psychological and spiritual help, etc.”

"And if they stay with us for a long time and their children are already two years old, they also go to school," she stressed.

To Sara Larín, founder of the VIDA (Life) SV Foundation of El Salvador, the El País report shows “that pro-life homes work as they should.”

“The report confirms what we have always said: A pregnant woman in crisis who receives unconditional support decides in 90% of the cases to not have an abortion and keep her baby. That’s wonderful!”

In addition, she said that the El País report reveals "two important things." The first is that "it’s the pro-life groups that really take charge of helping vulnerable women so that they can be genuinely free to live their motherhood without being conditioned by the circumstantial problems that are pressuring them."

The second thing, she added, is "that the Open Society Foundation is obsessed with imposing abortion on us culturally."

For Magaña, president of Colombia’s United for Life platform, the position of the journalists is "sad and regrettable," because "it seems that they are doing a job in some way previously 'paid for' to obtain an expected result and not an objective investigation."

“This situation is very sad but predictable, because this abortion industry is an industry of death. If you don't mind killing, much less will you mind lying, confusing or cheating in order to remove this ‘obstacle’ for the industry and your business,” he said.

The pro-life leader lamented that the El País article shows "the tendency to criminalize or stigmatize extraordinary heroines and heroes who give their time, energy and life to help moms and their unborn babies."

Harumi Suzuki, Diego López Marina and Walter Sánchez Silva contributed to this article.

Pope Francis updates norms on crimes judged by Vatican’s doctrinal office

The Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, the seat of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. / Jim McIntosh via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis updated Tuesday the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s procedural norms for the most serious crimes, including schism, sacramental desecration, and abuse of minors.

The pope promulgated the new adaptations to the “Norms on the delicts reserved for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” on Dec. 7, the day before the revision of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law goes into effect.

The definition of the delicts, or crimes, themselves have not been changed. But the new version of the norms aligns with the revisions to Book VI, as well as recent laws Pope Francis has issued, including his motu proprios As a loving mother and Vos estis lux mundi.

The new norms now also include the possibility of the pope decreeing the dismissal from the clerical state directly, without a trial, in cases of crimes against the faith, such as heresy, apostasy, and schism.

The “Norms on the Delicts Reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” were promulgated by John Paul II in 2001 and amended by Benedict XVI in 2010.

In addition to the crimes against the faith, the doctrinal congregation also judges crimes against the sacraments, including the desecration of a consecrated host, simulation of the Mass, solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment during confession, and violation of the seal of confession.

Other grave delicts included in the norms are the attempted ordination of a woman, clerical abuse of a minor, and the possession of child pornography by a cleric.

“The changes that have been introduced mostly concern procedural aspects, aimed at clarifying and facilitating the proper conduct of the Church’s legal workings in the administration of justice,” reported Vatican News.

The major revisions to Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, which covers penal law in the Church, including sanctions related to clerical sexual abuse, go into effect on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The revisions were first commissioned by Benedict XVI to improve the efficacy of the code’s penal sanctions.

Speaking after the revisions were published, Msgr. C. Michael Padazinski, president of the Canon Law Society of America, said: “This reinvigoration of canon law is a welcome necessity to our member canonists’ work on behalf of the Church and will be, as the Holy Father says, an instrument for the good of souls.”

“Recategorizing the crime of sexual abuse of a minor from a delict against celibacy to a delict against the dignity of the human person is a remarkable development. It shows a shift from a mindset of concern focused primarily on an accused cleric to a concern for the individual who has been harmed,” he said.

Padazinski also highlighted the significance of the revisions coming into effect on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The date “reaffirms that life itself and the protection of human dignity begin at the instant a child is conceived in the mother’s womb,” he said.

1 million Afghan children could starve this winter. This humanitarian group desperately needs your help

Afghan refugees in Kabul, Afghanistan, after the collapse of the country in August 2021. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 7, 2021 / 09:38 am (CNA).

A new initiative is asking Americans for donations this Christmas to help save Christians who risk death in Afghanistan during the brutal winter. Its goal is to provide a “safe winter” for the men, women, and children located there.

“Without our help these Christian families are going to die,” Jason Jones, founder of the Safe Winter initiative by The Vulnerable People Project, said in a Dec. 6 press release. “They are starving and freezing to death.”

The Vulnerable People Project, run by the Human Rights Education and Relief Organization (H.E.R.O.) and led by Jones, began the new initiative after the United States withdrew its military from Afghanistan in August. 

Jones, a U.S. Army veteran, Catholic filmmaker, and humanitarian, called on Americans to help Afghans who rely on his organization for shelter, food, wood, coal and propane. His project estimates that it costs $2,000 per month for each safe house and $250 per month to provide a family of five with food and heat through the winter.

“We know that the American people want to be involved and we want to show them how to support this urgent humanitarian initiative,” he said. “We have already helped to support safe houses in the region and because of our work, these vulnerable families are coming to us for shelter, food and heat.”

The United Nations warned in September that 1 million Afghan children could die as winter begins. Jones hoped to change that number.

“We will not stand by and let these people die,” he said. “During this Christmas season, there is nothing more admirable or noble than to reach out and provide a home and safety to those in peril of death — a little of our treasured resources will go a long way and will give the gift of life.”

He added, “Please stand with us as we stand with our friends, brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.”

Mustasfa Assady, project manager for the Safe Winter initiative, emphasized the stress placed on families.

“People are desperate for food and when they have multiple kids they want to make sure to feed at least some of them, and they think by selling them they will guarantee food for that child as well as the remaining family members,” Assady said.

Jones’ organization has been helping those in Afghanistan since August, and they plan to continue their work — with Americans’ help.

“Since August we have been helping evacuate people, provide visas and we have brought much needed basic services to these people whose lives hang in the balance,” he said. “This is urgent. We need to help these people now.”

The Vulnerable People Project’s website highlights Catholic social teaching on the dignity of the human person and quotes Pope St. John Paul II.

“What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life,” the former pontiff said. “All together, we must build a new culture of life.”

New report finds freedom of conscience under threat in France, Spain, and Sweden

null / Rob Wilson via Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 7, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A new report published Tuesday highlighted concerns that the right to conscientious objection is under threat in France, Spain, and Sweden.

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) published the 71-page report examining freedom of expression, parental rights, and freedom of conscience in five European countries: France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K.

At an online press conference on Dec. 7, Madeleine Enzlberger, OIDAC’s executive director, said that there has been a constant push in some countries in Europe to eliminate conscientious objection, particularly with regards to abortion.

The report said that the alteration of a conscientious objection clause in Sweden had already affected Christian professionals, and that “similar developments in France and Spain could lead to a complete exclusion of Christians from certain professions.”

In Sweden, Christians working in the healthcare system can face dismissal for exercising their freedom of conscience. The European Court of Human Rights refused in 2020 to consider the case of two midwives, Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen, who were denied employment over their refusal to perform abortions.

The European Parliament, the European Union’s law-making body, voted in June in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

In Spain, the Ministry of Equality introduced plans in September to create a registry of medical doctors, nurses, and staff who object to abortion with the objective of guaranteeing the “right to terminate pregnancies” in public hospitals.

Spanish Bishop Luis Argüello of Valladolid responded to plans by asking: “If the intention is to guarantee access to this service, why don’t those who are willing to practice an abortion register?"

Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero said on July 8 that “the right of physicians to conscientious objection cannot be above women’s right to decide,” prompting a group of 52 local medical colleges to call her proposed changes “unacceptable, illegal, and unjust.”

“With freedom of conscience ... we constantly have a push from rather ideological movements to get rid of the conscientious objection clause for medical staff, especially when it comes to procedures of abortion,” Enzlberger said.

“There’s a push for that currently, especially in Spain, but there was also one in France.”

Enzlberger shared the example of Julia Rynkiewicz, a midwifery student in the U.K. who was placed under a four-month suspension and faced a “fitness to practice” investigation due to her involvement in the Nottingham Students for Life society at her university.

The OIDAC, based in Vienna, has documented 4,000 cases of intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe in the past 10 years — more than 70% of which have been hate crimes committed with an anti-Christian motive.

Its work contributes to and builds on the annual data published by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on hate crimes in Europe.

The most recent OSCE data, published Nov. 16, documented 980 incidents against Christians in 2020, including arson attacks on Catholic churches, desecration and robbery of Eucharistic hosts, assaults on priests, and anti-Catholic graffiti on Church property by abortion activists.

“The French government statistics from 2019 say that on average almost three cases of vandalism against a church or Christian building happened every day,” Enzlberger said.

“The public visibility of violence against churches somehow normalizes violence against Christians in the public sphere. And the monitoring of hate crimes is an important barometer for the social climate in a given country,” she said.

Austria’s Catholic bishops: ‘Temporary’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate permissible as last resort

null / CDC/Unsplash (CC0).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 7, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Austria’s Catholic bishops commented on Monday on the government’s likely decision to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the country in February, calling the obligation permissible if used as a last resort.

In a Dec. 6 statement, the bishops’ conference acknowledged that “compulsory vaccination is a serious encroachment on the bodily integrity and freedom of the individual,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“It is therefore only permissible if, taking into account proportionality, all other options have been exhausted to protect the population — in the case of the pandemic, the health system, and thus human lives,” the bishops said.

They went on: “It is ultimately the responsibility of the government to assess whether the preconditions for a temporary condition are met and whether a temporary vaccination obligation is now the appropriate means of protecting the common good.”

The bishops added that they “cannot give a detailed opinion on the concrete [application] of the law.”

According to a draft law prepared by the Austrian government, residents of Austria who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 from Feb. 1, 2022, could face a fine of up to 600 euros ($675) every three months.

There will be exceptions for those who are under age 14, pregnant, recently recovered from COVID-19, or have other health reasons preventing them from receiving the vaccination, according to the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF).

All non-vaccinated residents of Austria will have specific dates for vaccination assigned to them from Feb. 15, and from March 15, fines will be imposed on those who have not complied. Those who received the vaccination more than 270 days prior (just under nine months) will be required to receive a third dose.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in December 2020 that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

The doctrinal office added that those who refuse to receive vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses for reasons of conscience “must do their utmost to avoid … becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.”

The Austrian bishops’ statement, entitled “Protect, Heal, Reconcile,” said that exceptions to the vaccine mandate were “urgently necessary” to “keep the legal consequences within reasonable bounds.”

“The aim must be to protect health and freedom in equal measure,” they said.

The Austrian bishops said that “a broad scientific consensus evaluates the protective vaccination against COVID-19 as an indispensable contribution to protect people from severe, even life-threatening disease.”

Vaccination also helps protect the health system from becoming overburdened, they added. “For this reason, the bishops once again urge people to be vaccinated. We recall the words of Pope Francis: ‘Vaccination is an act of love.’”

The bishops, who recently tightened guidelines on the celebration of Mass in response to a new nationwide lockdown, also urged greater peace and reconciliation between people with opposing views about the COVID-19 vaccine and other polarizing issues related to the pandemic.

“Only respect for opposing opinions and different points of view can ensure peaceful coexistence,” they said.

“However, this also includes the fundamental acceptance of legal requirements which have to be made in the interest of the common good.”

The Austrian bishops’ intervention came days after the influential German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said he was open to the idea of mandatory vaccination.

The archbishop of Munich and Freising told a local newspaper on Dec. 3 that “compulsory vaccination by the state can be an important step, but that is ultimately a political decision,” reported CNA Deutsch.

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For the Year of St. Joseph, a look at the relic of his holy cloak in Rome

The relic of the holy cloak of St. Joseph at the Basilica of St. Joseph al Trionfale in Rome. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Dec 7, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).

The holy cloak of St. Joseph, a unique relic of the foster father of Jesus, has traveled from church to church in Rome this year after spending 16 centuries in an ancient Roman basilica.

The cloak, which tradition says was brought from the Holy Land to Rome by St. Jerome in the 4th century, is accompanied by a still-colorful veil held to have belonged to the Virgin Mary.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Both relics were hidden in Rome’s Basilica of Sant’Anastasia for more than 1,600 years, until 2020. It is believed that St. Jerome may have celebrated Mass in the basilica, located close to the Circus Maximus.

In honor of the Year of St. Joseph, which ends on Dec. 8, the Diocese of Rome has allowed the two relics to tour Catholic parishes around the city.

The first and last stop of the tour was the Basilica of St. Joseph al Trionfale. On Dec. 2-8, Romans and pilgrims can stop at the minor basilica to pray before the relics, exposed for veneration in a glass case encrusted in gold and jewels.

The upper part of the reliquary holds the piece of Mary’s veil, while the chest below holds St. Joseph’s cloak.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The mantle is the inspiration for a Novena to the Holy Cloak. A novena is typically prayed over nine consecutive days, but some people pray this novena for 30 days.

One shorter version of the prayer reads as follows:

“O, Glorious Patriarch, St. Joseph, you who were chosen by God, above all others, to be the earthly head of the Holy Family, I ask you to accept me within the folds of your holy cloak, that you may be the guardian and protector of my soul, of my family, parish and world. From this moment on, I choose you as my father, protector, help, and patron — and I ask you to place me in your care — my health and well-being, my faith, my life, and my death.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“Look upon me as one of your children; defend me from all harm and from my enemies — invisible or otherwise. Assist me always in all my necessities; console me in the bitterness of life, and especially at the hour of my death. Say but one word for me to the Divine Savior, who you were worthy to hold in your arms, and to Mary, your Spouse. Ask, please, for those blessings that will lead me to Jesus. Include me among those who are dear to you and I shall try to prove myself worthy of all I know you will do. Amen.”

There is also an old story that claims to reveal the origin of the sacred cloak as a relic. According to the tale, St. Joseph went to Mount Hebron, where he intended to buy lumber for his carpentry work, but he only had about half of the money he needed.

His wife, the Virgin Mary, had suggested that Joseph give the mantle she had gifted him on their wedding day to the lumber seller as a pledge to pay the rest of the money he owed.

The seller, named Ishmael, was a stingy fellow, and he protested at first, but eventually decided to accept the cloak.

It turned out that Ishmael had been suffering for some time from ulcers in his eyes, and had not been able to find a cure. But the day after St. Joseph gave him the mantle, he woke up healed. Ishmael’s wife, who was a hard woman with a difficult temperament, also woke that morning transformed into a mild person.

The lumber seller’s best cow was also cured of illness when the cloak was held over him, and after receiving these gifts, Ishmael refused to part with it. He forgave the debt and provided Joseph and Mary with all the free wood they needed from that point onward.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

According to the story, Ishmael and his wife also visited the Holy Family in Nazareth, bringing them gifts, at which time, the Virgin Mary told them that God would bless anyone who placed themselves under the mantle of her husband, St. Joseph.

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