President of U.S. Bishops Conference Suffers Mild Stroke

Houston, Texas (CNA) - The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference was hospitalized March 15 after suffering a mild stroke, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, which has been led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo since 2006.

“It is expected that Cardinal DiNardo will remain hospitalized for a few more days of testing and observation, followed by a transfer to another facility for rehabilitation.

DiNardo, 69, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1977. As a priest, he spent six years working in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, and became Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, in 1998. He became coadjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston in 2004, and was installed as archbishop of that archdiocese two years later.

DiNardo became a member of the College of Cardinals in 2007. He was the first Archbishop of Galveston-Houston to be appointed a cardinal.

The cardinal began in 2016 a three-year term as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He served as vice president of bishops’ conference from 2013 to 2016.

Archdiocesan Statement re: Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo:

Cardinal DiNardo was taken to a Houston hospital last night after experiencing the symptoms of what tests today have confirmed was a mild stroke. The Cardinal is resting comfortably and conversing with associates, doctors and nurses.  It is expected that Cardinal DiNardo will remain hospitalized for a few more days of testing and observation, followed by a transfer to another facility for rehabilitation. He is grateful to the doctors and nurses for their wonderful care and for continued prayers during his recovery.  Cardinal DiNardo said, "With so much to do, I am looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible."

USCCB Migration Chairman and CRS President Issue Statement Supporting Texas-Mexico Border Bishops’ Statement on Recent U.S. Government Asylum Policy

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services issue the following statement in solidarity with the March 4th statement of the Texas and Mexico Border Bishops.

The full statement follows:

“Consistent with the Texas-Mexico Border Bishops’ March 4th statement, we oppose U.S. policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting to access protection in the United States. We urge the Administration to reverse this policy, which needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols. We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives. Our staff and partners in Central America witness the suffering there and fight against it. Our government must adopt policies and provide more funding that address root causes of migration and promote human dignity and sustainable livelihoods. Like the Texas-Mexico Border Bishops, we recommit to Pope Francis’s call to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate our immigrant brothers and sisters in Christ.”

For more information on the U.S. government’s Migration Protection Protocol policy which requires certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico please click here.

Head of US bishops after Vatican abuse summit: 'Intensify the Dallas Charter'

Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2019 (CNA) .- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has promised “unyielding vigilance” and an intensification of the Dallas Charter following the Vatican summit on the sexual abuse of minors.

“We owe survivors an unyielding vigilance that we may never fail them again,” DiNardo said. “How then to bind the wounds? Intensify the Dallas Charter.”

The cardinal, who heads the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, released a statement Feb. 24, at the conclusion of a four-day Vatican summit that brought together heads of bishops’ conferences from countries around the world to discuss sexual abuse and child protection.

The summit discussed responsibility, transparency, and accountability, with video testimonies from sex abuse victims, working group discussions, a penitential liturgy, and a closing Mass with final remarks from Pope Francis.

“These have been challenging, fruitful days,” DiNardo said in his statement. “The witness of survivors revealed for us, again, the deep wound in the Body of Christ. Listening to their testimonies transforms your heart. I saw that in the faces of my brother bishops.”

During the gathering, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures,” and presenters spoke about “a code of conduct for bishops, the need to establish specific protocols for handling accusations against bishops, user-friendly reporting mechanisms, and the essential role transparency must play in the healing process,” DiNardo said.

These efforts include intensifying the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Young People – known as the Dallas Charter – which currently governs how U.S. dioceses are to handle sexual abuse allegations against priests, he said.

“Achieving these goals will require the active involvement and collaboration of the laity,” the cardinal stressed. He highlighted the need for prayer, expertise, and ideas from the laity, and their efforts to ensure that policies are followed and effective.

“All of the models discussed this week rely upon the good help of God’s people,” he said.

DiNardo said that he and the U.S. bishops were affirmed in the ongoing efforts and will prepare proposals for the upcoming U.S. Bishops’ Conference assembly this June.

“There is an urgency in the voice of the survivors to which we must always respond,” he said, adding, “I am also aware that our next steps can be a solid foundation from which to serve also seminarians, religious women, and all those who might live under the threat of sexual abuse or the abuse of power.”

While the “agony of Good Friday” can cause “a sense of isolation and abandonment,” we can trust in God’s promise of healing, encountering the Risen Christ as we bind the wounds that have been caused, the cardinal said.

He thanked those who have prayed for the success of the Vatican summit in recent days and stressed reliance on Christ, saying, “In Him alone is all hope and healing.”

Saying It Is Time to Eradicate Abuse and Cover Up, Pope Reminds Lord’s Words Saying Those Who Harm Little Ones Would Be Better Off Being Drowned in the Depths of the Sea

ZENIT - ‘In people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons’

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Pope Francis told some 190 bishops to never forget these words from the Master, decrying scandal and saying we must “keep ever before us the innocent faces of the little ones.” The harsh reminder was given by Francis in  his concluding addressing follow today’s closing Mass which took place at 9:30 this morning, in the Sala Regia of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, on the final day of the Summit on the Protection of Minors in the Church, Feb. 21-24, 2019.

The Pope acknowledged we are facing a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone. According to statistics, he said, the first truth that emerges from the data at hand is that those who perpetrate abuse, that is acts of physical, sexual or emotional violence, are primarily parents, relatives, husbands of child brides, coaches and teachers.

All the More Grave & Scandalous, for Utterly Incompatible 

“Yet we need to be clear, that while gravely affecting our societies as a whole, this evil is in no way less monstrous when it takes place within the Church.

“The brutality of this worldwide phenomenon becomes all the more grave and scandalous in the Church, for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility. Consecrated persons, chosen by God to guide souls to salvation, let themselves be dominated by their human frailty or sickness and thus become tools of Satan. [Read More]

Cardinal Cupich asks for new structure to ensure bishops’ accountability

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church needs “new legal structures of accountability” for bishops accused of sexual abuse or of negligence in handling abuse allegations, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago told the Vatican summit on safeguarding.

Addressing Pope Francis and some 190 presidents of bishops’ conferences, heads of Eastern Catholic churches, religious superiors and officials of the Roman Curia Feb. 22, Cardinal Cupich provided details of what some people have described as a “metropolitan model” of accountability, although he insisted the model would involve laypeople. [READ MORE]

Vatican summit opens with acknowledgment of evil committed

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Opening the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis said, "The holy people of God are watching and are awaiting from us not simple, predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures" to stop abuse.

The summit meeting Feb. 21-24 brought together almost 190 church leaders: the presidents of national bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches, superiors of some men's and women's religious orders and top Vatican officials.

In his brief opening remarks, the pope prayed that with "docility" to the Holy Spirit, the bishops at the summit would "listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice." [READ MORE]

McCarrick laicized by Pope Francis

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered this week the laicization of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington.

Once a powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world, McCarrick, 88, is now removed from the clerical state. He was publicly accused last year of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians.

The CDF conducted an administrative penal process which found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power,” according to a Feb. 16 Vatican communique.

An administrative penal process is a much-abbreviated penal mechanism used in cases in which the evidence is so clear that a full trial is unnecessary.

Because Pope Francis personally approved the guilty verdict and the penalty of laicization, it is formally impossible for the decision to be appealed.

According to a Feb. 16 statement from the Vatican, the CDF issued the decree Jan. 11 finding McCarrick guilty. This was followed by an appeal, which the CDF rejected Feb. 13.

McCarrick was notified of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse.)”

CNA contacted McCarrick’s canonical advocate this week, who declined to comment on the case.

The allegations of sexual abuse against McCarrick became public in June 2018 when the Archdiocese of New York reported that it had received a “credible” allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, while serving as a New York priest. McCarrick stepped down that same month from all public ministry at the direction of the Holy See.

In July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, ordering McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance pending the completion of the canonical process concerning the allegations. Since the end of September, McCarrick has been residing at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

Key among McCarrick’s accusers is James Grein, who gave evidence before specially deputized archdiocesan officials in New York on Dec. 27.

As part of the CDF’s investigation, Grein testified that McCarrick, a family friend, sexually abused him over a period of years, beginning when Grein was 11 years old. He also alleged that McCarrick carried out some of the abuse during the sacrament of confession - itself a separate canonical crime that can lead to the penalty of laicization.

The CDF has also reportedly received evidence from an additional alleged victim of McCarrick - 13 at the time the alleged abuse began - and from as many as 8 seminarian-victims in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where McCarrick previously served as bishop.

As emeritus Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and also as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick occupied a place of prominence in the US Church.

He was a leading participant in the development of the 2002 Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, which established procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse concerning priests.

Though laicized, McCarrick does not cease to be a bishop, sacramentally speaking, since once conferred the sacrament of ordination and episcopal consecration cannot be undone.

The penalty of reduction from the clerical state - often called laicization - prevents McCarrick from referring to himself or functioning as a priest, in public or private. Since ordination imparts a sacramental character, it cannot be undone by an act of the Church; but following laicization he is stripped of all the rights and privileges of a cleric including, in theory, the right to receive financial support from the Church.

Pope Francis approves canonization of John Henry Newman

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2019 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis Wednesday approved the canonization of Bl. John Henry Newman, a Roman Catholic cardinal, scholar, and founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England.

Following a Feb. 12 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope signed off on a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Newman, who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England on Sept. 19, 2010.

The first miracle attributed to Newman’s intercession involved the complete and inexplicable healing of a deacon from a disabling spinal condition.

His second miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman. The woman prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Newman at the time of a life-threatening diagnosis, and her doctors have been unable to explain how or why she was able to suddenly recover.

The date of his canonization has not yet been announced.

Bl. John Henry Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Originally an Anglican priest, he converted to Catholicism in 1845 and his writings are considered among some of the most important Church-writings in recent centuries.

Ordained a Catholic priest in 1847, he was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879, although he was not a bishop. Newman was also particularly dedicated to education and founded two schools for boys.

Sr. Kathleen Dietz, FSO, a Newman scholar, and vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Erie told CNA last November she suspects that Newman could be named the patron of scholars and students.

Pope Francis also green-lighted Feb. 13 the canonization of Bl. Maria Teresa Chiramel Mankidiyan of India, the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, who died in 1926 in Kuzhikkattussery.

He also approved the canonization of martyred Jesuit Fr. Salvatore Vittorio Emilio Moscoso Cardenas, who was killed in hatred of the faith in Ecuador in 1897.

Those declared to have lived lives of heroic virtue and to be on the path to beatification are Cardinal József Mindszenty, archbishop of Esztergom and primate of Hungary (1892-1975); Fr. Giovanni Battista Zuaboni, founder of the Secular Institute of the Company of the Holy Family (1880-1939); Jesuit Fr. Manuel Garcia Nieto (1894-1974); Sr. Serafina Formai, foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Glad Message (1876-1954); and Sr. Maria Berenice Duque Hencker, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Annunciation (1898-1993).

Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Urges Senate Vote and Passage of Born -Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

February 5, 2019

WASHINGTON–Last night (Feb. 4), the Senate failed to adopt by unanimous consent the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act—legislation that would ensure that a child born alive following an abortion would receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.
 
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement in response:
 
“Last night, the United States Senate had an opportunity to unanimously declare to the nation that infanticide is objectively wrong. That they failed to do so is unconscionable. No newborn should be left to suffer or die without medical care. It is barbaric and merciless to leave these vulnerable infants without any care or rights. Congress must take up and pass this bill and ensure that the legacy of Roe v. Wade does not extend itself from killing unborn children to killing newborn babies.”
 
The Archbishop also sent a letter to the U.S. Senate today urging the body to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the floor for a vote and to pass it this week. In his letter, Archbishop Naumann asked the Senate to support the “common-sense legislation” that would protect infants who survived abortion attempts.

New movie tells story of abortion clinic worker turned pro-life advocate

BRYAN, TEXAS, (CNA).- A movie chronicling the conversion of a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who became a pro-life advocate will be released in theaters nationwide on March 29.

A trailer for the film Unplanned, which tells the story of Abby Johnson, was released on Thursday.

Based off Johnson’s book of the same name, Unplanned recounts her experiences in the abortion industry. After being first approached at an on-campus activities fair, Johnson began volunteering at Planned Parenthood as a clinic escort. After graduation, she took a job with the company and eventually became the director of the Bryan, Texas clinic. In 2008, she was named as the clinic’s employee of the year.

During her time working at the nation’s largest abortion provider, Johnson herself had two abortions.

Due to a personnel shortage, she was called in to assist in an ultrasound-guided abortion for the first time in September 2009. She was initially disconcerted to note how much the unborn child, after 13 weeks, looked like the image she had seen of her own living daughter while pregnant.

The next few minutes changed Johnson's life irrevocably, as she watched the baby –whom she had believed to be incapable of feeling anything– squirming and twisting to avoid the tube into which it would be vacuumed.

“For the briefest moment,” she wrote in her memoir, “the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes.”

“The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then it was gone.”

Shocked by what she had seen, Johnson still continued her work running the clinic and promoting its work, at first. Just a few weeks later, however, she was in the nearby office of the Coalition For Life, telling its director Shawn Carney –with whom she knew from his years of opposition to Planned Parenthood–  that she could no longer continue helping women have abortions.

In a 2011 interview with CNA, Johnson said she joined the pro-life movement to help women understand the truth about abortion, not to become a public figure. She  said that it was Planned Parenthood, not the Coalition For Life, that turned her departure into a public battle.

“Planned Parenthood released this to the media” in late 2009, she said. “Planned Parenthood made this a news story. This is something that they did.”

“This is not what I planned for my life. But God set this up for me– and it would be the wrong thing, to turn away from something that He has planned for my life.”

Johnson went on to found the organization “And Then There Were None,” which seeks to assist abortion workers with leaving the industry and finding a new career. Although not shown in the film, Johnson and her husband subsequently converted to Catholicism and are currently  expecting their eighth child.

And Then There Were None has helped nearly 500 former clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

Unplanned stars Ashley Bratcher as Johnson. During filming, Bratcher discovered that her own mother had planned on having an abortion when she was pregnant with her, but walked out of the appointment instead.  

Unplanned was written and directed by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, the writers of God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2. The movie was partially funded by Michael Lindell, a born-again Christian and the founder of the company MyPillow.

The film will be distributed by Pure Flix.

NY Child Victims Act passes, Cuomo takes aim at bishops

New York City, N.Y., Jan 29, 2019 / 09:35 am (CNA) - New York state legislators yesterday passed the Child Victims Act. The new measure extends the period of time in which both civil suits and criminal charges can be brought in cases of child abuse. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign the act into law in the coming days.

The act, versions which had been passed by the state assembly six times over the last twelve years, was given approval by the state senate for the first time on Jan. 28, passing 63-0.

The act allows for victims of child abuse to bring civil charges against their abuser until the age of 55, previously this had been 23. Criminal prosecutions can be brought up to the age of 28.

The act also creates a one-year window for victims of any age to come forward.

Previous versions of the bill drew a distinction between private and public institutions, broadening the scope for the law for the former but shielding the latter. The most recent version eliminated this disparity, allowing lawsuits to be filed for allegations of abuse in public schools.

The bishops of New York issued a joint statement in response to the bill.

“We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation,” the bishops wrote.

“The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.”

Director of the New York Catholic Conference, Dennis Poust, told CNA that the conference supported the changes and had not opposed the final version of the act.

“For years, we have advocated against treating abuse survivors differently depending on where they were abused,” he said.

Although the NY Catholic Conference did not oppose the bill, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who had previously told state legislators he “stood with Pope Francis” in supporting the bill, used its passage to take aim at the state’s bishops.

On Monday he told WAMC radio in Albany that the bishops of the state were an obstacle to bringing justice for abuse victims.

“I think the bishops have worked to protect the church over doing justice,” he said. “They compounded the problem by covering it up and not taking responsibility . . . I don’t think I’m against the Catholic Church. I think the bishops may have a different position than the pope, and I’m with the pope.”

In response, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told the television show Fox & Friends that “we have a governor that takes quotes from Pope Francis out of context to draw lines between bishops of New York and the Holy Father himself.”

Poust told CNA he was “puzzled” by the Cuomo’s comments.

“Previous versions of the bill sought to shield public institutions, which would have treated abuse survivors differently depending on where they suffered their abuse. Thankfully, the bill’s sponsors amended this, and the conference dropped any opposition to its passage,” Poust said.

“Why the governor has doubled, or even tripled down on his criticisms of the Church in recent days I couldn’t say for sure, though I would note he shared our reservations on previous versions of the bill until recently.”

“In the wake of recent abortion legislation, the governor seems to think the Church is a useful common enemy to have with some legislators.”

The bishops’ statement said that “sadly, we in the Church know all too well the devastating toll of abuse on survivors, their families, and the extended community. Every Catholic diocese in New York has taken important steps to support survivors of child sexual abuse, including the implementation of reconciliation and compensation programs.”

“We are proud that these pioneering programs have not only helped well more than a thousand survivors of clergy abuse in New York, but have also become a model for how to help survivors in other states and in other institutions,” the bishops wrote.

Poust told CNA that "it’s truly unfortunate that Gov. Cuomo continues to portray the social issue of child sexual abuse as a Catholic-only problem. Thankfully, the legislature and victim advocates understand this is not the case.”

‘This is progressive?’ New York bishops react to new abortion law

Albany, N.Y., Jan 23, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA) - Catholic leaders in New York have spoken out against the passage of an expansive new abortion law in the state. The Reproductive Health Act was passed on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade.

 In a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference, the state’s bishops called the passage of the law a new “sad chapter” on a date that already carried tragic associations for supporters of life.

 The New York State Senate voted 38 to 24 to bring the act into law after a 12-year legislative battle.

 Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), a Catholic, said earlier this month that he would sign the legislation if it were to be passed, and that he hopes to add abortion rights to the state’s constitution. This process could begin next year.

 The bill was passed on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that found a woman had a legal right to receive abortion in the United States.

 “Our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies,” read a statement from the NYSCC.

 The act codified into law the finding of Roe v. Wade, meaning that abortion would remain legal in New York even if the case were to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

 While the law officially limits abortion to the first 24 weeks gestation, abortion is permitted at a later gestational age for reasons related to the wellbeing of the mother. Additionally, the bill removes act of abortion from the criminal code, and instead places it in the public-health code, and strips most safeguards and regulations on the procedure. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

 Writing on his official blog on the eve of the bill’s passage, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said bishops are not supposed to be “politicians or culture warriors,” but said that the new law was an affront to the rights of the most vulnerable.

 “If our governor, senate, and assembly has their way, abortion will be legal up to the moment of birth; those large numbers of healthcare professionals who find the termination of pre-born babies repugnant will have no conscience rights to object; trained physicians will be not be required to perform the dismemberment; and a baby who survives the scalpel, saline, or suction, and is still alive, can be left to die without any care.”

 “This is ‘progressive’?” Dolan asked.

 “All people have rights:  the immigrant, the poor, the pregnant woman… and her baby.  All God’s children, Reverend [Martin Luther] King would insist, are equal and have rights,” the cardinal concluded, recalling the recent observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

 In a statement published on the state website, Gov. Cuomo called the signing a “historic victory for New Yorkers,” and that “in the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women's reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session - and we got it done.”

 Cuomo said that he hopes other states will follow in New York’s lead and pass similar legislation.

 Bishop of Albany Edward B. Scharfenberger, questioned if supporting and signing this law could impact Cuomo’s standing in the Catholic Church and ability to receive communion.  “This legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the Church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor,” wrote Scharfenberger.

In an open letter to the governor, Scharfenberger highlighted Cuomo’s apparent inconsistencies when referencing his Catholic faith.

“Although in your recent State of the State address you cited your Catholic faith and said we should ‘stand with Pope Francis,’ your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church,” Scharfenberger wrote.

New York was the first state to legalize abortion, and did so in 1970. It currently has the highest abortion rate in the country. In 2019, the organization Americans United for Life ranked New York 43rd on its annual ranking of pro-life states.

The bishops also requested prayers not only “for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state,” but also for “the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law.”

There were many “celebrations” throughout the state after the law was passed. In addition to the loud cheering in the Senate chamber after the vote, One World Trade Center and other landmarks around the state were lit up in bright pink to “celebrate” the law.

In Albany, meanwhile, next to the Executive Mansion where the bill was signed, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception tolled its bells in preemptive mourning for the unborn lives that will be lost.

How the Knights of Columbus save lives: 1,000 ultrasound machine donations

Arlington, Va., (CNA/EWTN News) - A program to donate ultrasound machines to U.S. pregnancy centers has passed the 1,000 mark, thanks to the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus and its members.

“Building a culture of life requires all of us to strive for the just treatment of innocent unborn children and to accompany with compassionate concern women facing crisis pregnancies,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in the January 2019 issue of Columbia magazine, which is published by the charitable organization.

“This program is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The 1,000th machine was donated to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, which has already expanded since its December 2017 opening.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and officials of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington joined local Knights of Columbus members at the Jan. 14 celebration marking the milestone.

The ultrasound program has put a Knights-sponsored ultrasound machine in every U.S. state and in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, and Peru, as well as places in Africa.

Anderson said the 1,000th machine marked “a historic milestone,” adding, “there are still many more milestones ahead of us in the lives of thousands of vulnerable unborn children.”

“Our Ultrasound Initiative must continue to expand into every community where it is needed,” he said.

One woman who benefitted from the program is Lauren, from South Bend, Ind.

She told Columbia magazine that when she was pregnant two years ago she wasn’t sure what decision she should make and didn’t know what to expect from an ultrasound procedure. She went to Women’s Care Center in South Bend, which had received an ultrasound machine through the program.

“The only way I can describe it is that it changed me in the blink of an eye,” Lauren said. “The moment I saw my child on the big screen in front of me, I knew I was going to be a mom. It did not matter what I had thought before — all that mattered was loving my child and caring about her safety. I saw her little feet and little arms. I heard her heartbeat as I watched her in front of me. I still have the pictures of the ultrasound that were given to me that day — the day that changed my life forever.”

Lauren is still attending college and working “to make a great life for my daughter.” She said pregnant women in similar circumstances should know “Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are never alone.”

The ultrasound program was launched in 2009 with the goal of donating 1,000 machines. State or local knights’ councils raise funds half of the ultrasound machine expenses, which is matched from the Supreme Council’s Culture of Life Fund. On average, the machines cost about $30,000 each.

According to program details on the Knights of Columbus website, councils must first identify qualified pregnancy centers and have these centers evaluated by the local diocese’s Culture of Life director.

Evaluation criteria include whether the proposed beneficiary has the staffing, finances and other resources to justify the purchase of an ultrasound; whether the center’s location, client load and hours of operation justifies the “major expenditure,” ongoing costs, and staffing commitments; whether the center’s practices, policies and history are consistent with Catholic ethics; and whether the pregnancy center is welcoming of Catholics as employees, volunteers and clients.

The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened in December 2017 with support from the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

It aims to provide free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in northern Virginia. Many of its patients are recently arrived immigrants. Its new expansion has rooms for prenatal care, offices for adoption services, space for the Gabriel Project service for pregnant mothers in need, and space for the Project Rachael ministry to post-abortive women, the Arlington Catholic Herald reports.

The clinic is presently open 24 to 36 hours per week for no-cost patient care. It averages 65-70 patients a week and 209 registered volunteers, including five primary care physicians, four nurse practitioners, two cardiologists, an obstetrician, a pulmonologist, an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, and a pharmacist. The clinic also gives referrals for other services.

Bishop Burbidge blessed the ultrasound machine, the new expansion, and those gathered at the clinic on Monday.

“We want to do everything we can to promote the gospel of life, but ultimately it’s entrusting our work and our intentions to the Lord,” he said, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s ultimately his work and upon his grace that we must depend.”

The clinic is located in a medical office formerly occupied by one of the area’s largest abortion clinics, Amethyst Health Center for Women, which closed in September 2015 when its owner retired.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1882 by Connecticut priest Ven. Michael J. McGivney, have close to 2 million members worldwide.

U.S. Bishops Receive Letter from Pope Francis As They Gather for Spiritual Retreat; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo Offers Message to Holy Father on Behalf of U.S. Bishops

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Bishops have received a letter from Pope Francis as they gather in northern Illinois at Mundelein Seminary this week. The weeklong retreat is taking place at the invitation of Pope Francis who has asked all bishops in the United States to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times. 

The Preacher to the Papal Household, Capuchin Friar Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., is directing the retreat under the theme of “He appointed Twelve, to be with Him and to Send Out to Preach” based on Mark 3:14. The structure of the retreat includes time for quiet reflection, including silent meal times, daily Mass, time for personal and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, vespers, and an opportunity for confession. No ordinary business is being conducted during the retreat.

Mundelein Seminary, located on the campus of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, is the principal seminary and school of theology for the formation of priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and educates nearly 200 seminarians from 34 dioceses across the country and around the world.

The retreat is one of prayer and silence.

Pope Francis’s full letter can be found here in both English and Spanish: www.usccb.org/Francis

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), sent the following message on behalf of the U.S. bishops upon the opening of the retreat. 

The Cardinal’s full message follows:

Most Holy Father:

As the bishops of the United States gather today in prayer, we humbly ask Your Holiness to pray for us that we may draw closer to one another and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In this closeness, we seek to find the wisdom and strength necessary to meet the great challenges ahead. We carry with us these days the pain and hope of all who may feel let down by the Church. Yet, we find ourselves grateful for the reminder that the future does not rest with any of us alone, but rather belongs to God. Hope is to be found in Christ. In Him, hope becomes unshakable.

Holy Father, we also draw near to you in our prayer and ministry. Your witness to those suffering around the world strengthens us. May our days together reflect the communion of the Universal Church.

Ouellet letter: US bishops’ vote on abuse reform measures was blocked to allow more discussion

Vatican City, Jan 1, 2019 (CNA/EWTN News) - A letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet indicates that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops had blocked the U.S. bishops from voting on proposals to address the sex abuse crisis in November because the congregation believed more time was needed to discuss the measures.

The Associated Press reported Jan. 1 that it had obtained a letter from Cardinal Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, addressed to U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

The letter, dated Nov. 11, says that proposals which had been scheduled for a vote by the bishops’ conference needed more time and discussion to “properly mature.” Ouellet indicated that the Vatican congregation had numerous canonical objections to the proposals.

On Nov. 12, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston announced that the Vatican had directed the U.S. bishops’ conference to delay a vote on two key proposals which had been expected to form the basis for the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis.

The proposals to establish a new code of conduct for bishops and create of a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct had been scheduled to receive a vote at the fall gathering of the bishops’ conference, which was held Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.

DiNardo said he received a directive from the Congregation for Bishops, insisting that consideration of the new measures be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February. That meeting, which will include the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, will address the global sexual abuse crisis.

DiNardo said he had only been told of the Vatican’s decision one day before the start of the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore.

However, according to the Associated Press, Ouellet first told DiNardo on Nov. 6 that the bishops should not vote on the proposals, and repeated the instruction in his Nov. 11 letter, saying, “Considering the nature and scope of the documents being proposed by the (conference), I believe it would have been beneficial to have allowed for more time to consult with this and other congregations with competence over the ministry and discipline of bishops.”

DiNardo on Jan. 1 told the Associated Press that he had shared the “content and direction” of the proposals with the Vatican in October. He said he moved forward with drafting the final text when he did not meet with any opposition.

“We had not planned, nor had the Holy See made a request, to share the texts prior to the body of bishops having had an opportunity to amend them,” he said, adding that he assumed the Vatican would be able to “review and offer adjustments” to the measures after the U.S. bishops voted to approve them.

“It is now clear there were different expectations on the bishops conference’s part and Rome’s part that may have affected the understanding of these proposals,” DiNardo said in a statement. “From our perspective, they were designed to stop short of where the authority of the Holy See began.”

In his letter, Ouellet acknowledged that the bishops’ conference has autonomy to discuss and approve measures, but added “the conference’s work must always be integrated within the hierarchical structure and universal law of the church.” He mentioned a need to “incorporate the input and fruits” of the February meeting in Rome.

DiNardo told the AP that he had cautioned Ouellet that a failure to vote on the proposals “would prove a great disappointment to the faithful, who were expecting their bishops to take just action.”

Pope Francis asks for prayers for Indonesia after deadly tsunami

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - After a deadly tsunami struck Indonesia Saturday night, killing more than 200 people and injuring hundreds more, Pope Francis has asked for everyone to join him in prayer for the suffering victims this Christmas.

“My thoughts go out right now to the populations of Indonesia, affected by violent natural disasters, which have caused serious losses in human lives, numerous people missing and homeless, and extensive material damage,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer Dec. 23.

“I invite everyone to join me in prayer for the victims and their loved ones,” he said, calling for solidarity and support from the international community.

The tsunami left at least 222 people dead and more than 840 injured, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho from Indonesia’s disaster management agency.

Researchers suspect the destructive waves were triggered by a volcanic eruption in the Sunda Strait between two Indonesian islands.

Pope Francis expressed his wish to be “spiritually close” to the displaced and “to all the people who are imploring God for relief in their suffering.”
 
The pope reflected on the importance of families being together at Christmas, but said he understood that “many people do not have this possibility, for different reasons.”

To people apart from their families at Christmas, Pope Francis extended an invitation to find a “true family” in the Catholic Church.

“Our heavenly Father does not forget you and does not abandon you. If you are a Christian, I wish you to find in the Church a true family, where you can experience the warmth of fraternal love,” he said.

Francis stressed that the doors of the Catholic community are open to Christians and non-Christians alike this Christmas. “Jesus is born for everyone and gives everyone the love of God,” he said.

The pope encouraged people preparing for Christmas to fix their gaze on Mary, who spent her months of waiting for Christ’s coming in service to her elderly relative, Elizabeth.

“The Gospel of Mary's visit to Elizabeth prepares us to live Christmas well, communicating to us the dynamism of faith and charity,” Pope Francis said.

“A dynamism full of joy, as seen in the meeting between the two mothers, which is all a hymn of joyous exultation in the Lord, who does great things with the little ones who trust Him,” he continued.

May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace of living a Christmas centered, not on ourselves, but on Jesus and our brothers and sisters in need, Pope Francis prayed.

U.S. Bishops Will Gather for Seven Days of Prayer and Reflection at Invitation of Pope Francis; Papal Preacher to Direct Retreat Taking Place January 2-8

WASHINGTON — Catholic bishops from across the United States will begin the new year taking part in a spiritual retreat for seven days at Mundelein Seminary January 2 to 8, 2019. Preacher to the Papal Household, Capuchin Friar Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., will direct the retreat under the theme of “He appointed Twelve, to be with Him and to Send Out to Preach” based on Mark 3:14. The retreat is taking place at the invitation of Pope Francis who has asked all bishops in the United States to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times.   

The structure of the retreat will emphasize quiet reflection, including silent meal times, and will offer daily Mass, time for personal and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, vespers, and an opportunity for confession. The next business meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled for June 2019. No ordinary business will be conducted at the January retreat.

Cardinal DiNardo expresses his gratitude to Pope Francis for offering the services of his personal preacher for the retreat and offers special thanks to Cardinal Blase Cupich for hosting the retreat in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  The Cardinal is also asking the faithful to join in prayer for the U.S. bishops throughout the duration of the retreat.

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for calling the bishops and me to step back and enter into this focused time of listening to God as we respond to the intense matters before us in the weeks and months ahead.  I also humbly ask the laity, our priests and religious for your prayers for my brother bishops and me as we join in solidarity to seek wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Pray also for the survivors of sexual abuse that their suffering may serve to strengthen us all for the hard task of rooting out a terrible evil from our Church and our society so that such suffering is never multiplied.”  

On February 21-24, 2019, Cardinal DiNardo will join presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences for a Vatican summit on the clerical sex abuse crisis and child protection. The pope had announced in September that he was calling all the presidents of bishop’s conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men and women religious orders to the Vatican to address the crisis. 

Father Cantalamessa was appointed the Preacher to the Papal Household by Pope John Paul II in 1980.  He has remained in this position through the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and is the only person allowed to preach to the Pope.  

Mundelein Seminary, located on the campus of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, is the principal seminary and school of theology for the formation of priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. It is the largest Catholic seminary in the United States and home to 200 seminarians from 34 dioceses across the country and around the world.

Pope Francis: Make space for wonder this Christmas

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News) - Make space for wonder and surprise this Christmas, Pope Francis urged Wednesday, explaining that the first Christmas had many surprises – including that God came into the world as a tiny baby.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was surprised by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation and Joseph was surprised by the angel in his dream, which told him to take Mary as his wife, the pope said Dec. 19.

To welcome the Savior there are no powerful people, no ambassadors, just simple shepherds, surprised by the angels while working at night.

“But it is on the night of Christmas that the biggest surprise comes: The Most High is a small child,” he said. “To celebrate Christmas, then, is to welcome the surprises of Heaven on earth.”

Speaking at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on the surprising elements of Christ’s birth, and the way each Catholic can replicate the feelings at the first Christmas in his or her heart by making room for silence.

“Christmas is preferring the silent voice of God to the noisiness of consumerism. If we can be silent in front of the crib, Christmas will be a surprise even for us, not something seen before,” he said.

“Be silent in front of the nativity,” he advised. “This is an invitation for Christmas, take some time. Go before the nativity and stay in silence.”

Francis noted that since the beginning of Advent, the Gospel warned against becoming weighed down by the “anxieties of daily life.” “These days we rush, maybe as we never have during the year. But this is the opposite of what Jesus wants,” he said.

We blame the fast-pace of the world, but Jesus did not blame the world; Jesus asked his followers to keep watch and pray.

It is easy to get wrapped up in consumerism and in parties this time of year, preferring “the usual things of the earth over the news of Heaven,” he warned. “If Christmas is just a nice traditional holiday, where we are at the center and not Him, it will be a lost opportunity.”

We will celebrate Christmas well, “if, like Joseph, we will give space to silence; if, like Mary, we say ‘here I am’ to God; if, like Jesus, we will be close to those who are alone; if, like the shepherds, we will leave our enclosures to be with Jesus,” Pope Francis said.

“It will be Christmas, if we find the light in the poor cave of Bethlehem.”

On the other hand, he stated, it will not be Christmas if people look only for the “shimmering glow of the world,” filling themselves with presents and fancy meals, but do not help “at least one poor man.”

“Christmas is the payback of humility over arrogance, of simplicity over abundance, of silence over hubbub, of prayer over ‘my time,’ of God over my ego,” he said.

“Every one of us has, hidden in our heart, the capacity to be surprised. May we be surprised by Jesus this Christmas.”

For his 82nd birthday party, Pope Francis hosts sick children

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Ahead of his 82nd birthday, Pope Francis held a party and ate birthday cake with children under the care of a free health clinic inside the Vatican.

The celebration took place inside the Paul VI hall before the Sunday Angelus. It included a surprise birthday cake for Pope Francis, whose Dec. 17 birthday falls on Monday. Joined by the children’s families, the Pope spent about an hour with children receiving care at the “Santa Marta” Pediatric Dispensary. In addition to dessert, there was singing and music at the papal audience.

“I’m happy to be with you. I wish you a Merry Christmas, a good holy Christmas to all, and I thank you very much for what you do, really,” the Pope said. “And, also, I hope that there is no indigestion with that cake so big!”

A sign hung on the table holding the Pope’s cake read: “We cannot get used to the situations of degradation and misery that surround us. A Christian must react.”

Francis said he thought that if the Holy Family had been living in Rome and the Baby Jesus had a cold, Mary would have surely brought him to the dispensary to be treated.

The Pope thanked all of the doctors, nurses, and volunteers of the clinic, as well as the “collaboration of the kids, and of the dads and the moms of the children.” The clinic is “a body,” he continued, “and there is life in the body. It is seen in the spontaneity of the children.”

It is not easy to work with children, he noted, but he stressed that to do so helps people to understand the reality of life and that “we must lower ourselves, as we lower ourselves to kiss a child. They teach us this.”

“The proud, the proud cannot understand life, because they cannot lower themselves,” he continued. And all those who help the children at the dispensary “give so much to the children; but they give us this message, this teaching: get down. Get down, be humble, and you will learn to understand life and understand people.”

The “Santa Marta” Dispensary, which became a foundation in 2008, is supported by the Pope, the Secretariat of State, the Vatican City State Governorate, and benefactors and friends.

This was the third time the Pope has celebrated his birthday with the families of the “Santa Marta” Dispensary.

U.S. bishops’ chairman applauds critical legislation to aid Christians in Iraq, Syria

Washington D.C., - (CNA/EWTN News) - President Donald Trump signed into law Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, which seeks to ensure US aid reaches Christian and Yazidi genocide victims.

The bill was passed unanimously in the House Nov. 27, and in the Senate Oct. 11.

This bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and the lead Democratic sponsor was Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA). This was Smith’s second attempt at getting the bill signed into law, and altogether it took 17 months for this bill to be passed.  

Trump was joined at the Dec. 11 signing by Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson, Smith, Eshoo, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and many others.

Trump said it was a “great honor” to sign H.R. 390 into law, and remarked that his administration has had great success in fighting Islamic State. The group has lost nearly all of its territory since its peak in 2015.

“This bill continues my administration's efforts to direct US assistance for persecuted communities including through faith-based programs,” he said.

The signing of the legislation is a symbol of the US speaking “with bold moral clarity and political unanimity,” Anderson said in a statement provided by the Knights of Columbus, which were heavily involved with the process of writing the bill and assisting the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

Since 2014, the Knights of Columbus have donated more than $20 million to help Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria with food, housing, and other needs. The Knights also spent $2 million to rebuild an Iraqi town that had been destroyed by Islamic State.

H.R. 390 provides funding to various entities, including faith-based and religious organizations, that are helping with recovery and stabilization efforts in Iraq and Syria in religious and ethnic minority communities, including Christians and Yazidis.

The bill also instructs the Trump administration to “assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force these survivors to flee” the region and for the administration to identify signs of potential violent action against minority groups in the country.

Another part of the law encourages foreign governments to identify those who belong to Islamic State in security databases and security screenings to aid with their prosecution. The bill provides support for groups that are investigating members of Islamic State who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region.

Since Islamic State took control of the region, the country’s Christian population has dwindled to only a few thousand families. Many of these people fled to nearby Turkey and Lebanon out of concern for their safety. Although the situation has drastically improved since nearly all of Islamic State's territory has been regained, Christians are reluctant to return to the region due to a lack of economic opportunities and continued concerns for safety.

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U.S. Bishops’ Chairman Applauds Enactment of Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act

December 11, 2018

WASHINGTON - The Committee on International Justice and Peace of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) applauds the enactment of the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390).

This critical legislation will direct humanitarian relief to genocide victims in Iraq and Syria and hold ISIS perpetrators accountable.

“Today is a signal of hope for the critically vulnerable of this region. We thank Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill’s author, and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), its lead cosponsor, and President Donald Trump for signing it into law,” says Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services USA and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“Less than 200,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from 1.4 million in 2002 and 500,000 in 2013, before ISIS swept through the region on its genocidal campaign. Many of the remaining Christians in Iraq are displaced, mostly in Erbil in the Kurdistan region, and need desperate assistance to return to their homes and stay in Iraq.  After the ISIS invasion, 60,000 Yazidis fled to Europe, and of the 550,000 Yazidis still in Iraq, 280,000 remain displaced and only 20 percent have been able to return to their historic homeland of Sinjar, according to the Yazdi organization Yazda.

The Catholic Church has consistently raised its voice in support of the most vulnerable who are facing persecution and displacement in the Middle East and around the world. Pope Francis has denounced the persecution, torture and killing of Christians in the Middle East, calling it a "form of genocide" that must end, and lamenting the wider conflicts that have put so many in danger. USCCB has joined with Pope Francis in condemning the actions of those who would persecute others solely for reasons of their faith and ethnicity.”