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Guatemalan Supreme Court halts distribution of pro-abortion manual

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 15, 2017 / 12:05 am (ACI Prensa).- The Supreme Court of Guatemala has ruled that the distribution of a manual promoting abortion must be stopped.

The manual, “Human rights, sexual and reproductive rights and healthcare for girls and adolescents,” had been financed by the UN Population Fund.

It had been promoted since 2015 by the Ombudsman for Human Rights at the time, Jorge De Leon Duque.

The Guatemalan judiciary issued its ruling Dec. 8. A press conference held by the Family Matters Association (FMA) and congressman José Rodrigo Valladares discussed the decision.

The Family Matters Association had filed for an injunction on June 22, 2017 against De Leon Duque “to invalidate the use of the manual and to demand the ombudsman's office stop promoting abortion.” Congressman Rodrigo Valladares subsequently joined the injunction filing.

The Supreme Court's ruling also ordered the Ombudsman's Office for Human Rights “to refrain from carrying out any activity which entails supporting or promoting abortion or abortion practices, their presentation (of it) as a right, the promotion of its legalization or the violation of the right to life from conception,” the FMA reported.

It also set a deadline of three months for the current ombudsman, Jordan Rodas Andrade, “to develop the necessary materials to counteract the harm done by the manual in question.”

In addition, the FMA stressed that the court has recognized that the ombudsman “has the grave and solemn obligation to defend life from its conception, an obligation he freely and voluntarily assumed by the oath to uphold the Constitution which he took in Congress at the time he accepted his office, if he wants to serve the nation.”

The court ruling states that “any report, study, investigation, publication, campaign or activity that the Ombudsman carries out must seek to defend the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Otherwise he would be exceeding his authority as provided by law.”

The FMA also emphasized that the court enjoined Rodas Andrade to avoid “reverting to the actions of your predecessor, and to refrain from carrying out any activity which promotes abortion directly or indirectly” and to not join the campaigns or use the slogans “ of those who in the supposed defense of the rights of women in vulnerable situations are promoting abortion under the disguised label of 'sexual and reproductive rights.'”

Current Ombudsman Jordan Rodas posted on his office's website a statement in which he disclaimed any responsibility for the manual promoted by his predecessor.

He pointed out that the manual “was not developed under my management,” but “was presented, published and distributed by the administration of my predecessor, Jorge De Leon Duque.”

In addition, Jordan Rodas emphasized that “starting August 20, the day I took office, until this very day, at no time have I made a statement about abortion.”

The FMA offered that it is “at the disposal of the ombudsman and his entire team, to give priority to and timely compliance with the Supreme Court's order.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Proposed Catholic hospital mega-merger assessed by Church officials

Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2017 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic ethics and church law must be at the center of a merger of two major Catholic health care systems that, if approved, will create the largest non-profit health system in the country, an archdiocesan official says.

Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives and San Francisco-based Dignity Health announced the proposed merger Dec. 7.

They aim to create a new Catholic healthcare system, set to be based in Chicago. The combined health system will be run by the CEOs of both companies. It will include 139 hospitals, employ 159,000 people, and have a combined revenue of $28.4 billion.

The merger requires regulatory approval—and also scrutiny that it does not violate Catholic ethical and canonical norms.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco are among those responsible for analyzing the moral and ethical considerations of the proposed merger for the health systems based in their respective cities, David Uebbing, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA.

The USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” require that the merger of the healthcare systems receive a “nihil obstat” from the diocesan bishop in the places where the systems are headquartered.

Uebbing said the review process in Denver has already involved “an extensive, multi-month” analysis of the proposal and consultation with the bishops affected. The process has involved consultation with legal, canonical and health care ethics experts.

“A nihil obstat is a negative declaration that essentially says, ‘nothing stands in the way’,” Uebbing said. “A nihil obstat has limited scope, i.e., determining that there is nothing morally or doctrinally objectionable in the proposed corporate structure. It does not convey approval or agreement with the proposal.”

Both health care systems are sponsored by canonical organizations overseen directly by the Vatican, which, according to canon law, will also need to approve the merger.

A new name for the proposed system will be announced sometime after mid-2018, pending final approval from federal and state officials as well as Catholic officials.

The leaders of both health care systems said the proposed merger would be better for health care.

“We are joining together to create a new Catholic health system, one that is positioned to accelerate the change from sick-care to well-care across the United States,” said Kevin E. Lofton, the CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives.

He said the organization will have “the talent, depth, breadth, and passion to improve the health of every person and community we serve,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based Dignity Health, said the merger will build upon a shared mission and will “expand our commitment to meeting the needs of all people with compassion, regardless of income, ethnicity, or language.”

“We foresee an incredible opportunity to expand each organization's best practices to respond to the evolving health care environment and deliver high-quality, cost-effective care,” he continued.

Currently Catholic Health Initiatives has hospitals in 17 states, while Dignity Health has facilities in 22 states, including those operating under brands such as U.S. HealthWorks, the Sacramento Bee reports.

CNA contacted Dignity Health, and the Archdiocese of Chicago for comment but did not receive a response by deadline. Catholic Health Initiatives was unable to respond to a request for comment.

In 2012 Dignity Health, adopted a new board structure and changed its name from Catholic Healthcare West, deemphasizing its ties to the Catholic Church. Then-Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco determined the changes were consistent with Catholic morals.

At the time, it was reported that the system’s Catholic hospitals would continue to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

The system’s non-Catholic hospitals adhere to the system’s “Statement of Common Values.” Those rules prohibit abortion and in-vitro fertilization but not sterilization procedures like tubal ligations.

Catholic Healthcare West, later renamed Dignity Health, came under scrutiny following a 2009 incident at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, which is part of the health system. The hospital’s ethics board decided that a direct abortion could be performed on a woman who was suffering severe medical complications, in violation of Catholic teaching that direct abortion is inherently evil.

In December 2010 Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix revoked the Catholic status of the hospital after an investigation found both the hospital and its parent company involved in a pattern of behavior that violated Catholic health care ethics, including creating and managing a government program that offers birth control, sterilization procedures and abortion.

In January 2012 the health network’s CEO, Dean, said concerns about the system’s Catholic affiliation hindered potential agreements with other hospitals.

The expansion of Catholic hospitals operating according to Catholic teaching has drawn opposition from critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the MergerWatch project. Those groups co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”

The report said the ACLU’s advocacy in the area was backed by various funders including the Arcus Foundation, which is a major funder of an influence campaign to restrict religious freedoms in areas that run counter to the foundation’s vision of LGBT advocacy and reproductive health.

Christmas cash for the homeless: The legacy of one Denver priest continues

Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2017 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It was a chilly Thursday in December, with a dusting of snow on the ground. But that didn’t stop hundreds of poor and homeless people from packing the Denver Cathedral for what the pastor calls “the greatest day of the year” for the parish.

It was the Father Woody Christmas cash giveaway, the annual event when the cathedral hosts a prayer service and gives $20 - in the form of two $10 bills - to all of the poor and the homeless who attend.

The idea behind the two bills? It gives the recipients the option of giving one of the bills away.

“I got kind of a crabby e-mail about this event, saying ‘Why are you giving the homeless money, they’re just going to spend it on alcohol or drugs,’” Fr. Ron Cattany, pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception in Denver, told CNA.

“And I responded back with a line from Father Woody: ‘Everybody needs a little cash in their pocket at Christmas,’” he said.

It gives them a sense of dignity, and a sense of generosity, he added.

“What’s beautiful is that sometimes what you’ll see here...is one of the guys will come up and say, ‘Today’s my birthday, will you give me a bunch of (McDonald’s) cards so I can take my buddies out to lunch on my birthday?’ And of course you do that because even from where they are, they’re giving and sharing with other people,” Cattany said.

The event all started 28 years ago, when an endowment fund was set up in honor and in the spirit of Monsignor Charles B. Woodrich - better known as Fr. Woody - a Denver priest renowned for his generous spirit and can-do attitude.

During his time as a priest, he established school lunch programs for poor children, opened up the doors of his parish to the homeless during cold winter nights (most famously during the blizzard of ‘82), and would routinely give his friends on the street the coats off his back and the cash in his pockets. Today, the name Father Woody is synonymous with charity in the Denver community.

The attendees of the Father Woody giveaway often line up outside the cathedral for hours before the event begins.

On Thursday, they filled the pews to standing room only, and attended a prayer service before receiving their cash, along with hugs and greetings of ‘Merry Christmas’ from numerous volunteers from the Christ in the City program, Regis University’s Father Woody program, and several other groups and private volunteers.

“It’s so cool to be here with so many people who experience homelessness, and so many of them we can call our friends, and to know that God loves them the same and that they are so welcome here,” Emma Rashilla, a missionary with Christ in the City, told CNA.

“These are the people who are usually on the outside looking in, and now they’re on the inside, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Catholic or Christian,” or have no faith, all are welcome, Fr. Cattany added.

After they receive their money and McDonald’s gift cards, hot chocolate, new socks and homemade hats are waiting for them outside.

“It shows the real meaning of giving, of sharing gifts and showing your emotional and spiritual awareness of the real reason for Christmas which is that Christ is born that day,” Kevin, one of the attendees, told CNA.

“When you don’t have much to give, you don’t feel so jolly, but when someone gives you something, it makes you feel more generous,” he added.

“It’s people getting together and seeing old friends, (I feel) highly favored and blessed,” said Wilma, another attendee.  

Odalis Hernandez, a senior at Regis University who was helping hand out colorful, homemade knit hats from the students in the university’s Father Woody program, said she was inspired to start helping people after seeing a movie about Fr. Woody.

“It’s something that I wouldn’t have done without the inspiration of someone like that,” she said.  

Lovey Shipp, a spunky nonagenarian who worked as Father Woody’s secretary for several years before he passed away in 1991, still cherishes the many “Father Woody-isms” that she remembers. She has participated in every cash giveaway since its official beginning 28 years ago.

“Father Woody used to say, ‘service is the rent you pay for the space you take up,’” she told CNA.

“He taught people with money how to give. It’s not yours, it’s by God’s grace that you have it, you could be one of the homeless if he saw fit to do so,” she said.

She encouraged anyone who desires to help the homeless this season to “keep an open mind and have your heart match. That’s what Father Woody did.”

“Just give,” she added. “Give from the heart. And smile!”

 

 

Israeli extremist sentenced for arson attack on Holy Land church

Jerusalem, Dec 14, 2017 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An arson attack on the church complex at the site of Christ’s multiplication of loaves and fish on the Sea of Galilee has resulted in prison time for the perpetrator.

Yinon Reuveni, 23, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 50,000 shekels ($14,200) Dec. 12, Agence France Presse reports. He had been convicted in July of aggravated arson and two counts of criminal conspiracy.

He is from Baladim, an illegal Israeli outpost in the West Bank near Kokhav HaShahar. He is reported to be a Jewish extremist. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that when he was indicted for the attack, his charge sheet stated that “Reuveni has extremist views. He sees Christians as idol worshippers and their destruction as a mitzvah.”

Reuveni’s lawyer contended that the sentence was too harsh and he planned to appeal.

The arsonist started a fire at the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, located 120 miles north of Jerusalem, on June 18, 2015. The church is built on the site where Christ fed the 5,000 through the multiplication of loaves and fishes. It is joined to a Benedictine monastery. As a result of the arson, a monk and a staff member were hospitalized and treated for smoke inhalation.

Two rooms were badly damaged. The fire did extensive damage to the monastery, the church entrance, an office for pilgrims, and a book storage room. The church was closed until February; with fire damage was estimated at $1 million. The Israeli government contributed almost $400,000 for repairs.

Hebrew-language graffiti at the site read “all idols will be smashed”. According to The Times of Israel, the graffiti is a quote from the “Aleinu” prayer, which is prayed three times each day in Jewish services.

At the time of the attack, Catholic leaders and the Israeli president and prime minister condemned the incident.

Fr. Peter Vasko, OFM, president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, said: “Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have visited here, have prayed here, have had Mass at this Holy Site. In many ways it was a haven of peace and tranquility which has now been disfigured by misguided zealots who have no respect for the religious beliefs of others.”

Various Jewish extremists have engaged in vandalism and assaults against Palestinian and Arab Israelis and Christian and Muslim sites.

The Church of the Multiplication had been vandalized in April the same year, when Jewish extremists destroyed crosses in the monastery’s outdoor prayer area, and threw stones at worshippers.

The present Church of the Multiplication was built in the 20th century, though a church was built on the site by at least the mid-fourth century. The present church includes mosaic floors from the fifth century, which were not destroyed in the arson.

The Benedictine monastery attached to the church was founded in the 20th century. The current building was opened in 2012, including a private oratory for the monks which was financed with support from the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Keep internet neutral, U.S. bishops say

Washington D.C., Dec 14, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, the Federal Communication Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, which the U.S. bishops have called essential to fair use of the internet by for nonprofits and individuals.

“Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications.

“Non-profit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content.”

The bishop’s statement was released on Nov. 28, after the FCC announced a proposal to repeal the protections, which were created in 2015. The rule was officially repealed on Dec. 14.

Net neutrality rules require internet service providers, like Comcast or AT&T, to provide equal access to the internet. This means internet providers cannot block, slow down, or charge for content from particular websites or web-based services.

For example, in 2007 Comcast was accused of providing slower internet service to subscribers who were using peer-to-peer file-sharing services. People using BitTorrent, which is a file-sharing network, claimed they had slower or blocked access when uploading files.

Net neutrality advocates have expressed concern that content providers who pay more money will be given better access to internet users, placing smaller companies and nonprofits at a disadvantage.

Bishop Coyne argued that fair access to the internet is critical for the Church to fulfill its mission in the modern world.

“Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment,” he wrote

Dioceses, schools, parishes, and other religious institutions, must have access to high speed internet to not only to communicate internally, but also to spread the Gospel through media, he said.  

Strong internet protections help the Church “to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries,” he said.  
According to NPR, the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, said the regulations prevented companies from improving the internet by stifling investments, but net-neutrality advocates have said that ending the regulations will give too much power to internet providers.

“I have heard from innovators, worried that we are standing up a 'mother-may-I' regime, where the broadband provider becomes arbiter of acceptable online business models,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, according to NPR.

 

Ohio bill one step closer to prohibiting Down syndrome abortions

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 14, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, the Ohio State Senate passed a bill that would penalize doctors who perform abortions, if the abortion is chosen “in whole or in part,” because the unborn child has received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill, which passed the Senate 20-12, will now be sent to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law. The governor’s office noted that Kasich has called the measure “appropriate,” but has not yet confirmed that the governor will sign the bill.

Proponents of the law are optimistic that Kasich will approve the measure, given that the Republican governor has passed over a dozen laws which have limited abortion protections or funding in the past six years.

The law would charge physicians with a fourth-degree felony, and the potential of a revoked medical license, if they perform an abortion wholly or partially motivated by Down syndrome. Mothers would not face charges.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when an individual’s DNA contains an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. Also known as trisomy-21, Down syndrome is a relatively common genetic disorder, affecting around one in 700 babies born in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen dramatically in recent decades, thanks to modern resources and healthcare. A 2011 study found that people with Down syndrome report high levels of happiness and personal satisfaction, as do their siblings and other family members.  

However, data from a 2012 study have shown that 75 percent of women who are pregnant with a child who has received a Down syndrome diagnosis will terminate the pregnancy.

While the measure has caused some backlash from advocates for abortion, who wore shirts with the message “Stop the Bans” during the vote on Wednesday, pro-life groups in the state have applauded the bill as a victory.

“Every Ohioan deserves the right to life, no matter how many chromosomes they have,” said Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, according to Reuters.

Because it is unclear how the motivating factors for abortion can be proven, there will likely be some legal challenges to the bill if it Governor Kasich approves it. The ACLU has opposed the bill, calling it unconstitutional.

Similar measures were passed in Indiana and North Dakota, but the Indiana law was revoked by a U.S. District Judge in September after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU. The North Dakota law has not faced legal challenges.

MLK's niece: Pro-life work continues my uncle's legacy

Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and longtime pro-life advocate, has it in her blood to fight for the causes she believes in, one of which is to promote “civil rights” for the unborn.

King, 66, grew up in the heat of the civil rights battle led by her uncle, and surrounded by the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Eager to stand for a cause she believed would liberate women, she joined the budding “pro-choice” movement at a young age.

But after experiencing the crushing physical and emotional effects of two abortions, and receiving what she believes was a prophetic intervention from her grandfather, Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., she had a change of heart. She became pro-life and committed herself to carrying forward what she feels is a mission to defend the rights of the unborn.

King spoke to a small group of journalists, including CNA, after arriving in Rome for a Dec. 11-13 conference organized by the Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs, titled “Promoters of Humanity in a Transforming World.”

The event drew a swath of representatives from various NGOs around the world, including non-Catholics, to discuss how Catholic-inspired organizations can help safeguard core Christian values and ensure that a proper integral human development is achieved in the context of a rapidly changing global society.

King was present on behalf of her project “Civil Rights for the Unborn,” which she directs in partnership with Priests for Life. She is also in charge of Priests for Life’s African-American outreach branch, and is involved with various other pro-life entities, including Rachel's Vineyard.

On the last day of the gathering, King had the chance to meet Pope Francis, who often cites her uncle in his speeches.

She told CNA that she was honored to meet the Pope, and when she told him that she was related to Martin Luther King Jr., his face lit up and “he seemed very happy.”

She was also moved by the fact that Pope Francis asked her to pray for him, saying it was “a delightful moment,” and that she was “very blessed to of course do that. I do pray for him and for all who are in authority, that we can live a peaceful life.”

Although King is Protestant, she is a firm believer in working with the Catholic Church, which she sees as a “natural ally.” She said that she is inspired by the Pope’s spontaneous spirit, engagement with everyone he meets, and defense of life at all stages.

Francis, she said, “doesn't take one issue and make that his issue, he seems to be able to connect it and see that it all belongs together...I appreciate his work.”

“The Catholics were very supportive of the civil rights movement (of the) 20th century,” she said, adding that her uncle and father both “worked very closely with the Catholic community.”

When it comes to her own advocacy, life issues have always hit home for King, whose parents in 1950 became pregnant with her before they were married.

At the time, The Negro Project launched by Margaret Sanger in 1939 was continuing to gain steam. Among other things, the project worked to promote contraception and abortion in the black community.

King said her parents had considered getting an abortion until her grandfather, Martin Luther King Sr., “prophetically” intervened. Though they didn't have ultrasound machines at the time, King said her grandfather had strongly rejected the claim that the fetus was “just a lump of flesh.” He said that the baby was a granddaughter whom he had seen in a dream three years prior.

After hearing Martin Luther King Sr. describe how his granddaughter would look, Alveda King’s parents decided against the abortion and she was born in 1951.

Despite hearing this story many times in her youth, King took a different path after her father and uncle died. She had been married, divorced, and no longer had the support system she once did, so when the pro-choice women’s movement began to grow, “I joined it because I'm a freedom fighter.”

However, she said, following the birth of her first child, she was coerced into having two abortions. When she became pregnant again, and was planning to have another abortion, her grandfather gave her the same message he had given her mother: “That's not a lump of flesh, that's my great-grandchild.”

She decided to keep the baby. Seeing her baby's heartbeat on the sonogram confirmed that decision.

“I heard with new ears,” she said, explaining that her uncle's words, “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere,” began to take on a new meaning in her mind.

“He also said the Negro cannot win if he's willing to sacrifice the future of his children for immediate comfort and safety,” she said, and recounted how, after being “born again” in 1983, she immediately began advocating for life.

In addition to her famous family ties, King had a career in law, was a college professor and served in the Georgia State House of Representatives. In law classes she taught, King said she would bring up the abortion issue and make the argument that “a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body, but the baby's not her body. Where's the lawyer for the baby?”

“It began to rock everything,” she said, explaining that she began to face resistance from Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, which had been re-named as “Planned Parenthood.” The organization objected to her pro-life views, arguing that her uncle had received the group’s “Maggie Award” in 1966.

However, King said that Martin Luther King Jr. had never supported the organization's agenda. He declined to attend the award ceremony, she noted. It was his wife and secretary – both of whom were more sympathetic to the cause at the time – who attended and wrote a thank you note to the group instead.

“Martin Luther King Jr. never accepted the agenda of Planned Parenthood,” Alveda King said. “They lie. They lie today. They put their abortion mills on or near streets that are named after Martin Luther King, and they want to attach that to the civil rights movement of the 20th century, (but) it doesn't belong.”

Part of why the Negro Project grew as fast as it did, she said, is that it funded scholarships and grants for the black community that were tied to support for the abortion movement.

Additionally, the organization promoted abstinence, while also handing out condoms and advertising abortions, she said.

“If you tell a kid…yeah, be abstinent, but let's give you Cosmo magazine with teens having sex and let's give you free condoms, then they knew they were going to get all those abortions,” she said.

“So that's how you ended up with a whole culture of abortion-minded people. It was slick, very slick. Evil.”

She added that the target group was initially the black community, “then it became the Latinos and then...the Caucasians with the money became a big target because they could pay.”

King said that if her uncle were alive today, she has no doubt that he would be adamantly pro-life. And while she works most directly with the African-American community in the United States, “its not just a black and white issue, its a human issue.”

“With one blood God made all people. Regardless of our color...we all bleed red,” she said. “So where's the lawyer for the little ones, where's the lawyer for the sick or the elderly?”

Looking ahead, King is encouraged by the millennial generation, whom she sees as being able to speak to modern society in a direct, passionate, and fresh way.

“The millennials get it,” she said, adding that “the (pro-life) fight has had a shot in the arm (from) millennials.”

She also noted the importance of fertility awareness and care for post-abortive women, two issues that she would like to see receiving more attention.

Several movie stars from her youth “went to their death” with the regret of abortion, she said, giving the example of singer Kenny Rogers, whose music voices regret over an abortion he and a former girlfriend decided to have.

Despite obstacles, King is hopeful that the level of awareness and resistance in the United States could indicate a turning point on the issue of abortion.

“Do I believe there's going to be an end to the barbaric practices of killing our weakest, which are the babies and the sick, elderly and poor? I do,” she said, pointing to the March for Life events held across the globe, often filled with young people.

These events show the strength of the pro-life community, she said. “The world is taking note.”

 

Former priest to serve life for 1960 murder in Texas

Brownsville, Texas, Dec 13, 2017 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly 60 years after Irene Garza disappeared after going to confession in her Texas hometown, the last person who saw her – who was a priest at the time – has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

John Feit, an 85-year-old former priest has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Garza on Holy Saturday, April 16, 1960.

Irene Garza was a 25-year-old schoolteacher, former beauty queen, and figure in the McAllen Tex. Catholic and Mexican-American communities. Friends and neighbors remember her as a young woman of faith.

“Remember the last time we talked, I told you I was afraid of death?” Garza wrote to her friend mere days before her death. The letter was later published by Texas Monthly. “Well I think I’m cured. You see, I’ve been going to communion and Mass daily and you can’t imagine the courage and faith and happiness it has given me.”

Six days later, Garza went to go to confession at Sacred Heart Catholic Church before Easter services. She never returned. Her body was discovered days later in a ditch.

Later, police determined that she had been raped, physically restrained, and beaten for several days before suffocating to death.

Feit, who was a 27-years-old visiting priest at the time, was a main suspect early on in the case: he was the priest who heard Garza’s confession, and his portable slide viewer was found alongside Garza’s body.

Suspicion grew after Feit was charged and pled “no contest” to assaulting and the attempted rape another young woman, Maria Guerra. Guerra was attacked while she was praying at another church in a nearby Texas town only three weeks before Garza’s death.

However, Feit was not charged with Garza’s murder until over five decades later.

Feit left the priesthood in 1972, and afterwards married and worked for the St. Vincent de Paul charity in Phoenix.

After Feit left the priesthood, two priests told the authorities of their suspicions that Feit murdered Garza, with one claiming the priest had scratches on his face after Garza’s disappearance, and another saying that Feit told the priest that he had murdered a young woman, and offered details on how he committed the crime. At the time, however, the then-priest (who himself also left the priesthood) did not know the crime Feit described was Garza’s murder.

After the priests’ statements to authorities in the 2000s, the case was re-opened in 2015. Feit was arrested and charged in 2016, and the trial began Nov. 28, 2017 after several setbacks. He was sentenced Dec. 8.

Pennsylvania governor promises veto of 20-week abortion limit

Harrisburg, Pa., Dec 13, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would limit abortions to 20 weeks into pregnancy and ban dismemberment abortion, but Gov. Tom Wolf intends to veto it.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, criticized the governor’s pledge to veto.

“His extreme pro-abortion stance is radically out of step with Pennsylvanians as he prepares to face the voters in 2018,” she said Dec. 13.

The Susan B. Anthony List cited a 2013 Harper Polling survey that said 82 percent of Democratic primary voters in the state think abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the legislation, Senate Bill 3, by a vote of 121-70 on Dec. 12. Six Republicans opposed the bill, while 12 Democrats voted in favor.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 32-18 in February. There are likely not enough votes to override a veto.

Wolf opposed the bill, saying it violated the doctor-patient relationship. He objected to its lack of exceptions for abortion in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I will veto <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB3?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SB3</a> because I stand with every woman in Pennsylvania who deserves to make her own health decisions. <a href="https://t.co/QHoKydPy9a">https://t.co/QHoKydPy9a</a></p>&mdash; Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) <a href="https://twitter.com/GovernorTomWolf/status/940739354355519488?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 13, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.

Dannenfelser had another view.

“The Pennsylvania legislature just took a bold step to protect unborn children and their mothers,” she said. “We are encouraged by the legislature’s action and look forward to the day when all unborn children are protected under the law.”

The state currently bars abortions 24 weeks or later into pregnancy.

Backers of the bill cited progress in medicine that allows premature babies to survive earlier in pregnancy than before.

The bill would preserve current exemptions for when a mother’s life is at risk, or if she is at risk of a serious permanent injury, the Associated Press reports. It would not allow exemptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities.

Dawn Keefer, R-York, said the issue should not be framed only in terms of women’s rights. Rather, she asked, “what about the rights of those pre-born women in the womb being exterminated?”

Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, characterized the bill as an attempt to control women “by imposing the views of some legislators on women, and I think that's wrong – that's morally wrong.”

The dismemberment abortion ban would in effect ban dilation-and-evacuation abortion, the most common method of abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy.

“Dismemberment abortion is completely inhumane, it's barbaric,” said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.

Federal legislation to bar abortion after 20 weeks has made some progress. On Oct. 3 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act late by a vote of 237 to 189, largely along party lines. It was expected to fail in the Senate.

Dannenfelser, however, claimed, “Momentum is building to pass a national ban on late-term abortion more than halfway through pregnancy.”

Archbishop Gomez: Find God's voice in the flames

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 13, 2017 / 03:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While fires in southern California continue to threaten thousands of homes, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles reflected that God can be found even amidst the violent flames, if we just listen for his message.

“Always it is the same question: Where is God to be found when natural disasters strike and bad things happen to good people?” he said in a Dec. 12 column, published at Angelus News, the archdiocese’s multimedia publication.

“God is speaking in every moment, in every circumstance. But sometimes he speaks in a whisper. He asks us to listen, to have ears to hear.”

The Thomas Fire began on Dec. 4 in Steckel Park, near St Thomas Aquinas College in southern California. Within nine hours, strong winds pushed the fire to engulf 31,000 acres, moving at a rate of an acre per second, CNN reported.  

The fire has destroyed more than 237,000 acres and more than 1,000 structures. More than 95,000 residents have been evacuated. The fire was only 25 percent contained as of Tuesday night and still poses a risk to thousands of structures in the Ventura and Santa Barbara County regions.

“The stories of loss are heartbreaking – families and small business owners who have lost everything,” said the archbishop.  

These disasters often force people to turn to faith and science for answers, he said, noting how the fire has also prompted his own reflection of scripture.

Gomez recalled the story of the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God on the holy mountain. The prophet found that “the Lord was not in the fire,” but was in a “tiny whispering sound” after the flames went out. To encounter the Lord, he had to listen carefully.

In a similar way, the archbishop said, natural disasters can contain a message about the preciousness of life, which if heard, allows for greater solidarity in the suffering community.
 
While there can sometimes be a human tendency to separate ourselves from those in pain, he said, disasters break down the barriers of pride and enable opportunities for “extraordinary heroism and ordinary human kindness.”

“The Lord is in the fire!” Gomez proclaimed, noting that he has seen the presence of God in the volunteers of organizations like Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent De Paul Society.

“He is there in all these stories of sharing and self-sacrifice, in all those who are opening their homes to strangers, in all those who are risking their lives to save others.”

God has asked his people to comfort the vulnerable, he said, and encouraged Christians to be the ones who stand by the afflicted, weep with the sorrowful, and help rebuild the broken.

Turning to the Blessed Mother, he asked her to intercede for California that the community may recognize the whisper of the Lord.