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March for Life 2022: 'A great witness to the sanctity of human life'

Participants of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. / CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 18:44 pm (CNA).

Participants returned in large numbers to the annual March for Life Friday, braving frigid weather one year after the event’s pandemic-related virtual shutdown to demonstrate solidarity for the unborn at the start what could be a decisive year for the pro-life movement.

Billed as the “largest human rights demonstration in the world,” the daylong gathering began tentatively with scattered clusters of bundled participants trickling into the National Mall on a clear but chilly morning. That it was bracingly cold was apparent from the the woolen socks Franciscan friars wore beneath their sandal straps.

The ongoing coronavirus crisis, coupled with tightened COVID-19 restrictions in the District of Columbia, kept some regulars at home. But by the start of a mid-day, pre-march rally, headlined by a passionate speech by “Bible in a Year” podcast star Father Mike Schmitz, the size of the crowd had swelled into the tens of thousands, resembling a typical year’s turnout.

But this year’s march was anything but typical. The possibility that the country’s highest court later this year might strike down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide — and sparked the first March for Life 49 years ago — lent a festive, anticipatory air to the day’s rituals, culminating in a walk up Constitution Avenue to the steps of the Supreme Court.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, the event’s organizer, said at the rally.

“Roe,” she said, “is not settled law.”

No time for complacency

Such statements carry extra weight this year because of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a pivotal Mississippi abortion case that many in the pro-life movement see as the best — and possibly last — opportunity to unravel the tightly woven legal framework that has produced some 62 million abortions across the United States, a staggering toll the Catholic Church views as an epic human tragedy. A decision in the case isn’t expected until the end of the court’s term in June.

“The Supreme Court, God-willing, (is) poised to affirm the Dobbs case, to prevent abortions after 15 weeks, but also to begin, and we hope, the dismantling of Roe v. Wade,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who spoke during the rally.

The intense polarization surrounding the case was made manifest by a brazen publicity stunt by an activist group called Catholics for Choice, which on Thursday night beamed carefully calibrated pro-choice messages on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here, while a prayer vigil to end abortion took place inside. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, criticized the group’s actions, which another prelate, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone called “diabolical.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the pro-life movement cannot afford to become “complacent,” regardless of the outcome of Dobbs.

“The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is a response of love for both mothers and their children in the womb. The Church’s teaching proclaims a message of life, reminding us that every life is a sacred gift from God from the moment of conception until natural death,” Lori said in a statement.

“We cannot build a truly just society and remain complacent when faced with the massive impact of Roe v. Wade, which has taken over 60 million lives since 1973. May we pray, fast, and work for the day when the gift of every human life is protected in law and welcomed in love,” he added.

‘A large Catholic presence’

Thursday night’s drama gave way to an upbeat show of solidarity at Friday’s march. By longstanding practice, neither organizers nor the police provided estimates of the number of marchers.

More than 200 students from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio arrived by bus for the march before 5 a.m. on Friday morning, two students told CNA. The overnight bus drive took more than five hours. 

Participants at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2022. CNA
Participants at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2022. CNA

This was the first March for Life for 18-year-old Lucia Hunt from Dallas, Texas, and 21-year-old Niklas Koehler from Ashburn, Virginia. They said the march met their expectations. 

“I definitely was looking forward to seeing a whole bunch of people defending life and there's this huge crowd out there so I’m definitely happy with the pro-life movement,” Koehler said.

“I was expecting a large Catholic presence and so far I've seen it, which I'm pretty happy about,” Hunt said. He explained that he’s pro-life “because I believe in the truth, and the truth is that a child is a human being from the moment of conception up until natural death.”

Added Hunt: “Not only is a child a human being, but a human being is also a child of God, and I believe in protecting that life.”

Many of the marchers were there for the first time, including a group of young women from Charlotte, North Carolina. 

“I just think we can have more options for people rather than just ending lives,”  Millie Bryan, a 17-year-old from Charlotte, told CNA. Bryan was attending her first-ever March for Life, and was toting a sign that read “Stop telling women they can’t finish school, have a career, succeed without abortion.” 

She added that she was most looking forward to “getting the opportunity to see the people come together to fight for something that’s really important, to fight for life.” 

Bagpipers and drummers with American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property concluded the march. Members of the group carried waving red flags and reverently carried a platform topped with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

“There are still a lot of people here. It’s great that people still made the sacrifice to come out,” said Father David Yallaly, who attended the march with the Chicago-based group Crusaders for Life. “It’s a great witness to the message of the sanctity of human life.”

St John Cantius parish in Chicago seeks to reassure faithful amid changes

St. John Cantius parish in Chicago, Ill. / Tom Gill via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Chicago, Ill., Jan 21, 2022 / 17:16 pm (CNA).

The priests of Chicago’s St. John Cantius parish have pledged both continued support for their parishioners and obedience to the liturgical changes implemented by Pope Francis and Cardinal Blase Cupich.

The church is well known for its dignified liturgical celebrations according to both the Novus Ordo and the usus antiquior.

“When Pope Francis issued his motu proprio Traditionis custodes, some worried it might spell the end of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. But let not your heart be troubled. We’re not going anywhere,” Fr. Joshua Caswell, Superior General of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of the West Town Chicago neighborhood’s St. John Cantius Parish, said Jan. 16 at the 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

“We fully acknowledge that many of you have endured a heavy cross and have been preoccupied by confusion, uncertainty, and sadness,” Caswell said. “Each of us, brothers and priests, have shared a great deal in these emotions and we carried that same cross right alongside of you”

The canons regular, founded in 1998, follow a form of vowed religious life that celebrates both the Tridentine and the post-Second Vatican Council forms of the Catholic Mass. In addition to St. John Cantius, they work in the Chicago archdiocese at St. Peter Parish in Volo, Ill., a village to the northwest of Chicago. They also staff a parish in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and a chapel in Michigan.

“We are committed to continuing our ministry to you, to restore the sacred in all things,” Caswell told the congregation Sunday. “The canons regular are just as committed to filial piety for the Office of the Archbishop of Chicago and the Bishop of Rome.”

Last month Cardinal Cupich issued a policy for the Archdiocese of Chicago that curtails the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments according to the usus antiquior.

The canons regular celebrate both forms of the Mass, including the rarely celebrated Latin-language ordinary form of the Mass. Benedict XVI had granted broad permission for the usus antiquior, but these permissions are in question following Pope Francis’ Traditionis custodes. 

Under the Chicago archdiocese policy which takes effect Jan. 25, clerics who wish to use the “old rite” must submit their requests to Cupich in writing and agree to abide by the new norms under Pope Francis’ motu proprio.

Those rules specify that the usus antiquior must incorporate scripture readings in the vernacular, using the official translation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Such Masses cannot take place in a parish church unless both the archbishop and the Vatican agree to grant an exemption. 

Further, Cupich’s policy also prohibits the celebration of Traditional Latin Masses on the first Sunday of every month, on Christmas, during the Triduum, on Easter Sunday, and on Pentecost Sunday.

These changes will take place at St. John Cantius Church effective Jan. 25, the church website said.

“We are grateful that His Eminence Cardinal Blase Cupich has pledged to empower our community to live our charism and to pursue our mission in accordance with his policy which implements the Holy Father’s motu proprio,” said Caswell.

“This means that for the foreseeable future, we will continue to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass both in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form. We will continue to pray ‘ad orientem’,” the priest said.

The Latin term “ad orientem,” meaning “towards the east,” is used to describe liturgies where the priest faces the altar. This was generally the orientation of the Catholic liturgy before the Second Vatican.

On their website, the canons regular say both the ordinary form and the extraordinary form, as the “official liturgies of the Church,” are “the perfect fulfillment of the church’s unceasing obligation of praise due to our God who is the source of all life.”

“They are the center of our spirituality and religious life by being for us the primary means by which we are daily drawn closer to God.”

In a Dec. 27, 2021 statement, Caswell said he had an audience with Cupich on Dec. 23, in which he assured the cardinal that the canons regular are committed to unity with the archbishop and the pope.

 

“His Eminence indicated he wants the work of the Canons Regular to continue, albeit within the boundaries established by the Archdiocesan policy to take effect January 25, 2022.”

“We will be petitioning His Eminence for various permissions. The cardinal has encouraged us to do so,” he said.

Caswell said the canons regular received the news of the new policy “with no little sadness,” but recognized the challenge to “live more fully our charism.”

“In this moment we are prayerfully discerning how to be a bridge for unity in the life of the Church by faithfully implementing the archdiocesan policy in accord with our spiritual and pastoral patronage, as well as the guidance of the Archbishop of Chicago, and at the same time remain faithful to our mission,” Caswell said in the message.

He asked the faithful to join the canons regular in praying a rosary novena beginning Jan. 25

“Throughout this novena, our hearts will be fixed on Mary’s—whose heart was also pierced—and who will ultimately say to us, as she told the wedding guests at Cana, pointing to her Son: ‘Do whatever He tells you’,” said Caswell.

US Supreme Court allows Texas abortion law challenge to stay with state's top court

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday declined to send a legal challenge against a Texas abortion law back to a lower federal court— which has already blocked enforcement of the law once— sending the challenge instead to the Texas Supreme Court. 

The Jan. 20 ruling, which leaves the law in place for now, is the latest in a long series regarding the Texas “heartbeat” abortion law, in effect since September 2021, which bans abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat except in medical emergencies.

The law relies on private lawsuits filed by citizens to enforce the ban. This framework allows for awards of at least $10,000 for plaintiffs who successfully sue those who perform or aid and abet abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. 

The case will now proceed to the Texas Supreme Court, which the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has asked to rule on whether certain state licensing officials, cited in a December Supreme Court opinion, have the power to enforce the abortion law. The law will remain in place at least until the Texas Supreme Court responds to the circuit court.

​​In the Jan. 20 opinion, the Supreme Court declined a request brought by several pro-abortion organizations to send the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, “without delay” back to the district court. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to decline the request was given without explanation. Three justices dissented from the opinion, with Justice Sonya Sotomayor decrying the decision to send the case to the state Supreme Court as serving to “extend the deprivation of the federal constitutional rights of its citizens through procedural manipulation.”

The latest ruling follows a Dec. 10 decision by the court that the abortion providers can continue their legal challenge, but that the abortion law will remain in effect while the challenge plays out. 

In that December opinion, the Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the Texas law, but rather that the abortion providers’ lawsuit against certain executive licensing officials, such as the executive director of the Texas Medical Board, can continue. State court clerks, state judges, and the Texas attorney general cannot be sued, that ruling states.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit had issued a ruling reinstating the law on Oct. 8, reversing an Oct. 6 decision to halt the law’s enforcement by Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas.

In a 5-4 decision issued Sept. 1, the Supreme Court declined to block the law from taking effect, but in late October decided to consider two challenges— one brought by the federal government, and the other by abortion providers— to the law on an expedited basis.

Judge blocks COVID vaccine mandate for federal employees

null / oasisamuel/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

A federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Judge Jeffrey Brown of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled Jan. 21 that federal employees were likely to succeed in challenging the vaccine requirement. 

“The court notes at the outset that this case is not about whether folks should get vaccinated against COVID-19—the court believes they should,” the decision reads. “It is not even about the federal government’s power, exercised properly, to mandate vaccination of its employees.” 

“It is instead about whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment,” the decision continues. “That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.”

Brown wrote that “Regardless of what the conventional wisdom may be concerning vaccination, no legal remedy adequately protects the liberty interests of employees who must choose between violating a mandate of doubtful validity or consenting to an unwanted medical procedure that cannot be undone.”

The Justice Department immediately appealed the ruling. The White House has said that 98% of federal employees are vaccinated. 

“Obviously we are confident in our legal authority here,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Jan. 21.

President Joe Biden issued the vaccine mandate for millions of federal employees in September, though enforcement of the mandate was delayed until early 2022.

Employees could not agree to regular testing for the virus as an alternative to the vaccine, though they could seek out medical or religious exemptions. Employees who failed to comply with the mandate risked losing their jobs. 

Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors has already been suspended. 

Last week, the Supreme Court blocked Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. The court allowed a federal rule requiring millions of U.S. health care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

'Every person matters,' Father Mike Schmitz tells pro-life marchers

Father Mike Schmitz, the host of the "Bible in a Year" podcast, addresses the crowd at the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. / Youtube.com/EWTN

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 14:24 pm (CNA).

The popular podcaster and YouTube star Father Mike Schmitz came well-prepared for his speech at the March for Life rally Friday.

“The first speech I ever gave in my entire life was in eighth grade. We got a chance to choose any topic, any argument, any position,” he told a large crowd assembled at the National Mall. “I chose to talk about the dignity of human life from natural conception to natural death and the evil of abortion and euthanasia.”

Born the year after the landmark Supreme Court abortion decision in Roe v. Wade, the gregarious 47-year-old priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, is best known for his "Bible in a Year" podcast and his YouTube videos for Ascension, the Catholic multimedia publisher.

A headline speaker at the pre-march rally, Schmitz, a North Star State native accustomed to the frigid January weather, received a rousing, rock-star reception from the crowd, which included thousands of young marchers.

He used the occasion to stress the same message he originally shared with his classmates as a young adolescent: every human life matters. This time, the message was deeply personal.

Schmitz told the story of his maternal grandmother, Helen, a nurse who spoke out in defense of the unborn and the conscientious objections of her fellow nurses when the hospital where they worked decided to peform abortions in the wake of the Roe decision.

“Helen, she knew that people mattered. She knew that children mattered. She knew that her nurses mattered. And so she hated the fact that this hospital that had done such good in that part of the world was now about to do so much evil. And they were forcing her nurses to participate in abortions. They were forcing her nurses to carry the remains of these children to be disposed. And so she went to the board of directors and she said, ‘This needs to stop. Either you stop doing abortions or I'm leaving,’” Schmitz recalled.

The board refused, and his grandmother left her job as head nurse. That decision “almost destroyed her life"; she didn’t regret it, “but it broke her heart,” he said.

“And I think that’s why we’re here, too, right? I think we're here because abortion, what it's done is broken our hearts. And I know so many people here, you're standing here because you know the dignity of human life. And so many people are among us because this story is part of your story, because you found yourself at one point in a place where it seemed like life was an impossible choice," he said.

"And so I know that we're surrounded by men and women who have chosen abortion. Listen, you need to know you're supposed to be here. You matter, you belong here. No matter what your past is, you are still loved. You need to know this. You are still loved and you still matter.” You can watch Schmitz's full speech in the EWTN video below.

Struggling to maintain his composure at times, Schmidt went on to share a recent conversation he had with a woman he helped persuade not to abort her child 12 years ago.

“She said, ‘I thought I hated my baby. And I realized these many years later, I didn't hate my baby. I hated the circumstances in which I found myself. I didn't hate my baby. I was ashamed of myself,’” Schmitz said.

“That young woman, 12 years ago, she gave her son to a couple who adopted him and have loved him. And he's blessed their life. And they've blessed his life. I've met him. He's an incredible young man,” Schmitz said.

He said the woman urged him ahead of his speech to remind people “that regardless of your choices, you are still loved and you still matter.” 

“And that's why we're standing here. That's why we're walking here,” Schmitz said.

“When my grandma Helen … left Sinai Hospital in 1973, it didn't change the hospital, it didn't change the culture, it didn't change the law, it didn't change the country,” he said.

“But when she walked, it changed her. When she stood, it changed her, and it changed her sons and it changed her daughter, my mom. And that …willingness to stand, that willingness to walk, it has echoed into my life. It’s echoed in the life of this young woman. It is incarnate in the life of this 12-year-old boy, who wouldn't be here if my grandma Helen hadn't stood, if my grandma Helen hadn't walked,” he said.

“Every child matters. Every woman matters. Every person matters. And no matter what this (march) does, no matter what this changes, your being here, standing, your being here, walking, it changes you, and you matter. God bless you.”

Spanish theologian warns German Synodal Way poses great danger to the Church

Thomas Sternberg and Bishop Georg Bätzing at the Synodal Way’s second Synodal Assembly in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021. / Synodaler Weg/Maximilian von Lachner.

Alcalá de Henares, Spain, Jan 21, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Spanish theologian Fr. José Antonio Fortea has warned of what he calls the serious danger to the Catholic Church posed by the synodal path in Germany.

In a blogpost titled “Where is the German Church Going”, the priest said that “if we look at the history of the Church, we will see that the synodal path is something God wants, but the results of the councils weren’t always the right fruit.”

"Today we call conciliabules (illegitimate councils) the assemblies that have ‘gone astray,’ but in their day they were considered by those who attended them to be such true councils as those that gave definitions that have passed into the magisterium of the Church," he pointed out.

The theologian warned that "a synod, a council, any ecclesiastical meeting, can go off in an excessive and illegitimate direction, there can be pressures."

"And to that we must add that a regional council or a provincial synod does not necessarily have to be an expression of the faith of the Church," he added.

The synodal path in Germany is a process in which bishops and lay people from this country participate in order to address issues such as the exercise of power, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the Church.

This process began Dec. 1, 2019 and is scheduled to end in 2023.

In October its plenary session ended abruptly following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.

Various Catholics have expressed concern about the direction that the German synodal path has followed and have warned of the risk of a schism with the Catholic Church.

Fr. Fortea noted in his article that "a regional synod is assured of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but it is not assured that the final result will be an unquestionable expression of the faith of the Church."

“In a conclave, for example, the assistance of the Holy Spirit is guaranteed, but that does not mean that the cardinals listen to the voice of God. The election of a supreme pontiff is not necessarily the expression of what God wanted.”

For the priest, this shows that “listening to the Spirit is absolutely necessary. Whether or not the result is an expression of the Will of God will depend on that listening.”

“I am sorry to shatter a certain vision about synods as something absolute, but the history of the Church is clear: only universal councils in union with the Roman Pontiff are guaranteed infallibility. That has been the constant tradition of the Church,” he said.

Therefore, he continued, "the participants of the German synod must be made aware of their own fallibility, both personal and collective."

"They can’t separate themselves from the structure of truth that is what we could call the 'universal synod.'"

Fr. Fortea said  that “since we will not agree on what is or is not within the faith, we must at least accept the ecclesial structure to safeguard the faith established in the Church by Jesus Christ himself while he was on earth.”

"If that 'universal ecclesial order' is not accepted, the synod begins its deliberations from an off-center starting point. What would be deliberated is not this or that moral or biblical question, but the very being of the Church, the ability of the Church to safeguard the faith given to us by Christ,” he said.

Fr. Fortea said that “theology must advance within a homogeneous evolution of dogma.”

"My positions are progressive, but a progressivism that believes in a depositum fidei, the deposit of faith," he said.

“But if progressivism involves revolution, that is to say, the demolition of the pillars that support our connection with an unalterable truth from the past; then don't count on me in that 'conflagration,'” he said.

The priest pointed out that “I’m Spanish, and the truth is the same in Germany and in Spain. The German synod cannot determine what is the truth for Spaniards. And, obviously, the truth is not one thing in northern Europe and another thing in the south.”

"Nor is what was true in the seventh century no longer true in the eighteenth century," he stressed.

"The German synod, however very democratic it may be, cannot oblige me," he remarked.

Fr. Fortea pointed out that “all the members of the synod must accept that they are part of a family and that a certain number of votes can’t force the Church on the five continents to believe a thing or not; because the questions debated in that German meeting directly affect what is the truth in the Church: has the Church made a mistake in universally teaching this or that thing?”

The theologian pointed out that "it would be naive not to realize that the moral issues that have been raised fully affect the concept of the magisterium in the Catholic Church."

"Either it is accepted that any decision holds for the 'universal family,' or it is accepted that there are 'pastors of pastors' with a specific charge from Christ."

Otherwise, he warned, "many Germans would be falling into the same ecclesial error as the Coptic Church in the fifth century (when it broke  communion) or the Armenian Church (when it broke away in the seventh century) or the Old Catholics (in the 19th century)."

Europe’s Catholic bishops ask for prayers for peace in Ukraine

Catholics pictured near the Co-Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv, Ukraine. April 3, 2021. / paparazzza/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Europe have expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” a Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) communique said.

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, the president of the CCEE, issued the statement on behalf of the council on Jan. 21. He said that Catholic bishops in Europe wished to express closeness to the people of Ukraine “in this dramatic moment of tension.”

“While the entire international community interprets the actions of the Russian military forces as a real threat to peace throughout the world, we embrace — in this time of fear and uncertainty for the future of the country — our brothers and sisters in the faith and all the people of Ukraine,” Grušas said.

The bishops’ statement called on the international community to “offer its support to the country in the face of the danger of a Russian military offensive.”

“We also, as shepherds of the European continent, want to appeal to the leaders of the nations so that they do not forget the tragic world wars of the last century and so that international law, as well as the independence and territorial sovereignty of each country, will be defended,” Grušas said.

“Together with the Holy Father, we want to call on governments to find ‘acceptable and lasting solutions’ in Ukraine based on dialogue and negotiation and without resorting to arms,” the bishops’ statement said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, is the second-largest country by area in Europe after Russia.

The conflict between the two countries — known as the Russo-Ukrainian War — began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020.

Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland, on Jan. 21.

Bliken told journalists after the bilateral meeting that if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, “it will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.”

Pope Francis addressed the situation in Ukraine in his annual “state of the world” address to diplomats last week.

“Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine,” the pope said on Jan. 10.

The pope also issued an appeal for “beloved Ukraine” in his Angelus address last month, calling on world leaders to resolve the crisis through “serious international dialogue and not with weapons.”

“I want to assure you of my prayers for beloved Ukraine, for all its Churches and religious communities, and for all its people so that the tensions it is experiencing might be resolved through a serious international dialogue and not with weapons,” he said on Dec. 12.

Knights of Columbus donates 1500th ultrasound machine

A dedication ceremony for the ultrasound machine donated by the Knights of Columbus to the First Choice Women's Resource Center in New Brunswick, N.J. / Knights of Columbus

Metuchen, N.J., Jan 21, 2022 / 11:49 am (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus donated an ultrasound machine to a New Jersey pregnancy center on Wednesday, a charitable milestone that marks the fraternal organization’s 1500th donation of the technology.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, with more than 2 million members in 16,000 councils worldwide.

The donation is part of a Knights’ initiative which began in 2009. Since then, the Knights have donated ultrasound machines in all 50 states.

The Jan. 19 donation was given to First Choice Women’s Resource Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly attended a dedication ceremony of the machine, which included a blessing of the machine by Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen.

Kelly said that the Knights of Columbus believes that every human life has dignity and worth.

“Our Founder, Blessed Michael McGivney, devoted his life to the care of widows and orphans,” he said. “We continue the Order’s mission by working tirelessly, through prayer and action, to support mothers and their children, both unborn and born.”

The founder of the Knights of Columbus, Blessed Michael McGivney, was beatified in October 2020.

The cost of the ultrasound machines are entirely covered by the Knights of Columbus. Half of the cost is fundraised by local councils, while the Supreme Council covers the rest of the funds.

“Now is a crucial moment for life. Our compassion, understanding and generous support are all essential,” Kelly said. “Our bold witness is needed to change not only laws, but also hearts and minds.”

The total value of all donated ultrasound machines surpasses $72 million.

From 2018 through 2020, local Knights councils have contributed almost $14 million worth of funds and supplies to pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes. They also assisted those organizations by offering more than 1.3 million volunteer hours.

The Knights of Columbus also puts its pro-life beliefs into action through many other pro-life programs, including Marches for Life, diaper drives, Special Olympics, Masses for people with special needs, and more.

March for Life underway, with hopes rising that Roe's days are numbered

Tens of thousands gathered for a pre-march rally and concert at the National Mall for the 2022 March for Life in Washington, D.C. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2022 / 11:36 am (CNA).

Tens of thousands of pro-life Americans gathered Friday to participate in the 49th annual March for Life, amid rising hopes that the event’s goal of overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide may be within reach.

The march is timed in observance of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, on Jan. 22, 1973.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, the event’s organizer, told participants who gathered at a pre-march rally and concert on the National Law.

“Roe is not settled law,” she said.

This year’s event is taking place as the nation awaits the high court’s ruling in a pivotal Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s  Health Organization. At issue is the constitutionality of the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of gestation — a direct challenge of Roe’s prohibition on state laws restricting access to abortion before fetal “viability,” judged to be between 24 to 28 weeks of gestation. If Roe and the related decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey were overturned, the regulation of abortion would return to democratically elected state legislatures, many of which are poised to enact major abortion restrictions.

Speakers at the rally included Katie Shaw, a pro-life advocate who has Down syndrome, and Father Mike Schmitz, the host of Ascension's popular "Bible in a Year" podcast.

"There's a reason we're here. And the reasons have principles," Schmitz said in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly prior to his speech. "The Church introduced to the world 2,000 years ago this truth that every human being matters, that every life matters … every person here matters."

Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, continued on that same theme in his speech.

"I think we're here because abortion, what it's done is broken our hearts. And I know so many people here, you're standing here because you know the dignity of human life. And so many people are among us because this story is part of your story, because you found yourself at one point in a place where it seemed like life was impossible choice," he said.

"And so I know that we're surrounded by men and women who have chosen abortion. Listen, you need to know you're supposed to be here. You matter, you belong here. No matter what your past is, you are still loved. You need to know this. You are still loved and you still matter." You can watch Shaw's speech in the video below.

The march itself got underway at about 1:30 p.m. EST, proceeding from the Mall up Constitution Avenue, culminating in front of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prior to the march, a scattered group of early arrivals gradually swelled to a large crowd of tens of thousands of people over the course of a sunny but cold morning, with temperatures in the 20s.

Mary St. Hilaire, of Wichita, Kansas (left), and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mary St. Hilaire, of Wichita, Kansas (left), and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Mary St. Hilaire, 21, of Wichita, Kansas, and Kristina Massa, 22, of Lincoln, Nebraska, attended the march with a group called Justice For All, which trains people to have “productive” conversations about the right to life.

“I’m pro-life because I think that life begins at conception, that there's a new, unique individual human being from the moment of conception,” St. Hilaire told CNA. “And I think that killing that human being is a grave injustice, that they're equal to you and I, and that they deserve the same right to life. And I also think that abortion harms women, and women deserve better.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the pro-life movement cannot afford to become “complacent,” regardless of the outcome of Dobbs.

“The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is a response of love for both mothers and their children in the womb. The Church’s teaching proclaims a message of life, reminding us that every life is a sacred gift from God from the moment of conception until natural death,” Lori said in a statement.

“We cannot build a truly just society and remain complacent when faced with the massive impact of Roe v. Wade, which has taken over 60 million lives since 1973. May we pray, fast, and work for the day when the gift of every human life is protected in law and welcomed in love,” he added.

Vatican appeal court confirms former IOR officials liable for mismanagement

The Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank. / Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

A Vatican appeal court this week fully confirmed an earlier ruling that two former senior managers at the Institute of Works of Religion (IOR) were liable for mismanagement.

The appeal court ordered Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli to compensate the IOR with 40.5 million euros (around $46 million) plus court costs.

Cipriani and Tulli had served until 2013 respectively as the director and deputy director of the IOR, which is often called the “Vatican bank,” though it does not operate as a bank. The IOR derives its acronym from its Italian name, Istituto per le Opere di Religione.

This week’s ruling upheld the judgment of the Vatican Court of First Instance in 2018, while reducing the amount of compensation from 47 million euros (approximately $53 million).

Cipriani and Tulli still have a further right of appeal at the Vatican and may then challenge the verdict in the international courts.

The pair were found to have violated statutory obligations, autonomously deciding on investments that would have caused financial damage to the IOR.

An IOR press release issued on Jan. 21 said that the two men were ordered to pay compensation amounting to “35,740,587 euros by way of emerging damage, as well as 4,799,445 euros by way of loss of profit (therefore for a total of 40,540,032 euros, plus monetary devaluation and legal interest).”

It went on: “The court charged the appellants with court costs, including those relating to the first instance.”

The IOR added that “the judgment concerns Mr. Paolo Cipriani and Mr. Massimo Tulli mala gestio [mismanagement] arranged with some investments of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione between 2010 and 2013, and which proved to be immediately harmful as problematic and, in several cases, also illegitimate and subject to criminal proceedings.”

The court ruling is based on the losses that would have been caused to the IOR by two consultancy contracts and the opening of the Ad Maiora fund. This fund was used for a real estate operation — the acquisition of the former Budapest stock exchange building — made with a Maltese company, also now the subject of a complaint by the IOR.

The IOR accuses its Maltese counterpart of having sold higher than the market price, favoring other intermediaries. The Maltese side accuses the IOR of not having kept the agreed commitments, as well as having always rejected the purchase offers that would have settled the debt. There is even an insinuation that the IOR is putting the investment at risk to strengthen allegations against past management.

The same real estate investment is considered by the ruling to be a violation by managers, given that there was a moratorium on real estate investments from 2003.

But as evidenced by some subsequent decisions and acquisitions, the moratorium would no longer be in force. In December 2012, the IOR’s board of superintendence decided to launch a new class of investments of a more speculative nature, effectively circumventing the moratorium.

It should be noted that both the moratorium and regulation of the IOR were missing from the appeal documentation. Their inclusion would have allowed a better understanding of responsibilities. The same Vatican court of appeal judges consider that there is no “dual system” of decisions at the IOR because everything passes through the board of superintendence.

When the defense argued that none of the investment decisions could have been taken without the approval of the board of superintendence, the prosecution replied that the board meetings were “rarefied, unlike what is practiced in similar institutions,” the ruling said. But the verdict admitted that the board members may have studied the papers before the meetings.

Cipriani and Tulli resigned in July 2013. They left the IOR in a healthy situation, but profits dramatically dropped after their exit.

In 2014, the IOR filed a civil suit against the old management, complaining that the investments made by the administration had not managed the IOR’s assets well. In 2018, Cipriani and Tulli were found liable for mismanagement.

The Vatican appeal court’s verdict defends the work of the IOR but leaves some questions open. Some could already be answered by the results of the lawsuit filed by the IOR in Malta.