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Posted on 01/16/2019 23:17 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- Religious freeom is innate and must be protected, US president Donald Trump said in his proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, which is observed Wednesday.
“On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation’s long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith,” Trump said in his proclamation for the Jan. 16 observance. “The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”
He said many of America's settlers, including the Pilgrims, “fled their home countries to escape religious persecution. Aware of this history, our Nation’s Founding Fathers readily understood that a just government must respect the deep yearning for truth and openness to the transcendent that are part of the human spirit. For this reason, from the beginning, our constitutional republic has endeavored to protect a robust understanding of religious freedom.”
Trump noted that Virginia enacted a Statute for Religious Freedom Jan. 16, 1786, “to protect the right of individual conscience and religious exercise and to prohibit the compulsory support of any church.”
The statute “set forth the principle that religious liberty is an inherent right and not a gift of the state,” and was the model for religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment, the president stated.
“Unfortunately, the fundamental human right to religious freedom is under attack,” he said. “Efforts to circumscribe religious freedom — or to separate it from adjoining civil liberties, like property rights or free speech — are on the rise.”
Trump added that legislative attacks on religious liberty “have given way to actual violence,” citing the October 2018 attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and saying that “attacks on people of faith and their houses of worship have increased in frequency in recent years.”
He said his administration is acting “to protect religious liberty and to seek justice against those who seek to abridge it.”
The president noted that the Department of Justice “is aggressively prosecuting those who use violence or threats to interfere with the religious freedom of their fellow Americans”; and that last January the department raised the profile of religious liberty cases in its Justice Manual, and the Health and Human Services department adopted more robust conscience protection regulations.
Trump also noted international religious freedom problems, saying his Secretary of State convened a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July 2018 to “[listen] to the voices of those risking their lives for their religious beliefs, and … to the families of people who have died fighting for their fundamental right of conscience.”
“Our Nation was founded on the premise that a just government abides by the 'Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.' As the Founders recognized, the Constitution protects religious freedom to secure the rights endowed to man by his very nature,” he concluded.
“On this day, we recognize this history and affirm our commitment to the preservation of religious freedom.”
Posted on 01/16/2019 20:20 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 11:20 am (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl will not celebrate the Jan. 18 Mass for Life, to be held at a youth rally before the annual March for Life. Wuerl was until today scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the Mass.
In his stead will be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, the Archdiocese of Washington announced on Wednesday.
Pierre will be joined by Washington auxiliary bishops Mario Dorsonville and Roy Campbell, who will represent the archdiocese.
The Youth Rally and Mass for Life takes place the morning of the annual March for Life, at which thousands of pro-life supporters are expected to process up the National Mall towards the Supreme Court. The march is held in January each year to mark the Supreme Court decision in the case Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the United States.
The Mass for Life is organized by the Archdiocese of Washington and in previous years has been celebrated by Wuerl.
The archdiocese declined to comment on the reasons for Wuerl’s decision not to participate in this year’s event.
Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation as the archbishop of Washington in October, and has not yet named his replacement. In the meantime, he continues to lead the archdiocese on an interim basis.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, there had been a growing call for Wuerl to step aside from celebrating the Mass, following criticism of the cardinal for his response to the allegations sexual abuse and misconduct made against his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
More than 300 people signed a petition requesting that Wuerl not celebrate the Mass, and others threatened to walk out in protest if he were present.
The Archdiocese of Washington has hosted a large youth rally and Mass before the March for Life for the last 25 years. The 2019 event will be held in the Capital One Arena, and 20,000 pilgrims from across the country are expected to attend. In addition to the Mass, there will be testimonies from pro-life leaders and musical performances.
Posted on 01/16/2019 12:06 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 03:06 am (CNA).- Barring an unexpected resolution, the federal government shutdown will have hit the four-week mark when pro-lifers descend upon the nation’s capital for the March for Life on Friday.
The ongoing government shutdown is, for some pro-lifers, a reminder that this year’s march comes amid tense political division in the country.
For Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, this division requires a careful balancing act, one that welcomes pro-lifers of all political stripes while avoiding debates over other policy questions and personalities and keeping participants focused on the issue at hand.
In an interview with CNA last month, Mancini said she tries to navigate Washington’s political tensions “with a great deal of prayer and discernment.”
Striking the right balance is not always easy. Last year, organizers drew criticism for welcoming a speech from U.S. President Donald Trump, who became the first sitting president to address the march via live video.
The move led prominent pro-life Democrat Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to cancel his appearance at the March for Life rally, saying he was uncomfortable being associated with Trump.
Mancini respects Lipinski’s decision and called him “one of my heroes,” saying, “He’s just such a great man and truly a statesman in the real sense of the world, and that’s unusual on Capitol Hill these days.”
She stressed that the march tries to include speakers from both sides of the political aisle.
Lipinski will return to speak this year, along with Louisiana state representative Katrina Jackson (D) and two Republican lawmakers. But the 2019 slate of speakers is not without controversy, particularly headliner Ben Shapiro, editor in chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast.
In a Washington Post op-ed last month, Fordham University professor and Democrats for Life board member Charles Camosy called the inclusion of Shapiro as keynote speaker “a serious mistake,” saying the 34-year-old’s heavily partisan leanings will further isolate pro-lifers who already do not feel at home within the Republican Party.
In a tweet to Camosy, Mancini responded that the march strives to reflect the diversity of the pro-life movement. But the discussion surrounding Shapiro strikes at a deeper question regarding the identity of the pro-life movement as a whole. In recent years, a number of “whole-life” organizations have challenged the idea of what it means to be pro-life, arguing that the label should cover not only abortion, but other human rights issues as well.
The rise of nontraditional groups – such as New Wave Feminists, Rehumanize International, and Secular Pro-Life – has raised questions about whether the pro-life movement must also take a definitive stance on immigration, health care, gun control, and other policy issues regarding human dignity in other walks of life.
Mancini, who says she comes from a “leftward-leaning Catholic family” and has a background with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, says she sees abortion as a matter of social justice. But she has emphasized the need for unity around the abortion issue, which she says is foundational, because without it, no other rights could exist. Under Mancini’s leadership, the March for Life is not only bipartisan, but open to all peaceful pro-lifers, regardless of their views on other policy questions.
While Trump may have shortcomings in his personal life and other issues relating to human dignity, Mancini told CNA, his administration has been solid in its work to protect the unborn, and his efforts should be recognized.
In the first two years of his presidency, Trump’s administration has removed federal funding from overseas abortion groups, increased transparency around abortion coverage in insurance plans, proposed a rule to cut Title X taxpayer funding from any facility that performs or refers for abortions, and made strides to protect medical professionals who object to cooperating with abortion.
Trump has also upheld his promise to appoint judges with pro-life records, naming Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
With the Roe decision approaching 50 years old, Mancini is hopeful that this generation will see an end to abortion. The pro-life movement, she stressed, is not only political, but also cultural. Trying to change hearts and minds can often seem like an uphill battle, she acknowledged, but there are also signs of good news.
For example, she said, “There were maybe 500 pregnancy care centers in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and there were 2,000 abortion clinics, and now that’s swapped. Now there are about 700 abortion clinics in our country and nearly 3,000 pregnancy care centers around the country.”
Other good news: The number of abortions has decreased in the U.S. in recent years, and polls show that Americans want abortion limited more than it currently is, while advances in technology increasingly make it apparent that life begins at conception.
“There are all sorts of great signs that we’re building a culture of life,” Mancini said. “But do we have our work cut out for us? You bet.”
Posted on 01/16/2019 00:31 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Arlington, Va., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:31 pm (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.
It recently made the news when two Democratic U.S. senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a Catholic judicial nominee about his membership in the group, citing its stands against abortion and same-sex marriage. They asked whether membership could prevent judges from serving “fairly and impartially.” The questioning drew strong objections from many Catholics and other public figures.
Posted on 01/16/2019 00:30 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general William Barr said Tuesday that he does not think his Catholic faith is an impediment to leading the Department of Justice.
Barr, a practicing Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus, was asked by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) if he were Catholic and what this meant.
“You’re a Roman Catholic, are you not?” asked Kennedy. After Barr confirmed that he was, Kennedy then asked him if he thought that this “disqualified” him from having a position in the U.S. government.
“Some of my colleagues think it might,” Kennedy added. Barr replied that if he were the attorney general, he would “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
Kennedy’s question appeared to reference the recent controversy that erupted following a CNA report that Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned judicial nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they described as an organization with “extreme views” that are “opposed to marriage equality” and “women’s reproductive rights.”
If confirmed, Barr will replace Matthew Whitaker, who has served in the role on an acting basis since the resignation of Jeff Sessions in early November.
Barr previously held the post of attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from November of 1991 until January 20, 1993. Prior to that, he served as deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
After leaving the White House in 1993, Barr worked in private practice. Most recently, he was with the firm Kirkland & Ellis. A practicing Catholic, he a graduate of Columbia University and George Washington University law school.
The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.
Buescher said that he would not be leaving the Knights of Columbus if he were to be confirmed to the district court, and that he joined the organization because of its charitable work. He said that it was the “role and obligation” of a judge to “apply the law without regard to any personal beliefs regarding the law.”
At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since President Donald Trump took office. Last May, District Judge Peter J. Phipps was asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) during his confirmation hearing about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, and if he stood by the group’s pro-life mission.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who now sits on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was questioned about her Catholic faith by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” said Feinstein, adding, “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”
Feinstein also pressed Judge Michael Scudder, who is now on the Seventh Circuit Court, if he had been involved through his local parish in the creation of a home for women facing crisis pregnancies. Scudder said he did not know if the home had ever even been built.
Last November, Feinstein asked Third Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Paul Matey about his involvement in the Knights of Columbus, and if he intended on either leaving the organization or recusing himself from any case if the Knights had taken a position.
Similar to Buescher, Matey said that his involvement in the Knights was limited to “participation in charitable and community events in local parishes,” and that he was not involved in any policy work with the organization.