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Bishop Pfeifer asks Supreme Court to recognize ‘personhood’ of the unborn

U.S. Supreme Court building / Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2022 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

An emeritus Texas bishop is asking the Supreme Court to explicitly affirm the personhood of the unborn child in the womb.

“While the Supreme Court should be praised for overturning Roe v. Wade, it did not go far enough,” Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI, bishop emeritus of San Angelo, said of the court’s decision that leaves abortion up to the states. “Now as a follow-up to this pro-life decision, the Supreme Court must recognize explicitly fetal personhood.”

In a September statement, Pfeifer called on the court to recognize the personhood of the unborn under the 14th Amendment to ensure that no state will “deprive any person of life, liberty, [or] property without due process of the law.”

“Affirming the fetal personhood is totally in accord with medical science, which over and over in recent years recognizes that there is a new human being in the act of conception — which has always been our biblical belief,” he wrote. “Hence as we move into the future after Roe v. Wade, governments and courts at a national and state level must respect and protect the tiny unborn person made in God’s very image and must never be deprived of life and liberty.”

Pfeifer, who served as Bishop of San Angelo from 1985 to 2013, criticized the “negative forces at a presidential and congressional level” proposing bills and policies “to approve the terrible killing of the unborn through abortion.”

Earlier this year, Pfeifer called on his fellow bishops to hold President Joe Biden accountable and take action against pro-abortion policy in favor of pro-life measures that support women and the unborn. More specifically, in April he encouraged the bishops to respond after Biden’s proposed 2023 budget removed pro-life protections.

Pfeifer’s latest statement came ahead of Respect Life Month, which the U.S. bishops celebrate in October. Pfeifer told CNA that Catholics and pro-life Americans with their children, family members, and friends “have countless opportunities, especially in the pro-life month of October, to show respect for the sacred personhood of each one, especially for the unborn, whose moms might be considering an abortion.”

“They do this by the kindness they show one another, especially for a pregnant mom,” he said. “They can do this by praying together, taking time to share with one another about needs, and by reaching out with loving hearts and caring helpful hands, especially for those who struggle and feel left out.”

In his statement, he likewise encouraged the pro-life movement to take action — and promote personhood.

“Now is the time for all pro-lifers, led by the bishops and leaders in government and civil positions, to strongly and clearly preach and protect this fundamental life issue of the sacredness of the personhood beginning with the unborn,” he said.

If the personhood of the unborn is recognized, he added, that could make way for a nationwide abortion ban.

At the same time, Pfeifer called on the faithful to pray to the Holy Spirit and encourage all pro-lifers — beginning with the bishops — to show more concern for women struggling with pregnancy problems.

“Pope Francis stresses the closeness, compassion, and tenderness we must have for all pregnant women and those considering an abortion decision and offer them spiritual, human, health, and financial means to assist them with their many needs and to encourage them to save their babies,” he said. “And we must work with our elected officials to provide the proper aid to cover the cost of the birth, and the early and ongoing care and education of their children.”

“God created the human person in the divine image and likeness as the pinnacle of all creation,” he concluded. “Each of us, including the unborn, share in the image of God’s glory. Human life as a gift from God is sacred and inviolable.”

Election 2022: Abortion appears on ballot in 5 states this November

null / roibu / Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2022 / 11:40 am (CNA).

Americans in five states will vote on abortion and the life issue in November. Three states — California, Michigan, and Vermont — are proposing constitutional amendments to advance abortion. At the same time, citizens in Kentucky and Montana are voting on pro-life measures.

The ballot initiatives follow the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and leaves abortion up to the states. They also come after the pro-life “Value Them Both” amendment recently failed in Kansas.

“I think the challenge of a ballot initiative is just getting your message out there when there’s so many other messages,” Katie Glenn, state policy director at SBA Pro-Life America, told CNA. “It’s all coming down to this one moment and capturing attention to get voters out there.”

“What we’ve really learned from Kansas was that the other side is willing to spend millions of dollars to lie and to really try to scare people into something that is not the reality of — certainly abortion law in Kansas — but of any state,” she added.

For pro-life candidates also on the ballot, she said, this means that they should talk about their position rather than letting their opponents define it.

“It should be the easiest thing in the world to say ‘I support women, I support babies, I support families,’” she said.

Americans will make their decision on those candidates — and these five ballot initiatives — on Nov. 8.

California: Proposition 1

Proposition 1 would amend California’s constitution to explicitly protect abortion.

It reads: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

California currently allows abortion for any reason before viability, when a baby can survive outside the womb — generally considered to begin around 24 weeks of pregnancy. After viability, California allows abortion when a woman’s life or health is threatened.

The California Catholic Conference encourages pro-life voters to say “no” to Prop. 1.

“Proposition 1 is a worst-case scenario for abortion in California,” the group warns. “It is an expensive and misleading ballot measure that allows unlimited late-term abortions — for any reason, at any time, even moments before birth, paid for by tax dollars.”

A campaign for the amendment led by pro-abortion groups, called Yes on Proposition 1, argues that Proposition 1 would “ensure that, in California, people continue to have the power to control their own bodies and personal decisions.”

Kentucky: Amendment 2

Kentucky citizens will vote on Amendment 2 — a pro-life amendment — in November.

It reads: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

As a state, Kentucky currently prohibits abortion with exceptions for saving a woman’s life or preventing serious risk to her physical health.

The Yes for Life alliance, which includes the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, asks pro-life citizens to vote yes. The group says that the amendment’s language “will prevent state judges from asserting their own preferences over the will of legislators and the voters.”

Opposing the amendment, the Protect Kentucky Access coalition claims that the amendment would “pave the way for the state to ban abortion in all cases.”

Michigan: Proposal 3

Michigan’s proposed constitutional amendment, Proposal 3, would advance abortion.

The wording of the measure has been a source of controversy. On the ballot, the amendment is called a “proposal to amend the state constitution to establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make all decisions about pregnancy and abortion; allow state to regulate abortion in some cases; and forbid prosecution of individuals exercising established right.”

The amendment would “Establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility; Allow state to regulate abortion after fetal viability, but not prohibit if medically needed to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health; Forbid state discrimination in enforcement of this right; prohibit prosecution of an individual, or a person helping a pregnant individual, for exercising rights established by this amendment; Invalidate state laws conflicting with this amendment.”

In Michigan, women can obtain abortions for any reason before viability. After viability, abortion is permitted to save the woman’s life.

The Citizens to Support MI Women and Children coalition, which includes the Michigan Catholic Conference, advises pro-life voters to vote no on the amendment. The group says it would “radically distort Michigan’s Constitution to create a new unlimited right to abortion.”

“This poorly-worded amendment would repeal dozens of state laws, including our state’s ban on tax-funded abortions, the partial-birth abortion ban, and fundamentally alter the parent-child relationship by preventing parents from having input on their children’s health,” the group says.

The coalition criticized the amendment’s wording last month, saying state officials should strike it from the Nov. 8 ballot.

In support of the amendment, Reproductive Freedom for All argues that, “in addition to ensuring access to a broad range of reproductive health care, this amendment would make sure no one goes to prison for providing safe medical care.”

Montana: Legislative Referendum 131 (LR-131)

Voters in Montana will consider Legislative Referendum 131, which says it will protect babies who are born alive after attempted abortions.

It reads: “An act adopting the born-alive infant protection act; providing that infants born alive, including infants born alive after an abortion, are legal persons; requiring health care providers to take necessary actions to preserve the life of a born-alive infant; providing a penalty; providing that the proposed act be submitted to the qualified electors of Montana; and providing an effective date.”

Montana law allows abortion before viability. Abortion is also permitted after viability to save a woman’s life or prevent serious risk to her physical health.

SBA Pro-Life America’s Glenn said that she personally found the ballot initiative in Montana — a state she said has been getting progressively more pro-life — the most interesting.

“I think that one’s different than the other four, which are all very much time-gestational bans, in that this is not a pro-life/pro-choice issue,” she said. “This is about providing lifesaving care to a child who’s already been born.”

Opposing the referendum, Compassion for Montana Families claims that it “​​would introduce extreme penalties for medical providers who, at the family’s request, do not take a dying infant away from its parents in order to perform invasive and even painful medical treatments in tragic circumstances where they have no chance of survival.”

Vermont: Article 22

In Vermont, citizens will vote on the constitutional amendment Article 22, also known as Proposal 5, which promotes abortion.

It reads: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Abortion is legal up until birth in the state.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which includes the entire state of Vermont, published a piece in its diocesan bulletin warning that the amendment “promises to enshrine unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in our state’s founding document” and “would permanently block any attempt to protect the unborn — even those who can survive outside the womb.”

Vermont Right to Life Committee urges citizens to vote no.

Led by pro-abortion groups, Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Ballot Committee argues: “We need this amendment because important medical decisions should be guided by a patient’s health and wellbeing, not by a politician’s beliefs.”

Pro-life Catholic clinic in Denver area vandalized, suspect quickly arrested

Graffiti on the exterior of Bella Health + Wellness in Englewood, Colorado, on Sept. 25, 2022. / Courtesy of Bella Health + Wellness

Denver, Colo., Sep 25, 2022 / 22:50 pm (CNA).

A suspect was quickly arrested in the vandalism of a Denver-area Catholic pro-life medical clinic. It is not clear whether the clinic was targeted for its pro-life Catholic mission, though the various graffiti included a reference to Satan and a stylized depiction of a devilish character.

“We are sad to have to share that our clinic was just vandalized,” Bella Health + Wellness medical group said Sept. 25 in a 3 p.m. Facebook post including some photos of the vandalism. “If you could take a moment today to pray for our mission, our team and their families, and our patients, we would be grateful!”

The medical group sought help to repair the building before patients arrived Monday morning.

Graffiti on the exterior of Bella Health + Wellness in Englewood, Colorado, on Sept. 25, 2022. Courtesy of Bella Health + Wellness
Graffiti on the exterior of Bella Health + Wellness in Englewood, Colorado, on Sept. 25, 2022. Courtesy of Bella Health + Wellness

The Englewood clinic’s front double-glass doors normally show the words “Bella Health + Wellness,” among other words. Spray-painted red lines obscured most of the words.

Near the doors, the building was spray painted in red with phrases of what appeared to be graffiti slang including the phrase “IC Redall is boy.”

A large dumpster alongside the building was tagged with large graffiti and the word “Satan” next to a multicolored, devilish-looking spray-painted face.

After 7 p.m. on Sunday, Bella’s social media reported that the Englewood Police Department had made an arrest. Its Facebook post said “huge thanks to the Englewood Police Department.”

Bella is a nonprofit medical practice that operates in alignment with Catholic teaching. Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver praised the practice at its December 2014 launch. It offers full OB-GYN care with a specialization in NAPRO technologies as well as family primary care, including pediatrics.

According to its website, Bella served more than 1,700 patients in 2021 and provided almost $250,000 in free care. It says 382 babies were born with Bella’s assistance, 981 Medicaid patients were served, and another 622 patients were served in partnership with Marisol Health, the pro-life medical centers of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Bella has a mission to protect life-affirming, dignified health care,” the clinic says on the front page of its website. “We believe providers and patients deserve to act according to their own medical consciences.”

New information raises questions about FBI raid on Catholic father of 7

Mark and Ryan-Marie Houck with their seven children, ages 2 to 13. / Courtesy of the Houck family

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 25, 2022 / 17:31 pm (CNA).

The arrest of a Catholic apostolate leader and father of seven in an FBI raid last week has sparked a groundswell of support for him and his family as new information has raised serious questions about how he was taken into custody.

As of Sunday night, an online fund drive had raised more than $126,000 to help the family, far surpassing an initial $30,000 goal.

Mark Houck, the founder and co-president of The King’s Men, a men’s ministry, faces federal assault charges stemming from an altercation with a Planned Parenthood escort outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic nearly a year ago.

Houck, who regularly prays the rosary outside the clinic, maintains he was defending his 12-year-old son from the escort’s verbal harassment, a family spokesman, Brian Middleton, told CNA on Sunday. The man fell when Houck pushed him away, Middleton said.

The altercation was captured on a video the Houcks are in the process of locating, Middleton added. As of Sunday the family had not yet hired a lawyer but they expect to do so on Monday, he said.

When both the city police and the district attorney declined to file charges against Houck, the escort filed a private criminal complaint in Philadelphia municipal court, Middleton said. The case was dismissed in July when the man repeatedly didn’t show up in court, Middleton said.

Just days later, Houck received a “target letter” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office informing him that he was the focus of a federal criminal probe into the same incident, Middleton said.

Through his attorney at the time, Houck tried to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss the case but never received a response, Middleton said.

“The next time they heard anything was Friday morning,” he said.

An FBI agent stands outside the Houck residence in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mark Houck was arrested that day and charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood escort outside an Philadelphia abortion clinic on Oct. 13, 2021. Courtesy of the Houck family
An FBI agent stands outside the Houck residence in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mark Houck was arrested that day and charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood escort outside an Philadelphia abortion clinic on Oct. 13, 2021. Courtesy of the Houck family

That day, Sept. 23, federal law enforcement officials arrived outside the Houcks’ home in Kintnersville in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, around 7 a.m.

“A SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door,” Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told CNA on Friday, just hours after her husband’s arrest.

“They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids,” she added.

“They were pointing their weapons,” Middleton said. “They came in as if they were expecting some kind of confrontation.”

11 years in prison if convicted

The FBI told CNA that Houck was arrested outside his residence Friday morning “without incident.” In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that Houck is being charged with a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, more commonly referred to as the FACE Act.

The federal indictment says that Houck twice assaulted a 72-year-old man who was a patient escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic at 1144 Locust St. in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 2021. Houck first shoved the escort, identified by the initials B.L., to the ground as B.L was attempting to escort two patients, the indictment says. Houck also “verbally confronted” and “forcefully shoved” B.L. to the ground in front of the clinic on the same day, the indictment says.

The indictment says that B.L. was injured and needed medical attention. Middleton, the Houck family spokesman, maintains the injury was minor, only requiring “a Band-Aid on his finger.”

If convicted, Houck could face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The FACE Act “prohibits violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain or provide reproductive health services,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Middleton said Houck and his family are well-known in the Philadelphia area.

“The Houcks are incredible people. Mark’s whole life is a ministry,” he said. “This is really the family next door.”

Middleton speculated that many of those contributing to the fund believe the FBI used “unnecessary force” in arresting Houck.

He said the raid may fuel further criticism that the Biden administration’s Justice Department has a double standard where abortion politics are concerned, noting the contrast between the aggressive tactics used against Houck and the lack of any arrests by the FBI in connection with dozens of incidents of vandalism against pro-life pregnancy centers across the country in recent months.

CNA reporter Joe Bukuras contributed to this story.

Meet the therapy dog trained by Mercedarian sisters to help the students they serve

Gia, an 8-month-old Bernedoodle, visits Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Baton Rouge twice a week with a group of Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. / Wendy Milam

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 25, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Students at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are visited twice a week by Gia, an 8-month-old Bernedoodle, and a group of Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Gia is a therapy dog who visits classrooms and interacts with the children. Although she is still in training, her warmheartedness and gentle spirit has become the perfect match for the children who attend this Catholic school.

Sister Mary Rosario Vega, who recently celebrated her 50th anniversary of entering the convent, is one of the nuns who trains Gia and takes her to the school each week. In an interview with CNA, she said, “She [Gia] adores children, she’s very loyal, very intelligent, very easy to train.”

Gia spends the majority of her days in the convent with the sisters. Vega explained that the dog sits outside as the sisters attend Mass in the chapel and will even attend adoration with each of the sisters. They are now working on training her to be able to attend Mass with the children.

“In general, she’s very good, very quiet. She comes to adoration — each of us have an hour of adoration with the Blessed Sacrament — that’s her best hour,” she said.

However, it’s her time with the children that makes Gia the happiest, Vega said. And the response from the students, teachers, and parents has made it even more worthwhile.

“It’s just so beautiful to see the children, how they change when they see the dog just wagging her tail,” Vega expressed. “She’s so good with the children. When [the teachers] see them crying or having a bad day or anything, they either bring her to the classroom or take the child to her and they calm down.”

Gia has also begun to form unique relationships with some of the students.

Vega recalled one particular student who “kneels down to her level and gives her a hug and Gia stands and gives him a hug.”

Some of Gia’s favorite activities included recess with the kids, playing in the school gym where the kids throw tennis balls for her, and receiving treats from the children in their classrooms.

Gia is not the first dog the sisters have trained. Fourteen years ago, at their convent in Cleveland, the nuns raised an emotional-support dog named Ava. She was the first dog they trained as part of their efforts to serve the local schoolchildren near their community.

The Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were founded by Venerable Maria del Refugio in 1910 in Mexico City. Their two pillars are devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother. The sisters strive to lead people to experience the merciful love of God found through the Holy Eucharist while being accompanied by the Virgin Mary in the journey of being transformed by the Eucharist.

They also serve Catholic pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. Through their ministry with children, they aim to lead the youth to discover the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, encourage the eucharistic celebration to be the source and center of their lives, and spread devotion and filial love to Our Lady of Mercy.

Today, there are more than 430 sisters who staff 83 schools, catechetical centers, and parish ministries in 13 different countries including Mexico, Italy, Spain, and El Salvador, to name a few.

As for Gia, she will continue to be trained in the basics in order to receive her Canine Good Citizen Certificate and strive to be a source of light and joy for the children she visits.

The next generation of sacred music? Gregorian Chant album uses new spatial audio feature

The Benedictine Monks of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma emphasize Gregorian Chant as a way to delve deeper into the psalms. / Image credit: The World Over with Raymond Arroyo/screenshot

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 25, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Benedictine Monks of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma have teamed up with De Montfort Music and Sophia Music Group to release a new album of Advent melodies that takes advantage of Apple’s new spatial audio feature.

Raymond Arroyo from EWTN’s "The World Over" recently spoke with the monks’ Father Abbott Philip Anderson for deeper insight into the inspiration behind the new album and the role music plays in the life of the abbey.

“Once you’re in the monastery for a few months and you’re only [hearing] Gregorian Chant … it’s like your eyes getting used to the dark are [now] ‘getting used to the light,’” Anderson said.

Anderson also spoke about his abbey’s decision to release “Rorate Coeli: Marian Sounds of Advent,” a collection of Advent chants that place the Virgin Mary at its thematic center.

“We were looking for a repertory that hadn’t been done recently elsewhere,” Anderson explained. “We thought Christmas would be a good time … to get out some of this music, so we chose something that hasn’t been recorded, or too much.”

Anderson also explained that, unlike Lent, there is a certain note of joy that imbues the penitential aspect of Advent. Ultimately, Anderson said, the goals behind the album’s release are to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, foster the sacred tradition of Gregorian Chant, and share a deeper insight into the monastic life of the abbey.

“If a person buys a CD … reads the booklet, and listens along with you, you’ll enter into our life a little bit,” he said.

Additionally, listeners can also be aided by Apple’s new spatial audio feature (with support for Dolby Atmos), which orients each element of the music into its own space around the listener.

Rather than simply splitting music into “left” and “right” channels as with stereo music, spatial audio orients each element of the music within a 360-degree radius from the listener — making the experience closer to a live concert rather than a static audio file. (Those interested in learning what this might sound like may do so by trying the free demo on Dolby’s website.)

While the availability of this feature on the album could vary depending on the streaming service used, it is nonetheless a new option for those interested in immersing themselves more deeply within the music.

As for the effort it took to implement the new technology into the monks’ latest album, Anderson credited producer Brad Michel for seamlessly integrating it into their recording process.

“Brad was great,” Anderson said. “He is an accomplished musician, not just a tech guy … He knows the equipment but he also could appreciate the music: the finesse [and] the kind of nuances … He helped us … group together and do the right thing, and so it was a good experience.”

Not only is the technical creation of the album impressive, the training of the monks is also something to take note of — as most members do not have a background in music when they enter the abbey.

“A generation or two ago, young men would enter with a certain knowledge of music, and now it’s rare that they have any training,” Anderson said. “But when you’re young, young men can learn fast, and they do.”

Anderson detailed the training that each monk undergoes in order to learn how to sing Gregorian Chant, which includes participating in an academy of sacred music in Europe as well as taking chant classes to ensure they understand the fundamentals behind the music. This process of formation takes years to complete, Anderson said, which gives ample time for training.

“As they take on responsibilities in the choir, they learn more,” he said. “There’s a whole range of knowledge that comes before you become a choirmaster, for example.”

Watch the full interview below.

Pro-life volunteer shot while going door-to door-in Michigan

null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 24, 2022 / 10:05 am (CNA).

An 84-year-old pro-life volunteer was shot on Sept. 20 while going door-to-door in her community to talk about a ballot measure concerning abortion in Michigan, the group she was volunteering with said.

The woman from Lake Odessa was speaking about Proposal 3, a proposed state constitutional amendment that would advance abortion, according to a Right to Life of Michigan (RLM) press release

The press release said that the woman was shot in the back-shoulder area while leaving a residence during a heated conversation. The man who shot her was not involved in the conversation and the pro-life volunteer does not know his identity or motive.

RLM said that the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, is still recovering from her gunshot wound.

Chris Gast, the education coordinator for RLM, told CNA that “She is at home recovering and in good spirits. She should be OK.”

Local news outlet WOOD TV8 reported police as saying that the pro-life volunteer was handing out pamphlets when she was shot, after getting into what police called an “alleged verbal altercation.”

The outlet noted that, after getting shot, the woman drove herself to the Lake Odessa Police Department. From there, she was taken to the hospital where she was treated and released.

The RLM press release said that the Michigan State Police are investigating the case, and will forward the results to the Ionia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. 

This is a developing story.

Live Action’s Life Awards Gala celebrates progress made and work still to be done

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch was among the honorees of Live Action's Life Gala in Dana Point, California, on Sept. 17, 2022. / Screenshot of ETWN YouTube video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 24, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

For the past several years, Live Action has hosted its annual Life Awards Gala to recognize pro-life leaders for their outstanding work in the defense of life. This year, nearly 500 people gathered in Dana Point, California, on Sept. 17 for the third annual event, the first to be held in a post-Roe America.

This year's awardees included Pastor Lee Jong-Rak; Mary Wagner, a Canadian pro-life activist; and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. EWTN Pro-Life Weekly spoke with two of the awardees and the president and founder of Live Action, Lila Rose.

Jong-Rak is the founder of a ministry in South Korea that gives mothers an option other than abortion. Mothers who determine they are unable to care for their baby can anonymously leave their child in a climate-controlled baby box. To date, these baby boxes have helped save more than 1,500 lives.

“When I met the first baby, I was so shocked and I was so moved,” Jong-Rak said. “I prayed to God, and I believe that God gave me a mission to do.”

Meanwhile, Fitch received a standing ovation when given her award. It was her state’s case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that led the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Now that we’ve changed the entire narrative in American history, this is a new chapter,” Fitch said. “It truly means so very much to me, but to accept this award not only for myself but for my entire team.”

Rose also shared in the excitement of a post-Roe America: “There’s a lot of joy. There’s so much to celebrate. We have so many heroes in the room tonight,” she said.

“But there’s also the message that our work is just getting started in many ways. We have so much left to do in our movement,” she added.

“So, while we take a pause to celebrate, we’re also making the battle plan for the work ahead to change hearts and minds, to shift public opinion, and to establish legal protection for preborn children in every state of the country,” she said.

Rose also took a moment to comment on her recent interview on the Dr. Phil show and said he, along with many members of the audience, seemed “completely blindsided by pro-life facts — facts about human development, the science of when life begins, by facts on the harm of abortion.”

“People need to hear these facts,” she emphasized. “They’ve been given misinformation, or there’s ignorance about abortion, about its harm, and so we should be prepared to share the facts.”

Rose concluded: “It’s really winsome — when people hear that it gives them an opportunity to see the humanity of the baby, to learn about the evil of abortion, and to have a vision for something better.”

Catholics with mental health struggles aren’t alone, Phoenix bishop says

null / Photo credit: Chanintorn.v / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 24, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Catholics who struggle with mental illness, and their loved ones who want to help them, will soon find more formal support in the Phoenix Diocese. Bishop John Dolan has announced the launch of an office dedicated to Catholic mental health ministry.

“There are lots of people who are dealing with loved ones who are in crisis,” Dolan told CNA Sept. 19. “It’s a quiet work of charity, and obviously they need all the help they can get.”

The bishop hopes the new office will “let people know that they’re not alone when it comes to mental health.” He emphasized the need to help people talk and communicate about mental illness.

Dolan announced the office on Sept. 4 at Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral during a Mass of Remembrance for those who died by suicide, the diocesan newspaper The Catholic Sun reported.

During the Mass, the bishop led a procession of clergy. Joined by others in the congregation, they placed carnations in baskets in front of a shrine at the cathedral. Each carnation represented a person who died by suicide. The diocese had solicited suicide victims’ names to be commemorated during the Mass and had received more than 1,200.

The issue is personal for the new bishop. In a video message “Sharing My Story: A Life Changed by Suicide,” posted to the diocese’s YouTube channel, Dolan recounted how his family lost an older brother, a sister, and her husband to suicide.

“Losing a loved one is very, very hard. When we lose a loved one through suicide, it’s doubly difficult,” Dolan said in the video. “I had support from the Church but not ongoing support, real opportunities to continue to talk about it. I buried so much that I just never really looked into growing as I should have grown.”

Dolan, who was installed as bishop of Phoenix on Aug. 2, has co-edited a pastoral handbook, “Responding to Suicide.”

Mental illness is relatively common. The National Institutes for Mental Health says that as of 2020, nearly one in five U.S. adults — about 53 million people — were living with a mental illness. An estimated 14.2 million U.S. adults — 5.6% of the adult population — suffer from a severe mental illness. Of these, only 65% received mental health treatment in the previous year.

The planned focus of the Office for Catholic Mental Health Ministry includes mental health education for clergy and laity. The office aims to provide opportunities for Catholics to find support in accompanying friends and loved ones who struggle with mental illness.

The new office will provide priests with a mental health “first-aid kit” to help them advise or respond to those in need, Dolan said.

The educational aspect will aim to help clergy and religious know more about mental health and get basic training “so that they don’t jump to conclusions and kind of over-spiritualize behavior,” Dolan said. This educational effort should help inculcate in clergy “a broad view of what mental health is” so that they don’t “try to solve the issues on their own.”

Education will come through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. The council, founded in 1969, is an advocacy and educational group that represents more than 3,100 mental health and substance use treatment organizations.

“They basically try to train them about what to expect and what to look for,” Dolan said. “It’s strictly clinical in education; it doesn’t focus on any of the spiritual aspects.”

The organization’s Mental Health First Aid program has trained more than 2.6 million people in the U.S. “to identify, understand, and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.” The training covers common signs and symptoms of mental health challenges and substance use challenges, how to interact with a person in crisis, and how to connect a person with help. It also includes content on trauma, substance use, and self-care.

The psychological sciences have a role to play in Catholic thought and practice, Dolan said.

“We see the science of psychology and psychiatry as a valued gift to our human person. We should not shy away from that,” he told CNA.

The aim is not to increase the burdens on priests. Rather, they will have a resource to which they can direct those in need. Dolan aims to have locations in each of the diocese’s 15 deaneries for people suffering from mental health problems, behavioral issues, trauma, or bereavement.

Dolan said he is not yet familiar with the particulars of how the diocese’s current seminarians are being prepared.  

Speaking generally of seminarians, he said that “counseling is perhaps one aspect of their training” and future priests receive only “little samplings” of psychology unless they are taking classes on the subject in their university or seminary.

A 2016 document from the Dicastery for the Clergy, “Ratio Fundamentalis,” discusses the formation of seminarians. It notes that the “useful contribution” of psychology to pastoral theology will benefit seminarians’ education as future pastors.

The Office for Catholic Mental Health Ministry will also have an advocacy role. It will seek to improve government policy and increase funding that addresses mental health. Dolan said this will help “to make sure that mental health is at the front of all of our conversations, particularly as we’re seeing more and more people on the streets with mental health disorders.”

According to the bishop, there are a “whole host of reasons” why some homeless people live on the streets, including trauma, mental disorders, or drug use disorders. The simple situation of experiencing homelessness causes additional anxiety and mental problems, he added.

The office, set to open in January 2023, has financial support from the Phoenix-based Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Those responsible for organizing the new office are Dr. Anne Vargas-Leveriza of the diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection and Dr. Maria Chavira, the diocese’s chancellor.

Dolan, a former auxiliary bishop of San Diego, noted previous Catholic statements like the California bishops’ 2018 letter on caring for those who suffer from mental health.

He said Catholic dioceses in San Diego, San Francisco, and Orange are already working to address mental health, often under the efforts of other diocesan departments. He noted the work of the University of San Diego-based Catholic Institute for Mental Health Ministry, which seeks to train mental health ministry leaders at the diocesan and parish level across the U.S.

Meet Chloe Cole, the 18-year-old leading the fight to protect children from transgender surgeries

Chloe Cole in her AirBnb in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 2022. A self-described “former trans kid,” she de-transitioned after undergoing years of puberty blockers and an irreversible double mastectomy at the age of 15. / Edie Heipel/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 24, 2022 / 06:30 am (CNA).

An 18-year-old woman is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful voices against transitioning children at a moment in which most politicians and media outlets lack the courage to speak out. 

Chloe Cole is a self-described “former trans kid” who de-transitioned after undergoing years of puberty blockers and an irreversible double mastectomy at the age of 15. 

Cole is now traveling across the country to share her story and raise the alarm about gender transition procedures on children, a growing trend she calls “child abuse” and “medical experimentation.”

“I’m planning to keep doing this until it stops,” Cole told CNA Wednesday in an interview.

Cole, who grew up in Northern California, was just 11 years old when she was first exposed to gender ideology through online platforms.

“I kind of lacked female role models growing up,” Cole told CNA, citing body image issues, early exposure to LGBTQ content, and unmonitored internet access as factors that propelled her struggle with gender dysphoria.   

Cole was also diagnosed with autism and ADHD at age 7, which she says are “common comorbidities with gender dysphoria.”

The link between autism and gender dysphoria has been scientifically studied and reported on by independent journalist Abigail Shrier, suggesting that children on the spectrum are particularly vulnerable to the pull of transgenderism.

A ‘false’ choice

It didn’t take long before medical professionals fast-tracked Cole into medically transitioning from a girl into a boy, a trend she says has exploded among children.

Cole said Wednesday that her parents “were scared and desperate for answers” when she first told them she was a boy and that their decision to sign off on transitioning her was “forced under extreme duress.”

“The gender clinic presented my parents with the classic false dichotomy: Would you rather have a dead daughter or a living son?” Cole said. 

Cole was put on puberty blockers and testosterone at just 13 years old, which caused a ripple of negative side effects including unbearable hot flashes and what she describes as an endless feeling of boredom. 

“For me it was pretty bad, like they were making my whole body really itchy. There were certain days that I couldn’t even wear sweaters or long pants in cold weather,” Cole told CNA.

“I felt like there was this feeling of boredom that just wouldn’t go away. I would just wake up waiting for the next best thing,” she remembered. 

Cole continues to experience joint pain from weakened bone density — a known side effect of puberty blockers — as well as certain allergies and ongoing urinary tract infection symptoms. 

But all of this pales in comparison to the double mastectomy Cole underwent at age 15, which permanently removed both of her breasts. 

“The name of the operation I went under was ‘double mastectomy with nipple grafts,’ meaning they make cuts under the breast and take out the tissue underneath,” she explained. 

Cole added that the surgeons also surgically removed her nipples and grafted them back on in a “more masculine position” — creating serious side effects that she will deal with for the rest of her life. 

“They severed the nerve endings. The sensation is never the same again and there are permanent changes in pigmentation — it might not ever look the same,” she explained. 

Cole says she was given the impression from doctors that her grafts would mostly be healed by a year and a half after the surgery, but she still has complications more than two years later. 

“The top layer of skin is not really healing over. It emits this fluid constantly so I have to wear non-adhesive bandages over them all the time.” 

But what Cole most regrets is how “the beauty of motherhood” was stripped from her at an age when she wasn’t able to fully comprehend the loss. 

“At 15, I wasn’t really thinking. I was a kid, just trying to fit in — not thinking about the possibility of becoming a parent.” 

Cole told CNA she went through a long period of grief as she came to regret the mastectomy and de-transitioned in 2021 — a realization that catalyzed after she took a psychology class studying the attachment between mothers and infants. 

The study, which examined rhesus monkeys, observed the importance of mother-child bonding through breastfeeding. 

“At the time when I was taking this class, I was 11 months post-op. I realized what I took away from myself because I was allowed to make this decision when I was barely in my mid-teens,” Cole said.

“I’ll never have the experience, or even the option, of breastfeeding my children and bonding with them in that way.” 

‘Adults need to take a stand’

Cole has no plans to back down from advocating against gender transitions for children and hopes her story opens the eyes of parents of children struggling with gender dysphoria as well as lawmakers who have remained silent. 

“Spend time with your kids, keep them off technology for as long as possible. Let them know they’re loved and stay in touch with them. If they’re on the internet, monitor their usage,” she urged parents. 

“Adults need to take a stand,” Cole emphasized. “Complacency is what led to this happening to me in the first place.” 

“If you look away for even a second, it’s very contagious,” Cole said, speaking of what she calls “skewed information” that medical professionals are sharing on the internet.

Cole referenced Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher, a gender-affirming surgeon from Miami who advertises transition procedures to minors on her Tik-Tok account.  

“There’s definitely a money incentive, especially for those who are doing gender-affirming surgeries,” Cole said. “Surgeons get the most money out of this.” 

So far, Cole has traveled to five states across the U.S. — including her home state of California, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. — to bear witness to lawmakers about her experience and urge them to take a stand. 

In September, Cole testified against California Democrat Scott Weiner’s proposed S.B. 107, which would make the state a “sanctuary” for children to obtain irreversible gender surgeries without parental consent. 

Alliance Defending Freedom and over 40 other parental rights organizations wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom protesting the bill.

“This legislation allows the ‘taking of a child’ to California (without parental knowledge or consent) to obtain gender transition procedures — including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgeries — and impermissibly gives California courts the power to strip custody from lawful and well-intentioned parents,” ADF urged.

Cole says that for the most part, politicians on both sides of the aisle have “just shied away from the issue.”

“Mostly they get into petty fights over it, but nothing has really been done about it,” she said.

CNA interviewed Cole the day after she testified outside Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in favor of a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, that would criminalize gender procedures on minors. 

Greene’s Protect Children’s Innocence Act, H.R. 8731, would make it a Class C felony to perform gender transition procedures — including mastectomies, phalloplasties, and vaginoplasties — on minors. The bill is being supported by over 40 other Republican lawmakers.

“No child deserves to suffer under the knife of a gender-affirming surgeon,” Cole said in a press conference Sept. 21 unveiling the bill. “America’s children — all children — deserve better.”

“Chloe’s story is so important,” Taylor-Greene told CNA. “We’re so proud of her for being brave enough to come out and tell it, but her story isn’t the only one — there are many beyond her. If anyone is pushing this on children, they’re on the wrong side of history, and we will show that to be true.”

Suzanne Satterfield, a parental-rights activist based in Virginia, spent extensive time with Cole over her trip to D.C. to testify against child transitions.

“Chloe’s a ray of sunshine in the darkness that is looming over the children of today,” Satterfield said to CNA. 

“She could easily stay out of the public’s eye and live a much different life. But she has a big heart and has chosen to sound the alarm of the irreversible damage being done to children at the hands of ‘trusted health care providers.’”

When asked if she was happy, Cole’s face broke into a smile as she nodded vigorously.  

“I’m a lot happier today,” she said, her eyes shining.

“Doing what I’m doing now is giving me a purpose. That’s something that I’ve been seeking for quite a while.”