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In Michigan, 'rogue decision' blocks longtime state abortion law

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Denver Newsroom, May 17, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Michigan’s longstanding law against abortion cannot be enforced if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a state judge said Tuesday in a temporary injunction.

Michigan adopted a law criminalizing abortion as a felony, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, in 1931.

“After 50 years of legal abortion in Michigan, there can be no doubt that the right of personal autonomy and bodily integrity enjoyed by our citizens includes the right of a woman, in consultation with her physician, to terminate a pregnancy,” Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said May 17, issuing a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the state law.

The law has not been enforced since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but the Michigan Court of Appeals found in 1997 that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.

According to Gleicher, the right to an abortion is almost certainly guaranteed under the state constitution’s due process provisions that protect bodily integrity, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Critics noted that the judge is a donor to Planned Parenthood and previously represented Planned Parenthood in a failed challenge to precedent upholding the state abortion law.

“The judge engaged in an analysis without any advocacy from the other side, and she was demonstrably wrong in her legal conclusions, drawing on precedent which has absolutely no bearing on pro-life laws,” John Bursch, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel and former Michigan solicitor general, told journalists on a May 17 phone conference.

“The Michigan court of appeals has already held that this exact same 1931 law is valid under the constitution, in a case where Planned Parenthood sued, and lost, when represented by the very judge who issued today’s opinion,” he added.

“Even more extraordinary, that same judge makes annual contributions to Planned Parenthood, in effect, indirectly subsidizing the very same legislation she is now decided, and has also received an Award as a Planned Parenthood advocate. She should have recused herself from the case, and not participated in it.”

Planned Parenthood of Michigan, represented by the ACLU of Michigan, had filed a lawsuit against Michigan’s attorney general seeking an injunction against the law.

Bonsitu Kitaba, the ACLU affiliate’s assistant legal director, had previously said an injunction would be the best-case scenario for her clients and for Michigan.

Gleicher’s injunction said the law “criminalizes virtually all abortions, and if enforced, will abruptly and completely end the availability of abortion services in Michigan.”

A preliminary injunction advances the public interest and allows the court “to make a full ruling on the merits of the case without subjecting plaintiff and their patients to the impact of a total ban on abortion services in the state,” she said.

Gleicher is a 2007 appointee of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She is a donor to Planned Parenthood and represented the organization as a volunteer lawyer with the ACLU in a key 1990s abortion case. That case led the Michigan Appeals Court to determine that the state constitution “does not guarantee a right to abortion that is separate and distinct from the federal right,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

When Gleicher disclosed this information, the Michigan Republican Party called on her to recuse herself from the case, but she declined.

Complicating the lawsuit was that Attorney General Dana Nessel agreed that there was a “lack of adversity” and no jurisdiction for the Michigan Court of Claims because she does not intend to enforce the law against abortion. Nessel, a Democrat, does not believe the law is constitutional, but thought the lawsuit should have been dismissed.

Planned Parenthood countered that the attorney general of the state can change.

Bursch said the situation was “extraordinary.”

“This is the kind of mess that you end up with in the court system when the state executive and its attorney general refuse to uphold and defend a law that has been in place since 1931. They may not like it. But no one has the ability to unilaterally ignore, change or encourage the invalidation of Michigan law. They should be working through the democratic process, like anyone else,” he said.

Bursch apologized for initially describing the judge in the case as a “rogue judge,” saying instead “it’s certainly a rogue decision.”

“It’s a rogue decision for someone who is ethically conflicted in hearing the case and lacks jurisdiction to decide the case to nonetheless go ahead and issue an injunction against the attorney general of the state, based on arguments that no one has argued before her in briefing or in oral argument,” he said.

Bursch said the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group had initially been invited to submit arguments, but then was excluded from participating because it wasn’t a party to the case.

“This was all done in secret with parties that agreed on the results. It’s improper, six ways from Sunday,” Bursch said.

Right to Life Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference are considering what options they can pursue. The legal complexities of the case could mean seeking appellate review without necessarily intervening as a party.

“We are unquestionably going to take legal action. I would expect such a decision to be announced by the end of the week,” said Bursch, whose legal group represents the two organizations.

Abortion advocacy groups in the state have launched a ballot initiative to override the 1931 law by way of a constitutional amendment.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has filed her own lawsuit which asks the Michigan Supreme Court “to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution.”

As reason for the lawsuit, she cited a possible decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a pending U.S. Supreme Court case that could alter or abolish precedent mandating legal abortion.

The governor’s lawsuit named as defendants the prosecutors in 13 Michigan counties with abortion clinics. The seven Democratic prosecutors have agreed not to enforce the law, while the six remaining prosecuting attorneys are Republicans.

That lawsuit drew some criticism.

“The right to life for unborn children and its inherent value given by our Creator cannot be reduced to a legal opinion or legislative vote,” Michigan Catholic Conference policy advocate Rebecca Mastee said in an April 7 response to Whitmer’s lawsuit. “While the legality of abortion is contingent upon democratic structures, it is unfortunate that the judicial branch is being used to try to invalidate a longstanding policy approved by elected representatives and left untouched by the Legislature for nearly a century since.”

A 1972 ballot measure in Michigan rejected legalized abortion, Mastee noted.

Whitmer is a staunch backer of abortion. In September 2021, she used a line-item veto to remove from the state budget about $16 million worth of funding for alternatives to abortion, drawing objections from the state’s Catholic conference.

Philly archbishop condemns 'mortal sin of racism' after Buffalo shooting

Mourners light candles at a makeshift memorial outside of Tops market on May 16, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. A gunman opened fire at the store yesterday killing ten people and wounding another three. The attack was believed to be motivated by racial hatred. / Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Denver Newsroom, May 17, 2022 / 15:39 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia said on Tuesday that the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York is a reminder of the continuing “mortal sin of racism.”

A gunman killed 10 Black people on May 14 at a supermarket. Another three persons were injured in the shooting.

The archbishop called the incident “another painful reminder that the mortal sin of racism has not been eradicated in this country. We must continue our work to stamp it out. All lives are gifts from God designed to share their unique gifts with those around them. Tragically, these gifts were violently ripped away from families, friends, and a community that is now struggling with deep grief.”

“I pray that God will comfort those whose hearts have been broken and that He will embolden and strengthen all of us to build and defend a culture of love and respect for all of our brothers and sisters,” he said.

He juxtaposed the shooting with a Concert for Unity sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s racial healing commission: “It featured a unified choir of over 100 gifted individuals from diverse racial and ethnic communities praising God with one voice along with shared reflections and bold statements condemning the sin of racism.”

The Knights of Peter Claver, the largest historically African-American Catholic lay organization in the U.S., has also responded to the shooting.

“We pray for all victims and survivors impacted by the sin of racism. We must even pray that those entrapped by this sinful nature, be released from its oppressing hand,” the fraternity said in a May 16 statement. 

“While the vast majority easily see and understand how horrific this act of evilness is, too few acknowledge and accept the everyday contributing factors that keep leading to these tragic outcomes.”

The Knights of Peter Claver said racism is neither pro-life nor Christian, and “is not of God. Racism and hatred are tools used by the Devil in an attempt to separate the People of God from His Love. God did not create us to be superior or inferior; nor master or slave to one another. He created us in his image and likeness to love and be loved by one another.”

 

“We condemn the evil and racist attacks that occurred in last week’s shooting of innocent Black Americans simply buying groceries. We pray for unity, love, peace, and understanding.  We condemn the thoughts and ideologies that encourage horrific and sinful actions against God’s children. We pray that God’s unconditional, unquestionable, and unending love fill our hearts - replacing any and all dehumanizing thoughts and actions that disrespects the sanctity of life and the love we should have for one another. We condemn all harmful and hateful racist thoughts and actions.”

Authorities called the shooting a racially motivated hate crime and said that the gunman specifically targeted the store because it is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of those shot were Black, while the other two victims were white.

The gunman in Buffalo surrendered to police at the scene. The suspect, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, more than 200 miles from Buffalo, was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder.

The gunman is believed to have posted a manifesto online in which he expressed racist, anti-immigrant views and claimed that white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color.

NJ bishops express 'outrage' over plan to mandate insurance coverage for abortion

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey. / JStone/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2022 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

New Jersey’s Catholic bishops on Thursday expressed their disappointment with a proposal by Governor Phil Murphy to expand abortion access in the state, which already recognizes abortion as a constitutional right.

“The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey join to express our disappointment and outrage over Governor Murphy’s announcement regarding proposed legislation to expand access to abortion in New Jersey, an act that by its very nature terminates human life,” the bishops' May 12 statement says. 

“This proposed legislation is a direct attack on the dignity and sanctity of life and is further evidence that we have failed as a society when a mother feels her only option is to end the life of her child,” the statement says.

The proposed legislation, announced in a May 11 press conference by Murphy, a Democrat, would mandate that health insurance plans fully cover abortion; codify regulations allowing non-physicians to perform abortions; and dedicating more taxpayer funds to abortion.

The bill would also protect “medical providers and patients who provide or receive abortion care in New Jersey from legal actions initiated by states which have outlawed abortion,” Murphy said.

Murphy said New Jersey would not be “cooperating with any out of state investigation into our healthcare providers…that seek to punish anyone: patient, provider, counselor, friend, Uber driver, you name it, for providing abortion care.”

CNA contacted Murphy’s office for clarification on which states and laws he is referring to, but a spokesperson was not immediately available for comment by time of publication.

“Ironically,” the bishops’ letter says, “New Jersey already has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the United States and continues to provide abortion providers tens of millions of dollars in public funds to perform these services.”

The letter, signed by the heads of the state’s five Latin rite dioceses and its two Eastern Catholic eparchies, continues: “New Jersey continues to rank among the top three states in annual abortion procedures nationwide. For these reasons it is incomprehensible to force health insurance providers in New Jersey to cover 100 percent of the cost to expand access to these abhorrent services.”

The bishops wrote that the “Catholic Church is committed to opposing this legislation, but more importantly we stand ready to broaden and increase awareness about the abundant resources and programs we offer from pregnancy and foster care centers to clothing, food, housing services, adoption agencies, family resource centers, and national programs.”

The bishops highlighted Walking with Moms in Need, an initiative of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities which supports pregnant women and pregnancy resource centers through parish life. 

“We promise to assist and stand by every mother and family facing a difficult and unplanned pregnancy,” they concluded.

New pro-life movie streaming in theaters this week

Ultrasound image. / Courtesy of Matter of Life

Boston, Mass., May 16, 2022 / 17:18 pm (CNA).

A new pro-life movie that explores the case for life and the repercussions of abortion is airing May 16 and 17 in select theaters around the U.S. 

“We stand at a critical point in history where the legality of abortion is being challenged in the highest courts,” the documentary’s description says. “More than ever, it is important for everyone to know where they stand on abortion and why.”

The movie, “The Matter of Life,” is using the distributor Fathom Events, the same distributor for “The Chosen” Christmas special and the Eucharist film, “ALIVE: Who is there?” The Christian distributor Revelation Media has partnered in distributing and marketing the film, as well.

The more than 750 theater locations and movie times can be found on Fathom Events’ website. Although it is only in theaters for two days, Tracy Robinson, the film's director, told CNA that if enough tickets are sold, the film’s showing could be extended.

However, if the film’s showing is not extended, individuals can still see it by registering on this website to screen the film in their schools or churches for 30 days only after the movie's showing in theaters. Licensing, streaming, and DVD will be available at a later date that is still not determined. You can watch the movie's trailer below.

The documentary “compels us to understand the pro-life case and form our own individual beliefs based on more than what is said in the media,” the description of the movie says.

According to the producers, the film also includes expert testimony as viewers “learn about the history, philosophy, morality, and impact of abortion.” The movie includes powerful testimony from women and former abortion clinic workers, “historians, religious workers, pro-life atheists,” and others are also included, the description says.

Speakers featured in the movie include: Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortionist and OBGYN; Stephanie Gray Conners, a pro-life speaker; Romona Treviño, a former manager at Planned Parenthood; Kristan Hawkins, president at Students for Life; Diane Ferraro, CEO at Save the Storks; Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United For Life; Angela Franks professor of theology at St. John's Seminary in Boston; Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, CEO of New Wave Feminists; Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute, and many more.

“The Matter of Life stresses entering this conversation with understanding, love, and support,” the description says. “Doing so is critical to saving the lives of the unborn and to care for the women who carry them.”

The film, which had a budget of $200,000, was directed by Robinson, a 34-year-old woman who used to be a “pro-choice Christian,” the film’s website says.

Robinson, who has a background in video production for documentaries, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly's Prudence Robertson in an May 14 interview that she had been making videos for pregnancy resource centers in 2016 but “was in the mushy middle” on the topic of abortion. She was working in the center because she appreciated the work it was doing for women, Robinson said. You can watch the full interview below.

Robinson, of San Diego, said that her friends at the clinic invited her to a presentation on the topic of abortion at a church in 2016. The topic of the presentation was the case against abortion, she said. 

“In less than two hours the message just clarified for me the true humanity of the unborn child, from the moment of conception and the whole reality of what abortion does really struck me,” Robinson said. 

She continued, “and so I immediately felt compelled to make a documentary because I knew there were so many people in my shoes — young adults, who had never heard the message before clearly.”

Robinson said that she was motivated to research more about how society came to widely accept abortion while learning about the “amazing multi-faceted pro-life movement and so I wanted to take others on this journey with me. 

Robinson told Robertson that the film will eventually be coming to streaming and DVD, but she did not say when. 

Read Carl Anderson's commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College

Carl Anderson, former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, March 17, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Los Angeles, Calif., May 16, 2022 / 13:25 pm (CNA).

In his address to the graduates of Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday, Carl Anderson, former head of the Knights of Columbus, urged that they take up the task of the Catholic intellectual life.

"In addition to what the Lord may be calling you to do—for example, a vocation to the priesthood or religious life or to marriage and family life—you now have the opportunity to continue a life of learning in a special Catholic way," Anderson said May 14 at the commencement ceremony of the college's Santa Paula, California, campus.

The vocation of the Catholic intellectual life leads "to a unity of the love of learning with the love of God" and the "responsibility of serving divine truth through a life of Christian witness," he said.

During the commencement exercises, Anderson received the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion in recognition of his "unceasing efforts to protect the lives of the unborn ... and his leadership of the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus.”

Find below the full text of Anderson's commencement address, Take Up the Vocation of the Catholic Intellectual Life:

I am most grateful for the invitation to be with you today.  Fifty years ago, my wife and I were like you: graduating after having completed a “great books” program at our university.  Although our experience was in many ways different than your experience, we have always felt close to Thomas Aquinas College and so, we are very glad to be with you especially this year as you celebrate your fiftieth anniversary. I have had a varied career in government, academia, business, charity and civil society.  During all that time, no educational experience has served me better than has that multi-year study of those great books. Time and again I have turned to them for wisdom and insight—and most importantly to better understand the significance of current events.  

Let no one tell you that your college experience here was not relevant. Throughout my life I have found such education to be the most relevant.  The world will tell you that what is most important in your life is what you “have.” But you know that what is most important is who you “are.”  Because wherever you go and whatever you do, the most important value proposition you can bring to any situation is you.  Of course, technical and professional skills are important.  But what is more important is your judgment, your wisdom, your compassion, and your integrity.  

Advances in artificial intelligence will continue to make great improvements in the work environment.  But artificial intelligence will never replace what is in your heart and soul.

We commonly refer to studies such as that at TAC as a great books program, but here it is more than that.  I think of it as an encounter with the genius of the West. That genius has taken many forms in many different disciplines and its diversity is like nothing else in the world. We may look at this from many different perspectives. But in a fundamental sense, it is the working out through history of the meeting of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome.  As you know well, this development reached a profound unity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  Even more fundamentally, we may see this in the context of salvation history as the encounter of this genius with the reality of the Incarnation. As you know, this process continues. With the help of an outstanding faculty, you have been part of it. Your achievement now sets you apart from virtually every other college graduate in America.

Thomas Aquinas College has been a great gift to you made possible by the sacrifice of your families, the dedication of the faculty, and the vision of those who built and now sustain this beautiful campus and academic program.  Yet the value of any gift also depends on how it is received. You have not only embraced this gift, but you have worked hard to develop it. Today, we are justly proud of all you have achieved.  

Now, as you graduate, with this gift comes a great task. This task is one that you have already begun.  It is what I would call the vocation of the Catholic intellectual life.  In addition to what the Lord may be calling you to do—for example, a vocation to the priesthood or religious life or to marriage and family life—you now have the opportunity to continue a life of learning in a special Catholic way.  

We often speak of our Church as a pilgrim church. This idea reflects the reality that our life of Catholic faith is not something we possess, but rather is something towards which we continually strive—and not only on our own but as part of a community.  We are all on a life’s journey and for some of us an intellectual pilgrimage is an important part of that journey. You are here today because during the past four years you have made a serious commitment to the scholarly life—a life of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and discipline.  It is to be hoped that this work has not exhausted your wonder at the world which the Lord has given us and the human drama that has been our history in it.  The intellectual life is very much part of the identity of many who have taken up the religious life, as we see in the Dominicans and the Benedictines.  Their communities embody a Catholic culture of learning. Their legacy is part of the great patrimony of our Church.  Yet, there is no reason why lay men and women should not also embrace a life of learning and create a culture of learning. 

You have been given an opportunity that few other Catholics in the world have been given. You have begun an intellectual pilgrimage grounded in some of the greatest works of Christianity—the classic texts of our Faith—with a unique scholarly community. Today should mark a continuation, not an ending, of this chapter in your life. 

Today, our Church needs more of us to take up the special task of defending the truths of our Faith.  Certainly, at the institutional level there are offices in the Church such as that of bishop and theologian as well as academic faculties that have responsibility for safeguarding and communicating the truths of our Faith.  But there is no reason why a new generation of lay men and women who do not hold such positions 

should not also take up this task and in their own way share in this mission. Some might even say the times demand it. 

I would suggest that you look closely at the scholar for whom this institution is named. St. Thomas Aquinas is rightly celebrated as the outstanding model of the Catholic intellectual life.  He truly embodies this vocation, which is to say, a life caught up in the love of learning and the desire for God.  He lived a life of uncompromising and dispassionate discipline in the search for truth.  And he complemented that discipline with a serene confidence, humility and charity in its application. He showed us that the Catholic intellectual has a sacred call, and in response to it he or she must practice the virtues of the Catholic life—and especially those at the center of this life—the virtues of charity and humility. It is a vocation that we could say begins with these words of St. Thomas: “All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, has its origin in the Holy Spirit.” (Omne veru, a quocumque dicitur, a Spiritu Sancto est.)

Thus, we begin in a spirit of humility both as to what we may learn from others as well as what we may ourselves contribute. The Catholic intellectual does not stand alone. Rather he or she is always a member of a community that extends through time—a community that is entrusted with understanding and preserving a great inheritance. It is an inheritance which arises from the very heart of the Church and, like the mission of the Church itself, is intended to bring the reality of the Incarnation ever more deeply into the life of the intellect and thus into the life of the believer.  During your studies the greatest book you have opened is you—and it is in this book that the Lord has been writing during your time here.  No study program, no matter how great, can substitute for what he has written in your heart.  St. Thomas lived in an age when reading and study were closely associated with prayer. A familiar adage of the time was: “You should apply yourself to prayer or to reading: at times you speak with God, at times he speaks with you.”  

The vocation of the Catholic intellectual life goes beyond learning the Christian classics.  It is not about seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge or for the sake of power.  Instead, it is about entrusting oneself to the Spirit of truth. I have suggested this is a vocation that proceeds from the inseparable connection between the love of learning and the desire for God.  But ultimately this vocation moves us beyond this to a unity of the love of learning with the love of God.  It sets our spirit in the one direction that Pope John Paul II told us is the only direction for our intellect, will and heart and that direction is toward Christ.  Thus, a disciplined life of prayer as well as that of reading Sacred Scripture are irreplaceable elements of an authentic Catholic intellectual life.  Here as well St. Thomas Aquinas serves as our sure guide to the sum and summit of the Catholic intellectual life. There is a story told about him that as his death was approaching, he heard the Lord say: “You have spoken well of Me Thomas, what reward would you like?” To which he replied, “Nothing but Yourself, Lord.”   

It has been said that not every age is as good as every other, but there is one age that for us surpasses them all and that one is our own. I need not tell you the challenges which our society presents to those who would faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Some of the most painful examples of those challenges are here in California where agents of the cancel culture have defaced our churches and torn down statues of saints such as Junipero Serra.  Contemporary culture challenges every believer.  But few are better prepared to respond to these challenges than are you. Because in order to defend a culture from those who would cancel it, you must first know it. And few know the achievement of Western genius and the culture which it has produced better than you. Culture is a shorthand way of speaking about what we mean by the way of life of a people: their ideas, their aspirations, their spiritual values, and what they have sacrificed over generations to achieve and why they have done so.  Those who take up the vocation of the Catholic intellectual life have a special responsibility in this regard.

The Thomistic scholar, Etienne Gilson often recounted his experience as a soldier in the French army during the First World War and especially the time a dying French soldier begged him to hear his confession.  Because of such experiences, Gilson could easily have joined those who, disillusioned after the Great War, became members of the so-called “Lost Generation.”  Instead, Gilson and other Catholic philosophers went in a different direction.  They took up the challenge presented by Pope Leo XIII in Aeterni Patris.  They agreed with this great pope on the importance of St. Thomas Aquinas, and they led a rebirth in Thomistic studies.  Undoubtedly at the time, some questioned the relevance of their attention to medieval philosophy. Yet, as we know, no work could have been more relevant to the crisis of the West than the recovery of the great intellectual genius and spirituality of our Catholic Faith. 

These scholars lived in an intellectual culture which since the Enlightenment had put the God of Christianity on trial, and which had found his church guilty of a long list of falsehoods.  Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, the geniuses of the French Enlightenment, positioned their attack on Christianity as a debate between reason and superstition.  They were astute enough in championing the Age of Reason to avoid directly confronting the sublime genius of Christian reason found in the work of the Angelic Doctor.  Their strategy was effective, if cowardly—simply ignore the work of St. Thomas Aquinas and move on.  But their Age of Reason was only a half-way point.  By relying upon an intelligible universe and a rational Creator, the Age of Reason ended up pointing the Nineteenth Century in one of two directions: once again toward the rational faith of Christianity, or alternatively toward the new anti-faith of atheism. 

Pope Leo XIII saw the choice more clearly than most and he sought to build a new confidence in Christian philosophy.  First, by emphasizing the importance of St. Thomas in Aeterni Patris (1879) and then by showing the relevance of such reasoning in finding solutions to the social crises of the day in his great economic encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891).  

But by this time the philosophical turn toward atheism was well underway. The new attack on Christianity was no longer presented as a confrontation between reason and superstition.  Instead, Christianity was said to have created something far more sinister—it had created an entirely false consciousness in the mind of the believer. The fathers of modern atheism: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, each in their own way sought to dismantle what they said was the false consciousness of Christianity.  Whether in the areas of history and economics, freedom and autonomy or psychoanalysis and science, they sought to “wake up” society with a new narrative of reality. The problem for them was not that people have wrong ideas that must be corrected, but that people have an entirely wrong way of looking at reality that must be replaced. That is what they really mean when they describe Christianity as “the opium of the people,” or as “a slave religion” or as a “neurosis.” And it is precisely this false consciousness that prevents society from obtaining economic justice, personal autonomy and individual happiness.

You may judge for yourself the extent to which this thinking has seeped into the ground water of America’s culture. But to the extent that it has, more of our fellow citizens live as though God does not exist.  They live their lives in a closed-in materialist world—a world with no transcendent horizon.  While much here is new, one thing hasn’t changed. Being newly “woke” means feeling no need to climb the heights of Christian philosophy with St. Thomas Aquinas since that philosophy has meaning only within the false consciousness of the Christian.

It seems to me we have once again a problem like that described by Plato in his allegory of the cave.  But this time with a modern twist.  We have people locked in the cave of a materialist world unable or unwilling to turn to the light. They see only the shadows of a secular culture passing in front of them and they call it reality.  And this reality is increasingly one of indifference, isolation and despair.  How then are we to encourage people to escape their cave, to turn and face the light?  Our problem is even more difficult than Plato’s.  In The Republic, Plato is in dialogue with people for whom the soul, the good, the true, the right and the beautiful have meaning.  His readers contemplate an intelligible world with truths that can be discovered by human reason.  Not so today.  Many of those around us do not share these ideas.  Nor do they have confidence in the intelligibility of the world and in the reliability of human reason.  

So, what is to be done? How are we to encourage people to turn away from the shadows of doubt and suspicion and to step out into the light of Christian faith?  St. John Paul II spoke directly to this problem throughout his pontificate.  Listen to what he writes in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis: “The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ.”  It seems to me that “to direct man’s gaze” to the redemption taking place now in the world is to supplement the reasoning of philosophy and theology with the experience of God acting in the lives of believers.  It is to point to the way in which redemption is happening today in the concrete reality of our lives as Christians.  In other words, what it means to us that Christ is our Redeemer. As St. Peter advises us, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (and) Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).  

The witness of redemption is the great drama of Christianity in every age.  In this sense we may even say that every age is a Christian age.  This is true because in every age the Lord is alive and acting through the lives of his followers and therefore every age is an age of Christian witness.  Your age will be so because of your witness.  Here the Catholic intellectual finds his or her greatest responsibility—the responsibility of serving divine truth through a life of Christian witness.  St. John Paul II tells us: “Being responsible for that truth also means loving it and seeking the most exact understanding of it, in order to bring it closer to ourselves and all its saving power, its splendor and its profundity.”

Etienne Gilson once said of St. Thomas Aquinas that “Wisdom, to him, was not philosophy; it was not even theology; in its only perfect form, wisdom was Christ.”  If you commit your lives to seeking this Wisdom, as did St. Thomas, then you will be those witnesses that our time requires and that the Lord is calling you to be.

Cardinal Stafford urges a rediscovery of the Liturgy of the Hours

Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, in December 2021. / Sandra Miley

Denver, Colo., May 16, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

What does it mean to pray “ceaselessly”?

For Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the answer to that question is the key to an “unspeakable joy.”

“We have to rediscover the fruits of the Holy Spirit. One of those fruits is joy,” Stafford said.  “And that is the joy of being children of God.”

Stafford is set to deliver a free online lecture on the Liturgy of the Hours on May 21. 

The Liturgy of the Hours, also referred to as the Divine Office or breviary, has been a fixture of Catholic prayer for centuries. Clerics and religious pray the full Liturgy of the Hours every day, and Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy, encouraged the laity to recite it as well. Sacrosanctum Concilium also said pastors “should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts.”

Stafford described the Liturgy of the Hours to CNA as “the prayer book of the Church,” saying praying it can help Catholics avoid making “idols” out of daily tasks and routines, and instead making time for God throughout the day. 

How difficult it is, he reflected, to “move from the idols of each hour, and to give worship to the only One that is worthy of us.” Stafford said in his view, a renewed understanding of the meaning of time is necessary, so that “we don't make idols of what we're doing in time.”

“I'm so engaged in the course of a day in my daily activities…not just engaged, but I'm committed to it. I'm kind of overwhelmed by it. They almost become idols for me. In fact they do become idols,” Stafford said. 

“So, the Liturgy of the Hours is a call, for me at least, to give priority to numero uno — to God the Father through Jesus.” 

Stafford noted that in the course of the day, “we are urged sursum corda, to lift up our hearts” to God, repeatedly. He encouraged families, in particular, to learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and to do so together. 

“The Liturgy of the Hours is central to the spiritual life of the family...for the already baptized, it engages them in the gift that the Church gives them,” Stafford said. 

You can RSVP for Stafford’s livestreamed lecture on the Liturgy of the Hours, presented by the Lay Division at Denver's St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and set to begin at 10 am Mountain Time on May 21, here

Roe v. Wade: No decision today in Dobbs abortion case

U.S. Capitol viewed through the columns of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 16, 2022 / 09:46 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court’s first “opinion issuance day” since the leak of a draft opinion suggesting justices will overturn Roe v. Wade came and went Monday without a decision in a closely watched Mississippi abortion case.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, remains one of 35 the court still must rule on before its summer recess.

The court announced last week that it would release one or more opinions Monday. It issued two shortly after 10 a.m. EDT: Patel v. Garland, an immigration case, and Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, which concerns a federal campaign finance law. 

While the court traditionally waits to issue decisions in bigger, more controversial cases like Dobbs until the end of the court’s term in late June or early July, the leak of the draft opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., threw into question that expectation.

In the wake of the bombshell leak, first published by Politico on May 2, abortion activists protested outside of justices’ private homes and attacked Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers. At the same time, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. stressed that the “work of the Court will not be affected in any way” by the leaked draft, which the Supreme Court confirmed is authentic. 

While the draft opinion signals that the court will overturn Roe v. Wade, and send the issue of abortion back to the states, the Supreme Court urged that the document “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

Pro-life legal experts previously outlined multiple possibilities regarding the timing of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case to CNA.

The next opinion issuance day has not yet been scheduled on the Supreme Court’s calendar.

Bishop condemns 'abhorrently evil' slaying of 10 at Buffalo supermarket

olice on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. According to reports, at least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody. / John Normile/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 15, 2022 / 06:16 am (CNA).

Ten people were killed and three others injured Saturday when a teenage gunman opened fire with an assault rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

Authorities are calling the mass shooting a racially motivated hate crime and say the gunman specifically targeted the store because it is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of those shot were Black, while the other two victims were white, authorities said.

The gunman, identified as Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, livestreamed the attack. He surrendered to police at the scene.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher of the Diocese of Buffalo issued a statement on Twitter after the shootings.

Fisher said that “what unfortunately has become an all too common occurrence in this country has now shown its abhorrently evil face in Buffalo as we have now learned that 10 innocent souls have lost their lives here.

“On behalf of the Diocese of Buffalo, I, in the strongest of terms, condemn this utterly senseless act and pray for the victims and all those impacted by this act of cowardice,” Fisher said.

“May the Good Lord guide us as we pray that our society regain respect for life and for an end to this tragic and despicable act in this beautiful city of ours. I encourage all Catholics and all people of faith to come together in prayer for the victims and for peace.”

The statement concluded: “The scourge of senseless gun violence that has taken the lives of so many across our nation and changed the lives of countless innocent men, women and children must come to an end.”

After driving some 200 miles to Buffalo, Gendron parked outside the Tops Friendly Market around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, authorities said. He began shooting in the parking lot, where he killed three people and injured another person, authorities said. He then moved inside the store, where he exchanged fire with a retired Buffalo police officer working as a security guard, killing him, authorities said.

The guard shot Gendron but the gunman’s tactical gear prevented him from being seriously injured, authorities said. Gendron proceeded to shoot more people inside the store before police arriving at the scene talked him into surrendering.

The gunman is believed to have posted a manifesto online in which he expresses racist, anti-immigrant views and claims that white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color, the New York Times reported.

He was arraigned on first-degree murder charges and appeared in court Saturday evening wearing a bandage over his shoulder, USA Today reported.

The White House issued a statement from President Biden on the shootings Saturday evening.

“Tonight, we grieve for the families of ten people whose lives were senselessly taken and everyone who is suffering the physical and emotional wounds of this horrific shooting. We are grateful for the bravery of members of law enforcement and other first responders who took immediate action to try to protect and save lives. The First Lady and I are praying for the victims and their families, and hearts all across this country are with the people of Buffalo,” Biden said.

“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” Biden continued. 

“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”

Arrest made in Texas church theft, though tabernacle remains missing

The tabernacle belonging to St. Bartholomew the Apostle Catholic Church in Katy, Texas, was stolen May 8, 2022. / Screenshot from YouTube video

Houston, Texas, May 14, 2022 / 15:03 pm (CNA).

A suspect has been charged with burglary in connection with the theft of a tabernacle from a parish church in Greater Houston, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston announced Friday.

The tabernacle had been stolen from St. Bartholomew the Apostle Catholic Church in Katy, Texas, May 8.

“Thanks to the Katy Police Department's diligent efforts and skill, a suspect has been apprehended and charged with burglary. It is our understanding the theft was not motivated by last week's release of the draft Supreme Court opinion involving Roe v Wade,” the Galveston-Houston archdiocese announced May 13.

“Sadly, the tabernacle has not yet been recovered, though efforts by the Katy police are ongoing. In any case, such a theft beyond material price is immeasurably hurtful to us and speaking theologically, is sacrilegious.”

The suspect was identified by the Houston Chronicle as Christian James Meritt.

The archdiocese stated: “We offer our profound gratitude to the Katy Police for their hard work in the investigation.”

“We ask all to continue praying with us for the parish and all those involved in this matter,” it added.

Catholic University awards honorary degree to imprisoned human rights advocate Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong media tycoon and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai. / Napa Institute.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 14, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Catholic University of America on Saturday awarded an honorary degree to imprisoned Hong Kong human rights advocate Jimmy Lai. His adult son, Sebastien Lai, accepted the award on his father’s behalf.

The younger Lai spoke about the university’s recognition of his father in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo earlier this week.

“It really means a lot to have the support of all these great people,” he said on “The World Over” May 12.

“I’m sure he’ll be very happy to receive this award, and I’m sure knowing that all these people are praying for him, and knowing that all these people have the same thoughts towards freedom and freedom of religion, freedom of expression, will make him incredibly happy," he added. You can watch the full interview in the video below.


A devout Catholic and media magnate, Jimmy Lai, 74, has been arrested numerous times for his pro-democracy activism and is awaiting trial on sedition charges related to the stringent national security law the China’s communist government imposed on Hong Kong in July 2020.

Most recently he was sentenced in December 2021 to 13 months in prison on a charge of unlawful assembly, stemming from his participation in an annual vigil commemorating the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Authorities in Hong Kong also have shuttered Lai’s influential Hong Kong newspaper, Apple Daily.

Under the new security law, a person who is convicted of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.

In a video interview produced by the Napa Institute prior to his imprisonment, Lai spoke about his Catholic faith and the role it played in his outspoken defense of human rights for the past 30 years, citing "the Lord's teaching that your life is not about yourself."

"When you lift yourself above your own self-interest, you find the meaning of life. You find you're doing the right thing, which is so wonderful. It changed my life into a different thing," Jimmy Lai said of his conversion to Catholicism in 1997.

"The way I look at it, if I suffer for the right cause, it only defines the person I am becoming. It can only be good for me to become a better person. If you believe in the Lord, if you believe that all suffering has a reason, and the Lord is suffering with me … I'm at peace with it."

Bestowed during The Catholic University of America’s commencement in Washington, D.C. Saturday, the honorary degree comes just days after Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong and outspoken advocate for human rights and religious freedom in China, was detained by Hong Kong’s national security forces. Zen baptized Jimmy Lai in 1997.

In his interview with Arroyo, Sebastien Lai spoke about Zen as a close friend of his family and said his detention was a “strong act” by Hong Kong authorities.

The younger Lai observed that “Hong Kong used to be this island off the coast of China that had its own legal system and freedoms and it just seems that these ideals keep getting degraded every single news cycle.”

He said he is able to correspond with his father, who he said draws a picture of Jesus on the back of each letter he sends.

The Catholic University of America’s Class of 2022 has 1,496 graduates. Dominican Father Joseph White, O.P., rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, delivered this year’s commencement speech.