X

Browsing News Entries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No time for complacency

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A large Catholic presence’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge blocks COVID vaccine mandate for federal employees

null / oasisamuel/Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knights of Columbus donates 1500th ultrasound machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Roe is not settled law,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Gregory criticizes activist group's 'antics' at basilica on eve of March for Life

Pro-choice messages projected onto the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2022. / Catholics for Choice

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, responded strongly Friday to an activist group's projection of pro-choice messages on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Thursday night, the eve of the annual March for Life.

Gregory said in a Jan. 21 statement: "Those whose antics projected words on the outside of the church building demonstrated by those pranks that they really are external to the Church and they did so at night – John 13:30."

Referring to Judas Iscariot, John 13:30 reads, “He therefore having received the morsel, went out immediately. And it was night.”

Gregory said, “The true voice of the Church was only to be found within The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last evening. There, people prayed and offered the Eucharist asking God to restore a true reverence for all human life.”

Catholics for Choice was responsible for the images, which for 90 minutes were beamed from a median across the street from the basilica while a prayer vigil to end abortion was going on inside.

In large letters visible blocks from the basilica, the messages read “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS YOU ARE NOT ALONE,” “1 IN 4 ABORTION PATIENTS IS CATHOLIC,” and “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS.”

Other slogans included the words “STOP STIGMATIZING” and “START LISTENING” on the church. The words were projected on both the 329-foot bell tower and upper facade of the church above the front entrance. The projections included Spanish translations of the messages as well.

“The March for Life twists our faith to villainize people who seek abortion services and silences the 68% of Catholics who do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned,” Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson said in a statement.

“That’s why, during the ‘Vigil for Life’ at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., we prominently projected our message to Catholics who support legal abortion access and those who have abortions themselves: no matter what the Church hierarchy tries to make you think, you are not alone,” she said.

The images were first reported on Twitter by Jack Jenkins of Religious News Service. Widely shared on social media, the images drew some support but also sharp denunciations.

"The attempted desecration is enormous. Diabolical," Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco tweeted. "Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen."

"Just when you thought @Catholic4Choice couldn’t sink any lower. The group inside is praying for babies and mothers—and for the group outside to repent and believe the Gospel," tweeted Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

The American Life League tweeted on Friday, “Not only do they hate God's Law ‘Thou shall not kill’, they hate His houses of prayer, too.”

Catholics for Choice’s act underscores a rise in hostility toward this year's March for Life, when many pro-life Americans are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization is expected in June.

On Saturday, a group called NYC for Abortion Rights plans to hold a rally titled "F--- the March for Life" outside St. Patrick's Cathedral. "Come picket and MAKE SOME NOISE with us!! We're disrupting the Catholic Church's anti-abortion bull--- on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision,” the group tweeted Wednesday.

“MEANWHILE, we're going to commemorate by disrupting their bull---- as much as we can, at the symbol of the Catholic Church's grotesque power in NY. Come speak out, sing, play, and show the antis that abortion isn't going away, and we aren't either,” the tweet says.

Seven things to know about March for Life speaker Father Mike Schmitz

Father Mike Schmitz / Courtesy of Ascension

Denver Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates are expected to gather at the National Mall in Washington later today for the annual March for Life. The march will kick off with a noon rally featuring speakers including the host of the “Bible in a Year” podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz. Here are seven things to know about the priest:

1. Schmitz was raised Catholic. He is one of six kids. But his faith was not a priority in his life until he had what he described as an encounter with Christ in Confession at the age of 15. “That really affected me such that I said to myself, ‘This is real.’,” Schmitz said in an interview with Legatus magazine. “There was an interior recognition that I need this, I need Jesus. It led me down the road to asking God what He wants.”

2. He was ordained a priest in 2003 for the Diocese of Duluth. He is Director of Youth Ministry for the diocese, and chaplain at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He has said his favorite part about being a priest is celebrating the sacraments. “I love offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” he said in a Q&A with the Newman Center where he is chaplain. “I love preaching. I love hearing confessions. There is nothing that I know of that can compare with getting to be a part of someone’s Great Story, the story that God is calling His children to live.”

3. He left a relationship to enter the seminary. Schmitz shares his vocation story in a 2021 episode of his podcast. 

4. He gained national attention through a video series he started in 2015 with Ascension Press. The videos have covered topics including forgiveness, the saints, and relationships. He continues to produce those videos today

5. He is perhaps best known for hosting The Bible in a Year podcast. The podcast jumped to the top of Apple Podcasts charts within hours of publishing its first episode on Jan. 1, 2021, surpassing secular podcasts produced by organizations including The New York Times and National Public Radio. In 2021, it hit 142 million downloads, and 3.3 billion minutes of listening worldwide.

6. Though The Bible in a Year is complete, Schmitz will be involved in an upcoming virtual retreat for the community that grew around the podcast. The three-day retreat will take place Feb. 18-20. Schmitz is also in the early stages of developing a catechism-in-a-year podcast. 

7. Schmitz has long been a staunch pro-life advocate. The priest has said someone cannot be both Catholic and pro-abortion. “Abortion is one of the “deal breaker” issues,” he wrote in a 2014 Q&A. “If my conscience leads me to the place where I think it is okay for a person to be able to murder another innocent person, then I’m not Catholic. By that point, I’ve left the Church. No one is “kicking me out”; I’ve already left.”

‘A Wonderful Life’: Meet the woman with Down syndrome speaking at March for Life

Pro-life advocate Katie Shaw / Courtesy of March for Life

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

Katie Shaw is many things: a champion for the unborn, an advocate for those with disabilities, a faithful Catholic, and, now, a March for Life speaker. She also happens to have Down syndrome.

Her message to the world, she says, is Psalm 139:14.

“The main reason I became a national pro-life speaker is because of God calling me to tell everyone Psalm 139:14: ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’” she told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in 2020. 

On Friday, the 37-year-old pro-life advocate will witness to this message when she speaks to the tens of thousands of marchers expected at the Washington, D.C., March for Life, the largest pro-life event in the country that condemns abortion and celebrates life.

Shaw serves on the board of Down Syndrome Indiana, meets with politicans such as then-president Donald Trump, and lobbies for pro-life legislation, particularly legislation prohibiting the discrimination of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. Estimates suggest that nearly 70% of these babies are aborted in the United States.

But Shaw’s story begins in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

“My dad and mom found out I had Down syndrome when mom was pregnant with me,” she said at Rehumanize Conference 2018. “My mom's doctors never mentioned abortion. My parents feared the unknown and were sad that I was going to have surgery as soon as I was born, but the doctors started helping my parents plan what would help me have a wonderful life.”

She grew up in a Catholic family, she said, and was baptized the day after she was born. She later received First Holy Communion and confirmation. 

“My Catholic faith keeps me strong and knowing God is behind me,” she told EWTN.

While Shaw progressed through school, she picked up hobbies such as violin and softball. She earned her GED, the equivalency of a high-school diploma. 

As an adult, she worked in child care and retail. Now, she also dedicates her life to the unborn.

“My parents have always been pro-life, so they have always taught me that every life is a gift, that every life is wonderful, but the older I get, the more I realize not everyone sees that,” she said during the Rehumanize conference. “Ableism is not just seen in the medical field. As we all know, many people would prefer to end the pregnancy if there even might be a problem and they might ‘try again.’”

“That is why,” she added, “I want to help unborn babies, and their moms, and everyone see what a wonderful life we can all have.” You can watch Katie's interview with EWTN in the video below.

According to Shaw, “people with Down syndrome are just like everyone else.” 

“I play sports, I'm in a book club, I like hanging out with my friends and family, and I do the mini marathons, and I volunteer at my parish and Down Syndrome Indiana,” she told EWTN.

While she admitted “we have ups and downs like everyone,” she added that “I always say I have a wonderful life.”

During an interview with Life Issues Institute in 2020, Shaw emphasized the beauty of every life, regardless of disability.

“Even though babies — the most defenseless — have a disability or not, you should not just kill them,” she said. Because we have wonderful lives and all lives should be about celebrating anybody and people with disabilities too.”

Speaking with EWTN, she shared advice for moms and dads who might be expecting a baby prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome.

“I want them to know that the child is a gift from God and to cherish every moment with them,” she said. “Their child is beautifully and wonderfully made too, and who knows what God has chosen them to be.”

She concluded, “Help your baby's life be wonderful and your life will be wonderful.”