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Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in historic abortion decision

Demonstrators on both sides of the abortion issue outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2022 / 08:24 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade in a historic 6-3 decision released Friday that brings a sudden and dramatic end to nearly a half-century of nationwide legalized abortion in the U.S. 

The opinion, in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is widely seen as the Supreme Court’s most highly anticipated and consequential ruling since Roe. It not only overturns Roe, the landmark 1973 abortion case, but also Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that affirmed Roe.

"Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority," the opinion states. "We now overrule these decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives." You can read the full opinion below.

The Dobbs opinion was written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion. Thomas and Kavanaugh filed concurring opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts filed an opinion concurring in the judgement. Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.

"In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles. With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent," the dissenting opinion reads.

The decision does not ban or criminalize abortion, nor does it recognize an unborn child's constitutional right to life. But in one, breathtaking stroke, the court’s action sweeps away entrenched legal barriers, created and strictly enforced by the federal judiciary, that for decades have blocked states like Mississippi from heavily restricting or prohibiting the killing of unborn children in the womb.

In the process, the decision ushers in a new era of abortion politics in the U.S., with the battleground now shifting to state legislatures. Those democratically elected bodies are now free to debate and regulate abortion as they see fit, as happened throughout American history before the Supreme Court federalized the issue.

“An entirely new pro-life movement begins today. We are ready to go on offense for life in every single one of those legislative bodies, in each statehouse and the White House," Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life American President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement Friday. "Over the next few years we will have the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands, even millions of lives by limiting the horror of abortion in many states."

Speaking from the White House Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden, a Catholic who ardently supports legalized abortion, called the court's opinion "a tragic mistake."

"It's a sad date for the country, in my view, but that doesn't mean the fight is over," Biden said. He called for Congress to codify Roe and the legal framework it created into federal law.

Acknowledging widespread anger and disappointment at the court's decision, Biden called for demonstrations to remain peaceful, saying, "Threats and intimidation are not speech."

Catholic bishops respond

Friday's ruling marks a watershed moment for the Catholic Church and the wider pro-life movement in the United States, which have painstakingly sought Roe’s reversal since the landmark 7-2 decision was handed down on Jan. 19, 1973.

"America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said in a joint statement following the opinion's release.

"This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life," the Catholic bishops continued. "We thank God today that the Court has now overturned this decision." Gomez is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Lori is chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

"Today’s decision is also the fruit of the prayers, sacrifices, and advocacy of countless ordinary Americans from every walk of life. Over these long years, millions of our fellow citizens have worked together peacefully to educate and persuade their neighbors about the injustice of abortion, to offer care and counseling to women, and to work for alternatives to abortion, including adoption, foster care, and public policies that truly support families," the statement continued.

"We share their joy today and we are grateful to them. Their work for the cause of life reflects all that is good in our democracy, and the pro-life movement deserves to be numbered among the great movements for social change and civil rights in our nation’s history."

Decision conforms to leaked draft

The outcome of Dobbs came as little surprise, since the final opinion substantially resembled a draft written by Alito in February that was leaked to the press on May 2.

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, directly challenged both decisions, because it bans abortion weeks after 15 weeks, well before the point of viability.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have inflamed debate and deepened division," the opinion states.

"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," the opinion states.

Roberts writes own opinion

In his opinion concurring in the judgment, Roberts called for a narrower ruling.

"The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases," his opinion reads. "A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case."

"My point is that Roe adopted two distinct rules of constitutional law: one, that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy; two, that such right may be overridden by the State’s legitimate interests when the fetus is viable outside the womb," he added at another point. "The latter is obviously distinct from the former. I would abandon that timing rule, but see no need in this case to consider the basic right."

This is a developing story.

1-year challenge: Knights of Columbus aims to raise $5M for pro-life clinics, maternity homes

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Mansfield, Mass., Jun 23, 2022 / 18:12 pm (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus announced Thursday a new goal to donate at least $5 million to pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes across the United States and Canada by June 30, 2023. 

“As Knights, we are called to courage and self-sacrifice,” Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said in a press release. “Standing for life means making personal sacrifices for women and children in need — being willing to give of our time, skills and financial resources, and accepting the fact that the fruits of our labors are often hidden.”

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

The new call for funding of pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes comes at a time when many centers across the country are paying out of pocket for increased security measures and repairs. 

Those new infrastructure developments at centers are a direct result of the many vandalisms that have occurred at pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation. 

The vandalism began in early May when the news outlet Politico leaked a Supreme Court draft ruling showing that the justices may have been prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

The new initiative is called Aid and Support After Pregnancy or “ASAP” for short. ASAP aims to raise the money by calling on all U.S. and Canadian councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and “other organizations which give direct assistance to new mothers and/or babies.”

“Mothers and children need our help now more than ever,” Kelly said. 

The KofC has a strong history of supporting pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation. One of the organization's projects is its Ultrasound Initiative, which has provided pro-life pregnancy centers in all 50 states with more than 1,500 ultrasound machines since 2009.

The KofC says its members have volunteered at pro-life pregnancy centers for more than 1.7 million hours collectively from 2018 to 2021. Over that time, the KofC donated more than $18 million in funds and supplies to pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes, according to the press release.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to note the end date of the fund drive is June 30, 2023.

Records of Jews who sought Vatican help during Holocaust to go public

Pope Francis receives a facsimile of a 1919 letter by Adolf Hitler for the Vatican archives during an audience with a delegation of Simon Wiesenthal Center at the Vatican, June 22, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Relatives of Holocaust survivors and victims can now look through the files of more than 2,700 Jews who sought help through Vatican channels to escape Nazi persecution before and during the Second World War. The archives have gone public on the internet at the request of Pope Francis.

The files constitute “a heritage that is precious because it gathers the requests for help sent to Pope Pius XII by Jewish people, both the baptized and the non-baptized, after the beginning of Nazi and fascist persecution,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, said in a June 23 article for Vatican News.

This heritage is “now easily accessible to the entire world thanks to a project aimed at publishing the complete digitalized version of the archival series,” he said. “Making the digitized version of the entire Jews/Jewish people series available on the internet will allow the descendants of those who asked for help, to find traces of their loved ones from any part of the world. At the same time, it will allow scholars and anyone interested, to freely examine this special archival heritage, from a distance.”

The files are hosted at the website for the Historical Archive of the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States and International Organizations. The archive hosts a photographic reproduction of each document and an analytical inventory that names all those requesting help.

The series pertains to the papacy of Venerable Pius XII, who was elected pope on March 2, 1939, just six months before the start of the war.

Some requests written by Jews or on behalf of Jews sought help to obtain visas or passports, to find asylum, or to reunify families. Others sought freedom from detention or transfers to a different concentration camp. They sought news of deported people or asked for supplies of food or clothes, financial support, spiritual support, and more.

Requests went through the Secretariat of State, and Church diplomatic channels would try to provide “all the help possible,” said Gallagher.

In 2020, when this archive was first opened to researchers, Vatican officials described the documents as “Pacelli’s List,” using the family name of Pope Pius XII to allude to the “Schindler’s List” of the Stephen Spielberg film about a German who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.

“Although the two cases differ, the analogy perfectly expresses the idea that people in the corridors of the institution at the service of the pontiff, worked tirelessly to provide Jewish people with practical help,” Gallagher said.

Critics of Venerable Pius XII have said he did not do enough to oppose Nazism or to help Jews during the Holocaust. His defenders point to the pope’s record before and during the war, including significant evidence of Vatican assistance for Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis.

The archive series is 170 volumes in total, about 40,000 digital files. About 70% of the material will be made available immediately, but the final volumes are still being integrated into the collection, the Holy See Press Office said in a June 23 bulletin published in the English, Italian, and Hebrew languages.

Most of the Secretariat of State’s foreign relations files were named for geographical subjects, not for a race or religion of people. The Ebrei Archival Series was named “Jews” or “Jewish people” in Italian because “its aim is to preserve the petitions for help from Jewish people all over Europe, received by the Pope during the Nazi-Fascist persecutions,” the press office said.

In the mid-20th century, the Section for Relations with States was known as the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, equivalent to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Msgr. Angelo Dell’Acqua had a diplomatic role in this office called minutante. He and his office oversaw requests from Jews and sought “to provide the petitioners with all possible assistance,” the archive page says.  Dell’Acqua would later become a cardinal and vicar-general of Rome under St. Paul VI.

Some of the Jews who wrote seeking Catholic aid were baptized Christians, but many were not. Many petitions were written by intermediaries on behalf of Jews.

“Thousands of people persecuted for their membership to the Jewish religion, or for merely having ‘non-Aryan’ ancestry, turned to the Vatican, in the knowledge that others had received help,” said Gallagher.

Gallagher’s article in Vatican News recounted the case of Werner Barasch, a 23-year-old German university student of Jewish background who was baptized in 1938. His historic file has documents from his effort to be released from a concentration camp in Spain. On Jan. 17, 1942 Barasch wrote to an Italian friend and asked her to seek the intervention of Pius XII through the apostolic nuncio in Madrid.

Barasch wrote: “with this intervention from Rome, others had been able to leave the

concentration camp.” He said he had hoped to join his mother who had fled to the U.S. in 1939 “to prepare a new life for me.” He needed the help “of someone from outside” so that the authorities would grant his release.

“There is little hope for those who have no outside help,” said Barasch’s letter.

The Vatican file shows the Secretariat of State addressed the case in a few days’ time and “newly” brought it to the attention of the nuncio to Spain. There is nothing more to the paper trail. Like the majority of cases, the Vatican files say nothing about what happened to Barasch.

“In our hearts, we immediately inevitably hope for a positive outcome, the hope that Werner Barasch was later freed from the concentration camp and was able to reach his mother overseas,” Gallagher said.

This hope was fulfilled. Barasch was a known Holocaust survivor who recounted his story at the age of 82 in a video interview now at the online collections of the U.S. Holocaust Museum. He was released from the Spanish camp a year after his appeal to the Pope. In 1945, he was able to join his mother in the U.S. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Colorado before working as a chemist in California.

“As for the majority of requests for help witnessed by other cases, the result of the request was not reported,” Gallagher said.

About 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

On June 22, Pope Francis received an international delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights group that counts 400,000 member families in the U.S. The delegation presented to the pope a copy of an original report authored and signed by Nazi leader Adolph Hitler in which he called for the destruction of the Jewish people. The document is dated Sept. 16, 1919, long before the Nazis took power.   

“What began as one man’s opinion would become state policy of Nazi Germany 22 years later, which led to the systematic murder of one-third of world Jewry,” Marvin Hier, founder and CEO of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said at the meeting. “This document shows the power of words and is a warning for everyone to take threats of any demagogue seriously.”

Hier noted anti-Semitic attacks on both sides of the Atlantic, which the Simon Wiesenthal Center said confirm “surging anti-Semitism.”

He also used his remarks to criticize a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons, which the Vatican has supported. Hier also criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine, charging that Russia was adopting the same tactics as Hitler’s Germany.

The pope accepted the gift of the historic document, which will be placed in the Vatican Archives.

In his remarks, Pope Francis stressed the importance of “recalling history so it can be of service to the future.”  He denounced anti-Semitic attacks. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, he said the 1919 letter from Hitler showed that the Nazi leader did not care about the German people but only about promoting a dangerous ideology.

Biden administration seeks school regulation change to ban LGBT discrimination

nito/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration proposed expanding the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a gender equality law that applies to thousands of schools across the U.S.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Today, its protections impact everything from women’s participation in sports to sexual harassment at schools. 

Its text reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The Department of Education intends to expand discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” it announced Thursday.

These changes, the Washington Post reported, would, among other things, permit transgender students “to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, using their correct pronouns and addressing bullying based on their gender identity.”

Title IX includes exceptions, including a religious exemption for educational institutions “controlled by a religious organization” if the application is inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.

Before becoming law, the proposed changes must undergo a public comment process. After it is published in the Federal Register, comments can be submitted the following 60 days via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

CNA reached out to several Catholic colleges and universities for comment Thursday. One responded by publication time saying that it will review the changes and will submit comments if necessary. 

Title IX applies to approximately 17,600 local school districts and over 5,000 postsecondary institutions, charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums, according to the department. It also applies to vocational rehabilitation agencies and education agencies.

Regarding athletics, the department announced Thursday that it will address Title IX's application to athletics at a later time. The announcement came the same day that female athletes from across the country expressed concern in Washington, D.C., about competing against transgender athletes.

For the 49th anniversary of Title IX, in 2021, the Biden administration issued a “notice of interpretation” that it would enforce Title IX protections against sex discrimination in education to also protect sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed changes that came Thursday would make this federal law.

The Education Department’s fact sheet clarifies that the proposed regulations “would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX, except in some limited areas set out in the statute or regulations.”

The changes also include revisions regarding how schools and higher education institutions address and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment — and they expand the definition of sex-based harassment.

The changes also affect pregnant and parenting students. 

“The proposed regulations would update existing protections for students, applicants, and employees against discrimination because of pregnancy or related conditions,” the fact sheet reads. “The proposed regulations would strengthen requirements that schools provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students, reasonable break time for pregnant employees, and lactation space.” 

The department identifies “key issue areas” where Title IX applies: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQI+ students; discipline; single-sex education, and employment.

Report: More than 800,000 lives saved by pro-life pregnancy centers since 2016

null / Prostock-Studio/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life pregnancy centers have saved over 800,000 lives since 2016, according to an analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers “exist to provide support, education, classes, medical care and critical resources for women faced with difficult circumstances surrounding unexpected pregnancy.”

CLI, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, conducted the analysis with data from more than 1,100 Care Net pregnancy centers, according to a press release. Care Net is a Christian non-profit that offers a network of pro-life pregnancy centers and pro-life education. The data was then weighted by CLI to create national estimates. 

Data from the years 2016 through 2020 published by CLI show that an estimated 177,716 babies' lives were saved in 2019, marking the highest number out of all five years. The lowest estimated number of lives saved was in 2020, with 144,176. 

In 2016 there were an estimated 173,587 lives saved. In 2018 there were an estimated 169,547 lives saved. In 2019 there were an estimated 177,716 lives saved. 

The total number of estimated lives saved throughout the data set is 828,131. 

In the press release president of CLI, Charles Donovan condemned the recent attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers. 

“Radical pro-abortion activists have violently attacked pro-life pregnancy centers in recent weeks, which Speaker Pelosi and other national leaders have failed to condemn,” he said. “Yet real-world data shows that compassion and decency are winning, with more than 800,000 precious babies saved thanks to brave volunteers and staff who willingly take the risk of helping women and their families.”

Data from 2019 shows that 2,700 clinics across the nation were run by just short of 15,000 staff members and nearly 54,000 volunteers. The staff and volunteers included 10,200 licensed medical professionals, the analysis says. 

Out of the 10,200 licensed medical professionals, the analysis says that 3,791 were clinic staff members and 6,424 were clinic volunteers. There are about 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers across the country today, the analysis says.

The lead author of the analysis, Moira Gaul, said that “On average, pregnancy centers consistently have client satisfaction rates over 95% leading to many ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals to pro-life pregnancy centers — meaning that the 800,000 lives saved just since 2016 represent a significant number of women who received support and then told their friends and families about the compassionate and cost-free care they received.”  

“More than any other group, pro-life pregnancy centers are best equipped to support women facing unintended pregnancies in a post-Roe America,” Gaul, an associate scholar at CLI, said. 

Another analysis done by CLI showed that in 2019, approximately 2 million women, men, and youth were served by more than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation, the press release says.

Those services included free ultrasound services, prenatal and parenting classes, and over 1.2 million diapers given.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have come under attack since early May when a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked showing that the justices may have been poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that created federal protections for abortion. 

The court is expected to release the opinion or decision in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, at the end of June or beginning of July.

The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers began organizing in the late 1960s, the same time some states began legalizing abortion.

Parents of young mother considered for sainthood share powerful testimony at World Meeting of Families

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Photo Courtesy of Christian Gennari/www.chiaracorbellapetrillo.it / null

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 16:47 pm (CNA).

On June 13, 2012, a 28-year-old Italian woman, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, died in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. In the 10 years since her passing, the story she left has touched the hearts of many around the world.

At the age of 18, Chiara met the man who would become her husband, Enrico Petrillo. As a married couple, they would face many challenges together. They suffered the death of two of their children, both of whom died 30 minutes after birth. 

Chiara became pregnant again with their son Francesco. The joyful news was short-lived as she was diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be carcinoma. 

She rejected any form of treatment that posed a risk to her unborn son. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for Chiara to speak and see. 

Chiara's cause for canonization was announced on June 13, 2017, the fifth anniversary of her death.

Her parents, Roberto and Maria Anselma Corbella, shared their daughters' moving witness of faith during their speech at the Festival of Families, part of the World Meeting of Families, which is being held in Rome from June 22-26. 

They shared the struggles they have faced within their own family, touching on the lives of both of their daughters, Elisa and Chiara. While Elisa lives in northern Italy with her three children, it was the battle Chiara faced that left them “like Mary at the foot of the cross,” but taught them how to embrace their cross and trust in God’s plan.

Her mother Maria explained that Chiara’s son Francesco, now 11 years old, was only one when she passed, but during that time she showed them how “in every situation, one can expect the utmost happiness in this life with God as a guide.” 

“It was difficult for us to accompany her to the threshold of Heaven and let her go, but from that moment such grace flowed that gave us a glimpse of God's plan and kept us from falling into despair,” her mother said. “Chiara’s serenity opened for us a window to eternity and continues to shed light on it to this day.” You can watch the couple's testimony about their daughter in the video below.

In his speech during the Festival of Families, Pope Francis addressed Chiara’s parents and her legacy saying, “You testified that the heavy cross of Chiara’s sickness and death did not destroy your family or eliminate the serenity and peace of your hearts. We can see this in your faces. You are not downcast, desperate, or angry with life. Quite the opposite! What we see in you is great serenity and great faith.”

“As a wife, alongside her husband, she followed the way of the Gospel of the family, simply and spontaneously,” the Holy Father added. “Chiara’s heart also welcomed the truth of the cross as a gift of self: Hers was a life given to her family, to the Church, and to the whole world.”

Describing his daughter, Roberto said, “She did not run away in the face of life's trials, she faced them with her gaze heavenward. … Her every step was directed toward the goal with God's help and Mary's guidance, she was committed to reaching it, with personal prayer keeping her in relationship with the Lord from whom she received the grace that nourished her faith.”

“May Chiara be an inspiration on our own journey of holiness, and may the Lord support and make fruitful every cross that families have to bear,” Pope Francis concluded.

Cardinal criticizes Mexican president's anti-crime policy

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. / Octavio Hoyos / Shutterstock.

Guadalajara, Mexico, Jun 23, 2022 / 16:19 pm (CNA).

In his 2018 election campaign for the Mexican presidency, Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed a policy of “abrazos no balazos” — a catchy phrase that means “hugs not bullets.” This approach combats drug cartel violence by addressing the root causes of the drug trade, such as poverty, and softens the use of force by the military and police.

López Obrador’s policy is in contrast to the “war on drugs” of his predecessors. However, under his tenure, violent crime has increased.

In a country where violence is commonplace, the nation was nevertheless shocked by the recent murder of two Jesuit priests and another man inside a church, shot to death presumably by a cartel gunman. Adding to the outrage was that the criminals took away the bodies of the priests.

Commenting on the murders, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, said June 22 during the Ninth Diocesan Pastoral Ministry Assembly that “we are going through some difficult moments” and that “these people don’t know [anything] about hugs.”

The cardinal pointed to the June 20 shooting of Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, who were killed trying to protect a man who had fled inside the Catholic church of the small town of Cerocahui in the state of Chihuahua.

The crime, which is part of a growing wave of violence in Mexico, has shaken the country. On June 22, Pope Francis expressed his “pain and dismay” over the murder of the two Jesuits.

The Archdiocese of Guadalajara is no stranger to violence. The city is the capital of the state of Jalisco, the center of operations for one of the most violent and powerful criminal groups in the country, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Twenty-nine years ago, the then-Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, was gunned down at the city’s airport, a crime that authorities have yet to solve.

Cardinal Robles Ortega lamented that the killing of the two Jesuit priests "adds to an already long list of priests murdered in our country."

However, he continued, this crime shows "the complete gravity of the violent situation that we are going through in our country."

"The priests were in a place proper to their ministry," he said, because "they were fulfilling their mission, doing their ministry."

"They weren’t doing subversive things or encouraging violence by other groups against the government," he continued, but "they were in the most appropriate place for their ministry" — that is, the church.

The two Jesuit priests, the Archbishop of Guadalajara said, “were carrying out their ministry and were treacherously executed, without further ado. Just because they were doing good to a person” who fled into the church hoping for protection.

"This [is] a very, very serious situation," he said.

The cardinal said that the government of López Obrador should see that “these people, those who are dedicated to organized crime, don’t know [anything] about hugs, no matter how much the government offers them, promises them, and gives them."

"They don't understand hugs, they only know about bullets," he said.

In just three and a half years of the López Obrador administration, there have been more than 121,000 homicides recorded in the country, which is on track to exceed the more than 156,000 murders committed during the six-year term of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto.

In addition, the number is way ahead of the 120,463 homicides recorded during Felipe Calderón’s six-year term.

From Jan. 1 to June 21 of this year, according to official figures, 12,481 homicides have taken place in Mexico.

The Archbishop of Guadalajara clarified that “I’m not saying that the government has to adopt the strategy of shooting these people. No. Simply bring them before the law for the murders and for all the activities they carry out against the law.”

“The government has to send them the message that there will be no more impunity,” he said. “Because that message of hugs is a message of impunity.”

Female athletes advocate for women’s sports ahead of Title IX transgender changes

Cynthia Monteleone, shown at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. The mother of three is a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

Women athletes who are opposed to biological males identifying as transgender females competing in women’s sports rallied in Washington, D.C., on Thursday ahead of new proposed regulations coming from the Biden administration regarding transgender athletes.

The event, “Our Bodies, Our Sports,” sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum, among other groups, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a federal law that ensures that no person at schools and colleges receiving federal funds is discriminated against based on sex. The Biden administration plans to broaden the scope of the law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to gender.

Several athletes spoke to CNA, including a Catholic track star from Hawaii and a swimmer from Kentucky who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, said they attended the rally, which drew a counterprotest by trans-rights activists, to preserve women's sports.

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA
Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, has won many championships and awards for swimming throughout her college career. Earlier this year, she tied for 5th place with Lia Thomas in the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Barker said Thomas, competing for the University of Pennsylvania, received the 5th place trophy, while she was told that one would be sent to her at a later date.

“Women have fought the past 50 years today for equal rights in terms of sports and equal opportunities,” Barker told CNA.

“Just when you think you're almost there, it's a complete 180. My goal is to be here, and to use my voice to help bring light to the situation, and to help get back what Title IX is supposed to stand for,” she said.

For Barker, this issue comes down to a matter of fairness.

“It's not that I'm transphobic. I don't think that. I think that you can do what you want in your free time, but when you're infringing on women's sport and it's involving lots of female athletes, that's when I'm going to get involved and that's when I'm going to speak up about it,” she said.

Cynthia Monteleone, who lives in Hawaii, is a mother of three, a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports.

“It means more to me to champion this fight for women's sports than anything else, and that's because I'm being true to myself and allowing my faith to guide me,” Monteleone, who is Catholic, told CNA.

Monteleone said she decided to skip the world track championships in Finland to attend Thursday’s rally. Had she competed, she would have had to go against a biological male, she said.

“I began to ask questions about the fairness of this issue, and I was told to keep my mouth shut for my own safety,” Monteleone said. “I did not do that. I'm still speaking up louder than ever.”

Monteleone said the stand she’s taking stems from the moral values she derives from her Catholic faith.

“God will lead the way to the path you're supposed to be on, so I am not supposed to get that medal at that world championship this week,” she said. “It means nothing to me if there's not a fair playing field.”

Monteleone said her daughter, Margaret, had a similar experience at her first high school track meet, where she lost to a biological male.

Monteleone said she does not place any value on the words of those who call her position on the issue “transphobic” or “discriminatory.” Instead, she noted, “I just say ‘stay strong’ and don't put value in those words.”

Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Another outspoken woman at the event was Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University.

“This is something that is so important to me because I have personally been affected by this issue at hand,” DeBos said, recalling a time when her relay team lost out to a team with a transgender athlete.

“Being here today and being alongside all of these athletes, I think our voices together are what's going to help make change,” DeBos said.

DeBos spoke on the biological differences between men and women and how women have the right to fight for fairness in their sports.

“This is within the sports world, and that really is a different world,” she told CNA. The physical advantages that come with being a biological male have “nothing to do with the outside world” when it comes to fair treatment.

Itinerary released for Pope Francis' trip to Canada in late July

An Inuit delegation from Canada meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 28, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has released the itinerary for Pope Francis’ visit to Canada, during which he will meet with representatives of indigenous peoples, and with indigenous Catholics. 

The visit to Canada will take place July 24-29, with a return flight to Rome landing on the 30th, the Vatican said Thursday. 

While in Canada, Francis is expected to issue an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church for abuses committed against indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

In addition to a visit to Edmonton, Alberta, the pope will meet with dignitaries in Quebec City before visiting Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, to meet with residential school survivors, among others. Despite the ambitious nature of the trip, the pope is expected to participate in events in Canada for about an hour at a time, owing to the health problems the 85-year-old has experienced of late. 

Francis had been scheduled to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan July 2-7, but the trip was postponed June 10 "at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee," a Vatican spokesman said.

As Canada is the second-largest country in the world by area, the distances involved for the whirlwind visit are vast. The map below illustrates the air routes. 

After departing Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m. local time on July 24, Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Edmonton, Alberta at 11:20 a.m. local time, and to receive an official welcome before taking the remainder of the day to rest. 

The next day, July 25, the pope will meet at 10 a.m. with members of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in the unincorporated community of Maskwacis, near Edmonton. This will not be the first time the pope has met with Canadian indigeous people; in March, Pope Francis met with representatives of the Métis and Inuit indigenous peoples, and with the Canadian Catholic bishops, both at the Vatican. 

Then, at 4:45 pm that same day, he will meet with indigenous Catholics at Sacred Heart parish in Edmonton

On Tuesday, July 26, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Later that day, he will participate in a pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne, a site which plays host annually to thousands of pilgrims, billing itself as the largest annual Catholic gathering in Western Canada. July 26 is celebrated in the Catholic Church as the feast of St. Anne, the grandmother of Christ. The pope will also celebrate a Liturgy of the Word at the site. 

On Wednesday, Pope Francis will depart Edmonton and fly to Quebec City, the capital of Quebec. He is set to be welcomed by the Governor General of Canada, and will meet with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister. Later he will meet with civil authorities, representatives of indigenous peoples, and members of the diplomatic corps.

The next day, July 28, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. at the National Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré. That evening, at 5:15 am, the pope will pray Vespers with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians, and pastoral workers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

On the final day of his visit, Friday, July 29, the pope is set to have a meeting at 9 a.m. with fellow members of the Jesuit order at the archbishop’s residence. Then at 10:45, another meeting with a delegation of indigeous peoples, also at the archbishop’s residence. 

Then, at 12:45, the pope will depart Quebec and fly some five hours north to Iqaluit. Home to only 7,500 people, Iqaluit is the capital — and only city — of the province of Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost and most sparsely populated territory. The area has been used as an Inuit fishing hub for thousands of years.

In Iqaluit, Pope Francis will meet at 4:45 p.m. local time with students of the former residential schools of Canada. Some 150,000 children attended residential schools in the years they operated, ending in the late 1990s. The schools were a government-led program, begun in the 1870s, to suppress the native language and cultural practices of indigenous peoples. 

Many of the schools were run by Catholic institutions, and in the 1980s, former students began to reveal some of the abuses they faced in the schools, including physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Following the meeting with the former students, the pope will meet with young people and elders in the primary school square in Iqaluit, before a 6:15 p.m. farewell ceremony sees the pope off on his return journey to Rome, where he will arrive the following day. 

Eyewitness details brutal 'blasphemy murder' of Nigerian Christian student

A photo of Deborah Emmanuel's photo on her Facebook page. Emmanuel, a Christian student in Nigeria, was killed by an Islamic mob on her college campus on May 12, 2022. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Deborah Emmanuel, the Nigerian Christian student who was murdered by a Muslim mob last month, spent her final hours with a close friend who has shared exclusive details of the brutal killing with CNA.

CNA is using the pseudonym “Mary” for the woman’s protection. A Christian herself, she nearly was killed by the same mob.

Significantly, Mary’s account contradicts the claim of authorities that they attempted to rescue Emmanuel from the mob but were “overwhelmed.”

On the contrary, the police “could have stopped the murder if they had really tried,” Mary told CNA. 

Emmanuel’s so-called “blasphemy murder” took place on May 12 on the campus of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, Sokoto State, a major city located in the northwest corner of Nigeria. The city is home to the Muslim Sultan who serves as the top religious authority for Nigeria’s 100 million Muslim believers.

Prior to the attack, Emmanuel, a home economics major who attended Evangelical Church Winning All, was bullied by fanatical Muslim students at the teacher’s college for audio statements she made on WhatsApp, a messaging platform. She credited Jesus Christ for her success on a recent exam, and when threatened and told to apologize she refused, invoking the Holy Spirit, saying “Holy Ghost fire! Nothing will happen to me,” according to WhatsApp messages reviewed by CNA.

In the aftermath of these heated exchanges, a Muslim mob attacked Emmanuel on the college’s campus. After an hours' long siege, the mob beat and stoned her to death, then set her body on fire with burning tires, according to graphic video footage posted online. Rioters later that week rampaged in a Catholic Church compound in Sokoto and attacked other Christian-owned properties.

A relative of Emmanuel’s, who said he was standing approximately 60 feet from the mob, also told CNA he believes the police could have saved her. He, too, asked that his identity be withheld for his safety.

Unarmed campus security personnel made a futile attempt to rescue Emmanuel, according to a campus security report shared with CNA. But Emmanuel’s relative said there were dozens of armed police officers on the scene who didn’t fire their weapons.

The commissioner of police in the state also said officers did not fire their weapons. However, he maintained that only 15 of his officers were at the scene, according to a report in The Epoch Times.

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto has strongly condemned the attack and called on Emmanuel's killers to be brought to justice.

"This matter must be treated as a criminal act," he said. You can read his full statement here.

A plea for help

On the day of Emmanuel’s death, Mary received a frantic phone call from her around 9 a.m, asking for help. By that time, women who lived in her dormitory had begun slapping Emmanuel, Mary told CNA.

Mary arrived at the campus to see her friend surrounded by a mob and being led by a campus staffer to a gatehouse building for her protection. The Muslim students had bloodied her face and head with blows from rods and were joined by male students who believed their duty was to execute a blasphemer on the spot, Mary said.

“Allahu Akbar!” meaning “God is Great” was bellowed for hours, she said.

Mary initially stayed outside the building and tried to intercede for her friend, but she said it wasn’t long before the mob turned on her, too. Within moments Mary was trying to ward off punches and blows from sticks as she backed away from the gatehouse and toward the gate of the college 40 feet away. 

Mary said a college lecturer rescued her and brought her to join Emmanuel inside the gatehouse by 10 a.m.

At 10:25 a.m., the relative said, six officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) — the equivalent to the FBI in the U.S. — arrived, firing their rifles in the air but with no effect. Five minutes later, he said, a group of Sokoto police came on the scene and fired tear gas, temporarily scattering the mob. 

The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter
The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter

For about 10 minutes police had an opportunity to disperse the mob and force their way to the gatehouse to extract Mary and Emmanuel, Emmanuel’s relative believes. But that did not happen.

By 11 a.m., the mob had returned to the building, holding cloths against their faces to ward off the tear gas. The mob tried hurling stones at Mary through the windows of the locked gatehouse, but Mary barricaded herself behind a table.

The mob then threw gasoline on the women through the front windows and attempted to burn them alive, Mary said.

“Deborah was soaked with gasoline, but when lighted plastic was pitched in through the windows, I quickly stamped the flames out,” Mary said.

No escape

All of this transpired as police and DSS officers watched from a safe distance, according to Emmanuel’s relative.

The traumatized women said little to each other, but Emmanuel was still hoping to do her examination that day, Mary said. At one point, she recalled, Emmanuel asked, “What time is it? I have an examination at noon.” Mary said she looked at her cell phone and told her it was 1 p.m.

After another excruciating hour of siege, the mob pushed down a single Sokoto policeman guarding the door, broke the padlock on the door, and rushed in to find Mary and Emmanuel hiding behind furniture, Mary and the relative related. Two rioters placed a chain around Mary’s neck and pulled it hard, trying to strangle her, she recounted.

“Let this girl go! She is not an offender,” Mary recalled one of the rioters shouting. But as they released her, a young man in the mob grabbed Emmanuel and took her to the front steps of the gatehouse. There she was bludgeoned with steel pipes and wooden rods and stoned, the relative said.

Two DSS officers attempted to rescue Emmanuel but were hit by stones and pushed aside, the relative said. The police officers remained in position and did not come to her aid, he alleged.

Mary collapsed inside the gatehouse gasping from the strangulation. Approximately 40 minutes later, she said, she was roused by one of the mob to leave the building, which was on fire.

As she walked through the smoke, Mary saw the gatehouse burning and Emmanuel’s lifeless body in flames.

The face of Christian persecution

In the aftermath of Emmanuel's murder, human rights advocates and others have leveled sharp criticism at Nigeria's government leaders for not doing enough to stem the rising tide of violence directed at Christians and other non-Muslims.

Relatives of Deborah Emmanuel at her burial in Niger State, Nigeria. Courtesy of the Emmanuel family
Relatives of Deborah Emmanuel at her burial in Niger State, Nigeria. Courtesy of the Emmanuel family

Anti-Christian hatred was evident in days of rioting in Sokoto following the arrest of two suspects in Emmanuel’s murder. The rioters reportedly were incensed that there were any arrests at all.

"Deborah Emmanuel, like kidnapping victim Leah Sharibu (who was enslaved by Boko Haram insurgents in 2019), has become the face of Christian persecution in Nigeria,” said Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON). “There has not been an official report from the security forces on the lynching of Ms. Emmanuel. Her killing and subsequent riots show clear government complicity and coverup.” 

Tina Ramirez, founder of the international nonprofit Hardwired Global, also believes the Nigerian government has been unwilling to take a strong stand against blasphemy killings.

“The recent attacks on students are reminiscent of the attacks at Nigerian colleges two decades ago that were the precursor to the growth of extremist groups across Nigeria’s North and Middle Belt,” Ramirez wrote in a text to CNA.