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Religion, patriotism, and having children diminish in importance for Americans: WSJ poll

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St. Louis, Mo., Mar 28, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

A new poll of U.S. residents suggests that certain values such as religiosity and having children have receded in importance over the past 25 years, while people’s opinion of the importance of money increased during the same period. 

When asked about certain values and whether they consider them to be “very important,” 39% said “religion” was very important to them. By contrast, in 1998, 62% of respondents to the same question said religion was very important to them. 

The poll, released March 27, was conducted earlier this month by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago and funded by the Wall Street Journal. 

Faith was one of several indicators of more traditional values that the survey showed are less important to Americans than they were 25 years ago. The 2023 survey found that these values are less important than in 2019, the last time the survey was done. 

Among the findings:

  • Only 30% of 2023 respondents overall said having children was very important to them, compared with 59% in 1998 and 43% in 2019. 

  • In another notable drop, 38% in 2023 said “patriotism” is very important, compared with 70% in 1998 and 61% in 2019. 

  • Only 43% said marriage is very important (this question was not on the 2019 and 1998 surveys). 

  • The only value that increased in importance in respondents’ minds from 1998 to 2023 was money, which increased from 31% to 43% over the time period. 

“Aside from money, all age groups, including seniors, attached far less importance to these priorities and values than when pollsters asked about them in 1998 and 2019. But younger Americans in particular place low importance on these values, many of which were central to the lives of their parents,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

In the 2023 poll, just 19% of the respondents overall said they attend religious services once a week or more. Some 31% of younger respondents said that religion was very important to them, compared with 55% among seniors, the Journal reported. 

Broken down by self-described political persuasion, 53% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats said religion is “very important” to them, and 38% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats said having children is very important to them.

Bill McInturff, a pollster who worked on a previous WSJ survey, told the paper that “these differences are so dramatic, it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America’’ and surmised that “perhaps the toll of our political division, COVID, and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values.”

Other findings

  • The pollsters asked respondents if they are confident or not confident that life for their children’s generation will be better than it has been for them. Seventy-eight percent said they do not feel confident, while 21% said they do. 

  • Only 27% of those surveyed said that “community involvement” was very important to them. That’s a dramatic decrease from 2019, when 62% said it was very important. In 1998, 47% rated it as very important.

  • “Hard work” is less important today that it used to be: 67% said it was very important, compared with 89% in 2019 and 83% in 1998.

The pollsters also asked respondents several questions about current issues that did not appear on the previous surveys. For example, respondents were asked for their opinions on transgender athletes.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said transgender athletes should play on teams matching their biological sex, 17% said they should be able to play on sports teams that match their gender identity, and 25% were unsure. 

The Journal-NORC survey polled 1,019 people from March 1–13. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.The full results of the 2023 WSJ poll can be found here.  The results of the NBC/Wall Street Journal polls taken in 2019 and 1998 can be found here.

Cardinal Hollerich: There’s ‘space to expand’ Church teaching on all-male priesthood

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, speaking at a press conference in the Vatican on Aug. 26, 2022. / Vatican News YouTube Channel

Rome Newsroom, Mar 28, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, the archbishop of Luxembourg and a key leader of the Synod on Synodality, said the Catholic Church’s teaching on a male-only priesthood is not infallible and a future pope could allow women priests.

The cardinal, 64, addressed the topic of the ordination of women, homosexuality, women in the Church, obedience to the pope, and the German “Synodal Way” in an interview with Glas Koncila, a Croatian Catholic weekly, published March 27.

“Pope Francis does not want the ordination of women, and I am completely obedient to that. But people continue to discuss it,” Hollerich said.

The cardinal questioned the infallibility of papal documents such as St. John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which affirmed the Church’s perennial teaching that only men may be ordained to Holy Orders.

“It is the Holy Father who has to decide” whether women can be priests, Hollerich said.

The cardinal added that “with time” a pope could go against what John Paul II wrote in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, saying he is “not sure you could call it” infallible.

“It surely is a true teaching for its time, and we cannot just push it aside. But I think that there might be some space to expand the teaching — to see which of the arguments of Pope John Paull II could be developed,” he said.

“But for the moment, if Pope Francis tells me it is not an option, it is not an option.”

John Paul II stated in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church ... in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (No. 4).

Pope Francis has upheld John Paul II’s teaching on a male-only priesthood at multiple points in his pontificate.

“On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains,” Pope Francis told journalists in 2016.

In a 2018 interview with Reuters, on women priests Francis said: “John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious. It cannot be done.”

In the Croatian weekly interview, Hollerich said he does not promote women’s ordination, but he supports giving women more pastoral responsibility.

“And if we achieve that, then we can perhaps see if there still is a desire among women for ordination,” he said, noting that such a change would need the consent of the Orthodox Church, since “we could never do that if it would jeopardize our fraternity with the Orthodox or if it would polarize the unity of our Church.”

Last week Hollerich was succeeded as president of the European bishops’ commission (COMECE), a post he held since 2018. On March 7, Pope Francis appointed Hollerich to his council of cardinal advisers.

In the interview, the cardinal was asked if his appointment was a sign of Pope Francis’ trust in him during a time when many Catholics find it difficult to trust the pope.

Hollerich said: “It is very difficult to be Catholic without obedience to the pope. Some very conservative people always preached obedience to the pope — as long as the pope said the things they wanted to hear. The pope says things that are difficult for me, too, but I see them as a chance for conversion, for becoming a more faithful and happier Christian.”

The Luxembourger cardinal also commented on homosexuality, saying: “When Church teaching was made, the term homosexuality did not even exist.”

He claimed that in the time when St. Paul was writing about the impermissibility of sodomy, “people had no idea that there might be men and women attracted to the same sex” and “sodomy was seen as something merely orgiastic at the time, typical of married people who entertained slaves for personal lust.”

“But how can you condemn people who cannot love except the same sex? For some of them it is possible to be chaste, but calling others to chastity seems like speaking Egyptian to them,” he said.

Hollerich added that people can only be held to moral conduct bearable “in their world.”

“If we ask impossible things of them, we will put them off. If we say everything they do is intrinsically wrong, it is like saying their life has no value,” he said. “Many young people came to me as a father and spoke to me about being homosexual. And what does a father do? Does he throw them out or embrace them unconditionally?”

The cardinal also said he finds “the part of the teaching calling homosexuality ‘intrinsically disordered’ a bit dubious.”

“Still, we have to accept all the people and make them feel the love of God. If they feel it, I am sure it will change something in their heart,” he added.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexuality “has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.” It goes on to say that “basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law” (No. 2357).

Hollerich also was asked to comment on the idea that there is an “effeminate” spirituality in the Church and that it might be to blame for a decade-long decline in vocations to the priesthood.

The cardinal said: “Boys and men disappear in every system that disregards differences in psychology.”

“Looking at the Church, if most of our catechists are women, they will catechize in a feminine way, which will estrange some of the boys. If it is too soft, they will not like it. We have disregarded these differences, and in that sense, have become very feminized,” he said.

‘For love of the pope’: Latin Mass supporters post billboards near Vatican

A group of Traditional Latin Mass supporters in Italy posted signs as part of a billboard campaign in a neighborhood near the Vatican on March 28, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 28, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

A group of Traditional Latin Mass supporters in Italy has sponsored a billboard campaign in a neighborhood near the Vatican.

The campaign includes about a dozen billboards in four different designs. They were put up March 28 and will stay in place for 15 days, according to its organizers.

Each billboard features a quotation in support of the Latin Mass from either Pope Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II, or Pope Pius V.

Across the top, the billboards say: “For love of the pope. For the peace and unity of the Church. For the liberty of the Traditional Latin Mass.”

A QR code on the billboards takes readers to an article about the Latin Mass from the website

A group of Traditional Latin Mass supporters in Italy posted signs as part of a billboard campaign in a neighborhood near the Vatican on March 28, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
A group of Traditional Latin Mass supporters in Italy posted signs as part of a billboard campaign in a neighborhood near the Vatican on March 28, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The billboard campaign follows recent restrictions to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass as laid out in Pope Francis’ 2021 apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes and other Vatican documents.

Members of the organizing committee are participating in the campaign in a personal capacity, according to a press release. They come from various Catholic groups and blogs, including Messa in Latino, the St. Michael the Archangel Association, and the National Committee on Summorum Pontificum.

The organizers of the campaign “wished to make public their profound attachment to the traditional Mass at a time when its extinction seems to be planned,” the press release stated.

“They do so out of love for the pope, so that he might be paternally opened to understanding those liturgical peripheries that no longer feel welcome in the Church because they find in the traditional liturgy the full and complete expression of the entire Catholic faith.”

“In the Church of our day,” it continued, “in which listening, welcoming, and inclusion inspire all pastoral action and there is a desire to build ecclesial communion ‘with a synodal method,’ this group of ordinary faithful, young families, and fervent priests has the confident hope that its voice will not be stifled but welcomed, listened to, and taken into due consideration.”

“Those who go to the ‘Latin Mass’ are not second-class believers, nor are they deviants to be re-educated or a burden to be gotten rid of,” the press release said.

One of the two billboard designs featuring Benedict XVI includes a quote from the late pope’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which acknowledged the right of priests to offer Mass in Latin according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

The other displays a quote from Benedict’s accompanying letter to bishops: “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us, too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

The quote from Summorum Pontificum comes from article 1: “The Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is nonetheless to be considered an extraordinary expression of the same lex orandi of the Church and duly honored for its venerable and ancient usage.”

St. John Paul II’s quote is taken from his 2001 message to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: “In the Roman Missal, called the Missal of St. Pius V, as in several Eastern liturgies, there are beautiful prayers with which the priest expresses the deepest sense of humility and reverence before the holy mysteries: They reveal the very substance of any liturgy.”

The fourth billboard design quotes Pius V’s 1570 apostolic constitution Quo Primum Tempore, which promulgated the then-new Roman Missal: “We decree and we declare that the present letters at no time shall be revoked or diminished, but always stable and valid, they shall persevere in their effect.”

An essay from organizers explained the reason for the billboards.

“This campaign is inspired by the love that all Catholics bear for the pope and wishes to be an expression of it,” it said.

“Love of the pope is not a servile love but a filial love,” it continued, lamenting the dominance of a “cloyingly excessive” servile love of the pope in some Church circles today.

“Like all pious children, those who live their Catholic faith to the rhythm of the traditional liturgy intensely desire that those in the Church who are their fathers show them affection, understanding, closeness, and give them trust, that is, have genuine pastoral care,” it said.

The essay also claimed that “the calm acceptance of the traditional liturgy as fully Catholic, as it is and has never ceased to be, is inextricably linked to the peace and unity of the Church.”

Colorado proposes radically expanding abortion access in the state — again

Colorado State Capitol. / f11photo / Shutterstock.

Washington D.C., Mar 28, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Colorado state Senate last week passed a three-bill “Safe Access to Protected Health Care” package that would radically expand abortion access in the state.

The package now advances to the state House, which is likely to hold a vote on it this week. Given that Colorado has a Democratic majority in its House and a Democrat governor, the bills seem likely to become law.

These measures would further expand abortion in Colorado, a state that already has some of the most pro-abortion laws in the U.S.

If enacted, the three bills would mandate employers fully cover abortions until birth, ban treatments to reverse the abortion pill, greatly restrict crisis pregnancy centers from advertising, and more.

Crisis pregnancy centers, which typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials, are specifically targeted in the new abortion package. The bill covering crisis pregnancy centers calls them “anti-abortion centers” and says they are “the ground-level presence of a well-coordinated anti-choice movement.”

“False advertising relating to the provision of abortion or emergency contraceptive services, or referrals for those services” is strictly prohibited, but it is not clear as to what exactly constitutes “false advertising.” 

The Safe Access to Protected Health Care package further builds on the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), enacted last April, that codified abortion into the state constitution and expanded access to the point of birth.

The RHEA explicitly states that unborn babies at any stage of development do not have rights in Colorado, saying, “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of this state.” 

Though a state constitutional amendment bans tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions, Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, which opposes the package, told CNA that the new laws being proposed would essentially create a workaround.

“If enacted, [this bill] would circumvent Colorado’s prohibition against public funding of abortion in the Colorado Constitution by requiring large employer insurance plans to provide coverage for the total cost of an abortion and requiring individual [and] small-group plans to provide abortion coverage,” Vessely said. “Insurance funding does contain public funding — it is ridiculous to assume premiums mean it’s private funding, but this is the argument from bill sponsors.” 

“Even though the 2022 Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) already made Colorado one of the most extreme pro-abortion states in the country, pro-abortion lawmakers are still pushing for more abortion access,” Vessely said. 

The Colorado Catholic Conference is the public policy outreach arm of the bishops of Colorado. 

“We are engaging [and] mobilizing the parishes and lobbying hard against these bills and for amendments that make them moderately better for Coloradans,” Vessely said. 

The Colorado Catholic Conference is also partnering with state pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers to organize efforts to counter the state’s increasingly pro-abortion political landscape. 

Vessely said they will be holding a pro-life rally on April 4, when they will announce their partnership with the National March for Life to put on the inaugural Colorado March for Life in 2024.

“Now that Roe and Casey are overturned, the question of pre-viability abortion has returned to the states. For some state[s] that means a culture of life will flourish. For other progressive-dominated states such as Colorado, that means laws will be introduced that go far beyond Roe and incite a culture of death,” Vessely said. 

“But as Lincoln famously argued regarding another violation of human rights in the 19th century [slavery], our nation cannot stand ‘half pro-abortion and half pro-life,’ it must become one or the other,” she said.

“We know justice will prevail — we just don’t want more babies to be murdered by abortion in the meantime, so as Catholics we are called to advocate for life at all levels of government and in society,”Vessely said. 

Meanwhile, the Safe Access to Protected Health Care package’s sponsors say that the bills will help more women, from both Colorado and states that have banned abortion, to access the procedure. 

“Abortion is legal in Colorado, but legality does not equal accessibility,” one of the bill sponsors, Democratic state Rep. Elisabeth Epps, said in a March 9 press conference. “Our lower-income communities and Coloradans of color face larger barriers and a disproportionate lack of access to protected health care.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is likely to sign the Safe Access to Protected Health Care package given that he has supported previous abortion legislation. 

In July 2022, Polis signed an executive order giving legal protection to abortionists who perform abortions on women from states where the procedure is illegal. 

Besides Democrats, who hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature, the abortion package has the backing of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, the ACLU of Colorado, and the Cobalt Abortion Fund, all of which hold significant influence in Colorado politics. 

With many states restricting or banning abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Colorado is the closest abortion access point for 1.2 million women, according to Cobalt.

Bishops to Biden administration: Keep in place federal rules to protect college religious groups

null / Credit: NaruFoto/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Mar 28, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Religious student groups on many college and university campuses will lose key federal protections for their ability to organize on campus and set their own standards for leaders if the Biden administration’s proposed rule change is finalized, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said.

The existing rules are “commonsense protection for faith-based student organizations that have faced discrimination on many public college campuses for nearly four decades,” the general counsel’s office of the U.S. bishops’ conference said in March 23 comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

“By protecting students of all faiths, the existing regulations ensure that students of all religious faiths will be welcome on public college campuses, thereby enhancing authentic religious diversity on those campuses,” the bishops’ letter said. To rescind the rules would tell religious student groups “that they are not welcome on public campuses.”

The Biden administration seeks to rescind the “equal campus access” provisions of the Trump administration’s 2020 Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry Rule.

The 2020 rule has two sets of provisions: one for public institutions that directly receive grants and one that governs states and subgrantees that are public institutions. The rule bars denying religious groups at these public institutions “any right, benefit, or privilege” that other student groups receive, including facility access, student group funding, and official institutional recognition, because of “the religious student organization’s beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards, or leadership standards, which are informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“Thriving religious student organizations benefit not just those who choose to participate in their activities but their campus communities as a whole,” the bishops said in support of the current rule. “Religious student organizations offer spiritual nourishment, emotional encouragement, and friendship to all at a time when university communities are still recovering from the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll that the pandemic wrought.”

COVID-19 restrictions on in-person meetings made students struggle to keep their organizations going, and the current rules are “particularly critical” to their efforts to rebuild, the bishops said. Religious involvement has a relationship with improved ability to cope with stress, less depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse, the letter said.

The Biden administration’s Feb. 21 proposal to rescind the rule said it is “not necessary to protect the First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion.” It is “unduly burdensome” for the Department of Education to investigate alleged violations. The rule has “created confusion” among higher education institutions, some of which say the rule would require them to “allow religious student groups to discriminate against vulnerable and marginalized students.” This requirement, according to the rule proposal, would “go beyond what the First Amendment mandates.”

The bishops’ Office of Legal Counsel said the Biden administration’s proposal ignores concerns that the enforcement of “neutral, generally applicable” nondiscrimination law and policy do not always yield a “just result” and might not survive Supreme Court scrutiny.

Litigation is not an adequate solution for student groups, many of which lack funds for legal representation. Many student members will graduate by the time their rights are vindicated, and there will be a “chilling effect” given “the absence of clear, regulatory protections.”

Preserving the current rule means “students of all faiths will remain free to establish and maintain communities defined by shared religious commitments on their public college campuses,” the bishops’ letter said.

A March 2023 briefing from the Christian Legal Society lists dozens of incidents in which federally funded colleges or universities threatened to exclude student religious groups because of their rules that leaders must agree with their beliefs.

In one significant 2018 incident, almost 40 recognized student groups at the University of Iowa, including InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, were de-registered due to their religious leadership standards. While InterVarsity allows all students to participate as members, it requires leaders to embrace its Christian mission. Other groups expelled from campus for similar reasons included the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Sikh Awareness Club, and the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose ruled that the University of Iowa’s anti-discrimination policy was unevenly applied against another Christian club, Business Leaders in Christ, which the university de-recognized in 2017. In March 2021, a federal appeals court ruled that the University of Iowa officials who wrongly de-recognized the Christian student group can be held personally liable for their unconstitutional actions.

The secularist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State is among the groups backing the Biden administration’s proposed rule change. The group’s Feb. 21 statement said the existing rule “forced universities to fund discrimination by religious student groups.”

The USCCB’s Office of Government Relations, writing in a March 24 advocacy update, said that permanent statutory protections are needed. To this end, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty chairman, has co-signed a March 13 letter to several members of Congress backing the language in the proposed Equal Campus Access Act of 2023.

The letter, co-signed by many Catholic leaders, other Christian leaders, and several Jewish leaders, said the proposed legislation will “provide critical protection for faith-based student organizations of all religious traditions.”

The letter affirmed “the freedom of all students to meet on their public college campuses based upon their shared religious beliefs” and their ability “to choose leaders who affirmatively support the distinctive religious messages and missions of their various groups.”

Joining Cardinal Dolan were Catholic co-signers including leaders of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, the Catholic Medical Association, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Nicaraguans respond to ‘staged’ prison interview with Bishop Álvarez

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 28, 2023 / 09:15 am (CNA).

The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, who lives in exile in the United States, called the Daniel Ortega dictatorship’s staging this weekend of a prison interview with Bishop Rolando Álvarez “repugnant and cynical.”

Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison on Feb. 10 as a “traitor to the homeland.”

El 19 Digital, a news outlet supportive of the dictatorship, released over the weekend photos and a video of Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, who was visited by a brother and sister on March 25 in the prison known as La Modelo.

In the images, the bishop is wearing his blue prisoner uniform in a clean room surrounded by white curtains and is seen eating with his siblings Vilma and Manuel Antonio at a round table.

In the room there are also three blue armchairs with a coffee table and several potted plants.

“I was very happy to see the photos of my brother, Bishop Rolando. I thank God he’s alive! The scenography of the dictatorship was repugnant and cynical and does not expunge its crime,” Báez tweeted. 

“The power of the prayer of the people and international pressure have been revealed. Release him now!” the prelate added.

In October 2022, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights published a report that cited a number of human rights violations committed in that prison, such as overcrowding of prisoners, lack of medical care, prison staff assaulting inmates, detention of visiting relatives, and food mixed with detergent.

Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that “the regime yielded to social pressure, and obviously everything was staged to put on a show and say that the bishop is not imprisoned but in a vacation spot.”

“Bishop Rolando José is a bishop of peace and good. We have observed a humble bishop, strengthened, serene, and joyful but mistreated in his physical aspect. He demonstrated humility the whole time to show his executioners that he does not repay evil for evil,” said the author of the report “Nicaragua, A Persecuted Church?”

Félix Maradiaga, a former presidential candidate who was deported to the United States in February with more than 200 political prisoners, pointed out on Twitter that “for those of us who know the prisons of the dictatorship, we know that the serene smile of Bishop Álvarez is due to his courage and faith in God.”

“With these images, the dictatorship isn’t fooling anyone! The bishop’s rights are infringed and he has been abducted! We demand his immediate release,” he remarked.

Maradiaga pointed out in a second tweet that “Bishop Álvarez is in prison because he was the only voice left free to preach the truth in Nicaragua: ‘We are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness’ #Libertad.”

Father Uriel Vallejos, a priest who managed to escape the persecution of the regime in September 2022 and who now lives in exile, charged on Twitter that “the regime presents Bishop Rolando on a stage set up to sell a false image; which does not correspond to the daily treatment of psychological and inhuman torture.”

“His spirit is strong and he shows the dignity of a people humiliated and shamefully treated by the cruel dictatorship,” the priest said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Catholic charity rescues 20 Afghan girls after ISIS attack

The Vulnerable People Project, a Catholic charity based in the United States, is helping 20 teenage Afghan girls build a new life after an ISIS terrorist attack on Sept. 30, 2022, left them seriously injured and in dire need of medical treatment. / Credit: Vulnerable People Project

Washington D.C., Mar 28, 2023 / 09:08 am (CNA).

The Vulnerable People Project (VPP), a Catholic charity based in the United States, is helping 20 teenage Afghan girls build a new life after an ISIS terrorist attack on Sept. 30, 2022, left them seriously injured and in dire need of medical treatment.

The 20 girls were taking a practice university entrance exam at Kaaj Hazara Education Center in Kabul when a suicide bomber hit the school. The bombing killed 53 people, including 46 young students, and many more were wounded. 

“These women were targeted for two reasons: Because they are women pursuing an education [and] because they belong to a heavily persecuted ethnic minority group,” Marilis Pineiro, legislative and diplomatic relations liaison for the VPP, told CNA.

Jason Jones of the Vulnerable People Project, a Catholic charity based in the United States, is helping 20 teenage Afghan girls build a new life after an ISIS terrorist attack on Sept. 30, 2022, left them seriously injured and in dire need of medical treatment. Credit: Vulnerable People Project
Jason Jones of the Vulnerable People Project, a Catholic charity based in the United States, is helping 20 teenage Afghan girls build a new life after an ISIS terrorist attack on Sept. 30, 2022, left them seriously injured and in dire need of medical treatment. Credit: Vulnerable People Project

“The Hazaras have long been persecuted in Afghanistan,” Pineiro said, “and after the Taliban took back over Afghanistan after the botched withdrawal in August 2021, their persecution has immensely increased.”

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, many girls and women across the country have had to discontinue their education. According to UNESCO, 80% of school-aged Afghan girls and women — 2.5 million people — are currently out of school.

The Hazaras are Shia Muslims in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, and the very fact that these girls were even pursuing higher education made them targets.

Jason Jones, the founder and president of VPP, told EWTN News Nightly Friday that the rescue of the girls provides a bit of hope where there has been much despair.

“The Hazara are a minority in Afghanistan that are facing genocide at the hands of ISIS,” Jones said. “Being able to get these young women the medical help they need, being able to see that they can further their education … this is an exciting moment, it gives hope.” 

The Vulnerable People Project, a Catholic charity based in the United States, is helping 20 teenage Afghan girls build a new life after an ISIS terrorist attack on Sept. 30, 2022, left them seriously injured and in dire need of medical treatment. Credit: Vulnerable People Project
The Vulnerable People Project, a Catholic charity based in the United States, is helping 20 teenage Afghan girls build a new life after an ISIS terrorist attack on Sept. 30, 2022, left them seriously injured and in dire need of medical treatment. Credit: Vulnerable People Project

Now safely in Spain, the girls are being treated at Hospital Ruber Internacional.

Though some need serious operations and have a long road to recovery, the Spanish government has offered the girls visas for resettlement and the VPP has plans to help them afford the university program of their choice.

The VPP is also working on the paperwork to reunite the girls safely with their families in Spain.

As for the other survivors who were not as seriously injured, VPP is working to help them resettle and build their life in another country, which the organization could not disclose.

“They all have very bright futures ahead,” Pineiro said. “We believe that they … [will] contribute greatly back to society in the future.”

Arrest made in vandalism of New York pregnancy center

null / ArtOlympic / Shutterstock.

Boston, Mass., Mar 28, 2023 / 08:13 am (CNA).

An arrest has been made in the March 16 act of vandalism committed at a pro-life pregnancy center in Amherst, New York, the same clinic that was seriously damaged in an arson attack in June 2022.

Although perpetrators of last year’s act of vandalism at CompassCare Pregnancy Services still haven’t been brought to justice, 39-year-old Hannah Kamke has been arrested in connection with the recent crime. The word “liars” was spray-painted in red capital letters across the center’s sign at its 1230 Eggert Rd. location.

Kamke is being charged with one count of criminal mischief in the third degree, which is a Class E felony, and holds a maximum penalty of up to four years’ imprisonment.

The Saturday arrest of Kamke is only the third reported arrest in any of the at least 60 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers across the country since May 2022. The first two arrests came in January against two Floridians. 

There have been dozens of acts of vandalism targeting pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation since reports in May 2022 that Roe v. Wade would be struck down by the Supreme Court. That ruling returned the authority to regulate abortion to the states. 

According to local police, the FBI assisted in the investigation of the incident of vandalism at CompassCare. CNA asked the FBI’s Buffalo office if it is planning to press charges of its own but did not receive a response by time of publication.

For his part, the CEO of the clinic, Jim Harden, said that the crime is a violation of the federal law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. 

Commonly referred to as the FACE Act, the federal law prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

“Both the vandalism and firebombing fit the definition of a violation of the FACE Act,” a March 25 press release from the clinic said. Harden is considering suing Kamke under the auspices of the FACE Act, the release also said. 

“This arrest represents an indictment on the FBI and the hundreds of other local law enforcement agencies that have allowed the FBI to usurp their investigative duty. The FBI has less evidence for the March 16 vandalism than they do for the June 7 firebombing, yet they somehow were able to identify a suspect and make an arrest within days,” Harden said in the press release.

“We’ve been saying all along that the FBI possesses this kind of forensic power but has chosen not to employ it on behalf of pro-life people when victimized by pro-abortion Maoist Antifa,” Harden added.

Harden isn’t alone in his criticism of the FBI. Many pro-lifers and federal lawmakers have voiced their opinions arguing that the Biden administration’s Department of Justice has been targeting pro-lifers in aggressive and disproportionate use of the FACE Act toward those who defend life.

Merrick Garland, who heads the Department of Justice, testified to lawmakers in March that there is no bias in the department and that more pro-lifers have been charged under the FACE Act because they are more easily caught violating the law. 

“There are many more prosecutions with respect to the blocking of the abortion centers, but that is generally because those actions are taken with photography at the time, during the daylight, and seeing the person who did it is quite easy,” Garland said.

“Those who are attacking the pregnancy resource centers, which is a horrid thing to do, are doing this at night in the dark. We have put full resources on this. We have put rewards out for this,” he added.

Guam Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes steps down for medical reasons

Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes / Archdiocese of Detroit.

Rome Newsroom, Mar 28, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Agaña, Guam.

Byrnes, 64, has led the Catholic Church on the U.S. island territory since the 2019 conviction of its former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron for the sexual abuse of minors.

Pacific Daily News, a Guam-based news site, reported in December 2022 that Byrnes was on extended leave from his duties as archbishop for unspecified medical reasons.

Father Romeo Convocar, who has been overseeing the archdiocese in Byrnes’ absence, in December asked for continued prayers for the archbishop who “has always appreciated the kindness of the people.”

On March 28, Pope Francis appointed Convocar apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agaña until the nomination of a new archbishop.

According to Pacific Daily News, Byrnes left Guam in late June 2022.

Byrnes, who is from Detroit, was appointed co-adjutor archbishop of Agaña in October 2016, after Archbishop Apuron was accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

Though he was still formally archbishop, Apuron had been relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority in June 2016. Byrnes succeeded Apuron in April 2019.

Apuron was found guilty of several abuse-related charges by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2018. The conviction was upheld on appeal in February 2019, and the final sentencing was announced April 4, 2019.

Apuron was deprived of his office as archbishop of Agaña; forbidden from using its insignia, including the bishop’s miter and ring; and banned from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He was not removed from ministry and remains a priest under Church law.

In January 2019, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November 2018, allowed the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in the abuse lawsuits, which amounted to over $115 million.

Following Apuron’s sentencing, Archbishop Byrnes offered his “deepest apologies” to the victims, whom he listed by name.

“I am truly sorry for the betrayal and severe anguish that you suffered and continue to suffer,” Byrnes said in the 2019 statement.

Byrnes called the abuse of minors “a deep and sorrowful shame,” adding that the Church on Guam must “ensure that the horrible harm inflicted to the innocent is never repeated.”

“Our focus shall remain on making penance and reparation in our Church on Guam, attending to justice for the numerous victims of clergy sexual abuse on Guam and continuing our mission to proclaim the love of God to the people of Guam and the Marianas,” he said, according to the Pacific Daily News.

Byrnes was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit from 2011–2016.

As a priest, he served as a parish pastor and as vice rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

PHOTOS: Pro-life marchers in NYC dodge garbage, weather, and counter-protesters

Michael Phelps of Good Counsel Homes prays the rosary with others as they pass Trinity Church in the shadow of the Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan on March 25, 2023. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 27, 2023 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

Pro-abortion protesters attempted to disrupt a prayerful pro-life walk in New York City on Saturday, in part by throwing garbage in their path. Despite the suboptimal conditions — which included pouring rain — the pro-life walk attracted several hundred participants.

Counter-protestors try to block the International Gift of Life Walk by placing trash in the path on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Counter-protestors try to block the International Gift of Life Walk by placing trash in the path on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

The seventh annual International Gift of Life Walk-NYC on March 25 attracted more than 250 people who processed about a mile through New York City in an attempt to bear witness to the pro-life cause. Speakers at the rally included former abortion doctor Haywood Robinson, who now works with 40 Days for Life; and Ed Mechmann, policy director for the Archdiocese of New York.

Images captured at the rally by photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno show individuals and pro-life groups marching in dismal rain and wind, many with rosaries, amid a heavy police presence. Approximately 30 counter-protesters shouted and rang cowbells from the roadsides in an attempt to disrupt the march. 

The International Gift of Life Walk winds its way down Broadway escorted by the NYPD on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
The International Gift of Life Walk winds its way down Broadway escorted by the NYPD on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Bernadette Patel, a Catholic pro-life activist from New York, said the purpose of the walk was to hold a “prayer vigil and witness, to show that there are pro-lifers in New York.” Patel said last year’s walk was “so peaceful,” in contrast to this latest one, which saw pro-abortion protesters pile trash in the streets in an attempt to slow down the pro-life walkers.

A participant in the International Gift of Life Walk prays the Rosary for the dignity of all life as the walk is about to begin March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
A participant in the International Gift of Life Walk prays the Rosary for the dignity of all life as the walk is about to begin March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

She said pro-abortion groups have ramped up their counter-protests of pro-life events in New York following the June 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. The number of pro-life people who showed up despite the weather and despite the threat of counter-protesters was “awesome,” she said.

Counter-protestors tried to block the International Gift of Life Walk in New York City on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Counter-protestors tried to block the International Gift of Life Walk in New York City on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Despite the threats and bad weather, the turnout for the walk appeared to be similar to previous years, said Father Lawerence Schroedel, CFR. The Franciscan Friar of the Renewal celebrated Mass for the walkers ahead of the rally in New York’s St. Peter’s Parish. He told CNA that the Gift of Life Walk is a relatively new, local pro-life initiative that takes place every year on March 25, and confirmed that last year they didn’t see “any opposition" to their peaceful rally.

Father Lawerence Schroedel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal celebrates Mass at St. Peter's Church near Ground Zero just before the rally and International Gift of Life Walk at Foley Square on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Father Lawerence Schroedel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal celebrates Mass at St. Peter's Church near Ground Zero just before the rally and International Gift of Life Walk at Foley Square on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Despite this, Schroedel described the counter-protesters this year as almost a “nonissue,” given how few there were in comparison to the marchers.

“There were actually so much more of us than them, it really made us seem all the bigger,” Schroedel said.

Dawn Eskew is president and founder of Personhood Education New York, the group that organized the pro-life walk. She told CNA that pro-abortion groups had posted on Twitter and Instagram in the days leading up to the walk that they would be attempting to disrupt it.

Jim Havens, co-founder of the National Men's March, addresses the participants of the International Gift of Life Walk at the rally point on Centre Street in New York City on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Jim Havens, co-founder of the National Men's March, addresses the participants of the International Gift of Life Walk at the rally point on Centre Street in New York City on March 25, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Another factor complicating the 2023 walk, Eskew said, was the fact that there were permitting issues because Warner Brothers wanted to use part of their preferred route in the filming of a movie, leading to the walk being shifted by two blocks at the last minute.

Given these and other challenges, Eskew said she believes the rally was a success. She told CNA that she thinks more than 300 people turned out.

“We did what we were called to do. That in itself is a success — the whole point was to make awareness” for the pro-life cause, Eskew said.