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Sidewalk counselor says ‘heart goes out’ to women in crisis pregnancies

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Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It didn’t take long for Nicky Peters to feel the drama of being a sidewalk counselor outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul.

The 19-year-old sophomore at St. Catherine University in St. Paul and member of St. Ambrose Parish in Woodbury had decided last spring to take her pro-life passion to the streets. She signed up to volunteer with Pro-Life Action Ministries in St. Paul and paired with Ann Redding, the organization’s sidewalk counseling coordinator.

Nicky Peters stands outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 3. Peters stands outside the center twice a month to offer information and compassion to women arriving for abortions. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Nicky Peters stands outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 3. Peters stands outside the center twice a month to offer information and compassion to women arriving for abortions. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

This past June, the two showed up hoping to encounter women with unwanted pregnancies. It was Peters’ first time.

“That day was amazing,” she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “I met Ann there, and within the first hour, a woman came up to us and told her (Ann) that she had changed her mind about having an abortion, but she had already had part of the procedure done.”

The woman told them that clinic workers had inserted laminaria sticks to help dilate her cervix to prepare for the abortion, but she had changed her mind. She jumped off the examination table and left the clinic without having them removed. When she encountered Redding and Peters on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, Redding hustled into action, leading the pregnant woman to nearby Abria Pregnancy Resources. Two months later, a healthy baby boy was born.

Peters, who is studying sign language interpreting at St. Kate’s, as her school’s known, will never forget that day. In fact, it’s what gives her the strength to spend hours alone on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, sometimes enduring insults and profanity hurled her way by vocal abortion supporters.

“It all goes back to that first day; the passion that I have is about helping these women,” said Peters, who does sidewalk counseling twice a month for about two-and-a-half hours each time. “My heart goes out to them, honestly. A child is such a wonderful thing that I’d do anything to help (the pregnant women).”

The seed of her current volunteer role was planted one year ago at the annual March for Life in Washington, marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. She made the trip out on a plane, but rode back on a bus chartered by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis when flights were canceled because of a powerful storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in the mid-Atlantic region.

She rode back with other teens and young adults from the archdiocese, plus three women who belonged to Katies for Life on her campus.

“All these women were talking about how involved they were in the pro-life movement,” Peters recalled. “One girl in my college group who does a little bit of sidewalk counseling and is a prayer supporter described what it was, and it really sounded like something that I was called to do. I loved being pro-life and I really, really wanted to be more involved, so I looked into it, did some research and decided that this was for me and I wanted to do it.”

After going through a seminar and training, she went to Planned Parenthood with Redding, who has been in her role with Pro-Life Action Ministries since 2000.

“I’m just really glad she’s on board,” said Redding. “She’s out there to be compassionate with people. Whether it’s a ‘save’ or not, we’re recognizing the humanity of the child that’s (in danger of being) killed. Secondly, we are letting people know that we care about them.”

Redding noted that Peters is the perfect age for counseling because most of the women who come to Planned Parenthood for abortions are 20 to 24 years old. She estimates that 30 of the 200 regular sidewalk counselors who volunteer through the pro-life group are in that age group. Many are seminarians who come regularly on Friday afternoons.

“This is the best age group to be out there on the sidewalk,” Redding said. “The college-aged have physical strength, idealism and beauty. Young people have that beauty that draws someone to talk to them.”

However, the responses can be negative, even ugly, at times. Peters has discovered this, which initially surprised her.

“I do take a lot of heat, especially on the sidewalk, and even from people on campus,” she said. “I get profanity, the middle finger. I get anywhere from, ‘Oh, you’re just totally wrong,’ to large profanity statements.”

In between the encounters are long periods of silence, in which she sees no one and must figure out useful ways to spend her time.

Her go-to practice on those occasions is prayer. She recites decades of the rosary and calls on the intercession of the saints and Mary. Her words to God and to the people she meets are steeped in a deep faith that believes she is making a difference, and a faith that keeps her coming back for more, even when the coldest days of the year may lay ahead.

“I just love it, honestly,” she said. “It can get a little bit discouraging, but I always have to go back to that first day of helping that woman. I just have to go back to that day because I know that that truly was amazing, and I have to keep doing that so I can help more women. Even though people will give me the middle finger, I just have to sit there and pray for them and pray for a change of heart.”

Hrbacek is senior content specialist at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Trump’s move to build border wall will ‘tear families apart,’ bishop warns

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration criticized President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying it would “put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way.”

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, also criticized Trump’s memorandum on a surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, saying it would “tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities.”

A photo taken in 2016 shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, N.M., opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. President Donald Trump enacted two executive memorandums to deal with security, including one that calls for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

A photo taken in 2016 shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, N.M., opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. President Donald Trump enacted two executive memorandums to deal with security, including one that calls for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

Trump signed the two executive memorandums on national security Jan. 25 during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the wall, a cornerstone of Trump’s election campaign, would “stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration” along the southern border. He also said Trump’s top priority was the nation’s security.

But hours later, Bishop Vasquez issued a statement saying that construction of the wall would “make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border.

“Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will ‘look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.’”

During a February 2016 visit to Mexico, Pope Francis traveled to the U.S. border at Ciudad Juarez and pleaded for the plight of immigrants. He said those who refuse to offer safe shelter and passage were bringing about dishonor and self-destruction as their hearts hardened and they “lost their sensitivity to pain.”

Bishop Vasquez said the bishops respected the government’s right to control its borders and to ensure the safety of all Americans, but said, “We do not believe that a large-scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform.”

He said the new policies would “make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Every day my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”

“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by today’s decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey,” Bishop Vasquez said.

At the Jan. 25 White House briefing, Spicer reiterated that Mexico would end up paying for construction of the wall. He said Trump would work with Congress on finding money to pay for the construction, noting, “there are a lot of funding mechanisms that can be used.”

Trump’s second executive memorandum also directed John F. Kelly, secretary of homeland security, to look at how federal funding streams can be cut for cities and states that illegally harbor immigrants. Spicer said the so-called “sanctuary cities” create a problem for taxpayers.

“You have American people out there working” and their tax funds are sent to places that do not enforce the law, he said.

The executive memorandums did not address the issue of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, nor did they discuss emigration from the Middle East, which Spicer said would be addressed later in the week.

In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, which authorized several hundred miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile U.S. frontier with Mexico. The Associated Press reported that legislation led to the construction of about 700 miles of various kinds of fencing designed to block both vehicles and pedestrians, primarily in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. It said the final sections were completed after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

AP reported that a 1970 treaty with Mexico requires that structures along the border cannot disrupt the flow of rivers that define the U.S.-Mexican border along Texas and 24 miles in Arizona.

The PICO National Network, the largest network of congregations and faith-based groups in the country, including Catholics, challenged the executive memorandum on sanctuary cities.

“Retaliating against local communities because they refuse to follow immoral policies is part of an emerging pattern of President Trump of not only bullying people who dare to disagree with him, but isolating and further marginalizing people who are different than him,” said Eddie Carmona, campaign director for PICO National Network’s LA RED campaign. “Such behavior is inconsistent with the long-held notion that America was a place of opportunity for all.”

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, called the presidential orders “antithetical to our faith.”

“When Nuns on the Bus visited the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, we walked along the wall and listened to the stories of communities that have been torn apart for decades. That is the reality experienced by border communities: The wall is there and it affects the daily life and commerce of the people.

“Federal appropriations for border security have grown to $3.8 billion in FY2015, from $263 million in FY1990, and fencing exists for hundreds of miles along our southern border,” she said in a statement.

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Former employee sues SNAP, the group that advocates for victims of clergy abuse

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A former director of development for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests has charged in a wrongful termination lawsuit that SNAP is more interested in fundraising and taking kickbacks from lawyers suing the Catholic Church than in helping survivors.

A detail from the cover of the 2016 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection annual report on dioceses' compliance with the USCCB charter on abuse prevention. A former employee of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, has charged in a wrongful dismissal suit that SNAP is more interested in fundraising and taking kickbacks from lawyers suing the church than in helping survivors.. (CNS/USCCB)

A detail from the cover of the 2016 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection annual report on dioceses’ compliance with the USCCB charter on abuse prevention. A former employee of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, has charged in a wrongful termination suit that SNAP is more interested in fundraising and taking kickbacks from lawyers suing the church than in helping survivors.. (CNS/USCCB)

Gretchen Rachel Hammond, in her suit filed Jan. 17 in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, further accuses SNAP of being “a commercial organization” and “premised upon farming out abuse survivors as clients for attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors and collect settlement checks from the Catholic Church.”

Hammond worked for SNAP from July 2011 to February 2013, and is now a journalist for the Windy City Times. She claims she was fired in retaliation for a series of discoveries she made about the way settlements were being handled, and that the stress caused by SNAP’s treatment of her sent her to the hospital four times and resulted in a series of health problems.

She also asserts that SNAP “is motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.” In 2011, SNAP helped publicize the attempt in Europe to bring charges against Pope Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.

“The allegations are not true,” SNAP president Barbara Blaine said in a statement sent to Catholic News Service as well as other news organizations. “This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse.”

SNAP, founded in 1989 and based in Chicago, is considered the largest and best-known advocacy organization for survivors of clerical abuse.

The lawsuit alleges that after abuse survivors are referred to attorneys, “these cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”

SNAP, Hammond claims, “regularly communicates with attorneys about their lawsuits on behalf of survivors, receiving drafts of pleadings and other privileged information.” Attorneys and SNAP “base their strategy not on the best interest of the survivor, but on what will generate the most publicity and fundraising opportunities for SNAP.”

Hammond further claims that the bulk of donations to SNAP have come from attorneys, as much as 81 percent of the $437,400 in donations made in 2007 and 56 percent in 2011.

“Tellingly, at one time during 2011 and 2012,” the suit, says, “SNAP even concocted a scheme to have attorneys make donations to a front foundation, styled the ‘Minnesota Center for Philanthropy,’ and then have the Minnesota Center for Philanthropy make a grant to SNAP in order to provide a subterfuge for, and to otherwise conceal, the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ kickbacks to SNAP.”

It also accuses SNAP’s executive director, David Clohessy, of recommending that an abuse survivor pursue a claim in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy settlement.

It quotes a Clohessy email: “I sure hope you DO pursue the WI bankruptcy … every nickle (sic) they don’t have is a nickle that they can’t spend on defense lawyers, PR staff, gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc.”

Attorney Bruce Howard, of the Siprut firm in Chicago, which is representing Hammond, told CNS in a phone interview late Jan. 20 said he likes their chances in the case. “Generally, we don’t bring frivolous cases,” he said.

He emphasized that the case is strictly a wrongful termination case and that his firm has never been associated with “any case involving SNAP or any case remotely tangential to SNAP.” Howard added that his firm takes a lot of whistleblower cases, which usually start out as wrongful termination cases.

Howard noted the firm’s client “is Jewish and was raised in the Church of England and has no connection to the Catholic Church. I have never been involved in a case dealing with the Catholic Church.”

Hammond is not seeking a specific sum in damages but is asking for “compensatory damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest.”

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New poll shows Americans strongly support abortion restrictions

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A few days before the annual March for Life, a new national poll indicated shifting public attitudes, crossing party labels, in favor of increased restrictions on abortion.

“When you ask Americans what they think of abortion … you get very, very strong numbers in favor of restrictions,” said Andrew T. Walther, vice president of communications of the Knights of Columbus, during a Jan. 23 news conference.

Participants carry a banner during the annual annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco Jan. 21. (CNS photo/Jose Aguirre, Walk for Life West Coast)

Participants carry a banner during the annual annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco Jan. 21. (CNS photo/Jose Aguirre, Walk for Life West Coast)

The Marist survey of 2,729 adults was conducted in December and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. It contains breakdowns by political affiliations and ethnicity but not religious beliefs, so there was no information on how many respondents were Catholics.

Fifty-two percent of the respondents indicated that they thought of themselves as “pro-choice,” while 42 percent self-identified as pro-life. But when the questions became more detailed on abortion policies, the numbers shifted.

Across political and ethnic lines, overwhelming majorities of respondents indicated they would like “significant restrictions.” That included 91 percent of those who called themselves supporters of President Donald J. Trump, and 55 percent of those who identified themselves as Hillary Clinton supporters. The poll further showed that 79 percent of both African-American and Latino respondents favored significant restrictions.

Further, 74 percent said they wanted the Supreme Court to rule on these restrictions, indicating support for overturning the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion virtually on demand.

Eighty-three percent said abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother, while 77 percent said it should not be permitted under any circumstance.

In line with Trump’s new executive order reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion overseas, 83 percent opposed that use of tax money in other countries, and 62 percent opposed the use of tax money generally.

Fully half the respondents thought abortion “has a negative, long-term impact on a woman’s life,” while 19 percent were unsure.

Fifty-nine percent believe that abortion limits were either “important” or an immediate priority, and the same percentage agreed when asked if they thought abortion was morally wrong.

The same level of support was expressed for an abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 60 percent believed that medical professionals with moral objections should not be legally required to provide abortion services.

The 44th annual March for Life, which draws thousands to Washington to commemorate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision, will be held Jan. 27.

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Trump reinstates policy banning U.S. funds for abortions in other countries

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order Jan. 23 reinstating the “Mexico City Policy,” which bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

The action was hailed by pro-life leaders.

“President Trump is continuing Ronald Reagan’s legacy by taking immediate action on day one to stop the promotion of abortion through our tax dollars overseas,” said a Jan. 23 statement from Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump holds up his executive order reinstating the "Mexico City Policy" banning federal funding of abortion-providing groups abroad after he signed it Jan. 23 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (CNS /Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald J. Trump holds up his executive order reinstating the “Mexico City Policy” banning federal funding of abortion-providing groups abroad after he signed it Jan. 23 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (CNS /Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“President Trump’s immediate action to promote respect for all human life, including vulnerable unborn children abroad, as well as conscience rights, sends a strong signal about his administration’s pro-life priorities,” she said.

“By redirecting taxpayer dollars away from the international abortion industry, President Trump has reinstituted life-affirming protections for unborn children and their mothers,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. “There is political consensus that taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion and the abortion industry.”

“Now we see pro-life fruits of the election unfolding as President Trump has taken immediate action to reinstitute President Reagan’s Mexico City Policy,” said Father Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, in a Jan. 23 statement. “Poll after poll shows that Americans do not want their tax money to pay for abortions. Stopping funding to foreign pro-abortion groups is a powerful first step toward doing the same domestically.”

Named for the city that hosted the U.N. International Conference on Population in 1984, where Reagan, then in his first term as president, unveiled it, the Mexico City Policy has been the textbook definition of a political football. Adopted by a Republican president, it has been rescinded when Democrats sat in the White House, only to be restored when Republicans claimed the presidency.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton’s revocation of the policy was made so quickly following his inauguration that some participants in the March for Life, conducted two days after the inauguration, carried “Impeach Clinton” signs.

Just as Clinton had rescinded the policy two days after taking office, so did President George W. Bush reinstate it two days into his presidency, expanding it to include all voluntary family planning activities. President Barack Obama rescinded the policy Jan. 23, 2009.

Court challenges to the policy resulted in rulings in 1987 and 1988 that limited its application to foreign NGOs.

The executive order “makes clear that Trump intends to carry out with his promised pro-life agenda. Taxpayer funding for abortions, whether here or overseas, is unpopular with voters and is plain wrong,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association.

“It amounts to subsidizing the violent victimization of women and children, in particular poor and minority women who feel they have no choice but to have an abortion,” McGuire said. “Redirecting those funds to health centers that offer women real choice and hope is the right policy moving forward.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Though snubbed by Women’s March, pro-life groups still participate

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After being removed from a list of partner organizations for the Women’s March on Washington, members of a pro-life group based in Texas decided they still would take to the streets Jan. 21 to take part in the historic and massive event. And they said it was a good decision.

“Overall, it was an amazing experience,” said Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, of New Wave Feminists, one of the groups removed as a march sponsor.

Mary Solitario, 21, center, a Catholic from Virginia, joins a pro-life demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court prior to the Women's March on Washington Jan. 21. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Mary Solitario, 21, center, a Catholic from Virginia, joins a pro-life demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court prior to the Women’s March on Washington Jan. 21. (CNS/Bob Roller)

“We were prepared for confrontation and instead were supported by so many women,” said Herndon-De La Rosa told Catholic News Service.

The group posted photos on their Facebook and Instagram accounts of their participation, holding signs that read, “I’m a pro-life feminist.”

“They kept coming up and telling us how glad they were that we were there and how, even though they didn’t necessarily agree on the abortion issue, they thought it wrong that we were removed as partners,” said Herndon-De La Rosa. “It was very cool.”

Women like Herndon-De La Rosa marched for a cause. In her group’s case, they are concerned about President Donald J. Trump’s changing position on abortion and say they wanted him to know they’d be watching what he does on pro-life issues such as abortion, the death penalty and violence.

Others marched to voice disapproval of the new president. Many came from places near and far and after filing past the streets near Washington’s most important institutions, they filled the area near the White House where its newest residents have a direct line of view toward the Washington Monument.

They were hoping the newly minted president would hear or see them and consider what they had to say.

Margie Legowski, a parishioner at Washington’s Holy Trinity Catholic Church, said she took to the streets “in support of values that I don’t see in this administration.” Those values include equality for women and also caring about immigrants who need help.

“I want to take a stand. I don’t want to be passive about it,” she said. “In our faith we’re called to solidarity.”

That means standing up against wealth inequality and defending the vulnerable, she said. It’s a means of building the kingdom of God on earth and she doesn’t see that as a priority for the new president.

Like a lot of women attending the march, she hosted other female friends, nieces and a sister-in-law who lives in Germany, all of whom felt enough conviction to travel to Washington and lend their presence to the numbers of participants.

Jean Johnson, another Holy Trinity parishioner, attended the march with 11 nieces and four grandnieces. They arrived in Washington from around the country, some driving long distances and picking up other family members along the way. She said she felt pride in her large group, particularly because they adopted the values of her Irish Catholic immigrant parents and are concerned about the common good, for women and for others.

She wasn’t marching against a cause or person, but rather marching for women’s dignity, she said.

“I went to a Catholic school where the nuns told me I’m a temple,” she said. “The march is for that dignity.”

She was excited to share that moment with a new generation in her family, she said.

Some women who attended said they didn’t feel president Trump valued that dignity, particularly after a leaked recording was aired during the campaign in which he was heard making lewd comments about women to an entertainment reporter.

Jack Hogan, who once worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program, said he was attending the march with neighbors and friends because he feels that what Trump has said goes against Catholic social teaching. He said he was hoping other Catholics, as organizations and groups, as well as church leaders, would speak up more forcefully for the poor and vulnerable at this time.

He said worries about the new president’s stance on climate change, on the poor and other issues that seem to go against what Pope Francis, as the leader of the Catholic Church, says are important. He said he feels Trump lives and espouses the opposite of what the church values, including family.

As a citizen, “what (Trump) stands for is not what our participatory democracy stands for,” Hogan said, adding that he could not celebrate his inauguration. Ever since Trump was elected, Hogan said he has participated in various protests and prayer events with other organizations because he worries about what will happen to the vulnerable in society. The Women’s March was one of those instances, he said.

While organizers said the event was to “promote women’s equality and defend other marginalized groups,” some pro-life groups that wanted to be partners in the march were either removed as official sponsors days before the march or their application to be a sponsor was ignored.

In an interview before the march, Herndon-De La Rosa told CNS no one contacted her group to give them the news they were taken off a roster of sponsors, but they found out after a flurry of stories about it. The groups And Then There Were None and Students for Life of America also were denied or taken off the Women’s March roster.

However, many members of those organizations attended the march.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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New Baltimore auxiliary bishops offer thanks to clergy and families

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Following their Jan. 19 episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, new Auxiliary Bishops Adam J. Parker and Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore recalled the litany of the saints, during which they lay prostrate before the altar.

“I felt a lot of joy and a tremendous hope for what is to come in the future, and for the future of ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Bishop Parker said as he was whisked to the post-Mass reception.

Auxiliary Bishops Mark E. Brennan and Adam J. Parker hold the apostolic mandates naming them bishops of the Archdiocese of Baltimore during their Jan. 19 ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

Auxiliary Bishops Mark E. Brennan and Adam J. Parker hold the apostolic mandates naming them bishops of the Archdiocese of Baltimore during their Jan. 19 ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

“I was praying along with the litany,” Bishop Brennan said with a grin while obliging the camera-wielding faithful who had momentarily cornered him and his priest handler. “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, hear my prayer.”

Close to 2,000 gathered in the cathedral on an unusually sunny and mild January afternoon to witness and take part in the ceremony, led by principal celebrant and consecrator Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori.

The archbishop was joined by co-consecrators Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, where Bishop Brennan served as a parish priest before his elevation to the episcopacy; and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and former archbishop Baltimore, whom Bishop Parker had served as priest-secretary from 2007 to 2013.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York concelebrated the Mass; he was rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome while Bishop Parker studied there from 1995 to 2001. Bishop Brennan also studied at that college, from 1970 to 1974.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read the mandates from Pope Francis authorizing the ordinations, and drew laughter from the pews when he opted to begin with “the older one,” Bishop Brennan, who is 69. Bishop Parker is 45.

Archbishop Lori also broached the age topic, referring in his homily to the first reading, which was from Jeremiah and read by Sister Maria Luz Ortiz of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. In it God steamrolls the young prophet’s fretting: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”

“So, Bishop Brennan, let no one take advantage of your youth and inexperience,” the archbishop quipped, adding on a more serious note: “After all, you know, Bishop Brennan and I, we’ve been in priestly ministry a little over 40 years -– we go way back.”

Archbishop Lori shared some insight on the role of bishops.

“The greatest challenge in being a bishop is not administration; it’s not public relations; and it’s not fundraising,” he said. “The greatest challenge is to be always and everywhere an example for God’s people. This is how we become witnesses of hope; this is how we strive to be authentic shepherds.”

He exhorted Bishop Parker and Bishop Brennan to teach the faith “not as words to be followed but as words of spirit and life that transform us from the inside out and make us bearers of the peace of Christ in a world that is broken, a nation that is divided, and in communities that are in need of healing.”

After promising to uphold the faith and fulfill their duties, and after lying prostrate before the altar, Bishop Parker kneeled in reverence as Archbishop Lori laid his hands on his head, a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, followed by Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal O’Brien.

The archbishop and the two co-consecrators did the same for Bishop Brennan; then the other bishops present laid their hands on both men.

Ending the rite of ordination, Archbishop Lori anointed Bishop Parker and Bishop Brennan with holy chrism and presented each with his Book of the Gospels, episcopal ring, crosier and miter.

“This is the day the Lord has made,” Bishop Parker said in his remarks at the end of Mass. “Let us rejoice and be glad.”

He thanked “the Lord for calling me to the priesthood and now giving me its fullness” as well as the people of the Baltimore Archdiocese for their prayers and “profound encouragement.”

He thanked Archbishop Lori for ordaining him and Cardinal O’Brien for his guidance and friendship. “You have changed my priesthood forever,” Bishop Parker told the cardinal.

Finally, he thanked his mother, Maureen Parker, who sat in the front row and was first to receive Communion from the new bishop.

“It was from you and Dad I first heard about Jesus Christ,” Bishop Parker told her, also acknowledging his father, George Parker, who died in 2012. “To you I owe gratitude for my life and my faith.”

Bishop Brennan thanked those who came before him in the succession begun with the Apostles.

“We stand today, all of us here, on the shoulders of giants,” he said.

He also acknowledged his parents, both deceased, who had taken him and his brother, Paul, who was present, to Mass and confession.

“They grounded us in the Catholic faith in a very simple and unpretentious way,” he said.

Bishop Brennan also noted that his elevation to the episcopacy was not the first unexpected change in his ministry. He said in the Washington archdiocese, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, then the archbishop there, “sent me from a nice little parish in Northwest Washington … to a huge, multicultural parish, St. Martin of Tours” in suburban Maryland. “It opened me up ever more to serving people who speak differently and look differently than I do.”

He also delivered remarks in Spanish and French, primary languages of the immigrants he served at St. Martin.

Archbishop Lori reflected on his first time ordaining bishops.

“It was a very moving experience,” he told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet. “As the ceremony unfolded, it just took on a life of its own thanks to the Holy Spirit.”

Thinking of all the people in the Baltimore Archdiocese thankful for two new leaders to share the work, he said, “I’m at the top of that list.”

— By Eric Zygmont

Zygmont is on the staff of the Catholic Review, the website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. George P. Matysek Jr. contributed to this story.

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Pope Francis offers prayers for President Trump

January 20th, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sent best wishes and prayers to incoming President Donald J. Trump shortly after he took the oath of office.

“I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office,” the pope’s message said.

U.S Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump stand for the singing of the national anthem after Trump's swearing-in as the country's 45th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

U.S Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump stand for the singing of the national anthem after Trump’s swearing-in as the country’s 45th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

Saying that the human family faces “grave humanitarian crises” that demand “far-sighted and united political responses,” the pope said he would pray that Trump’s decisions “will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide.”

 The pope also said he hoped that America’s “stature” continued to be measured by “above all its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”

The message concluded with the pope saying he would ask God to grant the new president, his family and all Americans “peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity.”

 

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‘We will be protected by God,’ Trump declares in inaugural address

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump told the nation in his inaugural address that it need not fear in the days ahead.

“There should not be fear,” Trump said Jan. 20. “We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement, and, most important, we will be protected by God.”

President Donald Trump listens to the national anthem after his Jan. 20 swearing-in as the country's 45th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

President Donald Trump listens to the national anthem after his Jan. 20 swearing-in as the country’s 45th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

In signaling a new era for the United States, “at the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” Trump said in his 15-minute address. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”

He said Americans of all stripes harbor common hopes and dreams.

“We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms,” Trump said, “and we all salute the same great American flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

Much of the rest of Trump’s inaugural address restated the themes he used in his presidential campaign, remarking repeatedly that the nation and its citizens would be his top priority as president.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” Trump said from the west front of the Capitol, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”

He added, “This moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day, this is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.”

Trump distilled the ills he saw in the United States: “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation. An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

The 45th president, who is a Presbyterian, said: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

Trump dwelt briefly on the United States’ role in the world. “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” he said. “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”

He vowed to Americans, “You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again.”

Before the swearing-in ceremonies, the Trump family attended a private prayer service St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House. Hosting the service has been a tradition for the church for at least a dozen presidential inaugurals.

At the Capitol, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan was among a number of religious leaders taking part in the inauguration ceremonies. The cardinal read a passage from the Book of Wisdom.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath of office to Vice President Mike Pence, then U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Trump. Standing at the new president’s side were his wife, Melania, and children Donald Jr., Barron, Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany.

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TV Review: HBO’s ‘The Young Pope’ is cartoonish and offensive

January 20th, 2017 Posted in Movies, National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Behind the opening credits of “The Young Pope,” a naked baby boy crawls over a sea of infant mannequins, and a man dressed as the Roman pontiff emerges at the other end.

As bizarre as that may sound, the controversial, provocative new miniseries from pay-cable channel HBO only gets stranger from there.

Jude Law stars in a scene from the HBO television drama series "The Young Pope." (CNS photo/HBO)

Jude Law stars in a scene from the HBO television drama series “The Young Pope.” (CNS photo/HBO)

The 10-episode program premiered Sunday, Jan. 15, and will air Sundays and Mondays through Feb. 13, 9-10 p.m. each night.

As viewers might expect from an HBO presentation, “The Young Pope” contains strong, often gratuitous sexual content, nudity and profanity. As such, it’s exclusively suitable for a restricted adult audience, all the more so since these elements are mixed in with subject matter sacred to Catholics.

Perhaps best known for his Academy Award-winning 2013 film, “The Great Beauty,” Italian director Paolo Sorrentino helms the series, for which he was also the principal writer.

In the opening episode, a papal conclave delivers a surprising outcome as the 47-year-old archbishop of New York, Cardinal Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) becomes Pope Pius XIII, the first American pontiff. Mistakenly believing he would be able to dictate policy to this inexperienced newcomer, Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando), the Vatican’s secretary of state, manipulated the vote in Belardo’s favor.

Pius immediately signals that he’s going to be his own man, however and a different kind of pope as well. He does so most dramatically by his choice of a nun to serve as his chief adviser.

Having lost his parents at age 7, Lenny grew up in an orphanage at which Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) worked. There, she raised him and another boy, the future Cardinal Dussolier (Scott Shepherd), as her sons. Now, Pius helicopters her into the Vatican so he can rely on her for guidance.

This back story is implausible in two respects. American children growing up without parents in the 1970s wouldn’t be sent to orphanages; they would be placed in foster care. Sister Mary’s religious order, moreover, wouldn’t have permitted her to raise children as though they were her own.

Pius also signals a new direction when he delivers his first address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Visible only in silhouette, he declares, “I am closer to God than I am to you, and, if you want to see me, go see God first.” When someone shines a green laser light in his face, he snaps, “How dare you shine a light in your pope’s face?”

Playing on the fact that many younger Catholics, including priests, tend to be conservative, idealizing the church before the Second Vatican Council, Sorrentino has crafted a simplistic caricature of them, a stick figure wholly lacking in subtlety, albeit a self-contradictory, even paradoxical, one. Pius is the anti-Francis, yearning for the restoration of items like the papal tiara and the “sedia gestatoria,” a portable throne on a platform carried by a group of attendants that was last used in 1978.

Pius’ theology is equally unsympathetic. Evangelization? “Been there. Done that,” he remarks.

“And reaching out to others? Time for that to stop.”

This is also a pope who can’t function without Diet Cherry Coke Zero, coffee and cigarettes. Petulant and vindictive, he makes a mockery of confession by declaring, “I don’t have any sins to confess… My conscience doesn’t accuse me of anything.” The protagonist of “The Young Pope” is, in brief, a jerk.

As irksome as many Catholics will find all of the foregoing, Sorrentino ups the ante to the level of outrage with a dream sequence in which Pius urges an adulating throng to have abortions, promote euthanasia and enjoy free love. If that’s somehow meant to be thought-provoking, it registers instead as patently and pointlessly offensive.

Saddled with a cartoonish view of the church, and driven by the urge to be edgy, “The Young Pope” repels more than it engages.

 

By Chris Byrd, a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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