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Synod on Synodality: Europe’s Continental Assembly in Prague discusses tensions in the Church

Synod on Synodality logo / Courtesy USCCB

Prague, Czech Republic, Feb 7, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

Two hundred delegates are meeting this week in the capital of the Czech Republic for the last stage of regional discussions in the Synod on Synodality. 

Canadian man says hospital staff ‘pressured’ him to euthanize his wife

Richard Leskun says he was pressured repeatedly to put a do-not-resuscitate order on his wife Marilynn at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Then staff offered to euthanize her. / Courtesy of The B.C. Catholic

Vancouver, Canada, Feb 7, 2023 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

The widower is sounding the alarm over what he says is a shocking and dangerous bias in the medical system toward the promotion of death.

Dictatorship in Nicaragua sentences seven more clergy and laity to 10 years in prison

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Feb 7, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

The sentence consists of five years for the crime of “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and five years for “spreading fake news.”

Guess who’s coming to the State of the Union? Pro-life hero and target of Biden Justice Department Mark Houck

Mark Houck talks to reporters outside the U.S. District courthouse in Philadelphia with his lawyers, Peter Breen (left), Brian McMonagle (right), and Andrew Bath (background) following his acquittal on two charges of violating the FACE Act, Jan. 30, 2023. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Boston, Mass., Feb 7, 2023 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

While several Democrats are showing off their commitment to removing restrictions on abortion by inviting pro-abortion guests to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, one Republican is making a statement in support of life with his invitation.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry invited pro-life advocate and recently exonerated Catholic father of seven Mark Houck to be his guest. 

“Mark Houck and his family are innocent victims of the radical left’s reprehensible abuse of power, which systematically seeks to destroy the lives of hardworking Americans whose only ‘crimes’ are using their God-given constitutional rights to protect their families, faith, and way of life,” Perry told The Daily Signal Feb. 7.

Houck recently fought charges in federal court of violating two counts of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, known as the FACE Act. His trial and subsequent acquittal followed his early morning arrest by the FBI in September 2022, which made national headlines. It also led many federal lawmakers to criticize the Department of Justice for excessive use of force in order to intimidate pro-lifers.

Perry said that Biden has “weaponized” the federal government “against anyone who thwarts his radical, leftist agenda.”

“He should see the faces of some of those Americans who have been relentlessly and unjustifiably persecuted by the same government sworn to protect their freedoms,” he concluded.

Houck told the outlet that he will be attending with his wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, and is honored to be asked by Perry.

“We hope our presence with members of Congress will continue to raise awareness about the injustice that was rendered against my family and others in recent months,” Houck said.

Tuesday is Biden’s first State of the Union Address following the June Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Following the defeat of Roe, Houck’s acquittal in Philadelphia federal court marks another major political blow to the Biden administration’s pro-abortion agenda, which includes the prosecution of several pro-life advocates under the FACE Act.

“We pray for the opportunity to meet with those who need to hear our story and for the eventual opportunity to testify before the Judiciary Committee about our reckless experience with the Department of Justice,” Houck concluded.

Democrats invite pro-abortion guests to State of the Union

null / Wikipedia

Boston, Mass., Feb 7, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Several Democratic congressmen have invited pro-abortion activists as their guests for President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address Tuesday night to highlight their commitment to removing restrictions on abortion.

Jill Biden has also included an abortion activist as one of her guests to sit in the First Lady’s box.

Tuesday is Biden’s first State of the Union Address following the June Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

As abortion becomes increasingly more difficult to procure in many states — and much easier to access in others — pro-abortion politicians are digging their heels in on the issue while pro-life advocates are doubling down on the humanity of the unborn.

And not all the guests coming tonight are advocates of abortion. One high-profile advocate for the unborn, pro-life advocate Mark Houck, will be attending at the invitation of a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.

Sen. Ed Markey

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, is bringing abortion rights advocate Kate Dineen, a Massachusetts woman who traveled out of state to legally procure an abortion in Maryland. 

Dineen was pregnant past the legal stage to get an abortion in Massachusetts when her son suffered a devastating stroke in her womb, according to the Patch.

Markey said that he is bringing Dineen to “highlight the importance of codifying abortion rights into law” and the “urgent need to go further” in removing legal, economic, or geographical restrictions to abortion. 

Rep. Katherine Clark

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, has invited Boston abortion doctor Cheryl Hamlin as her guest Tuesday night.

Hamlin, who works at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, spent time working at an abortion center in Jackson, Mississippi, which was the focal point of the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Hamlin worked at the Jackson abortion clinic to perform abortions that local doctors refused to perform, taking her motivation from the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, who was staunchly pro-life, WGBH reported.

Clark said that she invited Hamlin to highlight the Democratic Party’s “commitment to reproductive freedom” and standing against the “MAGA Majority’s assault on women’s health and rights.”

Rep. Madeleine Dean

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pennsylvania, will be joined by Kelsey Leigh, an abortion activist from the state who herself has had an abortion. 

According to Dean, Leigh had an abortion at 22 weeks, after it was discovered that her child had “severe fetal anomalies.” 

Dean said she wanted to make it clear by inviting Leigh that “abortion care is health care.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Anabely Lopes, a Florida woman who traveled out of state to procure an abortion of her child after genetic testing identified “a deadly fetal anomaly,” will be joining Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the congresswoman announced Monday.

Wasserman Schultz said that Lopes is “a victim of extreme MAGA Republican policies that focus on Florida culture war distractions and attacking women and minorities.” 

In a tweet Monday, Wasserman Schultz said that Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ “abortion ban forced my #SOTU guest Anabely Lopes to leave FLA for the procedure when genetic tests revealed a deadly fetal anomaly,” adding that President Joe Biden and the House Democrats “defend women’s rights.”

First Lady Jill Biden

The First Lady, Jill Biden, invited a host of guests to the State of the Union to sit in the First Lady’s box, including Amanda and Josh Zurawski of Austin, Texas.

Amanda Zurawski was pregnant in 2022 and her water prematurely broke at 18 weeks. She subsequently developed sepsis and almost died because of a failure to treat her in a time-appropriate manner, the AP reported.

The couple’s daughter was delivered stillborn, according to TODAY.

Court rules pro-life group owes nearly $1 million in fines for Planned Parenthood protests

null / Credit: Chodyra Mike 1/Shutterstock.

Denver, Colo., Feb 7, 2023 / 12:23 pm (CNA).

A Planned Parenthood affiliate has won a legal judgment of almost $1 million against a pro-life group that gathered outside of a Spokane abortion clinic.

The group, which calls itself the Church at Planned Parenthood, must pay $110,000 in civil damages to Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and another $850,000 in legal fees to the abortion provider, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported Feb. 3.

A Spokane County judge ruled in December that the church repeatedly violated state law by “willfully or recklessly” disrupting the normal functioning of a health care facility, including by making noise that “unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.”

Judge Tim Fennessy of Spokane County Superior Court agreed with Planned Parenthood’s evidence that the church held 22 services in violation of state law and fined the church $5,000 for each day of a violation. He agreed that the violations put patients at increased risk of physical and mental health problems, the news site Crosscut reported.

Among the critics of the ruling was Esther Ripplinger, executive director of the pro-life group Human Life of Washington, who addressed the decision in Feb. 7 remarks in an interview with CNA.

“What we’re seeing is an attack on pro-life, period,” said Ripplinger, whose organization is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. “It’s an attack on life and it’s unfair. And it’s singled out. These are just trumped-up charges and I hope that they fight it to the fullest extent of the law.”

“These are people who engage and mobilize other people who believe that abortion is wrong, and so they have the right to do that, to assemble together on public property,” Ripplinger said. “Absolutely no laws were broken here. This is really just a witch hunt against the organizers and against what they believe, and it’s not fair.”

Pastor Ken Peters, a co-founder of the church, denied allegations of harassment and obstruction to reproductive care. He characterized the events as peaceful and nondisruptive.

“Literally, we were singing, praying, and preaching. That’s what we got sued for. We were doing it after hours when we got sued,” he told Spokane CBS affiliate KREM2 News. He said that insurance will pay for legal fees, and the church’s future events and rallies will go forward.

Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said its arguments in the case were “content-neutral.” The clinic saw the protests’ impact on patients and abortion providers. “They did not feel safe,” he said.

Dillon said the group tried to “tiptoe around the law” despite previous court orders.

The Church at Planned Parenthood launched in 2019 as a “church plant” outside the abortion facility. Its website says the church meets only once a month and that the gathering is “not a protest” but “a worship service at the gates of hell.” It characterizes its actions as “non-confrontational spiritual warfare” in the “revival spirit” of Wesley and Whitefield, an apparent reference to John Wesley and George Whitefield, leaders of the Methodist and evangelical Christian movements of the 18th century.

The church says it preaches the Gospel outdoors and “unifies the True Church confronting the Evil of our Day.” Its actions show “repentance for America’s sin.”

The Church at Planned Parenthood has the support of at least nine Washington state churches. It also has controversial links.

It was founded by Covenant Church of Spokane, then pastored by former state Rep. Matt Shea, who now heads On Fire Ministries in Spokane, the newspaper The Spokesman-Review reported.

Shea was suspended from the Washington State House Republican Caucus after a December 2019 report that accused him of “engaging in an act of domestic terrorism” for planning, promoting, and engaging in political violence against the U.S. government from 2014–2016, according to CNN. The incidents included support for the Bundy Ranch standoff against FBI agents in a conflict over grazing rights.

Ripplinger, however, said church attendees are respectful of the law. She told CNA she had attended one Church at Planned Parenthood event several years ago.

“I saw firsthand that this group abides by the law,” she said. “They are on public property and very courteous to anyone. They meet in the evenings after hours, so there’s no disruption to the business whatsoever. I saw that firsthand. They’re extremely polite to pedestrians.”

According to Ripplinger, the gathering she saw had crowd control practices in place to ensure compliance with rules.

The Church at Planned Parenthood initially met on a sidewalk and strip of grass alongside the south wall of the abortion clinic. A court order in September 2020 said the church could only gather across the street, but Planned Parenthood said this order was routinely violated, according to KXLY News. In September 2021, a judge barred the church and its members from gathering anywhere within 35 feet of the clinic and from making noise between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Before the legal action and internal splits, the church drew as many as 500 attendees.

Father Darrin Connall, vicar general for the Diocese of Spokane, told CNA he thought the fines seemed “excessive and punitive,” though he was unfamiliar with what laws were broken.

He questioned whether the Church at Planned Parenthood had the best approach.

“The Christian world isn’t united on the best way to protest the taking of unborn human life, so I can’t say if Catholics would be united with their approach or not,” the priest said. “But we certainly would have obeyed the law and if the law needed to be changed, [we’d] work to change the law through the system, rather than rather than breaking it.”

“We in the diocese organize peaceful protests in support of human life regularly,” the vicar general said.

Connall, who is also rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, said a group of parishioners goes to an abortion clinic once a week and prays the rosary outside while obeying the law.

He said the Catholic Church would emphasize prayer, “begging God to bring about a deeper and greater respect for the sanctity of all human life.”

He also noted Catholic Bishop of Spokane Thomas Daly’s launch of the annual Walk for Life Northwest in downtown Spokane, now in its seventh year. According to Connall, this is a time “for people to come together for a public witness to what we believe about life in a very public way.”

Bishop Daly addressed the Walk for Life Northwest in Spokane on Jan. 22. About 2,000 people attended the event, the Spokane diocese newspaper Inland Catholic reported.

Tennessee governor to increase funding for crisis pregnancy centers to $100 million

null / Alex Krisan via

Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2023 / 10:47 am (CNA).

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced plans at his annual State of the State address Monday to expand support for crisis pregnancy centers in the state to $100 million.

Abortion has been illegal in Tennessee for all stages of pregnancy since a ban went into effect in the state in August 2022. On Monday night, Lee, a Republican, proposed strengthening support for women and families through a list of expanded social welfare programs.

“Pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn. It’s not a matter of politics; this is about human dignity,” Lee said.

In addition to increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers, Lee also proposed widening Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women and parents, asking the federal government to cover the cost of diapers for Medicaid recipients, and granting additional paid parental leave time for state employees.

“There was a significant shift in this country last year when it comes to protecting the lives of the unborn,” Lee said, referring to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. “We now all have an opportunity, a moral obligation, to support strong Tennessee families.”

To take effect the governor’s proposed budget must be passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, which is majority Republican in both houses.

“If approved, Tennessee will be the first Medicaid program in the nation to implement this kind of support. That’s pro-life. That’s pro-family,” Lee said.

Crisis pregnancy centers typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials.

Pregnancy Resource Center, a Tennessee nonprofit medical clinic that operates two crisis pregnancy centers and a mobile clinic, offers “pregnancy testing, ultrasound exams, STD testing, and holistic wraparound care to women, men, and families in need,” according to CEO Valerie Millsapps.

Millsapps told CNA that she’s “grateful” the governor and state Assembly “are committed to serving moms and dads in need.”

“These are exciting times for Tennesseans,” Millsapps said. “It is clear that our governor and state leaders are prioritizing moms and families in the same way we have for decades.”

Millsapps also noted that the governor’s proposals are “just the beginning of what our state can do to foster environments where families flourish.”

Anglican Church reports synod member to police for tweeting ‘hate speech’

A view of a Pride flag hanging from Peterborough Cathedral in 2019 / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

As Church of England leaders meet in a contentious synod over whether to bless same-sex unions, tensions escalated when a diocese reported a lay synod member to police for “hate speech.” 

The Diocese of Coventry announced reported synod member Sam Margrave to the police after he reportedly posted his beliefs that same-sex relationships are sinful. The diocese is part of the Anglican communion and not in communion with the Catholic Church.

Margarve has been a vocal critic of Anglican Church leaders who want to bless homosexual unions and those who want to go further and perform marriages for homosexual couples.

Bishop Christopher Cocksworth of the Diocese of Coventry informed Margrave that they had reported him to the police, according to a news release from the United Kingdom-based Christian advocacy group Christian Concern. 

“The diocesan secretary has had no option, in view of a number of complaints received, [but] to report your offending tweets to the West Midlands Police and is in continuing conversation with them,” the correspondence read. 

“[The police] have advised her that they have been able to speak to you but that you continue to deny you have done anything wrong.”

When contacted by CNA, the diocese forwarded its statement condemning Margrave but refused to comment further on its decision to report him to the police. 

In its statement, the diocese wrote that “everyone has the right to feel safe when interacting online” and encouraged people to read an information sheet that includes information about how to receive mental health support and report supposed hate speech to social media companies and local police. 

“We are extremely sorry when an individual makes comments that fall short of the social media guidelines published by the Church of England and fails to behave in a way fitting of their office as a member of Synod,” the statement read. 

“We continue to take all the appropriate action available to us, including reporting the matter to external agencies, and are working to introduce a Code of Conduct with sanctions for non-compliance to our own Synod. We have not taken these actions lightly and have only done so in view of the sheer number of complaints received from third parties, and only after other avenues have been exhausted, including repeated offers of support to the individual concerned.”

Mexican court rules against pro-family leader who called a trans woman legislator a man

Member of Mexico Congress Salma Luévano. / Credit: Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 6, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

The court ruled against the National Front for the Family and its president, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, for calling Salma Luévano, a “trans” congressional representative, a “man.”

The ‘Four Chaplains,’ selfless heroes of WWII, honored on 80th anniversary of their deaths

The Four Chaplains — Father John P. Washington, a Catholic priest (pictured above); Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; and Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Reformed Church in America minister — gave their life jackets to save others when their ship was torpedoed in the frigid North Atlantic in 1943. / Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

St. Louis, Mo., Feb 6, 2023 / 14:36 pm (CNA).

A crowd of military veterans, their families, and Boy Scouts filled a New Jersey parish church on Sunday to honor the “Four Chaplains” — a band of men of different faiths who all sacrificed their lives to save others on the torpedoed U.S.A.T. Dorchester 80 years ago. 

“Most of us will never die a hero’s death… But all of us are called by the idea of faith to, day in and day out, give of ourselves,” said Bishop Gregory J. Studerus, an Archdiocese of Newark auxiliary bishop, who presided over the Feb. 5 Mass. 

“Day in and day out we look for ways of being generous, ways of being kind, ways of reaching out and touching the heart of those who are sad and mourning, reaching out and touching those who are oppressed. And sometimes [we go] as far as the ones we honor today, giving our lives because of faith.” 

Newark Auxiliary Bishop Gregory J. Studerus of held up the Four Chaplains’ sacrifice as the ultimate sign of faith during the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn
Newark Auxiliary Bishop Gregory J. Studerus of held up the Four Chaplains’ sacrifice as the ultimate sign of faith during the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

The Four Chaplains — Father John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; and Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Reformed Church in America minister — gave their life jackets to save others when their ship was torpedoed in the frigid North Atlantic in 1943. 

The Mass commemorating the 80th anniversary of the chaplains’ sacrifice took place at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearney, New Jersey — the last parish where Washington served before being dispatched for war. 

The Feb. 5 ceremonies featured a presentation of colors featuring veterans organizations, Boy Scouts, and the Knights of Columbus. A group of Boy Scouts received special Four Chaplains patches after completing an educational program designed by St. Stephen’s Boy Scout Unit 305 in honor of the 80th anniversary.

Several veterans’ organizations, including the Marine Corps League, participated in a presentation of colors to begin the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn
Several veterans’ organizations, including the Marine Corps League, participated in a presentation of colors to begin the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

Washington, Fox, Goode, and Poling, all first lieutenants, met in 1942, having been inspired to sign up as military chaplains after Pearl Harbor. Their vessel, the Dorchester, a troop ship bound for a U.S. military base in Greenland, was struck by a U-boat torpedo in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943. Washington had celebrated Mass just hours before the hit and began to offer absolution. 

The chaplains calmly assisted and encouraged numerous civilians and soldiers, offering them their own life jackets as the terrified crowd sped to the lifeboats. 

“When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did the Reverends Fox and Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line,” a history from the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation noted. 

The chaplains themselves all stayed behind as the ship capsized and sank in just 20 minutes. They joined more than 670 of their peers as they perished, reportedly with locked arms and hymns on their lips. 

Many of the 230 survivors lauded the chaplains’ selfless actions. At one point, Petty Officer John J. Mahoney remembered returning to his cabin to find his gloves. Rabbi Goode stopped him, saying, “Never mind. I have two pairs,” and handed him some — Mahoney later realized the rabbi had given him his only pair. 

One eyewitness, John Ladd, said as reported by Columbia magazine: “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

The St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band performed “Amazing Grace” at the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn
The St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band performed “Amazing Grace” at the Four Chaplains 80th Anniversary Mass at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, on Feb. 5, 2023. Credit: Archdiocese of Newark/Sean Quinn

“The Four Chaplains did something without hesitation that a lot of us would at least pause to think about before doing,” said Father Joe Mancini, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church, this week. 

“They selflessly acted out of faith in God and a need to help others. They were true heroes, and it’s important to look to them at a time when so many people are only thinking about themselves. That’s the goal of this Mass and everything else we do at the parish — we want to keep the Four Chaplains at the forefront of people’s minds even 80 years later.”

In 1944, all four men posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart, and in 1948 a U.S. postage stamp was issued in their honor bearing the words “These Immortal Chaplains.” Then, in 1988, a unanimous act of Congress established Feb. 3 as the annual Four Chaplains Day, Columbia reported.