Denver, Colo., May 31, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Abortion clinic director turned pro-life activist Abby Johnson has announced she will launch of a new ministry to help people trying to leave the abortion industry.
“We have hundreds of ministries for post-abortive women and men. There is literally nothing for these former clinic workers,” Johnson said. “We are going to change that.”
The new outreach, which is called “And Then There Were None,” will focus on providing emotional, spiritual, financial and legal support to clinic workers as they transition out of the abortion industry.
“Our goal is to proactively reach out to workers in the abortion industry to try to help them find other non-abortion related employment,” Johnson said in a May 30 statement.
Johnson felt prompted to create And Then There Were None after having helped several clinic employees transition out of the abortion industry over the past several months.
Aside from prayer, the “most crucial aspect” of the organization is raising money “so these clinic workers can literally afford to leave the abortion industry.”
The organization will allow supporters to donate funds to help workers continue to provide for their families while seeking other employment.
The group will also provide counseling, spiritual guidance for any religious denomination, and free legal support when necessary.
Johnson experienced a conversion and left the abortion industry after having worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years, two of which were spent as the clinic's director.
After assisting in an ultrasound-guided abortion, Johnson had a “massive change of heart,” but was also influenced by the prayers of the Texas-based pro-life group, Coalition for Life.
Planned Parenthood attempted to file a restraining order against Johnson, citing their concern that she would share confidential information about the clinic and patients. The request was denied by a Texas judge on Nov. 9, 2009.
After much prayer and researching Bl. John Paul II's “Theology of the Body,” Johnson entered the Catholic Church in 2011.
Kalispell, Mont., May 31, 2012 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus and several individual knights have asked to intervene in a federal legal case challenging the presence of a decades-old World War II memorial in Montana because it contains a statue of Jesus.
“It is sad that some in America have become so intolerant of religion that they are willing to remove longstanding memorials to America’s war heroes to enforce their narrow view on the rest of us,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said May 30.
“The idea that a war memorial containing a religious symbol on a remote piece of public land somehow establishes religion in this country is at odds with the historical record, the vision of our Founding Fathers enshrined in the First Amendment and the extensive jurisprudence in this area,” Anderson stated.
The case concerns a memorial erected near Whitefish, Montana on land now within a commercial ski resort. Veterans of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division asked Montana members of the Knights of Columbus to create a memorial like the hilltop shrines they encountered in Europe during World War II.
The Knights of Columbus’ Kalispell Council 1328 leased from the U.S. Forest Service the 25-foot by 25-foot plot of land on Big Mountain to erect the memorial. It finished the shrine in 1954 and has maintained it since.
The permit had been renewed regularly every 10 years until 2010. That year, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation told the Forest Service that the memorial violated the U.S. Constitution.
The Forest Service initially denied the permit but renewed it after public outcry and media attention.
In February 2012 the Freedom from Religion Foundation sued to have the memorial permanently removed.
Its lawsuit said the continued presence of the Jesus statue is “intended as a religious shrine” and “gives the unmistakable appearance of governmental endorsement of religion.”
The suit also argued that the Forest Service’s approval of the permit for the shrine land diminishes “the civil and political standing of non-religious and non-Christian Americans” and “constitutes governmental preference for religion and Christianity.”
On May 29 the Knights of Columbus and several Montana members asked the U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana to allow it to intervene as a defendant in order to protect First Amendment Rights.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dr. Raymond Leopold, a Knights of Columbus member who helps maintain the memorial, explained why he wants the statue to stay.
“I have tried to teach my children sincere love and respect for this country and those who defend it,” he said. “I know that members of our community have similar feelings about the statue and are proud to have it as one aspect of our community’s history and culture.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s litigation director Erich Rassbach is representing the Knights of Columbus and the individual knights in the case.
“From their perch in Madison, Wisconsin, these professional bullies go around the country threatening government agencies and cities with lawsuits and financial ruin. The Becket Fund will not let them get away with it here,” Rassbach said May 30.
“The Freedom from Religion Foundation has not identified any of its members who have actually seen or complained about the statue. These soldiers died fighting for our freedom—it is unfortunate that the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants to annihilate their sacrifices from public memory.”
Dan Graves, president of Whitefish Mountain Resort, said the statue “honors men who gave their lives in World War II in defense of freedom from tyranny.”
“It’s a historical monument unique to Big Mountain. Trying to erase that history, just because you have a different belief system, is wrong,” he said.
Santiago, Chile, May 31, 2012 (CNA) -
A Chilean researcher and his colleagues say the Guttmacher Institute's response to a study on abortion's effects on maternal mortality has spread “erroneous and misleading information.”
Dr. Elard Koch, an epidemiologist at the University of Chile with the Chilean Maternal Mortality Research Initiative, said that his project's study showed restrictive abortion laws did not affect maternal mortality trends.
“In fact, maternal mortality ratios steadily decreased over the last fifty years, mainly associated to an increase in educational level of women and maternal health facilities and regardless of the extent of abortion restrictions in the country,” he said May 25.
He and his fellow researchers with the research initiative said “it is absolutely possible for developing countries to decrease maternal and abortion mortality without requiring any liberal law of abortion.”
Their study, titled “Women's Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007,” was published May 4 on the peer-reviewed online publication PLoS One.
It prompted a response from the Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood. The Guttmacher Institute in a May 23 advisory claimed that the study was inconclusive because Chile's pre-1989 law was “already highly restrictive.” It claimed the study's reliance on Chile's vital statistics registration system was “a critical methodological weakness.”
Koch and his colleagues produced a point-by-point response that said the Guttmacher Institute's advisory comment produced “major misinformation” in depicting Chile's pre-1989 abortion law as highly restrictive.
“Abortion was legal in Chile from 1931 to 1967, after permission of three physicians or one physician and two witnesses,” the researchers explained. “From 1967 to 1989, abortion was simplified and allowed based on the opinion of two physicians.”
The pre-1989 law allowing abortion for “therapeutic reasons” was “loosely interpreted” in many cases to mean abortion on request. The 1989 abortion ban meant a “major transition from a partially restrictive to a fully restrictive law.”
Koch and his colleagues said that even if the Guttmacher Institute were correct about Chile's abortion law, it would not invalidate their study's main conclusion that abortion restrictions did not affect maternal mortality trends in Chile.
The Chilean Maternal Mortality Research Initiative study assessed the impact of many different factors believed to influence maternal mortality, not only abortion legality. Women's education level, better access to maternal health care facilities and professionals, nutrition programs, and sanitary services access were among the other factors judged.
The study found that women's education level is the main factor in the decrease in Chilean maternal mortality, with each additional year of maternal education corresponding to a decrease in the mortality rate of 29.3 per 100,000 live births.
The Guttmacher Institute contended that the abortion numbers drawn from Chile's vital registration system were more unreliable after the procedure was banned. It said that abortion as a cause of death is often misreported or under-reported in countries where the procedure is illegal. It said data sources such as surveys of women and surveys of health professionals are needed to measure the consequences of “unsafe abortion.”
However, Koch and his fellow researchers said the Chilean registry of vital data is “robust and reliable” and is a resource recognized by the World Health Organization, the United Nations and other international groups.
They said studies based on indirect estimates are at substantial more risk of bias than “studies based on actual data.” Indirect estimates are largely based on opinion surveys whose scientific validity is “unknown.”
The researchers charged that the Guttmacher Institute has long used surveys of women and health professionals “almost to the point of abuse.” Though they have some value for anecdotal purposes, they are too flawed to accurately assess the number of induced abortions.
The researchers said their research was “intensively peer-reviewed by independent scientists.”
They also said that the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet had rejected a peer review of their study.
“This is not surprising,” they said, saying their research “seriously challenges” several reports The Lancet has published over the last decade, mostly based on the Guttmacher Institute's indirect estimates of induced abortions.
On May 18, Koch and his colleagues examined the discrepancies between these methdolodies in estimates of illegal abortion in several Latin American countries.
“Not surprisingly, we found that the methodology developed by scientists from the Guttmacher Institute appears to grossly overestimate the number of possible induced abortions in developing countries,” Koch said.
The Guttcmacher Insittute claimed that 400,400 abortions took place in Colombia in 2008, though Koch and his colleagues' methodology estimated only 21,978 procedures took place that year.
Koch has said that the abortion estimates from the Guttmacher Institute are “beyond what is emperically possible.”
Madrid, Spain, May 31, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The diocesan phase has concluded for the sainthood cause of Rebeca Rocamora, a Spanish catechist who died in 1996 at the age of 20 after a long illness and was known for her tireless service to others.
The announcement was made on Pentecost Sunday by Bishop Rafael Palmero of Orihuela-Alicante at the parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Granja de Rocamora, where Rebeca was baptized in 1975. Her family and many of her friends were in attendance.
The dossier on her life of virtue and reputation of holiness will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Rebeca Rocamora's cause for canonization was opened in 2009.
The Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante said Rebeca’s life “was always linked to the Church. Despite suffering from a severe illness at the age of 10, she did not lose her faith and even became a catechist. Her story has left a mark on her family, friends and neighbors.”
Bishop Palmero opened her cause on March 14, 2009, “so that her example would serve as an inspiration to young people and to catechists.”
Rebeca was born into a devout Catholic family on Sept. 7, 1975, in Granja de Rocamora. Blond haired and blue-eyed, she stood out for her smile, innocence and vitality.
In 1985 she contracted a grave illness, which she accepted with courage and strength, becoming an example of joy, humility, simplicity and charity for others.
According to the diocese, “Later on, a new and unforeseen illness befell her, and her soul matured quickly. She encouraged everyone and accepted her plight. Many testimonies bear witness to the human and Christian virtues she lived intimately on a daily basis in a hidden but extraordinary way and which point to a heart filled with great and profound faith.
During her final days, her response to those who insisted she pray for good health was: 'The Lord already knows that if it is of benefit to me, he will grant it. I pray that he will increase my faith.'”
Rebeca died at the age of 20 on Pentecost Sunday, May 26, 1996, leaving behind a testimony of a life full of youth and service to God. More information on Rebeca can be found at:
Rome, Italy, May 31, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the eve of Pope Benedict’s visit to the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan, the city’s archbishop believes there are real signs of hope that Christian family life is undergoing a revival.
“I think that the signs are not few,” Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan told CNA on May 31.
“It is enough to look at the reality that still today the great majority of parents and grandparents want what is technically called ‘Christian initiation,’ that is to say the introduction and accompaniment of their children to a personal encounter with Jesus in the Christian community.”
The five-day gathering in the northern Italian city runs from May 30 to June 3 and is examining the theme “The Family: Work and Celebration.” The event is often compared to World Youth Day but for Catholic families rather than just young people. It brings together hundreds of thousands of people from over 150 countries to pray, celebrate and study marriage and family life.
Cardinal Scola hopes this year’s meeting will highlight the many reasons for hope in present-day family life which “are spoken about very little” since there is “always a tendency to put the spotlight on the most problematic elements.”
He explained that in his parish visits as Archbishop of Milan he is starting to see “an enormous variety of experiences, new relationships, sharing, and attention to broken families by numerous Christian families.”
He is also witnessing a strengthening of inter-generational solidarity during the current financial crisis, with families “trying to maintain a unity among their different generations.” This is often giving hard-pressed married couples “room to breathe,” he said.
Tomorrow, June 1, Pope Benedict will begin the first of his three days in Milan. He will arrive in the late afternoon, at which point he will address pilgrims and attend a concert in his honor at the world-famous Scala Theatre. His visit will reach its climax on Sunday, June 3 with the celebration of a morning Mass with families at the city’s Bresso Park.
Lima, Peru, May 31, 2012 (CNA) - Latin Americans are greatly anticipating the release of “For Greater Glory” on June 1 in the U.S., as weekend box office numbers could determine its distribution in Central and South America.
The movie tells the story of the Cristero War in Mexico during the religious persecution carried out by President Plutarco Elias Calles against the Catholic Church in the 1920s. It stars Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Peter O’Toole, Panamanian singer Ruben Blades and Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui.
Many Latin Americans are hoping that the Hispanic community in the U.S. turns out in large numbers to see the film during its opening weekend June 1-3.
“Catholics ought to go to theaters so that the movie can reach more people in Central and South America, where distribution depends on the outcome in the United States,” the film's producer, Pablo Jose Barroso, said during an EWTN program on May 10.
Barroso noted that the movie is not only for Hispanics or Mexicans, but for everyone, because it clearly speaks of the defense of religious freedom. The persecution by the regime of Plutarco Elias was “bloodier than the Mexican Revolution,” he said.
CNA has received numerous emails from people in Peru, Argentina, Panama, Colombia and other countries in Latin America, who hope the film is shown where they live.
“For Greater Glory” has already been shown in Mexico, where it topped the box office on its opening weekend, surpassing films such as “Titanic” in 3D and “Wrath of the Titans” in 3D.
For a list of theaters where the film can be seen in the U.S., visit: http://www.forgreaterglory.com/
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 31, 2012 (CNA) - Bishops from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean denounced the “horrors” suffered by immigrants throughout the Western hemisphere.
“Poverty forces thousands of people to emigrate and seek their daily bread outside their native countries,” they said.
“As long as this causal structure is not resolved, even though immigration laws are made stricter, the flow of immigrants will continue with the consequences that have repeatedly been pointed out.”
The bishops released their statement at the end of the 2012 Regional Bishops’ Consultation on Migration, held May 28-30 in Santo Domingo.
In their remarks, they also denounced the situation faced by many immigrants from Central America who cross Mexico to reach the United States and endure terrible suffering not only at the hands of false guides but also of organized criminal gangs.
“Across Central America and Mexico, the members of organized crime take immigrants as prisoners especially through the crime of kidnapping in order to extort their families,” the bishops said.
“When these immigrants refuse to cooperate or do not come up with the entire ransom money, they are brutally tortured and killed, as demonstrated by the events related to the massacre of 72 immigrants in San Fernando Tamaulipas, the discovery of hundreds of bodies in clandestine graves and the latest massacre of 49 people killed in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon,” they noted.
The bishops also denounced the continual increase in sex trafficking and slave labor, especially involving children, in order to reap “criminal profits.”
They also expressed concern for immigrant children who travel unaccompanied and separated from their families, as well as the drastic increase in deportations from the United States and Mexico, which has led to more family separations.”
The current U.S. government “has broadened the role of the State in the application of immigration laws, which leads to abuses of fundamental rights,” the bishops said.
“Unjust laws in states like Arizona and Alabama, which are the result of a fear of immigrants, lead to xenophobia and are an attack on the Church’s right to serve immigrants,” they continued.
The bishops also denounced the suffering of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.
“Amid this scene of pain and suffering, we thank God for the innumerable gestures and acts of solidarity offered to immigrants” by local support groups and shelters and for efforts to achieve more just immigration laws, they said.
The bishops also expressed their commitment to promote specific initiatives, including comprehensive immigration reform in the United States that respects the rights of immigrants, avoids separating families and reduces deportations, and approval by the Mexican Senate of a transitory visa that grants protection and safety to Central Americans who are passing through on their way to the US.
Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, told CNA the issue of immigrants moving from Central America to the United States is complex. “What happens here (in the Dominican Republic) is very different from what happens on the border between the United States and Mexico,” he said.
The president of the Committee on Human Mobility of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, Bishop Marcelo Gonzalez Amador of Santa Clara, expressed his satisfaction for the chance to meet with other bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean and share their experiences involving immigrants, “whose sufferings, sorrows, concerns, and hopes as well, we make our own.”
Washington D.C., May 31, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The legal definition of marriage nationwide is at risk because of a federal appeals court decision that declared part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional for restricting federal benefits to married opposite-sex couples, pro-family leaders say.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, asserted May 31 that the judges realized that legal precedent does not allow them to redefine marriage “so they are making up new standards to justify imposing their values on the rest of the nation.”
“They dismiss the centuries-old understanding of marriage as a critical social institution that exists for the benefit of couples and their children, and which has served society well for thousands of years. Instead, they want their own politically-correct views to be imposed, and they are making up new law to do so,” Brown said.
On May 31 a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston unanimously ruled that the law deprives homosexual couples of the rights and privileges of heterosexual couples.
The Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 by a Senate vote of 85-14 and by a House vote of 342-67. It defines marriage in federal law as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” It also defines a spouse as referring “only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”
The court did not overturn provisions protecting states which do not recognize gay “marriage” from being forced to recognize same-sex unions contracted in other states.
However, the ruling agreed that the law interferes with a state’s right to define marriage and denies legally married same-sex couples the federal benefits given to married heterosexual couples, such as the ability to file joint tax returns.
The case will most likely proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move that Brown said he hopes will happen.
“It’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and establish once and for all that preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not only completely constitutional, it is profoundly in the public good,” he said.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, said the decision is “disappointing” but also saw cause for hope that the legislation will be upheld after Supreme Court review.
Dale Showengert, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, also criticized the decision.
“Society should protect and strengthen marriage, not undermine it,” he said May 31. “The federal Defense of Marriage Act provides that type of protection, and we trust the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse the 1st Circuit’s erroneous decision.”
The court ruling was the result of lawsuits from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and another from the Boston-based legal group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.
Plaintiff Jonathan Knight, who is in a legal same-sex marriage, told the Associated Press the case is “about having equality and not having a system of first- and second-class marriages.”
He said the legislation costs him and his same-sex partner an extra $1,000 a year because they cannot file a joint federal tax return.
Perkins noted that the federal court’s decision did not rely upon the contention that the legislation’s dominant purpose was “hostility to homosexuality.”
At the same time, Perkins lamented how it has become “too common for courts to show great disrespect to the American people and their representatives in arguing that efforts to defend marriage have been motivated by bias, bigotry, or animus.”
Perkins then pointed out that voters in 32 states have voted to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Showengert said that the federal court’s decision allows one state to hold the federal government, and possibly other states, as a “hostage” to “redefine marriage.”
He questioned whether the court’s rationale means that if one state decided to accept polygamy, the federal government and perhaps other states would be forced to accept it as well.