Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that the Susan B. Anthony List has standing to challenge an Ohio law allowing a state agency to bar the group from putting up billboards saying a political candidate supported abortion funding.
“We are optimistic that the district court will rule quickly and will side with the First Amendment, so that we may proceed in Ohio – without fear of prosecution – with our ongoing efforts to inform voters that their elected representatives voted for taxpayer funded abortion,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said June 16.
The group attempted to set up billboards in Ohio in 2010, arguing that then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus had supported taxpayer funded abortion by voting for the Affordable Care Act.
Driehaus filed a criminal complaint with the Ohio elections commission under a state law which bars making false statements about a candidate or public official’s voting records.
Driehaus, a pro-life Democrat, rejected the argument that his vote funded abortions. The Susan B. Anthony List cited groups such as the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. bishops' conference, which objected to the bill on the grounds that its provisions would fund abortions by funding health care plans that cover abortion.
One pro-life group, Democrats for Life of America, sided with Driehaus in the dispute.
Driehaus also filed a defamation lawsuit against the Susan B. Anthony List, though the two-year-long legal case resulted in a decision in favor of the pro-life organization in January, 2013.
The Susan B. Anthony List has claimed that Driehaus’ lawyer convinced the billboard company Lamar Companies not to put up the billboards in order to avoid being added to the complaint.
Driehaus withdrew the election board complaint after he lost his 2010 re-election bid. The Susan B. Anthony List decided to continue its legal challenge against the Ohio law, joined by other opponents of the election rules.
Lower courts had ruled that the pro-life group lacked standing to challenge the law because the complaint had been withdrawn.
However, the Supreme Court agreed unanimously that the Susan B. Anthony List and others affected by the law suffer from a “credible threat of enforcement.”
The ruling means that the legal challenge may resume.
“Today’s decision by the court is a step toward victory for the freedom of speech and the broad coalition of groups who have supported SBA List throughout this case,” Dannenfelser said.
“The truth or falsity of political speech should be judged by voters, not government bureaucrats.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 18, 2014 (CNA) -
The judiciary would be exercising “raw judicial power” were it to overturn Colorado’s traditional marriage amendment, an attorney at a religious liberty advocacy firm said Monday.
The court at Adams County District Courthouse in Brighton heard oral arguments in Brinkman et al. v. State of Colorado June 17 – a suit against the state's marriage amendment.
“If this judge were to come to a conclusion other than to uphold the will of the people of the state of Colorado, as expressed in the constitutional amendment passed in 2006, and the laws of the state legislature that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, it would be an exercise in raw judicial power,” Michael Norton, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA in an interview outside the courthouse following the hearing.
The lawsuit began last October when a lesbian couple, Rebecca Brinkman and Margaret Burd, sued the county clerk and recorder for refusing them a marriage license. Civil unions have been legal in Colorado since March of 2013, but the couple wanted a marriage license.
Marriage is recognized in the state as between one man and one woman, according to Amendment 43, which was passed by a majority of voters in 2006.
The brief by the defendants representing the state argued that “redefining marriage would likely harm marriage’s inherent connection to procreation, communicating to the community that marriage’s primary end is to affirm adult desires rather than serve children’s needs, and suppressing the importance of both mothers and fathers to children and their development.”
Attorney John McHugh, representing the plaintiffs, said the marriage amendment denied the couples the “dignity” of the recognition of “marriage,” as well as their ability to file joint tax returns and receive federal marriage benefits.
“The plaintiffs bring these claims because the marriage bans actively and significantly harm them and their children,” he said.
The two parties clashed over the interpretation of last year’s Supreme Court decision United States v. Windsor.
Michael Francisco, the assistant solicitor general for the attorney general’s office, insisted that the decision “made clear” that it wouldn’t invalidate existing state marriage laws.
“Almost the entire substance of the majority opinion in Windsor is premised upon the important historical and traditional power of states to define marriage,” he argued.
Norton echoed that reasoning: “the majority of the Supreme Court really left unresolved any issue of how, if at all, state marriage laws should be regulated. It’s up to the state to decide, and it’s up to the state elected officials to decide, and the people to decide.”
However, the plaintiffs asserted that Windsor requires state bans on same-sex marriage to be struck down.
“The sole purpose and effect of these laws is to demean and degrade same-sex couples. The Supreme Court found that that singular purpose invalidated DOMA and Justice Scalia and 14 federal court judges have reason that Windsor’s holding requires striking down state same-sex marriage bans,” McHugh stated.
McHugh also cited divorce laws to argue that marriage is not primarily about childbearing, because marriages can be ended for “any reason whatsoever.” However, Francisco insisted that was exactly the reason why marriage must not be re-defined.
“When states debated, not through the courts but through the legislative process, changing and liberalizing the divorce laws, there was an argument that this was going to change the institution of marriage,” he explained, adding that “it’s not fair to say that changing the nature of marriage by adopting liberalized divorce laws did nothing to change the institution of marriage.”
In the same way, he told district judge C. Scott Crabtree, “if you join with those 18 lower courts, you will be changing what marriage is in Colorado. It will have a real-world consequence. Or, if you’re not willing to go that far, all you have to understand is that it is quite reasonable to believe it will have real-world consequences.”
New Orleans, La., Jun 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Church support for marriage among poor and middle class Americans can play a key role in combating income inequality and providing a good environment for children, a sociologist told the U.S. bishops.
“If you care about bridging the marriage divide, you should care about economic justice, cultural change, and the renewal of civil society,” Professor W. Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociology professor, told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly in New Orleans on June 12.
“If you care about poverty, if you care about income inequality; if you care about opportunity in America, you should care about marriage,” he added.
Wilcox, who directs the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, cited numerous studies about the state of the family and the benefits a stable marriage provides.
He explained that a stable family where both parents are married provides the “human capital” to help spouses and their children succeed. Married parents’ children are more likely to succeed in education and in life. Children of married parents are more likely to avoid poverty, abuse, neglect, incarceration, and teen pregnancy.
However, Wilcox said that cultural, economic and societal shifts have “coalesced to undercut marriage.” Marriage rates and behaviors increasingly reflect and worsen a class divide.
Research suggests that the shift in family structure away from marriage accounts for 41 percent of the increase in economic inequality since 1975, the sociology professor said. Poor children from married two-parent families have greater economic opportunities than those raised without both parents or whose parents cohabitate.
Rates of divorce and non-marital childbearing have declined among the affluent and the college educated, where a marriage-minded culture is re-emerging.
“In the nation’s poorest communities, by contrast, marriage is in full retreat and has been declining since the 1970s,” Wilcox told the bishops’ conference.
While the behaviors of the working class and lower middle class in the early 1980s resembled the marriage-minded behaviors of the upper class, these classes now suffer an erosion in family stability. Their behavior patterns now more closely resemble those among the poor, he said.
About 20 percent of children are now born to cohabitating relationships, which are more unstable than marriages and suffer from less commitment and trust, according to studies. Children whose parents have remarried after divorce also suffer many of the problems of children raised in single-parent families.
Most Americans still “aspire for marriage,” and want “a happy and stable married life,” Wilcox noted. However, they have grown “more accommodating of departures from the ideal.” While the affluent and highly educated have acquired stricter attitudes against divorce and premarital sex, less educated Americans have become more permissive.
Wilcox agreed with both liberal and conservative assessments of the decline in marriage.
Conservatives focus on cultural and policy changes that have “deliberately or unintentionally” undercut social norms related to marriage.
Liberals focus on economic shifts away from an industrial economy, which harm the prospects of working class or poor men. A fall in male wages and increasing male unemployment means men are less likely to get married or stay married.
Wilcox suggested that both liberal and conservative analysts have ignored the how the decline of civil society institutions has affected marriage.
Middle Americans, especially men, are “increasingly disengaged” from work and civil society institutions, including churches, which have traditionally supplied “money, moral direction and social support” for marriage.
“We’ve seen a dramatic decline in Church attendance among middle Americans and among the least educated Americans,” Wilcox said. “That has obvious implications for their capacity to hear messages related to family and to experience the spiritual and social support that churches have traditionally afforded marriage and family life.”
Wilcox suggested to the bishops that churches should be “a voice for economic justice” and should help direct economic resources towards families. They should seek to eliminate public policies that discourage or penalize marriage.
Religious and lay leaders should speak about the benefits of intact marriage for children while also supporting couples in “crisis.” Churches with employment ministries can help families harmed by job loss, while marriage preparation ministry can improve the quality of marriages.
Church ministries should target men, particularly working class and poor men, who are “the most distanced” from religious communities in America.
Wilcox said that religious faith “can be an asset” for marriage in America, especially for couples who share the same faith and worship and pray together. Those with a common faith who “have a sense that God is present in their marriage” are more likely to report a high quality marriage, he noted.
Such efforts will help halt the emergence of an America that is “increasingly separate and unequal” when it comes to marriage, he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Archbishop of Mexico has joined Pope Francis in calling on the World Cup to be played in an atmosphere of cordiality, and is encouraging fans to pray for the men playing in the tournament.
“We are called to make sports an occasion to come together and dialogue, overcoming all barriers of language, race and culture,” Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said June 15 during Mass at the Cathedral of Mexico City.
He called on players to display good sportsmanship, and called for prayers that they act responsibly both on and off the field.
Sports help to promote human and social values, Cardinal Rivera said, and their impact should not be minimized or limited by who wins or loses.
“Sports can contribute to peaceful understanding among peoples and to strengthening the civilization of love,” Cardinal Rivera added.
He also congratulated all dads on Father’s Day, commending them to St. Joseph as the example in raising their children.
Dads should put on their “jerseys,” and fulfill their responsibilities towards their kids, he said.
“Congratulations to them all. And let us also pray for those dads who haven’t put their jerseys on yet, who have not understood yet the most important part of their vocation, which is the great mission God has entrusted to them to give love, to give love to their children.”
In his own message to the World Cup, sent to Brazil June 12, Pope Francis had said that soccer "is not only a form of entertainment, but also – and above all I would say – a tool to communicate values, promote the good of the human person and help build a more peaceful and fraternal society."
He prayed that the World Cup will “take place with complete serenity and tranquility, always with mutual respect, solidarity and brotherhood among men and women who recognize themselves as members of the same family.”
So far in the tournament, Mexico has played Cameroon, 1-0, and drew in their match against Brazil. They will play Croatia June 23.
The U.S. beat Ghana 2-1 on June 16, and is scheduled to play Portugal June 22.
Wednesday's matches are Australia v. the Netherlands; Spain v. Chile; and Cameroon v. Croatia.
Vatican City, Jun 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis stressed the familial nature of the Church at his Wednesday General Audience, emphasizing God’s desire to form a people through fatherly love.
“To speak of the Church is to speak of our mother, of our family,” he said to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 18.
He said the Church is not a private association or an NGO, and neither is the Church restricted to bishops, priests, and the Vatican.
“We are all the Church,” he exclaimed.
God plans “to form a people blessed by his love and able to bring his blessing to all populations on Earth. Being Church means having a sense of being in the hands of God, who is our father and loves us, who awaits us.”
The Pope looked to Abraham as an example of the “prehistory” of the Church.
God “did not call upon Abraham alone as an isolated individual, but instead from the very beginning he involved all of his family, his relatives and all those who served in his house.”
“The first important fact is this: starting with Abraham, God formed a people in order to bring his blessing to all families on earth. And Jesus was born within this population,” the Pope noted.
It was not Abraham who gathered these people around him: rather, “it was God himself who took the initiative and addressed his word to man, creating a bond and a new relationship with him.”
“In this way God constitutes a people of all those who listen to his word and who set out on their path, trusting in him.”
Pope Francis stressed the importance of trusting in God.
“If you place your trust in God, listen to him and set out on his path, this means being a Church. God’s love precedes everything… he precedes us.”
At the same time, the Pope acknowledged that those called by God, like Abraham and his family, are not “always convinced and faithful.” Rather, they resist God, withdraw into themselves and their interests, and are tempted to bargain with God and try to solve problems on their own terms.
“There are the betrayals and sins that mark the path of the people throughout the history of salvation, which is the history of God’s fidelity to his people, and the infidelity of the people of God. However, God never tires, he is patient and over time he continues to educate and form his people, like a father with his son.”
God has this same attitude towards the Church, the Pope said. When we recognize ourselves as sinners, “God fills us with his mercy and his love.”
“Let us then ask the grace to remain faithful in following the Lord Jesus and in listening to his word, ready to set out every day, like Abraham, towards the land of God and man, our true homeland, and thus to become a blessing and sign of God’s love for all his children.”
“This is what enables us to grow as the people of God, as a Church; it is not our cleverness, our merits, but rather the daily experience of how much the Lord loves and cares for us.”
Pope Francis then noted that June 20 is the World Day for Refugees, which remembers those forced to leave their homelands.
“Millions of refugee families from many countries, of every religious faith, live through dramatic and painful events from which it is difficult for them to recover and heal. Let us be close to them, sharing their fears and uncertainty for the future, and alleviating their suffering in a concrete way.”
He prayed that God will support those who “work generously” to welcome refugees and “give them reasons for hope.”
He recalled that Jesus went to Egypt “as a refugee” when he fled for his life with St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary.
The Pope asked the faithful to work to support refugees and to say a Hail Mary for them, noting that Mary “knows the suffering of refugees.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2014 (CNA) -
Mexico's ambassador to the Holy See says he is awaiting the announcement of the dates of a visit to the country by Pope Francis, after the Holy Father accepted an invitation from Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.
"For us, the Pope's visit would be a visit to Latin America,” Mariano Palacios Alcocer told CNA June 12 in an interview at Mexico's embassy to the Holy See.
“At the same time, it would be an opportunity to address continental issues related to the flow, transit, and migration of persons."
The veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which emerged in Mexico and has spread to all of America, Palacios said, has united all the inhabitants of Latin America.
"She is Empress of the American continent. His Holiness John Paul II declared it so during one of his visits. For us, then, the Pope's visit would be a visit to Latin America, and to the continent as well."
Pena met Pope Francis for a private audience at the Vatican June 7, and at that time invited him to Mexico.
“This was the first visit a president of Mexico has made alone to the Holy See without contacting Italian authorities,” Palacios commented.
“Therefore the pontiff's visit would be part of the reciprocity for the president's visit, but it would also have a marked spiritual and pastoral aspect in light of high investiture he holds as inheritor of the Petrine ministry."
He added that the papal visit to Mexico would be a sign of the strengthening of the "truly peculiar relationship between the Holy See and Mexico."
During Pena's meeting with the Pope, they discussed constitutional reform in Mexico, particularly regarding religious freedom. Pena also told reporters after the meeting that Pope Francis has “a special affection for the Mexican people,” and that he said “they are Catholic, but especially Guadalupano.”
Palacios explained that “we will respectfully listen to the proposal made by the Holy See, and the date that they determine will be welcomed by Mexico, and it will accept the date chosen for His Holiness' schedule as an appropriate date.”
A possible trip to Mexico could coincide with a papal visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, being held Sept. 22-27, 2015.
Although the Vatican has not officially confirmed that trip, it is widely expected the Holy Father will attend the event.
"This is a hypothesis, and if it were the case, Mexico would be willing to receive His Holiness on those or any other dates that are determined," Palacios said.
Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Limiting “women’s issues” to a woman's potential to be a mother – as well as trying to deny that potential – does not empower women, a panel told members of Congress and their staff Tuesday.
Rather, “women's issues” extend across the range of all issues facing society, panelists said June 17 at “Women Know Best” on Capitol Hill.
Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life, told CNA June 18 that political slogans claiming opposition to abortion is akin to a war on women is “messaging that does a real disservice, especially to young women.”
In this approach, she said, a woman is “defined maybe too much by her reproductive capabilities,” and not by other aspects of her personhood.
The potential to be a mother, she said, “is a huge part of what it means to be a woman, but it’s not the only part.”
Monahan had spoken at “Women Know Best” along with Mercedes Schlapp, co-founder of Cove Strategies and a political commentator; Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of pro-life lobby Susan B. Anthony List; former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.); and Carly Fiorina, chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation and a former technology executive.
Fiorina, who gave a keynote address, urged attendees to “share an empathic, personal and optimistic message” on life, saying women who are pro-life and who hold other positions thought of as politically conservative should “stand up and say what they believe and why."
She stressed that “science is proving to us everyday that life starts at conception,” even though legislation in the U.S. has yet to recognize this biological fact.
She emphasized the need to “get the problem solved” and to take “one step in protecting the unborn” by supporting bans on late-term abortions after 5 months of pregnancy.
Despite these challenges, Fiorina said, she is “optimistic, because I have great faith in other people and their potential.”
"The message and the messenger are equally important,” Schlapp emphasized, saying that women “need to continue to be strong advocates for the unborn and defend our religious liberties.”
“Part of the challenge is articulating a pro-life message in a personal way that makes sense, is simple, and can connect,” she stressed, saying that pro-life advocates should work through a “step by step process” in creating “real change in favor of the pro-life movement."
Monahan emphasized that a message that embraces life is a “very beautiful thing” and allows “women to most completely flourish.”
In contrast, she added, “to pretend that a women’s capacity to bear children is insignificant is not empowering to women,” particularly when abortion causes harm to society, to children, and to women themselves.
Instead, she told the audience that “all issues are women’s issues.”
“We don’t leave out any part of her: that’s part of the whole person,” Monahan said.