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Texas attorney general appeals decision in case against Catholic nonprofit

A migrant woman prays in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas, run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 18:16 pm (CNA).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing a district judge’s dismissal of a state investigation into an El Paso Catholic nonprofit accused of facilitating illegal immigration.

Paxton’s office is also going forward with investigations into other border nonprofits he suspects of illegal activity including Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

According to Paxton, his investigation into Annunciation House, the El Paso migrant shelter at the center of the controversy, determined that the nonprofit is “in a category of its own among these NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], openly operating in violation of the law without any pretense of trying to comply with the law.”

“For too long,” Paxton said, “Annunciation House has flouted the law and contributed to the worsening illegal immigration crisis at Texas’ border with Mexico. I am appealing this case and will continue to vigorously enforce the law against any NGO engaging in criminal conduct.”

Located just a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Annunciation House is a lay-run Catholic organization that offers migrants temporary shelter, food, and clothing and advocates on their behalf. 

On Feb. 7 Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in unlawful activities. Annunciation House refused to comply with the order and denied any illegal activity.

In early July, El Paso District Court Judge Francisco Dominguez dismissed Paxton’s suit, partially because he said it violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Dominguez wrote that the state’s suit “violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by substantially burdening Annunciation House’s free exercise of religion and failing to use the ‘least restrictive means’ of securing compliance with the law.”

In response, Paxton’s office said that Dominguez “falsely accused” Paxton of investigating Annunciation House because of the organization’s Catholic ties, saying that “the judge’s assertion is not supported by any evidence, and the judge tellingly failed to identify any.”

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates a migrant shelter and is a part of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, is also contesting Paxton’s investigation in court.

Volunteers and staff with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley assist Latin American and Haitian migrants at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
Volunteers and staff with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley assist Latin American and Haitian migrants at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

State District Judge J.R. Flores said in a Wednesday hearing that he would rule as early as next week whether the state could depose one of the leaders of Rio Grande Catholic Charities, according to reporting by local news outlet KBTX3.

According to KBTX3, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Brownsville Diocese Catholic Charities, responded to the hearing by saying she was “glad we had a chance to present our case in court today” and that “the small staff at Catholic Charities works tirelessly around the clock to serve needy people throughout our communities.”  

Scott Hahn urges priests at National Eucharistic Congress to ‘rekindle Eucharistic amazement’ 

Priests respond to a talk at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. / Credit: Photo by Josh Applegate, in partnership with the National Eucharistic Congress

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 19, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Nearly 1,000 priests and bishops packed in together at the National Eucharistic Congress to listen to the theologian and apologist Scott Hahn, who urged the clerics to rekindle their “Eucharistic amazement.”

Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the Eucharistic congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions.

During the first session on Wednesday, Hahn offered priests a retreat meditation on the biblical account of the road to Emmaus.

The meditation by the Catholic convert and founder of the St. Paul Center of Spiritual Theology began with a quote by Pope John Paul II.

“In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous ‘capacity’ which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist,” John Paul II wrote in his encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

“But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist … I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic ‘amazement.’”

Hahn also asked the priests in the room to examine and reflect on how they prioritize the importance of sacred Scripture in their lives and ministry, underlining the resurrected Jesus made it a priority to “open the Scriptures” to his disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“It’s his first day back from the dead. Just imagine, if you will, what would you do if you were Jesus? What would your to-do list look like on your first day back from the dead? I don’t know about yours, but I would suspect that mine is something similar, and that is, I’d like to drop in to pay a visit to Pontius Pilate … [and say] you should have listened to your wife … And then just go down the street and drop in on King Herod … and just say, ‘I’m back! And you have a lot to rethink,’” Hahn joked.

Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

“The one thing that Jesus apparently had at the top of his list,” he added, “was to lead a Bible study, going through all of salvation history beginning with Moses and the law and all the prophets for hours and hours, mile after mile, setting their hearts of fire.”

“Jesus did not consider it to be a waste of time to spend his first day back from the dead taking — not only the clergy, the hierarchy, Peter, and the others … even Cleopas and his companion — through the Scriptures in order to set fire to their hearts and then bring them to the dynamics where he is made known to them in the breaking of the Eucharist’s bread,” he said.

According to the event organizers, the special programming for the priests at the National Eucharistic Congress is meant to offer a unique experience of reflection, encounter, and prayer, inviting ministers “to greater intimacy with Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest.”

Bishop Robert Barron, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Dan Cellucci, Monsignor James Shea, and Jonathan Reyes gave special talks for the priests attending the congress.

Father Cassidy Stinson, a 32-year-old priest from the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, told CNA that he “appreciated starting the conference with Dr. Hahn’s reminder that we should prioritize Scripture in order to be effective in our proclamation of the Gospel.”

The young priest said he was also grateful for the other opportunities the congress provided for prayer and fellowship.

“I was really inspired to have the opportunity this afternoon to join my brother priests in adoration and to be encouraged in my ministry by our bishops,” Stinson said.

“As a priest, it’s inspiring to hear our own shepherds urge us to be bold, creative, and prayerful in how we evangelize.”

Famous French priest Abbé Pierre accused of sexual assault and harassment

Abbé Pierre died at the age of 94 in 2007. He is now accused of sexually assaulting and harassing numerous women. / Credit: Wim van Rossem for Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 17:23 pm (CNA).

Emmaus Movement founder Abbé Pierre, a formerly beloved French priest who died in 2007, has been accused of sexual abuse and misconduct by at least seven victims — including one who was a minor at the time of her alleged assault.

A July 17 report released by the Emmaus Movement, an international solidarity movement that seeks to combat poverty and homelessness, details that these victims largely consisted of Emmaus employees and volunteers, and young women in Pierre’s social circle. According to these victims, incidents of unsolicited kissing and touching, as well as inappropriate sexual propositions and comments, took place between the end of the 1970s and 2005.

These allegations were first reported in 2023, when Emmaus France received a report from a woman accusing Pierre of sexual assault. An internal investigation led by Caroline De Haas of the Egaé group followed, in which the seven victims’ testimonies were gathered. Egaé, a firm that specializes in violence prevention, shared its beliefs that Pierre’s actions affected other victims dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, but the time elapse has made it difficult to obtain further accounts and testimonies.

In a recent statement, Emmaus commended the “courage of the people who have testified and made it possible, through their words, to bring these realities to light. We believe them, we know that these intolerable acts have left their mark, and we stand by them.”

The group then goes on to denounce the “unacceptable acts committed” by Pierre, who “played a major role in its history.”

“We owe it to the victims. We also owe it to all those who, for over 70 years, have carried out the movement’s actions on a daily basis,” the statement continued. “We share their grief and anger, but also their determination to continue working, every day, to build a fairer, more united world.”

The Emmaus Movement was founded in Paris in 1949 by Pierre. Prior to these recent allegations and findings, the Catholic priest and Capuchin friar was one of the Church of France’s most beloved and iconic figures.

After being part of the French Resistance in World War II, the priest took on the name “Abbé Pierre” as a cover for his work in manufacturing fake identity papers and helping Jews cross the French border into Switzerland.

Pierre was particularly applauded for his efforts to assist the homeless population in France, often raising money and persuading the French Parliament to pass laws acting on behalf of the homeless, including a 1950s law forbidding landlords from evicting tenants during the winter. This “Trêve Hivernale,” or “Winter Truce” law, still exists in France today.

Despite his popularity, Pierre faced other controversies before the most recent one of alleged sexual assault. The priest faced public scrutiny in 1996 after defending a friend’s book, “Founding Myths of Israeli Politics,” which questioned the number of Jewish people killed by the Nazis in World War II.

In a 2005 book of interviews by Frederic Lenoir titled “My God… Why?” Pierre suggested he had broken his vow of celibacy by having sex as a younger man. Among other comments made in this book, Pierre expressed his support for married clergy and the ordination of women.

In light of these allegations, the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) shared a press release acknowledging Pierre’s past contributions in renewing “our society’s view of the poorest,” while also condemning his sexual assault against women.

“While awaiting the published report, the CEF wishes to assure the victims of its deep compassion and shame that such acts could be committed by a priest,” the release continued, “and reiterates its determination to mobilize to make the Church a safe house.”

Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story remembered as ‘true man of God’ after sudden death

Mark Story. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

Mark Story, a pro-life activist and photojournalist best known for his poignant pictures of the “D.C. five,” died on Wednesday evening. He was 52.

In tributes to him on social media, Story was remembered as a skilled photographer, joyful pro-life warrior, and beloved friend.

A Christian, Story had just completed his nightly prayer walk in his neighborhood when he was struck by an apparent heart attack. His death was announced by his father, Roger Story, in a Facebook post early Thursday morning.

“Our nationally famed pro-life photographer son, Mark David Story, suddenly went to be with the Lord he loved and served last evening with an apparent massive heart attack as he was returning from his daily evening prayer walk,” Story’s father wrote. “Mark was a true man of God and left an incredible legacy.”

Based in Washington, D.C., Story was a mainstay of pro-life events in the area, using his skills as a professional photographer to document the pro-life fight.

In 2022, Story took several photographs of five late-term-aborted babies who were found by the group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) outside the Washington Surgi Center run by abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo. The photos evidenced significant scarring and wounds to the babies’ bodies that suggested that some of the babies were killed via partial-birth abortion, which is illegal under federal law.

The discovery of the deceased babies, who came to be known as the “D.C. five,” caused national outrage and sparked calls from lawmakers for investigations on whether their killing violated federal law.

Speaking at a PAAU rally after the discovery, Story said he was thankful to be able to help give the D.C. five a voice. He described the moment the babies were found as both a “very morbid” but also joyful moment.

“I felt like God was telling me: ‘This is a celebration,’” he said of the babies’ discovery. “These children have been found and now are being heard, their stories are being told all over the world.”

Along with many other pro-life leaders, PAAU mourned Story’s passing, calling him a “brilliant photographer,” a “fierce fighter for life,” and an “unwavering friend.”

“We are honored to have worked alongside him in the pro-life movement,” PAAU said in a statement posted to social media.

Story was also mourned by the photography community. A tribute to him in the Daily Pulse Report called him a “visionary artist, a compassionate mentor, and a cherished friend.”

“In his memory, let us continue to appreciate the power of photography to connect us, to illuminate our world, and to tell stories that transcend time,” the Daily Pulse said.

Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story (far right) attends an event with Live Action founder and president Lila Rose (second from left). In a statement mourning his July 17, 2024, passing, Rose said that Story “passionately served the pro-life movement for the last five years, exposing millions to the truth about abortion through his creative photography.” According to Rose, “his incredible talent and gentle spirit of joy and service touched everyone who was blessed to work with him. He will be sorely missed.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action
Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story (far right) attends an event with Live Action founder and president Lila Rose (second from left). In a statement mourning his July 17, 2024, passing, Rose said that Story “passionately served the pro-life movement for the last five years, exposing millions to the truth about abortion through his creative photography.” According to Rose, “his incredible talent and gentle spirit of joy and service touched everyone who was blessed to work with him. He will be sorely missed.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action

Michael New, a pro-life professor of social research at The Catholic University of America who knew Story, told CNA that he was “saddened” to learn of his passing.

“Mark was the best photojournalist in the pro-life movement,” New said. “His professional photos of the five abortion victims obtained outside the abortion facility of Cesar Santangelo exposed the injustice of late-term abortion and revealed potential criminal misconduct on the part of Santangelo.”

“Mark was a great ally in our efforts to build a culture of life,” New added. “He will be missed. 

Friends of Story are inviting those interested to donate to a GoFundMe campaign he and his sister started for their father, who is suffering from cancer.

Pro-life sidewalk counselors appeal to Supreme Court for stronger free speech protections

U.S. Supreme Court building. / Credit: Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

Pro-life sidewalk counselors — who work to deter women from getting abortions and connect them with life-affirming pregnancy care — are appealing to the United States Supreme Court for stronger free speech protections outside of abortion clinics.

The sidewalk counseling organization Coalition Life petitioned the Supreme Court this week to consider its lawsuit against the City of Carbondale, Illinois, which has a so-called “bubble zone” ordinance that prevents sidewalk counselors from approaching anyone or demonstrating within 100 feet of an abortion clinic.

According to the ordinance, it is illegal to knowingly get within eight feet of a person for the purpose of providing a flier, displaying a sign, or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling” unless given express consent by the person — if that person is within 100 feet of an abortion clinic, medical clinic, hospital, or health care facility. The ordinance considers a violation to be disorderly conduct. 

Although the Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that “bubble zones” are not a violation of the First Amendment, Coalition Life is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the subject. In 2023, the Supreme Court declined to hear a similar case, which challenged a “bubble zone” ordinance in Westchester County, New York.

“The ‘bubble zone’ ordinance has been nothing more than the continued and relentless persecution of our team on the sidewalk,” Brian Westbrook, the executive director of Coalition Life, said in a statement.

“This fight won’t be over until [the precedent] is overturned and thousands of municipalities across the nation, like Carbondale, understand you cannot trample on our rights,” Westbrook added.

The 2000 ruling in Hill v. Colorado allowed Colorado to enforce a “bubble zone” around abortion clinics. The state law similarly set a 100-foot perimeter around abortion clinics and health care facilities, in which people could not get within eight feet of another person to provide fliers or engage in counseling.

In the 2000 ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the law does not “place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else” but that it does “make it more difficult to give unwanted advice.” Ultimately, he found that the law was “reasonable and narrowly tailored.” 

“Persons who are attempting to enter health care facilities for any purpose are often in particularly vulnerable physical and emotional conditions,” Stevens wrote. “The State of Colorado has responded to its substantial and legitimate interest in protecting these persons from unwanted encounters, confrontations, and even assaults by enacting an exceedingly modest restriction on the speakers’ ability to approach.”

Paul Clement, the lead attorney representing Coalition Life, wrote in the petition to the Supreme Court that Hill v. Colorado perpetuates a “denial of constitutional rights,” which is “more pressing now than ever.” 

“For nearly a quarter of a century, sidewalk counselors like those who work with Coalition Life have been forced to live with ‘an entirely separate, abridged edition of the First Amendment’ when it comes to the kind of peaceful, conversational speech outside an abortion facility in which they wish to engage,” Clement said.

Peter Breen, the executive vice president and head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, which is helping represent Coalition Life, said in a statement that “Hill v. Colorado was egregiously wrong on the day it was decided, and it remains a black mark in our law to this day.”

“‘Bubble zones,’ like the one in Carbondale, are an unconstitutional and overzealous attempt to show favor to abortion businesses, at the expense of the free speech rights of folks who seek to offer information, alternatives, and resources to pregnant women in need,” Breen added. “It’s time to end, once and for all, the political gamesmanship places like Carbondale play with our free speech rights.”

Three states have so-called “bubble zone” laws on the books: Colorado, Massachusetts, and Montana. However, numerous local governments throughout the country have adopted similar ordinances, preventing sidewalk counselors from approaching women who are considering an abortion.

Appeals court rejects Biden administration request to enforce ‘gender identity’ Title IX rules

The U.S. Department of Education sign hangs over the entrance to the federal building housing the agency's headquarters on Feb. 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: J. David Ake/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 15:22 pm (CNA).

An appellate court rejected a request from President Joe Biden’s administration to enforce a regulation in four states that would broadly prohibit discrimination based on a person’s self-asserted “gender identity.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that prevents the U.S. Department of Education from enforcing any part of the “gender identity” provisions in the Title IX rule for public schools and colleges in Montana, Idaho, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

The lower court’s order will remain in place as all five states continue their lawsuit, which challenges the legality of the regulation.

Courts have blocked the Department of Education from enforcing the regulation in 15 states altogether, while attorneys general in about a dozen other states have also filed lawsuits. The regulation will go into effect on Aug. 1 in jurisdictions where courts have not blocked its enforcement.

The regulation, which the administration promulgated in April, reinterprets Title IX’s prohibition on “sex discrimination” to include a prohibition on “gender identity” discrimination. 

Some lawyers and Republican attorneys general have warned that the rule would jeopardize state laws that restrict girls’ and women’s locker rooms, bathrooms, dormitories, and athletic competitions to only girls and women and could force states to allow access to men who identify as women.

“The Biden administration’s radical redefinition of sex turns back the clock on equal opportunity for women, undermines fairness, and threatens student safety and privacy,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Natalie Thompson, who is representing the Louisiana-based Rapides Parish School Board in the lawsuit, said in a statement

“The 5th Circuit now joins the 6th Circuit in holding back the Biden administration’s illegal efforts to rewrite Title IX while this critical lawsuit continues,” she added. “The administration continues to ignore biological reality, science, and common sense.” 

“The Rapides Parish School Board and schools and teachers across the country are right to stand against the administration’s adoption of extreme gender ideology, which would have devastating consequences for students, teachers, administrators, and families.”

After the lower court blocked the Department of Education from enforcing any part of the rule, the department filed an appeal that requested permission to partially enforce the rule while the litigation continues. The department claimed that the prohibition on enforcement was too broad and requested permission to enforce reporting and record-keeping rules, grievance procedures, and a variety of provisions related to “gender identity” discrimination included in the new rule.

In the ruling, the judges wrote that “the answer is no,” adding that the provisions the department wants to enforce are “complex, lengthy, and burdensome” and that the department “has given us little basis to assess the likelihood of success” in the case.

“The implementation and compliance costs would double if the partially implemented rule differs from a final judgment,” the judges wrote. “They would first have to amend their policies, alter their procedures, and train their employees to comply with a partial version of the rule pending appeal, and then they would have to do it all over again to comply with the rule as it stands at the conclusion of the litigation.”

The prohibition on sex discrimination written into the law itself makes no mention of “gender identity.” When Congress added the Title IX sex discrimination provisions into federal law in the 1970s, the intent was to provide girls and women with equal access to education and did not have any reference to transgenderism.

In spite of this, the Biden administration argues that interpreting “sex discrimination” to include “gender identity” discrimination is within the scope of the Department of Education’s regulatory authority. The states opposed to the rule argue that this interpretation is not consistent with the actual text of the law and falls outside of the department’s regulatory authority.

Pope Francis’ desire for Olympics is to foster world peace, which is ‘seriously threatened’

“The Olympic Games are, by their very nature, about peace, not war,” Pope Francis emphasized, noting that “the five intertwined rings represent the spirit of fraternity that should characterize the Olympic event and sporting competition in general.” / Credit: Ibex73, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 19, 2024 / 14:47 pm (CNA).

In a message addressed to Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Paris, Pope Francis expressed his fervent desire that the upcoming Olympic Games would foster world peace, which he said is “seriously threatened,” and follow the tradition of the ancient world of establishing a truce during the competition.

“In these troubled times, when world peace is seriously threatened, it is my fervent desire that everyone will respect this truce in the hope of resolving conflicts and restoring harmony,” the pontiff said.

Pope Francis has also stressed that the Olympic Games, which begin Friday, July 26, and run through Sunday, Aug. 11, in Paris, can “be an exceptional forum for encounters between peoples, even the most hostile,” and an occasion “to break down prejudices, to foster esteem where there is contempt and mistrust, and friendship where there is hatred.” 

“The Olympic Games are, by their very nature, about peace, not war,” he pointed out, noting that “the five intertwined rings represent the spirit of fraternity that should characterize the Olympic event and sporting competition in general.”

The Holy Father also said that he hopes the organization of the Olympic Games “will be for all the people of France a wonderful opportunity for fraternal harmony, enabling us to go beyond differences and opposing views, and strengthen the unity of the nation.”

Addressing the Catholics in France, he encouraged them to open the doors of their hearts, bearing witness to the Christ who dwells within them and communicates his joy to them, specifically through “the gratuitousness and generosity of their welcoming everyone.”

Sports, a universal language

Pope Francis noted that sports are “a universal language that transcends borders, languages, races, nationalities, and religions; it has the ability to unite people, to foster dialogue and mutual acceptance; it encourages people to surpass themselves, instills a spirit of sacrifice, promotes loyalty in interpersonal relations; it invites people to acknowledge their own limits and the value of others.”

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

Pro-life roundup: Trump says abortion ‘will never be a federal issue again’

Republican presidential nominee former president Donald Trump speaks after officially accepting the Republican presidential nomination on stage on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 18, 2024, in Milwaukee. / Credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 13:52 pm (CNA).

Here’s a roundup of pro-life-related developments that took place in the U.S. this week. 

Trump says states will decide abortion, Heritage Foundation goes ‘too far’

In an interview with Fox News released during the Republican National Convention, former president Donald Trump reasserted his stance that abortion is exclusively a state issue and said that it “will never be a federal issue again.”

“By getting rid of Roe v. Wade I was able to get it back into the states and now I’ve given it back to the people, the people are voting and frankly the people are voting in many cases quite liberally,” he said.

He added: “They can vote the way they want, it’s not a federal issue, it will never be a federal issue again.”

In the interview Trump was being questioned about his stance on Project 2025, a policy agenda published by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

He distanced himself from Project 2025, particularly with its stance on abortion, arguing that it is “too severe” and “goes way too far.”

Project 2025 holds that “abortion and euthanasia are not health care” and that the Health and Human Services Department must ensure that all its programs and activities are “rooted in a deep respect for innocent human life from Day 1 until natural death.” 

It also posits that the FDA should reinstate a ban on mailing abortion pills and administering the drugs via telemedicine without in-person doctor visits.

“They have a strong view on abortion,” Trump said. “From what I’ve heard it’s not too far, [it’s] way too far, they’ve gone really too far.”

Abortion group sues Arkansas for invalidating broad abortion amendment

A pro-abortion group is suing Arkansas after its Secretary of State John Thurston invalidated a proposed abortion amendment, blocking its placement on the state ballot this November.

According to Thurston, the group, which goes by the name “Arkansans for Limited Government,” did not follow the proper procedures when submitting its request to have the amendment added to the ballot.

In response, the abortion group filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court in which it asked the court to reverse Thurston’s decision and order him to resume processing its request.

The group contends that it followed all necessary procedures to have the proposal added and that Thurston’s decision constitutes a “disregard for the power expressly reserved by the people in the Arkansas Constitution.”

In response, Thurston stood by his decision, telling Arkansans for Limited Government in a July 15 letter that the “defects” in their request “required me to reject your petition.”

Currently, Arkansas protects unborn life beginning at conception, only allowing abortion in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger.

If successfully passed by Arkansas voters, the abortion amendment would mandate that the state not “prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict” abortion before 18 weeks of pregnancy. The amendment would further prohibit the state from restricting abortion at all stages in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or health of the mother.

Iowa abortion supporters ask to block heartbeat law

After the Iowa Supreme Court issued a decision in June to allow the state’s pro-life heartbeat law to go into effect, an attorney for Planned Parenthood is asking the court to reconsider its decision.

The court’s decision was based on the belief that abortion is not a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution. The decision is temporary and allows the heartbeat law, which protects life beginning at six weeks, to go into effect while legal challenges against it proceed in the courts.

According to reporting by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, attorney Peter Im, a lawyer with Planned Parenthood, is petitioning the court to review and potentially revise its decision. Im is arguing that laws restricting abortion should have to face higher legal scrutiny and not impose an “undue burden” on abortion access.

The Iowa heartbeat law could take effect as early as Friday evening depending on a ruling by a state district court in the afternoon. 

Montana judge orders state to count signatures from inactive voters

A Montana district judge issued a temporary ruling on Tuesday that requires the state to count inactive voters’ signatures in support of a broad abortion amendment.

This comes after Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen invalidated thousands of signatures from citizens whose voting status was “inactive.”

Judge Mike Menehan ruled that the state must count those signatures in its assessment of whether to add the abortion proposal to this November’s ballot.

If added to the ballot and passed by voters, the Montana abortion amendment would prohibit the state from “denying or burdening the right to abortion” before fetal viability or beyond when a health care professional determines it is “medically indicated to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

Pennsylvania governor refuses to defend law banning state-funded abortion

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, filed a court notice on Tuesday that the state will not defend its long-standing law banning Medicaid funding for abortion. 

The ban on tax-funded Medicaid abortion, which has been in place since 1982, is being challenged by Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, a Pittsburgh abortion clinic, and several other abortion groups, in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court. 

In a Tuesday statement, Shapiro said that “the current ban imposes a burden on women that is not sustainable and therefore violates our state constitution.”

“My administration looks forward to making our arguments in court and is urging the court to strike down this ban that denies Pennsylvanians access to health care solely because of their sex and clearly runs counter to the recent Supreme Court ruling,” he said. 

Abortion is currently legal in Pennsylvania until 24 weeks of pregnancy. There were 34,838 abortions in Pennsylvania in 2022, the most recent year with complete data. 

Wisconsin leaders join lawsuit to establish right to abortion

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, have joined a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court to establish a right to abortion in the state constitution. 

In a Wednesday statement, Evers said he was joining the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Urmanski, which is centered on whether the Wisconsin Constitution guarantees a right to abortion. 

Evers claimed that efforts to enshrine abortion into state law have “never been more important” because of what he called “looming Republican threats” to enact a national abortion ban and restrict access to birth control and emergency contraception.

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a pre-Roe law protecting life at conception went into effect for a short time until a ruling by a district judge found that the law did not apply to abortion. 

Currently, abortion is legal in Wisconsin until 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

‘There’s a better way’: Baltimore Archdiocese doubles gun buyback budget to $100,000

The Archdiocese of Baltimore said it acquired several hundred guns as part of a “buyback” program financed by local parishes and individual donors on Aug. 5, 2023. / Credit: Baltimore Police Department

CNA Staff, Jul 19, 2024 / 12:54 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Baltimore will hold its second gun buyback program next month with the aim of doubling its budget from last year and taking even more guns off the streets of its titular city. 

The archdiocese said last year that it obtained 360 guns using $50,000 in raised funds in what officials described as an interfaith event to build “a coalition for peace in West Baltimore.” 

Long known for its high crime and homicide rates, murders in Baltimore have been particularly elevated for roughly a decade. The city in 2023 recorded a homicide rate of about 46 per 100,000 people compared with the U.S. rate of 5.5 per 100,000. 

Father Mike Murphy, the pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish in Irvington, told CNA last year that the diocese would do another gun buyback program “for sure.” 

The program arose “out of sadness and a desire to make a difference,” he said at the time, and a desire “to move the Church, all churches, into the streets and build strong community relationships.”

The Catholic Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, reported this week that the event will once again take place in August of this year with a doubled budget goal of $100,000 for buyback purchases. 

“We’re not under any illusion that we are going to stop all gun violence,” Murphy told the Catholic newspaper this week. 

“But we’re trying to change the narrative and promote the message that life is sacred,” he said. 

In a video message last month, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said of the 2023 buyback that “every gun that was turned in brought with it the potential to save a life.”

“Our effort aligns with the Church’s belief that every human life is sacred and answers the Holy Father’s repeated call that the faithful work to reduce the trafficking of firearms,” Lori said. 

The archbishop said that “any money raised this year that is not used to purchase guns in the buyback will go towards the needs of families of homicide victims” through the archdiocese’s grief ministry program, which offers care packages to those who have lost loved ones to violence. 

“Ultimately, these efforts provide us with an avenue to channel God’s love towards peace and healing for Baltimore and all our neighbors who call the city home,” Lori said. 

Last year’s program netted nearly 160 handguns as well as shotguns and rifles. Handguns and long guns were purchased for $200 apiece, while assault weapons were bought for $300. All of the purchased firearms were destroyed. 

Murphy indicated to the Catholic Review this month that the program will continue after this year. “

“This isn’t a one-and-done event. We’re trying to show people there’s a better way,” he said.

Father Mike Schmitz preaches repentance at National Eucharistic Congress

Father Mike Schmitz speaks at the revival session of the National Eucharistic Congress on July 18, 2024. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 19, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

In his keynote speech at the National Eucharistic Congress Thursday evening “revival session,” Father Mike Schmitz, host of the popular “Bible in a Year” podcast, used a word that one doesn’t hear very often these days. He called on the Catholics gathered in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium to repent.

“If this is going to be a revival, if it’s going to be a real revival, here’s the reality. In the history of Christianity, you can never have a revival without repentance,” said Schmitz, chaplain at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Schmitz, whose YouTube videos and podcasts have made him a household name among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, was met with a standing ovation from the crowd of over 50,000 when he walked onto the stage on the second night of the five-day event to deliver his talk titled “The Greatest Love Story.”

Father Mike Schmitz speaks at the revival session of the National Eucharistic Congress at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Father Mike Schmitz speaks at the revival session of the National Eucharistic Congress at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

The National Eucharistic Congress is a culminating event of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ three-year-long National Eucharistic Revival, an initiative that aims to renew Catholics’ faith that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, a central tenet of Catholicism. 

The bishops in 2019 decided to embark on the initiative following a Pew survey that found that only one-third of Catholics believed that the consecrated bread and wine in the Mass are the body and blood of Jesus.

While some have disputed the methodology of that particular survey, belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has been widely acknowledged to have declined in recent years.

Schmitz told the crowd attending the conference, however, that believing in the doctrine of the Real Presence that teaches that the Eucharist is Jesus is not enough. 

Comparing Catholics today to the people of Jerusalem to whom the prophet Jeremiah preached about the need to repent, Schmitz said the problem is not that we don’t know about the Eucharist, it’s that we are indifferent to it. 

“Too often,” he said, Catholics are “the people Jeremiah was speaking to. ... We say, ‘We have the Real Presence, we have the Real Presence, we have the Real Presence,’ but our hearts are far from him. We know — we just don’t care.” 

“If the remedy for ignorance is to get to knowledge, and the road to knowledge is truth, the remedy for indifference is love, and the road to love is repentance,” he challenged the gathering.

Ciboria filled with hosts await the start of Mass at the National Eucharistic Congress at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Ciboria filled with hosts await the start of Mass at the National Eucharistic Congress at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Schmitz, who at one point seemed to tear up while talking about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, told the crowd that belief in the presence of Jesus is “not the point of the Mass.”

“This whole conference, we’re talking about the real presence of Jesus. Amen. Yes, Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in every Eucharist, in every Mass, in every tabernacle around the world,” he said.

“Is the point of the Mass the presence of Jesus? No. It’s the presence of Jesus that makes the point possible. I want to say that again. The presence of Jesus is not the point of the Mass,” Schmitz said.

“The Real Presence makes the sacrifice possible. We fall into a big trap when we say, ‘Oh, no, the point is that you’re here.’ Or, ‘The point is I get to receive you.’ Those are amazing things. But what saves us is the sacrifice of the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus to the Father in humble obedience,” he said.

He called on the assembled to repent — of large sins and “those small things that we settle for.” Both, he said, can “snuff out” the flame of our love for Jesus.

Everyone, he said, should ask themselves: “If I’ve lost the fire of my love for the Lord, my first love, the first fire, what are the fire extinguishers in my life?” 

He concluded by calling on those gathered for the conference to resolve to make changes in their lives.

“I can’t expect to take the fire of this weekend and bring it back to my home if I’m trying to cram it into the life I just left,” Schmitz continued. “Something has to change. Someone has to redecorate my home. We have to do some remodeling. That’s the plan. Tonight, be able to make some of those decisions. What are the fire extinguishers I know I’m returning to when I go back home? It’s time to remodel because I cannot fit the fire of God’s love and for the life I left behind.” 

The evening also included a keynote speech from Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, who shared her experiences of Eucharistic miracles and healing that she has witnessed in her own life and in her work in the Archdiocese of Boston. 

Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart recounts her experiences with the healing power of the Eucharist at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart recounts her experiences with the healing power of the Eucharist at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

She recounted her experiences helping a young cancer patient and a significantly premature baby access the Eucharist. Both defied the odds and are thriving today, she said.

“I give thanks to God for allowing me to be present and to witness these miracles so I can come and be a voice for him and for them, so that you go out and share with everybody. Eucharistic miracles are real and Our Lord truly present, and he’s here in our midst, wherever you go, any parish, any church, any diocese,” she said.

Lila Rose, the founder and president of the pro-life human rights group Live Action, and Ken and Mary Ann Duppong, parents of Servant of God Michelle Duppong, also offered testimonies about their faith.

Before the conclusion of the event, the faithful knelt in adoration of the Eucharist, which was processed into and out of the stadium by Bishop William Byrne of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Bishop William Byrne of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, prays before the Eucharist. Credit: Jeffry Bruno
Bishop William Byrne of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, prays before the Eucharist. Credit: Jeffry Bruno
More than 50,000 kneel in adoration of the Eucharist at the National Eucharistic Congress held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffry Bruno
More than 50,000 kneel in adoration of the Eucharist at the National Eucharistic Congress held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffry Bruno