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Redeemed from sexual libertinism, prostitution, and occult, Fran Orvich tells his story

Orvich said he wanted to share his experience with same sex attraction “so that the Lord might touch hearts and that people repent and try returning to a chaste life." / Credit: Fran Orvich

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 23, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

For the last five years Fran Orvich, 30, has been living chastely following a conversion process that began after a traumatic childhood and years of sexual libertinism.

The young man shared his conversion process in a telephone interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, “for the glory of God and the salvation of souls and to give light, hope, and salvation to these poor brothers of ours who are in the Church and are very confused.”

Specifically, Orvich said he wanted to share his experience with same-sex attraction “so that the Lord might touch hearts and that people repent and try returning to a chaste life.”

A difficult childhood

While only five years have passed since his conversion, to explain what he has experienced Orvich referred back to his childhood. “I had to grow up with a father who beat my mother, an alcoholic, a womanizer always using foul language. It was a hostile, terrible environment.”

The young man related that he was “wounded within his mother’s womb” because his father mistreated his mother during her pregnancy. “He never said ‘I love you’ to me,” he related, so his father became an absent figure to him: “My father was there, but I have never had him as a father.”

Orvich described his mother as “a woman of unwavering faith, of prayer” who, due to the family situation, adopted a “protective” role. In addition, as he was the youngest of three brothers, he said, “they bullied me a little.”

As a child, he began looking at pornography — a habit that continued to increase — so that “when I was 8 or 9 years old, I was already doing things with three boys my age. Not deep into it, but it was already totally perverted,” he explained.

Orvich’s school years were difficult. A shy and quiet boy, his classmates ostracized him. He still recalls the day a teacher put him in front of the blackboard to do a simple addition problem. He didn’t know how to do it and the teacher encouraged his classmates to laugh at him. That left a deep wound that would only be healed years later during his conversion process.

‘I opened doors to evil’ through the occult

When he turned 12, he fell into daily masturbation. During high school he continued viewing pornography and entered the world of the occult. “I opened the door to evil,” he acknowledged, through various esoteric practices.

The high-school Orvich wasn’t like the grade-school Orvich: “I was the rebel, the bully, the class clown, the good-looking dude.” At that time he had five girlfriends and the homosexual acts of his childhood were just a memory of misdirected curiosity. 

At one point, however, he began to become interested in a boy at the school. “I started to notice a boy in the classroom next door. He started to get my attention and something awakened in me. I started fooling around and I kind of liked that fooling around,” but it didn’t reach the sexual level.

Some time after that, at age 16, Orvich said, “I was with the first boy.” He hid this relationship from his family and carried on the liaison in secret until, at the age of 18, there was a big fight at home between his parents. “My father wanted to hit my mother and at 18 I wasn’t going to allow it,” he recounted.

His father called him a “faggot” — “he was always using that word” — and Orvich responded: “Yeah, what’s up!” His father’s reaction was very aggressive: “He wanted to kill me with a sickle, he threw a chair at me and I dodged it,” he said, describing the incident.

Abandoned by his family, he fell into prostitution

“Having just turned 18, my soul was at rock bottom,” he said, and he was terribly lonely. “I didn’t have a Christian friend, a good friend to tell me: ‘Don’t worry, come to my house.’” He said he had faith, because his mother had instilled it in him, but “I didn’t go to Mass, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t pray.”

Given the difficult situation at home, the boy with whom he had a relationship at the time took him in: “He is the only one who didn’t fail me, because my whole family failed me, they left me stranded.” However, that relationship ended badly and Orvich was forced to look for a room to rent.

He was just a kid who had barely left his parents’ home. “What do I do with my life now?” he thought. He tried a door-to-door sales job that didn’t go well until he made a dramatic decision: “I prostituted myself.”

“It was something very painful, very humiliating and terrible. I don’t wish anyone to go through that situation. Now I can talk about it, because the Lord is healing me, but before I couldn’t,” Orvich told ACI Prensa.

Fortunately, that only lasted a week, because a cousin of his called and offered him a place to live with his aunt and uncle. In the family it was already known as “official” that Orvich was homosexual.

Out of rage toward his father — “I hated him and wanted him dead” — he participated in a television program. “I made the biggest fool of myself in history and the devil deceived me in such a powerful way,” he said of the program, where he acknowledged his homosexuality in front of the cameras.

Orvich regrets the episode, especially because of the scandal it caused, particularly for his parents. “I ignored the commandment to honor your father and mother,” he said.

‘I knew this wasn’t normal’

At the time, through social media, Orvich was “totally involved in the gay world.” However, in retrospect, he emphasized that he was always uncomfortable with the lifestyle.

“I was not pro-LGBTQ. I wasn’t, because I knew this wasn’t normal. I said to myself: This is what happened to me, because it is what it is. But I wasn’t okay with it.”

Despite this, the young man frequented Chueca (a gay haunt in Madrid, Spain) because “when you are so full of demons, of lust, well in the end the body demands from you for what it demands from you.”

He had a series of toxic relationships and was emotionally dependent. “In the end, in men I was looking for the figure of my father, but I sexualized it,” he recalled.

Baptized at age 22 

Despite his mother’s faith, various family circumstances led to Orvich not being baptized during his early years. At age 22, however, he sought the sacrament: “Despite being ‘stuck in a bad situation,’ I told my mother that I wanted to be baptized.”

Finally, without much formal preparation due to his parents’ business activities, he was baptized.

Despite this, Orvich continued with his esoteric practices: “They dealt me cards and I loved the whole subject of spirits.” Deep down, he recognized “it was a God tailored to me, because I believed, but I did whatever I felt like.”

Three years went by in which Orvich spent a lot of time cultivating his outward image and going to the gym, which led him to work as a model making good money.

The spiritual turnaround in his life came at age 25, when a newborn nephew was on the verge of death. It came as a powerful jolt to his soul that led him to pray fervently for the child’s life. “The Lord told me in my interior: ‘This is the last chance.’ He said it to me like that,” Orvich related.

“I understood what I was doing wrong, the condition of my soul. I realized all of it and said: It’s over, I renounce this.” 

Asked for his take on Fiducia Supplicans, Orvich commented that "what is being said a lot is 'God loves you' and, in fact, God loves us a lot. But what is being omitted is that you have to convert." Credit: Fran Orvich
Asked for his take on Fiducia Supplicans, Orvich commented that "what is being said a lot is 'God loves you' and, in fact, God loves us a lot. But what is being omitted is that you have to convert." Credit: Fran Orvich

‘I no longer want other loves’

So Orvich decided to go to confession “to a good priest.” He describes what it was like receiving the sacrament of forgiveness.

“I have always wanted to find love and peace. I didn’t find it in men, nor in money, nor in fame, because I was always empty. I made my confession and told all my sins, because I had incredible enlightenment from the Holy Spirit,” he recounted.

“When the priest gave me absolution, I felt so much love!” he continued. “I felt God’s forgiveness, his mercy. That was something incredible for me. I was on cloud nine, with a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

“I couldn’t stop crying and asking the Lord for forgiveness. I felt so loved, so loved! And when I knew this love of God, I said: I no longer want other loves, because I have been unhappy, nothing more, I have suffered a lot. I want to be with this love, I want to be with Jesus.”

Thus began a process of faith formation, including devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and divine mercy. Orvich had “an incredible thirst for God, to love him, to worship him, to serve him, to make amends, to do penance.”

And, following that path of conversion, he participated in an Ephphatha (“Be opened,” cf Mk 7:34) Retreat where, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, “face to face with the Lord, I cried a lot and asked for forgiveness for what I did,” he said.

Forgiving his mother

He also felt the need to ask forgiveness from his mother. She had been praying for seven years and told him: “Son, the Lord finally heard my prayers. He has already taken out the dagger that I had in my heart for you. Blessed be the Lord.”

For Orvich, it’s important to explain how his mother related to him. “She didn’t agree with my sin, but she loved me. She didn’t tell me ‘bring your boyfriend whenever you want and introduce him to me,’ no. She told me twice ‘I don’t agree with this, with your life,’ but always with a lot of love and a lot of mercy.”

Some time later, after a process, he was able to ask his father for forgiveness. “He also asked for my forgiveness and I experienced a very powerful release, a weight was taken off my shoulders.”

‘The Holy Virgin is key’

Orvich has been living chastely for five years. “I don’t want to be with anyone, I want to be with Jesus Christ, I want to be in his Church. The things of God are what make me truly happy and give me peace.”

Despite his determination, he recognizes that he has temptations, “attacks from the devil,” which he understands are “part of the purification” he must undergo. To combat them he tries to go to daily Mass and receive Communion, pray the rosary, and do penances.

He has also consecrated himself to the Virgin Mary in accord  with the 33-day process advocated by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort.

“The Holy Virgin is key in my fight against the demon that will always try to set me back. I have to be in a constant struggle. The Lord gives you perseverance.”

As part of this spiritual battle, in addition to his work, Orvich is a “missionary on social media,” through his Facebook and TikTok profiles, where he tries to “witness to young and old, giving the Word of God, a breath of peace and joy.”

Spiritual and psychological help

In order to live this new life, Orvich needed significant spiritual and psychological help, beginning with closing the doors he had opened through the occult.

“If St. Mary Magdalene had seven demons, imagine me,” said Orvich, who has undergone “deliverance” prayer. In fact, he assumes he is “still in the process.”

In other areas, he is aware that “the psychological part and the spiritual part go together,” which is why he looked for “a good psychologist priest, who will not lead me to evil but who will lead me to God” and has found him. “The Lord has given me an excellent psychologist priest who addresses all these issues of same-sex attraction.”

Fiducia Supplicans

Near the end of the extensive conversation with ACI Prensa, Orvich did not hesitate when asked about his impressions of the Vatican document Fiducia Supplicans, which approves of blessings for same-sex couples.

“It caused me a lot of pain and sadness,” he said, because the document “is very confusing, very ambiguous, it doesn’t give light. It can confuse many souls.”

“What is being said a lot is ‘God loves you’ and, in fact, God loves us a lot. But what is being omitted is that you have to convert,” Orvich emphasized, recalling the words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to follow me, let him deny himself.”

Along these lines, he added: “If we want to be in communion with the Lord, we have to try to do things right. We’re sinners and we fall, but you have to be on the road to conversion, every day. The Holy Curé of Ars already said there is no greater charity than saving a soul from hell by telling the truth.”

Message to parents of children with same-sex attraction

Finally, ACI Prensa asked Orvich to freely say anything he would like to share about his experience and that he considers essential. He had a twofold message for parents of people who experience same-sex attraction.

On the one hand, he advised parents to “love their children, but do not accept their sin. Because if you accept it, it will be useless for you to pray.” Driving that point home, he emphasized: “By confirming them in sin we are not helping them, we are condemning them.”

The second essential idea he wants to convey to parents is to “never tire of praying for your children, because prayer has a lot of intercessory power.”

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

Could Florida become the first state to defeat an abortion amendment?

People join together during a “Rally to Stop the Six-Week Abortion Ban” held at Lake Eola Park on April 13, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. / Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 23, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The Florida Supreme Court recently made national headlines when it issued two significant abortion rulings on the same day

One ruling cleared the way for a law to take effect that protects unborn life at six weeks and beyond. The other allowed a far-reaching abortion proposal, titled the Limiting Government Interference with Abortion Amendment, to be placed on the November ballot.

If passed, the amendment would change the Florida Constitution to include a provision reading: “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

With the abortion amendment now officially on the ballot in Florida, many will be looking to the state this November to see if it will break a long string of pro-life referendum defeats or simply mark another abortion victory.

Although several other states are expected to have similar abortion amendments on their ballots, Florida holds special importance both because it is the third-most populous state in the country and because of its perceived role as a leader among conservative states.

“It’s critically important that we win Florida,” Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told CNA.

“If we win Florida,” she explained, “I think it can really turn the tide on these ballot measure fights.”

Is abortion a winning issue for Democrats? 

So far, the pro-life movement has suffered one crushing defeat after another when it comes to abortion referendums. Every abortion-related amendment that has come to a general vote since the overturn of Roe v. Wade has resulted in an abortion victory.

The votes have not been close either. Despite a major pro-life push to defeat it, an amendment adding abortion to the Ohio Constitution passed in a 56% to 44% vote last October. Another pro-abortion measure in Michigan passed 56% to 43% in November 2022. In Kansas, which is considered a reliably Republican and conservative state, voters declined 59% to 41% to add an amendment that would have protected unborn life from abortion.

Several leading Republicans, including former president Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Rick Scott, have since embraced less protective pro-life positions. 

Despite floating the idea of supporting a national abortion ban earlier in his campaign, Trump announced on April 8 that he would not support any federal abortion policy and that the issue is “up to the states.” 

For his part, Scott said that he would support replacing Florida’s six-week law with a more permissive 15-week abortion limit. 

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, criticized the Florida six-week law as “extreme” and has signaled his belief that support for abortion will propel him to victory in the 2024 general election. 

“Trump is scrambling,” Biden said. “He’s worried that since he’s the one responsible for overturning Roe, the voters will hold him accountable in 2024. Well, I have news for Donald: They will.” 

Biden is set to make a campaign stop in Tampa on Tuesday, where he is expected to speak on abortion and the six-week pro-life law.

Can Florida buck the trend? 

With all this at play, John White, a professor of politics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA that from a purely political perspective, “there is very little that can be done to defeat the initiative.” 

“The six-week abortion ban in Florida is very likely to be overturned by the ballot initiative,” he said. “In every state in which a ballot initiative has appeared, the pro-life forces have lost. I don’t think Florida will be any different.” 

“We have already seen the national significance of this issue and its ability to galvanize majorities of voters. Florida will only add to this,” he added.

Yet, Seana Sugrue, a politics professor at Ave Maria University in southwest Florida, said that this abortion showdown is “different from the other states both procedurally and substantively.”

She pointed out that while the abortion amendments in Ohio and Michigan only required a simple majority to pass, the Florida amendment must clear a 60% threshold to be added to the state’s constitution. This will make a major difference, she said, predicting that the pro-abortion camp will find it very difficult to rally that much support in the state.

According to an Emerson College poll published April 11, 57% of Florida voters believe the six-week pro-life law is too strict. According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of Florida adults believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 

Sugrue said the Florida amendment is “much more radical” than the other abortion proposals such as the one in Ohio and is “actually very, very broad.”

The amendment bans restrictions on abortion before viability, but late-term abortions would still be allowed if determined necessary by a health provider. According to Sugrue’s analysis of the amendment, it would allow abortion until birth in Florida because it doesn’t define what it means by necessary for one’s health and does not specify what type of health care providers are allowed to make that determination.

What the pro-life movement needs to win in Florida

Sugrue said the pro-life movement needs to prioritize communicating the truth about the radical nature of the amendment to the public.

“Messaging is going to be very important,” she said, adding that the “constant, faithful, and clear support” from the Catholic Church in Florida will be needed.

So far, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Catholic, have both criticized the amendment.

In a statement shared with CNA on April 1, Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director, said that the Florida bishops “will work hard to oppose this cruel and dangerous amendment and urge all Floridians to vote no.”

DeSantis, meanwhile, has called the amendment “very, very extreme” and said that voters will reject it once they figure out how radical it is. 

According to Pritchard, there is already a coalition of pro-life groups formed to defeat the amendment. She said that “what’s going to be key to our success is the willingness of Gov. DeSantis to get in this fight.”

“We would hope that he would be vocal, continue to be vocal early and often, because that awareness of what this measure actually does is very important starting now rather than waiting until the last couple of weeks before the election,” she said.

But just as important as being vocally supportive, according to Pritchard, is for the governor to help with fundraising. In Ohio, the campaign in favor of the abortion amendment outraised the pro-life campaign by a large margin. 

“We know the other side is going to easily pour millions upon millions into this, from George Soros to the abortion lobby and abortion industry,” Pritchard said. “So, the dollars will be as crucial as him [DeSantis] being willing to be a vocal advocate.”

With the help of the governor, Pritchard believes the pro-life movement can break its losing slump.

“Florida is the state where the red wave materialized in 2022. We were all hoping and expecting and praying for a red wave throughout the entire nation in those midterms, but that didn’t happen, except for in Florida, where Ron DeSantis won by double digits and took both houses of the Legislature,” she said. “We have reasons to be hopeful in that respect. At the same time, we have a lot of work to do.”

Did St. George really slay a dragon?

Edward Burne-Jones, “St. George Kills the Dragon,” 1866 / Credit: Public Domain

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. George may be among Christianity’s most famous and beloved saints, immortalized through the famous legend of St. George and the Dragon — a tale thoroughly medieval in character in which a brave and chivalrous knight charges in and saves a fair princess from being devoured by a dragon. 

In England, a country long devoted to George and one of several nations to claim his patronage, the saint’s name adorns the signs of churches and pubs in nearly equal measure. His feast day is celebrated with festivals, many of which involve reenactments of the saint’s daring feats against the ferocious dragon.

Alas for these revelers, the real St. George was not a knight, and to history’s knowledge he did not save any princesses from a fiery death. George was a Roman soldier, condemned to torture and martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution at the beginning of the fourth century.

Tradition holds that he withstood several rounds of torture and was ultimately beheaded rather than renounce his Christian faith. He was immediately venerated throughout the Christian world as a martyr, but we know almost nothing else about him. Pope Gelasius I, who canonized him nearly two centuries later in 494, stated on the occasion that George was among those saints “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.”

The famed tales of George defeating a dragon did not arise until more than 500 years after his death, and no one is quite sure how a Roman soldier of near-complete anonymity metamorphosed into a dashing hero celebrated the world over for his courage. Likely it began as a fable to demonstrate the warring forces of good and evil, and soon the story obscured the true history of St. George.

We cannot say that facts do not matter, but in the case of St. George, perhaps we can argue that the particulars of his life, fantastical or otherwise, do not alter the truth for which he died. G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

The legend of George and the Dragon is not real, but the truth that it reveals most certainly is.

There is evil in the world, true evil that seeks to devour all that is good and innocent. In stories it breathes fire and flies. In history it can take the shape of despots like the man who ordered St. George’s death. The bloodlust of the dragon was real, even if its scales were not, and it has not died but continued on to plague our world in all its insidious forms and iterations. But just as the dragon’s brutality was no fable, neither was the bravery of the man who fought it. This courageous faith in the face of evil has echoed through the centuries, to be emulated by knights, soldiers, kings, and even the children brandishing their wooden swords on St. George’s Day.

St. George surely never fought a dragon. But he did defy an emperor and stare without flinching into the eyes of his torturers and executioner, unyielding in his faith. No fair maiden awaited him at the end of his trial in life, but upon his death, no doubt, the gentle arms of Christ’s mother clasped him, bringing him to the throne room of her Son.

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and has been adapted by CNA.

For first time, incurably ill patient undergoes euthanasia in Peru

Ana Estrada, 47, suffered from polymyositis, an incurable disease that left her confined to a wheelchair. Since 2019, she had been been petitioning Peruvian courts to recognize a right to euthanasia. / Credit: Jessica Alva Piedra CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

On Sunday, April 21, Peruvian activist Ana Estrada underwent a euthanasia process and died. The terminology employed did not indicate whether it was by direct euthanasia or medically assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is not legal in Peru, but the nation’s Supreme Court nevertheless ruled in favor of her appeal.

According to a statement released by various Peruvian media, the activist “died on her own terms, in accordance with her idea of dignity and in full control of her autonomy until the end.”

“The medical procedure was carried out in accordance with the ‘Plan and Protocol for Death with Dignity’ applicable to Ana, approved by EsSalud, in the context of the historic ruling in her favor, issued on Feb. 23, 2021, and upheld by the Supreme Court on July 14 and 27, 2022,” the press release stated. 

EsSalud is a government agency providing social security health insurance in Peru.

Who is Ana Estrada?

Ana Estrada was a 47-year-old Peruvian activist who suffered from polymyositis — an incurable disease that left her confined to a wheelchair. Since 2019, she has been petitioning Peruvian courts to recognize a right to euthanasia.

Euthanasia is not legal in Peru. However, in 2022 the judiciary ruled in favor of Estrada so that in her case Article 112 of the current Penal Code “would be unenforced.” The code punishes anyone who “out of pity, kills an incurably ill person” with a prison sentence of no more than three years.”

Last February, the Superior Court of Justice of Lima ordered Social Security Health (EsSalud) and the Ministry of Health (Minsa) to respect Estrada’s decision.

Recently, EsSalud also stated that it was unnecessary for Estrada to undergo an additional psychological evaluation from the one carried out last October and decided that she could designate a trusted person to authorize her consent with their signature.

What does the Catholic Church say about euthanasia?

No. 2277 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.”

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator,” the catechism explains.

“The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded,” the text clarifies.

In early April, the Vatican published the declaration Dignitatis Infinita, which warns of 13 grave violations of human dignity, one of which is euthanasia. 

The document notes that “there is a widespread notion that euthanasia or assisted suicide is somehow consistent with respect for the dignity of the human person.”

“However, in response to this,” the declaration explains, “it must be strongly reiterated that suffering does not cause the sick to lose their dignity, which is intrinsically and inalienably their own. Instead, suffering can become an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of mutual belonging and gain greater awareness of the precious value of each person to the whole human family.”

After encouraging palliative care for the sick, Dignitatis Infinita affirms that “helping the suicidal person to take his or her own life is an objective offense against the dignity of the person asking for it, even if one would be thereby fulfilling the person’s wish.”

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

Argentine doctor completes prison sentence for preventing a chemical abortion in process

Argentine pro-life Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra. / Credit: Buena Vida

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

In 2017, a 19-year-old woman arrived in severe pain at the hospital where Argentine doctor Leandro Rodríguez Lastra was working. She was 23 weeks pregnant and had ingested misoprostol, illegally administered by the La Revuelta (“The Revolt”) organization well beyond the outer limit of 10 weeks of pregnancy for use of the drug.

Using his professional judgment, Rodríguez stabilized the woman by stopping the chemical abortion process, thus saving both mother and child. When the baby reached six and a half months’ gestation, the medical board decided to deliver the child by cesarean section and the baby was placed for adoption.

In 2019, for preventing the completion of the abortion, Rodríguez was given a one-year-and-two-months suspended sentence in prison, and his license to practice medicine was revoked for two years and four months, ending Jan. 30. 

Speaking with “EWTN Noticias,” EWTN’s Spanish-language news program, Rodríguez explained what had happened that led to the unprecedented sentence: In 2017, he was on duty “at the public hospital where I worked, in the Argentine city of Cipolletti in the Argentine Patagonia, where I received a patient in generally poor condition due to an advanced pregnancy, and I made the decision to stop the process of giving birth prematurely that was going on and improve the patient’s state of health.”

“This was interpreted by the justice system, or by the Rio Negro Judiciary, as having overridden the patient’s will to terminate the pregnancy, and so in 2019 I was convicted, and this sentence has just been completed,” he said.

This time, Rodríguez said, “has been very significant,” beyond the notoriety of his case, due to the commitment to be “a kind of example of what can happen if one does not submit to the arbitrary decisions of the powers that be.”

This experience led him to be “even more committed to caring for life, the protection of the life of the unborn child, the protection of women,” the doctor said.

Rodríguez said that in the eyes of the court, his patient was the victim in this case, “since she had been a victim of rape, she was portrayed by all the media, especially the local media, as the great victim in all this, the one who had gotten the worst of it.”

However, he pointed out, “once the trial was over, the sentence issued, this woman was abandoned and no one else cared for her; unfortunately she had to seek help” to survive.

These facts, the doctor said, make it clear “that those arguments that were put forward at the time, saying that this was for the protection of women, were absolutely false.”

“Those arguments, speaking of defending rights, were absolutely false, and the only thing they tried to do was destroy the life of a child who is now about to turn 7 years old, who is happy, with an adoptive family that is taking care of him and giving him the future that any of us deserve. They couldn’t do anything about that,” he said.

“The child is alive, the woman who was a victim of all this is fine, she’s healthy; therefore in that aspect I am satisfied because life triumphed, truth triumphed, beyond the injustices that [I] suffered," he said.

The doctor anticipates that he will continue working in the private sector, as “it’s difficult for me to go back to public hospitals,” he said. However, he reiterated that his commitment to life “is unwavering,” and if he is faced with a case similar to the one that led to his conviction, “in the same case I will act in precisely the same way.”

“When I was sentenced, and before I was sentenced, they looked for a kind of remorse in me, or another message,” he recalled. “No. The message is the same and with more and more conviction: Life must be defended; that’s not up for discussion,” he stressed, telling doctors that “this is our moment, the time to assert our convictions, our moral convictions, that are not negotiable.”

“Conscientious objection is that fundamental right that should exonerate us. We should not give it up and we have to defend it today more than ever,” he said.

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

Pope Francis to meet with thousands of grandparents and their grandchildren at the Vatican

Pope Francis greets an elderly couple at a general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

“A Caress and a Smile” is the name of the event that will take place Saturday, April 27, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall where elderly people, grandparents, and grandchildren from Italy will meet Pope Francis.

A total of 6,000 grandparents and their grandchildren will arrive this week at the Vatican for a special gathering with the Holy Father, an initiative presented by the Holy See’s Press Office today.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, noted that Italy has the second-highest number of elderly people in the world and that for the first time in history, four generations are living together, which “had never happened before.”

He also lamented that currently “we are afraid to use” the word “old” and that old age “is not only a very beautiful time, but can mean a change of direction, within the culture, society, economy, and also of religion.”

The prelate noted the special affection that Pope Francis has for older people and recalled the catechetical series that he dedicated to them, teaching “how to live the last 30 years” of life in a Christian way.

“This event will be held to give a new vision of old age. Old age is a great age, not to be wasted or a burden. Old age is not disconnected from other ages of life,” Paglia continued.

The prelate also noted the demographic winter that Italy is going through and highlighted the “particular harmony” and special ties that exist between grandparents and their grandchildren, two generations “that cannot live without each other.”

The event, organized by the Italian Old Age Foundation, will begin at 8:30 a.m. Rome time with a reflection on old age.

About 40 minutes later, Pope Francis will arrive at the Paul VI Hall to hear the testimony of two grandparents (among them a 91-year-old woman) and three grandchildren.

Also participating in this morning’s press conference was Lino Banfi, a well-known Italian actor who maintains a friendship with Pope Francis, whom he referred to as “the grandfather of the world.”

In addition, Pope Francis has also established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which this year will be celebrated on July 28.

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

‘I’m a witness to unspeakable suffering’: Ethiopia bishop wants peace pact implemented

Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in Ethiopia, which covers the Tigray region. / Credit: CBCE

ACI Africa, Apr 22, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Ethiopia’s Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, which covers the Tigray region, said he has witnessed firsthand the “unspeakable suffering” and death of the people of God in the embattled region of the Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement that ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, obtained April 19, Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin pleaded for the implementation of the Nov. 2, 2022, peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa, in which the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) pledged to “permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia.”

“I am writing as a religious leader with deep concern and feeling for the pain of tens of millions of our population in the country, especially the children, elders, and women of Tigray,” Medhin said. 

He painted a grim picture of the situation of the people of God in Tigray, saying: “I am a witness to unspeakable suffering, despair, disease, and death around me due to years of conflict, drought, and localized rain failure as well lack of attention to meet basic needs.”

Violent conflict in the Tigray region started in November 2020 when TPLF allegedly launched an attack on Ethiopia’s Federal Government Army base in the region.

TPLF and people in the Tigray region were reportedly opposed to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bid to centralize power in Africa’s second most populous country.

In his statement, Medhin said that millions of people as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees have been displaced following the conflicts not only in the region of Tigray but also in neighboring Afar, Amhara, and Oromia regions.

He said the concerted efforts of his episcopal see in partnership with other entities in reaching out to the needy are insufficient.

“We see the human face of the statistics all receive via reports: rising malnutrition, less than half of needs met last year, and even less commitment to meet needs in Tigray this year,” Medhin said.

He highlighted the apostolate of the pastoral agents of Adigrat Eparchy, saying: “We embrace children so undernourished that they appear skin and bones, listen to families who are struggling to provide even a portion of a single meal each day, and every month mourn hundreds of beloved community members dying of diseases they might not have succumbed to were they not suffering from severe hunger.”

“Our problem is holistic — social, political, economic, psychological, and spiritual — for the whole Tigray and also for the neighboring populations who are in a similar situation,” he said.

He pointed to the Catholic Church's teaching on human dignity as important and emphasized the need to protect the vulnerable. “Every human being is a beloved child of God, deserving of equal dignity and care,” he said.

He decried the negative effects of environmental degradation, saying: “In the coming months, we face very serious climatic change impacts to be hitting us this year — foreboding unpredictable rains, drought, and flooding.”

While Medhin acknowledged with appreciation the efforts being undertaken to alleviate the suffering of the Tigray people, he cautioned: “We need not wait for a truly catastrophic situation to occur before sounding the alarm — we are sounding the alarm now.”

“The population of Tigray and neighboring regions have suffered years of war, drought, and disease — and have demonstrated a resilience few can believe — and we pray that we make it through this crisis,” he said.

Medhin also appealed for the implementation of peace.

“I make this plea to the respective national and international governments and community for relieving the suffering and reduce the dying from such dire situations — and for speeding up the implementation of the Pretoria Peace Agreement.”

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

Experts and former abortionist warn about ‘eugenic’ IVF industry

Left to right: Dr. John Bruchalski, a former abortionist and IVF provider, Emma Waters, a senior research associate at the Heritage Foundation, Andrew Kubick, a bioethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Religious Freedom Institute, and Sister Deirdre Byrne, superior of the D.C. Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, discuss the "eugenic" dangers of in vitro fertilization at a panel event at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2024. / Credit: Photo by Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington D.C., Apr 22, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A former abortionist and several pro-life ethicists are urging lawmakers to protect children and parents from the in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry, which they say operates on “eugenic” principles.  

IVF is a fertility treatment that works by inducing hyper-ovulation during a woman’s cycle to harvest her eggs and then fuse them with sperm to conceive a child outside the womb. The Catholic Church is opposed to IVF because it separates the marriage act from procreation and destroys embryonic human life. 

Speaking at a panel discussion on IVF last week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Dr. John Bruchalski, a former abortionist and IVF provider, said that “IVF is embedded with eugenics” and that anything “not perfect” is either eliminated or used for scientific research.

According to Bruchalski, the IVF industry operates like the “Wild West,” with little to no oversight. The result is not only the destruction and abuse of millions of frozen human embryos but also risks to the children born of IVF as well as to the women involved in the process.

“Ultimately, the way we do this is we actually experiment on our patients,” Bruchalski said. “So, even without the embryos being created, I would say that it is something that still needs to be very cautioned over.”

This comes as IVF has returned to the forefront of American politics in the wake of a controversial Alabama Supreme Court decision that ruled children conceived through IVF should be protected under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

IVF takes center stage

Since the ruling, many politicians from both parties have rushed to defend IVF. Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump voiced their support for the IVF industry.

During the 2024 State of the Union, Biden called the Alabama ruling an “assault on freedom” made possible by the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022. He urged Congress to pass a national “guarantee” of the right to IVF.

Trump, meanwhile, praised the Alabama Legislature for quickly passing a law in response to the ruling that gave the IVF industry in the state blanket immunity from certain negligence and malpractice lawsuits.

“The Republican Party should always be on the side of the miracle of life,” Trump said, adding that “IVF is an important part of that.”

IVF is not pro-life, ethicists say

IVF researchers and experts at the Georgetown panel, however, contested the idea that IVF is pro-life.

Andrew Kubick, a bioethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Religious Freedom Institute, said that IVF operates on a “very dangerous eugenic note” in which “only the ‘best’ survive.”

“What are some of the aspects of IVF? Well, after sperm-egg fusion, we have pre-implantation genetic testing. We’re literally using arbitrary guidelines to select who is worthy of life,” he said. “From a country that has fallen into the sin of placing one group over another several times throughout history, we cannot fall into the trap of saying: ‘Well, because of this disability, this individual is not worthy.’”

“When we view the child as a product or commodity rather than a gift, when we put the domination of life and death in the hands of a technician,” he continued, “I don’t think that’s pro-life.”

Despite the current push to expand IVF, Kubick told CNA that he believes the pro-life movement can use this as an educating moment. 

“The different types of procedures they do to bring about the life of the child can have devastating effects,” he said. “Alabama has given us the opportunity to dig deep, to educate, to pray, and to hopefully change hearts and minds.” 

What are realistic pro-life goals?

Emma Waters, another panelist and a senior research associate with the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that her advice to lawmakers is to “take a deep breath” and “not let temporary political pressure result in a rash decision that will have long-term negative consequences.”

Though she believes that Democrats will ultimately continue supporting the anti-life position, she said that several pro-life groups are currently strategizing on how to educate Republicans on the dangers of IVF. Right now, their goals are very limited.

“I think if we can keep Republicans from rashly putting forward legislation on this topic that’s a win in and of itself,” she said.

Going forward, however, she said she thinks it is a realistic goal to get lawmakers to address the “bloat” in the IVF industry by limiting the number of embryos being created through IVF.

“Oftentimes anywhere from 15 to 20 embryos are created in one cycle and yet only a couple, at most, actually result in the birth of a child and then parents are left with a really difficult decision where they have to decide what to do with the leftovers,” she said. “So how can we practice IVF in a way that empowers parents so that they’re not put in that position?”

Another realistic policy to pursue, Waters said, is to regulate the IVF industry by providing parents with legal recourse to sue fertility clinics for negligent or wrongful deaths of their children.

“At least half of the states already have a wrongful death law for children in the womb. So, we just need to extend that to children of in vitro fertilization,” she said. “That’s actually a very reasonable step, it doesn’t penalize IVF, but it does ensure that fertility clinics provide the highest standard of medical care.”

Columbine High School massacre, 25 years later: ‘God, why did you allow me to survive?’

Reporter Catherine Hadro speaks with Sister Mary Gianna of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and Frank DeAngelis on “EWTN News In Depth” on April 19, 2024. Sister Mary Gianna, also known as Jenica Thornby, was a sophomore at Columbine High School and DeAngelis was principal on April 20, 1999, when two gunmen killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves. / Credit: “EWTN News In Depth” screen shots

CNA Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Throughout her freshman and sophomore years at Columbine High School, Jenica Thornby went to the library every single day.

“Not one day went by that I did not go to the library,” Thornby recently told “EWTN News In Depth” reporter Catherine Hadro. “Except one day.”

That day was April 20, 1999. 

“I was 16 years old, and I was sitting in my art class when all of a sudden I had this overwhelming urge to leave school,” she recalled. “I just over [and over] in my head kept repeating, ‘There’s no way I’m staying here. There’s no way that anyone’s going to talk me into staying.’”

Thornby convinced a friend to leave campus with her — they could go study at a local restaurant instead, she told her friend — and the two left school in Thornby’s new car that she had just driven to school for the first time that day.

“The moment we turned on the car and started to leave the parking lot and drive away, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed hundreds and hundreds of schoolmates of mine just running out of the school, and we had no idea what had happened,” she recalled. “We thought maybe it was a fire drill, but we didn’t understand.”

Principal Frank DeAngelis, a lifelong Catholic, vividly remembers his secretary coming into his office that day to tell him about reports of a shooting.

“All of a sudden I come out of my office, and my worst nightmare becomes a reality because I encounter a gunman coming towards me,” he told Hadro.

DeAngelis said he started praying in his head and everything slowed down. He sprinted toward the gunman, managing to avoid gunshots. He then focused on getting as many students as possible into the gym and out of the building.

“I pull on the gymnasium door, and it’s locked. And all of a sudden, we hear the sounds of the shots getting closer,” he recalled. “The gunman’s coming around, and I had 30 keys on a key ring. I reached in my suit pocket, stuck the first key that came into my hand, and it opened [the door] on the first try, or I would not be having this conversation [right now].”

It was 25 years ago that two gunmen killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb. The massacre was the deadliest K-12 shooting in U.S. history at the time, only to be surpassed by the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. 

“Reflecting back, I knew that was something beyond me,” Thornby, now Sister Mary Gianna, told “EWTN News In Depth.” After leaving campus in her car that day, as the events unfolded, she learned that 10 of the 12 students killed were in the library. She overheard an adult say that God must have a plan for her life.

“I had this urge to leave. God has a plan for my life, and so I did bring that to God after I found faith,” she said. “You know, ‘Why did you allow me to survive?’”

A year after the shootings, a friend invited Thornby, who grew up without any faith, to the local Catholic church. When she was 18, she was invited to Eucharistic adoration. She eventually attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and was received into the Catholic Church when she was 19 years old, on March 30, 2002. 

After college she did missionary work and one day, she picked up a book by Father Benedict Groeschel.

“He said, ‘Instead of asking God why something happened, ask God, what would you have me do?’ And so instead of reflecting on my life, why did this happen? … Why did the shootings happen? I started to pray and ask God, okay, what would you have me do?”

Eventually Thornby discerned life as a religious sister and is now a member of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in Prayer Town, Texas. 

DeAngelis said he had his first crisis of faith the night of the shootings. But not long afterward, a priest friend called him to the church and shared some spiritual insight.

“He said, Frank, you should have died that day, but God’s got a plan,” he recalled. “And he quoted Proverbs 16:9. He said, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ And he said, you’re going to have to go rebuild this community and help others.”

Watch the full “EWTN News In Depth” interview with Thornby and DeAngelis below.

Thousands of pro-lifers attend ‘joy-filled’ Illinois March for Life

Pro-lifers participate in the Illinois March for Life in Springfield, April 17, 2024. / Credit: Photo courtesy of March for Life

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 22, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Thousands of pro-lifers, including many groups of Catholic high school and college students, attended the Illinois March for Life in Springfield last week.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, told CNA that the march was “joy-filled” and “hopeful” and had a large youth turnout.

Catholic youth from “Crusaders for Life,” a pro-life group from St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, was one such group that traveled several hours to participate in the event.

The group’s members could be seen at the front of the march holding brightly colored umbrellas and inflatables. Many of the young people cheered, danced, and played drums and cymbals, while others in the crowd chanted pro-life slogans and prayed.

Despite Illinois having some of the most pro-abortion laws in the country, allowing the killing of unborn children until birth, Mancini said the thousands of marchers from across the state brought “a message of hope and love for both mom and baby.” 

Pro-life youth lead the 2024 Illinois March for Life in front of the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield on April 17, 2024. The march was attended by 4,000 pro-lifers and had a heavy Catholic presence. Credit: Photo courtesy of March for Life
Pro-life youth lead the 2024 Illinois March for Life in front of the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield on April 17, 2024. The march was attended by 4,000 pro-lifers and had a heavy Catholic presence. Credit: Photo courtesy of March for Life

Co-sponsored by Illinois Right to Life and March for Life, the Illinois march is an annual event that begins in front of the state Capitol and proceeds through downtown Springfield.  

Mancini said the march was more important than ever because of ongoing efforts to incorporate abortion into the Illinois Human Rights Act

Already passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, the state Senate is currently considering a bill that would amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to declare that “a person has freedom from unlawful discrimination in making reproductive health decisions [including abortion] and such discrimination is unlawful.” 

“Illinoisians understand the importance of witnessing for life at the Capitol in Springfield now that the power to protect the unborn has been returned to the American people through their elected representatives post-Roe,” she said. “By marching at the Capitol in Springfield, legislators witness a multitude of Illinoisians stand for the inherent dignity of the unborn child and mother.”

The atmosphere at the march was “joy-filled and hopeful, but also reverent with the understanding that we were bringing a voice for the voiceless to the Capitol,” Mancini said.

The Catholic Times, a news publication of the Diocese of Springfield, reported that over 1,500 Catholics attended Mass in an auditorium at the University of Illinois-Springfield in preparation for the march. The Mass was celebrated by Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who was also a speaker at the march.

Illinois pro-life advocates march for the unborn on April 17, 2024. Credit: Photos courtesy of March for Life
Illinois pro-life advocates march for the unborn on April 17, 2024. Credit: Photos courtesy of March for Life

Samuel Sweeley, a Catholic junior at St. Teresa High School in Decatur, Illinois, told The Catholic Times that he came to the march to bear witness that “God made us all with a purpose.” 

“No matter what environment you are born into and no matter who you are, you always have a chance to grow closer to Jesus, to live a beautiful life, to love God, and to enjoy that life,” Sweeley said.