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Benedict XVI: Legalization of same-sex marriage is ‘a distortion of conscience’

Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 28, 2010. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2021 / 09:15 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has said that the legalization of same-sex marriage in many countries is “a distortion of conscience” which has also entered some Catholic circles.

In an introduction to a new anthology of his writings on Europe, Benedict XVI said that “with the legalization of ‘same-sex marriage’ in 16 European countries, the issue of marriage and family has taken on a new dimension that cannot be ignored.”

“We are witnessing a distortion of conscience which has evidently penetrated deeply into sectors of the Catholic people,” the pope emeritus wrote. “This cannot be answered with some small moralism or even with some exegetical reference. The problem goes deeper and therefore must be addressed in fundamental terms.”

The introduction, published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio on Sept. 16, was written for the Italian book “The Real Europe: Identity and Mission.”

Pope Francis wrote the preface to the book, which compiles texts from Benedict XVI written both before and during his pontificate, which lasted from 2005 to 2013.

In the preface, Francis wrote that “beyond so many words and high-sounding proclamations, today in Europe the very idea of respect for every human life is increasingly lost, starting with the loss of awareness of its sacredness, that is, precisely starting from the obfuscation of the consciousness that we are creatures of God.”

“Benedict XVI is not afraid to denounce, over the years, with great courage and foresight the many manifestations of this dramatic renunciation of the idea of creation, up to the current, final consequences, described in an absolutely clear and convincing way in the introductory text,” Pope Francis said.

In his introduction, Benedict XVI said it was important to observe that the concept of “same-sex marriage” is “in contradiction with all the cultures of humanity that have followed one another up to now, and thus signifies a cultural revolution that is opposed to the whole tradition of humanity until today.”

He pointed out that there is no doubt that different cultures have varying juridical and moral conceptions of marriage and the family, such as the profound differences between polygamy and monogamy.

But he emphasized that the basic community has never questioned the fact that the existence of the human being in its male and female forms is ordered to procreation, “as well as the fact that the community of male and female and openness to the transmission of life determine the essence of what is called marriage.”

“The basic certainty that mankind exists as male and female; that the transmission of life is a task assigned to mankind; that it is the community of male and female that serves this task; and that in this, beyond all differences, marriage essentially consists -- it is an original certainty that has been obvious to humanity up to now,” Benedict said.

The pope emeritus wrote that the fundamental upheaval of this idea was introduced with the invention of the contraceptive pill and the possibility it gave of separating fertility from sexuality.

“This separation means, in fact, that in this way all of the forms of sexuality are equivalent,” he said. “A fundamental criterion no longer exists.”

This new message, according to Benedict, profoundly transformed men and women’s consciences -- first slowly and now more clearly.

From the separation of sexuality from fertility, he continued, comes the inverse: “Fertility, naturally, can be thought of even without sexuality.”

Benedict XVI noted that it therefore seems right to no longer trust the procreation of humans to the “occasional passion of the flesh, but rather to plan and produce the human rationally.”

Thus a human being is no longer “generated and conceived but made,” the retired pontiff underlined, which signifies that a human person is not a gift to be received but “a product planned by our doing.”

He added that if we can plan to make life, it must also be true that we can plan to destroy it, noting that the growing support for assisted suicide and euthanasia as “a planned end to one’s life is an integral part of the trend described.”

The question of same-sex marriage, he continued, is not a question of being “a little more broadminded and open. Rather, the basic question arises: who is man? And with it also the question of whether there is a Creator or if we are not all just manufactured products.”

“This alternative arises: either man is a creature of God, he is the image of God, he is a gift from God, or man is a product that he himself knows how to create,” Benedict XVI wrote.

He said the ecological movement had established that there are limits to nature that we cannot ignore, and, in the same way, a human person possesses a nature that has been given to him “and the violation or denial of it leads to self-destruction.”

“This is also the case with the creation of man as male and female, which is ignored in the hypothesis of ‘same-sex marriage,’” he stressed.

Pope Francis warns leaders of Catholic movements not to abuse power

Pope Francis addresses the moderators of associations of the faithful, ecclesial movements, and new communities in the Vatican Synod Hall, Sept. 16, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis warned representatives of Catholic movements Thursday that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that hinder their call to serve the Church.

In a meeting with the moderators of lay Catholic associations, movements, and new communities in the Vatican’s Synod Hall, the pope said that it is “treachery” when a leader “wants to serve the Lord, but also serves other things that are not the Lord.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“In words, we say we want to serve God and others, but in fact we serve our ego, and we bow to our desire to appear, to obtain recognition, appreciation ... Let’s not forget that true service is free and unconditional, it does not know calculations or claims,” Pope Francis said on Sept. 16.

The pope underlined that governance in the Church is “nothing but a call to serve.” He said that the “desire for power” and “treachery” are two obstacles that prevent a Christian leader from “becoming a true servant of God and of others.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Our desire for power is expressed in many ways in the life of the Church; for example, when we believe, by virtue of the role we have, that we have to make decisions on all aspects of the life of our association, of the diocese, of the parish, of the congregation,” Pope Francis said.

“We fall into the trap of treachery when we present ourselves to others as the only interpreters of the charism, the only heirs of our association or movement ... or when, deeming ourselves indispensable, we do everything to cover lifelong positions; or when we pretend to decide a priori who should be our successor … No one is master of the gifts received for the good of the Church ... no one must suffocate them,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis told the story of a religious institute that became known for “hatefulness” because, he said, “the members realized that the woman was a ‘Hitler in a dress.’”

“Even in the context of consecrated life, there are religious institutes that, by keeping the same persons in positions of governance, have not prepared for the future; they have allowed abuses to creep in and are now experiencing great difficulties,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope said that the Vatican decree issued on June 11 that set term limits for the leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities was implemented because “the reality of the last few decades has shown us the need for the changes.”

“And I'll tell you something about this experience of the last decades of the post-Council period,” the pope added.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“In the congregation for religious, they are studying the religious congregations, the associations, that came into being during this period. It is curious, it is very curious. Many, many of them, with great novelty, ended up in very difficult situations: they ended up under apostolic visitation, they ended up with wicked sins.”

The decree, which came into effect earlier this week, on Sept. 11, limits the terms of office in the central governing body to a maximum of five years, with one person being able to hold positions at the international governing level for no more than 10 years consecutively. Re-election is then possible after a vacancy of one term.

The decree states that founders can be exempted from the term limits at the discretion of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

“The exercise of government within associations and movements is a theme that is particularly close to my heart, especially considering ... the cases of abuse of various kinds that have also occurred in these realities and which always find their root in abuse of power,” the pope said.

“Not infrequently the Holy See, in recent years, has had to intervene, starting not easy processes of reorganization. And I think not only of these very bad situations, which make noise; but also to the diseases that come from the weakening of the foundational charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses the capacity of attraction.”

The moderators of Catholic associations and movements are meeting in Rome with the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life to discuss responsible governance.

Leaders who were unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic connected to the papal audience and other meetings via videolink.

Pope Francis said that lay Catholic movements and associations are “a clear sign of the vitality of the Church.

“We are living members of the Church and for this we need to trust in the Holy Spirit, who acts in the life of every association, of every member, acts in each of us. Hence the trust in the discernment of charisms entrusted to the authority of the Church,” the pope said.

“Be aware of the apostolic power and the prophetic gifts that are given to you today in a renewed way.”

Court date set for Finnish MP facing jail after tweeting Bible verse

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015. / Courtesy of ADF International.

Helsinki, Finland, Sep 16, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

A court in Finland has announced the date of a hearing to determine whether a former government minister should be jailed after tweeting a Bible verse.

The Helsinki District Court said that the case involving Päivi Räsänen, a physician and mother of five, will be heard on Jan. 24, 2022.

According to ADF International, a Christian legal group that is supporting her, Räsänen could be given a two-year prison sentence or a fine for the tweet, after the Finnish Prosecutor General filed criminal charges against her on April 29.

The MP could also face additional jail time if convicted of two other alleged offenses relating to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet and on a 2018 television program, the group said.

Räsänen said: “I await the court proceedings with a calm mind, confident that Finland will respect the freedom of expression and religion enshrined in fundamental rights and international conventions.”

“I will not back down from my conviction based on the Bible and I am ready to defend freedom of expression and religion in all necessary courts.”

“I cannot accept that voicing religious beliefs could mean imprisonment. I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.”

The Prosecutor General charged Räsänen, who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, with incitement against a minority group, arguing that her statements were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”

Finland is a country with a population of 5.5 million people, bordering Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Around two-thirds of the population belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the country’s two national churches, alongside the Finnish Orthodox Church.

The 61-year-old MP, who was chairwoman of the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. But she questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event in 2019.

On June 17, 2019, she asked in a Twitter post how the sponsorship was compatible with the Bible, linking to a photograph of a biblical passage, Romans 1:24-27, on Instagram. She also posted the text and image on Facebook.

“The purpose [of] my tweet was in no way to insult sexual minorities. My criticism was aimed at the leadership of the church,” she told the journal First Things last year.

Police began investigating Räsänen in 2019. She faced several police interviews and had to wait more than a year for the Prosecutor General’s decision.

Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, was also charged for publishing Räsänen’s 2004 pamphlet, “Male and Female He Created Them.”

Paul Coleman, ADF International’s executive director, said: “In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. The Finnish Prosecutor General’s decision to bring these charges against Dr. Räsänen creates a culture of fear and censorship.”

“It is sobering that such cases are becoming all too common throughout Europe. If committed civil servants like Päivi Räsänen are criminally charged for voicing their deeply held beliefs, it creates a chilling effect for everyone’s right to speak freely.”

The International Lutheran Council issued a statement in July describing the decision to prosecute Räsänen and Pohjola as “egregious.”

It said: “The vast majority of Christians in all nations, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, share these convictions. Would the Finnish Prosecutor General condemn us all? Moreover, shall the Finnish state risk governmental sanctions from other states based on the abuse of foundational human rights?”

Will the Swiss Guard allow women soldiers in the future?

The Swiss Guard swearing in ceremony at the Vatican on May 6, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

As the Pontifical Swiss Guard continues with plans to overhaul its Vatican barracks, there have been reports that the new design could accommodate women guards, prompting questions about whether the 515-year-old army could be poised to make a significant change to its admission requirements.

“First of all, let me say that the reactions of the Swiss press to my statements have been excessive,” Jean-Pierre Roth, president of the charitable foundation funding the Swiss Guard’s new building, told CNA via email.

Roth told the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger earlier this week that “from the beginning, it was important to us that the new building provide space for women.”

The roughly $60 million building project includes plans to expand the living quarters for guardsmen, some of whom currently sleep in shared rooms or in housing outside the Vatican. The new barracks will allow each guard to have a private room with a private bathroom.

The British newspaper The Telegraph quoted Lieutenant Urs Breitenmoser, a spokesman for the Swiss Guard, who said that the individual rooms meant that “in future, if the decision is taken, we would be able to accommodate women as well.”

Roth explained to CNA that the building foundation is “planning barracks meeting the needs of the Swiss Guard in the coming decades. Who knows whether females will be integrated in the Guard in the future?”

“The decision belongs to the Holy Father. Our Foundation has no information about a possible decision,” he said.

To enter the Swiss Guard, a candidate must be a single Catholic male of Swiss nationality between the ages of 19 and 30 who is at least 5 feet, 8 inches tall.

Guards are allowed to get married while in service, and some of the guards live in family housing with their wives and children.

“A main objective of the project is to offer more apartments for married guardsmen. The barracks will have 25 apartments for families,” Roth said.

The renovation, which has been in the planning stages since 2016, does not yet have a start date for construction, though some reports have cited the year 2023. Roth said that the project is under discussion by the Real Estate Committee of the Vatican and then has to be approved by UNESCO. The work is expected to take several years.

Roth noted that many countries have women soldiers and police officers, so “it might be the case in the Swiss Guard.”

“As careful planners, we had to consider that development as a possible option,” he added. “We have thus foreseen single rooms for all non-married guardsmen and a flexible internal structure of the building allowing the creation of a women sector. It was just good sense and careful planning.”

According to the foundation, the guard’s quarters have only undergone minor changes since their construction in the early 1800s, leading to high maintenance costs and the need for major repairs and updates.

The new barracks are also necessary to accommodate growth, as the army expanded from 110 to 135 guardsmen several years ago.

Roth told CNA that the choice to have private rooms was in part because all day long the soldiers of the Swiss Guard “are in contact with the public or under public eyes. They also need some privacy.”

He added that it was much too early to speak about other changes that would need to be made to accommodate women guards, such as modifications to the uniforms.

“First the decision has to be made (who knows when?), then details will be decided,” he commented.

Catholic diocese rejoices as priest is freed barely 24 hours after kidnapping

Fr. Benson Bulus Luka was kidnapped from his parish residence in Nigeria’s Kafanchan diocese on Sept. 13, 2021. / Kafanchan Diocese

Kafanchan, Nigeria, Sep 16, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).

A Nigerian Catholic priest kidnapped at his parish residence on Monday has been freed.

The priest’s liberation was announced on Sept. 15 by Fr. Emmanuel Uchechukwu, chancellor of Kafanchan diocese, in northern Nigeria, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

“With hearts filled with joy, we raise our voices in a symphony of praises as we announce the return of our priest, Rev. Fr. Benson Bulus Luka,” Uchechukwu said.

“Fr. Benson was abducted by armed persons from his residence at St. Matthew’s Parish Anchuna, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area, Kaduna State, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.”

“Barely 24 hours after his kidnap, our beloved brother priest was released by his abductors.”

Uchechukwu, chancellor of the diocese within the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaduna, thanked those who had prayed for the priest’s release.

“We want to thank all those that have offered prayers and entreaties for the quick release of our brother priest and others who are still in the dens of their kidnappers,” he said.

“We pray to God to hasten the release of those who are still in the hands of their captors.”

Uchechukwu encouraged priests to celebrate Masses of thanksgiving following Fr. Luka’s release.

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for us and all those that are still in captivity,” he added.

Fr. Luka’s abduction was announced on Sept. 14.

Nigeria has experienced rising insecurity since 2009, when Boko Haram, one of Africa’s largest Islamist groups, launched an insurgency seeking to turn Africa’s most populous country into an Islamic state.

The group has orchestrated indiscriminate terrorist attacks on numerous targets, including religious and political groups, as well as civilians.

The situation has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani Militia, who have clashed frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.

Fr. Luka’s release follows a series of other kidnappings of Nigerian clergy.

In April, gunmen seized Fr. Izu Marcel Onyeocha, a member of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians). He was later freed.

In May, two priests were kidnapped at St. Vincent Ferrer Malunfashi Catholic parish in Sokoto diocese. One of them, Fr. Alphonsus Bello, a 33-year-old Fidei Donum priest incardinated in Nigeria’s Kaduna archdiocese, was killed. The other, 75-year-old Fr. Joe Keke, was later released.

In July, Fr. Elijah Juma Wada, a priest serving in Maiduguri diocese, was abducted and later escaped after spending nine days in captivity.

Last month, Nigeria’s Catholic bishops decried the rise in abductions, killings, and property destruction, calling on the federal government to “take full responsibility for the present culture of violence.”

“Deaths in the hands of kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandits, terrorist groups have made Nigeria one of the most terrorized countries in the world,” they said in an Aug. 26 statement.

They underlined the need for the government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, “to show more strategic commitment and sincerity in this fight and take full responsibility for the present culture of violence and impunity in the country.”

“The government must be balanced and seen to be so in its response to the challenges of insecurity in every segment of the citizenry,” they said after their plenary assembly in Enugu diocese, southeastern Nigeria.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner, written by Jude Atemanke. It has been adapted by CNA.

Salvadoran president urged to oppose proposed pro-abortion constitutional changes

Nayib Bukele, president of El Salvador. / Presidencia SV

San Salvador, El Salvador, Sep 15, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

Seventy-five pro-life and pro-family organizations on Monday asked the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, to oppose the changes to the constitution promoted by his vice president, Félix Ulloa, which would open the doors to abortion, euthanasia, and gender ideology, and would threaten religious freedom.

In a petition delivered Sept. 13, the organizations explained that the reform contains proposals that are "attacks against the right to life, the family and freedom, inasmuch as they impose an ideological agenda contrary to the values and cultural identity of Salvadorans.”

The organizations explained that the reform "is opposed throughout its text to the Constitution of the Republic, international treaties, and other laws of the country."

The organizations noted that the reform “opens the door to abortion on demand” since Article 1 of El Salvador’s constitution states that the country “recognizes every human being as a human person from the moment of conception” but the proposed reform would alter the text to read “every human person in general,” using “an exclusionary and selective term.” 

The proposed change then adds “in turn, the right to life of both the unborn and the pregnant person (an ideological term used for mother) is recognized,” which is “unnecessary and redundant … since the current wording of the constitution already includes those rights.”

However, the proposed text "is contradictory because it adds that ‘in the event of a collision of rights, the law will establish what is pertinent.’ In other words, although the right to life of all born and unborn Salvadorans is protected in the Constitution, they want a secondary law, and even a regulation, to decide whether to kill the unborn baby.”

"This obviously opens the door to legalize abortion with pretexts such as the mental health of the mother or deformities of the baby, among others," they stated.

The organizations’ petition also points out that the "supposed ‘collision of rights’ to life does not exist" since “when there is a high-risk pregnancy, currently the Criminal Code in Article 27, which regulates the exclusion of criminal responsibility, includes in nos. 3 and 6 of said article the principle of double effect, allowing doctors to intervene with the aim of saving the lives of both patients, as it should be and not choosing one life over the other. If one of the two dies, the doctor does not commit a crime.”

The organizations explain that the reform "opens the door to ideological colonization" since "Article 3 includes the prohibition of 'non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,' giving constitutional recognition to dangerous ideological terms, which constitute a means to indoctrinate minors, despite the fact that these terms have no scientific basis.”

In addition, they noted that the reform “opens the door to euthanasia” because “in Article 65, an alleged right to a 'previously consented dignified death' is proposed, a term used worldwide to refer to euthanasia, even though its express name and identification is obviated.”

The organizations warned that the reform "redefines marriage and reinvents the family" since "Article 32 states that any legal bond will be considered a family and Article 33 refers to ‘various types that make up a family’".

"This promotes the legal recognition of (LGBTI) lesbian-homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, polygamic, incestuous unions, etc." as well as the adoption by "these groups, which constitutes a very serious violation of children's rights.”  

The reform also “violates the right to religious freedom: Article 26 proposes to create a secondary law to regulate the legal recognition of religions."

“In our country, freedom of worship is not negotiable and must be maintained in the way that the current Constitution regulates it. In no way can this be regulated by a secondary law, but rather it must maintain its Constitutional status,” the organizations stressed.

The reform "violates parental rights" with Article 57, which “proposes that education in official educational centers should be exclusively secular, thus violating the right of parents as the first, primary and irreplaceable educators of their children to decide the education that they consider most appropriate” they said.

"This will also directly affect the Catholic or Christian Students Educational Councils that work with state aid to cover marginal and rural areas," they pointed out.

In addition, they warned, “adding the term 'secular' in that paragraph limits the right to the free exercise of religion, giving rise to the practice of banning expressions of faith, as has happened in other countries with the proliferation of secular ideologies.”

Paterson bishop: Vaccination exemption for clergy 'will be minimal'

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson. Photo courtesy DeSales Media Group. / null

Paterson, N.J., Sep 15, 2021 / 17:32 pm (CNA).

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson wrote to clerics of his diocese Tuesday to ‘strongly encourage’ their vaccination against COVID-19. Non-medical exemptions, he said, will be minimal, and there may be discussion of whether non-vaccinated priests ‘can remain in active ministry.”

“As teachers and religious educators must be vaccinated by statewide mandate, our clergy should be vaccinated voluntarily as a good example to others and in solidarity with them,” Bishop Sweeney wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to clergy of Diocese of Paterson.

“If you have not been vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to be vaccinated.”

He characterized his encouragement as “one step short of a mandate.”

“This is an essential time when you must be vaccinated to protect yourself and the health of others,” the bishop wrote. “If you feel that you are unable to be vaccinated, please be in touch with one of [sic] diocesan Vicars General in order to discuss your reasoning with them so that they may consult with me for further discussion on particular individual exemptions and whether a priest who is not vaccinated can remain in active ministry. Exemptions from vaccination for clergy, other than those for legitimate medical reasons, will be minimal.”

Writing on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Bishop Sweeney noted that “we celebrate the life giving power of the holy cross that was borne by Christ ‘so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life’ (John 3:16). We have often called upon the Lord to heal those whom we love and serve. The emergence of vaccines which helped to quell the progress of this dreaded illness is God sent.”

 

The bishop recalled that Pope Francis has called receiving vaccination “an act of love,” and that most of the diocese’s clerics and their staff have already been vaccinated. 

 

The bishop said that a cleric’s doctor can help him with information on how or where to be vaccinated, and that the Office of Clergy Personnel can be of additional assistance.

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.” 

It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and  Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago is requiring all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons. 

Bishop Thomas Paprock of Springfield in Illinois recently wrote that “while the Church promotes vaccination as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities in promoting the common good, there are matters of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be respected. Therefore, vaccine participation must be voluntary and cannot be forced, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authority of Pope Francis, indicated last December. While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not force vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to worship in our parishes.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that some persons may have conscientious objections to the taking of the COVID vaccines, and that these conscientious convictions ought to be respected,” Bishop Paprocki added.

The Catholic Medical Association has stated that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Mexican bishops announce march 'for women and for life'

null / Unsplash.

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 15, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

In response to recent rulings by the nation’s Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion, the bishops of Mexico have called on the faithful and people of good will throughout the country to join a march "for women and for life" to be held Oct. 3 in Mexico City.

In a Sept. 13 statement, the Mexican bishops’ conference encouraged the faithful to invite people to the march "at Sunday Masses and by other means deemed appropriate," so that “as many people as possible" attend. 

On Sept. 7, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation invalidated several articles that protected life from conception in the penal code of the state of Coahuila. Two days later, the court ruled parts of the Sinaloa state constitution protecting life from conception to be unconstitutional. The rulings are expected to have wide-ranging effects throughout Mexico. 

“We have shared how deplorable this situation is and we have already spoken out about it,” the bishops said, adding they must now be open to putting their words into actions.

The Mexican bishops said they were "pleased to see the numerous actions and demonstrations that have taken place throughout the country, and we encourage the laity to continue doing so."

“Various lay people from different social organizations, Catholic and non-Catholic, have approached us to propose a massive presence in Mexico City in order to express appreciation for women and the protection of the human life of the woman and her child in all circumstances,” they explained.

The demonstration “for women and life” will “bring together social organizations from all over the country," they said.

"The proposal has been presented to the Mexican Bishops’ Conference and we welcome this great opportunity for our faithful people to join this initiative," the bishops explained.

Marcial Padilla, director of the Mexican pro-life platform ConParticipación, is in charge of coordinating the march.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s sister news agency, Padilla noted that "September, which should be a month of celebration for Mexicans" because of the celebration of the country’s independence on Sept. 16, "has become a sad and sombre month."

This situation is due to "the ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice, which declared it should be legal to take the life of a child in the womb of his mother at some stage in the pregnancy,” which will terminate the lives of “a great many Mexicans."

Padilla pointed out that "we know that abortion is a complex issue that cannot be solved without addressing it from every angle."

“If we want to embrace with mercy the woman who gets an abortion, prison is probably not the way to help,” he continued.

“On the contrary, what we want to do is to solve the problems that led her to consider it, but in no way do we want to take away the protection under the law from the unborn child. The child must have the same protection under the law as his mother.”

The coordinator of the march "for women and for life" stressed that "it’s necessary to act in support of both the mother and the child, for women and for life, which is why social organizations throughout the country decided to call a great march for women and for life.”

Padilla said, “we are going to gather as many people as possible in a national march in Mexico City, to express our commitment to the dignity of the person and women and the defense of life.”

The pro-life leader stressed, "we’re going to continue promoting actions by  civil society to support the mother and the child to avoid this dilemma of the culture of death.”

Justice Department asks judge to block Texas abortion law during legal challenge

US Attorney General Merrick Garland / Justice Department

Austin, Texas, Sep 15, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The US Department of Justice asked a federal judge on Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction against Texas’ law prohibiting most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, following a suit from the DOJ against the law last week. 

A preliminary injunction, if granted, would prevent the law from being enforced while the DOJ’s lawsuit plays out in court. 

Such an injunction "is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact," attorneys for the Justice Department said in its Sept. 14 court filing

In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department had argued the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions.” 

Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks gestation, except in medical emergencies. The law allows for at least $10,000 in damages in successful lawsuits; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law. 

In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it, and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. 

In response, President Joe Biden – a Catholic – directed his administration to examine “what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.” 

As a result of Biden’s directive, the Justice Department “urgently explores all options to challenge” Texas’ new law and “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Sept. 6 statement.

Bishops around the country reacted with praise to a Texas law, and noted that women experiencing a crisis pregnancy have resources available, instead of abortion.

The bishops of Texas have said that opponents of the law, who have described a fetal heartbeat as “electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue” or “embryonic cardiac activity,” are making a “disturbing” effort to “dehumanize the unborn.”

“Abortion is a human rights issue; the most fundamental human right is the right to life,” said the Texas bishops Sept. 3. “Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is not freedom. Abortion does not help women. Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.”

Pro-life leaders pointed out that the state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and funding the Alternatives to Abortion program.

“Texas is further leading in compassion for women and families with its $100 million Alternatives to Abortion state program and ten times as many pro-life pregnancy centers as abortion facilities,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, last week.

Holocaust survivor thanks Pope Francis for highlighting anti-Semitism on Central Europe trip

Pope Francis visits Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck at her home in Rome, Feb. 20, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A Holocaust survivor has thanked Pope Francis for highlighting anti-Semitism during his visit to Central Europe.

The Hungarian-born Jewish writer Edith Bruck expressed her gratitude in a letter given to the pope on Sept. 15 during his in-flight press conference at the end of the four-day trip to Hungary and Slovakia.

The pope met Jewish communities in both countries on his Sept. 12-15 visit, recalling their suffering during the Second World War and deploring contemporary anti-Semitism.

Bruck, who is 90 years old, wrote: “Beloved Pope Francis, your words on anti-Semitism, which has never been eradicated, are more relevant today than ever. Not only in the countries you are visiting, but throughout Europe.”

“Dearest Pope Francis, I am following you and listening to your fundamental words that cannot leave anyone indifferent in those places where evil prevailed.”

Saying that Hungarian friends had told her that the pope left a “trail of love” during his seven-hour visit to the capital, Budapest, she added: “May God accompany every step you make for peace, coexistence and open those hearts and consciences that are still not pure.”

“I hope that Your voice and the warmth that you emanate reaches, touches, awakens the good that is in everyone. Sometimes even in the deepest darkness the light makes its way. I know it and therefore I live and hope.”

Pope Francis touched on anti-Semitism during his in-flight press conference on Sept. 15 as he returned from Slovakia to Rome. Stefano Maria Paci of Sky Tg 24 presented the letter to the pope, reading out its opening lines.

The pope responded: “Anti-Semitism is in fashion now, it is resurrecting. It is a very bad thing.”

The pope met with representatives of Hungary’s Jewish communities at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest on Sept. 12.

Nazi Germans deported more than 434,000 Jews from Hungary towards the end of the Second World War. They sent most to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where an estimated 80% were gassed on arrival.

In a speech, the pope reflected on the life of the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, who was born in a Jewish family but converted to Catholicism. Imprisoned in a slave labor camp, Radnóti was shot dead in 1944 during a forced march.

“His brilliant career was cut short by the blind hatred of those who, for no other reason than his Jewish origins, first prevented him from teaching and then separated him from his family,” the pope said.

“Imprisoned in a concentration camp, in the darkest and most depraved chapter of human history, Radnóti continued until his death to write poetry. His ‘Bor Notebook’ was his only collection of poems to survive the Shoah. It testifies to the power of his belief in the warmth of love amid the icy coldness of the camps, illumining the darkness of hatred with the light of faith.”

Referring to a poem in which Radnóti described himself as “a root,” the pope said: “Only if we become roots of peace and shoots of unity, will we prove credible in the eyes of the world, which look to us with a yearning that can bring hope to blossom.”

The pope met Slovakia’s Jewish community on Sept. 13 in the capital, Bratislava.

During World War II, almost all of Bratislava’s Jews were deported to concentration camps or labor camps. Around 11,500 of the more than 15,000 Jews then living in the city were murdered in the Holocaust.

Slovakian Holocaust survivors spoke at the event in Rybné Square, part of the city’s former Jewish quarter.

In his address, the pope said: “Let us unite in condemning all violence and every form of anti-Semitism, and in working to ensure that God’s image, present in the humanity he created, will never be profaned.”

Bruck was born in Hungary in 1931 but has lived in Italy since her early 20s. She survived the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau, where she was sent with her parents, two brothers, and a sister at the age of 12.

Her parents and a brother died in the concentration camps. Bruck and her remaining siblings were freed from the Bergen-Belsen camp by the Allies in 1945.

Pope Francis visited Bruck at her home in Rome in February.

According to the Vatican, in a meeting of around an hour, Bruck and the pope spoke about “those moments of light which marked the experience of the hell of the concentration camps.”

Their conversation also touched on the “fears and hopes for the time we live in, underlining the value of memory and the role of the elderly in cultivating it and passing it on to the young.”

When he greeted Bruck, Pope Francis said: “I came here to thank you for your testimony and to pay tribute to the people martyred in the madness of Nazi populism.”

“And I sincerely repeat to you the words I spoke from my heart at Yad Vashem and which I repeat in front of every person who, like you, has suffered so much because of this: ‘Forgiveness, Oh Lord, on behalf of humanity!’” he said, according to a Vatican communication.

After 1945, Bruck returned to Hungary and then went to Czechoslovakia, where a sister was living. She married for the first time when she was 16 years old and moved to Israel. That marriage ended in divorce after a year, and was followed by two more marriages and divorces.

Bruck moved to Italy in 1954, where she married Nelo Risi, an Italian poet, film director, translator, and screenwriter who died in 2015 after a long battle with a neurodegenerative disease.

During World War II, Risi had fought on the Russian front and been imprisoned in a Swiss internment camp.

Bruck published a memoir about her time in the concentration camps and the years after in Italian in 1959. In 2001, it was translated into English with the title “Who Loves You Like This.”

An award-winning writer, Bruck has also published novels, short story collections, plays, and screenplays in Italian and directed several Italian films.

In recent years, Bruck has continued to speak about the Holocaust in schools and universities.

Her letter comes shortly after a Vatican cardinal wrote to Jewish leaders assuring them that recent comments by Pope Francis did not devalue the Torah.

The rabbis wrote to Pope Francis in August, expressing alarm at a general audience address in which the pope said that the Mosaic Law did “not give life.”

He made the observation in his cycle of catechesis on the Epistle to the Galatians, in which St. Paul addresses a dispute in the early Christian community over how closely Christians should follow Jewish law.

Cardinal Kurt Koch told the rabbis: “Bearing in mind the positive affirmations constantly made by Pope Francis on Judaism, it cannot in any way be presumed that he is returning to a so-called ‘doctrine of contempt.’”

“Pope Francis fully respects the foundations of Judaism and always seeks to deepen the bonds of friendship between the two faith traditions.”