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Live Action says Google’s removal of pro-life ads ‘unprecedented’

Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, addresses the 2021 Live Action Life Awards Dinner at Dana Point, California; Aug. 21, 2021 / Francesca Polio/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2021 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

According to the pro-life group Live Action, the search engine Google canceled its advertisements for abortion pill reversal services. The act is further evidence of Google’s pro-abortion biases, a leading pro-life activist tells CNA. 

“In a dramatic and unprecedented move, Google has sided squarely with extremist pro-abortion political ideology, banning the pro-life counterpoint and life-saving information from being promoted on their platform,” Live Action founder Lila Rose told CNA in a statement. 

Rose said that Google was no longer “hiding their bias,” and that the censorship of the advertisements “baldly reveals that the corporation is in the pocket of the abortion industry.”

On Sept. 13, Rose said, Google “disapproved” all of Live Action’s advertisements for abortion pill reversal, claiming they were “unreliable” and contained false information. The advertisements had been running for over four months and had previously been approved by Google, she said. 

Rose disputed Google’s label of “unreliable claims,” noting that the abortion pill reversal regimen uses progesterone treatment that has been FDA-approved to prevent miscarriages. She said Google “obviously failed to understand” what abortion pill reversal actually entails.

The reversal regimen, promoted by Live Action and other pro-life medical professionals, “involves an FDA-approved, bioidentical pregnancy hormone called progesterone that has been used for dozens of years to prevent miscarriage and has already saved thousands of lives,” Rose said. 

Banning the ads, she said, will have “devastating” consequences for women and girls who may turn to the search engine after regretting taking the first dose of the medication abortion regimen. 

“More women and girls will be marketed abortions through Google’s platforms, without also being offered life-affirming options,” said Rose. 

The office of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Wednesday sent a letter to Google’s CEO, asking why the ads had been removed and at what rate ads by pro-life organizations are ruled ineligible for Google’s platform, Live Action reported.

A chemical or medication abortion is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later, and induces labor to expel the body of the deceased baby.

Chemical abortions can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol, although this action must be taken quickly. Live Action advertised a hotline for women seeking to potentially reverse the first step of a chemical abortion, with a physician available to help. 

If an ultrasound confirms the unborn baby is still viable, the mother is given a large dose of progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone, with additional doses of progesterone needed throughout the first trimester.

Each woman who undergoes an attempt to reverse her abortion is also referred to a help center for support throughout the remainder of her pregnancy.

In 2019, Andrea Trudden, the director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International - which markets the abortion pill reversal hotline - told CNA of an estimated "64-68 percent success rate" for women who contact the hotline seeking to reverse their abortions.

Rose told CNA that she thinks Google should allow the ads back on its platform as a sign of compliance with its own policies. 

“The tech monopolies that have so much control over our information consumption and our daily lives are so tied in with the radical left that they work to restrict informed consent and censor life-saving options in order to protect the billion-dollar abortion industry,” said Rose. “It’s anti-choice and morally wrong. Google must apply fairness and uniformity to its policy and allow Live Action and pro-life partners back on its ads platform.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – which is pro-abortion and has fought in court to liberalize federal restrictions on the abortion pill regimen – claims that the abortion pill reversal regimen is “unproven and unethical.”

The organization points to a 2012 case series as “not scientific,” where four of six women continued their pregnancies after taking progesterone doses. That study “was not supervised by an institutional review board (IRB) or an ethical review committee,” the college stated.

In 2019, a case study commenced at the University of California at Davis to study the abortion pill reversal treatment, but it was stopped due to safety concerns and lack of participants. According to NPR, only 12 women enrolled in the study while researchers had hoped for 40 enrollees. Three of the 12 were transported to the hospital for serious vaginal bleeding; one of those three had been given progesterone.

The lead researcher on the study – Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis – told NPR that not finishing the abortion pill regimen was “experimental” and cited “some evidence that it could cause very significant bleeding." Crenin has a long history of performing abortions.

Pro-life groups countered that the study actually showed the dangers of mifepristone, as two of the three women who experienced bleeding had not been given progesterone after they had taken mifepristone.

Heartbeat International added that a previous study, in which Crenin participated, also showed hemorrhaging related to the abortion pill regimen.

Heartbeat International claims that more than 2,000 women have successfully used the abortion pill reversal to stop an abortion. The administration of progesterone to reverse the abortion pill regimen has not been specifically approved by the FDA, although many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe.

A 2018 case study, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Issues in Law and Medicine, showed that in 261 successful abortion pill reversals, the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Rebekah Buell-Hagan, a woman who successfully underwent a reversal of the abortion pill regimen in 2013, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that she had used her phone to find out what she could do to reverse the procedure.

“I typed in ‘I took the first abortion pill and changed my mind,’ and back in 2013, there wasn’t a whole lot that came up,” Buell-Hagan said in her 2018 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. “But there were a few girls that had asked the same question, and unfortunately the answers they were getting were not hopeful, it was very much ‘you have to finish what you started.’”

However, she found the website which connected her with a doctor.

“We started progesterone injections for several weeks to counteract the abortion pill that I took,” she said.

This article was updated on Sept. 15 with new information.

Pope Francis on COVID-19 vaccines: ‘Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers’

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference from Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Discussing COVID-19 vaccines during an in-flight press conference on Wednesday, Pope Francis said that “even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers.”

The pope was responding to a question posed by a journalist at the end of his four-day visit to Slovakia and Hungary on Sept. 15.

The reporter noted that the initial requirement that only fully vaccinated people could take part in papal visit events caused controversy in Slovakia.

He recalled that the pope had described receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as an “act of love” and asked how it was possible for Christians with contrasting views to be united on the issue.

The pope said: “Humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines. As children, we got them for measles, for other things, for polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything.”

“Then this [opposition] happened. This was perhaps due to the virulence, the uncertainty not only about the pandemic, but also about the different vaccines, and also the reputation of some vaccines which are nothing more than distilled water. This created fear in people. Then others who say that it is a danger because with the vaccine you are infected. So many arguments that have created this division.”

He continued: “Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers and one of these, poor guy, is hospitalized with the virus.”

The pope may have been referring to Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was placed on a ventilator in August after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The 73-year-old American cardinal is not the only cardinal to have contracted COVID-19.

Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, both tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 in March 2020.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, was hospitalized with the virus in November 2020. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg tested positive in January, as did Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga in February.

After he was taken off the ventilator and moved from the ICU to a hospital room, Cardinal Burke gave thanks that God had brought him to a “point of healing and recovery.”

Known for his outspoken defense of traditional Catholicism, Burke is the former leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of La Crosse in his home state of Wisconsin.

He served as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 2008 to 2014. Pope Francis appointed him as a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in 2017.

LifeSiteNews reported in May 2020 that Burke affirmed in an online talk that it is “never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of cell lines of aborted fetuses.”

It added that the cardinal said that vaccination should not be imposed on citizens “in a totalitarian manner” and spoke of the possibility of microchips being planted under people’s skin, permitting them to be “controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters.”

Pope Francis, who received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, in January and February, has repeatedly encouraged Catholics to be vaccinated and has promoted the fair distribution of vaccines throughout the world.

He said in a public service announcement produced in collaboration with the Ad Council in August that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is “an act of love.”

“I pray to God that each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love, no matter how small, love is always grand,” the pope said in the PSA, published Aug. 17.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been a controversial subject in Slovakia, where as of Sept. 15, only half of the country is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, well below the 71% of adults fully vaccinated in the European Union overall.

A Slovak Academy of Sciences poll in July found that 36% of Slovakians said they did not want to receive the COVID vaccine, up from 30.9% in May. The same month, hundreds of people gathered outside Slovakia’s parliament in protest of possible new vaccine rules.

In July, Slovakia’s health minister and the Catholic bishops' conference announced that only those who had been fully vaccinated would be allowed to attend events during Pope Francis' Sept. 12-15 visit to the country.

But in early September, authorities eased this rule to also allow those with a recent negative test result or recovery from COVID-19 within the past 180 days to attend if they registered in advance.

Local media reports suggested that registration for the papal events had been at just 13% of their capacity, with 57,000 people having registered to see the pope as of Sept. 2, in a country of 5.5 million people, 62% of whom are Catholics.

“We knew there would be some problems with this,” Fr. Martin Kramara, the spokesman for the Slovakian bishops’ conference, told CNA in August, in reference to the obligation to be vaccinated.

At the time the decision was taken, the alternative given by the authorities was to have a maximum 1,000 people in attendance at each event, in spaces that could theoretically hold up to 50,000 people, Kramara said. He added that the bishops were tentatively expecting as many as 100,000 people at the pope's closing Mass at the national shrine in Šaštín.

Attendance at some events in Slovakia was lower than projected, with an estimated 25,000 young people present at an event in Košice’s Lokomotiva Stadium, half the stadium’s capacity, and about 60,000 at the national shrine in Šaštín, which could accommodate 100,000 attendees as originally tentatively projected.

Concluding his response to the question on vaccine skepticism, the pope said: “I do not know how to explain it well. Some say it comes from the diversity of where the vaccines come from, which are not sufficiently tested and they are afraid. We must clarify and speak with serenity about this. In the Vatican, everyone is vaccinated except a small group which they are studying how to help.”

Full text: Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference from Slovakia

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference. / Colm Flynn/CNA.

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 15, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis landed in Rome on Sept. 15 after a four-day journey to Hungary and Slovakia. Please read below for CNA’s transcript of Pope Francis’ 30-minute press conference during the flight from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, to Rome.

Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director: Hello, Your Holiness, thank you for these days that opened with Eucharistic Adoration in Budapest and ended with the celebration, the united prayer, this morning in Šaštín. Between those moments there were many images, many words, many encounters, it was beautiful that you could again be among people. The joy and participation of the people of God was also beautiful during these days. We will go over these days through the questions, but maybe you want to…

Pope Francis: No, no.

Bruni: OK, the first question comes from a Hungarian journalist, Istávan Kuzmányi of Magyar Kurír.

Istávan Kuzmányi: Holy Father, we thank you for your visit to Budapest, where you cited our Venerable Cardinal Mindszenty, who said: “I cannot worry when there are a million Hungarians praying.” Why did you decide after 21 years to participate as the pope in the International Eucharistic Congress? What do you see for the future of European Christianity and what do you think we Hungarians can do about it?

Pope Francis: At first it was not clear: [the pope] is only coming to the ceremony and will not visit us Hungarians? I explained that the visit to Slovakia was planned, that it was planned first, and I promised to your president, with whom I met, to come [the] next year, because there are so many Hungarian values.

I was struck by the sense of ecumenism with a very great depth that you have. Europe must, I always say, follow the dreams of the founding fathers of the European Union. The European Union is not a meeting to do things, there is a spirit at the base of the European Union dreamed of by Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, these great ones. Return to that, because there is the danger that Europe will become only a management office and this is not right, it must go to the mystical, seek the roots of Europe and carry them forward. All countries must move forward. Some interests, perhaps not European ones, try to use the EU for ideological colonization and this is not good. The EU must be independent for itself and for all countries at the same level inspired by the dream of the founding fathers. This is my idea. Last year [Ed. in 2019] I was in Transylvania. That Mass was really beautiful.

Bohumil Petrik, Denník Štandard: Vaccination has divided Christians, also in Slovakia. You say that getting the vaccine is an act of love. And when you do not get the vaccine, what would you call it? Some believers have felt discriminated against and there are different approaches in the different dioceses on this point. Even before your visit, this visit could only be accessed if [someone was] vaccinated, then it was changed, even those who did rapid tests could attend and so on... So, we would all like to know how to get along, how to reconcile on this issue.

Pope Francis: Humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines. As children, we got them for measles, for other things, for polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything. Then this [opposition] happened. This was perhaps due to the virulence, the uncertainty not only about the pandemic, but also about the different vaccines, and also the reputation of some vaccines which are nothing more than distilled water. This created fear in people. Then others who say that it is a danger because with the vaccine you are infected. So many arguments that have created this division. Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers and one of these, poor guy, is hospitalized with the virus. The irony of life. I do not know how to explain [the opposition] well. Some say it comes from the diversity of where the vaccines come from, which are not sufficiently tested and they are afraid. We must clarify and speak with serenity about this. In the Vatican, everyone is vaccinated except a small group which they are studying how to help.

Daniel Verdu, El País: On Sunday morning, you met with President Viktor Orbán. One can understand that there are some differences on issues like Europe, migrants, nationalists. We wanted to ask how the meeting went, if you talked about migrants now that it’s becoming a big issue again with the Afghanistan crisis, and what you think about the laws that [Orbán] has enacted about homosexuals. We also ask you because I think you asked him not to let Christian Hungary die, but listening to your speeches during these days it would seem that sometimes it is these policies, these types of policies, that want to destroy Christian values.

Pope Francis: I was visited by the president [János Áder], because he came to me. He had this politeness, this kindness about him, so he came [to me]. This is the third time I have met him, and he came with the prime minister [Orbán] and the deputy minister. There were three of them. The president spoke. The first topic was ecology, which took up about three-quarters [of the conversation]. Chapeau to you Hungarians! The ecological consciousness you have is impressive. He explained how they purify the rivers, things I did not know about, and that was the main thing [we discussed]. Then I asked about the average age, because I am worried about the demographic winter. In Italy, if I’m not mistaken, the average age is 47 and I think Spain is even worse. There are so many empty villages, or villages with only about 10 elderly people, a serious concern. How do you solve this? And then, the president, always the president, explained to me the law that they have to help young couples to get married, to have children and it is interesting. It’s a law that is quite similar to the French one, but more developed. That’s why the French don’t have the same problem as the Spanish. And they explained this to me, both the prime minister and the deputy minister, and there they added some facts. Then what else did we talk about… On immigration nothing. We returned to ecology again. About the family. I asked about the family, and you can see that there are many young people, so many children. But also in Slovakia, I was amazed: So many children, so many young couples. This was promising. Now the challenge is to find jobs, so that they don’t leave [the country] later... Because if there are no jobs, they will leave and find one. Those were the things [we talked about]. The president always spoke and both ministers were adding some specific facts, but it was a good atmosphere and it lasted long enough. I think 45 or 50 minutes.

Gerard O’Connell, America Magazine: Holy Father, first I want to say that we are all happy that the surgery produced a splendid result and that you are rejuvenated. You are rejuvenated after…

Pope Francis: I was told by someone that they wanted to do an operation. I don’t know who it was that I heard [...] It was an aesthetic thing.

O’Connell: You yourself have said that we are all sinners and that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a medicine and nourishment for the weak. As you know, in the U.S. after the last elections, but also since 2004, there has been a discussion among bishops about giving Communion to politicians who have supported pro-abortion laws and a woman’s right to choose.

And as you know, there are bishops who want to deny Communion to the president and others, there are other bishops who are against it, there are some bishops who say that the Eucharist should not be used as a weapon. What do you think about this reality and what do you recommend to the bishops? And then as a second question, have you as a bishop in all these years publicly refused the Eucharist to anyone?

Pope Francis: I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone. No one. I do not know if anyone came [to me] who was in this situation, but I never refused the Eucharist. To this day as a priest never. But never have I been conscious of having a person in front of me as you describe. That is true.

Simply, the only time I had a funny thing happen was when I went to celebrate Mass in a nursing home. And we were in the living room and I said: “Whoever wants Communion, raise your hand.” And everybody, they were elderly, raised their hands. And I gave Communion to one lady, and [afterward] she took my hand and she said, “Thank you, Father, thank you, I’m Jewish.” She took my hand. Even this one I told you about was a Jewish woman and yet, onward. The only strange thing. But the lady told me afterward.

Communion is not a prize for the perfect, think of [...], Jansenism, the perfect are able to take Communion. Communion is a gift, a gift, the presence of Jesus in his Church. It is in the community. This is the theology. Then, those who are not in the community cannot take Communion -- like this Jewish lady, but the Lord wanted to reward her and without my knowledge. Why [can they not take Communion]? Because they are out of the community, excommunicated, they are “excommunicated” it is called. It’s a harsh term, but what it means is they are not in the community, either because they do not belong, or they are baptized but have drifted away from some of the things.

Second, the problem of abortion. Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder. Abortion, without hinting: whoever performs an abortion kills. You take any embryology textbook of those students that study in medical school. At the third week of conception, at the third, many times before the mother notices, all the organs are already there. All of them. Even the DNA. [...]

It’s a human life, period. This human life must be respected. This principle is so clear. And to those who can’t understand it I would ask two questions: Is it right, is it fair, to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically it is a human life. Second question: Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? I said this publicly [...] when I did, I said it to COPE, I have wanted to repeat it. And period. Don’t continue with strange discussions: Scientifically it’s a human life. The textbooks teach us that. But is it right to take it out to solve a problem? This is why the Church is so strict on this issue because accepting this is kind of like accepting daily murder.

A head of state was telling me that the decline in population started with the age of abortion. Because in those years there was such a strong abortion law that six million abortions were performed and this left a very large decline in the society of that country.

Now let’s return to the person who is not in the community and is not able to take Communion because he is outside of the community. This is not a penalty: you are outside. Communion is to unite the community.

But the issue is not a theological problem, which is simple. The problem is a pastoral problem: how we bishops manage this principle pastorally. If we look at the history of the Church, we will see that every time the bishops have not managed a problem as pastors, they have taken sides about political life, about the political problem. For not managing a problem well they have taken sides on the political front.

Let’s think about the night of St. Bartholomew: Heretics, yes, heresy is very serious [...] everyone, it’s a political fact. Let’s think about Joan of Arc, with this mission. Let’s think about witch-hunts. Always we think of Campo de’ Fiori, Savonarola, all these kinds. When the Church, in order to defend a principle, does not do it pastorally, it takes sides politically. And this has always been the case. Just look at history.

What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning, not condemning, but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor and he has to shepherd them, and he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness. The whole Bible says that. Closeness. Already in Deuteronomy, He says to Israel: What people have gods as close as you have me? Closeness. Compassion: the Lord has compassion on us. We read Ezekiel, we read Hosea, right from the beginning. And tenderness -- just look at the Gospel and the works of Jesus.

A pastor who does not know how to manage with God’s style slips and he adds many things which are not pastoral. For me, I do not want to particularize [...] the United States because I do not know the details well, I give the principle.

You can tell me: but if you are close, and tender, and compassionate with a person, you have to give Communion -- but that’s a hypothetical. Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he stops this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician. And you will see this in all the denunciations, in all the non-pastoral condemnations that the Church makes. With this principle, I believe a pastor can act well. The principles are from theology, the pastoral care is theology and the Holy Spirit, who leads you to do it with the style of God. I would venture to say up to this far.

Bruni: Thank you, Holy Father.

Pope Francis: If you say to me: but can you give or cannot give [Communion]? It is casuistry, as the theologians say. Do you remember the storm that was stirred by Amoris laetitia when that chapter on accompanying separated, divorced couples came out: “Heresy, heresy!” Thank God there was Cardinal Schönborn, a great theologian who clarified things.

But always condemnation, condemnation, enough with excommunication. Please let us not place any more excommunications. Poor people. They are children of God. They are outside temporarily, but they are children of God and they want, and need, our pastoral closeness. Then the pastors work things out by the Spirit of God.

Stefano Maria Paci, Sky TG24: Holy Father, I believe, knowing you, that this message will seem to you a kind of gift. Knowing that I am flying with you, Edith Bruck asked me to give it to you. The Jewish writer, deported to Auschwitz at the age of 13, winner of the Prema Strega Giovani this year, sent me [this letter] last night. A completely unusual fact: you went to her house in the center of Rome to meet her. It is a long message from her signed, “Your sister Edith,” in which she thanks you for your repeated appeals and gestures against anti-Semitism during this trip. The first words [of her message] are “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…”

Pope Francis: This is true. Anti-Semitism is in fashion now, it is resurrecting. It is a very bad thing.

Paci: The question is about the family: You spoke about it with the Hungarian authorities, you spoke about it yesterday in the meeting with young people, and yesterday arrived news of a resolution in the European Parliament which invites the member states to recognize same-sex marriages and related parenting relationships. Holy Father, what are your thoughts on this?

Pope Francis: I have spoken clearly about this: marriage is a sacrament, marriage is a sacrament. And the Church does not have the power to change the sacraments. They are thus, as the Lord has instituted [for] us. These are laws that try to help the situation of many people of different sexual orientations. And this is important, to help these people, but without imposing things that by their nature do not enter in the Church. But if they want to support a homosexual couple in life together, states have the possibility of civilly supporting them, of giving security through inheritance, health [insurance]. But the French have a law on this not only for homosexuals, but for all people who want to associate with each other [in a legally recognized relationship].

But marriage is marriage. This is not to condemn people who are like that, no, please, they are our brothers and sisters and we must accompany them. But marriage as a sacrament is clear, it is clear. That there are civil laws that provide if they want to associate, a law to have the health service, to have [...] among them, these things are done. The French PACS, this law [...] has nothing to do with homosexual couples -- homosexual people can use it, they cannot use it, but marriage as a sacrament is man and woman. Sometimes what I have said is confusing. All the same, respect everyone. The good Lord will save everyone -- do not say this aloud [laughs] -- but the Lord wants to save everyone. Please do not make the Church deny her truth. Many, many people of homosexual orientation approach the Sacrament of Penance, they approach to ask priests for advice, the Church helps them to move forward in their lives. But the sacrament of marriage is [...].

[Addressing journalists] Thank you all. I read a nice thing about one of you. I leave this as a little offering before I leave. It was said that this journalist is available 24 hours for work, and she always lets the others go first, her behind, and always gives the word to others and she keeps quiet. It is nice that someone says this about a journalist. And this guy, Manuel Beltrán [Ed. he means José Beltrán of Vida Nueva], said it about our Eva Fernández.

US bishops push for pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants

null / Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2021 / 11:20 am (CNA).

As members of Congress this week advanced language providing a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, the U.S. bishops’ conference praised the development.

Congress is currently crafting a $3.5 trillion budget package that would fund many Biden administration priorities, such as universal pre-K, child care benefits, additional health care subsidies, green energy initiatives, and permanent residence for millions of immigrants.

Currently, House committees are in the process of approving language for the budget package. The House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 13 approved language creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

“For decades, the bishops of the United States have been proponents of such reforms, which promote integration and family unity,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference immigration committee, on Wednesday.

He urged that such immigrants be granted a pathway to citizenship, and not be allowed to reside in the United States with a dubious legal status.

“We cannot persist in relegating these members of our society to the margins, especially when we simultaneously depend on so many of them for our collective wellbeing,” he said.

While implying that parts of the budget package are contrary to Catholic social teaching, Bishop Dorsonville praised the immigration language.

“Undoubtedly, Catholic social teaching will be implicated by many aspects of this budget reconciliation bill, but this is a welcome milestone for many families and the common good,” he said of the immigration provisions.

Pro-life groups have warned that the reconciliation bill could ultimately include billions of dollars in health care spending without pro-life protections, thus allowing for a significant increase in federal funding of abortions and abortion providers.  

The budget package would need to be passed through the process of reconciliation, a procedure by which budget-related items need only a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than the normal 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

The Senate parliamentarian rules whether certain items are budget-related, and thus can be included in a reconciliation bill. It is unclear if the parliamentarian would maintain immigration language in the bill; the parliamentarian reportedly met with Democratic staffers last week and this week, who presented their case for why the immigration proposals should stay.

“We call on both the House and Senate to include these provisions in the final reconciliation bill and for Congress to pass a bill that helps all those on the margins of our society, strengthens families, protects religious freedom, promotes care for creation, and respects the rights and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death,” Bishop Dorsonville stated.

Those eligible for citizenship, under the House Judiciary Committee proposal, would include Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, Deferred Enforced Departure beneficiaries, undocumented agricultural workers, and other undocumented essential workers.

“Dreamers” are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but who are eligible to apply for permanent residence. “Temporary Protected Status” is granted to immigrants from certain countries who are eligible for a delay of deportation, due to conditions in their home countries that prevent their safe return such as natural disasters or armed conflict.

At a Monday evening virtual event hosted by the advocacy group Faith in Action, other U.S. bishops emphasized the need to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation bill.

The present situation is the “closest we’ve come” since 1986 to reaching a pathway to citizenship, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said.

For immigrants working in certain essential industries, “it would be the height of ingratitude,” Wester said, “if we can’t at least do something to forge a pathway to citizenship.”

“I think what’s at stake is not simply the rights of eight million or more,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, “but really, our own salvation, our own holiness.”

Pope Francis, he said, has emphasized the issue of immigration “to show us the pathway to holiness,” who “profess that we have faith but not have works to show it.”

On papal flight, Pope Francis tackles debate over Communion for politicians who support abortion

Pope Francis, pictured April 17, 2013. Credit: Mazur/ / null

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that the Catholic Church is firm in its stance on abortion because “abortion is murder,” and urged priests to be pastoral rather than political when faced with the question of who can receive Communion.

Answering questions aboard the papal plane from Bratislava, Slovakia, to Rome on Sept. 15, the pope emphatically said that abortion ends a human life and that human life must be respected.

Pope Francis holds an in-flight press conference en route to Rome from Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci.
Pope Francis holds an in-flight press conference en route to Rome from Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021. Andrea Gagliarducci.

“Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder,” Pope Francis said.

“Scientifically it’s a human life. The textbooks teach us that. But is it right to take it out to solve a problem? And this is why the Church is so strict on this issue because it is kind of like accepting this is accepting daily murder,” he said.

In response to a question about the U.S. debate about denying Communion to politicians who support abortion, the pope said that in the history of the Church when bishops have acted politically rather than as pastors, there have been problems.

“What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning … but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor and … he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness,” the pope said.

“For me, I don’t want to particularize [...] the United States because I don’t know the details well, I give the principle … Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he comes out of this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician,” Francis said.

The pope cited the controversy over Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics that followed the publication of his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

“Do you remember the storm that was stirred by Amoris laetitia when that chapter on accompanying separated, divorced couples came out: ‘Heresy, heresy!’ Thank God there was Cardinal Schönborn, a great theologian who clarified things,” he said.

“But always condemnation, condemnation, enough with excommunication. Please let us not place any more excommunications. Poor people. They are children of God. They are outside temporarily, but they are children of God and they want, and need, our pastoral closeness. Then the pastors work things out by the Spirit of God.”

Pope Francis said that he had never personally refused the Eucharist to anyone, adding that he was not aware of ever having been in the situation that the journalist who posed the question described: that of a pro-choice politician coming to him for Communion.

The pope also told the story of a time when he inadvertently gave Communion to a Jewish woman at a retirement home who had approached the sacrament in ignorance.

Pope Francis said: “Those who are not in the community cannot take Communion -- like this Jewish lady, but the Lord wanted to reward her and without my knowledge -- why?”

“Because they are out of the community, excommunicated, they are ‘excommunicated’ it is called. It is a harsh term, but what it means is that they are not in the community, or because they do not belong, or are baptized but have drifted away from some of the things.”

The pope’s comments during the in-flight press conference came at the end of his four-day visit to Hungary and Slovakia.

It was the 84-year-old pope’s first international trip since undergoing colon surgery in July.

Pope Francis began his journey on Sept. 12 with a visit to Budapest, where he offered the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress and met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The pope told journalists on the flight that he had discussed ecology and his concerns about a “demographic winter” in Europe with Orbán, but did not touch on immigration, a topic on which they diverge sharply.

After spending just seven hours in Budapest, the pope departed for neighboring Slovakia on the same day and spoke at an ecumenical gathering in the capital city, Bratislava, on the evening of his arrival.

The pope addressed Slovakian political leaders, offered encouragement to the Catholic community, and visited a homeless center run by Mother Teresa’s nuns on the capital’s outskirts on Sept. 13.

Pope Francis then traveled to the eastern city of Prešov, where he presided at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy on Sept. 14. In the afternoon, he met with members of the minority Roma community in nearby Košice and spoke to 25,000 young people about the importance of the sacrament of Confession.

Before returning to Rome on Sept. 15, the pope offered Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Šaštín.

The pope’s flight touched down at Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 3:30 p.m. local time. The 90-minute flight marked the last time that Pope Francis will fly Alitalia, Italy’s long-struggling national airline which is being replaced next month by a new airline called Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA).

Out of the six questions that the pope was asked during the in-flight press conference, he spent the most time speaking about abortion and Holy Communion.

Pope Francis said that many times before a mother realizes that she is pregnant, her child’s DNA and organs have formed.

“It’s a human life, period. This human life must be respected. This principle is so clear,” he said.

The pope said that to those who cannot understand this, he would pose two questions: “Is it right, is it fair, to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically it is a human life. … Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?”

During the flight, Pope Francis also answered a question about a resolution in the European Parliament seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states of the European Union.

In response, the pope underlined that marriage is a sacrament between a man and woman, instituted by Christ, which the Catholic Church does not have the power to change.

He noted that there are civil laws which seek to help the situation of couples “of different sexual orientations,” but which at the same time do not challenge the teachings of the Church on the sacrament of marriage, such as giving same-sex couples the security of inheritance, or of health insurance.

“But marriage is marriage,” he emphasized. “This does not mean condemning people who are like that, no, please, they are our brothers and sisters and we must accompany them.”

The pope noted that civil laws such as France’s PACS -- which allows adults of any sexual orientation to form a civil union -- exist, but are not sacramental marriage.

“Sometimes what I said is confusing. All the same, respect everyone,” he said, adding: “Please don’t make the Church deny her truth.”

“Many, many people of homosexual orientation approach the Sacrament of Penance, they approach to ask priests for advice, the Church helps them to move forward in their lives,” he said.

Pope Francis declines resignation of German Catholic archbishop

Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg. / Raimond Spekking (CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons).

Hamburg, Germany, Sep 15, 2021 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has declined the resignation of a German archbishop, the apostolic nunciature in Berlin announced on Wednesday.

The nunciature said on Sept. 15 that the pope had asked Archbishop Stefan Heße to remain as archbishop of Hamburg, northern Germany, following a Vatican investigation into his handling of abuse cases, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The nunciature explained that the probe had found organizational deficiencies and procedural errors by Heße, but “the investigation did not show that these were committed with the intention of covering up cases of sexual abuse.”

It said that “the basic problem” was a “lack of attention and sensitivity toward those affected by abuse” within Cologne archdiocese’s administrative apparatus.

Heße announced in March that he was offering his resignation to Pope Francis and requesting “immediate release” from all duties.

The archbishop made a brief declaration live on YouTube, saying: “I am of the firm conviction that taking responsibility is part of our duty to actively deal with this dark chapter in the best possible way and to move towards a better future for everyone, first and foremost for the victims themselves.”

“I have never participated in any cover-up. Nevertheless, I am willing to bear my share of responsibility for the failure of the system,” Heße said.

Responding to the pope’s decision, the 55-year-old archbishop said on Sept. 15: “I thank the Holy Father for his clear decision and the trust he has placed in me.”

“The hiatus granted to me has come to an end and I am now, according to the will of the pope, expressly taking on responsibility again as archbishop in the north. In doing so, I am well aware that it will not necessarily be easy to resume my ministry. I will do everything in my power to meet this challenge.”

The German prelate was in charge of pastoral personnel in Cologne archdiocese from 2006 to 2012. He served as vicar-general from 2012 to 2015 before being ordained as archbishop of Hamburg on March 14, 2015.

A report on the handling of abuse cases published in March raised concerns about Heße’s actions regarding several cases during his time in Cologne.

The 800-page Gercke Report covered the period from 1975 to 2018 and examined 236 files in detail to identify failures and violations of the law, as well as those responsible for them.

Heße stood accused of having neglected his duty in nine separate cases on 11 counts, according to the report, CNA Deutsch said.

The archbishop wrote to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops in November 2020 in connection with abuse cases that he reviewed while serving in Cologne archdiocese.

Heße said on Nov. 20: “Today I wrote to the prefect of the bishops’ congregation, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and described the situation to him. I explained to him that I had always participated to the best of my knowledge and conscience in the processing of cases of sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Cologne and never in the cover-up of such cases.”

He continued: “The public debate about my time in Cologne, which has been going on for months, is not only a burden on me personally, but also on the Catholics in the archdiocese.”

“Out of concern for the Archdiocese of Hamburg, I therefore consider it my duty to inform the Roman authorities both of the current situation and of the investigation results from Cologne, which will be available in March.”

“To me, it is self-evident that I cannot be a judge in my own case, but that I ask the authority that appointed me to my office as archbishop for a review.”

The day before his statement, Heße announced that he would be temporarily stepping aside as a spiritual adviser to the Central Committee of German Catholics, the influential lay body known by its German initials, ZdK.

In June, Pope Francis declined the resignation of another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis in Slovakia: Our Lady of Sorrows teaches us compassion for the suffering

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the esplanade of the National Shrine in Šaštin, Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 15, 2021 / 04:46 am (CNA).

At Slovakia’s national Catholic shrine on Wednesday, Pope Francis said that Our Lady of Sorrows is a model of how to live the faith with compassion and care for the suffering.

“Mary, Mother of Sorrows, remains at the foot of the Cross. She simply stands there. She does not run away, or try to save herself, or find ways to alleviate her grief,” the pope said during Mass on Sept. 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Here,” he said, “is the proof of true compassion: to remain standing beneath the Cross. To stand there weeping, yet with the faith that knows that, in her Son, God transfigures pain and suffering and triumphs over death.”

On the final day of his visit to Slovakia, Pope Francis offered the live-streamed Mass outside the country’s National Shrine of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in the young town of Šaštín. According to local authorities, around 60,000 people attended the Mass.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Francis, who himself has a special devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, said in his homily: “In contemplating the Sorrowful Mother, may we too open our hearts to a faith that becomes compassion, a faith that identifies with those who are hurting, suffering and forced to bear heavy crosses.”

The basilica in Šaštín was built to honor the image of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, a figure so important to the people of Slovakia that Pope Pius XI declared her the country’s patroness in 1927.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The image of the Virgin Mary has also attracted pilgrim visitors such as Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II. The Polish pope offered Mass for 200,000 people in front of the basilica on July 1, 1995, during the second of the three trips he made to Slovakia as pope.

Pope Francis began his first visit to the Catholic-majority country on Sept. 12, after spending most of the day in Budapest, Hungary, where he celebrated the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress and met Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

atican Media.
atican Media.

In Slovakia, he met political authorities, bishops, religious, and priests in the capital city of Bratislava. He also visited a center for the poor and homeless run by the Missionaries of Charity in one of the city’s most impoverished suburbs.

The pope later met with young people, celebrated a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, and spoke to the minority Roma community in the Luník IX ghetto in eastern Slovakia.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his homily on Sept. 15, Francis urged Slovakians to follow the example of Mary when she visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, living their faith as a mission to be carried out.

“For you, the Slovakian people, the Blessed Virgin is a model of faith: a faith that involves journeying, a faith inspired by simple and sincere devotion, a constant pilgrimage to seek the Lord,” he said.

“In making this journey, you overcome the temptation to a passive faith, content with this or that ritual or ancient tradition,” the pope continued. “Instead, you leave yourselves behind and set out, carrying in your backpacks the joys and sorrows of this life, and thus make your life a pilgrimage of love towards God and your brothers and sisters.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Thank you for this witness. And please, persevere on this journey. Do not stop,” he said, to an outbreak of applause.

Pope Francis also said that the “faith cannot be reduced to a sweetener to make life more palatable,” urging Slovakian Catholics to not remain lukewarm about Jesus and to be “signs of contradiction” within the world.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Slovakia needs “Christians who can demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel by the way they live,” he said. “Christians who are weavers of dialogue where hostility is growing; models of fraternal life where society is experiencing tension and hostility; bringers of the sweet fragrance of hospitality and solidarity where personal and collective selfishness too often prevails, protectors and guardians of life where the culture of death reigns.”

“In contemplating the Sorrowful Virgin Mary, may we too open our hearts to a faith that becomes compassion, a faith that identifies with those who are hurting, suffering, and forced to bear heavy crosses,” he said.

“A faith that does not remain abstract, but becomes incarnate in fellowship with those in need,” he concluded. “A faith that imitates God’s way of doing things, quietly relieves the suffering of our world and waters the soil of history with salvation.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord always preserve in you wonderment and gratitude for the great gift of faith. And may Mary Most Holy obtain for you the grace of a faith that ever sets out anew, is deeply prophetic and abounds in compassion.”

Papal visit pool.
Papal visit pool.

Before Mass, Pope Francis prayed with Slovakia’s bishops inside the basilica, reciting a prayer of entrustment to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.

“Mother of the Church, Consoler of the Afflicted, with confidence we turn to you, in the joys and struggles of our ministry,” they prayed. “Look upon us with tenderness and open your arms to embrace us.”

“Queen of the Apostles, Refuge of Sinners, you know our human limitations, our spiritual failings, our sorrow in the face of loneliness and abandonment: with your gentle touch heal our wounds.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

After Mass, the last appointment of his trip before returning to Rome, Pope Francis gave his final message, noting that “the time has now come for me to take leave of your country.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“In this Eucharist, I gave thanks to God for having allowed me to come among you and to conclude my pilgrimage in the devoted embrace of your people, celebrating together the great religious and national feast of your Patroness, the Virgin Mother of Sorrows.”

“I am grateful to all who, in different ways, have cooperated in this pilgrimage, above all by their prayers,” he said. “I carry you in my heart.”

Urgent prayers needed for kidnapped Nigerian priest

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

Kafanchan, Nigeria, Sep 14, 2021 / 20:00 pm (CNA).

Prayers are being sought for the quick and safe release of a Catholic priest, Father Benson Bulus Luka, kidnapped from his parish residence in Nigeria’s Kafanchan Diocese.

“It is with great pain that we announce to you the kidnapping of our Priest, Rev. Fr. Benson Bulus Luka,” the Chancellor of Kafanchan Diocese, Father Emmanuel Uchechukwu, said in a statement shared with ACI Africa Sept. 14.

As Fr. Uchechukwu explained, “The sad event occurred on Monday, September 13, 2021 at about 8.45 p.m. He was abducted from his residence at St. Matthew's Catholic Church, Anchuna, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State.”

Fr. Uchechukwu urged “intense prayer” for the priest’s safe return.

“While we solicit for an intense prayer for his quick and safe release, we equally wish to call on all and sundry to refrain from taking the laws into their hands,” Fr. Uchechukwu said. “We will use every legitimate means to ensure his quick and safe release.”

Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Since then, the group, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups, as well as civilians.

The insecurity in the country has worsened, also, due to the involvement of predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.

In his Sept. 14 statement, the Chancellor of Kafanchan Diocese implored, “May Jesus crucified on the Cross, listen to our prayers and hasten the unconditional release of His Priest and all other kidnapped persons.”

The latest abduction of Fr. Benson Bulus Luka follows a series of other kidnappings of members of the clergy in Africa’s most populous nation.

In April, gunmen kidnapped Father 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, St. Vincent Ferrer Malunfashi Catholic Parish of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese was attacked and two priests kidnapped. One of them, Father Alphonsus Bello, a 33-year-old Fidei Donum priest incardinated in Nigeria’s Kaduna Archdiocese, was killed. The other priest, Fr. Joe Keke, 75, was later released.

In July, a priest serving in Nigeria’s Maiduguri Diocese, Father Elijah Juma Wada, was abducted and later escaped after spending nine days with his captors.

Last month, Catholic Bishops in Nigeria decried the rise in cases of abductions, killings, and property destruction, calling upon the 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,” members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said in an Aug. 26 statement.

While recognizing the efforts being made by relevant authorities to tackle insecurity in the West African nation, Catholic leaders underscored the need for the Muhammadu Buhari-led government “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,” the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria said in their communiqué following their Aug. 19-27 second Plenary Assembly held in Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese.

Judge temporarily blocks New York vaccine mandate, lacking religious exemption, for medical workers

null / Ball Lunla/Shutterstock

Syracuse, N.Y., Sep 14, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

A federal court on Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order against a New York state COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which disallowed religious exemptions, after a group of anonymous medical professionals filed suit against the governor and her administration. 

Then-governor Andrew Cuomo announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all medical workers in the state in August, with a deadline of Sept. 27 to be fully inoculated. The mandate covers staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, adult care facilities, and other care settings, and did not include a religious exemption.  

The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group, is representing a group of 17 medical professionals who claim the mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and who have chosen to remain anonymous. They are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the mandate. 

In the ruling from the US District Court for the Northern District of New York, issued Sept. 14, Judge David Hurd wrote that the New York Department of Health is “barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination going forward.” 

The state has until Sept. 22 to respond to the temporary restraining order. 

The Thomas More Society says the plaintiffs include doctors, nurses, a medical technician and physician’s liaison, and that they are “now facing termination from employment, loss of hospital admitting privileges, and the destruction of their careers, unless they consent to be vaccinated against their will with vaccines that contradict their sincere religious beliefs.”

Many states have introduced COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and teachers. President Joe Biden announced last week that he had directed the Department of Labor to draft a rule that would require employees at all companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. 

Bishops across the country have issued varying guidance for Catholics wishing to seek conscientious objections to COVID-19 mandates. A few have expressed explicit support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions; some have said that Catholics may seek exemptions, but must make the case for their own conscience without the involvement of clergy; and some have stated that Catholic teaching lacks a basis to reject vaccination mandates.  

All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have some connection to cell lines derived from fetal tissue likely derived from a baby aborted decades ago. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna were tested on the controversial cell lines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine used the cell lines both in production and testing.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoing guidance from the Vatican, has since stated that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use because of their remote connection with abortion, but if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.

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.” Pope Francis has encouraged COVID-19 vaccination, calling it an "act of love."

The bishops of South Dakota and of Colorado have explicitly expressed support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions, while in contrast, many bishops in California, as well as in Chicago, Seattle, and Philadelphia, have instructed clergy not to assist parishioners seeking religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccines, stating that there is no basis in Catholic moral teaching for rejecting vaccine mandates on religious grounds. 

The Chicago archdiocese, along with the Diocese of El Paso, has introduced its own vaccine mandate for employees.

The five bishops in Wisconsin in late August issued a statement encouraging vaccination against COVID-19, while maintaining that people ought not be forced to accept a COVID vaccine. The bishops added that, in the cases of Catholics conscientiously objecting to receiving a vaccine, clergy should not be intervening on their behalf. 

Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly have both decreed similar policies, stating that any Catholic seeking an exemption places the burden on the individual’s conscience rather than on Church approval, and thus priests of their dioceses are not allowed to vouch for the conscience of another person in seeking an exemption from a vaccine mandate. 

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, has been vocal about its opposition to mandatory immunization for COVID-19. While acknowledging that reception of COVID-19 vaccines is morally permissible, the center has maintained support for the rights of Catholics to refuse the vaccines because of conscience-based concerns.

Thousands demonstrate outside Mexico's Supreme Court to defend life, reject abortion

The facade of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation in Mexico City. / Fernando Gutierrez Ortega/Shutterstock.

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 14, 2021 / 18:19 pm (CNA).

More than 2,500 people demonstrated Monday outside the Mexican Supreme Court building in Mexico City to defend life and oppose abortion. 

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family, said, "we counted at least 2,500 people, from various states of the Republic” at the Sept. 13 protest.

They came from “Chiapas, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Guanajuato, Puebla, Querétaro, Mexico, Veracruz, and Mexico City. We are extremely happy,” he said.

Last week the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation twice ruled against pro-life articles, once in Coahuila state’s penal code, and in Sinaloa’s constitution. It is now taking up the question of conscientious objection to abortion for medical professionals.

Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court building held up banners, blue pro-life flags, Mexican flags, and images of the Our Lady of Guadalupe, and shouted slogans for life and against abortion.

Doctors and leaders from pro-life organizations spoke at the event.

Cortés noted that the rally outside the Supreme Court was attended by "many young people, and that fills us with hope.”

Attendance was achieved despite the fact that the authorities tried to make it impossible for people to get there. People “were held back in various areas and not allowed to proceed toward our meeting point," he said.

Physicians were there who told the crowd gathered in downtown Mexico City “that it is their duty, their Hippocratic Oath, which has been said for more than 25 centuries, that doctors are there to save lives, not take them away.”

Elective abortion has been legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in Mexico City and the states of Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. In general, abortion is illegal in the rest of the country, but in most cases there are exceptions for rape and the life of the mother. The penalties and scope of the laws vary from state to state. 

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, opening the door to legal abortion.

The ruling is expected to have wide-ranging effects throughout Mexico.

And the Supreme Court on Sept. 9 ruled against the protection of life from conception in the constitution of the state of Sinaloa. The decision invalidated an article that read that "the State protects the right to life from the moment an individual is conceived."

The court began Sept. 13 discussing a challenge to the constitutionality of the right to conscientious objection by healthcare professionals, which could force them to participate in abortions against their will.

In the initial decisions made in this session, the SCJN recognized the right to conscientious objection and noted that it does not restrict the right to health.