Browsing News Entries

Detroit auxiliary bishop denies allegation of sexually abusing minor

Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell. / Courtesy of aod.org.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 21:10 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Russell, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit and a former Vatican diplomat, has been named in a civil lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a minor more than 30 years ago while a priest in Massachusetts.

Russell, 63, denies the charges, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Archdiocese of Detroit. The statement said Russell would refrain from public ministry until further notice from the Vatican.

Russell was appointed auxiliary bishop of Detroit in May, and he was installed July 7. Though an auxiliary, he retains the personal title of archbishop.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 1 in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston. It was first reported Tuesday by the Detroit News.

The unidentified plaintiff was 12 years old when he met Russell — then a priest assigned to St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish in Lynn, Massachusetts — at the parish’s food bank, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff was sexually assaulted 25 times in 1989 and 1990, the lawsuit states.

“The sexual assaults began with hugging and kissing, then genital fondling, and proceeded to mutual masturbation, forced oral copulation, and then anal penetration,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also names the "Archbishop of Boston" and Ronald J. Gariboldi, identified as the pastor of St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish at the time of the alleged assaults.

The Archdiocese of Detroit issued a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit.

“Archbishop Russell is shocked and saddened by the claims that have been made, and states that they are without merit. He holds in prayer all those who have ever been victimized by a member of the clergy,” the statement said.

“Effective immediately, Archbishop Russell is refraining from all public ministry, and will continue until further directed by the Holy See,” the statement continued, adding that the guidelines of canon law “are being followed.”

The Detroit Archdiocese noted that it “was not aware of any allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Russell until it was contacted by media Monday, August 1.”

Russell was born in 1959 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He studied at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston and gained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on June 20, 1987. After serving as associate pastor at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart for five years, Russell became priest-secretary to the Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, according to the Detroit Catholic newspaper.

Russell entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1997, serving in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as well as in Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland, and Nigeria, and as head of the diplomatic mission to Taiwan.

In 2016 he was apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan, and was consecrated a bishop.

He was appointed, in addition, apostolic nuncio to Azerbaijan in 2018.

Russell resigned from the nunciatures in 2021.

Editor's note: This story was corrected on Aug. 4, 2022, to note that it was the Detroit News that first reported on the filing of the lawsuit.

U.S. Department of Justice challenges Idaho abortion ban in court

Attorney General Merrick Garland / Justice Department

Denver Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 20:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Idaho, seeking to block the state’s trigger law which will ban abortions — with a few exceptions — beginning Aug. 25. 

Announcing the lawsuit in an Aug. 2 press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the DOJ is suing the state because of a supposed conflict with a federal law that requires hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to a person experiencing a medical emergency, regardless of their ability to pay. 

The lawsuit is the first legal challenge brought by the federal government against a state abortion restriction since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, returning the question of abortion policy to the states. The DOJ is seeking to block Idaho’s law from taking effect. 

Garland asserted that Idaho's law will prevent doctors from performing abortions when the mother's life is at risk, despite the law having an explicit carveout for such a situation. Idaho’s law provides an exception to the ban if the abortion was, in the physician’s judgement, “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.”

Under the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), every hospital that receives Medicaid funds must provide "stabilizing treatment'" to patients with an "emergency medical condition." According to the DOJ, the law defines necessary stabilizing treatment to include “all treatment needed to ensure that a patient will not have her health placed in serious jeopardy, have her bodily functions seriously impaired, or suffer serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”

"In some circumstances, the medical treatment necessary to stabilize the patient's condition is an abortion," Garland said. 

"When a hospital determines that an abortion is the medical treatment necessary to stabilize a patient's emergency medical condition, it is required by federal law to provide that treatment.” 

Other than the life of the mother, the Idaho law’s only exception is for instances of rape or incest that has been reported to police, and a copy of the report has been provided to the physician. 

Garland argued that the Idaho law lacks an exception for a situation where an abortion is necessary to prevent "serious jeopardy to the mother's health." He said the DOJ chose Idaho’s law to target because it seemed “on its face" to contradict EMTALA.

All of the U.S. states which have “trigger laws” banning abortion have exceptions for instances where abortion may be necessary to save the mother’s life. State abortion bans in other states, such as Texas, provide exceptions for when abortion may be necessary to prevent “serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

In addition, some states also provide explicit exceptions for treatments for the removal of a miscarried child, or treatment for ectopic pregnancy, though these are not generally considered abortions. 

A recent analysis of state pro-life laws by the Charlotte Lozier Institute noted that EMTALA requires evaluation and stabilization of a pregnant woman presenting with a suspected emergency, but also that the directive treats both the woman and the unborn child as patients in need of care, and that “none of the state laws prohibit this evaluation or provision of life-saving care.”

Despite this, the Biden administration has made EMTALA a centerpiece of its response to pro-life state laws. In a July 11 letter to healthcare providers, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra instructed the providers to perform abortions in emergencies — regardless of state law — under EMTALA. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the HHS, also issued a memorandum July 11 with the same instruction found in Becerra’s letter.

In response, the co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association's Ethics Committee noted to CNA that Catholic health care treats two patients with every pregnancy.

“Treating a pathology of the mother does not require a direct attack on the unborn child,” Dr. Marie Hilliard told CNA in July. 

On July 14, Texas filed a complaint against the HHS, CMS, and their leadership for their instruction regarding EMTALA. The state condemned the “Abortion Mandate” as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” that “must be held unlawful and set aside.”

Texas accused the Biden administration of attempting to “use federal law to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

“No federal statute confers a right to abortion,” the complaint says. “EMTALA is no different. It does not guarantee access to abortion. On the contrary, EMTALA contemplates that an emergency medical condition is one that threatens the life of the unborn child. It is obvious that abortion does not preserve the life or health of an unborn child.”

Clarence Thomas canceled plans to teach class because of post-Roe violence, not student petition

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has canceled plans to teach his popular class at George Washington University’s Law School this fall amid threats of violence following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

A source close to Thomas told CNA the justice’s decision had nothing to do with a student-led petition calling for the Washington, D.C. school to sever its ties with Thomas.

Mark Paoletta, a Washington lawyer who served as assistant counsel to President George H.W. Bush and worked on Thomas’ confirmation process, said in the last year Thomas and other justices have received death threats.

“After such a tumultuous year at the court with an unprecedented assault by the Left on the court, including death threats on him and several other conservative Justices, I am glad he decided to take a break from teaching. He deserves it," Paoletta said.

The Hatchet, the university’s student-run newspaper, broke the story of Thomas’ decision not to teach the class. According to the report, Gregory Maggs, who has co-taught the class with Thomas since 2011, informed students in an email.

“Unfortunately, I am writing with some sad news: Justice Thomas has informed me that he is unavailable to co-teach the seminar this fall. I know that this is disappointing. I am very sorry,” he wrote. 

Maggs will continue teaching the class as the sole instructor for the fall semester.

Attacks on Thomas mount 

Shortly after the Supreme Court's June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was released, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, abortion rights groups shared the addresses of conservative justices, encouraging people to protest in front of their homes. One California man was later charged with attempted murder outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland.

Thomas has drawn particular scorn because of his concurring opinion suggesting the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.  

Following his opinion, racial slurs like “Uncle Clarence” began trending on Twitter and obscene rants monopolized social media over the week, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s profanity-laced statements at a “Chicago Pride” event.

Concerns for Thomas’ safety mounted with a viral video following the decision which revealed abortion activists handing out Thomas’ home address to protestors outside the court. This event coincided with several assassination threats on the justice’s life circulating on social media —  some of which were removed, some that were not. 

Petition not the reason

The student-led petition demanding Thomas be removed from the faculty cited “his explicit intention to further strip the rights of queer people and remove the ability for people to practice safe sex without fear of pregnancy.” 

The petition claimed Thomas was “actively making life unsafe for thousands of students on our campus” and was circulated outside campus, inflating the number of signatories. 

The university defended Thomas in a letter stating that it would “neither terminate Justice Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class,” citing its commitment to free ideas and debate. 

“Like all faculty members at our university, Justice Thomas has academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry,” school officials wrote.

The petition was updated earlier this week, with organizers taking credit for removing the justice from faculty, despite the school’s refusal to do so.

But Paoletta told CNA that the justice’s decision to take a break had nothing to do with the petition. 

A popular course 

Paoletta, who is also the co-author of "Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words" (Regency Publishing, 2022), said the course Thomas taught at GW is one of the law school’s most popular classes.

It focuses on seminal Supreme Court cases, which Thomas teaches in his trademark style — by cutting through the narratives developed around a specific case and going back to the facts, he said. Paoletta said the class has a long waiting list every year it is offered and that papers written by students in the class have gone on to be published in prominent law journals.

Thomas himself is beloved by his students, Paoletta said, proving that “people who sign these petitions know nothing about him and are fueled by their hatred.” He added that the criticism “has never affected him and never will affect him.”  

“The Left hates him because he is a principled black Supreme Court justice who dares to have his own thoughts and never bows to the Left mob mentality. Justice Thomas has been triggering the Left for 40 years and exposes their racism,” he said.

A spokesperson for GW Law declined to comment Tuesday when asked if Thomas provided a specific reason for not teaching. The U.S. Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment.

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly calls Knights of Columbus to uphold dignity of life

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly delivers his first in-person annual report since assuming office in 2021 on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Knights of Columbus' annual convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. / Photo courtesy of Tamino Petelinšek/Knights of Columbus

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 2, 2022 / 18:38 pm (CNA).

Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in his annual report on Tuesday that the organization is doubling down on its efforts to protect life from conception to natural death as part of its dedication to serving those on the most outer margins of society. 

Noting that there are many calls for the Knights’ support, Kelly said that “one opportunity looms especially large,” identifying it as ending abortion.

Knights for life

Kelly, who gave his speech at the organization’s national convention in Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center Aug. 2, spent a significant portion of his speech calling the Knights to fight for the unborn, especially following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Kelly praised the March for Life that takes place in Washington D.C. each year and in cities across the nation, calling for respect for the unborn. “Roe is overturned but we have more work to do,” he said. “We will continue to march for life until abortion is unthinkable.”

Another way the Knights are standing up for the unborn is through its ultrasound initiative, through which they have donated 1,566 ultrasounds to pro-life pregnancy centers, Kelly said. 

Kelly noted that the end of Roe doesn’t equate the end of abortion. Many states will expand protections of the life-ending procedure, he said. “They will double down on a culture of death,” he said. “So we must push forward with a message of life.”

“Let’s take up the cause in Springfield and Sacramento. Let’s oppose abortion in places like Albany, while supporting pro-life laws in Austin and Atlanta. And while we push for change in places like Washington state, let’s keep up the pressure on Washington D.C.,” he said.

One of the ways to engage in the fight for legislative protections for life is to support pro-life marches, he said. Kelly emphasized that the March for Life in Washington D.C. is a “major priority” for the Knights. 

In addition to changing the law, he said, hearts and minds must also be changed. The Knights can play a role in pointing pregnant mothers in fear toward life, he said. 

“The best thing we can do is redouble our support for pregnancy resource centers,” he added.

Those centers help mothers choose life each day and support new parents in giving their children a better life, he said.

“We must ensure that pregnancy resource centers have everything they need,” he said. “To start, we’ll place even more ultrasound machines, so more mothers can see their unborn children.”

Kelly then took aim at “one of the latest lies” which claims that pro-lifers don’t care about the well-being of children after their birth. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, adding that the Knights have partnered with pro-life pregnancy centers to provide many resources, but that “now is the time to do even more.”

Doing more includes the Knights’ new initiative Aid and Support After Pregnancy, he said, in which the Supreme Council encourages local councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers. ASAP entails a 20% donation match from the Supreme Council.

Protecting families and religious freedom through faith

Kelly said that there are other challenges that need to be addressed in society. “We see it in the denial of human dignity. We see it in the blatant attempts to redefine the human person — and to push this radical agenda on our children,” he said. Kelly also said that religious freedom is at risk.

The Knights are called to trust in God and step into the breach to face these challenges head on, he said. Being a Knight “means drawing closer to the person of Jesus Christ, our King.”

Kelly said that the Knights have pledged $1 million to the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival. Kelly added that evangelization is “one of my top priorities,” and there is a “special urgency” for it today.

Noting a crisis of faith in the Church, Kelly announced a discipleship and evangelization initiative that was piloted in Tennessee. Kelly told CNA Sunday that the initiative includes training for councils on how to evangelize, speak about the faith, and bring people in. 

Outreach to a new demographic

Kelly said the Knights are taking strides to engage more Hispanics in the organization. 

There are already many Hispanic Knights, he said, but he believes the Knights should have many more. The Knights are “intentionally cultivating” Latino leaders within the organization in order to achieve this goal, he said. 

Ukraine

Concluding his speech with the Knights’ efforts in Ukraine, Kelly said that the Knights have over 19,000 members within the Eastern European country.

He noted that “many of our brother knights are on the frontlines even now.” 

At least two members of the Knights have died in battle: Petro Popovych of Council 15804 in Kolomiya, and Oleh Vorobiov of Council 17651 in Lviv.

“We pray for their families. We commend their souls to the Lord, “ Kelly said. 

Kelly said that through the order’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund, it has raised almost $19 million in relief efforts. The Knights have also set up K of C Charity Convoys which ship humanitarian aid from Poland to Ukraine, he said. 

Crediting the efforts of the Knights in Poland, the order has also set up K of C Mercy Centers which provide both material and spiritual support, Kelly said. Kelly visited Ukraine and said that “I will always remember what I saw. And I will never forget the courage I saw in Ukrainian Knights.”

In closing, Kelly noted that “the days ahead will be difficult.” However, he encouraged all to praise God and ask him for help as Blessed Michael McGivney did. 

“And the Lord who has brought us this far will carry us further still,” he said. “As together we step into the breach. Vivat Iesus!”

Shortly before Kelly’s speech, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, read a July 23 letter sent from Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis.

The letter addressed to Kelly praised the Knights’ efforts to foster Eucharistic adoration, their defense of marriage and family, their upholding of the dignity of human life, and their efforts in support of Ukraine and of persecuted Christians in Africa and the Middle East.

Religious freedom conflicts ahead after Michigan Supreme Court redefines sex

Same-sex wedding cake. / Sara Valenti/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A Michigan Supreme Court decision that state civil rights law bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation may conflict with religious liberty, the Catholic Church in the state has said.

The decision would “usurp the legislature’s role in the democratic process, present constitutional problems for people of faith, and place in jeopardy religious persons and entities who wish to serve others in the public square,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said July 29.

The Catholic conference warned that the decision “expressly does not address” whether enforcing the redefined Michigan civil rights law would violate federal and state constitutional religious freedom protections. It sided with a dissenting justice who said there are “strong arguments” that the majority interpretation “poses constitutional problems relating to religious liberty.”

The 5-2 decision in the case Rouch World v. Department of Civil Rights redefines sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ruling concerned two legal cases. In the first, the owners of an event center had denied a request from a female same-sex couple to host their wedding on the grounds that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. In the second, the owner of a body hair removal service had declined on the grounds of religious belief to perform hair removal services on a man who identifies as a transgender woman as part of his purported gender transition. 

The plaintiffs had sought a declaration that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under state civil rights law and that the Michigan Department of Civil Rights was wrong to define them as such in a 2018 interpretative statement. 

The 1977 Michigan legislation in question, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, height, weight, and familial or marital status.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex,” the supreme court’s summary said, explaining that denying equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or services constitutes illegal sex discrimination.

“Because one’s sex is necessary to the identification of sexual orientation, discrimination on that basis is discrimination on the basis of sex,” the supreme court said, according to the summary.

The Michigan court’s decision drew upon the rationale of the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, which included sexual orientation and gender identity under the definition of “sex” in federal employment law. 

That decision already requires employers with 15 or more employees to treat sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class under Title VII of federal civil rights law. The decision prompted deep concern from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who had argued that such interpretations “redefine a fundamental element of humanity” and “promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact.”

Drawing on the Bostock decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Rouch World Event Center in Sturgis had illegally rejected the request of Natalie Johnson to host her same-sex wedding. Had Johnson been a man, the supreme court said, the event center would not have denied services. 

The Michigan Catholic Conference had filed a December 2021 amicus brief in support of the event center owners and their “right to act in the public square according to their religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

The brief argued that the state legislature is the body constitutionally charged with creating and amending state laws. This lawmaking process “permits people of diverse beliefs to cooperate in crafting laws that simultaneously protect both vulnerable persons and the conscience rights of Michigan residents.”

In cases of alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the conference said, the majority opinion “expressly does not address” whether enforcement under the state civil rights law would violate religious liberty constitutional protections at the federal and state level.

“Michigan Catholic Conference promotes public policies that protect conscience rights and the freedom for religious entities and individual persons to serve others, particularly those in need and those living on the economic margins,” the conference said Friday. “We profess that marriage is the union of one man and one woman united through life and open to the birth of children, even as society and culture has recently moved in a historically different direction. Christians are not called to conform to the culture, but to speak to it with truth and love.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that all people deserve to be treated with respect and compassion,” the conference added. “We urge citizens throughout their daily lives to approach and speak to one another in ways that acknowledge their inherent dignity, as every human person has been created in God’s image and likeness.”

“We will continue to advocate for religious liberty rights and seek to uphold constitutional principles that provide legal protections for those who serve others in the public square — particularly the poor and vulnerable — according to their religious mission,” the Michigan Catholic Conference said.

The Catholic conference’s amicus brief argued that civil rights department officials had requested “a sweeping ruling that would necessarily affect religious beliefs and entities” but these officials refused to address questions of religious liberty, saying they may be weighed in a future case.

The brief invoked a hypothetical lay Catholic institution’s job interviews with two women with same-sex attractions, one of whom states she is in a romantic same-sex relationship but the other says she does not act on her feelings, following Catholic teaching. 

“Consistent with Catholic teaching, the organization might hire the first, but not the second, on the grounds that, by her actions, the second woman has demonstrated an opposition to Church teaching,” the brief said.

However, state officials would rule that this is an impermissible distinction because “the test is whether a man and a woman would be treated differently for being in a romantic relationship with a woman.”

There is no guarantee that state officials will care about a Catholic institution’s distinctions. Though statuary compromises can avoid these “dilemmas,” the department skipped this process by offering its own interpretation. This precludes the “type of careful compromise” that religious liberty precedents have reached.

Some religious challenges to the strict application of anti-discrimination policy have been successful. In March the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services paid at least $800,000 in legal fees to settle two Catholic child placement agencies. The agencies had made successful First Amendment legal challenges to an agreement that barred state funds for adoption agencies that declined to place children with same-sex couples.

Value Them Both: 8 things to know about Kansas’ abortion vote 

null / Emituu / Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 14:32 pm (CNA).

Voters in Kansas are voting on a pro-life amendment Tuesday. The state is the first to place abortion on the ballot after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. That decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, leaves abortion legislation up to the states.

Here is what to know.

Why does this matter?

How Kansans vote on the amendment, also known as the Value Them Both Amendment, could indicate how other states will vote on abortion post-Roe. 

“Kansas is the first ballot test in America after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, raising the stakes for the pro-life movement here and nationally,” Danielle Underwood, the director of communications for Kansans for Life, told CNA. 

The vote could also determine whether Kansas serves as an abortion hub for women in neighboring states that restrict abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions could increase by more than 1,000% in Kansas, the Kansas City Star reported.

What’s the amendment about?

The amendment would reverse the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s “right” to abortion. Currently, state lawmakers are generally prohibited from passing any type of abortion restriction. The amendment, if approved by voters, would enable state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion.

The pro-life amendment does not mean a total ban on abortion.

“The Value Them Both Amendment is not a ban on abortion but protects women and babies from an unregulated and predatory abortion industry by returning the right to the people to keep laws that limit abortion,” Underwood explained. “Without commonsense laws in place, Kansas will become home to a growing number of abortion factories with no specific licensure, sanitation standards, or inspections.” 

The amendment would also ensure a ban on state taxpayer-funded abortion, according to the Value Them Both Coalition (VTB), which is led by Kansans for Life, the Kansas Catholic Conference, and Kansas Family Voice.

What does the amendment say?

The amendment’s text reads: “To the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”

“Because Kansans value both women and children,” the amendment says, “the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

When is the vote?

Kansas voters can either say “yes” or “no” to the amendment during the primary election on Aug. 2. Early voting began July 13.

The amendment appears on the ballot after the Kansas Senate passed a measure in January to amend the state’s constitution.

What do Catholic leaders in Kansas say about it?

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., told CNA that “I and the Catholic Church strongly support the Value Them Both Amendment.”  

“I encourage all Catholics and all people of good will to vote yes,” he said. “The amendment simply returns to the people of Kansas the right and ability, through their elected representatives, to determine public policy regarding abortion. Opponents of the Amendment are afraid to allow the people of Kansas to decide what protections our state desires to provide to women and their unborn children.”  

In the same breath, the former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee stressed the importance of caring for both woman and child. 

“At the same time, the Catholic Church wants to join with other Kansans to surround women facing a difficult pregnancy with a community of support to assist them with whatever they and their children need, not just until the birth of the child, but for as long as they need,” he said. 

“The parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City are participating in the Walking with Moms in Need Initiative,” he said, referencing a pro-life parish ministry led by the U.S. bishops. “Our goal is not just to protect women and children from the tragedy of abortion, but to provide them the support they need so that mother and child do not just survive, but so that both thrive.”

What does the opposition say?

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, a coalition working to oppose the amendment, argues that the state “already regulates abortion, just as it would any medical procedure.”

The amendment would “pave the way for a total ban on abortion” with no exceptions, it says, and “hand our personal healthcare decisions over to politicians.”

Does Kansas already restrict abortion?

Yes, Kansas generally prohibits abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, among other things. However, VTB says that, following the 2019 ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court, “limits are being struck down one by one.”

Does the overturning Roe v. Wade affect the vote?

The overturning of Roe in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization does not directly impact the vote because it concerns the state’s constitution — and the overturning of Roe leaves abortion up to the states. But the Supreme Court’s decision raises the stakes.

According to Underwood, “In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, the opposition is furiously working to sow a campaign of confusion about what the amendment is and does.”

Indirectly, the ruling could affect Kansas in that the state could see an increase in women traveling there for abortion from nearby states that are restricting abortion. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, nearly half of the women seeking abortions in Kansas came a different state already in 2021.

Following the Dobbs decision, VTB said that Kansas was unaffected.

 “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas,” the group said in a statement. “As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits.”

Catholics respond with prayer and song when protesters disrupt conference

Attendees at a gathering sponsored by the Napa Institute sing the "Salve Regina" to drone out protesters who demonstrated at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California, on July 30, 2022. / Screenshot from Chris Stefanick video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

When protesters tried to disrupt a conference of Catholics leaders held over the weekend in Napa, Calif., they soon gave up when their chants were drowned out by 800 people singing “Salve Regina,” a hymn to the Virgin Mary.

The July 30 incident, which later became a viral sensation on social media, took place at the 12th annual summer conference of the Napa Institute, a group dedicated to training the Church’s leaders how to evangelize in an increasingly secularized society.

Austin Quick, who was attending the conference at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, told CNA that former Attorney General William Barr had begun his keynote address on Saturday night when he was interrupted by chanting.

Quick, a military veteran, said he rushed outside to see if he could engage with the protesters to get them to stop. He said there were six or seven women shouting and playing what appeared to be prerecorded chants through a loudspeaker system that were “mostly about abortion.” Among the chants: “You can’t take us back to the 1800s,” “Motherhood should be a choice,” and “Get your rosaries off our ovaries.”

That’s the moment that the crowd joined together in prayer, followed by the singing of “Salve Regina.”

“Right when the singing started that’s when they left,” he said, adding that the demonstrators returned to their cars and honked their horns.

Quick, who runs a popular Instagram account called The Basic Catholic, said he later learned that a priest from The Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky started the prayer and the singing of the hymn.

Chris Stefanick, an EWTN host and creator of the popular “Real Life Catholic” video series, was a witness to the scene and shared a viral video of the incident.

He posted on Twitter: “The response of the Napa conference to Marxist protestors screaming like maniacs outside. After this … they were quiet. I love being Catholic.”

After the event, several groups posted on social media that they were among protesters at the conference.

A group called NDN Collective, which claimed to represent the concerns of indigenous people, shared photos of their protest that included a sign saying “Bans off Our Bodies.” In a tweet, the group wrote: “We’ve seen what the evils of fascism and the Catholic Church have brought to Indigenous people and our lands. Tonight we disrupt the Right’s political agenda that’s tied to the Napa Institute.”

Two other groups, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Church Militant, also claimed on social media to have demonstrated at the event.

The Napa Institute was founded in 2011 by businessman Tim Busch and Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., in order to train Catholic leaders in faith formation and apologetics. The Busch Family Foundation is also a major donor to The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and helped establish the university’s business school.

Busch is a member of EWTN’s Board of Governors, and EWTN chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw is a member of the Napa Institute's Board of Directors. CNA is a service of EWTN News.

The conference, which took place from July 27–31, included daily Mass, opportunities for prayer and Confession, as well as lectures and panels on St. Thomas Aquinas, the New Evangelization, reading the Bible, Catholic education, the evils of human trafficking, a Catholic vision of women’s rights, and life after Roe v. Wade, among other topics.

Barr’s speech, titled “Strangers in a Strange Land: How Do Catholics Live as ‘Resident Aliens’ and Faithful Citizens at the Same Time,” echoed the title of Catholic novelist Walker Percy’s posthumously published book of essays “Signposts in a Strange Land.” 

FBI releases photo of suspect in Molotov cocktail attack on Nashville pregnancy center

null / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Aug 1, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released photos of a suspect in the attempted firebombing of a pro-life pregnancy center June 30 in Nashville, Tennessee. The are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect.

The photos, released by the FBI’s Memphis field office, show an individual dressed in dark clothing with a hood. A photo of the individual’s car was also released to the public. It’s unclear from the photo what model and make the car is.

On June 30, at around 1:30 a.m., an individual threw a Molotov cocktail through a window at Hope Clinic for Women. It did not explode and the window has been replaced.

The words “Jane's Revenge” were written on the clinic in graffiti, and have since been cleaned off. 

“Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI Memphis Field Office at 901-747-4300 or submit online at tips.fbi.gov,” the July 26 press release said. 

The FBI released this photo of a suspect in the attempted firebombing of a Nashville pro-life pregnancy center. Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI released this photo of a suspect in the attempted firebombing of a Nashville pro-life pregnancy center. Federal Bureau of Investigation

Kailey Cornett, executive director and CEO of Hope Clinic for Women, told CNA shortly after the act of vandalism that her team is resilient and had received an influx of prayers and support. 

“We are here to do what we’re called to do and that's to serve women,” she said at the time. “We were able to rally around each other and support each other yesterday, but I think that we're ready to get back to providing care today."

Since news broke in May that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, a rise in reports of vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers has made headlines. Roe, which federally legalized abortion, was overturned June 24. The vandalism of both pregnancy centers and Catholic churches has continued since then. 

The FBI announced in June that it was investigating attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches. Since its announcement, there have been few reports of arrests. There have been no known reports of any arrests in connection with vandalism at pro-life pregnancy centers, only churches. 

Kentucky Catholic Charities coordinates national aid amid devastating floods

A stranded family is rescued from the flood waters of the north fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Ky., on July 28, 2022. Catholic Charities of Lexington is collaborating with other Christian churches as well as Catholic Charities USA to provide aid to those affected. / Photo by LEANDRO LOZADA/AFP via Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 1, 2022 / 16:42 pm (CNA).

Amid record flooding in Kentucky that has left at least 30 people dead, Catholic Charities of Lexington is collaborating with other Christian churches as well as Catholic Charities USA to provide aid to those affected. 

Edward Bauer, director of communications for the Diocese of Lexington, told CNA that none of the diocese’s churches or facilities have sustained significant damage, but the communities surrounding many parishes have been devastated and are in need of aid, with many homes and businesses flooded. 

The flooding began with heavy rains on July 27, leading to widespread flooding across at least five eastern Kentucky counties by the weekend. At least 18,000 people remained without power Monday, and reports suggest that entire towns — many of which are in already impoverished areas — have been inundated. Gov. Andy Beshear has described the disaster as one of the worst in the state’s history. 

The Catholic churches in the diocese have a strong collaborative partnership with other Christian communities, Bauer said, since at only 3% to 4% of the population, the majority of the people in eastern Kentucky are not Catholic, especially in the countryside. He said the Catholic communities in rural Kentucky have been working to provide what aid they can for the poor and needy, adding that another major problem has been that water supplies have been disrupted. He said the parish life director at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Hazard, Ky., told him they may not have clean water for weeks. 

Several other dioceses have contacted the Lexington bishop — unsolicited — to offer to take up second collections for the flood relief, Bauer said. He also said that the Catholic Charities office in Lexington has been in close contact with Catholic Charities USA, working to coordinate national relief efforts. 

The best way for people of good will to help is with cash donations, since the needs are constantly evolving, he said, which can be done through the local Catholic Charities website. Cash donations also allow the local Catholic Charities organizations to invest that money locally into small businesses, which further helps with recovery of a community, Bauer said.

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly discusses the future of the Knights of Columbus

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, leader of the Knights of Columbus / Courtesy of Knights of Columbus

Nashville, Tenn., Aug 1, 2022 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly has an ambitious vision for the Knights of Columbus. 

That vision involves everything from “charging up” the Knights to live in a post-Roe world, to providing humanitarian relief for Ukrainian refugees, to supporting pro-life pregnancy centers and encouraging young Catholic men to know and live their faith. 

Speaking to CNA on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center at the Knights’ first national convention in three years, Kelly offered a preview of that vision and what he will say on Tuesday to the approximately 2,500 attendees, consisting of members of the Church hierarchy, Knights leadership, and their families. 

Being a Knight in a post-Roe world

Kelly said that the theme for this year’s convention is “Into the Breach.” In his remarks — which he is giving for the first time in his role as Supreme Knight — he plans to inspire the Knights to step into the breach, which he says is the now-post-Roe world. 

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that federally legalized abortion, was overturned by the court in June.

“It's no secret that society is more divisive than ever,” Kelly said, “but our role is to be men of unity and to bring people together.”

Kelly said that the convention is an opportunity for the Knights to show their solidarity with the bishops, priests, and cardinals present. “It gives them a nice boost, a nice encouragement to see that they have an organization that's in their corner,” Kelly said. 

The Knights announced in June an initiative to donate at least $5 million to pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes across the United States and Canada by June 30, 2023. But Kelly said that the knights were being conservative in that estimate, and that he expects to surpass the number.


He also said that the Knights’ new initiative Aid and Support After Pregnancy includes support from the Knight’s headquarters, the Supreme Council. ASAP, which encourages local councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers, entails a 20% donation match from the Supreme Council.

Kelly said that since the initiative began just over a month ago, councils have already started to reach out with reports of their donations. 

The Knights’ support for pro-life pregnancy centers comes during a wave of attacks against these centers that began after a leaked Supreme Court decision indicated Roe would likely be overturned.

Responding to the reports of vandalism, Kelly said that it makes him sad to see. He said Pope Francis reminded the Knights at their last convention that they need to be men who build up and not tear down. 

“It's terrible to see this kind of vandalism,” Kelly added.

The Future of the Knights

Kelly said the organization is placing a priority on reaching out to young men. 

Kelly said that the Knights have piloted an evangelization and discipleship initiative in a few  states in which they are training their councils how to evangelize, speak about the faith, and bring people in. 

Kelly emphasized that when young men understand their faith, it has an “exponential” effect on their family. 

“That's the No. 1 thing you could do for the family is to get the man to really own his faith and really understand his role as a Catholic man, as a provider, as a father, and as a husband,” Kelly said.

But young Catholic men are not the only priority of outreach for the Knights. 

Kelly said the organization is planning to redouble their efforts in reaching out to the Hispanic community as well. There are many Hispanic knights, he said, but because of the growth of the demographic within the United States, “we need more Hispanic knights.”

In order to stay true to the vision of Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights, reaching out to new communities is imperative, he said. 

One of the ways the Knights are reaching out to a younger demographic is through online videos. The Knights’ video series “Into the Breach” was viewed more than 1 million times, he said. Another video series is coming next year on marriage and family life, he added. 

“Where ‘Into the Breach’ focused on masculine identity, the series on marriage and family is going to focus on man's role in his marriage and man's role as the leader of the family,” he said. 

The Knights in Ukraine

The Knights are still supporting Ukrainian refugees, Kelly said, and their fundraising efforts have achieved immense success. 

Within 48 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Knights implemented a fundraiser called the Ukraine Solidarity Fund. That fund has amassed $19 million for refugees, Kelly said.

Kelly said those funds are being used to ship food, water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare to refugees in trucks coming out of Poland called KofC Charity Convoys. 

Kelly, who visited Ukraine in April, said it was a deeply moving experience.