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Pro-life medical clinic demands removal from 'libelous' video

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A video that frames a Colorado women’s clinic as a bogus, sub-par healthcare provider is libelous, said the clinic’s directors and lawyer, who are demanding that it be corrected.

Last week, Attorney Michael J. Norton issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of Marisol Health, a network of women’s health care clinics created by Catholic Charities of Denver.

The letter demands the removal of the clinic’s image and name from a video that suggests it is among crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide medically trained staff or accurate medical information.

“Marisol Health is justifiably proud of the services it provides to women and families and is thus disturbed by the false representations about Marisol Health in a ProgressNow video entitled ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’...with the description ‘Crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as medical facilities,’” Norton wrote in the letter.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Norton said that “Having reviewed the video and having significant knowledge about Marisol and the comprehensive, quality, professional healthcare services that Marisol Health provides, we found...great offense with that video, and we found it to be extremely defamatory, misleading and misrepresentative [of Marisol].”

The video, created about a year ago by progressive advocacy group ProgressNow, has been posted to the group’s facebook page, viewed more than 130,000 times, and republished by numerous affiliates of the organization.  

The video tells the story of 40-year-old Aubrey, an art teacher who recalls her unexpected pregnancy in college. At high risk because of a seizure disorder, Aubrey says in the video that she was referred to an unspecified crisis pregnancy center that lacked any trained medical professionals besides an ultrasound tech.

“I felt like they were really playing on my emotions and as I was walking out they handed me a bible,” Aubrey said in the video.

“The fact that they sent me to some crisis pregnancy center where there was no medical staff, that really bothers me, it really concerns me,” she added. “You had a political motivation or maybe a religious one that you felt was more important than my health.”

Footage in the video shows four different pregnancy centers around Colorado, including the building and name of Marisol Health, which was founded in 2016 - years after Aubrey’s pregnancy. It also includes text that states that crisis pregnancy center staff “rarely have any medical training” and that they “often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

At the press conference, Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, said it was “outrageous” and “deceptive” to include Marisol in the video and to imply that it does not provide comprehensive health care with licensed medical professionals.

“Marisol Health is a network of clinics that are fully equipped to provide women with comprehensive health care and help them make informed decisions about their reproductive health,” she said. “With Marisol’s special partnership with Bella [Natural Women’s Care], we have fully licensed medical professionals who assist women in need with life-affirming medical care.”

Marisol Health. Credit: Marisol Health.

Among the services provided at Marisol are comprehensive OB/GYN and prenatal care, fertility awareness and infertility care, STD testing, counseling, ultrasounds, and mental health services.

Care is provided regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, McIntosh noted. According to Marisol, 45 percent of their patients have no income or an income of less than $15,000 a year, while 76 percent are on Medicaid or are without insurance.

“We want to take back the true meaning of reproductive care for women,” McIntosh added. “Marisol Health has what women deserve, a clinic that is staffed by licensed medical professionals and offers compassionate care.”

Dede Chism is the co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol Health.

She said that both Bella and Marisol “exist to fill the need for dignified, life-affirming healthcare, providing a broad scope of comprehensive obstetric and gynecological health care.”

The need for this kind of care is great among women of all religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, Chism said, citing the 5,000-plus patients that have come to Bella in the past three and half years since they opened their doors.

“Across the lifespan of women from early adolescence through menopause, as a staff of board-certified and board-eligible physicians, midwives, nurse practitioners, certified ultrasonographers, registered nurses, we focus on the highest standards, cutting edge research that actually takes place within our facilities, and scientific methods that are both natural and cooperate with a woman’s body,” she said.

Chism invited anyone with doubts about Marisol or Bella’s quality of care to visit the clinics and see for themselves and “experience what is health care is all about.”

Norton said as of May 23 he had not received a response from ProgressNow regarding his May 17 cease and desist letter, and added that he is prepared to continue to prosecute ProgressNow in order to repair any damage caused to Marisol and Bella by the video.

Earlier this month, Marisol also responded to billboards in Denver that warned against crisis pregnancy centers, calling them “Fake Health Centers.” The billboards, in English and Spanish, were sponsored by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), a group also associated with the creation of the ProgressNow video, which it has embedded on its website.

A representative from COLOR told Fox News in Denver that they considered the crisis pregnancy clinics fake because they do not offer “abortion care” in their facilities and often lack trained medical professionals.  

The video from ProgressNow also comes at a time when the Supreme Court is deciding a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which will decide whether a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.


Correction: A previous version of this story identified the creator of Marisol as Catholic Charities of Colorado, instead of Catholic Charities of Denver. It has since been updated. 

Archbishop Chaput highlights voices of young adults ahead of synod

Philadelphia, Pa., May 24, 2018 / 02:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to highlight the voices of young people ahead of the Synod on Youth this fall, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is periodically offering his column space in the diocesan newspaper to young adults over the next four months.

“With a synod of the world’s bishops focusing on young people scheduled for this October, hearing directly from the young and those engaged in guiding them can be a great resource,” he wrote.

The 2018 Synod will take place this October. Bishops from around the world will meet to discuss the theme, “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

In preparation for the gathering, the Vatican sent out a survey asking young people around the world about their experiences and beliefs. In March, 315 young adults were invited to the Vatican for a pre-synod gathering. They released a document summarizing their discussions at the end of the meeting.

Since Archbishop Chaput decided to open his column to young adults earlier this month, he has shared the comments of two young people: Regina Luczyszyn, a 26-year-old graduate from Temple University Law School who is currently engaged, and Brother Bryan Kerns, a 29 year-old seminarian who will be ordained this summer.

Last week, Luczyszyn reflected on the need for young adults to be accompanied by faithful mentors. In a world marked by confusion, she said, many people bear wounds from a damaged past, so guides are necessary to help navigate the way.

“Finding Christ in the darkness isn’t always an easy journey,” she said. “Christ gave us the answer by showing us the importance of mentorship and discipleship – a model the Church needs to revive if she expects young adults to follow Christ.”

She highlighted chastity as one issue in which mentorship would be helpful, particularly in guiding questions during dating about appropriate boundaries and ways to express love in virtue.

Luczyszyn suggested that priests, religious, and laity can all be mentors to help navigate young adults through these trails. Just as Christ spent three years forming his disciples, she said the Church must accompany her members by “strengthening them, loving them, and teaching them.”

This week, Brother Kerns reflected on the Church’s need to for strong witnesses, leading the Church towards the value of silence and rest. When the world is overwhelmed by noise, he said, people are unable to truly know themselves.

“The world is drowning in noise – the young in particular. And the noise is not the worst problem; it’s a symptom of our failure to understand our nature. We use noise as an antidote to our restlessness, when what we really need is rest.”

He said the Church needs to evaluate how young adults can be encouraged make silence in their lives to face the burdens of this world and rely on the Church for silent strength. Brother Kern said the answer is not another document or program – although those things may be helpful – but witnesses willing to lead by example.

“Our world, our Church, and especially our young people, need witnesses. Witnesses who prove irrefutably, through their words and actions, that Jesus Christ dwells with quiet fire in their hearts.”

 

Nationwide protests in Nigeria ask government to improve church security

Abuja, Nigeria, May 24, 2018 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics from across Nigeria participated in peaceful protests on Tuesday, calling for greater government protection following a recent attack at a Catholic Church that left 19 dead.

Thousands of people in 54 cities across Nigeria participated in protests May 22, corresponding with the burial of two priests and 17 parishioners killed by Fulani herdsmen, who opened fire at a daily Mass on April 24. The herdsmen then flooded the streets, attacking pedestrians and setting fires to some 50 homes.

White caskets of those killed in the attacks were carried through the streets of the Benue state’s capital city, Makurdi, near Saint Ignatius Church, where the attack took place. Christians in other cities carried signs on the same day to proclaim the sacredness of life and a greater need for government aid.

The state of Benue shut down operations May 22 to honor those who died, Nigeria’s PM news reported. Several dozen bishops attended the burials and spoke at rallies across the nation.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, spoke at a requiem Mass in Ayatu, Benue, according to local media. He questioned, “If we are not safe in our place of worship centers, where else can we be safe?”

Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia spoke at a peaceful protest in Abia state. In his speech, local media reported, he decried a lack of respect for life within the nation.

“Life has lost its meaning in Nigeria. And I wonder our fate if the government continues to fail in their core responsibility of providing adequate security of lives and properties in Nigeria,” he said.

“The Catholic Church in Abia state is in prayer solidarity with our brothers in Benue. The Government must do [what is necessary] to save Nigerians from herdsmen and Boko Haram attacks.”

Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Makurdi, where the attack took place, particularly criticized Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Deutsche Welle.

“[President Buhari] should wake up to his responsibilities. He was elected as a president for the people of this country, not for any particular group, not for any tribe,” he said, noting Buhari is the president of “a nation with about 200 million people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and pagans.”

Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has increased in recent years, as climate issues have pushed herders further south. By mid-January this year, more than 100 deaths had been attributed to the herdsmen.

 The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria voiced grave concern about the violence in a January statement. They recognized the challenges faced by the herdsman, but expressed the need for better alternatives to open grazing.

“Government should rather encourage cattle owners to establish ranches in line with international best practice,” the bishops said.

“Farmers and herdsmen have a lot to contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of our nation. A more enduring strategy must be worked out for their peaceful co-existence and mutual respect.”

 

Report: Pope Francis affirms Church practice against admitting gay men to seminary

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a closed-door speech to Italian bishops on Monday, Pope Francis spoke about the number and quality of seminary candidates, including concerns about their sexual orientation.

At the start of his May 21 audience with Italian bishops, Pope Francis voiced three areas of concern for the Church in Italy, the first of which was the lack of vocations.

Francis' brief remarks on his concerns, which also touched on evangelical poverty and transparency and the incorporation of Italian dioceses, were televised; however, his discussion with the bishops afterward was not.

In his public remarks on vocations, Pope Francis lamented the culture of the provisional, of relativism, and of the dictatorship of money, which hinder young people from discerning consecrated life. He also proposed that Italian dioceses with an abundance of vocations lend some of their priests to those Italian dioceses lacking in priests.

But in the discussion that followed the pope told the bishops to care more for the quality of seminary candidates than the quantity. Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops' conference, confirmed Francis' comments about homosexuality in a May 24 press conference.

The Pope touched on the topic of homosexuality, particularly when it comes to individuals with “deep-seated tendencies” or who practice “homosexual acts”, yet who want to enter the seminary.

In these cases, “if you have even the slightest doubt it's better not to let them enter,” Francis said, according to Vatican Insider, because these acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood.

Pope Francis' comments were made during the opening May 21 session of the 71st general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference.

However, the pope's statements on the issue of homosexuality and the seminary reflect the Church's teaching on the topic.

In the 2016 edition of the Congregation for Clergy's ratio on priestly formation, the dicastery had written that “in relation to people with homosexual tendencies who approach seminaries, or who discover this situation in the course of formation, in coherence with her own magisterium, 'the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”.'”

The ratio quoted from the Congregation for Catholic Education's 2005 instruction “Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.”

The instruction noted that those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the gay culture “find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

It distinguished those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from those “with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded.”

Men with transitory homosexual tendencies could be admitted to seminary, the congregation wrote, though “such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.”

The instruction drew, in turn, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a 1985 memo from the Congregation for Catholic Education, and a 2002 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Though Pope Francis has not addressed the topic publicly, he alluded to problems of homosexuality in seminary formation during a recent meeting with Chilean bishops.

In a letter written to the bishops which was leaked to Chilean media, the pope issued a sharp correction of his brother prelates for a systematic cover-up of clerical abuse in the country.

One footnote in the letter noted how abuses were not limited to just one person or group, but was rather the result of a fractured seminary process.

In the case of many abusers in Chile, Francis noted how problems had been detected while they were in seminary or the novitiate, but rather than expelling these individuals, some bishops or superiors “sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”

After five decades, Pacem in terris is still relevant, Francis says

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking about St. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris, Pope Francis said that even 55 years after its publication, the document still stands as “a permanent commitment” to peace.

Even if the way war is carried out has changed since the time when the encyclical was written, and today there appears to be more violence and conflict than in the past, St. John XXIII’s reflections “remain valid,” he said.

In an interview published May 24 in “L’Eco di Bergamo,” a newspaper of the northern Italian town of Bergamo, Francis said he is concerned about the ways violence occurs, not only with weapons, but with “mechanisms of oppression.”

Imbalances linked to the “reckless exploitation of men and of the resources of nature” are a cause for concern today, he continued, underlining that peace cannot only “be linked to the absence of war,” but must involve the “integral development of people and populations.”

The job of the Church is not to “make governments change,” he said, but to bring the “logic of the Gospel into the thinking and gestures” of those who govern.

It must be understood that “the commitment for social groups and states is to live relationships of justice and solidarity that cannot be just words.” Instead, “every form of selfishness, individualism, group interest” must be overcome at all levels of society.

The pope granted the interview for the occasion of a visit of St. John XXIII’s remains to the Diocese of Bergamo.   

Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body has returned to his home diocese May 24-June 10 to mark the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of the encyclical Pacem in Terris.

This visit is “a gift and an occasion” for a new journey of faith, the pope said. Especially for the elderly, poor, and sick, or anyone else who may not be able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica to venerate the saint.

St. John XXIII, he said, was “a man, a saint who did not know a contrary word, who did not like words like crusades or proselytism and who instead always sought what unites, who trusted in God and in man in his image.”

The ‘Good Pope,’ Francis said, believed that the Church is called to serve all people, “not only Catholics,” and to “defend above all and everywhere the rights of the human person…aware that the pope must build bridges.”

St. John XXIII also invites people “to look at what really matters,” he said, noting how his predecessor would keep a crucifix hanging opposite his bed so that it was the first thing he would see when he woke in the mornings.

The saint knew that “Christianity is not an ideal to follow, a philosophy to adhere to or a moral to be applied,” but “an encounter with Jesus Christ that makes us recognize in the flesh of brothers and sisters his very presence,” Pope Francis stated, encouraging people to serve the poor and sick – anyone who cannot give anything in return.

The story of St. John XXIII is filled with examples of “these gestures of closeness” with people who suffered, whether they were Catholics, Orthodox, or Jews, he said.

In the interview Francis also spoke about the future of Christianity, stating that identifying Christianity with Western culture in an absolute fashion “no longer makes sense” and that the future of Christianity will be “more concretely Catholic, universal, fully ecclesial,” and respectful of other cultures – for example in Africa, Asia and Latin America – or else risk “irrelevance.”