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Unborn babies are tax exempt under Georgia’s heartbeat-based abortion law

The Georgia capitol in Atlanta. / Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

An unborn baby is now recognized as a dependent who will qualify expectant parents for a $3,000 deduction in Georgia tax rules, under the same law which bans abortion based on a detectible fetal heartbeat.

Georgia’s Department of Revenue issued new guidance stating that “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat” is eligible for Georgia’s individual income tax dependent exemption, National Public Radio reports. A heartbeat is detectable about six weeks into pregnancy, sometimes before women know they are pregnant.

A woman six weeks pregnant as of July 20 may list her unborn child on her tax returns next year, with relevant medical records or other supporting documentation. More specific instructions are expected later this year, the New York Times reports.

Georgia’s 2019 law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectible recognizes the unborn child as a “natural person.” The same law which allows expectant parents to claim their baby as a dependent also requires a father to pay child support for “direct medical and pregnancy-related expenses” for an unborn child.

In June the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which mandated legal abortion nationwide in 1973.

In light of that decision, a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on July 20 ruled that Georgia’s abortion ban can become law.

Legal protections and benefits for the unborn child and expecting parents have drawn criticism from some abortion advocates, but there are also legal questions to be answered.

In a July 2020 ruling against the state law, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones questioned whether a pregnant woman with an eating disorder could be found guilty of child cruelty and whether health care providers required to report child abuse could be liable for failing to report a pregnant woman living with an abusive relationship partner, the Georgia Recorder reports.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, the campaign manager of Georgia’s strongly pro-abortion rights Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, questioned whether a woman who claims the tax deduction but later miscarries could be investigated for tax fraud and procuring an illegal abortion.

However, the Georgia law exempts miscarriages, stillbirths, and ectopic pregnancies from legal penalty.

The law allows abortions in cases of medical emergencies to prevent the death or physical impairment of the pregnant woman.

Though the law recognizes the unborn child as a person, it still allows abortion up to 20 weeks into pregnancy targeting unborn children allegedly conceived in rape or incest, if an official police report was filed.

Alabama and Arizona also have abortion laws that broadly define the unborn child as a person.

Another 40 states, including Texas and California, define the unborn child as a legal person in cases involving homicide, the New York Times reports.

Some states have passed pro-abortion laws explicitly stripping legal rights from an unborn child. A 2022 Colorado law, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, says that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”

Two-year-old lawsuit accusing Theodore McCarrick of repeatedly raping boy still pending in NJ

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick arrives at Massachusetts' Dedham District Courthouse for his arraignment, Sept. 3, 2021. / Andrew Bukuras/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

One of the more graphic sexual abuse lawsuits against former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick is still pending in New Jersey after the parties recently failed to settle the nearly two-year-old case, court filings show.

The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark in September 2020, accuses McCarrick of raping and sexually assaulting an unnamed adolescent boy on more than 50 occasions from 1985 to 1990.

The lawsuit also names the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen as defendants, alleging that they failed to protect the boy from McCarrick while he led those New Jersey dioceses. All the defendants deny the claims against them.

The parties met with a private mediator June 23 but were unable to settle the case, court records show.

“At this juncture, the parties do not believe that another settlement conference will be productive,” the plaintiff’s lawyers, Mark Lefkowitz and Kevin Mulhearn, wrote in a July 21 letter to U.S. District Court Evelyn Padin.

The lawyers revealed in the letter that the Newark Archdiocese has produced 172,734 pages of documents requested by the plaintiff’s legal team, which is still reviewing the records.

Depositions of McCarrick and the plaintiff, who is now in his late thirties, have taken place, the letter said. Other individuals have yet to be deposed.

McCarrick, 92, was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of sexually assaulting minors and adults.

Dozens of alleged assaults

The New Jersey lawsuit is one of several civil complaints still pending against McCarrick.

The disgraced prelate also faces criminal prosecution in district court in Dedham, Massachusetts, for allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

In that case, McCarrick entered a not guilty plea in September 2021 to three counts of indecent assault and battery. Each charge carries up to five years in prison.

No trial date has been set in the criminal case. The next hearing date is Sept. 8, a spokesman for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office told CNA Friday.

The New Jersey civil case involving the alleged rapes of an adolescent boy has received significant media attention due to the graphic nature of the allegations. The 108-page lawsuit also chronicles in detail McCarrick’s steady rise up the Catholic hierarchy, despite multiple warnings and complaints about his alleged predatory behavior toward minors, seminarians, and young priests.

According to the lawsuit, McCarrick was “deeply revered, respected, and highly trusted” by the plaintiff’s “extremely devout Catholic” parents and extended family.

“Plaintiff’s parents were thrilled that McCarrick, a high-ranking Catholic bishop whom they viewed as God’s emissary, had decided to single out their family (and their son) for special attention and could not even begin to imagine that McCarrick’s desires toward Plaintiff were sexual or predatory in nature,” the lawsuit states.

“They thus strongly encouraged Plaintiff to spend considerable time with McCarrick, as they viewed his actions toward Plaintiff as a blessed manifestation of God’s grace,” according to the complaint.

In 1985, while McCarrick was bishop of Metuchen, the then-12-year-old boy stayed overnight at the Metuchen rectory with his parents’ approval, the lawsuit states.

The next day, McCarrick took the boy to a beach house owned by the diocese in Sea Girt, New Jersey, where McCarrick sexually assaulted the boy for the first time, the lawsuit alleges.

Subsequent sexual assaults allegedly took place in a variety of other locations, including the rectory in Metuchen, a fishing cabin in the woods at the Eldred Preserve in the Catskills in New York State, and a hotel in Ireland, the lawsuit states.

The assaults continued when McCarrick became archbishop in Newark, the lawsuit states. In one incident alleged to have taken place at McCarrick’s private Newark residence, McCarrick brought another, unidentified priest to the apartment.

“This is my friend. He’s like us. We all do the same thing,” McCarrick allegedly told the then 13- or 14-year-old boy by way of introduction, according to the lawsuit. “I’m gonna leave now. And you two enjoy yourselves.”

The other priest then sexually assaulted and raped the boy, the lawsuit states. After the priest left, McCarrick raped the boy again, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that McCarrick’s alleged predatory behavior was known within the dioceses and spoken of at high levels of the Catholic Church, yet nothing was done to stop him, in part “because McCarrick was an exceptional fundraiser for the Catholic Church, and was charismatic and viewed by many as a rising star in the Church.”

Lasting damage alleged

The plaintiff had been a straight A student prior to McCarrick's abuse, the lawsuit states.

"Upon suffering sexual abuse by McCarrick, however, Plaintiff’s grades slipped dramatically, as he was unable to concentrate, and his behavior at school worsened considerably," the complaint alleges.

"Plaintiff attended three separate high schools, as he was expelled from several high schools for excessive fighting and general bad behavior. He became a wild, unruly child, prone to bursts of anger and untamed aggression, and frequently got into fights with other children (particularly when other boys touched him, as he hated physical contact with other males)," the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff never attended college and instead joined the U.S. Coast Guard, requesting to be stationed in Alaska "to separate himself from McCarrick and his nightmarish experiences to the greatest extent possible," the lawsuit states.

Lawyers for McCarrick, the Archdiocese of Newark, and the Diocese of Metuchen could not be reached for comment Friday.


Little Sisters of the Poor to close Denver nursing home after 105 years

Little Sisters of the Poor. Courtesy of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. / null

Denver, Colo., Aug 5, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

After years of service to the elderly in the Archdiocese of Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor announced this week their intention to withdraw from a nursing home they have operated for more than a century, citing the need to dedicate resources to other projects. 

The Mullen Home complex, located in Denver’s West Highland neighborhood, received its first residents in 1918 after the sisters moved in the year prior. The home includes private rooms for assisted living, apartments for the elderly, a library, and a chapel. It was expanded and renovated between 1975 and 1980. 

The order’s leader in Denver said the decision to close the home had come about following a “lengthy period of prayer, much consultation and much study.”

“As part of a strategic plan aimed at strengthening our ministry and the quality of our religious and community life, we Little Sisters have recognized the need to withdraw from a certain number of Homes in the United States, while at the same time dedicating our resources to much needed upgrades and reconstruction projects in others,” Mother Julie Horseman said in an emailed statement Aug. 3. 

“While it is always difficult for the Little Sisters to withdraw from any of our Homes, know that our immediate concern is for our Residents and Staff members. We will be working with all of them in the coming weeks and months, assisting with this difficult transition.”

According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the land on which the nursing home sits was given to the Little Sisters by John K. Mullen and his wife Catherine in 1917. Mullen was a Denver-based Irish-American entrepreneur and philanthropist who supported many Catholic causes in Denver and elsewhere.

The deed by which Mullen transferred the land to the religious order had a provision whereby the land and buildings would be transferred to the Archdiocese of Denver if the Little Sisters ceased operating the nursing home. The archdiocese is “studying its new purpose with prayerful consideration,” the Little Sisters said. 

“Their intention is to use it to further the mission of the Church and preserve our legacy in the Denver area,” Mother Horseman said. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor began in France in 1839, when the order’s founder, Saint Jeanne Jugan, offered her bed to an elderly woman who was blind and lying paralyzed in the cold. Today, the order serves in 30 countries, with 27 homes in the United States. Because the sisters care for the low-income elderly, they trust in God for financial support. Sources of income such as Medicaid and pensions from the residents generally only cover about half of their expenses, so they beg for the remainder. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver thanked the Little Sisters for their more than 100 years of ministry in the city, adding that the archdiocese is “still in the process of determining the next steps for the property.” 

“I want to offer my heartfelt and sincere gratitude for their work. Whenever I would visit Mullen Home as a priest and later as a bishop, I was always edified by their witness to the Catholic faith and their living out of the corporal works of mercy. Their compassionate care for the elderly provided a witness to Jesus Christ and his love for the poor and the sick,” Aquila said. 

The nearest Little Sisters-run nursing homes to Denver after the Mullen Home closes will be in Gallup, New Mexico and Kansas City, Missouri. 

Visa, Mastercard pause ad buys with Pornhub following controversy


Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 16:37 pm (CNA).

On Thursday, Visa and Mastercard temporarily suspended ad purchases with Pornhub and its parent company, MindGeek, after the latest court ruling in a child pornography lawsuit. 

The action follows a court ruling last week that denied Visa’s request to be removed from the case, which alleged that the company was complicit in a child pornography crime involving a 13-year old girl. 

The ruling determined that “Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn,” but continued to process financial transactions that MindGeek profited off of from “sex trafficking” and distributing explicit content involving children. 

In an Aug. 4 statement addressing the news, Visa’s CEO Alfred F. Kelley Jr. declared that the company “strongly disagree[d]” with the court’s decision and was “confident” in its position. 

“In our view, our company’s role, policies, and practices have been mischaracterized,” Kelley wrote, adding that the allegations were “repugnant and stand in direct contradiction to Visa’s values and purpose.”

Kelley later added that Visa does not make any “moral judgments” on legal purchases made by consumers and that Visa can only be used to purchase content on sites that feature “adult professional actors in legal adult entertainment.”   

But Patrina Mosley, a women and children’s policy advisor, points out the hypocrisy of such a statement. 

“[Visa] acknowledge[s] that sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse are illegal, then goes on to say ‘we do not make moral judgments on legal purchase made by consumers,’” she wrote in an email to CNA. 

“Visa and Mastercard knew exactly what type of business they were getting into when they allowed payments for ads to be processed on Pornhub. It is only after being sued have they relented, further toppling one of the world's largest exploitation sites.”

Mosley, who has over a decade of experience in combatting sexual exploitation, referenced the fact that 16 states in the U.S. have already declared pornography a public health hazard. 

But it’s not enough, she added: “The only way to help prevent exploitation is to make pornography illegal.”

How to comment on Biden rule forcing doctors to perform transition surgeries, abortions

null / Darko Stojanovic via Pixabay (CC0).

Washington D.C., Aug 5, 2022 / 16:36 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration’s proposed rule that would force doctors and hospitals to provide gender transition procedures and abortions went live Wednesday, beginning the 60-day comment period during which members of the public can voice their objections before it becomes the law of the land. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule was published in the Federal Register yesterday. Outside groups and individuals have until October 3, 2022, to submit comments that may be considered in the rule-making process. 

The rule would revise the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “reproductive health care services” including “pregnancy termination" to existing “protections against discrimination on the basis of sex.” 

The action would reverse Trump-era conscience protections for medical professionals. It would also expand the Obama-era version of the rule to include abortion. 

Catholic medical organizations have already stated they will submit comments opposing the rule’s mandate, but a former HHS official is encouraging citizens to speak out too.

Arina Grossu, former senior communications advisor in the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, wrote in an email to CNA that “It is critical for individuals and organizations to express their unique voice through the public comment process while there still is time.

“If you care deeply about protecting conscience rights and the integrity of health care, this is your chance to speak up,” she added.

Grossu, a fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, recommends a guide from the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) that explains how concerned citizens can submit impactful comments on rules. 

“Comments are the public’s last best chance to influence agency rules that will bind or affect them with the force of law,” the resource emphasizes. 

The guide emphasizes that it is important for commenters to submit individual, unique arguments for how the rule would negatively impact them or their organizations. Including relevant expertise and citing personal stories or examples is also helpful.

How to submit comments 

To submit comments online, individuals can navigate to where the rule is posted in the Federal Register and click “Submit a Formal Comment” in the top right-hand of the page. 

An online form with required fields will pop up, asking commenters to submit their comments and specify whether they are an individual, group, or prefer to remain anonymous. 

There is also an option to leave an email address to receive confirmation of one’s submission along with a tracking number, or attach additional documentation to support a comment.

Catholic medical organizations to comment 

Catholic Healthcare Leadership Alliance (CHCLA) released a statement Thursday morning saying it would be adding its comment in opposition to the rule. 

Dr. Steven White, president of CHCLA, called the proposed regulation a “terrible affront” to the rights of doctors who practice in line with their consciences. 

“Catholic hospitals and Catholic health care professionals are bound to follow the long-standing tradition of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and His Church,” he said in the statement, which includes “providing life-affirming care from conception to natural death and upholding the dignity of the human person made in the image of God as male and female.”

You can submit your comments on the rule here

Nicaragua’s Ortega regime blocks bishop from leaving diocesan offices to celebrate Mass

Bishop José Álvarez Lagos surrounded by police officers on Aug. 4, 2022. / Diocese Media TV Merced / Diocese of Matagalpa

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 5, 2022 / 15:11 pm (CNA).

Riot police from the Nicaraguan government blocked the bishop of Matagalpa, José Álvarez Lagos, from leaving the diocesan offices to celebrate Mass on Thursday, Aug. 4.

“I wanted to leave for the cathedral to do the holy hour, the holy Mass, but obviously the higher authorities haven’t given permission, we are here ... shut up inside the diocesan offices,” reported Álvarez, who is also the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí.

A video posted Aug. 4 on social media shows the group of riot police, with batons and shields, blocking the way of the bishop and six other priests from leaving.

“Here we are going to remain without disrespecting the police; we have never disrespected them. I’m going to wait until they allow me to leave,” added the prelate, who immediately afterward blessed the police officers by making the sign of the cross over them.

In addition, the local press reported that between Aug. 1 and Aug. 4 riot police prevented Father Uriel Vallejos and a group of faithful from leaving the rectory of Jesus of the Divine Mercy parish in the town of Sébaco.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights had reported on Aug. 3 that the conditions in the residence worsened after the electricity was cut off and food ran out.

The confinement of the priest and parishioners began after the police forced their way into his parish to shut down the Catholic radio station that operated on the premises. Vallejos is the radio station’s director.

Five other Catholic radio stations were shut down Aug. 1 by order of the government for allegedly not having a valid operating license since 2003. However, the diocese reported that Alvarez said that in 2016 he personally presented the required documentation and never received a reply. 

In response to the recent episodes of violence by the government of Daniel Ortega and his vice president and wife, Rosario Murillo, the clergy of Matagalpa issued a statement Aug. 4 urging “the country’s authorities to respect freedom of speech and religion” and demanded that “the persecution of the Church cease.”

“In turn, we invite the People of God to continue getting down on their knees for the Church, for our priests, and for our beloved Nicaragua,” the message concluded.

The College of Consultants of the Diocese of Estelí also spoke out and charged that the course of events “hinders the exercise of the evangelizing mission of the brother clergy of the Diocese of Matagalpa.”

“We call on the civil authorities of this country to cease the abuses that have been committed without just cause against the pilgrim Church in Nicaragua. We trust that sanity will prevail, and these manifestations coercing fundamental human rights will be avoided,” the College of Consultants said in an Aug. 4 statement.

They also demanded that “the Political Constitution of the Republic be respected” and “that these acts of hatred and violence cease and that people be able to live and work in peace.”

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged the bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicarguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

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

Don’t ignore Canada’s spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes, watchdog says

Fire destroys St. Jean Baptiste parish in Morinville, June 30, 2021. / St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Catholics in Canada suffered the largest spike in religion-based hate crimes last year, and government officials must take action in response, a watchdog group has said.

“Undoubtedly, this increase can be attributed to attacks on Catholic churches in Canada in 2021 including the deliberate burning down of churches,” the Toronto-based Catholic Civil Rights League said Aug. 4. “Mainstream media has reported the overall 27 percent increase, but the most staggering of all increases, the 260% rise in anti-Catholic hate crimes, has been largely ignored.”

The number of incidents targeting Catholics increased more than 260% between 2020 and 2021, according to crime figures from Canada’s national statistical office, Canada Statistics.

On Aug. 2, the office released a comprehensive report on police-reported crime in 2021. The report’s figures for police-reported hate crimes by detailed motivation show the major increase in crimes targeting Catholics. By comparison, from 2020 to 2021 crimes targeting Muslims increased by 71%, while crimes targeting Jews increased by 47%. Crimes targeting “other religions” increased by 60%.

There were 43 total recorded hate crimes against Catholics in 2020, a number which jumped to 155 in 2021. 

Reported crimes against Jews in 2021 totaled 487, while reported crimes against Muslims numbered 144.

It is unknown how many incidents were not reported to police or to the national statistics office. The 2019 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety indicated that only about 22% of perceived hate crimes were reported to police.

The Aug. 2 Canada Statistics report noted that crime figures are dependent on police reporting and only reflect incidents both reported to police and subsequently classified as hate crimes. Changes in reported hate crime figures could reflect an actual increase in crime, or also changes in reporting by the public due to factors including “heightened sensitivity after high-profile events.”

The Catholic Civil Rights League also collects reports of anti-Catholic crimes. The league says that the period of May through August of 2021 saw more attacks on Catholic churches in Canada than any other period.

“Our politicians must speak out against this alarming trend and law enforcement officials must vigorously investigate all incidents of hate crimes against Catholics and charge those responsible,” the organization said.

The league maintains a Church Attacks Database on its website and accepts incident reports from the public. The database records incidents ranging in severity from the breaking of stained-glass windows to acts of desecration and church burnings. The league aims to maintain a database of arrests and convictions in such incidents.

“We will follow through to make sure that law enforcement responds with vigor to this alarming trend in anti-Catholic violence,” the league said.

The Catholic Civil Rights League was founded in 1985. It describes itself as an independent lay organization with a large national membership. Its chaplain is Archbishop Emeritus Adam Exner of Vancouver.

In November 2021 the league noted the “surge” in attacks against churches followed initial reports starting in May 2021 of possible unmarked graves on the property of former residential schools for indigenous Canadians, which were run by Catholic and Protestant entities under the supervision of the federal government.

The preliminary claims about the graves rely on the analysis of ground penetrating radar findings and have yet to be confirmed by exhumation and other analysis. It is also possible that the graves are from community graveyards and include remains of non-students and non-indigenous peoples of the area, including residential school staff and their families.

Sarah Beaulieu, the anthropologist who performed the initial radar testing near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, in July 2021 characterized the 215 radar signatures as “probable burials” and “targets of interest.” The use of ground detecting radar at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan was reported to have found 751 graves.

News reports erroneously depicted the possible graves as “mass graves” and often failed to clarify that the findings had not been confirmed. The reports appeared to have inspired church burnings and other vandalism.

“There have been no indications that these attacks have been carried out by indigenous people and indigenous leaders were quick to condemn these acts of violence,” the Catholic Civil Rights League said in November. “Indeed, there were churches burned down on indigenous land and those serving indigenous Catholic communities.”

For decades, Catholic leaders, indigenous Canadians, and others have sought to address the legacy of Catholic organizations and institutions’ historic involvement in the residential schools, which sought forcibly to assimilate indigenous Canadians.

The final report on the residential schools from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in 2015 that the system was part of a policy of “cultural genocide.”

Some of the schools date to the 1870s. Attendance tended to be compulsory and children were often removed far from their families. The federal government provided poor oversight and few resources, while the schools themselves provided substandard education and negligent housing and care for their boarded students.

An estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of disease, injury, neglect, or abuse over the decades. Tuberculosis was a major killer, as was influenza. The children disproportionately died from disease compared to non-indigenous Canadians.

Pope Francis apologized for the abuses at the residential schools in his visit to Canada last month.

Catholic leaders in other countries have voiced concern about an increase in crimes against churches.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has counted at least 157 criminal incidents at Catholic churches in 37 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020. These include incidents of arson, the beheading of statues, vandalism with anti-Catholic language, and the defacing of headstones. Several of the vandalism incidents in the U.S. referred to the controversy over the residential schools in Canada.

In February 2022, French authorities said provisional figures indicated more than 800 anti-Christian incidents were reported in the country the previous year. France’s Interior Ministry recorded 996 anti-Christian acts in 2019, an average of 2.7 per day.

In France, vandalism and attacks on Christian churches often appear to lack any organized coordination or shared ideological motives. Many perpetrators appear to be disaffected young people, the psychologically disturbed or the homeless. Religious sites also suffer from neglect and a lack of maintenance by public authorities, who own France’s religious buildings under a 1905 law.

Nonetheless, there have been several high-profile terrorist incidents, including the 2016 murder of Father Jacques Hamel as he celebrated Mass at a Normandy church. His attackers were men aligned with the Islamic State.

Mexican bishops offer prayers for trapped miners

A relative of a miner is seen near the coal mine where 10 miners were trapped Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, after a collapse in the Agujita community, Sabinas municipality, Coahuila state, Mexico. / Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 5, 2022 / 13:48 pm (CNA).

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference assured the “prayers and solace” of the Catholic Church for the families of miners trapped in coal mines Aug. 3, praying they “may return safe and sound to their homes.” The bishops also entrusted the miners to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In an Aug. 4 statement, the Mexican bishops said they lament “the accident that occurred yesterday in the coal mines in Sabinas, Coahuila state, where 10 miners are still trapped.”

“As a Church we offer our prayers and solace to the families of the miners,” they said.

The National Coordination of Civil Protection of the Government of Mexico said in a statement that at 1:35 p.m. on Aug. 3, “an accident occurred in a coal mine located in the area known as ‘Conchas’ near the town of Agujita, Sabinas municipio (county), Coahuila.”

“The accident occurred when the workers, in the course of their excavation activities, breached an adjoining area full of water, which caused a flood when it collapsed, trapping a group of miners.”

Five miners managed to escape and have received medical attention. Two have already been discharged.

However, 10 miners remain trapped.

The Mexican bishops said in their statement that “we implore God to give us hope and strengthen us in these moments of anguish, that he may grant us their safe return to their homes.”

“We pray for the lives of each of the trapped miners, and we place them under the intercession of our Mother, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe,” they said.

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

Chinese embassy shares anti-Catholic cartoon amid Pelosi visit to Taiwan

The front of the Chinese embassy in Paris, France / Pymouss|Wikimedia|GFDL

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 5, 2022 / 12:47 pm (CNA).

On the day of a controversial visit to Taiwan by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Chinese Embassy in France tweeted a political cartoon that is drawing criticism for its apparent anti-Catholic message. 

The image, created by a Chinese artist and propagandist named Wuheqilin, shows a gaunt, hooded and witchlike woman — crowned with a ring of stars, reminiscent of the Virgin Mary — leaping into a nursery window, attempting to snatch a baby from its crib. A muscular man holding a hammer, a clear allegory for communism, looks on. 

The woman’s face is that of Pelosi, which the image’s caption also makes clear by way of two hashtags: #Taiwan and #Pelosivisit. However, the tweet also includes the picture’s title in Chinese, which belays a second intended meaning: "Mary, the Baby Thief.” 

Pelosi is one of the highest profile Catholics in U.S. politics, second only to President Joe Biden. Her Tuesday visit to the island of Taiwan — which the U.S. does not officially recognize as independent of China — represented, as the Washington Post reported, the highest-level visit by a U.S. official to the self-governing island in decades.

A caption on top of the image written in English states: "No one likes war, but no father would ever allow someone to steal his child." There is a map of China on the wall, as well as an image of a frog above the baby’s head. 

In an op-ed for UCA News, theologian and cultural anthropologist Michel Chambon noted that there is precedent for the image of a frog being used in China as a slur to refer to the people of Taiwan. He also said the cartoon depicts Pelosi as “a witch who wants to steal Taiwan away from its fatherland.”

Benedict Rogers, a British human rights advocate who studies China, called the image “shockingly crude, sacrilegious and deeply offensive to Catholics and many Christians of other traditions around the world.”

“It is an example of the Chinese Communist Party regime at its most thuggish, depraved, disgusting and inhumane, and signaled a clear willingness to attack Nancy Pelosi on the grounds of her Catholic faith as well as the politics of the situation,” Rogers said in written comments to CNA. 

“This signals what those of us who follow China have known for a long time — the Chinese Communist Party regime's absolute hostility to religion. In recent years we have seen an intensification of the persecution of Christians, including Catholics, and a severe crackdown on religious freedom as a whole.”

The UCA News author noted that the Holy See remains one of the only entities with “global significance” that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China considers Taiwan part of its territory, while Taiwan claims independence.

“For Chinese propagandists with persecution syndromes, amalgamating US policy with global Catholicism is an easy step,” Chambon wrote. 

The Chinese Ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, has spoken about Pelosi’s visit as an "unnecessary provocation," and said this week that once China achieves its professed goal of establishing control over Taiwan, a process of "re-education" of the island's population would follow, Newsweek reported. This would seem to imply a similar process to what is taking place now in Xinjiang, whereby millions of Uyghur Muslims have been rounded up in recent years into “reeducation” camps and forcibly assimilated into Chinese culture. 

China has been conducting major military drills this week, which have included the launching of large missiles into the sea around Taiwan amid the visit. 

Chambon, the UCA News columnist, noted that the tweeted image is “not only offensive but signals a potential return to the early communist ideology that could harm many.” He explained that another layer of meaning to the image may hearken back to a “myth” propagated by the government in the 1950s that “Catholic orphanages were factories to steal and kill Chinese babies.”

The ruling Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist, and religious believers of all stripes have faced persecution in China for years. The Catholic Church in China is split between the “underground” Catholic Church, which is persecuted and loyal to the pope, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is sanctioned by the government. 

The Vatican in 2018 reached an as-yet unpublished provisional agreement with the Chinese government meant to bring about the unification of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the underground Church in communion with Rome. Instead, persecution of the underground Church has continued and, according to some, intensified. Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, a vocal critic of the Vatican-China deal, will face trial in September along with four other prominent democracy advocates. 

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan but has what the State Department calls “a robust unofficial relationship,” which includes deep trade ties. For years the U.S. has operated under a ​​“one-China policy” to avoid angering the Chinese government. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said that the visit is not a sign that U.S. policy on Taiwan has changed.

Rogers, who is a sharp critic of the Vatican’s 2018 deal with China on the appointment of bishops, opined that the Chinese government’s clear animosity toward Catholicism — long known but on full display in the cartoon — provides “yet another reason why the Vatican should rethink its relationship with Beijing.”

Pope Francis has said he hopes the Vatican’s deal with China on the appointment of Catholic bishops will be renewed for a second two-year period in October.

“As the deadline for renewing the agreement with Beijing approaches, the Vatican should consider suspending the agreement in light of the genocide of the Uyghurs, the dismantling of Hong Kong's freedoms, the arrest of 90-year-old Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, the severe persecution of Christians in China and now this blatant insult to Catholics around the world,” Rogers told CNA. 

U.S. bishops urge support for mothers and babies after Biden abortion executive order

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Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2022 / 11:42 am (CNA).

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the U.S. bishops’pro-life chair, on Friday called on President Joe Biden to increase support and care for mothers and children.

The Aug. 5 message was in response to an executive order from the president that facilitates abortion by allow states to use Medicaid to pay for abortion services for women traveling from other states.

“I continue to call on the President and all our elected officials to increase support and care to mothers and babies, rather than facilitate the destruction of defenseless, voiceless human beings,” Lori said.

He added that “Even preceding the Dobbs decision, my brother bishops and I have implored the nation to stand with moms in need, and work together to protect and support women and children.”

“Continued promotion of abortion takes lives and irreparably harms vulnerable pregnant mothers, their families, and society,” Lori stated. “It is the wrong direction to take at a moment when we should be working to support women and to build up a culture of life.”

Biden’s Aug. 3 executive order directed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to “consider action to advance access to reproductive healthcare services” for women, particularly those who travel out of state to have abortions. It was not clear from the language of the executive order exactly which abortion services would be covered.

Under the Hyde Amendment, the use of federal funding for abortions is prohibited except in the cases of rape, incest, or a “life-endangering physical condition” that places the mother “in danger of death.” 

At an Aug. 3 press briefing White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that the order “paves the way for Medicaid to pay for abortions for women having to travel out of state” by allowing states to apply for Medicaid waivers.

When asked by a reporter how the administration would accomplish this in light of the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on federal abortion funding, Jean-Pierre said, “we’re going to leave it to HHS to come up with the details on the specifics on how they’re going to work with states — if a state asks for a waiver — and what that’s going to look like.” 

This is the second executive order the administration has released since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

The order, which calls traveling across state lines for abortions a “bedrock right,” also reaffirms a rule the Biden administration proposed last week that would force doctors to provide abortions. 

In addition, the order calls for data collection and research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to measure accurately “the impact that diminishing access to reproductive health care services has on women’s health.”

Pro-life groups have also criticized the executive order.

Amy Gehrke, Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life, said Aug. 3 that “the women of Illinois and beyond don’t need more ‘help’ obtaining abortions, they need resources that truly give them choices when facing unplanned pregnancies. They need practical resources such as diapers, food, health care, and counseling. We know that over 60 percent of women feel pressured into abortions they don’t really want. They need to know aid is available to help them choose life for their children.”

The executive order, Gehrke said, “is cause to mourn that our president is doing everything he possibly can to degrade women by expanding access to abortion.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the executive order an illegal effort to “force taxpayers to fund abortion on demand until birth in Democrat-led states.”