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Did ‘thousands’ of women die from illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade? WaPo says no

Washington D.C., Dec 14, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- In its 2019 roundup of the biggest lies of the year (dubbed the biggest ‘Pinocchios’), the Washington Post included a false but oft-repeated claim that “thousands” of women died while undergoing illegal abortions before the legalization of abortion in the United States.

This statistic was frequently cited this year by Dr. Leana Wen, who was fired from her position as president of Planned Parenthood in July, just eight months after accepting the job.

“We dug through the statistics and it turns out she was citing numbers from the 1930s, before the advent of antibiotics,” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post said in his 2019 Pinocchio list. “In 1972, the number of deaths in the United States from legal abortions was 24 and from illegal abortions 39, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Wen was “repeatedly” told by her staff that the statistic she was citing was false, but continued to use it anyway, the New York Times reported. Insiders at Planned Parenthood told the New York Times that Wen was ultimately let go because the organization wanted someone at the helm with a more aggressive focus on political advocacy, while Wen had worked to reframe Planned Parenthood primarily as a healthcare organization.

In May of this year, Kessler fact-checked the “thousands of women” claim that Wen had also repeated in interviews. He noted that before abortion became legal, official statistics on the number of women who died from abortions were dicey at best due to the illegality of the procedure and the shame surrounding it.

“Still, by the time Roe was issued, 17 states had liberalized their abortion laws, and the Centers for Disease Control was collecting solid data on abortion mortality,” Kessler noted.

Estimates on the number of abortions performed before Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed for legal abortion in the United States, vary widely - from 200,000 to 1,200,000 per year, according to one 1958 study examined by The Washington Post.

“That’s quite a range for the number of illegal abortions, indicating how fuzzy the numbers are,” Kessler noted in May.

Another study cited in a NARAL document from 1936 used liberal estimates from a gynecologist named Frederick Taussig who used data from just 13 states and guessed at the rest to approximate the annual number of deaths from abortion at roughly 10,000.

But by 1948, researcher Christopher Tietze noted in a paper that deaths from abortion were swiftly decreasing due to the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics, as well as improved medical practices and an increase in available contraceptive methods.

In 1959, the medical director of Planned Parenthood reported that there had only been 260 deaths in the U.S. from illegal abortion, and that the procedure could be considered as safe as any other surgical procedure at the time, Kessler reported.

In 1969, a report in Scientific American magazine by Tietze and Sarah Lewit cited in The Washington Post stated that annually, the “Total mortality from illegal abortions was undoubtedly larger than (235), but in all likelihood it was under 1,000.”

“Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, there is no evidence that in the years immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s decision, thousands of women died every year in the United States from illegal abortions,” Kessler wrote.

New Jersey bishop opposes contraception bill removing religious exemption

Metuchen, N.J., Dec 13, 2019 / 08:40 pm (CNA).- A New Jersey bishop is calling on legislators to amend a bill that would force religious groups to fund contraceptive coverage for their employees, even if doing so violates their religious convictions.

“Legislation (S3804/A5508) is now being considered in the New Jersey legislature which eliminates the long-standing religious employers' exemption in the current law,” said Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen.

“Eliminating the religious employers' exemption would essentially force religious organizations to pay for medications, including abortion causing drugs, sterilizations and other procedures which violate our fundamental belief that all life, from conception to natural death, is sacred,” he said in a Dec. 10 statement.

The bill was introduced to the New Jersey Senate in May and the state’s House of Representatives in June. If passed, it would require full coverage for certain contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in health care plans and remove exemptions for religious organizations.

“Contraception was named as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said bill sponsor Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, according to northjersey.com. “That was 20 years ago, whether or not insurance plans cover contraceptives shouldn’t be a question today.”

The bill must be addressed before the second week of January, when the current legislative session ends. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced his support for the bill in May.

Bishop Checchio stressed the importance of religious liberty as one of the “important building blocks of American society.”

He said the law would threaten the “basic human right” of religious freedom and would place religious organizations in an impossible position, negatively impacting their charitable work, including aid provided to immigrants and those in poverty.

“Passage of this measure would require our Catholic parishes, Catholic schools and agencies such as Catholic Charities to offer our employees comprehensive health benefits in violation of fundamental Catholic principles,” the bishop said.

“If this measure should pass many of our Catholic institutions and services will be seriously impacted. Assistance that we provide to the poor, the frail elderly, the sick and the dying, and to immigrants and their families could be at great risk.”

Edward Sita, a resident of St. Joseph’s Senior Home in Woodbridge, which is operated by the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, also spoke out against the bill.

“One of the principal reasons I am here is because we have a religious organization who wants to care for us,” he said of the senior home.

In a Dec. 12 statement, Sita said he is grateful in particular for the sisters’ attentive care for his wife, who has Alzheimers, as well as the for the opportunity for regular Mass, adoration, and other religious activities offered at the home.

“The folks here do so much and are completely giving of all that is possible to give, and that’s themselves. It’s hard to describe all the good things that are happening here.”

Sita said the proposed law would place the sisters in a “morally impossible situation.” He said he could not imagine life without the sisters’ help, if the home were forced to shut down.

“I couldn’t even imagine it and I pray and I hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.

Bishop Checchio encouraged Catholics to take action against the bill, pointing to a website where people may appeal to their local representatives.

“I urge all of the faithful to contact their state senators today and urge them to amend the proposed legislation, S3804/A5508 to retain the established religious employers' exemption which is contained in current law,” the bishop said.

 

Bishops condemn antisemitism after New Jersey shooting

Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference on Friday condemned the antisemitic shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City earlier this week, reiterating the Church’s absolute condemnation of antisemitism.

“The recent attack on a kosher market in Jersey City, alongside many other recent hateful and at times violent actions, have highlighted the importance of, once again, publicly condemning any and all forms of antisemitism whether in thought, word or action,” said Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, chair of the U.S. bishops’ ecumenical and interreligious affairs committee, on Friday.

“The past has taught us silence and passivity can result in the advancement of the worst crimes humanity can commit,” he said.

On Tuesday, two gunmen fatally shot a police detective in Bay View Cemetery in Jersey City, New Jersey, before entering the nearby Jersey City Kosher Supermarket and shooting four civilians inside, killing three.

After a shootout of several hours, police entered the market and found the two suspects dead;  a pipe bomb was discovered in the U-Haul truck of the shooters parked outside the market.

Bishop Bambera on Friday pledged the Church’s “irrevocable commitment to the Jewish community.”

“At the Second Vatican Council, in Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church articulated, ‘Mindful of the inheritance she shares with the Jews, the Church decries hatreds, persecutions, and manifestations of antisemitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone,’” the bishop stated.

“We offer our prayerful support for all victims of antisemitic violence and their families.”

The two suspects in the shooting reportedly expressed anti-Semitic views online and appeared sympathetic to the Black Hebrew Israelite group, recognized as a hate group. The shootings are reportedly being investigated as domestic terrorism with a hate-crime bent.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Anti-Semitism Task Force, said on Friday the shooting is “yet another wake-up call like the anti-Semitic slaughter in Pittsburgh that demands we redouble efforts to combat anti-Semitism.” The October, 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11.

“Even though Jewish people comprise approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population, the disproportionate number of hate crimes against Jews is absolutely appalling,” Smith said, noting that anti-Jewish crimes made up more than 57% of hate crimes motivated by religious bias, in the 2018 FBI Hate Crimes Report.

Bishop Conley announces medical leave of absence from Lincoln diocese

Lincoln, Neb., Dec 13, 2019 / 12:34 pm (CNA).- Bishop James Conley announced Friday that he is taking a medical leave of absence from his ministry as Bishop of Lincoln, Neb.

“I have been medically diagnosed with depression and anxiety, along with chronic insomnia and debilitating tinnitus, which is a constant ringing of the ears,” Conley wrote in a Dec. 13 letter to Catholics of the Lincoln diocese.

“My doctors have directed me to take a leave of absence for medical and psychological treatment, and to get some much-needed rest. After prayer, and seeking the counsel of my spiritual director, my brother bishops, and my family, I have accepted the medical necessity of a temporary leave of absence,” the bishop added.

Conley wrote that he was sharing information about his health “because I hope, in some small way, to help lift the stigma of mental health issues.”

The bishop explained his own changing perspective on mental health.

“It has been difficult to accept that my mental health problems are real health problems, and not just a defect of my character, especially during a year of difficulty for our diocese.”

“For months, I’ve tried to work through these issues on my own through spiritual direction, counseling, and prayer,” Conley wrote.

“But the truth is that depression and anxiety are real psychological problems, with medical causes, requiring medical treatment. For me, those problems have been coupled with physical symptoms,” the bishop added.

Conley wrote that he “will be at a diocesan retreat facility in the Diocese of Phoenix, thanks to the kind invitation of Bishop Thomas Olmsted, while I undergo the best psychological and medical treatment available to me.”

In a Dec. 13 press release, the Diocese of Lincoln said that Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha will be the temporary apostolic administrator of the diocese during Conley’s absence.

“I offer my full support to Bishop Conley as he steps away from the Diocese of Lincoln to focus on his personal health and well-being. As a brother bishop, I know the demands of being a diocesan pastor; as a friend, I want Bishop Conley to avail himself of the time and the setting that will help him to return to full health and strength. I look forward to welcoming him back when he is ready to return,” Lucas said Dec. 13.

The “difficult time” for the diocese to which Conley referred began in July 2018.

In that month, reports emerged that Msgr. Leonard Kalin, who served as vocations director in the Diocese of Lincoln from 1970 until the late 1990s, had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with seminarians and prospective seminarians.

Kalin, now deceased, reportedly made sexual advances toward seminarians, asked them to help him shower, and would invite seminarians on trips to Las Vegas or for late-night drinks.

Some reports accused Conley’s predecessors of failing to take seriously allegations against Kalin, although an August 2018 statement from the diocese said it had “addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Msgr. Kalin during his time in priestly ministry.”

After the Kalin report emerged, Conley ordered reviews of diocesan policies regarding clerical conduct and accountability, made personnel changes in the diocesan curia, and help listening sessions in the diocese about clerical abuse or misconduct.

Several Lincoln priests were subsequently removed from ministry, and Conley apologized for the way he had handled a 2017 report that a priest had “developed an emotionally inappropriate, non-sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male which involved alcohol.”

The priest was removed from ministry and sent to a treatment center in Houston before allowing him to return to ministry.

Conley said that he attempted to act with integrity, telling the parishioners that the priest had gone away for health reasons. But while he said he did not cover up the situation or oblige anyone to keep silent about it, he said he regrets failing to act with more transparency.

“Even though we were not legally obligated to report the incident, it would have been the prudent thing to do. Because the young man had reached the age of majority, we did not tell his parents about the incident,” Conley said last August.

In September 2018, Nebraska’s attorney general initiated an investigation into whether the state’s three dioceses had mishandled or covered-up allegations of abuse or misconduct. A report on that investigation has not yet been issued.

The diocesan press release did not cover what role Lucas will play in addressing those matters, though Conley’s letter said he had worked with the archbishop “for a smooth transition, with the full support of my senior staff.”

Conley, 64, became Lincoln’s bishop in November 2012. He had been an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Denver since 2008 and had worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops from 1996 until 2006.

The bishop’s announcement comes days after a report from the Associated Press chronicled the mental health challenges experienced by priests, and noted the propensity of ministry leaders toward depression and other difficulties.

Conley wrote that he is hopeful about his medical leave of absence.

“Jesus Christ is the Divine Physician, who offers us the grace of healing. I entrust myself to the healing power of Christ, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” the bishop wrote.

“I am grateful to be your bishop, and I love the Diocese of Lincoln. It will be difficult to be away. Please pray for me, as I pray for you.”

 

Senate passes resolution recognizing Armenian Genocide

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, after several previous attempts to do so were blocked at the direction of the White House.

Senate Resolution 150, introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), expresses “the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”

It was passed with unanimous consent by the chamber on Thursday.

From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in systematic fashion, with reports of forced displacement, torture, mass killings and mass graves in the region.

Thursday’s Senate resolution recognizes the empire’s “campaign of genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians.” It comes after the House passed a similar resolution in October recognizing the genocide.

Turkey has long denied that the genocide took place, claiming that the number of those killed was far less than is commonly estimated and that many deaths were due to the ongoing First World War.

In response to the Armenian genocide resolutions passed by the House and then being considered by the Senate, Erdogan in a Nov. 13 joint press conference with President Trump at the White House condemned the congressional efforts to recognize the genocide.

“And some historical developments and allegations are being used in order to dynamite our reciprocal and bilateral relations,” he said. “Especially in the House of Representatives, some of the resolutions that were passed on October 29th served this very purpose and hurt deeply the Turkish nation, and they have a potential of casting a deep shadow over our bilateral relations.”

“Turkey and the United States stand side by side in order to fully eradicate Daesh and in order to bring peace and stability to Syria once and for all,” he said.  

After Erdogan’s visit, the genocide resolution was blocked from consideration by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), reportedly at the direction of the White House.

Subsequent attempts to bring the resolution up for consideration were blocked by Sens. David Perdue and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). The White House reportedly did not want the resolution enacted because of ongoing talks with Turkey about its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.

Cramer, in a statement provided to CNA, said he offered to block the resolution when informed of the White House’s disapproval.  “When I was told of their concern, I said I would block the UC [unanimous consent] if they would like,” he stated.

The campaign of displacement, violence, and killings of Armenians—mostly Christians—by the Ottoman Empire has been recognized by many scholars as genocide. Pope Francis has recognized the genocide several times by name, including at a mass in 2015 shortly before the centenary of the genocide.

In 2015, the Vatican made public some materials from its archives related to the Armenian genocide, including correspondence between the Holy See and regional political and religious leaders.

The archives spanned from decades before 1915, when state-sanctioned violence against Armenians was occurring, to well into the 20th century, and showed efforts by the Vatican to quell the violence against Armenians and to aid the victims of the genocide.

In his June, 2016 visit to Armenia, Pope Francis recognized the “Great Evil” of the “genocide” of Armenians.

White House summit on family leave follows new House bill

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The White House hosted a summit on paid leave Thursday, hours after the House passed a bill with 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers.

“We’re here today to support the heroic calling of working moms and dads,” President Donald Trump said Dec. 12 at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House. Attending the summit on paid leave and child care were members of Congress and business leaders.

Trump called families the “heart, soul, and backbone for our nation.” He noted the importance of giving mothers the “precious chance” to spend time with a new child through policies allowing them to take leave from work with some sort of compensation.

On Wednesday evening, the House overwhelmingly passed the “conference report” for a massive defense spending bill—the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—that was the result of negotiations between members of the House and Senate. The bill received 377 votes and 48 votes against.

Among its provisions, the bill contains 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees, beginning next October.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) praised the inclusion of paid parental leave in the report as a “significant first step” towards the goal of full paid family and medical leave.

He called for federal civilian employees and private sector employees to see the same benefits, and said he sent a letter to the conference when it appeared that only Department of Defense employees would receive paid parental leave in the bill.

The White House also praised the inclusion of paid parental leave for federal employees in a statement on Tuesday.

At Thursday’s summit, both the President and his daughter Ivanka, who serves as an advisor to the president, pushed for paid family leave as a next step in policy, and President Trump emphasized the importance of “expanded access to quality, affordable child care.”

“As the country’s largest employer, we must lead by example,” Ivanka Trump said, referring to the federal government. “We have a historic chance to pass paid family leave and child care reform,” she said, in order to promote the “dignity of work and the joy of raising a family.”

Members of Congress participated in two panels on paid leave at Thursday’s White House summit, giving acknowledgement to the House passage of the NDAA.

Some of those who need paid leave the most—low-income workers—are also much less likely to have benefits, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) introduced the New Parents Act earlier in 2019 to allow parents to draw from Social Security benefits to defray the cost of leave at the birth of a child.

“The advantage” of paid leave, Rubio said, “is the ability to not have to go on public assistance or debt when you have a child.” Ironically, “the people who can least afford to do that” are much less likely to have paid leave, he said.

Studies show that the vast majority of African-American mothers are the primary breadwinner in a household, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said. According to a report of the Black Women’s Roundtable “State of Black Women in the U.S. & Key States, 2019,” more than 70% of black mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their families.

The working poor might be back at work one or two days after the birth of a child, she said, leaving their children with a neighbor or family member. “The impact this is having on the child,” she said, “on the mother and her own health and well-being, is extraordinary.”

Policies like paid parental and family leave have a multi-layered benefit and are not just a financial bump for families, members said.

“If we’re going to think holistically” about improving health care while lowering costs, “these pieces of legislation actually feed into that,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said. Scripture talks about the generational effects of sin, he said, and the passage of paid leave policies “is a wonderful thing that will pay off upwards” through generations.

Studies show that children experience better behavioral outcomes when they have a parent at home right after birth, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said, showing “the long-term benefits of that initial bonding time.”

The financial strain of a lack of paid leave time results not just in a lack of resources for families, Rep. Joe Cunningham (R-S.C.) said, but takes an “emotional toll” on them. The work of “relieving that anxiety and relieving those pressures,” he said, “at the core of it, that’s why this is so important.”

Cunningham also pointed to the need for better paternity leave policies as he shared his story of the birth of his son when he, as a member of a small law firm, returned to work two days after his son’s birth.

“I regret that,” he said of his prompt return to work, noting that he was absent “for the bonding of my son Boone” and in “being there for my wife.”

“There’s no manual for having kids,” he said. “It’s emotionally draining,” yet “just being there” for one’s spouse “means the world.”

“It’s a shame that we are the only country in the industrialized world that does not have a full-on paid family leave program,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) said, calling the provision in the NDAA a “huge victory” and a “win-win.”

Six California dioceses subpoenaed in sex abuse investigation

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 12, 2019 / 11:33 am (CNA).- The office of California's attorney general has informed six dioceses in the state that they will be issued subpoenas as part of a review of child protection policies and procedures.

“To verify that safeguards are effectively in place and are being appropriately implemented to ensure the safety of our children and young people is crucially important and a shared interest,” the Diocese of Fresno, one of those being subpoenaed, said Dec. 10.

Subpoenas are being issued as well to the local Churches of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Orange. The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 10 that both the Orange and San José dioceses have already received the subpoena orders.

The state's 12 Latin rite dioceses were told in May that attorney general Xavier Becerra would be investigating their handling of sexual abuse allegations involving minors, and they were asked to retain documents related to such allegations.

The six dioceses that will be subpoenaed were also asked to produce documents on the allegations.

The Fresno diocese said it and the other five dioceses have voluntarily cooperated since May with Becerra's office.

“We have worked to accommodate the Attorney General's requests while also following the laws governing the privacy rights of employees, abuse victims and mandated reporters,” it stated. “An abundance of time and resources has already been dedicated to this high-priority undertaking and we will continue to do so until the process can come to completion and accomplishes its goal.”

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno said, “I am committed to fully cooperating with the Attorney General's examination to the best of our ability in accordance with the law.”

“To now undergo a review by the Attorney General's Office is a welcomed process that will help us to advance efforts towards greater transparency; to further learn from our past, scrutinize our current performance in implementing mandated reporting procedures; and, to continue to tirelessly puruse and develop all reasonable measures to protect the vulnerable in our midst,” Bishop Brennan added.

Similarly, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento had said Dec. 6 that the six dioceses have, since May, “been involved in a voluntary effort with the California Attorney General’s office to provide documents related to mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.”

“We share the Attorney General’s desire to conduct a thorough examination of the practices and procedures that seek to protect the children entrusted to our schools, churches and programs. Throughout this process, we have worked to accommodate the Attorney General’s requests while also following the laws governing the privacy rights of employees, abuse victims and mandated reporters,” he added.

Bishop Soto said the subpoenas “will move us toward our shared goal of ensuring that the safeguards in place for our children are working as they should. We remain committed to cooperating with the Attorney General’s inquiry to the best of our ability and as fully as the law permits.”

California adopted a law in October extending the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse victims.

The law allows civil claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed by victims until age 40, or five years after discovering the damages from the abuse. Previously, claims had to be filed by age 26, or within three years of discovering damages from the abuse.

The new law also opens up a three-year window to revive past claims that would have expired under the previous statute of limitations. That window begins Jan. 1, 2020.

Surprise! Chicago suburb is home to a major Guadalupe shrine

Chicago, Ill., Dec 12, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Marian devotion is intense among the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year on her feast day.

Not just her shrine in Mexico City. The Virgin of Guadalupe has a major place of honor in Des Plaines, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

“People make the journey to come, and they leave their flowers and their offerings. They light a candle,” said Father Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “They want to get here, they want to get to her. When you talk to the pilgrims, you see the genuineness of the people’s faith.”

The shrine attracts over 1 million pilgrims each year, and can draw 250,000 people on the Dec. 12 feast day alone, Sanchez told CNA.

While most pilgrims arrive by vehicle, many people walk to the shrine either from Chicago or throughout the Midwest as a sign of devotion or mortification.

“They walk miles to arrive,” said Fr. Sanchez. They each have a story to tell. A 2016 pilgrim walked on his knees part of the final two-and-a-half miles to the shine.

People like him will say “my daughter’s sick, and I want Our Lady to help,” the priest recounted, adding: “the extreme of the expression only indicates the extreme of the concern for their petition.”

The shrine hosts a digital replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the most visited U.S. shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the second most-visited in the world after Mexico’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Its origins date to 1987, when a group of Chicago-area Catholics decided to launch a mission to promote devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe using a special pilgrim statue from the shrine in Mexico City.

In 1995, construction began on an outdoor shrine in Des Plaines modeled after Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, where the Virgin Mary appeared to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.

The apparition helped inspire mass conversions of indigenous people to Christianity.

While devotion to the Guadalupe Marian apparition is strong among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, Fr. Sanchez said other Catholics in America are “beginning to appreciate her a little more, and honor her.”

“I think American Catholics are looking at the story itself, and how much it sounds like the gospel,” he said.

The Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. is promoting Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she has become an image for the pro-life movement as well as for women’s issues, the priest noted. Other ethnic groups are growing in devotion to her, including the Indian and Polish communities.

Sometimes the mortifications of the pilgrims are extreme. In severe cold weather, senior citizens will still walk through the snow.

“Here we don’t judge them. We just get them to Our Lady,” Sanchez said. “Our job is to make sure you get there safely.”

Sometimes safety is a concern.

Once, a group of pilgrims traveled on foot through the northern Illinois city of Rockford on their way to the shrine. They were holding a banner and singing songs. A group of people voicing anti-immigrant attitudes began to assault them, told them to get out of the neighborhood, and threw rocks at them.

“It’s not necessarily a wonderful experience,” Sanchez said. “They continued their pilgrimage and made it.”

The priest suggested the pressures of contemporary American culture also drive devotion.

“Whatever the country is feeling, the community is looking for hope,” he said. “We live in a time when people feel less welcomed, where people feel scared, and often the only thing they feel they can trust is their prayer, and the one thing that has got them through the hardest times of their lives thus far: Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The feast day can create a major traffic issue, with 300,000 people in a 36-hour period. Planning begins months in advance, with the local police department helping to manage the situation.

There are 150 to 200 volunteers just to care for the pilgrims Dec. 11-12.

“Our job is to take care of the pilgrims when they come. They are trying to get to her,” Sanchez said, adding that they aim to help the pilgrims feel loved and well-fed.

“We make sure that the people’s experience is one that is very, very festive,” he said. “There’s a lot of music, a lot of serenading mananitas, a lot of indigenous dancing, what you see in other shrines.”

Sanchez said there is a strong custom in Mexican Hispanic culture of “mandas,” which means “promises” in English.

“People make promises to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a specific intentions or miracles or an act of gratitude,” he said.

“The problem is a lot of people here in the U.S. can’t go back to Mexico. There are immigration issues, economic issues, health issues, there are a lot of issues that keep them from going to Mexico City to fulfill their life’s promise to Our Lady.”

To help these pilgrims fulfill their promises, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City has offered them the same graces and indulgences if they visit the Illinois shrine.

Other pilgrimages come during the novena, the nine days before the feast day.

“We have a pilgrimage of truckers,” Sanzhe said. “They bring their tractor trailers, the truck, just the cab… and they decorate their trucks and they come to the shrine and they have a special Mass in which all their trucks get blessed.”

About 300 horseback riders come through for a separate blessing.

Devotees even organize through their occupations. The local landscapers’ union sought a special blessing and a Mass.

“It’s wonderful to see they’re finding Our Lady of Guadalupe, and how much that really helps them,” the shrine’s rector said.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 12, 2017.

Pro-life doctor weighs in amid furor over Ohio ectopic pregnancy bill

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 12, 2019 / 12:48 am (CNA).- Controversy continues over a bill in Ohio that would require doctors to attempt to “reimplant” embryos removed during procedures to treat ectopic pregnancy, with both pro-life and pro-choice advocates noting that doing so is not yet medically possible.

“I understand the theoretical ideal of being able to do something like that,” Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, a high-risk obstetrician and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami, told CNA in an interview.

“But it's an ideal, and it's theoretical, and I don't know that a lot of patients would go for it...you just have to have proper evidence that this is really a viable option.”

HB413 in the Ohio Legislature includes a provision that doctors must attempt to “reimplant” ectopic pregnancies in a woman’s uterus “if applicable.” The bill, which has garnered attention around the world, is currently in committee.

“[Reimplantation] is so theoretical at this point, that I can't imagine how anybody would vote to approve this,” O’Sullivan commented.

“It's food for thought, no question about that. Maybe it will stimulate some kind of research to see whether this can actually be done, at least in animals.”

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Once implanted, the embryo’s growth is likely to rupture the fallopian tube, which can cause the death of both mother and child.

With modern ultrasound, it is possible to make a diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy fairly early on, as long as you have an early first trimester ultrasound, O’Sullivan said.

There are three common medical procedures to address ectopic pregnancies, she noted, only one of which is widely considered to be moral from a Catholic perspective.

The patient may be offered methotrexate, which is an anti-cancer drug that stops the embryo’s cells from dividing; or the fallopian tube can be opened and the embryo “scooped” out, a salpingostomy; or the segment of the tube can be transected on each side and removed completely, a salpingectomy.

In all of the procedures, the embryo dies. However, in the first two, the procedure itself is an act to end the life of the embryo. A salpingectomy, in contrast, is an act to remove the damaged portion of the fallopian tube.

For this reason, salpingectomies are generally considered moral under the principle of double effect: the objective of the surgery is the removal of the affected tube, and the embryo dies as an undesired - although foreseen - side effect. Since there are no alternative procedures that can save the life of the embryo, this process is considered morally acceptable.

Dr. O’Sullivan said in her view, the methotrexate treatment and the salpingostomy are both abortions.

“What you're doing this time [in a salpingectomy] is you're taking out damaged section of tube, and since it's removed it's cut off from its blood supply, and ultimately the little baby, the little fetus, will die,” O’Sullivan explained.

“In the other two cases, the baby is going to die, too. But both of them are direct attacks on the baby itself. In this latter one, you primary intent is to remove the diseased section of the tube, and you know that the outcome of that will be the loss of the pregnancy.”

Kevin Miller, a Catholic moral theologian at Franciscan University of Steubenville, agreed.

“I think it is somewhere between extremely hard and impossible to conceptualize [methotrexate] administration for ectopic pregnancy as anything other than direct killing of the embryo,” he said.

“The embryo’s death is the chosen means to the end of resolving the ectopic pregnancy and saving the mother from possible hemorrhage – it is not a ‘side effect.’”

“Wait and see”— i.e. not taking any action, and waiting to see if the embryo will naturally dislodge itself— is an option, O’Sullivan said, but this option demands thorough conversation between the patient and physician, and both must be perfectly willing to accept the risk that while they are waiting, the tube could rupture, causing an acute emergency.

“It takes a great deal of counseling, and understanding, and cooperation on the part of both the patient and physician,” she said.

Dr. O'Sullivan said in her experience, in the hospitals she has worked in, patients facing an ectopic pregnancy are offered each of the three treatment options and given the chance to choose for themselves.

“In this world of patient autonomy, often the patient is presented with what the options are, and sometimes they make the decision as to which procedure they would prefer,” she explained.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) reports that incidences of ectopic pregnancy have increased by 600% in the United States in the last two decades.

“Epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute the rise to chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases that can scar the fallopian tubes, as well as failed tubal sterilizations and the increased use of drugs and surgery to induce ovulation. Other conditions, such as endometriosis, can also contribute to this pathology,” the bioethics center says.

Some Catholic bioethicists defend salpingostomy as also being an acceptable procedure. It is a less mutilating procedure than a salpingectomy, and could potentially preserve future fertility, the main reasons doctors may choose it. O’Sullivan said she knows pro-life doctors who have performed salpingostomies.

O’Sullivan said she could find evidence of only two reported cases of a successful replantation of an ectopic pregnancy, one of which allegedly happened in 1917, with the doctor's case report the only evidence that it occurred.

“You have no way of proving that happened. You have to accept what the guy wrote,” she commented.

She said the pregnancy would likely be at 5-6 weeks at the earliest before the doctor sees it, and trying to remove the embryo without damaging the amniotic sac, and trying to put it back into the uterine cavity through the cervix, is in her words “pie in the sky.”

It also would be difficult to get a procedure like this through an institutional review board, O’Sullivan said, because it would be extremely dangerous to test on humans.

“There's absolutely no animal evidence that this would work, that I could find,” O’Sullivan said.

“[The procedure] should be done in animals before you even attempt to do it in humans...I'd be reluctant to talk to a patient about that, and I'd be reluctant to do it without animal evidence of safety.”

 

Voices: 'Our Lady of Guadalupe gave my family a miracle'

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- It was in December of 1991, while attending a novena in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Finbar Church in Burbank, that I learned that there existed a small piece of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the city of Los Angeles.

The associate pastor at the time, Father Peter Irving, explained that this relic was stored at the archdiocesan Archival Center at the San Fernando Mission, and that he had requested it for the novena at St. Finbar. This tiny piece of the tilma is the only piece in existence outside of Mexico City. Being a devoted child of Mary, this fact providentially stuck with me.

Little did I know that Our Lady would save the life of my husband, Vicente, a decade later.

On Friday, May 3, 2002, my husband collapsed due to the rupture of a brain aneurysm. He immediately fell into a coma, flatlined en route to the hospital, and was given less than a 5% chance of surviving. He was 42 years old.

When we went to see him at the hospital, we were greeted by a medical team who took us into a private office and explained that he was gravely ill and that he would most likely not make it through the night. Two different priests went that night to anoint him. The neurosurgeon on call performed an emergency procedure of drilling a hole in my husband’s brain to relieve the pressure. The ventriculostomy drained his brain fluid and the blood from his bleeding brain into a bag. The doctor said that if he survived the night, he would attempt brain surgery.

Hundreds of people began to pray for his recovery. What followed was a series of one miracle after another.

Ian, a ten-year-old friend of the family, offered up his first Holy Communion on Saturday, May 4. Ian’s uncle was my husband’s physician and at the time that Ian was receiving Holy Communion, my husband miraculously woke up from the coma.

Through what I firmly believe to be divine intervention, my husband was transferred to Keck Hospital of USC where doctors were able to seal the brain aneurysm with a coil (a newly pioneered technique at the time) instead of open-brain surgery.

He spent the next four weeks in intensive care. He did not recognize anyone, not even me, his wife.  He developed multiple complications, and doctors at Keck wanted to wait for him to stabilize before placing a shunt in his brain, as he was draining more than 90% of his brain fluid into the external bag. 

I questioned several neurosurgeons about the idea of attempting surgery on such a sick man. They all said that he would definitely need such a surgery — to which I would reply that we were praying for his recovery without a shunt.

It was easy to see that we were praying: a Norbertine priest said Mass daily in his room, a priest of Opus Dei visited him daily, and the room was decorated with holy cards of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo and Saint Josemaria Escriva, among many others.

On May 12, Mother’s Day, the doctors came in to inform me that he had taken a turn for the worst. He had developed meningitis and they would not be able to place the much-needed shunt, which put him at greater danger of developing another infection.

To make matters worse, he was not responding to antibiotics. Nothing seemed to bring the fever down, so he was placed on an ice blanket in an effort to reduce his temperature. I asked again if the shunt was necessary and doctors told me that it was not only necessary, but urgent. I asked about his prognosis and the doctors were clear that he would likely never walk nor recognize people.

It was then that I remembered the relic at the San Fernando Mission.

Our family attended Mass at the mission and my husband was a Eucharistic minister. So I asked Msgr. Francis J. Weber, the archivist for the Archdiocese, whether he could bring the relic. He came to the hospital on May 15 and blessed my husband with the only piece of the tilma in existence outside of Mexico.

I was sure that Our Lady would work a miracle!  My husband had a tube coming out of his head and multiple IV’s. He was on an ice blanket. He had a brain infection, pancreatitis, and hepatitis, and he was not responding to treatment.

On Thursday, the doctor noted that my husband was draining only 50% cerebral fluid into the bag, only 25% on Friday, and nothing by Sunday. We had a miracle!

On Monday, a team of about 15 neurosurgeons and students came in to examine my husband and take a look at his medical record. Though he was not quite “out of the woods” and still in intensive care at that moment, the lead neurosurgeon said he did not have a medical explanation for the healing. 

The impossible became possible and my husband would not need a shunt. 

“Mrs. Cornejo, I don’t know who you prayed to, but if I ever need a miracle, I’ll be calling you,” the doctor said.

My husband began to recover by leaps and bounds and was home by June 6. We even went on to have another daughter after five straight miscarriages (all of which occurred before Vicente’s illness). We named her Frances Marie, because, after all, we could not leave the Blessed Mother out of her name.

Though he was not able to return to work, seventeen years later Vicente is a loving husband and a joyful father to five children, a devoted parishioner at Guardian Angel in Pacoima, and still a passionate musician.

I put my story into words because we have seen her intercession in our lives, and I look back at my life knowing that we are safe in His arms. Being blessed in a special way by this relic is still possible in this great “City of Angels,” and so I can tell others with confidence: Take your needs to her, she will always be Our Mother. 

That is why tonight, December 11, 2019, Vicente and I will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where the relic of the tilma is now permanently housed: to thank her and show our love to her.

 

 

This commentary was first published by Angelus News. It has been reprinted with permission by CNA.