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Secular university’s head of Holocaust studies finds ‘warmer welcome’ at Catholic university

Worcester, Massachusetts, is home to Clark University, Assumption University, and Worcester State University. / Credit: Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Apr 19, 2024 / 11:50 am (CNA).

Mary Jane Rein decided to leave her job as executive director of the Holocaust studies center at the secular Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in hopes of finding a “warmer welcome” at a nearby Catholic university in the same city. 

Rein, who is Jewish, announced that she was resigning in an April Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Why I’m leaving Clark University,” following an incident at an event in which students from Clark heckled her as she attempted to introduce the evening’s speaker, an Israeli military reservist. 

“There is no joy in working on behalf of those students who would, with the support of university leadership, try to silence me in public rather than engage with me civilly,” she wrote. “I can’t invest my time and efforts to advance an institution that lacks the strength of character to protect diverse points of view.”

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Clark University has since issued a statement to the media denying any wrongdoing.

But Rein has already moved on to her new role at the Augustinian-run Assumption University in Worcester to launch the Center for Civic Friendship, an institution with a stated mission to be a national resource on “civic friendship, its possibilities and boundaries, and what makes it harder or easier to achieve,” the center’s website says.

Assumption is led by Greg Weiner, the first Jewish president of a Catholic university in the United States.

“To my surprise as both a scholar and a Jew, I feel a warmer welcome and more commonality of purpose at a Catholic institution than at Clark, a secular one,” Rein wrote in her op-ed.

“I find common cause with Assumption and have chosen to align myself with its mission to pursue truth in the company of friends. Its commitment to a style of learning that acknowledges and respects different opinions gives me hope that universities can lead us toward a better future,” she wrote.

Rein’s departure follows 20 years with the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, an undergraduate and Ph.D. program studying the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and other mass atrocities.

Her parents’ extended families were victims of the Holocaust, Rein wrote in the piece. 

CNA reached out to Rein for comment but did not receive a response.

What happened at Clark?

On March 13, Rein, a self-proclaimed Zionist, helped host a pro-Israel lecture at nearby Worcester State University, along with one of Worcester State’s history professors and the advocacy organization Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts.

The lecturer was a man named Shahar Peled, a soldier of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who was to speak about his experience as a first responder after the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on innocents in Israel by Hamas, Rein wrote in her op-ed.

The event was attended by protesters who “repeatedly” interrupted the lecture, stood up and made statements, rang their cellphones, and even pulled a fire alarm, forcing the evacuation of everyone from the auditorium, according to Rein.

Students are shown in a video of the event online yelling at the speaker, calling the IDF “terrorists” and the soldier a “genocide supporter,” while an alarm is heard going off and police are shown directing people to leave the event.

Rein also said that she was heckled at the talk by “a trio” of Clark University Ph.D. students from the Strassler Center who attended the lecture and whom she is familiar with.

When Rein was being introduced so that she could introduce the soldier, one of the Ph.D. students “shouted,” demanding that Rein’s university title not be used, according to her op-ed.

Rein wrote that the same student spoke at a question and answer session after the talk and accused Israel of committing genocide in its military response in Gaza. The three students then approached Rein after the event, demanded that she resign from her position at Clark and threatened to have her “investigated,” Rein wrote. 

A “senior administrator” at Clark then “admonished” Rein the next day, directing her not to use her university affiliation with events not sponsored by Clark, calling it “highly problematic,” Rein continued.

Rein, who said she never mentioned her title, wrote that she asked the administrator if the university would hold others at Clark to the same standard. 

The administrator replied that while faculty members drawing on their “research and expertise” may “speak freely,” an “administrator in an executive position like yours running a center” would create “confusion” if her title was used, according to Rein.

“I suspected I was being asked to censor myself on the basis of my Jewish identity and support for Israel, as I inferred there would be professional consequences if I presented that disfavored view,” she wrote.

In a statement to the Worcester Business Journal, Clark denied allegations of admonishing Rein. 

“Ms. Rein was not admonished,” the statement said. “As a non-faculty administrator of the Strassler Center, Ms. Rein was provided guidance after the event about appropriately clarifying when participation in future activities is in a professional or personal capacity.”

“This is important because it avoids confusion by making clear when an administrator is representing the university. We would provide this guidance to any administrator at Clark University regardless of religion, identity, or political views,” the university wrote.

The school also said that if the interruption had occurred on Clark’s campus, “we would have intervened and handled the disruption consistent with our community standards and policies articulated in our Student Code of Conduct.”

“As specified in our Code of Conduct Clark students are responsible for their behavior outside the university’s confines. However, the university may invoke disciplinary action when notified of violations of federal, state, and local laws,” the statement said.

Catholic universities a haven for Jewish students

“I am ready to sign on to a different cause, one rooted in respect, honest inquiry, and the free exchange of ideas in the context of civic friendship. I will be joining Assumption University, where I will help launch the new Center for Civic Friendship,” she wrote.

Her departure to a Catholic university comes as a number of Catholic universities have sought to make themselves more hospitable to Jewish students amid the war between Israel and Hamas since the Oct. 7 attack on innocents in Israel.

Since the war began there have been several reported instances of pro-Palestinian demonstrations on college campuses across the nation that have resulted in the harassment of Jewish students. Many reports have indicated that Jewish students feel unsafe on campus.

Last October, a coalition of over 100 institutions called Universities United Against Terrorism denounced the Oct. 7 attacks, adding that they “stand with Israel, with the Palestinians who suffer under Hamas’ cruel rule in Gaza and with all people of moral conscience.”

Many of those institutions are Catholic, including Assumption University, Catholic University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, University of Notre Dame, Mercyhurst University, and Salve Regina University, among others.

All of the schools in the coalition vowed to offer Jewish students an “expedited” transfer process, Stephen Hildebrand, Franciscan University’s then-vice president for campus affairs told The Times of Israel last November. Hildebrand said that several Jewish students had reached out to the school at the time with interest in transferring.

However, a school spokesman told CNA Thursday that ultimately none ended up doing so but the offer still stands.

“It just seemed so obvious, the right thing to do,” Hildebrand told the outlet. “To make our Jewish brethren aware if they need help that we are here as a safe haven.”

“We are doing this because of our Catholic faith, not in spite of it,” he said.

Scotland pauses sex-change and puberty-blocker drugs for children

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Scotland’s only gender clinic for minors is formally pausing the prescription of puberty blockers and hormone medications that are designed to facilitate gender transitions for children after a review commissioned by the English government questioned the efficacy of those practices.

This announcement effectively ends the practice of providing sex-change drugs and hormone medications to children in Scotland — just one month after England instituted the same ban.

Per the new policy formalized on April 18, new patients in Scotland must wait until they are 18 years old to access those drugs or hormone medications. However, patients who are under the age of 18 and have already begun such remedies to facilitate a gender transition will not be forced to stop.

“We are committed to providing the best possible clinical care for young people … and [we] understand the distress that gender incongruence can cause,” the announcement from the Glasgow-based Sandyford Sexual Health Service read.

“While this pause is in place, we will continue to give anyone who is referred into the Young People Gender Service the psychological support that they require while we review the pathways in line with the findings,” the announcement added.

The National Health Services of Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), which is the publicly funded health care system that runs the gender clinic, formally notified its patients of the pause on Thursday.

According to a statement from NHSGGC, these remedies were paused because of the findings in the Cass Review: a comprehensive report on gender transition treatments for minors that was commissioned by the English government. The report, led by Dr. Hilary Cass, found that the rationale used to justify sex-change drugs and hormone alterations to facilitate sex changes in children is based on weak evidence and that the health risks it poses to children are unclear. 

“The findings informing the Cass Review are important, and we have reviewed the impact on our clinical pathways,” NHSGGC Director of Public Health Emilia Crighton said in a statement.

“The next step from here is to work with the Scottish government and academic partners to generate evidence that enables us to deliver safe care for our patients,” she added.

Crighton also said the “toxicity around public debate” about treatments for children with gender dysphoria “is impacting the lives of young people seeking the care of our service and does not serve the teams working hard to care and support them.”

Tracey Gillies, the executive medical director of NHS Lothian, emphasized the importance of putting patient safety above all else.

“The Cass Review is a significant piece of work into how the NHS can better support children and young people who present with gender dysphoria,” Gillies said in a statement. “Patient safety must always be our priority, and it is right that we pause this treatment to allow more research to be carried out.”

Researchers in the United States have also been studying the potential that puberty blockers could cause irreversible negative effects on children. A study published by the Mayo Clinic in March found that boys who take puberty blockers could suffer “irreversible” harm based on the effects the drugs have on testicular cells.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Minnesota, which is a leading research institution in the field of genetics that has produced five Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

Although some Republican-led states in the United States have begun to prohibit doctors from prescribing these drugs and hormone medications to children, the practice is still legal in more than half of the country. Access to these drugs, and access to sex-change surgeries for minors, has become a leading cause of division between Republicans and Democrats in the country.

Planned Parenthood reports record number of abortions in latest annual report

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Planned Parenthood’s latest report reveals that the abortion giant performed its highest-ever number of abortions the year Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Released on Tuesday, the 2022-2023 report, titled “Above & Beyond,” shows that Planned Parenthood performed 392,715 abortions between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022. This is an increase of 18,560 — or 5% — from the previous report, which showed 374,155 abortions in a one-year period.

According to an analysis by the faith-based law firm Liberty Counsel, Planned Parenthood’s latest abortion numbers mean that the organization ended 1,075 human lives through abortion every day and 44 every hour.

Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said that despite the Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, “Planned Parenthood’s annual report reveals once again that its primary mission is making huge profit by aborting innocent babies.”

The Planned Parenthood report reflects abortion numbers in the months before and after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. The document says that locations in states “where abortion is protected” saw a 700% increase in demand. The report also said that Planned Parenthood helped to refer and coordinate travel for over 33,000 abortions.

While showing a 10-year high in abortions, overall services offered by Planned Parenthood, such as cancer screenings, prenatal services, contraceptive services, and STD prevention, continued a downward trend, according to the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.

The Lozier Institute’s analysis of the report found that Planned Parenthood’s total services are down by 17% since 2010 while cancer screenings and prevention services are notably down 71%.

According to the Lozier Institute, Planned Parenthood performed 228 abortions for every adoption referral between 2021 and 2022.

Planned Parenthood’s 2023 revenue, meanwhile, amounted to nearly $2.1 billion, which is an increase from approximately $1.9 billion reported the previous year. As much as $699.3 million of that revenue came from tax-dollar-funded government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements, according to the report.

Pro-life advocates responded to the report by criticizing Planned Parenthood for its emphasis on abortions rather than health care.

“Planned Parenthood murdered an average of: 1,076 babies every day 45 babies every hour 1 baby every 80 seconds,” Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, said on X.

“We must defund & shut down Planned Parenthood NOW,” she said.

Michael New, a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, wrote at National Review that the figures were “consistent with Planned Parenthood’s long-term trend of performing more abortions and providing fewer health services.”

“This is helpful information as pro-lifers continue our efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at both the state and the federal levels,” New said.

“This report is jarringly titled ‘Above and Beyond.’ The sick irony is that they are going ‘above and beyond’ not to care for women but to expand abortion,” Human Coalition President Jeff Bradford said in a statement to CNA. 

The result, Bradford continued, is “more wounded women” and “more dead children.” 

“At Human Coalition, we know full well that vulnerable women are victims of the abortion industry because we see the walking wounded all the time,” Bradford said in the statement. 

“They leave abortion clinics and return to the very circumstances that pressured them to abort in the first place — poverty, unemployment, family pressure, or domestic abuse. Abortion solves none of these problems,” he said.

Cardinal Gregory recalls time when Black Catholics could not study in U.S. seminaries

Cardinal Wilton Gregory speaks at an interview in Rome on April 11, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly” screen shot

Rome Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

As the Catholic Church’s first African American cardinal was honored at a U.S. seminary in Rome, he recalled the legacy of faith and perseverance of Black Catholics in America, including at a time when they were not accepted by U.S. seminaries. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, received this year’s Rector’s Award at an April 11 banquet at the Pontifical North American College, where seminarians from across 99 dioceses in the U.S. live while studying for the priesthood in Rome.

In an interview with CNA before the award ceremony, Gregory pointed out that in the 19th century, African Americans who had a vocation to the priesthood were sent to study in Rome and then to serve as missionaries in Africa because at the time they were not allowed to enter U.S. seminaries.

“Being in Rome reminds me also that Rome is the place that provided a seminary education and formation for Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest to serve openly in the United States,” Gregory said.

Tolton “came to Rome because Rome … was willing to take him on as a seminarian when no other seminary in the United States would accept that.”

Venerable Augustus Tolton, a former slave turned Catholic priest, is now on the path to sainthood in the Catholic Church. He studied in Rome near the Spanish Steps at the Pontifical Urban University, run by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, from 1880 to 1886, when he was ordained in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Tolton offered his first Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 25, 1886. One hundred and thirty-four years later, Pope Francis made Gregory the first African American cardinal in a ceremony in the same basilica in 2020. 

“I know that the honor that was given to me by Pope Francis rested solidly on the faith of African American Catholics,” Gregory told CNA.

“Even in times when we weren’t respected, or understood, or honored, we remained faithful.”

“And the fact that I can enjoy the office, knowing that it rests on the quality of goodness, faith, and charity of the African American community, humbles me deeply,” the cardinal said with tears in his eyes.

Gregory has led the Archdiocese of Washington since 2019. He said that navigating a U.S. presidential election year as the archbishop requires prudence.

“We’re living in a very divisive moment, both in our political life in the United States, but sometimes also … in our Church,” he said.

“In the United States, we’re struggling with trying to be one people —  one people with a common purpose, a common future. And sometimes the rhetoric gets to be so hostile and so vitriolic that it causes us to step back and say, ‘Is this really the nation that is the land of the free and the home of the brave?’”

The cardinal, who will be in Rome for the month leading up to the U.S. election as a delegate in the Synod on Synodality, said that his task is “difficult, but not impossible.”

“As the archbishop of Washington, I have to focus on the fact that in spite of all of the differences that are at play, I have wonderful people in my archdiocese. And people have great generosity and devotion to the country and to the Church.”

Gregory recently made headlines for calling President Joe Biden a “cafeteria Catholic” in an Easter interview on “Face the Nation,” explaining that Biden “picks and chooses dimensions of the faith to highlight while ignoring or even contradicting other parts.”

While he did not receive a response from the White House to the comments, the cardinal said that “the overwhelming response was positive” from the Catholics in his archdiocese.

“I respect the president. I believe that he is a sincere man of faith, I really do believe that. I would just ask that he would somehow find a way to better allow his personal religious convictions to engage in the public forum,” Gregory said.

The cardinal pointed to the Vatican’s recent declaration on human dignity, Dignitas Infinita, as “a wonderful summation of the Church’s moral teaching.”

Gregory said that he hopes that the Eucharistic revival in the U.S. will lead American Catholics to “draw closer together as a family of faith around the altar that Christ sets for us.”

“The emphasis on the Real Presence also should generate the next question: If Christ is really present and I receive him in the Eucharist, what does that demand of me?” he said.

“His Eucharistic presence is a gift of unquestionable importance. But it’s also a challenge that those of us who dine with him must live like him and have the same values that he expressed in the Gospels as his legacy of faith and love.”

Tennessee names first English-language Bible translation in U.S. as official state book

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during the signing of the ELVIS Act to Protect Voice & Likeness in Age of AI event at Robert’s Western World on March 21, 2024, in Nashville, Tennessee. / Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Human Artistry Campaign

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The first English-language translation of the Bible in the United States will become an “official state book” in Tennessee on July 1.

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed a bill on Tuesday that names the Aitken Bible and nine other texts as official state books in the Tennessee Blue Book (an official manual on the state government). This is the first time Tennessee has formally recognized any official state books.

The Bible translation was published by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken in 1782 and received an official endorsement from Congress. The American Revolution, which began in 1776, halted trade with Great Britain and cut off the supply of Bibles, which prompted Aitken to publish an English-language Bible in the country, according to the legislation.

Aitken’s translation received its official endorsement from the Congress of the Confederation in 1782, which was the American legislative body that preceded the establishment of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The 18th-century resolution states that the lawmakers “highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as the interest of the progress of arts in this country.” It further states that the lawmakers “recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.”

The translation, which is a version of the Protestant King James Version of the Bible, is not approved by the Vatican for Catholics. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lists approved translations of the Bible on its website.

Tennessee’s legislation that names the Aitken Bible as an official state book notes that the state is home to “the largest publisher of authentic reproductions of the Aitken Bible,” which is the Aitken Bible Historical Foundation. It adds that Tennessee is home to “three of the five privately owned original first American Bibles remaining in the world today.”

The legislation received strong support from Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate, who hold strong supermajorities in both chambers. The bill faced opposition from most Democrats but received one Democratic vote in the House.

Some of the other historic books designated as official state books in this legislation included President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. The bill also recognized the 1977 book “Roots” by Alex Haley, which discusses slavery in the United States, and the 2016 book “Coat of Many Colors” by the Tennessee-born country singer Dolly Parton.

Tennessee lawmakers also passed a bill that would recognize November as “Christian Heritage Month.” The legislation was sent to Lee, but the governor has not yet taken any action on it.

Michigan priest resigns amid dispute over school appearance by ‘openly gay’ author 

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CNA Staff, Apr 18, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

A priest at a Michigan parish has resigned his post following a controversy over an “openly gay” author’s appearance at the parish parochial school’s pre-kindergarten class.

Father Thomas Held has resigned from the pastorship at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Beal City “effective immediately,” Diocese of Saginaw Bishop Robert Gruss said in a statement on Tuesday.

The parish and Held himself have been at the center of controversy since last month after area author Dominic Thrasher made an appearance at the parish’s school to read one of his children’s books, which are based on his family’s dogs. 

Thrasher has identified himself as “openly gay.” About a week after he visited the school, the church’s Facebook page was updated with a message from Held in which he wrote that “a guest who does not represent the values of our Catholic faith read to our pre-k children” as part of a schoolwide reading program. 

“To my knowledge, the book and any related conversation [were] appropriate for our students. A St. Joseph teacher was present in the room at all times,” the priest wrote. 

In the post, Held said he was “unaware” that Thrasher had been invited. 

“As your pastor, I will see to it that a new vetting police is put in place in order to minimize anything of the sort from happening again in the future,” he wrote. 

Backlash erupted following the message, with protesters demonstrating against Held and local businesses calling for his removal. A Facebook group demanding his dismissal grew to hundreds of participants, while critics urged residents to write to the diocese with complaints about the priest. 

On Tuesday, Gruss said that the controversy led Held to “come to the decision that it would be impossible for him to bring unity to the parish.”

The bishop in his statement criticized what he said was uncharitable “disunity” on display amid the controversy.

“The division, lack of charity, and the wounds caused by the division in the St. Joseph the Worker Parish community has brought deep sadness to the Lord Jesus, especially when we are living in the light of the Resurrection we celebrated on Easter Sunday,” Gruss wrote in his statement. 

“Jesus weeps when he sees division and disunity in the body of Christ, his Church. It is not his desire nor his will,” the prelate said. “The Gospel of Jesus calls all of us to be a healing presence in the community in which we live and worship.”

“My prayers and concern go out to all the members of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic community, that Christ’s peace may be a uniting force for a greater good,” the bishop added. 

Visiting priests will oversee Mass at the Beal City parish until a permanent pastor can be appointed, the bishop said.

In the weeks since the controversy began, Thrasher himself has expressed anger over the priest’s decision to post the statement, telling local media that the priest’s remarks had “made me out like I’m some predator or convict coming in to read to these children.” 

Thrasher did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning. Following Held’s resignation, meanwhile, he told a local news station that “a battle has been won, but the war is not over.”

The Saginaw Diocese is located in the central part of the state. Beal City is about 60 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. 

St. Joseph Parish dates back to the 1880s and was originally called St. Philomena. The school serves preschool through sixth graders.

House Republicans call for NCAA ban on biological men in women’s sports

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A group of 17 House Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Claudia Tenney from New York, is urging the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to prohibit biological men from participating in women’s sports.

Under current NCAA rules, biological male athletes who self-identify as women can participate in women-only sports competitions if they take testosterone suppressants and bring down their testosterone levels to the maximum allowed for a specific sport. The athletes must provide documentation several times per year to show their testosterone levels.

The lawmakers penned a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker that asks him to limit participation in women-only sports to biological women. They sent the letter to Baker about a week after a smaller college athletics association — the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) — unanimously voted to restrict most women’s sports to biological women and forbade biological males from participating in such competitions.

“We must protect the opportunity for women and girls to compete and succeed in athletics fairly,” Tenney said in a statement.

“While I applaud the NAIA’s recent decision to ban biological men from women’s sports, I am deeply disturbed that the NCAA is ignoring the facts and failing to do the same,” Tenney added. “Women fought hard to earn the critical protections of Title IX, and we must continue to protect these opportunities for generations to come. I am dedicated to defending the future of women’s sports and providing a level playing field for all female athletes.”

The letter praises the NAIA decision, stating it “appropriately recognizes the natural advantages that biological men have in certain athletic competitions.” It asks Baker “to reconsider [the NCAA’s] current policy that allows biological males to deprive women of a fair opportunity to compete and achieve athletic success.” 

“All women in NCAA-affiliated schools should not fear having their athletic accomplishments minimized by biological males, as happened in the 2022 NCAA 500-yard freestyle event, with Lia Thomas, a biological man, taking the championship over Emma Weyant,” the lawmakers wrote. “This cannot be allowed to ever happen again. The NCAA must follow the NAIA’s lead and prohibit biological males from competing in women’s sports.”

In the letter, the lawmakers cite a 2022 study that found that biological men have certain physical advantages over biological women, even after taking testosterone suppressants. The study, titled “Transwoman Elite Athletes: Their Extra Percentage Relative to Female Physiology,” noted that many anatomical sex differences that are driven by testosterone are not reversible. 

“The NCAA’s current transgender policy fails to take these scientific facts into consideration,” the lawmakers said.

The NAIA is the governing body for about 250 colleges and universities. The NCAA represents more than 1,100 colleges and universities, which includes dozens of Catholic institutions. The NCAA rules do not require Catholic institutions to permit biological men on the women’s teams; however, they may be forced to compete against colleges and universities that include biological men on their teams. 

About two dozen states have passed legislation to restrict women’s and girls’ sports to only biological women and girls in recent years. Still, more than half of the states in the country allow biological men who identify as women to participate in women’s sports.

Arizona lawmakers vote to retain law protecting life at conception

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Arizona House Republicans blocked two attempts on Wednesday to repeal an 1864 law protecting life at conception.

In a near party-line 30-30 vote on Wednesday, House Democrats failed to gain a majority of votes to suspend the Legislature’s rules to fast-track a so-called “abortion ban repeal” bill that would have overturned the 1864 pro-life law

Dormant since being invalidated by Roe v. Wade in 1973, the 1864 law protects all unborn life from conception and imposes prison time for those who “provide, supply, or administer” an abortion. 

This temporarily stalls ongoing efforts to repeal the law, which is set to go into effect in the next 37 days.

Debate on the House floor was tense just before the vote as Democrats called the pro-life law “abhorrent” and “archaic.” 

Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez bashed Republicans, saying that “the fact that we will not even entertain a motion to allow those who have been raped or pregnant by incest to be able to have an abortion is extremely, extremely disappointing.” 

Republican Rep. Ben Toma, meanwhile, said: “I understand that we have deeply held beliefs [about abortion], and I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children.” 

Abortion is currently legal in Arizona until the 15th week of pregnancy. If the 1864 law takes effect, however, all abortion will be illegal, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. 

Outrage from abortion advocates erupted last week when the Arizona Supreme Court issued an April 9 ruling that cleared the way for the law to go back into effect. The court ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision, there were no legal reasons to keep the law from being enforced.

Planned Parenthood is continuing abortions in Arizona for the time being. The abortion organization holds that a separate ruling by the Maricopa County Superior Court keeps the 1864 law from being enforced until 45 days after the high court’s ruling. 

After the state Supreme Court’s ruling, Democrats in the Arizona House moved quickly to repeal the law, demanding a vote on the measure on April 10. That attempt was also blocked by Republicans. After their efforts to repeal the law were blocked, Democrats began shouting “shame” and “blood on your hands” at their Republican colleagues on the House floor.

This comes as Arizona will likely be one of several states considering an abortion-until-birth amendment on the ballot this November. If passed, the amendment would enshrine a “right” to abortion in the state constitution, strike down virtually all of Arizona’s pro-life protections, and legalize abortion until viability and through all nine months of pregnancy for physical or mental health reasons.

The group advocating for the amendment, Arizona for Abortion Access PAC, has surpassed the required number of signatures and already filed language with the state to include the proposal on the November ballot.

The Arizona secretary of state’s office has yet to verify the signatures, which must happen before the initiative will officially be on the ballot.

The Arizona Catholic Conference, which consists of the state’s four bishops, has spoken out against the ballot initiative, saying that it would “remove most safeguards for girls and women” and “allow for painful late-term abortions of viable preborn babies.” 

“We do not believe that this extreme initiative is what Arizona wants or needs, and we continue to pray that it does not succeed,” the Arizona bishops said in a statement published April 9.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 11,530 babies were killed through abortion in Arizona in 2022. 

Caitlin Clark’s former coach says she ‘tries to maximize her God-given talents’

Caitlin Clark attended Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she was coached by Kristin Meyer, who joined “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on April 16, 2024, to share what it has been like for her to watch Clark become a basketball phenom. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly” screen shot

CNA Staff, Apr 17, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Caitlin Clark, a guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes, was selected as the No. 1 draft pick by the Indiana Fever in the 2024 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft on April 15. 

The record-breaking face of women’s college basketball ended her collegiate career with 3,951 points — the most in men’s and women’s Division I history — and was a two-time national player of the year among a multitude of other impressive achievements and recognitions.

Raised in a Catholic household, Clark attended Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she was coached by Kristin Meyer.

Meyer joined “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on April 16 to share what it has been like for her to watch Clark become a basketball phenom. 

“I always expected her to be successful in college,” Meyer said. “She is a tremendous basketball player, and we saw that throughout her high school years. So, I’m not all that surprised to see the success that she’s had.”

Meyer added that the community in West Des Moines and at Dowling Catholic are not only proud of her accomplishments but also about “how she carries herself as a person.”

“She’s a great leader, a great teammate, and she’s really making a positive impact on not just the sports world, but I think [on] the world in general,” Meyer said.

Meyer explained that Clark’s mother, Anne, along with her aunts and uncles on her mother’s side all attended Dowling Catholic. Clark’s grandfather was also a football coach and teacher at the school. 

“The main reason that her family was involved in Dowling Catholic was because of the faith component, and so Caitlin was always going to go to Dowling Catholic, and she really enjoyed her four years here,” she recalled. 

However, Meyer admitted that Clark was not vocal in high school about her dream to become a professional basketball player. 

“She didn’t really talk about it a lot, but her skill set definitely made me think that it was possible,” Meyer said. “She’s always been one who’s focused on the here and now. So I think she had those long-term goals, but she just wanted to everyday maximize her potential and her time and her efforts. And so she just focused on getting better every single day.”

The high school coach pointed out that “Caitlin is a type of person [for whom] it’s always been important ... to maximize her God-given talents and to share those with the world.”

Meyer continued: “She knows that some of her gifts from God are not only her athleticism but [also] her ability to entertain. So I think she really just tries to maximize those gifts and share those with the world through the sport of basketball.”

The segment of Meyer’s interview on “EWTN News Nightly” can be viewed below.

Catholic and Anglican nuns defend religious freedom in New York’s highest court

Anglican nuns from Sisterhood of Saint Mary (photographed with bishops from the Anglican Church of North America's Diocese of the Living Word) are among those suing the state of New York for requiring that they cover abortion in their health plans. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Becket Law

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

A coalition of Christian groups — including Catholic nuns, Anglican nuns, Catholic dioceses, and other faith-based ministries — defended their religious freedom rights to abstain from covering abortions in their health care plans in front of New York’s highest court on Tuesday.

The New York State Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges a New York Department of Financial Services regulation that could require the organizations to cover “medically necessary” abortions. Although the law includes a narrow religious exemption, the strict criteria needed to qualify for the exemption could prevent many faith-based organizations from being approved.

Even though the New York State Court of Appeals previously upheld the regulation, the United States Supreme Court asked that the court reconsider its ruling in light of the new religious freedom precedent set in 2021.

Noel Francisco, the lawyer representing the religious groups, told the seven-judge panel that the regulation would force these groups to violate their religious beliefs. He said the narrow religious exemption allows some faith-based groups to abstain from funding abortion but that others fail to qualify, which effectively lets the state “pick religious winners and losers.”

Per the state regulation, a faith-based organization would only qualify for the exemption if it primarily employs people who share in its religious tenets and primarily serves people who share in its religious tenets. Effectively, charitable faith-based organizations that provide services to people regardless of their faith are unable to qualify.

In his oral arguments, Francisco argued that the law is not generally applicable because it does not treat all religious groups equally and prevents some faith-based groups from qualifying for an exemption based on its narrow criteria. Under the strict rules, he noted that the ministry of St. Teresa of Calcutta, widely known as Mother Teresa, would not even be able to qualify for a religious exemption under such rules.

“Under this law, the state would have the discretion to deny a religious employer exemption to Mother Teresa and the sisters of Calcutta because, the last time I checked, the poor people of Calcutta were not predominantly Catholic,” Francisco told the judges. “This is a regime that is contrary to the Supreme Court precedent from root to branch.”

The judges challenged Assistant Solicitor General Laura Etlinger, who represented the state agency that promulgated the regulation, during oral arguments. One of the primary concerns expressed by the judges was that the regulation would force faith-based ministries to either provide abortion coverage or drastically curtail their religious mission to conform themselves to the exemption criteria.

In her oral arguments, Etlinger claimed the state drew “a reasonable line” when setting the criteria for an exemption. She further argued that ruling against the state would “discourage the state from providing accommodations” and the result would be “restrictions on free exercise rather than promoting free exercise.”

Etlinger told the judges that there is “deference [given] to the requesting objector” when an organization applies for the exemption and noted the organizations suing the state “have never sought an exemption.”

In a rebuttal, Francisco countered that his clients did not apply for an exemption because they provide services to people regardless of faith and clearly did not meet the criteria set in the state regulation.

The United States Supreme Court requested that the New York State Court of Appeals reconsider the case in light of the religious freedom victory in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that Philadelphia could not discriminate against faith-based adoption services that refuse to facilitate adoptions for homosexual couples.