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Pro-life legal experts say they're encouraged by justices' questions in Dobbs abortion case

Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 4, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Three legal experts are expressing optimism for a pro-life victory in the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationside.

“I am hopeful that the court will take the opportunity in Dobbs to correct the grievous error of Roe v. Wade, and get the court out of our nation's abortion politics,” Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA after the Supreme Court heard arguments on Dec. 1.

The case involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks and centers on the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” or whether states can ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. 

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. In 1992, the court largely upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. If Roe is overturned — one possible outcome of the Dobbs case — abortion law would be left up to each individual state. 

“Today the court did a great job articulating its constitutional role: not to pick winners and losers on divisive issues like abortion, but to remain ‘scrupulously neutral,’ as Justice Kavanaugh said,” Severino tweeted just hours after the arguments. “The way it works out will look different in different states, but the Court should let the people decide.”

Although the arguments were held in December, the Supreme Court generally releases decisions in high-profile cases, such as this one, at the end of its term in June. 

Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA

“I am very encouraged by oral argument and the prospect of a favorable decision this summer, but we should keep up our prayers for the justices,” legal scholar Erika Bachiochi told CNA.

Bachiochi serves as a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she founded and directs the Wollstonecraft Project.

She identified one part of the oral arguments that she found surprising.

“Although I suppose shouldn’t have been, I was surprised by Justice Sotomayer’s naked pro-abortion rhetoric, especially with regard to her question concerning the ‘religious’ source of a 15-week abortion ban,” she said. “Does she really not know the science of fetal development?” 

During the oral argument, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Scott G. Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi.

“How is your interest anything but a religious view?” she asked. “The issue of when life begins has been hotly debated by philosophers since the beginning of time. It's still debated in religions.”

She added, “So, when you say this is the only right that takes away from the state the ability to protect a life, that's a religious view, isn't it — because it assumes that a fetus' life at — when? You're not drawing — you're — when do you suggest we begin that life? Putting it aside from religion.”

In anticipation of the oral argument, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, documented information about 15-week-old unborn babies, who can, among other things, already exhibit whether they prefer sucking their right or left thumb.

Earlier this year, Bachiochi, together with law professors Teresa Collett and Helen Alvaré, filed an amicus brief representing 240 women scholars and professionals and various pro-life organizations in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In a piece published by the National Catholic Register, Alvaré, a professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, found the oral argument “promising for the pro-life cause.”

But, she added, “it would be impossible to cram into the few minutes of an oral argument all the reason, facts, principles, analyses — and hopes — of 50 years of pro-life argumentation,” she wrote. “There was no time to call out abortion advocates’ lies, more lies, and made-up statistics. No time to show that women have not depended upon abortion for their dignity and freedom, but that the opposite is true. No time to detail the miraculous, the beautiful humanity of the unborn.” 

“Based strictly upon the oral arguments, it is clear that Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan will vote to uphold abortion rights,” she said. “It is more difficult to pronounce where the remaining Justices might fall, but their comments were largely promising.”

Report: Hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits filed against New Jersey Catholic priests during 2-year window

Theodore McCarrick arrives at Dedham District Court on Friday morning, Sept. 3 for his 9 a.m. arraignment / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Boston, Mass., Dec 3, 2021 / 21:30 pm (CNA).

At least 820 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the past two years — including some 180 in the past month alone, according to an analysis by news outlet NorthJersey.com.

About 250 of the lawsuits, representing 30% of the total, involved priests, with religious sisters and lay church employees also named as abusers, the analysis showed.

The flood of civil complaints came during a two-year period New Jersey provided under the 2019 Child Victims Act to allow victims who otherwise would have been barred by the state’s statute of limitation to file lawsuits. The two-year “lookback” window closed on Nov. 30.

More than 1,200 lawsuits were filed in all. About two-thirds of these were filed against Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

Among the findings by NorthJersey.com:

  • The Archdiocese of Newark, the largest of New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses, accounted for the most abuse lawsuits, with 432.

  • The Diocese of Trenton had the next highest total, with 182 suits, followed by the Diocese of Paterson with 85. The Diocese of Metuchen was named in 70 lawsuits, and the Camden Diocese had 54.

  • The Order or St. Benedict of New Jersey, which runs the local Delbarton school in Morristown, was the most sued among New Jersey’s religious orders, with 36 suits and another case pending.

  • Twenty-three lawsuits were connected to Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, which is run by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America. That religious order, however, can’t be sued, the website reported, per a nationwide settlement agreement that happened years ago.

  • The Salesians of Don Bosco, which runs Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, have been sued 19 times. Five of those lawsuits were connected to the high school.

  • Disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was named in 10 lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Nov. 24.

  • McCarrick’s predecessor as the head of Newark Archdiocese, Peter Gerety, is named in two lawsuits. The most recent suit, filed on Nov. 16, accuses Gerety of abusing a girl from 1984 to 1989. The alleged abuse, starting when she was just 5 years old, allegedly took place at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NorthJersey.com reported.

  • While many of the alleged abusers have died, several are still alive and could be prosecuted. One of these defendants is Father Benoît Guichard, FSSP, who is accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her when she was a child, a claim that Guichard has denied through his attorney. Another is former Ridgefield Park priest Gerald Sudol, who was named in seven lawsuits.

  • Two priests were named in at least 20 lawsuits each: John Capparelli, of the Newark Archdiocese, and Timothy Brennan, a former teacher at the Delbarton school. Both men have died.

Under the Child’s Victim Act, people alleging sexual abuse as children can still file lawsuits up to age 55 or within seven years of when they first realized the abuse caused them harm, according to the Associated Press. Prior to the signing of the law, child victims had to file by age 20 or two years after first realizing the abuse caused harm. 

Archbishop Aquila urges Catholics to 're-acquire a biblical worldview' this Advent

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says a Mass of diaconal ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Denver, Colo., Dec 3, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a pastoral note for Advent, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver urged Catholics to seek a way of seeing the world informed by the Bible and the story of salvation brought about by Christ’ death and resurrection. 

“God is inviting us...to move beyond ideologies in order to ‘put on the mind of Christ and re-acquire a biblical worldview,” Aquila wrote in the letter

“This proclamation of what God has done in Christ, known in theological circles as the kerygma, is meant to do more than be an interesting re-telling of events that happened in the distant past...the first element needed for the renewal of the Church is not strategic planning, changes to structure or doctrine. The initial battle is for our minds and hearts; it is a question of worldview, a question of how we see,” Aquila continued.

From the feast of Christ the King through Christmas, the entire Archdiocese of Denver is “going on retreat together,” Aquila said, with the goal of  “systematically unpacking the story of salvation” through the homilies Catholics will hear each Sunday. 

“Even lifelong Catholics receive Communion, baptize children, get married, and go to Mass every Sunday without ever really coming to a deep awareness of the point of it all,” Aquila said, explaining why he chose to focus on the topic of salvation in particular. 

Aquila noted that “our Church no longer benefits from carrying out its life and mission in a Christendom culture...One which, while imperfect in its own ways, had an imaginative vision for reality that arose from and largely aligned with Christian beliefs.”

Instead, Christians today find themselves in a missionary context, “increasingly at odds with the broader society.”

Aquila noted that while all human beings will inevitably ask and attempt to answer life’s biggest questions, the Gospel message— the answer to all of life’s biggest questions— is not merely a result of human thinking, but rather comes from God. 

“Our earth-shattering profession is that God himself has provided answers to these questions that are rooted in our being. Revelation, found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, gives us the answer. These present not disconnected individual lives, but a story of salvation – the Father’s love for humanity,” Aquila wrote. 

“More than a confusing collection of disparate books, if you have eyes to see, you discover in the pages of the Bible a narrative, told by God to humanity, of why he made us, what happened to interrupt his plan and how he came to win his world back.”

The story of salvation, Aquila wrote, is about how God created the universe out of love, how humanity was captured by sin, how Christ came to rescue humanity, and how each and every person has been given a chance to offer their own response to Christ’s love. 

When Catholics see the world from a biblical perspective, “we come to consider the span of our lives as a brief but essential moment in a grand epic narrative, unfolding from long before we were born and continuing long after we go into eternity. We accept that no life is an accident; you and I have been chosen, intentionally, to play a definite part in this epic adventure.”

“We see clearly who God is: that he is Lord, and he is for us, so we can trust him. We recognize that everything he has done to rescue us means that we matter, he loves us more than we could have ever imagined. We understand that the mission and identity of the Church, in all she teaches and celebrates, are oriented to help God get his world back by rescuing his children from sin and death…to bring us home.

“We begin to see on both sides of the veil, to have an eye and a heart on eternity and to see our daily lives in light of the supernatural mysteries of our faith. Whatever difficulties life presents, we have the courage to hold fast to the truth that God is always on the move, he is not worried about the state of things, and he wins in the end.”

A temptation among many people today is to let a secular or ideological worldview inform one’s perspective of the Gospel or “what the Church should do,” adapting and changing the difficult teachings of Christ. 

“Jesus does not gain a single disciple by his followers watering down or adapting his Gospel on his behalf, in order to make it, and therefore him, seemingly more palatable,” Aquila said. 

“We have only to look at his teaching on the Bread of Life in John 6 as confirmation. Jesus told his followers the Eucharist was his body and blood and he let them walk away when it wasn’t something they could accept.”

Aquila concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism… is the fruit of an anxious…lack of trust,” (Evangelii Gaudium 85).

Benedictine nuns in Missouri honor Christ the King with new album

null / Courtesy of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Kansas City, Mo., Dec 3, 2021 / 15:06 pm (CNA).

After the harrowing experience of shootings at their abbey in rural Missouri, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles resolved to record an album for Christ the King in thanksgiving for His protection and governance.

“We were talking about a CD dedicated to Christ the King last year, realizing it was a feast we had not yet covered in our recording history. It seems a tumultuous time on so many levels, we thought that focus on Christ as our true leader and Prince of Peace was apt for these days. This was drilled home especially after some unfortunate incidents at the Abbey,” Mother Cecilia, abbess of the community, told CNA.

“In March, we had a series of three shootings at the Abbey, and one of the bullets entered my room, five feet from my bed. The incidents really lit a fire under us to get going on the CD we had discussed, since we realized the power of the protection of Christ and His angels over our Abbey. So the CD is also an act of gratitude to Christ our King and to all the many people who have shown their love and concern for us.”

The generosity of the abbey's benefactors has allowed the closing of the road alongside the property, “and a wall in front of our property was installed for our protection,” Mother Cecilia explained.

“We see in it a symbol of the spiritual protection Christ our King is always giving us, and it was appropriate to hail Him as the 'inexpugnable wall' in the ancient chant of Christ the King, the Laudes Regiae, sung at Charlemagne’s coronation over 1220 years ago.”

Christ the King at Ephesus is the latest offering from the chart-topping community of nuns, who have also released seasonal albums for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter; and in honor of saints and the Eucharist.

The album includes 20 songs, from well-known works such as “the traditional and melodic Christus Vincit, as well as To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King,” to pieces which have significance to the abbey, such as Catherine Maguire’s King of Kings, which Mother Cecilia noted “was sung at the high school graduation of a priest friend of the community.”

“We could not leave off The King of Love My Shepherd Is, nor Palestrina's Jesu Rex Admirabilis, familiar to many through its inclusion in The Sound of Music,” the abbess said.

“Byrd’s Non Nobis was always the starting piece for the Burke family singers. It was the father’s idea, in order to keep the kids humble! Vexilla Christus Inclyta was written for the Office of Christ the King by Fr. Vittorio Genovesi, and it was released by Pius XI the day after his publication of Quas Primas, extending the feast of Christ the King as a universal feast.”

Also included is St. Robert Southwell's The Bonnie Prince. The Jesuit priest and poet's work is set to the music of Auld Lang Syne.

Christ the King at Ephesus is the first album that the nuns have recorded in their new abbey church, which they have now been using for three years.

“We finally got to [record] in this edifice that is not only beautiful, but offers amazing acoustics, which was a real boon for the process - which has been a whirlwind!” Mother Cecilia related.

The album was recorded over two days in September, and was released the following month.

The recording and sound engineering was done by William Crain of BRC Audio in Kansas City, the abbess said. “We did the editing and production, and Will brought it all together along with the mastering.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and "continually turning" towards God. They have Mass daily according to the ancient use of the Roman rite, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Since the abbey's last album release, its church has been built, as has a guest house for families and those wishing to make a silent retreat. The community's foundress, Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, “went to her heavenly reward at 95 years old,” Mother Cecilia added. The abbess said Sr. Wilhelmina's “life and the amazing circumstances of her death” were both “a grace beyond our imaginings.”

The community has been blessed with abundant vocations in recent years, Mother Cecilia said.

A group of eight sisters was sent to found a daughter house in southern Missouri, and “We now number 55 Sisters between the two houses, and young women continue to knock on our door,” she related.

The sisters at the daughter house “are living in a temporary residence, and one which does not lend itself to growth. So the construction of this monastery is imperative, as we have no more room here at the abbey either. We certainly do not want to turn away young women who are called to this life on account of no space!”

“Get Back”: A Narrative Rehab Shows Beauty Amid Brokenness 

In the middle of the twentieth century, there was a thing called shared popular culture. If it was on TV or the radio, everybody knew about it. And among all the figures who defined popular culture, none were ever better known in the English-speaking world than John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—the Beatles. In under a decade, the Beatles produced twenty-seven #1 hits on the UK and US charts, and their influence impacted not only pop music but the whole idea of celebrity, resonating to the present day. In a March 1966 interview with Maureen Cleave, just before the overworked Beatles stopped touring to work exclusively in the recording studio, John Lennon uttered the shocking but entirely true statement that the group had become “more popular than Jesus.” By the start of 1969, despite being rich…

15 photos from outside the Supreme Court during the Dobbs abortion case

Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Thousands of abortion supporters and pro-life Americans rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 as justices heard oral arguments in the historic abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

Here’s what it looked like outside of the Supreme Court:

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mallory Finch from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Mallory Finch from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Keara Brown, originally from Columbus, Ohio, came with her Washington, D.C. team from pro-life group Live Action. They attended the pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
From left to right: Amaya Kocher from Cecil, Pennsylvania, Mathilde Steenepoorte from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Megan Moyer from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Ellie Kaynor from Detroit, Michigan, woke up around 5:45am to attend the pro-life rally together outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
From left to right: Amaya Kocher from Cecil, Pennsylvania, Mathilde Steenepoorte from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Megan Moyer from Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Ellie Kaynor from Detroit, Michigan, woke up around 5:45am to attend the pro-life rally together outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Ann and Jimmy Aycock from Birmingham, Alabama, were among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Ann and Jimmy Aycock from Birmingham, Alabama, were among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Delia Tuttlebee (right) from Texarkana, Texas, and Laura Lane from Birmingham, Alabama, attend Mississippi College and came to the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with Students for Life of America. Tuttlebee interns with Students for Life and Lane serves as president of the Students of Life chapter at MC. Katie Yoder/CNA
Delia Tuttlebee (right) from Texarkana, Texas, and Laura Lane from Birmingham, Alabama, attend Mississippi College and came to the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, with Students for Life of America. Tuttlebee interns with Students for Life and Lane serves as president of the Students of Life chapter at MC. Katie Yoder/CNA
Stephen Kosciesza, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Stephen Kosciesza, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended the pro-life rally outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Abortion supporters attend a separate rally outside the Supreme court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Abortion supporters attend a separate rally outside the Supreme court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Capitol police placed fencing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in an attempt to separate rallies by abortion supports and pro-lifers. Katie Yoder/CNA
Capitol police placed fencing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, during oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in an attempt to separate rallies by abortion supports and pro-lifers. Katie Yoder/CNA

'Come to our rescue': Nigerian priest to international community after month of captivity

Fr. Bako Francis Awesuh, who was held captive for more than a month by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria's Kaduna state earlier this year. / Aid to the Church in Need.

Kaduna, Nigeria, Dec 2, 2021 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

A Nigerian priest who spent more than a month in captivity following his abduction earlier this year has called on the international community to come to the aid of the people of God in Nigeria’s Kaduna State amid heightened insecurity.

Fr. Bako Francis Awesuh, 37, told Aid to the Church in Need Nov. 25 attacks from the predominantly Muslim Fulani herders “have become very common in Kaduna state.”

“I am therefore calling on the international community to please come to our rescue,” Fr. Awesuh told the pontifical charity organization.

In a September 2021 report, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) ranked Kaduna as one of Nigeria’s least secure states.

Intersociety members said in the report that at least 608 people in Kaduna state have lost their lives in what has been described as “Christian butcheries” perpetrated by Fulani bandits in the first nine months of the year. 

The report also indicated that 4,400 Christians in Nigeria have been killed, while at least 20 priests and pastors have been murdered or abducted in the West African nation.

Fr. Awesuh told Aid to the Church in Need that Fulani herdsmen stormed his residence in Kachia Local Government Area at 11 pm May 16. 

“I heard gunshots and I quickly turned off the television set. Turning off the light, I saw shadows and heard footsteps. I carefully opened the curtain to see what was going on. I saw five bulky Fulani herdsmen who were well-armed. I recognized them by their dress and by the way they spoke. I stood there confused, not knowing what to do, as I felt completely lost,” the priest recounted.

He added that his body became stiff and started sweating profusely after the attackers knocked at his door.

“They kept on knocking, but, afraid, I refused to open the door. They broke down the door and forced themselves inside. One of the men pushed me to the floor, tied me up and flogged me mercilessly, saying ka ki ka bude mana kofa da tsori (‘you are getting tortured because you kept us standing outside for so long and refused to open the door when we were knocking’). They stripped me naked down to my shorts.”

Abducted along with ten of his parishioners, the priest said that for the next three days they trekked in the bushes feeding only on mangos.

“We were hungry, tired, and weak and our legs hurt a lot and our feet were swollen as we trekked barefoot. There was rain on the second and third days, but we had to keep moving. On the third day, we arrived at a camp deep in the forest,” Fr. Awesuh said.

They remained in the forest for nearly five weeks, where they were fed with rice, oil, and salt. The food was prepared by the women who had been kidnapped, he added.

“We were not allowed to bathe throughout our captivity. We had to urinate and defecate in the hut. We were smelling like dead bodies and the hut smelled like a mortuary. We were tortured and threatened with death if a ransom of 50 million naira ($120,000) was not paid,” Fr. Awesuh said. 

He related that “Our families pleaded and negotiated with our kidnappers, until they finally accepted the sum of 7 million naira ($17,000).”

The priest recalled that three parishioners tracked down the abductees, meaning to rescue them, but they lost their lives in the process.

“Oh, what sorrow to have watched three of my parishioners shot dead in cold blood, right before my eyes—and I couldn’t do anything. It was very painful! At this point, I felt helpless, hopeless, useless, and restless! I urgently craved for death to take me, as the scene of the killings kept playing in my head.”

“Whenever I opened my mouth to pray, words failed me. All I could say was ‘Lord have mercy,’” Fr. Awesuh recounted.

He thanked God for his freedom saying, “To the greater glory of God’s name, we were released and came out alive. I narrowly escaped death. I know of so many priests kidnapped before and after me who were killed even after a ransom was paid.”

Fr. Awesuh, whose current location remains undisclosed for security reasons, said he has undergone counselling.

“The love I received and experienced from my family, friends and especially the Church, was enormous,” he concluded.

Dobbs Day: Here's what it was like at the rallies outside the Supreme Court

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 08:04 am (CNA).

Anna Del Duca and daughter, Frances, woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning to brave the 30-degree weather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. They arrived hours before oral arguments began in the highly-anticipated abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992. 

“We're looking forward to the end of Roe versus Wade in our country,” Anna, who drove from Pittsburgh Tuesday night, told CNA. In her hands, she held a sign reading, “I regret my abortion.”

Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Anna Del Duca (right) and her daughter, Frances, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

“I would like to use my testimony to be a blessing to others,” she said, so that “others will choose life or those who have regretted abortion or had an abortion would turn to Jesus.”

Anna remembered having an abortion when she was just 19. Today, she and her daughter run a group called Restorers of Streets to Dwell In Pittsburgh that offers help to women seeking healing after abortion. 

Anna and Frances were among thousands of Americans who rallied outside the Supreme Court before, during, and after the oral arguments. To accommodate them, law enforcement closed the street in front of the court. Capitol police also placed fencing in the space in front of the building in an attempt to physically separate rallies held by abortion supporters and pro-lifers.

At 21-weeks pregnant, pro-life speaker Alison Centofante emceed the pro-life rally, called, “Empower Women Promote Life.” The event featured a slew of pro-life women of diverse backgrounds and numerous politicians.

“It’s funny, there were so many diverse speakers today that the only unifying thread was that we want to protect preborn children,” Centofante told CNA. They included Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Catholics, agnostics, atheists, women who chose life, and women who regretted their abortions, she said.

She recognized women there, including Aimee Murphy, as people who are not the typical “cookie cutter pro-lifer.”

Aimee Murphy, 32, founder of pro-life group Rehumanize International, arrived at the Supreme Court around 6:30 a.m. She drove from Pittsburgh the night before. Her sign read, “Queer Latina feminist rape survivor against abortion.”“At Rehumanize International, we oppose all forms of aggressive violence,” she told CNA. “Even as a secular and non-partisan organization, we understand that abortion is the most urgent cause that we must stand against in our modern day and age because it takes on average over 800,000 lives a year.”

She also had a personal reason for attending. 

“When I was 16 years old, I was raped and my rapist then threatened to kill me if I didn't have an abortion,” she revealed.

“It was when he threatened me that I felt finally a solidarity with unborn children and I understood then that, yeah, the science told me that a life begins at conception, but that I couldn't be like my abusive ex and pass on the violence and oppression of abortion to another human being — that all that I would be doing in having an abortion would be telling my child, ‘You are an inconvenience to me and to my future, therefore I'm going to kill you,’ which is exactly the same thing that my rapist was telling me when he threatened to kill me.”

On the other side of the police fence, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Access Coalition and NARAL Pro-Choice America participated in another rally. Yellow balloons printed with the words “BANS OFF OUR BODIES” escaped into the sky. Several pro-choice demonstrators declined to speak with CNA.

Voices clashed in the air as people, the majority of whom were women, spoke into their respective microphones at both rallies. Abortion supporters stressed bodily autonomy, while pro-lifers recognized the humanity of the unborn child. Chants arose from both sides at different points, from “Whose choice? My choice!” to “Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!”

At 10 a.m., the pro-life crowd sudddenly went silent as the oral arguments began and the rally paused temporarily as live audio played through speakers.

Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA
Hundreds of students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Katie Yoder/CNA

During the oral arguments, students from Liberty University knelt in prayer. One student estimated that more than a thousand students from the school made the more than 3-hour trip from Lynchburg, Virginia.

“Talking about our faith is one thing, but actually acting upon it is another,” he said. “We have to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. So to me this is part of doing that.”

Sister Mary Karen, who has been with the Sisters of Life for 21 years, also stressed the importance of prayer. She drove from New York earlier that morning because, she said, she felt drawn to attend. She came, she said, to pray for the country and promote the dignity of a human person. 

“Our culture is post-abortive,” she explained. “So many people have suffered and the loss of human life is so detrimental, just not knowing that we have value and are precious and sacred.”

Theresa Bonopartis, of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA
Theresa Bonopartis, of Harrison, New York, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. She runs a nonprofit group called Entering Canaan that ministers to women and others wounded by abortion. Katie Yoder/CNA

She stood next to Theresa Bonopartis, who traveled from Harrison, New York, and ministers to women and others wounded by abortion.

“I've been fighting abortion for 30 years at least,” she told CNA. 

Her ministry, called Entering Canaan, began with the Sisters of Life and is observing its 25th anniversary this year. It provides retreats for women, men, and even siblings of aborted babies.

Abortion is personal for Bonopartis, who said she had a coerced abortion when she was just 17. 

“I was kicked out of the house by my father and then coerced into getting an abortion,” she said. “Pretty much cut me off from everything, and that's something people don't really talk about … they make it try to seem like it's a woman's right, it's a free choice. It's all this other stuff, but many women are coerced in one way or another.”

She guessed that she was 14 or 15 weeks pregnant at the time.

“I saw my son. I had a saline abortion, so I saw him, which I always considered a blessing because it never allowed me to deny what abortion was,” she said. Afterward, she said she struggled with self-esteem issues, hating herself, guilt, shame, and more. Then, she found healing.

“I know what that pain is like, I know what that experience is like, and you know that you can get past it,” she said. “You just want to be able to give that message to other people, that they're able to heal.”

Residents of Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson case originated, also attended. 

Marion, who declined to provide her last name, drove from Mississippi to stand outside the Supreme Court. She said she was in her early 20s when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. 

“At the time, of course, I could care less,” she said. Since then, she had a change of heart. 

“We were the generation that allowed it,” she said, “and so we are the generation who will help close that door and reverse it.”

Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA
Marion, who declined to provide her last name, was among those who attended a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021, from Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case originated. Katie Yoder/CNA

The crowd at the pro-life rally included all ages, from those who had witnessed Roe to bundled-up babies, children running around, and college students holding up homemade signs. 

One group of young friends traveled across the country to stand outside the Supreme Court. They cited their faith and family as reasons for attending.

Mathilde Steenepoorte, 19, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, identified herself as “very pro-life” in large part because of her younger brother with Down syndrome. She said she was saddened by the abortion rates of unborn babies dianosed with Down syndrome.

Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA
Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, at a pro-life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Katie Yoder/CNA

Juanito Estevez, from Freeport, a village on Long Island, New York, arrived Tuesday. He woke up at 6 a.m. to arrive at the Supreme Court with a crucifix in hand.

“I believe that God is the giver of life and we don't have the right [to decide] whether a baby should live or die,” he said.

He also said that he believed women have been lied to about abortion. 

“We say it's their right, and there's a choice,” he said. When girls tell him “I have the right,” his response, he said, is to ask back, “You have the right for what?” 

Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.
Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was among the pro-life demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021.

Mallory Finch, from Charlotte, North Carolina, also woke up early but emphasized “it was worth it.” A pro-life podcast host, she called abortion a “human-rights issue.”

“I hope that it overturns Roe,” she said of the case, “but that doesn't mean that our job as pro-lifers is done. It makes this, really, just the beginning.” 

St. Francis Xavier and Our Waning Zeal for Souls

There are some passages from Scripture and the writings of the saints that are wonderfully arresting, even scary. They hit us hard, shock us out of distractions, and leave us, in the words of Pope Francis, “unsettled by the living and effective word of the risen Lord.” One such text is a letter from St. Francis Xavier, whose feast day we celebrate today. Writing to his friend St. Ignatius of Loyola from the mission fields of India, Francis reports on his exhaustive efforts to evangelize the people and of his diligent teaching of the basics of the faith. He also admits, in sadness, that many are not becoming Christians, and he is unambiguously clear about the reason why: “There is nobody to make them Christians.” For St. Francis Xavier, this problem was not just about a lack of Church personnel but…

Pro-life leaders react to President Joe Biden's statements about Dobbs abortion case

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis Oct. 29, 2021 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2021 / 17:52 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden reaffirmed his support of Roe v. Wade on Wednesday, in response to a question about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn the nation’s abortion precedent, though he said he did not listen to the oral arguments that took place earlier in the day.

"I didn't see any of the debate today, the presentation today,” Biden said. “And I support Roe v. Wade.” 

Biden’s presidency, which has repeatedly reaffirmed and expanded access to abortion and abortion rights, has been a source of continued contraversy owing to his Catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” 

“If Joe Biden had paid attention today, he would have heard the most rigorous debate the Supreme Court has ever had on abortion — the kind of debate all Americans deserve, but have been denied for almost 50 years since Roe v. Wade,” said Prudence Robertson of the Susan B. Anthony List. 

“President Biden may have missed the debate at the Supreme Court today, but it's impossible to miss how much technology has advanced in fetal development, how far women have come in being able to carve their own path without abortion, or the rise of pregnancy help centers across the nation that stand ready to help her not need an abortion,” said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. 

Megan Wold, an attorney practicing in appellate and constitutional law who is a former law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito and a former deputy solicitor general in Ohio, said that “Roe v. Wade did not hold that abortion was simply rational, it held that abortion was so fundamental that states are obligated to allow abortion on demand until viability. That was wrong when Roe was decided and it is still wrong now.”

Wold continued: “I think the Supreme Court knows that. As we heard today, a majority of the court understands that Roe has no basis in the Constitution or in our history and traditions, and that the passage of time has only further exposed how deeply flawed Roe is.”

Andrea Trudden, senior director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, told CNA that if Biden had paid attention he “would have heard that women do not ‘need’ abortion to be successful. Through technological and scientific advances over the last 50 years, women have resources at their fingertips to help them overcome hurdles and set them up for success. Pregnancy help organizations offer compassionate care and support while providing practical needs to pregnant women through parenting classes, job training, and even housing so that no woman feels that abortion is her only option.”

Brian Burch, president of Catholic Vote, said that it was almost impossible for him to believe the president would not have tuned in to Wednesday’s oral arguments “given the historical significance of the case and the politics surrounding it.”

“I can't help but think his conscience is agitating him. He knows he's wrong, and yet persists in doubling down on defending the killing of millions of innocent children," Burtch said of Biden.

During a press conference, Biden defended his support as the “rational position to take,” adding, “And I continue to support it.”

“Even former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood Roe was wrongly decided,” Godsey told CNA. “Keeping the country captive to a culture of death is far from rational. Women deserve better than abortion.”

“In 1974, Biden stated that I ‘went too far.’ Indeed, it put us in the company of a tiny handful of nations that allow abortion on demand more than halfway through pregnancy, when unborn babies can clearly feel pain, even up to birth,” Robertson of Susan B. Anthony said.

“That is the radical status quo our ‘devout’ Catholic president swears allegiance to today," she said. "The American people and their elected representatives overwhelmingly reject this extremism. It’s time to restore their right to protect women and children.”

Added Burch: “The Holy Spirit doesn't stop working, and neither should we."