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U.S. synod synthesis shows ‘desire for greater communion’

Synod on Synodality logo / Courtesy USCCB

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2022 / 16:36 pm (CNA).

The Synod on Synodality has thus far demonstrated the “joys, hopes, and wounds” shared by members of the Church in the United States, according to a report on the process issued Monday. 

“These consultations express a deep desire for greater communion,” read the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Synthesis document, released Sept. 19.

The fruit of consultation in the Latin-rite dioceses in the U.S, as well as Catholic associations, organizations, and national ministries, the synthesis noted several themes: enduring wounds, especially those inflicted by the sexual abuse crisis; enhancing communion and participation in the life of the Church; ongoing formation for mission; and engaging discernment.

In a letter prefacing the report, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, chair of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee, wrote that it is “an expression of what we as a Church have heard each other say when asked about our deepest preoccupations and hopes for the Church of which, by the grace of God, we are all a vital part.”

He emphasized that “the publication of this document is not a concluding moment, however; it is a reflective, forward-moving moment. It is an invitation to listen, to discuss together and to discern together as the Church, about how best to understand and act upon those matters that sit deeply in the hearts and minds of Catholics in the U.S.”

The report noted that the abuse crisis “has eroded not only trust in the hierarchy and the moral integrity of the Church, but also created a culture of fear that keeps people from entering into relationship with one another and thus from experiencing the sense of belonging and connectedness for which they yearn.”

Division within the Church was also a major wound, especially related to the use of the Traditional Latin Mass: “The limited access to the 1962 Missal was lamented; many felt that the differences over how to celebrate the liturgy ‘sometimes reach the level of animosity. People on each side of the issue reported feeling judged by those who differ from them.’”

Division among the bishops was also noted: “The perceived lack of unity among the bishops in the United States, and even of some individual bishops with the Holy Father, as a source of grave scandal. This perceived lack of unity within the hierarchy seems to, in turn, justify division at the local level.”

Marginalization was another wound highlighted in the synthesis, with two groups highlighted. The first is those with a lack of social or economic power, “such as immigrant communities; ethnic minorities; those who are undocumented; the unborn and their mothers; people who are experiencing poverty, homelessness, or incarceration; those people who have disabilities or mental health issues; and people suffering from various addictions. Included also in this group are women, whose voices are frequently marginalized in the decision-making processes of the Church.”

The second marginalized group, the report said, “includes those who are marginalized because circumstances in their own lives are experienced as impediments to full participation in the life of the Church. Among these are members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons who have been divorced or those who have remarried without a declaration of nullity, as well as individuals who have civilly married but who never married in the Church.”

Regarding greater communion and participation, the synthesis indicated a desire “to be a more welcoming Church where all members of the People of God can find accompaniment on the journey. The synodal consultations mentioned several areas where there existed a tension between how to walk with people while remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church.”

Prominent here was “the desire to accompany with authenticity LGBTQ+ persons and their families” and the “deep need for ongoing discernment of the whole Church on how best to accompany our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.”

The divorced often feel unwelcome, the report noted, suggesting “a more transparent and clear annulment process.”

Greater “leadership, discernment, and decision-making roles for women” were included as a desire in nearly all the synodal consultations.

“Another common hope for becoming a more welcoming Church revolved around removing barriers to accessibility and embracing those with special needs and their families, particularly as it relates to an individual’s sacramental life,” the report highlighted. “One of the regions reported a lack of inclusion because there are so few priests and other ministers who are fluent in American Sign Language. Families expressed great joy when steps of inclusion were taken, while many acknowledged the work still left to be done.”

Greater efforts should be made “to welcome diverse cultural and ethnic communities” and to overcome racism, according to the synthesis.

Concern over young people’s failure to practice the faith was widespread, and “young people themselves voiced a feeling of exclusion and desired to participate more fully as members of the parish community. The feeling of exclusion also manifested itself in some youth seeking a sense of belonging in the Church’s ancient tradition of faith, prayer, and devotion.”

The need for continuing spiritual, pastoral, and catechetical formation was recognized, along with the importance of strengthened communication: “Nearly all of the synodal consultations saw clear, concise, and consistent communication as key to the strong desire for appropriate transparency … As the Church seeks to continue down the synodal path, a commitment to clear, transparent, and consistent communication will be crucial.”

Turning to discernment, the synthetic document said: “The rediscovery of listening as a basic posture of a Church called to ongoing conversion is one of the most valuable gifts of the synodal experience in the United States.”

According to the report, about 700,000 people participated in the diocesan phase of the synod in the U.S., out of 66.8 million Catholics in the country. 

The reports of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the U.S. were not included in the National Synthesis; these were shared directly with the Holy See and will be incorporated into the continental stage of the synod.

The national synthesis concludes the diocesan phase of the Synod of Synodality. The continental stage, in turn, will be a preparation for a Synod of Bishops to be held at the Vatican in 2023.

Virginia Gov. Youngkin revokes schools’ transgender policies, asserts parental rights

null / itakdalee/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 19, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Parental rights and religious freedom are central to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new statewide policies for public schools, which Virginia’s education department released Friday. 

The updated policies reverse the transgender school mandates put in place by his predecessor, Gov. Ralph Northam, which permitted schools to withhold a student’s gender transition from parents for “privacy” reasons.

The change also requires students to use bathrooms in accordance with their sex and asserts the right of parents to be involved in their children’s education and health. 

The policy document, 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools, states that Virginia’s education department “fully acknowledges the rights of parents to exercise their fundamental rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.”

Importantly, the model policy says that parents have the primary right to make decisions concerning their children’s health and well-being. 

“Schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children,” the policy reads. 

The document states that parents — not schools — should be in charge of deciding whether or not their child begins a gender transition and goes by a different name or pronoun. 

Many schools across the country implement gender support plans encouraging children to transition to a different sex without their parents knowing. 

The policy also explicitly says students will use bathrooms and participate in sports programs in accordance with “his or her sex.” 

It also affirms that teachers are guaranteed religious freedom under the First Amendment and cannot be forced to comply with policies contradicting their religious beliefs.  

“Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex,” the model policy reads, adding “Many Virginians reject this belief.”

Transgender policy and parents’ rights

Earlier this year, Youngkin’s education department conducted a review of Northam’s 2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students

Among Northam’s policies, schools were required to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice and use students’ preferred pronouns. 

Youngkin called out Northam’s version for “disregarding the rights of parents” and ignoring “other legal and constitutional principles.” 

“The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools,” the department wrote.

According to Equality Virginia, an LGBTQ advocacy group, only 10% of Virginia school boards implemented Northam’s controversial rules for how schools should educate transgender students. The low participation rate was indicative of the backlash the policies received from parents who mobilized in school boards. 

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told CNA that “the previous policies implemented under the Northam administration did not uphold constitutional principles and parental rights, and will be replaced.”

“It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students. Key decisions rest, first and foremost, with the parents,” she said. 

Porter added that Youngkin’s 2022 policy “delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students.”

Parental rights in 2021 campaign

The issue of parental rights figured prominently in the 2021 gubernatorial race, and many credit it as the basis for Youngkin’s victory over Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. 

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out ... I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe said during a 2021 debate. 

“I believe parents should be in charge of their kid’s education,” Youngkin replied. 

Virginia House Delegate Glenn Davis applauded the governor’s model policy Friday in a tweet, saying it fixed “one of the most overreaching and abusive uses of a ‘model policy.’” 

“This new standard ensures all students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying,” Davis wrote. 

LGBTQ activist groups are denouncing the move. The ACLU of Virginia took to Twitter last week saying it was “appalled by the Youngkin administration’s overhaul of key protections for transgender students in public schools.”

The official public comment period for Youngkin’s model policy is expected to open at the end of the month on the department’s website, when Virginians have 30 days to issue feedback. 

After public comments are reviewed, the new standard goes into effect after the state superintendent issues final approval.

“Empowering parents is not only a fundamental right, but it is essential to improving outcomes for all children in Virginia,” the document reads. 

Cardinal Zen’s trial has been delayed due to COVID

Cardinal Joseph Zen speaks during a Mass at the Holy Cross Church on May 24, 2022, in Hong Kong, China. The cardinal was set to stand trial on Sept. 19, 2022, in connection to his role as a trustee of a pro-democracy legal fund, which he and other trustees are accused of failing to register civilly. The trial was delayed. / Photo by Louise Delmotte/Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 19, 2022 / 11:51 am (CNA).

The criminal trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has been delayed after the judge presiding over the case tested positive for COVID-19, Hong Kong media reported. 

Zen, 90, was to have stood trial beginning Monday in connection to his role as a trustee of a pro-democracy legal fund, which he and other trustees are accused of failing to register civilly. Zen is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, an outspoken advocate for religious freedom and democracy, and a sharp critic of the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. 

Local media reported over the weekend that the trial — originally set to begin Sept. 19 and expected to conclude with a verdict on Sept. 23 — has been delayed by at least two days because Permanent Magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee, the judge overseeing the case, contracted COVID-19. Zen has been free on bail since early May. 

In addition to Zen, lawyer Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, activist Sze Ching-wee, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho are accused of failing to apply for local society registration for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund between July 16, 2019, and Oct. 31, 2021. 

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty; Cyd Ho is already jailed for a different charge. The fund helped pro-democracy protesters pay their legal fees until it dissolved itself in October 2021. The defendants’ lawyers argue that they had the right to associate under Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the legal framework created when Great Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997. 

It appears the defendants have not — as of yet — been indicted under Hong Kong’s national security law, which broadly criminalizes “sedition” and “collusion with foreign forces,” and which would have carried with it much more serious penalties. 

The trial will be conducted in Chinese with the closing arguments in English, HKFP reported in August. Without the national security law indictment, the defendants could face only a fine of up to $1,750, Asia News reported. 

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with its own government, and its citizens have historically enjoyed greater freedom of religion than on the Chinese mainland, where religious believers of all stripes are routinely surveilled and restricted by the communist government. But in recent years, Beijing has sought to tighten control over religious practices in Hong Kong under the guise of protecting national security.

Zen, who led the Hong Kong diocese from 2002–2009, is one of several high-profile Catholics who have run afoul of the Chinese government in recent years for their support of pro-democracy activities. Catholic pro-democracy figures such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai and lawyer Martin Lee have garnered media attention for their arrests at the hands of Chinese authorities. 

Amid Zen’s trial, the Holy See continues to work toward the renewal of the China-Vatican agreement for the appointment of bishops, first agreed to in 2018. That deal was meant to unify the country’s 12 million Catholics, divided between the underground Church and the Communist-administered Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and clear a path for the appointment of bishops for Chinese dioceses. Despite the deal, persecution of the underground Church has continued and, according to some, intensified.

The Vatican Secretariat of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin recently hinted to CNA that he has worked toward changing some terms of the agreement, though it is unknown which terms of the agreement could be tweaked, given the deal is secret and its terms remain unknown to the public.

Life-size Stations of the Cross to be ‘tool for evangelization’ at Disney World

A detail of Timothy P. Schmalz's fourth station: Jesus meets his mother. / Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Catholic artist Timothy P. Schmalz sought to find and bring to life the most important subject matter an artist could ever express.

“I wanted to create a sculpture project that would be the heart of Christianity,” the Canadian sculptor said.

He settled on Christ’s crucifixion and death. 

His new creation, once finished, will be a life-size set of the 14 Stations of the Cross — scenes depicting Christ’s journey from being condemned to death to his burial — placed right next to Disney World. The faithful will be able to encounter the 12-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide sculptures at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida.

“I hope to rival Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and every other feature in Orlando by creating what has never been done before, and that is one of the biggest, most complex Stations of the Cross,” Schmalz said.

Once completed, visitors will encounter the 12-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide sculptures at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida. “It's right in the center of a place that desperately needs a spiritual Catholic oasis,” sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz says. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
Once completed, visitors will encounter the 12-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide sculptures at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida. “It's right in the center of a place that desperately needs a spiritual Catholic oasis,” sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz says. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

Schmalz is not new to sculpting. The experienced artist’s work can be found worldwide, from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican to Washington, D.C. He is perhaps best known for his “Homeless Jesus” sculpture and the “Angels Unaware” statue. 

His new Stations of the Cross, he hopes, will serve as a tool for evangelization and conversion for the roughly 50 million people that visit Disney each year. 

“It’s right in the center of a place that desperately needs a spiritual Catholic oasis,” he said, adding that bringing the Stations of the Cross to Orlando is “bringing the Gospels [to] where the people are, in a sense.”

The stations — which combine mural painting and sculpture — will offer visitors “visual doorways into a Catholic-Christian experience,” he said.

So far, he has completed the first four stations: Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus carries his cross, Jesus falls for the first time, and Jesus meets his mother.  

It will take another year, he says, before all 14 are done. On his YouTube channel, Schmalz walks viewers through the process of creating each station, from sketching them on paper to sculpting them in bronze.

Each scene, made of bronze, bursts with symbolism, movement, and emotion. The foreground shows Jesus’ passion. In the background, Schmalz plans to include every single parable found in the New Testament.

“When you see Jesus in the front, you’re going to see … a raw, hardcore scene from the passion,” he said. “But in the distance, you’re going to see the parables that he taught us. So it might be in the distance, you’ll see a camel trying to get through a little hole in the wall or the eye of the needle.”

While he works in his studio located in St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada, he listens to an audio recording of the New Testament, he said. 

“Things are pulled out and things describe themselves as I create,” he explained, comparing his role to a “passenger” or “director.”

The stations are getting funded by various donors, he said, as he works on them. As they progress from one to 14, each station will become “more and more intense.”

“The passion now has become my passion,” he said. 

He hopes that viewers will feel like they are a part of the stations.

“We know there’s a lot of kids going to Walt Disney in Orlando every year,” he said, giving one example. “I’m putting a lot of children within them so they can see themselves in the scene.”

The 53-year-old artist also sees himself in them.

“It’s fascinating because you really become a part of the subject matter as you’re working on it,” he said. “It evolves and it grows as you’re working on it, and it’s almost like it tells you what to do in a sense where I don’t necessarily know exactly how the piece will end up.”

He called the project mentally, spiritually, and physically taxing. He might dedicate one entire day to creating a little corner of one of the stations, he said, and another day just focusing on the face of Jesus.

But, he added, the work is worth it. These stations allow him, as an artist, to “get to the absolute essence of Christianity” in the hope that “it will be one of the greatest tools to convert and inspire Christianity.”

“I hope to rival Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and every other feature in Orlando by creating what has never been done before, and that is one of the biggest, most complex Stations of the Cross,” says Timothy P. Schmalz, shown here in his studio looking at the fourth station. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
“I hope to rival Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and every other feature in Orlando by creating what has never been done before, and that is one of the biggest, most complex Stations of the Cross,” says Timothy P. Schmalz, shown here in his studio looking at the fourth station. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

“I want [people] to come back from Orlando and, sure, talk about the rides, talk about Mickey Mouse. But I want them to say that the most exciting and most interesting and most moving thing with their vacation was this Stations of the Cross project,” he said. “And if I can do that with this piece of artwork, I have succeeded.”

At a time when many people are attacking Christianity and Christian symbols, Schmalz’s response is to create new, stronger symbols. “Sculptures that are bold, sculptures that celebrate and glorify Christ, but also encourage people to walk through that doorway and see Christ in focus,” he said.

“As they try to make us invisible, we have to sharpen,” he concluded. “And me, as an artist, that is my job, to sharpen our identity with these symbols and art.”

Single mom credits maternity home with saving her life 

Amid recent attacks against pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes from pro-abortion protesters, Danielle Nicholson told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Sept. 15, 2022, that she owes her life to one. / EWTN Pro-Life Weekly/screen shot

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Amid recent attacks against pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes by pro-abortion activists, one mother says she owes her life to one. 

Danielle Nicholson found herself in a crisis pregnancy when she was 20 years old and turned to the Paul Stefan Foundation in Locust Grove, Virginia, for aid. Welcomed with open arms by the founders of the center, Randy and Evelyn James, she is now the mother of a 9-year-old daughter and has made a career as a foster care social worker. She credits her success to the fresh start and help she received during her stay at the maternity home.

In an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Sept. 15, she reflected: “At the time my situation was pretty dire in that I wasn’t working towards any future goals for myself. I wasn’t living a very good life. I was just trying to get by, but the moment I found out that I was pregnant completely changed the trajectory for my life.”

“I realized I now had a little baby that I needed to live for and so I immediately changed my mindset,” she said. 

Nicholson began living a sober life, went back to school, and started to organize her life so she could take care of her baby. During this time, she came across the Paul Stefan Home. During her five-year stay, the home provided her with “the most perfect opportunity to accomplish all the goals that I had for myself.”

Not only was she given resources to pursue a professional life but she was also shown love, which Nicholson says she was still very much in need of during that time.

“I still needed a lot of love and support from adults and parents myself,” she said. “Randy and Evelyn just immediately started to shower me with so much love and support, kindness, patience.”

“They taught me some really significant life lessons — what it meant to be a professional, what it meant to be respectful, what it meant to have integrity, what it meant to be ambitious,” Nicholson added. “And Evelyn taught me the best way to be the best mother. She walked me through every step of motherhood.”

In her work today as a foster care social worker, Nicholson strives to use her story to encourage others to overcome their struggles. 

“I try my very very best to make an impact on anyone’s life that I have to work with,” she said, “[some who have] experienced abuse, experienced trauma, experienced neglect, because my background has all of that and I made a way to get through it.”

Nicholson continued: “I just present it as it’s a process that requires a lot of dedication and work, but it is possible and if those people are willing to walk through that, I offer for myself to walk that through with them to support them.”

In light of recent attacks on pregnancy centers and maternity homes, Nicholson shared her heartfelt message about her experience with these resources for pregnant women.

“They’re completely voluntary. There is absolutely nothing about these places that mandate a woman to choose either way, regarding life for their baby, regarding adoption, regarding parenthood,” she explained. “It’s just a resource to give a woman the ability and the opportunity to just take a breath, to learn what her options are, what her resources are.”

“It’s completely conditional on what that woman wants for her life and for her baby and all women are met right where they’re at when they walk in the door regarding what they want for themselves, what they want for their babies.”

“Ultimately, these clinics and these resources are just an added layer of support to help a woman follow through with the choice that she’s made,” Nicholson concluded.

Watch the full interview with Nicholson below.

Follow in the footsteps of St. Robert Bellarmine: scholarships for scholars

Applications are open for the new scholarship program established by the Bellarmine Fund. / Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 17, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A new scholarship program aims to support future members of the workforce with an “authentically Catholic” education, thanks to a recent initiative started by three young men who are still in college themselves.

“We want to produce missionaries because we’re a missionary Church,” said Andres Donovan, vice president of outreach for The St. Robert Bellarmine Fund and a junior at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“We want Catholic employees to go out and help work on the culture from the workforce,” he told the Register, and “an authentically Catholic university” can help them “see their work, see their education from the Church perspective.”

Applications are open for the new scholarship program established by the Bellarmine Fund, which was founded by three young men who met at a Jesuit high school in Tampa, Florida — Donovan, Justin Bailey, and Matthew Uzdavinis — as they recognized a need for scholarships for students committed to a Catholic education.

High-school seniors of the 2023 and 2024 graduating classes are eligible to apply for one of 10 available scholarships for each respective year, organizers told the Register.

Requirements to apply for the scholarships, for $8,000 per year and renewable for up to four years, include an essay speaking to a desire for Catholic formation, the family’s financial situation, and a GPA that demonstrates a commitment to education. Those interested should apply by Jan. 31, 2023.

Most of the schools accepted by the Bellarmine Fund scholarship fall under “The Newman Guide” of Catholic higher education institutions that have been assessed by the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization whose stated mission is “to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.”

“‘The Newman Guide’ is trusted to provide authentic analysis of Catholic universities to help parents and students figure out where the universities are authentically Catholic,” Donovan said.

Bailey, president of outreach for the Bellarmine Fund who is currently attending the University of Florida, told the Register, “We just thought that this is a great way to kind of combat the really bad education that has been happening with regard to philosophy and theology at most institutions.”

“We really wanted to reward the faithful Catholics who wanted to pursue the truth,” who “wanted to pursue Our Lord at these universities that are also faithful to tradition,” continued Bailey.

Bailey is a family member of the Bailey Family Foundation, an organization that provides university-level scholarships and through which the Bellarmine Fund has been made possible.

The other co-founder, Matthew Uzdavinis, is currently attending Ave Maria University.

Challenging Cultural Climate

In speaking to the benefit of a Catholic college degree, Kelly Salomon, director of family and parish programs for the Cardinal Newman Society, highlighted the challenges faced by young Catholics in today’s cultural climate.

“How does a young Catholic navigate today’s dangerous culture without a faithful Catholic education, without truly knowing the faith, understanding how it relates to every area of knowledge and life, and being able to defend it?” Salomon told the Register.

“We see most young adults not attending Mass, and most don’t believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist — they actually think the Church teaches it’s just a symbol,” she added. “But the renewal of faithful Catholic education will bring a renewal of faith and culture.”

“Catholic education is critical for the souls of young people and the future of the Church. At faithful Catholic colleges, students are formed for their careers and vocations,” Salomon said.

Donovan, a marketing major, stressed the importance of integrating Catholic formation and workplace education.

“Business and theology go hand in hand,” he said. “They cannot be separated.”

“I could go to any other university, and succeed and do well, and get my marketing degree, and learn how to make the best sales pitch ever, and have a sales record of 100%, and do anything to get the sale.” However, if one allows a client to walk away without “feeling the love of Christ,” Donovan said, “all of it would have been for nothing.”

A higher education institution not listed in “The Newman Guide,” which is still eligible for the scholarship, is a school named for St. Joseph the Worker in Steubenville, Ohio, expected to open in 2023.

“Christ belongs in the workplace,” Donovan said. “We want to make sure people know how to bring him into the workplace by going to Catholic universities that are authentically Catholic.”

The Register also recommends its own list of higher educational institutions that prioritize solid Church teaching in their curricula in its annual “Catholic Identity College Guide.” The list includes schools in “The Newman Guide” as well as others not included in the Bellarmine Fund scholarship, but the fund organizers recognize it “as a reliable means of attaining a competent and faithful Catholic education,” according to Uzdavinis.

“We basically take a look at the whole person,” Donovan said.

“While we are currently focusing directly on those schools accredited by the Cardinal Newman Society,” Uzdavinis told the Register, “our fund hopes to soon be able to provide financial assistance to every faithfully Catholic higher education institution in the country.”

In part, the aim of the fund is to help counter the “radical ideology and wokeism” that “have pervaded higher education, perhaps even in Catholic institutions,” Uzdavinis added.

“Attending a university in which students are exposed to divine truth and provided ample opportunities to receive divine grace is of grave importance. Our fund aims to make that possible for the many students throughout the country who thirst for such an experience.”

“The St. Robert Bellarmine Fund has the capacity to reach so many Catholic students in a way that we hope inspires them to pursue Catholic truth and helps them to attain that,” he continued.

“Our goal is to become a reliable means for countless families to allow students to concentrate more on the goodness they receive in their studies and less about how they’ll manage to pay for it.”

Increase your eucharistic devotion by doing these 7 things, Maronite bishop says

null / Photo credit: Sidney de Almeida/Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Sep 17, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called for a eucharistic revival over the next three years, but many Catholics aren’t aware that the revival also includes the Eastern Catholic Churches within the United States.

The purpose of the revival, launched June 19, is to “renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist,” according to the initiative’s website. The initiative ends in July 2024 with the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. More can be read about the revival here.

In a letter to the faithful of his eparchy titled “Eucharistic Amazement,” Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn — one of the only two Maronite dioceses within the United States — asks each of his parishes, missions, and institutions “to enter even more fully into the joy and spirit of this time and to deepen our amazement, love, and devotion to our Eucharistic Lord.”

Here are seven ways the bishop is asking the faithful of his eparchy to increase their devotion to the Holy Eucharist — methods anyone who wants to pursue a deeper understanding of the sacrament can use.

1. Prepare for the eucharistic sacrifice.

Preparing oneself for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should include reflections on the liturgical readings, careful preparation of the liturgical music, and observation of the one-hour fasting rule, Mansour wrote.

According to Code of Canon Law: “One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion” (Can. 919 §1).

This one-hour fast is not required for those who are elderly or ill. In addition, Mansour wrote that the liturgy deserves its “appropriate dignity” and “careful observance,” which includes abiding by the canonical norms and the guidance the Church offers on the liturgy.

2. Examine your conscience.

Examining one’s conscience consists of “reflecting prayerfully on one’s thoughts, words, and deeds in order to identify any sins,” according to the USCCB.

There are various ways one can do this, according to Mansour. It should be done before one receives Holy Communion, he said.

Those various practices include receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, partaking in spiritual reading, participating in spiritual direction, going on retreats, praying a rosary each day, reading Scripture, and practicing other devotions the Church offers, he said.

3. Think about Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist.

“Discern the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, as all Catholic and Orthodox Christians have done over the ages,” Mansour wrote, “and live this reverence appropriately with respect for our Lord’s abiding presence with us.”

The USCCB released a document called “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” in November 2021 during its general meeting. The document contains deep reflections and commentary on the Real Presence from various popes, saints, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Code of Canon Law.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston — who is leading the eucharistic revival in his capacity as the U.S. bishops’ conference chair on evangelization and catechesis — also teaches a free, prerecorded, online course on the document. That course can be accessed here.

4. Pray and work for unity in the Church.

Mansour implored the faithful to “pray and work for Church unity, especially praying that the Holy Father, and his Petrine ministry, may bring all Christians closer to one Eucharistic sharing.”

5. Find some silence.

Mansour wrote that some quiet time adoring Jesus Christ either in eucharistic adoration or in front of the tabernacle is important. He said that this should occur outside of Mass.

6. Mandate eucharistic adoration for particular petitions.

Mansour wrote that every parish, mission, and institution within the eparchy “is to foster Eucharistic Adoration at least once a month for vocations, and for the needs of the Church and the world, and properly prepare for and celebrate the nine-day Christmas Novena with renewed reverence and respect for the Eucharistic Lord present with us at the altar.”

The Maronite Christmas Novena begins on Dec. 15 each year and includes eucharistic adoration, use of incense, prayers, and hymns. A copy of the novena can be found here.

7. Honor your family and unite your suffering to Christ’s.

Mansour instructed the faithful to honor their families and “see our work as an extension of the Eucharistic call to service.”

He also implored the faithful to unite their sufferings and anxieties to the sufferings of Jesus Christ and to embrace morality by following the Catholic Church’s teachings.

Mansour wrote that by accomplishing these seven requests, “we will have entered more deeply into the spirit of this Eucharist amazement.”

His full letter can be read here.

Mansour, who has led the eparchy since 2004, spoke about the history of the Maronite Church and geopolitical issues in the region of Lebanon, where many Maronites are located, with EWTN News In-Depth’s Montse Alvarado in October 2021.

The Maronite Catholic Church, which is strongly represented in Lebanon, is the largest of the Eastern Churches in the Middle East, according to the USCCB. However, the Church has a presence in countries across the Middle East and the world.

The Church is called “Maronite” because it traces its history back to St. Maron, a fourth-century monk. The Maronite Church is Catholic but expresses itself differently than the Latin rite.

According to the Eparchy of Saint Maron in Canada, the liturgy is celebrated in ancient Syro-Aramaic, Arabic, and in the local vernacular during different parts.

‘No Longer a European Export’

Quick: Name the countries with the most baptized Catholics. You might guess Brazil (172.2 million) or the United States (72.3 million). You might miss Mexico (110.9 million) and the Philippines (83.6 million). You might be surprised by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (43.2 million). Only Church demographers know that Nigeria (29 million) will soon pass Spain and may eventually catch Italy.

Catholicism has become the most multicultural and multilingual institution in the world. In 1900 two-thirds of Catholics lived in Europe. Now two-thirds of the 1.2 billion baptized Catholics live in the Global South.

Astute observers have long anticipated this shift. In the fall of 1961, Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, only thirty-four but already a celebrated theology professor at the University of Bonn, met with Cologne’s Cardinal Josef Frings. The two men discussed an address Ratzinger was drafting for Frings—who was nearly blind and would memorize the speech—on the topic of the upcoming Second Vatican Council.

In his draft, Ratzinger contrasted preparation for the First Vatican Council in the 1860s with preparation for the Second Vatican Council, scheduled to open in 1962. Then, liberalism in politics, economics, and theology seemed the most important challenge. Now, globalization was. Radio and television brought the world into almost every home and trains and airplanes allowed ordinary people to journey vast distances. More than anything else, the Church needed to “become in a fuller sense than heretofore a world Church.”

To Ratzinger, Europe’s plunge into the abyss of two world wars between 1914 and 1945 had discredited ideas of Western superiority. Catholics must “recognize the relativity of all human cultural forms” and cultivate “a modesty which sets no human and historical heritage as absolute.”


To read Joseph Ratzinger acknowledging “the relativity of all human cultural forms” is disconcerting. Forty years later he would blast the “dictatorship of relativism” that he associated with modernity. (Comparing young Ratzinger with old Ratzinger has become a scholarly growth industry.) But his analysis in 1961 was shrewd. He did not use the term “decolonization.” Still, neither the Second Vatican Council nor the current Catholic moment can be understood without it.

Catholicism became significantly more global in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as millions of migrants and tens of thousands of missionary priests and nuns left Europe. It did not become more multicultural. When clergy trained in Europe or North America landed in China or Cameroon they lugged with them statues of the Sacred Heart, rosaries, blueprints for neo-Gothic churches, and Latin textbooks. Their theological project was uniformity. In the words of another German theologian, Karl Rahner, Ratzinger’s collaborator during the Second Vatican Council and his rival in its messy aftermath, these missionaries “exported a European religion as a commodity [they] did not really want to change.”

This Catholic globalization of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often became entangled with imperialism. Missionaries frequently worked with government officials from Catholic colonial powers such as France, Belgium, and Portugal, and even Protestant empires such as Great Britain. (British leaders admired the way Irish Catholic bishops kept order among Irish Catholic soldiers and settlers.) The Protestant imperial German government, not the Catholic Church, funded the first scholarly chair in Catholic mission studies at the University of Münster in the early twentieth century. When its first occupant published an account of German Catholic missions in Africa, he dedicated it to Kaiser Wilhelm II. The same scholar volunteered that missionaries could lift Africans from “their state of rudeness to a life worthy of a human being.”


The Catholic and colonial world shattered in the two decades after 1945. The process began with the Cold War. Before World War II, if they discussed economic growth at all, Catholic intellectuals focused on the industrial North Atlantic and warned against the ways in which growth might disrupt social hierarchies. Growth meant small businesses bought out by corporations, family farms swallowed by large landowners, or families torn apart by a desire for unnecessary luxuries (including mothers working outside the home when extra income was unnecessary). Redistribution, not growth, seemed the most likely solution to the global depression of the 1930s. Foundational documents for Catholic social thought such as the papal encyclicals Rerum novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo anno (1931) advocated just wages for (usually male) workers, not greater equality between rich and poor nations.

The postwar struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States for influence in what was then called the Third World changed this calculus. Many Western policymakers feared poverty would serve as the gateway drug to communism. The alternative was economic development, and because Catholic institutions were so numerous in the Global South, they joined colonial governments and international aid agencies in facilitating development programs. Bishops in the tiny West African country of Guinea, for example, requested—and received—from the French government more than seventy million francs in the single year of 1954 to build Catholic schools. In Ghana, women religious from the United States and Europe serving as missionary nurses helped establish the country’s modern medical system.

Catholics also joined the development conversation. Two voices were crucial. The first was Barbara Ward’s. Born in 1914, Ward graduated from Oxford as the only woman in her year with a first-class honours degree. By 1940 she was a full-time writer for the British newsweekly the Economist, one of the first women to hold such a role.

Ward married a United Nations diplomat from Australia, Robert Jackson, who spent his career working on hydroelectric development projects. She accompanied Jackson to postings in Australia, India, and the Gold Coast (Ghana). She became friends with Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of an independent India, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister of an independent Ghana. Informed by these experiences, Ward published several books during the 1950s, written with lightning speed even as she composed pieces for the Economist and lectured on both sides of the Atlantic. Always anti-Communist, she reminded her readers that aid to less-developed nations was the least expensive way to combat the Soviets. Catholics, especially, needed to recognize “moral obligations which stretch beyond our own frontiers.”

Ward’s best-known study, The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations, appeared in 1962. Now a fixture on the New York-Washington-London policy circuit, Ward became an advisor to the World Bank. The book garnered her a White House dinner invitation with President John F. Kennedy, who jotted down in a notebook his conviction, taken from a conversation with Ward, that the Soviets feared only “a religion that transcends frontiers and can challenge the purpose and performance of the nation state.”

The second voice was that of Fr. Louis-Joseph Lebret. A pilot during the First World War in the French air force, Lebret entered the Dominican order in 1926. He began his ministry in Brittany, where he competed with Communists for the allegiance of dockworkers, and observed with dismay the threat posed to local fishermen by multinational companies claiming the most productive waters. In 1942, he founded a think tank focused on development issues—Économie et Humanisme—dedicated to understanding a world with a growing gap between developed and “under-developed” nations.

Catholic students from colonies in West Africa came to see political independence for their native countries as inseparable from native leadership within the Church.

Lebret moved away from a single-minded focus on economic growth toward a wider view, one that acknowledged “the human need for transcendence.” Development meant not just “having more” but “being more.” In the 1950s, Lebret hopscotched from Lebanon to South Vietnam to Uruguay to the United Nations to Rome. In São Paulo, he established a satellite version of his development organization and lectured there frequently.


Ward and Lebret understood that Catholics must abandon the equation of the Church with the West. Filipino independence from the United States in 1946, Indian independence from Britain in 1948, Indonesian independence from the Dutch in 1949, Vietnamese independence from France in 1954, and independence for thirty-three countries in Africa, including Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, between 1954 and 1965, did not move to a single tempo, but the end result was a world of independent nation-states, not colonies and empires. 

What also changed after 1945 was that Indigenous peoples fully joined the debate. The most influential group of Indigenous Catholics came from French colonial Africa. Plucked from the best Catholic secondary schools after competitive examinations and given scholarships to study at French universities, Catholic students from colonies in West Africa met each other in Paris in the 1930s and 1940s. Through late-night conversations in shared apartments and dormitories, they came to see political independence for their native countries as inseparable from native leadership within the Church.

Léopold Senghor became the leading voice. He grew up in rural Senegal, where he was educated in missionary schools and converted from Islam to Catholicism before winning a scholarship to study in Paris. He excelled as a student, qualifying to teach in an elite French lycée, or high school, and then a French university. He became one of the first African-born writers to establish a major reputation in Europe.

Léopold Sedar Senghor, 1978 (Dominique Roger/Wikimedia Commons)

After the war, Senghor knew that the old imperial order could not endure. His own poems and essays made the case for Negritude, or pride in the autonomous value of African cultures. In the 1940s, he unsurprisingly clashed with European Catholic missionaries who complained about an African “lack of civilization.” He explained that “missionaries who were the most liberal Europeans [in Africa] before [World War II], fail to comprehend the evolution the war has wrought in minds and fact.” He was elected Senegal’s first president in 1960 and he immediately appointed Lebret to develop an economic plan for the country.

While Senghor and other African Catholics met in Paris, African seminarians and priests taking theological degrees encountered one another in Rome. They, too, began to reflect on racial consciousness within the Church, publishing essays that urged European Catholics to accept both Negritude and decolonization. A priest from the Congo urged the Church to become truly African. “In the Congo,” he insisted, “[the Church] should be Congolese, in the construction of the church and in the making of sacred objects, one should carefully consider the lines, the colors and all the elements of Congolese art.”

Some missionary priests and bishops still held to a view that Christianity and European civilization could not be disentangled. An influential French prelate, Marcel Lefebvre, spent sixteen years in Gabon before his eventual appointment as apostolic delegate for Africa and archbishop of Dakar. Lefebvre thought it obvious that European Catholic culture shielded Africans from communism and an Islam that depended upon “fanaticism, collectivism, and the enslavement of the weak.”

Other European and North American missionaries viewed their work differently. Historian Elizabeth Foster, in her superb African Catholic, details a fascinating debate among French clergy in Paris in the 1950s on whether Catholics had a “duty to decolonize.” A group of African Catholic students based in Paris authored a remarkable manifesto that reached the front page of Le Monde:

We, the Catholic students of Black Africa in France, reaffirm our desire to stay simultaneously entirely Christian and entirely African; we cannot, in any circumstances or under any pressure, choose between these two loyalties…. We affirm our attachment to the natural right of African peoples to self-determination [and] [w]e ask French Catholics to make the necessary effort to understand the demands of this double loyalty to the church and to Africa.

Archbishop Lefebvre found such arguments a “serious problem.” Along with his allies he stressed the benefit to Africans of colonial administration by “peoples more privileged than they.” In the final days of the papacy of Pius XII, this view received a hearing, and Lefebvre helped draft the first ever encyclical on the subject of Africa, Fidei donum. Even by the standards of 1957, the document’s paternalism was glaring. The pope applauded Africans now “reaching out toward the highest civilization of our times” but continued to worry about the continent’s “heathen multitudes.” 

A muted response came from African Catholic students, two hundred of whom had gathered in Rome the weekend of the encyclical’s release. “Should not the Church take a solemn position against colonialism?” Joseph Ki-Zerbo from Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) asked. The students met with top Vatican officials, but an ailing Pius XII declined to join them.


A parallel dynamic of Catholic decolonization also became evident in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, Horacio de la Costa had graduated from an elite Jesuit high school in Manila in the 1930s. Interned during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, he obtained a PhD in history from Harvard after the war. He soon became the first Filipino leader of the Jesuits, succeeding American Jesuits who had taken on leadership roles after the 1898 American occupation of the islands. His scholarly passion, even when writing on events in the sixteenth century, was the origins of a Filipino nationalist consciousness. As early as 1952, he insisted that Catholicism could no longer be viewed as a Western import but instead as belonging “fully as much to Asia as to Europe.”

In Indonesia after 1945, Dutch Catholic Church officials and political leaders scrambled to sustain the country as a colony by warning of “chaos” should a nascent independence movement succeed. But Indigenous Catholic support for an independent republic proved more influential. The first native Indonesian bishop, Albertus Soegijapranata, played a crucial role. An aristocrat (and Jesuit) from Java, Soegijapranata became the region’s most important Catholic figure during the World War II Japanese occupation (when Dutch Catholics were imprisoned or placed under house arrest). He developed contacts with republican leaders, some of whom were Catholic. Eventually Soegijapranata cajoled Dutch Catholic leaders into accepting the new republic and arranged for official recognition from the Vatican.

Bishops and missionaries from the Global South almost uniformly supported the biggest single change authorized by the council: the shift from the Latin Mass to liturgy in the vernacular.

Vietnamese Catholic students, like their African Catholic contemporaries, used scholarships from the French imperial government to make their way to Paris in the 1930s. After the war and the Japanese occupation, Bishop Ngô Đình Thục rallied the Vietnamese bishops to support calls for Vietnamese independence from France. In this more nationalist setting, French missionary bishops and clergy came under attack from Vietnamese Catholics as “undesirables and troublemakers, if not enemies of the nation.”

Bishop Ngô Đình Thục’s brother, Ngô Đình Diệm, became the first president of South Vietnam after the split of the country into North and South in 1954. Ngô Đình Diệm’s alliances with American military and political leaders in the 1950s, as well as New York’s Cardinal Francis Spellman, are well documented, as are his own authoritarian instincts. Another Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, initially admired Diệm for “holding the country together.” But Kennedy-administration officials, frustrated by continued instability within South Vietnam and Diệm’s unpopularity as a Catholic leader in a majority-Buddhist country, condoned a coup led by South Vietnamese generals. Captured while hiding in a Catholic Church, Diệm was assassinated in November 1963.


This emergence of Indigenous Catholic leaders—in West Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, and South Vietnam—fueled some of the discussions at the Second Vatican Council. In contrast to Pius XII’s caution, Pope John XXIII unequivocally welcomed the “attainment of political independence by the peoples of Asia and Africa.” He had served in Paris as Vatican ambassador or nuncio in the late 1940s and understood the aspirations of African and Vietnamese Catholics. He met with not only Léopold Senghor but other Africans in the months before the council.

Bishops and missionaries from the Global South almost uniformly supported the biggest single change authorized by the council: the shift from the Latin Mass to liturgy in the vernacular. One of the African bishops urged that the text on the liturgy drop the word “Western” since the Church was not, and never had been, limited to the West. “The victory of the vernacular in the church liturgy,” Karl Rahner later argued, “signals unmistakably the coming-to-be of a world Church whose individual churches exist with a certain independence in their respective cultural spheres, inculturated, and no longer a European export.” Archbishop Lefebvre, the defender of French colonialism in the 1950s, bitterly opposed the vernacular liturgy and would lead a major schism after the council, demanding the retention of the pre-1962 Latin rite.

Just after the council, Fr. Lebret and Barbara Ward helped Paul VI draft his 1967 social encyclical, Populorum progressio. The pope stressed the importance of “integral human development” and described “a type of capitalism” in bleak terms. The document was received rapturously in Latin America, where it informed the development of liberation theology.

The Wall Street Journal, by contrast, described Populorum progressio as “warmed over Marxism.” The text fell into eclipse in the 1980s and 1990s. Access to global markets, far more than development programs, brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in East Asia, especially, but also in Latin America. Communist governments in eastern Europe and then the Soviet Union itself collapsed. One of communism’s most influential opponents, Pope John Paul II, understood spiritual freedom as inseparable from economic freedom. Communism denied both. 

This post-1989 confidence now seems premature. Inequality has increased to dangerous levels not only within wealthy nations such as the United States but between poor regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and more affluent parts of the world. Pope Francis frequently cites Populorum progressio. And while Catholic libertarians in the United States scoff at climate change, Francis’s environmental encyclical, Laudato si’, laments an obsession with economic growth. It is now the most influential Church document of the past sixty years.

Francis, too, is a man of the Global South, with experience working in the poorest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. His moral sensibility is traditional: opposed to the death penalty, abortion, and gay marriage (although more welcoming than any previous pope to gay Catholics). But he is skeptical of free-market nostrums. Fellow Catholic Joe Biden placed a photo of himself with Pope Francis on his desk in the Oval Office only minutes after his inauguration. Biden delights in the fact that the pope has encouraged him to keep taking Communion even as some American bishops scheme to deny Biden the sacrament because of his pro-choice position on abortion. Still, Biden is not the American politician who quotes Pope Francis on the economy with the greatest enthusiasm. That would be Bernie Sanders.

An oddity of the moment is that two of the world’s most successful Anglophone writers happen to be Nigerian Catholics. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ancestors converted to Catholicism in the 1920s under the tutelage of Irish Catholic missionaries. As a child, her family attended Mass every Sunday at the Catholic chapel at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, and she vividly recalls singing in Igbo and English, as well as “gold pendants at women’s throats, their headscarves flared out like the wings of giant butterflies; men’s caftans crisply starched; children in frilly socks and uncomfortable clothes.” Her adult relationship to Catholicism is fraught but enduring, since “to be raised Roman Catholic is to be inducted into a culture that clings, that slides between your soul’s crevices and stays.” Characters in her fiction visit a Lourdes shrine and claim to see the Virgin Mary. A Nigerian priest travels to work in Germany because of that country’s clergy shortage. The villain of her first novel is a censorious and abusive Catholic father tied to a colonial vision of the Church; a heroine is an aunt whose Catholicism is more humane. Adichie declares herself “proud” of Pope Francis since he “seems to value the person as much as the institution.”

Another Nigerian Catholic writer, Uwem Akpan, trained as a Jesuit. His stories reveal the world through the eyes of children. One makes a dangerous journey through Catholic and Muslim regions of Nigeria. Another clutches the family crucifix while evading warring mobs in Rwanda. “I think fiction allows us to sit for a while,” he told an interviewer, “with people we would rather not meet.” His emphasis on the vulnerable people of a continent in turmoil rests upon the final document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes (1965), and especially its famous first line, frequently referenced by Pope Francis: “the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.”

In 1961, as decolonization accelerated, a young Joseph Ratzinger predicted that “we cannot yet imagine the riches to come when the charisms of Asia and Africa make their contributions to the whole Church.” Now, the Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan echoes Francis in seeing “the hand of God in the process of globalization.”

What will the next sixty years bring? Perhaps some of the divisions among Catholics, especially in the United States, will dissipate, less because of unanticipated resolutions and more because the world, and the Church, will have moved on. A new generation may place more emphasis on Pope Francis’s call to be “citizens of our respective nations and of the entire world, builders of a new social bond.”

This article is excerpted from Catholicism: A Global History from the French Revolution to Pope Francis, published in September by W.W. Norton.  


African nations stand alone against abortion rights, gender ideology at the UN 

The United Nations General Assembly in New York. / Drop of Light/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 16, 2022 / 16:31 pm (CNA).

A United Nations resolution defining abortion as a human right and advancing gender ideology was adopted this month with overwhelming support from Western countries but was opposed by a group of mainly African nations. 

The resolution, which is titled “International cooperation for access to justice, remedies and assistance for survivors of sexual violence,” includes language stating that countries must provide “access to safe abortion” as a “human right.”

The resolution, adopted on Sept. 2, also references new gender terminology that some countries said was in opposition to their values because it contradicted a traditional view on human sexuality.

Western nations define abortion as a ‘human right’

More than 80 nations, including the United States and members of the European Union, co-sponsored the inclusion of language that defined abortion as a human right for women and girls. 

“Human rights include the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality,” the document reads. 

The resolution includes modern contraception, emergency contraception and “safe abortion” in a list of rights entitled to women. 

It also updated the resolution’s language to add “gender-based violence” to the definition of “sexual violence.”

A handful of countries protested this move, arguing it promoted societal acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism. 

Africa’s pro-life, pro-family amendments fail 

The resolution’s focus on abortion and gender ideology came under fire from 33 nations, primarily from Africa. 

Nigeria led the fight by proposing several amendments to protect unborn children and delete controversial language from the resolution, but the measures failed to get enough support to pass.

“Each country should decide its abortion laws at the national level without external interference,” a Nigerian representative said in a fiery debate. “Countries should help women avoid abortion and provide mothers and their children with health-care and social support.” 

“[This] creates the danger that women will be pressured to abort their babies,” he added.

Nigeria also voiced strong opposition to references to gender identity, arguing that “gender” can only include “male” or “female'' and announced that the country would withdraw from the resolution completely to defend its “values, laws and sovereignty.”

“We should not be creating new rights,” the Nigerian representative said. 

In remarks made at the U.N. meeting, Senegal’s representative condemned the inclusion of abortion as a family planning method and argued the word “gender” must only refer to “social relations between males and females.”

Among the 32 nations that joined Nigeria in supporting amendments to strike abortion and gender language from the resolution were Uganda, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Senegal. The Philippines, Nicaragua, Russia, and a handful of Middle Eastern countries also joined the effort.

Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family & Human Rights, said in an interview with CNA that it is well-known that smaller African countries courageously stand against the West’s pro-abortion and gender policies.

“They have the most to lose,” he emphasized. “They know what the sexual revolution is about because they can see what has happened to our country and don’t want any of it.”

“They want basic medical care, clean water, safe sanitation; not the gender, reproductive health, and comprehensive sexuality education agenda that comes from the big powers,” he added. 

Poland and Hungary vote to advance abortion, gender ideology 

Missing from the effort to protect life and a traditional view of sexuality were Hungary and Poland, predominantly Catholic nations known as global leaders in opposing abortion and gender ideology.

Poland is one of the few nations that have banned almost all abortions and ranks among the most pro-life governments.

Hungary’s story is a bit more nuanced, as abortion is legal in the country with some restrictions. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, however, the country is introducing pro-life measures and leading the way on pro-family policies

Both Hungarian and Polish governments have also gone toe-to-toe with progressive European leaders over gender ideology in the recent past.

Imre Téglásy, director of Human Life International Hungary, told CNA in a statement that he believed that Hungary failed to oppose abortion at the U.N. because it faces “heavy attacks of the liberal representatives of the EU.”

Téglásy explained that the EU has punished Hungary by cutting billions in funding to the country when the nation defended its “sovereignty and Christian values.”

Téglásy said the other possible explanation is that Hungary’s ambassador to the U.N., Zsuzsa Horváth, was not “really aware” of her government’s pro-family policies.   

“You can evaluate both of these [decisions as] shameful,” he concluded. 

The Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, a Polish legal organization that promotes human dignity in law, issued a statement deploring the vote.

“The silence of Poland, as well as Hungary, in taking a position in the international arena, represented a failure to realize the commitment made in the Geneva Consensus Declaration to defend fundamental rights and to fight to restore the true meaning of the concept of human rights,” the statement read. 

The institute called the resolution a “missed opportunity” for Poland to defend its sovereign laws and unborn human life.

‘Missed opportunity’ to defend life and values

Ruse said that as far as he was aware, Poland and Hungary “have never broken the EU consensus” on social issues in 25 years.

If Hungary and Poland were to stand up to the EU’s promotion of abortion at the U.N., it would “open the door to many pro-life victories,” Ruse explained. 

All 27 countries in the alliance would have to negotiate their own positions on abortion, he said.

“The EU speaking with a single voice is very powerful. If that voice is taken away, then there are great opportunities for the pro-life cause to advance,” Ruse concluded. 

Rod Dreher, a senior editor at the American Conservative and author of “The Benedict Option,” is surprised that Hungary and Poland did not vote in favor of traditional values. 

Dreher has spent extended time in Hungary as a fellow at the Danube Institute.

“I don’t understand this. There might be a reasonable explanation,” he told CNA in an email. 

“That said, even if this vote is unjustifiable, we Americans must not lose track of how strong both governments have been on these issues — Poland more than Hungary on abortion, because abortion rights are, sadly, popular in Hungary, limiting what the government can do,” Dreher explained. 

“Both have taken very strong stands against gender ideology in Europe, and have been forced to pay a steep price by Brussels. And they have accepted that price. This is why I can’t pass judgment on Poland’s and Hungary’s U.N. votes without more information,” he said.

Both the Hungarian and Polish delegations to the UN did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

UN resolution first to promote global abortion right

The resolution “puts abortion under the category of international human rights in a General Assembly resolution for the first time,” according to C-Fam. 

While U.N. resolutions are nonbinding on individual states, Stefano Gennarini, vice president for legal studies at C-Fam, told CNA resolutions are binding “both in terms of the programs and norms the U.N. system promotes globally.”

Gennarini explained that the move is concerning for international law and “can be read by activist judges in domestic and international courts as evidence of a human right to abortion.”

The U.N. did not respond to a request for comment. 

U.S. bishops hold National Migration Week amid migrant crisis

Crowds attend a town hall meeting on immigration in Los Angeles, Jan. 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of Victor Aleman/ / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 16, 2022 / 16:25 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops are inviting Catholics to participate in National Migration Week and the World Day of Migrants and Refugees by encountering “those living on the existential peripheries.” 

The week, beginning on Sept. 19, presents an opportunity to reflect on the circumstances of migrants, refugees, victims of human trafficking, and others, according to the bishops. The seven days conclude on Sept. 25, the Vatican’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR). 

The bishops’ announcement comes as Republican governors are transporting migrants to northern states in response to the border crisis. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently took credit for flying migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts while Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have bused thousands to cities like Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago.

"The Biden-Harris Administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years," said Abbott said in a press release Thursday, after transporting migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris' residence at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. 

On Wednesday, DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, shared the governor’s position with Fox News Digital.

"States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies,” Fenske said.

In Providence, Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin tweeted on Friday that every human person, from the baby in the womb to the migrants in Massachusetts, should be treated with dignity.

“The baby in the womb, the refugee in Cape Cod - neither should be exploited for political points,” he typed. “Both are children of God. Both should be respected, welcomed and cared for. Can't we as a society agree on that?”

Ahead of National Migration Week, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) called reports of the state’s involvement in transporting migrants to Martha’s Vineyard “disconcerting.”

“Any action to transport persons under false pretenses and leave them stranded with no assistance, if this proves to be the case, fails to respect their human dignity and objectifies them,” the group said in a statement to CNA. “Immigration is not just a political issue, but a fundamental human and moral issue.”

“For immigrants are not faceless numbers – but human persons,” the statement adds. “They are our brothers and sisters.”

The FCCB called the country’s broken immigration system a problem, rather than immigrants. 

“While reasonable people may disagree on how our nation should respond, any effective response demands that we recognize that immigration is more than a ‘border security’ issue but is essentially about our labor markets and the men and women who fill the jobs that continue to make America strong,” the statement reads. “Justice and prudence demand that we treat them with dignity and find a reasonable way for their contributions and presence to be recognized within the law.”

Serving as executive director for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Jennifer Allmon also commented on the “politicization of the life and dignity of migrants.”

“Our nation’s unwillingness to address the broken immigration system over these past several years rests squarely on citizens and politicians of both major political parties,” she told CNA in a statement. “This polarization has brought us to a moment of crisis; there exists a legitimate concern that without each level of government discharging their respective responsibilities, the common good of the communities of our towns, state, and nation, and immigrants themselves, will continue to suffer grievously.”

She recognized “an urgent need for legitimate and moral reform of our system of immigration and asylum.”

“The experience of our Catholic Charities and outreach ministries throughout Texas has taught us that refugees are adding to the quality of life throughout the state with their cultures and talents and the gainful employment that prevents them from being added to the poverty rolls,” Allmon said.

“Nevertheless, it is vital now that all levels of government make responsible plans to avoid a rush of people flooding our border that could jeopardize the just rule of law and the capacity of governmental and nongovernmental efforts to assist migrants, refugees, and the residential and native poor who are already here among us.” 

The U.S. Catholic Church has observed National Migration Week since 1980, while the WDMR began in 1914.

“There has never been a more critical moment to reflect on the issue of migration, as we witness, for the first time in history, over 100 million forcibly displaced persons in the world,” Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, the auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said in a statement

Dorsonville went on to list several groups that Catholics should keep in mind. 

“I am especially mindful of Dreamers, our new Afghan neighbors, Ukrainians fleeing conflict in their homeland, those with temporary protections who have made a home in the United States, and undocumented agricultural workers, all of whom have an important role to play in building the future of our country—just as they have a role in building the Kingdom of God,” Dorsonville added.

He concluded: “May this week help us to experience a renewed sense of what it means to live as brothers and sisters, traveling together on the same journey.”