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Catholic University awards honorary degree to imprisoned human rights advocate Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong media tycoon and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai. / Napa Institute.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 14, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Catholic University of America on Saturday awarded an honorary degree to imprisoned Hong Kong human rights advocate Jimmy Lai. His adult son, Sebastien Lai, accepted the award on his father’s behalf.

The younger Lai spoke about the university’s recognition of his father in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo earlier this week.

“It really means a lot to have the support of all these great people,” he said on “The World Over” May 12.

“I’m sure he’ll be very happy to receive this award, and I’m sure knowing that all these people are praying for him, and knowing that all these people have the same thoughts towards freedom and freedom of religion, freedom of expression, will make him incredibly happy," he added. You can watch the full interview in the video below.

A devout Catholic and media magnate, Jimmy Lai, 74, has been arrested numerous times for his pro-democracy activism and is awaiting trial on sedition charges related to the stringent national security law the China’s communist government imposed on Hong Kong in July 2020.

Most recently he was sentenced in December 2021 to 13 months in prison on a charge of unlawful assembly, stemming from his participation in an annual vigil commemorating the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Authorities in Hong Kong also have shuttered Lai’s influential Hong Kong newspaper, Apple Daily.

Under the new security law, a person who is convicted of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.

In a video interview produced by the Napa Institute prior to his imprisonment, Lai spoke about his Catholic faith and the role it played in his outspoken defense of human rights for the past 30 years, citing "the Lord's teaching that your life is not about yourself."

"When you lift yourself above your own self-interest, you find the meaning of life. You find you're doing the right thing, which is so wonderful. It changed my life into a different thing," Jimmy Lai said of his conversion to Catholicism in 1997.

"The way I look at it, if I suffer for the right cause, it only defines the person I am becoming. It can only be good for me to become a better person. If you believe in the Lord, if you believe that all suffering has a reason, and the Lord is suffering with me … I'm at peace with it."

Bestowed during The Catholic University of America’s commencement in Washington, D.C. Saturday, the honorary degree comes just days after Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong and outspoken advocate for human rights and religious freedom in China, was detained by Hong Kong’s national security forces. Zen baptized Jimmy Lai in 1997.

In his interview with Arroyo, Sebastien Lai spoke about Zen as a close friend of his family and said his detention was a “strong act” by Hong Kong authorities.

The younger Lai observed that “Hong Kong used to be this island off the coast of China that had its own legal system and freedoms and it just seems that these ideals keep getting degraded every single news cycle.”

He said he is able to correspond with his father, who he said draws a picture of Jesus on the back of each letter he sends.

The Catholic University of America’s Class of 2022 has 1,496 graduates. Dominican Father Joseph White, O.P., rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, delivered this year’s commencement speech.

TLM altar boys implore cardinal: Consider our love for Latin Mass

Altar boys swing incense in a procession in Cologne, Germany. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 14, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Six Latin Mass altar servers in a Washington, D.C. parish have written an impassioned letter to the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, imploring him to consider their positive experiences in the Traditional Latin Mass when implementing the Vatican’s new guidance on the Extraordinary Form.

“For us, the Latin Mass is a refuge,” the May 4 letter, posted on the parish's Facebook page, says. “A refuge where the evils of the world and the struggles of life cannot penetrate. We believe it is the closest thing to heaven on earth and we would love to see it continue.”

Pope Francis issued a motu proprio in July 2021 called Traditionis custodes that includes new guidance and restrictions on when and where the Roman Missal of 1962, typically referred to as the Traditional Latin Mass, may be used. The document, which gives local bishops increased authority on the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, was received with much pain and confusion among Catholics who participate in the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Although many bishops issued temporary guidance for their dioceses, there have been few reports of permanent guidance issued. The Archdiocese of Washington has yet to issue permanent guidance.

Altar boys serving at a Traditional Latin Mass at St. Mary Mother of God parish in Washington, D.C. Screenshot of Facebook livestream video
Altar boys serving at a Traditional Latin Mass at St. Mary Mother of God parish in Washington, D.C. Screenshot of Facebook livestream video

The letter, written by altar boys from St. Mary Mother of God parish in the nation’s capital, says that if the Latin Mass were no longer allowed at St. Mary’s, it would feel like “losing something precious, something of ourselves, nearly comparable to losing a loved one.”

The altar boys wrote that they wish to “partake in the mystery of the Eucharist” through the Latin Mass and added that “hopefully, one or more of us will be called to serve Our Lord as a priest.”

The altar boys remain unnamed. The letter is signed, simply, “St. Mary’s Altar Boys.”

“We have been going to the Latin Mass at St. Mary's since we were born and have loved it since we were old enough to understand the beauty of it,” the letter says.

The altar boys wrote that they drive an hour to get to the church to serve Mass.

“The experience of serving the Mass is amazing and we also find great joy in teaching the young boys how to serve the Mass and leading them through the motions and prayers,” the letter says.

The letter continues: “From the Gloria on Holy Thursday to the Procession with the Infant at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and the sad but beautiful liturgy of Good Friday we enjoy every bit of partaking in the great work of Christ. Our siblings have been baptized into the Church at St. Mary's and our families have received first Holy Communions there and been reconciled with God in our first Confessions at St. Mary's.”

The letter concludes: “We ask that you consider these words when you make your decision about the continuing of this beautiful form of Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington was not immediately available for comment Saturday.

Roe v. Wade: Could the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs case come Monday?

Security fencing was erected outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the leak of a preliminary draft opinion in a pivotal abortion case that could decide the fate of the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide. / Katie Yoder

Washington D.C., May 14, 2022 / 05:25 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court’s scheduled release of one or more opinions on Monday is fueling speculation that it may issue a decision then in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

May 16 marks the first “opinion issuance day” since the leak of a draft opinion in the case that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

When the court announced that Monday would be a decision day, “I think everybody’s ears kind of perked up,” Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel for the pro-life group Americans United for Life, told CNA.

While the court traditionally waits to issue decisions in bigger, more controversial cases like Dobbs until the end of the court’s term in late June or early July, the leak of the draft opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., threw into question that expectation.

In the wake of the bombshell leak, first published by Politico on May 2, several pro-life leaders and organizations have said they believe the court ought to come out with the decision quickly.

"The unprecedented leak is an attempt by the Left to corrupt the Court’s deliberation process and bully the justices into changing their majority opinion,” Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA. “For the sake of the Court's own integrity, it would be appropriate to release the opinion as soon as possible.”

In response to the leak, abortion activists protested outside of justices’ private homes and attacked Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers. At the same time, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. stressed that the “work of the Court will not be affected in any way” by the leaked draft, which the Supreme Court confirmed is authentic. 

Roberts and the eight other justices met in private for the first time since the leak on Thursday, May 12, the Associated Press reported. Justices could decide Dobbs on Monday, legal experts say, or they could decide any of the 37 other cases that have yet to be ruled on before the court breaks for summer recess.

Glenn of Americans United for Life outlined several possible outcomes. Justices might want to get the decision out of the way now, as people protest outside their homes, and attempt to diffuse the situation. She could also see justices waiting until June to show that the pressure and tactics directed at them do not influence the court’s behavior. 

Justices could also still be working on the main opinion or concurrences and dissents.

“It could be just a timing issue,” Glenn suggested. “They can't release it on Monday because it's not finished.” 

Monday is the earliest scheduled date for the justices to issue a decision in Dobbs. The latest date they could release it is more uncertain.

While the last Thursday of June usually marks the end of the Supreme Court’s term, Glenn said that, “depending on how all of this changes their schedule or if there are a lot of concurrences and dissenting opinions — more than normal — they very easily could go into July.”

Lauren Muzyka, an attorney who serves as the president and CEO of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, outlined two possible outcomes regarding the timing of the decision.

She told CNA that the leak, “rather than forcing the Justices to move more quickly than they’d originally intended, might actually convince them to stick to their ground and maintain their original schedule, simply out of principle.”

“Still, knowing that Justice Alito and his family have been taken to a secure location for protection right now and other Justices have been given increased security as well,” she added, “I also wouldn't be surprised if Chief Justice Roberts made a decision to push it out Monday.”

Muzyka said that, regardless, the pro-life movement’s mission remains the same: empowering women to choose life.

“Even with the furor out there at the moment — pregnancy centers and churches being vandalized plus violent commentary on social media and television — that’s not going to stop the pro-life movement from reaching mothers in crisis with the news that they have options, resources, and they deserve better than abortion,” Muzyka concluded. “And I don’t think it’s necessarily going to move the Supreme Court to change direction, either.”

The Sorrowful & the Glorious

Seeing the name of one of my childhood bullies, Sandy, on the return address of the FedEx box surprised me. Why would she send me anything?

I was picked on constantly as a kid. By seventh grade I was ninety pounds and 5’10”. In 1972, thin was definitely not “in” at St. John of God Grammar School on Chicago’s working-class South Side. Add to that my mother’s Polish antidote for colds: no washing my hair in winter because I’d “catch a draft.” Every day I walked from 8 a.m. Mass to my homeroom accompanied by a steady stream of mean-girl name-calling: “greaseball,” “titless,” and the un-Christlike “palsy.” It became a contest to see who could trip me first. When I invited one bully over after school (because I secretly hoped my mom’s powdered-sugar waffles would make her like me), she ridiculed the four-room apartment my family and I lived in above my grandmother’s.

“You ain’t even got a shower,” she jeered the next morning. “Just an old Polack bathtub—with feet.”

That really hurt because my great-grandfather had built our two-flat after he arrived in Chicago from Poznań in 1908. Once when I was little, my mother saw me playing on my bedroom floor and said, “Dziadziuś put those boards in himself.” He died before I was born, but I could feel his spirit in the swirl of dust glimmering like diamonds in the light from the window. I felt safe there.

Whenever I felt raw from taunts, I pictured myself in a pew on a summer day, light beaming down from the stained-glass windows.

There was another place I felt safe: my parish church. St. John of God was Eastern-European ornate, with paintings of gently smiling angels and saints covering the walls. No kid ever made fun of me there; talking during Mass meant punishment by ever-vigilant nuns scanning for infractions. Whenever I felt raw from taunts, I pictured myself in a pew on a summer day, light beaming down from the stained-glass windows. During Mass I stared at the statue of St. John of God in his alcove on the main altar, and instead of praying for the souls in Purgatory, I asked him to make me famous, like my idol, Janis Joplin. She’d been bullied, too; her high-school classmates had scrawled “pig” on her locker. I had no talent, but I vowed that someday I would, like Janis, go to my class reunion and make my bullies feel like failures.

Life after grammar school was a reprieve—except there was Sandy. She brought the name-calling to high school, though thankfully it never caught on because her old gang had dispersed. Still, she’d sidle down the hall toward me, a lithe, smirking sylph, and look me up and down and laugh as I passed. By that point, revenge through fame—although for what, I still didn’t know—was my main motivation. It carried me through high school to college, where I traded the Janis fantasy for something even more unrealistic: becoming a poet. In 1988 I moved to New York to attend an MFA program. I wasn’t on a fast-track to literary stardom, but I was getting published, traveling internationally to give readings, making a living teaching writing. Didn’t the poet George Herbert say, “Living well is the best revenge”?


In 2011, I got a friend request on Facebook from a former neighbor in Chicago, who told me St. John of God Church was being demolished. I was horrified and deeply grieved. Through many moves I’d carried artifacts of my sanctuary with me: a box of incense for the Feast of Epiphany, a small envelope of rose petals that had been touched to a Virgin Mary statue that supposedly cried real tears. There was a parish Facebook group where people were discussing old times. I knew my former bullies would be there, but I joined anyway, for one last look.

There my old tormentors were, including Sandy. No longer a snickering pixie, she looked hesitant, diminished, as if life had whittled her down. She had posted photos she took of the half-bulldozed church: a mural of the Holy Family with nothing but blue sky behind it, and the main altar, divested of everything, towering above a rubble-strewn floor. The St. John statue was gone. Great-grandpa had done carpentry work for the church, but nothing he’d built remained. From Sandy’s comments on the photos, I could tell she was grief-stricken. I’d thought I was the only one who loved that place. I was wrong.

After I posted a greeting in the group, friend requests and messages appeared:

“Sharon, I remember when your Nicholas Copernicus poem won an award in that Polish contest.”

“Are you still writing? You were so talented.”

Did none of them recall what they did? In spite of myself, I felt nostalgic.

A month later, someone organized a reunion. There was no Pulitzer in my future, but maybe I could flaunt my travels. Most of those women had never left Chicago. I decided to go.

As I walked into the bar area of the restaurant, Sandy and three former mean girls rushed toward me. I readied myself to say something eloquently sarcastic. Then one of them, Linda, thrust my first poetry collection at me.
“I ordered this off Amazon,” she said. “Will you sign it? You know, I visited the East Coast once.”

I waited for a pause in Linda’s breathless story about her trip to New York to begin my fierce narrative, but then she interrupted herself: “Hey, remember the ‘Living Rosary’?”

I did, vividly. Every year, on an evening during the first week of May, the entire grammar school walked in procession from the schoolyard to the church, led by priests carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary adorned with roses. The entire neighborhood thronged the streets, singing, taking pictures. Inside the church, we kids lined up one behind another in the aisles as an eighth-grade girl in a white dress lit the candles we were holding. As each flared, the congregation said a “Hail Mary.”

“And when all the candles were lit,” Linda said, “they’d turn off the lights, and—”

“And we were the Living Rosary,” I laughed.

I was right there with her as she described looking through tears at the rubble and half-smashed murals, remembering pews filled with squirming children and the altar decorated for Christmas.

As I joined in the memory-sharing (and wondered whether I had Stockholm Syndrome), it occurred to me that we really were a living rosary. We’d shared countless childhood hours in that church, that school. And hadn’t the nuns told us that even though Jesus was murdered by his bullies, he forgave them? In Matthew, when Jesus teaches the crowd the Lord’s Prayer during the Sermon on the Mount, he goes on to highlight one single aspect of the prayer: “If you forgive those who have stumbled and gone astray, then your heavenly father will forgive you.”

My long-held hurt suddenly became an array of conflicting emotions. I had no idea what these women’s lives were like now—or then. They probably had their own tormentors; bullies have often been bullied. But I created a good life for myself. I’d gotten my “revenge.”

I said nothing.

After the reunion, I sent Sandy a Facebook message to ask if I could call her; I wanted to know how it felt to visit our deconstructed church. She said yes. I was right there with her as she described looking through tears at the rubble and half-smashed murals, remembering pews filled with squirming children and the altar decorated for Christmas. When she told me she’d pilfered a cement brick and an old missalette covered in plaster dust, I laughed—I would’ve done that. We texted each other photos of our dresser-top altars, which looked very similar, right down to the box of incense for Epiphany and the envelope of petals touched to the crying Virgin Mary statue. We hung up promising to stay in closer touch.

Still, I had no idea why an old, beautifully carved wooden cupboard door slid out of that FedEx box she’d sent. It had a sweet, musty scent I couldn’t place.

“Our classmate Don,” her note said, “gave me this because he was moving, but I already salvaged one. Didn’t you say a relative built stuff for the church? It’s a cupboard door from the priests’ sacristy. You can still smell the incense!”

Standing in my Brooklyn kitchen, holding an object that was, like myself, far removed from its source in time and place, I understood that this was Sandy’s apology: a door to past and future. It was important that I forgive her and all my former torturers because they were repositories of my childhood, living rosaries of shared, idiosyncratic memories. And didn’t the rosary include the sorrowful mysteries as well as the joyful and glorious? Our Catholic upbringing taught us there was a divinely ordained place for suffering. It was the language Jesus used to communicate his humanity. If we could learn to understand it, it had value.

I couldn’t be certain if that cupboard door was the work of my great-grandfather, but I was sure Sandy had given back to me something I thought I’d lost.


What is Roe v Wade? Six things to know.

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

Denver Newsroom, May 13, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

You’ve heard of Roe v. Wade — and you’ve probably heard that the U.S. Supreme Court may be about to overturn it. 

But what exactly is Roe v. Wade, and why does it matter whether it’s overturned?

Here’s what to know:

Roe v. Wade was a legal case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in January 1973. 

“Wade” refers to Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas. “Roe” is the pseudonym of Norma McCorvey, a Louisiana woman who had filed a lawsuit in Texas to get an abortion, which was illegal at the time. Despite her involvement in the case, McCorvey never actually got an abortion. In fact, she eventually converted to Protestant Christianity and later to Catholicism, and engaged in pro-life ministry in her later years. 

In their opinion, the justices ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. The legal reasoning centered on the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, which the court interpreted as conferring a "right to privacy" for women seeking abortions. 

The makeup of the court at that time, which issued the ruling by a 7-2 vote, was entirely male — the first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, would not arrive at the court until eight years later. 

Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in the case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

What effects has Roe had since the decision was made?

The immediate effect was the legalization of abortion throughout the entire United States, until roughly the end of the second trimester. Abortion was already legal in some form in several states — such as Colorado, Hawaii, and New York— before Roe changed the status quo for the entire country. 

Abortion rates in the U.S. rose in the years following Roe, peaking at an estimated 1.4 million per year in 1990. In 2019, the latest year government figures are available, there were an estimated 630,000 abortions. 

Since Roe and Casey, every state regulation on abortion that has been proposed or passed has had to be viewed through Roe’s legal framework of “strict scrutiny”, and later through Casey’s “undue burden” standard. Dozens of state regulations have been struck down by courts over the years for being out of step with Roe, and thus unconstitutional. 

Is there a chance Roe could be overturned now?

Yes. A case currently before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a 2018 Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. The case 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, making it a direct challenge to Roe and Casey. 

What will happen if Roe is overturned?

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the question of abortion legalization or restriction will return to the states. State policy would vary widely on the question of abortion, with the practice being automatically outlawed in several states, and explicity protected in others. 

If Roe is overturned and women who would have chosen an abortion are unable to get them, many more babies and mothers will need care than previously. Pro-life organizations are marshalling resources to offer support. 

That said, abortions will continue in states which have passed laws to protect access to it, and some states, such as Colorado, have explicitly positioned themselves as destinations where women can travel from states with restrictions to avail themselves of abortions.

The federal government under President Joe Biden has attempted preemptively to pass a bill codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law, which if passed would supersede state-level pro-life laws, but such attempts so far have failed. 

What will happen if Roe is not overturned?

There are a number of scenarios that could come to fruition that involve Roe remaining in place. 

If the Supreme Court does not overturn Roe, but upholds Mississippi’s 15-week ban, other states with a court-blocked 15-week bans, such as Arizona, could see their laws come into effect. Additionally, other pro-life states may pass 15-week bans now that they are constitutionally allowed to do so. 

​​If the Mississippi law is struck down, and Roe and Casey are affirmed, it would be a devastating setback for the pro-life movement, which has pinned its long-term legal strategy on someday having a “conservative” supermajority on the Supreme Court, as is the case today.

So… How likely is it that Roe v. Wade will be overturned? 

A leaked draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has been confirmed to be genuine though not necessarily final, suggests that the court is indeed poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

The draft, reported on May 2 after being leaked to Politico, shows the court siding with Mississippi, as well as a thoroughly repudiating Roe and Casey.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Associate Justice Samuel Alito writes in the 98-page draft document, which is labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.”

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The Politico news report said that four justices had joined Alito in the majority, three are preparing dissents, and Chief Justice John Roberts — often a swing vote — had not yet settled on a side.

Whatever the court ultimately decides, the consequences for the country will be enormous.

Charleston's new bishop will draw on experiences with diverse cultures

Father Jacques Fabre-Jeune, who will be consecrated and installed as Bishop of Charleston May 13, 2022. / Doug Deas/The Catholic Miscellany

Denver Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The bishop-elect of Charleston is set to become the first Black bishop in the diocese’s 200-year history when he is installed this Friday, May 13.

An immigrant, a former missionary, and a polyglot, Bishop-elect Jacques Fabre-Jeune will also be the second bishop of Haitian origin in the U.S., and the first to be the head of a diocese.

Fabre-Jeune told CNA that he prays that he would be "a good servant" and "the image of Jesus for the people that God has put under me, so that I can serve them with sincerity, with humility, and of course with love."

He also said he plans to serve and love everyone in the diocese, drawing on Catholicism’s universality “​​to go beyond languages, beyond culture.”

"As a bishop, our first responsibility is to take care of everyone — we call them souls — that is in the diocese. That's our responsibility,” Fabre-Jeune told CNA.

He said he believes his years as a missionary, going into other cultures with an evangelizing spirit, will be an asset in his role as bishop.

Fabre-Jeune was born in Port-au-Prince in 1955, one of six siblings; his father worked as a carpenter. Fabre-Jeune’s parents wanted a safer and more stable environment in which to raise their children, and got an opportunity to come to the United States to do factory work. Fabre-Jeune’s mother went to the U.S. first, followed by the rest of the family four years later.

Fabre-Jeune said his mother, who led the local Legion of Mary group, helped to instill a love of the faith in him, and he felt a call to the priesthood when he was 11 years old. The call faded after he arrived in the U.S. at age 16, but reawakened during his college years at St. John’s University in New York. He said the example of priests he got to know in New York, including the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, helped to model the priestly life for him.

After graduating from St. John’s, Fabre-Jeune joined the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, also known as the Scalabrinians. The Scalabrinians were originally founded to support spiritually missionaries going to South and North America, and today its members do much to serve refugees and immigrants.

Being an immigrant himself, Fabre-Jeune said he felt called to the Scalabrinians, and to serve fellow immigrants. His novitiate took place in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he learned to speak Spanish fluently. And in fact, Fabre-Jeune speaks five languages in total — English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Haitian Creole — English being his third.

He was ordained to the priesthood in Brooklyn, New York, in 1986 at the age of 30. At his first parish assignment, he worked with many Haitians and Hispanics, and later served as chaplain to Haitian refugees in Guantanamo Bay from 1990 to 1991. He served as pastor of a parish in the Dominican Republic from 1991 to 2004.

After he arrived in Georgia in 2006, he served as parochial vicar for two parishes. Fabre-Jeune has administered the San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Forest Park, Georgia for the past 12 years, a congregation that he described as “99% Mexican.” While administering the mission, Fabre-Jeune also served as the director of the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal and a member of the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s finance council.

Kathleen Merritt, Director of the Office of Black Catholics and Native American Ministry at the Charleston diocese, told CNA that the diocese’ Black Catholic community is “energetic and hopeful” about Fabre-Jeune’s appointment.

The history of Black Catholicism in the area predates the creation of the diocese itself, going back to the 18th century, when enslaved people and refugees from Haiti came to the area. Bishop John England arrived in 1820 and assigned a priest to minister to the plantations and build churches to minister to the many Black Catholics. After the Civil War, Bishop Patrick Lynch established St. Peter's Church as the first parish for the newly emancipated. Later on, during the era of segregation, Bishop Paul Hallahan decreed that diocesan schools would accept students of all races.

Today, the diocese includes about 4,000 Black Catholics as of the latest parish census, Merritt said.

“Our new bishop has put a spark in not just Black Catholics and other minorities but almost everyone,” Merritt said.

“Having a Black bishop may result in more vocations within the Black community because our Black youth will now see and associate with a shepherd that looks like them.”

Still, she said, the numbers of Black Catholics in the diocese has dropped since the 1980s with the closing of parishes, schools, and difficulties associated with 1989’s Hurricane Hugo. But there are at least five predominantly Black parishes open in the diocese today, she said.

Fabre-Jeune’s appointment was made public Feb. 22. He succeeds Bishop Emeritus Robert Guglielmone, who retired upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.

The Catholic Diocese of Charleston was established in 1820 and covers the state of South Carolina. More than 5 million people live within the diocese, an estimated 10% of whom are Catholic.

When the news of Fabre-Jeune’s appointment as bishop reached his siblings, all of whom now live in the U.S., he said they all thought about how their mother — who has since died, along with their father — would have been overjoyed by the news.

Fabre-Jeune said he has received a warm and gracious welcome so far in Charleston, which he said reminds him of Haiti in certain ways, especially the palm trees, a famous symbol of South Carolina. Fabre-Jeune chose a palm tree as an image for his episcopal coat of arms.

"I love people and feel that I've been loved, and I hope it will be the same" in Charleston, he said.

Fabre-Jeune will be consecrated and installed as Charleston’s bishop on May 13.

Catholic, pro-life leaders say women shouldn't be punished for abortions

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., May 12, 2022 / 09:35 am (CNA).

More than 70 pro-life leaders, including Archbishop William E. Lori who leads the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, are demanding that state lawmakers refuse to punish or criminalize women who obtain abortions. 

“As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts,” the May 12 letter to state lawmakers reads. 

The letter comes as lawmakers in states such as Louisiana consider legislation that could subject women who obtain abortions to criminal prosecution and prison.

Laura Echevarria, a spokesperson for the National Right to Life, the pro-life group that coordinated the letter’s release, told CNA that it responded, in part, to actions by states like Louisiana. The letter also responded to rhetoric from abortion activists.

“This has been a long-standing policy issue of ours” and many of the other signers, Echevarria said. “We felt we needed to make it clear that this was something that we did not agree with. That we do not believe in prosecuting women who have had abortions. We see them as a second victim in these situations.”

“We wanted to make sure that this was very clear to state legislators, but also to the public-at-large,” she added. “We do not want women thinking that this is something that the movement approves of, because we don’t.”

In addition to Lori, signers include Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, and Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life. You can read the full letter below:

The open letter follows a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, later this year.

The letter takes care to say that there are two victims with every abortion: both the mother and her unborn child.

“The mother who aborts her child is also Roe’s victim,” the letter reads. “She is the victim of a callous industry created to take lives; an industry that claims to provide for ‘women’s health,’ but denies the reality that far too many American women suffer devastating physical and psychological damage following abortion.”

In bold text, the letter adds, “Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.”

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, as the leaked draft suggests, the issue of abortion will be left up to each individual state — and elected lawmakers.

“But in seizing that opportunity,” the letter cautions, “we must ensure that the laws we advance to protect unborn children do not harm their mothers.” In other words, the letter continues, “turning women who have abortions into criminals is not the way.”

Several organizations, many of them run by Catholics, offer healing and hope to women harmed by abortion, including Project Rachel, Rachel's Vineyard, and Silence No More Awareness Campaign. 

While the Catholic Church condemns abortion, it also stresses the importance of forgiveness and mercy for the women who have obtained abortions. Just as the unborn have inherent dignity and worth as human persons, so do their mothers.

“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

Senate again rejects sweeping federal abortion bill. Bishops relieved, Biden adamant.

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2022 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

An expansive abortion bill that would declare abortion a human right, undercut existing state pro-life laws, and force objecting doctors to perform abortions, again failed to pass the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

The Women’s Health Protection Act failed 49-51 by a largely party line vote, with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., voting against the bill. An almost identical version of the bill failed in a February vote by an identical margin.

While leading Catholic bishops called on Congress to stop pushing abortion, President Joe Biden called on voters to support candidates in favor of abortion rights in upcoming Senate races and pledged to sign the bill into law.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said May 11: “More than 60 million unborn children have already lost their lives to abortion, and countless women suffer from the physical and emotional trauma of abortion. This radical bill would add millions more to that tragic toll.”

They said the proposed legislation was “an utterly unjust and extreme measure that would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute.”

“We are relieved that the Senate vote to advance this bill failed for the second time in less than three months,” Lori and Dolan said.

While backers claimed the bill would have simply codified current Supreme Court abortion precedent, it in fact it would go far beyond and threaten existing laws which limit abortion.

Lori and Dolan’s response emphasized these details.

“This bill insists that elective abortion, including late-term elective abortion, is a ‘human right’ and ‘women’s health care’ -- something that should be promoted, funded, and celebrated,” they said. “S. 4132 is far more extreme than Roe v. Wade.”

“It would invalidate widely supported laws that protect women and unborn children from an unscrupulous abortion industry, would force all Americans to support abortion here and abroad with their tax dollars, and seeks to force religious hospitals and health care professionals to perform abortions against their beliefs,” said Lori and Dolan.

The bill would also have forced insurers and employers to cover for or pay for abortion.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a professed Catholic who was once publicly critical of legal abortion, blamed Senate Republicans for blocking the bill. His statement said that “fundamental rights are at risk at the Supreme Court.”

“This failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack – and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people,” he said.

While surveys indicate that many Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision, they simultaneously support limits on abortion that are not currently allowed. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to vote to return the abortion debate to the states this June.

“To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House,” Biden said. “If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law.”

Thirteen Catholic Senators, including Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., D-Penn., voted in favor of the bill.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said the legislation was “extreme” and “goes further than Roe.”

“I am confounded as to why the Democratic Party is pushing a bill that will allow an industry to avoid any governmental oversight and operate freely without health and safety protocols,” said Day, whose organization also emphasizes the need for government support for pregnant women and mothers.

“(Senate Majority Leader) Schumer wanted to put Senators on record and he may not like the outcome this fall,” Day said. “A vote against abortion extremism will bring voters to the polls--particularly in the states like Ohio, Georgia, and Arizona that are toss-ups.”

Though Manchin voted against the bill, he also made statements indicating he is in favor of codifying Roe.

“I’ve just thought this legislation we’ve had for 50 years… It’s precedent and law,” he said, according to CNN correspondent Manu Raju. Manchin nonetheless rejected the Women’s Health Act as an “expansion,” not a “codification” of Roe v. Wade.

The proposal was Democrats’ response to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, and related precedents.

The Senate vote drew criticism from Republicans.

“Americans overwhelmingly support commonsense pro-life protections and limits on abortion, but Democrats are doubling down on taxpayer-funded, unlimited abortion on demand up to the moment of birth,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

The non-partisan Susan B. Anthony List announced an ad buy to emphasize what the group said is an unpopular position.

“Pro-abortion Democrats are dramatically out of touch with the American people, who overwhelmingly reject abortion on demand until birth,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said, adding, “Radical pro-abortion lawmakers who shamefully advocate a ‘right’ to abortion at any time for any reason will see the consequences of their extremism at the ballot box this fall.”

While direct abortion is strongly rejected in Catholic teaching, Lori and Dolan emphasized that legal abortion is also contrary to Americans’ understanding of God-given rights.

“As a nation built on the recognition that every human being is endowed by its Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we implore Congress to stop pushing abortion as a solution to the needs of women and young girls, and instead embrace public policy that fully respects and facilitates these rights and the needs of both mother and child,” the bishops said.

Senator Tim Scott responds to claim that abortion helps low-income Black women

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) speaks during a U.S. Senate committee hearing May 11, 2022. / YouTube screenshot via Senate Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Committee

Washington D.C., May 11, 2022 / 15:21 pm (CNA).

When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claimed that abortion economically helps women — including low-income, Black women — one senator challenged her with his personal story. 

“I’ll just simply say that, as a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty, I am thankful to be here as a United States senator,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Tuesday.

He made his comments during a May 10 hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. At the hearing, Yellen testified as a witness and claimed that abortion enables women to succeed in the workforce.

“I believe that eliminating the right of women to make a decision about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades,” she said. “Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation.”

Yellen’s remarks followed a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. 

Roe v. Wade, Yellen claimed, enabled women to pursue an education, increase their earning potential, balance their families and careers, and benefit their planned children.

Studies show that “denying women access to abortion increase their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance,” Yellen added.

At a later point in the hearing, Scott asked her to clarify.

“Did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor force participation rate?” he asked.

The increased labor force participation rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work.

“To the guy who was raised by a single mom who worked long hours to keep us out of poverty — I think people can disagree on the issue of being pro-life or pro-abortion — but, in the end, I think framing it in the context of labor force participation is, just feels callous to me,” he added. “I think finding a way to have a debate around abortion in a meeting for the economic stability of our country is harsh.”

Yellen replied that she did not intend to come across as harsh. 

“In many cases, abortions are of teenage women, particularly low-income and often Black, who aren’t in a position to be able to care for children, have unexpected pregnancies, and it deprives them of the ability often to continue their education to later participate in the work force,” she said. “So there is a spillover into labor force participation. And it means that children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves.”

Scott responded that “there’s a lot of ways for us to address the issue about the child that’s here.”

“We can, at the same time, have a real conversation about increasing child tax credits that are refundable,” he said. “We can, at the same time, have a conversation about the opportunity to have a more robust system around the issue of child care, of early childhood education. We could have a conversation about financial literacy.”

At the end of the hearing, Scott stressed that millions of children face circumstances similar to his: being raised in poverty by single-parent households that are Black.

“Telling Black teenage moms that there’s only one alternative for them is a depressing and challenge message,” he said. “What I’m talking about is the importance of understanding the reality that even during tough financial times in households like the one I was raised, there is still hope.”

He ended, “I’m simply saying that the experience of so many of us, millions of us, in poverty, I conclude is a reason to be hopeful about what’s possible even for those incredibly powerful positive women making really hard choices.”

The argument that women rely on abortion to succeed economically is a common one made by abortion supporters. 

An amicus brief submitted by hundreds of professional women in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that could overturn Roe, argues that, instead, abortion harms women.

Documentary chronicles Bishop Michael Portier,  the 'Servant of the South'

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile, Ala., consecrated by Bishop Michael Portier in 1850. / DXR via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2022 / 13:28 pm (CNA).

In the early 19th century, what is now the southern United States was — at least from the Vatican’s perspective — largely empty and unknown. It was into this frontier that a young French clergyman ventured, seeking to serve the people of Alabama. 

A new documentary chronicles the life of Bishop Michael Portier, the first Bishop of Mobile and a giant in the history of Catholicism in the American south. 

Produced by the Archdiocese of Mobile and 4PM Media, “Servant of the South- The Life of Bishop Michael Portier” is set to air on EWTN on May 22 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. It is also available to view online, now. 

Portier, a Frenchman, was appointed to lead a vast swath of what is now the southern United States in the early 19th century. During his remarkable tenure, Portier oversaw the establishment of the first university in Alabama, founded a hospital that continues to serve patients to this day, and built Mobile’s cathedral. 

“His legacy is perseverance. He was planting the seeds of what we have now,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said. 

“You can’t write the history of Alabama without mentioning the Catholic Church.” 

Born in Montbrison, France in 1795, Portier was a contemporary of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. Portier grew up under the French First Republic, the product of the French Revolution, when the Catholic Church was largely suppressed by the new government, and many were guillotined for their loyalty. The revolutionaries adopted a ten-day a week calendar, in an attempt to demote the importance of Sunday. 

Though none of Portier’s writings talk about this time of his life, he likely saw “a society in disarray,” said interviewee Dr. Charles Nolan, formerly the archivist for the New Orleans archdiocese. 

In 1801, a concordat between the Vatican and France allowed the country’s seminaries to reopen, and in 1815, Portier entered a seminary in Lyon which would become an incubator for priests being sent to the fledgling U.S. and other parts of the world. 

At the time, Bishop Louis William Valentine Dubourg, of St. Louis, was pleading to the seminarians in France for help in his diocese, but did not mince words about the miseries that they were likely to endure as missionaries in the harsh territory of North America. Despite his mother’s reluctance to let him become a missionary, Portier felt called to come and help to convert the people of this new land, and to lay down his life for them in a heroic fashion. 

Immediately upon arrival in the United States in 1817, Portier continued his studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, and then was called to New Orleans to minister to young people there. 

Portier was ordained a priest on September 29, 1818 in St. Louis, and was tasked with starting a Catholic school in New Orleans. Soon after, however, he was asked to minister to the people of the territory that is today Alabama and Florida. 

The territory was vast and sparsely populated. Portier traveled — with some difficulty — from town to town preaching, an event which attracted both Catholics and Protestants in the towns he visited. 

The territory was home to many free blacks, slaves, and mixed-race people. Portier himself had several slaves as housekeepers, but by all accounts treated them well. 

Portier’s priesthood was marked with challenges at every turn. At one point he fell ill and nearly died; at another, his church burned down and two other priests abandoned him. Desperate, he went back to France on a begging tour, and brought back some additional help. 

Eventually, the Vatican asked him to become the bishop of a new local Church, the Vicariate Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas. At Bishop DuBorg’s prompting, Portier wrote back to Rome saying he felt inadequate for the role, citing his youth and inexperience. But Pope Leo XII would not hear of it. 

Portier was consecrated a bishop, and in 1829 the vicariate was raised to the Diocese of Mobile.

Portier wrote about striving all the greater for his own sanctity, in order to be a “worthy instrument” of God’s will. 

As bishop, Portier established Spring Hill College in Mobile, with the goal of giving the Church an institutional presence that would serve students, including women, of all religions, and serve the greater community. The college was the first institution of higher learning in Alabama, and despite some setbacks over the years, continues to provide Catholic education to college students to this day. 

Portier ministered to the territory’s extreme poor during the late 1830s. He helped to establish a women’s charity to care for orphans, and the Daughters of Charity later took over the operation, helping with Mobile’s orphanage, hospital, and schools. 

During this time, the capital of Alabama moved several times as the territory gained more residents and the balances of power shifted. Portier made sure there was at least one Catholic Church in every capital of Alabama. 

After 13 years of work, on Dec. 8, 1850, Mobile’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated. The cathedral is, today, one of the oldest cathedral buildings still in use in the U.S.

On May 14, 1859, Portier died at the hospital he helped to found. His legacy was not only a planting of the Catholic faith in the hearts of many residents of Alabama, but also an establishment of an institutional presence for the Church in the form of a cathedral, parishes, a university, a hospital, and more. 

“Servant of the South- The Life of Bishop Michael Portier” can be viewed on EWTN on May 22 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, or viewed online.