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Experts warn of ‘inhumane’ treatment of embryos, ‘evil’ circumstances surrounding IVF

Heritage Foundation researcher Emma Waters speaks to Prudence Robertson on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Feb. 29, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly”

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic moral theologian this week warned that in vitro fertilization (IVF) “separates the things that God wanted to be together” while another expert spoke out against the “inhumane” treatment of the hundreds of thousands of human embryos produced by IVF. 

The Alabama Supreme Court has sparked a national debate on the ethics surrounding IVF following the court’s recent decision that ruled embryos are considered children under state law.

“EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” anchor Prudence Robertson spoke to Emma Waters, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, about the ethical implications of IVF and its effects on marriage and society.

“In a normal in vitro fertilization process, clinicians will create anywhere between 15 to 20 embryos at a time,” Waters explained.

Embryos are then tested for genetic issues, and parents have the opportunity to choose the sex of the baby, she explained. After this, wanted embryos are either implanted into the intended mother or frozen for a later time. 

But unwanted embryos are “routinely destroyed or donated to science, where they’re also later destroyed after having inhumane testing done to them,” Waters pointed out.

Because of the high cost of IVF, which averages about $19,000, many couples choose to discontinue the process, resulting in the embryonic children being destroyed. 

Nearly 80,000 infants born were conceived through such alternatives to sex, according to the most recent data from 2020. But reports say that between 400,000 and 1.5 million frozen embryonic children are preserved in laboratories in the U.S. today. 

Father Ezra Sullivan, OP, a professor of moral theology and psychology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, told Robertson that the Church is outspoken against the mass “production of children” through IVF. 

When asked what might be done about the thousands upon thousands of embryonic children now in existence in labs throughout the U.S., Sullivan called it an “irresolvably evil” situation.

“Should we try to allow parents to conceive these children, since they already exist?” he asked. “Should we baptize them — and in that moment of baptism, the embryo, unfortunately, cannot survive?”

“There’s no definitive resolution because it’s a situation that John Paul II would say is irresolvably evil,” he continued. “There’s no way to solve it without some kind of moral problem arising.”

IVF has “totally upended society’s understanding” of what it means to procreate, Waters said. 

Children “can be created at will by any adults who simply have the right parts whether they come from themselves or they come through sperm and egg donation,” she explained. 

Sullivan, meanwhile, noted that IVF “breaks apart” the “marital bond” because it creates a child “outside of the marital act, within a hospital or laboratory.” 

“The issue of IVF is sensitive because a lot of people are having trouble conceiving in this time, ” he said. “But ultimately the Church says that we want to go the natural route.”

IVF separates ‘the things God wanted to be together’

While “conception is difficult” for a variety of reasons, Sullivan noted that IVF “separates the things that God wanted to be together: love and marriage, conception, procreation in the very marital act.” 

“One of the difficulties that we need to accept as human beings is that we’re weak, we’re imperfect,” Sullivan noted. “And sometimes when, for instance, we have trouble conceiving, sometimes that’s our body’s way of saying that maybe we need to find another way to give life to the world, another way to serve others.” 

The Alabama ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by three couples after their IVF-created embryos were accidentally destroyed at the lab where they were stored. 

During the discussion of the issue on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Dr. Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, defended the Alabama ruling.

Meaney said the decision “recognizes that human life begins at conception” and that “children should be protected no matter where they are, in their mother’s womb or in the laboratory.”

“In fact, it points out that the in vitro fertilization process kills huge numbers of children at the embryonic stage,” he said.

The ruling limited the protection of these embryos to legal protection against cases where clinics were negligent. But the Alabama Legislature has since defined protections for IVF after three clinics in the state paused their in vitro services.  

In the wake of the controversy, several top contenders for the 2024 U.S. presidential election have voiced their support for IVF. 

Donald Trump came out strongly against the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on social media, saying he supports IVF “in every state in America.” 

Trump’s lone remaining rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she conceived her son through artificial insemination. She said that “Alabama needs to go back and look at the law” that fueled the court’s decision. 

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, told EWTN White House correspondent Owen Jensen this week that he disagreed with the Catholic Church’s position on IVF.

Catholics express concern over eroding ‘brain death’ standards

Patient in a hospital bed. Via Shutterstock / null

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A broad coalition of 151 Catholics including medical professionals, bioethicists, and scholars released a joint letter this past week expressing concern about new guidelines issued by a major neurological society regarding “brain death” — a hotly contested topic in the medical community and among people of faith.

The signers of the letter contend that the current guidelines regarding brain death from the American Association of Neurology (AAN), released in 2023, could lead in practice to patients being incorrectly pronounced “brain dead” and subsequently having their organs removed while still alive.

The Catholic Church has long supported — with Pope Francis carrying on the tradition — the idea of freely given organ donation as an act of charity for others.

However, the signers of the February letter contend that because of what they see as ambiguity in U.S. law and medical practice regarding the declaration of brain death, Catholics ought to remove themselves from their state’s organ donation registry and create advance directives refusing organ donation until those ambiguities are resolved.

The signers of the letter — which encompass a range of views on the validity of brain death — encouraged those engaged in Catholic faith formation and pastoral guidance to reiterate the importance of “moral certainty” that a person has died.

“All agree that the BD criteria found in the guidelines and used in current clinical practice do not provide moral certainty that a patient has died,” the signers wrote.

The statement was prepared by Joseph Eble, a physician and president of the Tulsa Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; John Di Camillo, an ethicist of The National Catholic Bioethics Center; and Peter Colosi, a philosophy professor at Salve Regina University.

What is brain death?

Brain death, also called “death by neurologic criteria,” is a commonly accepted practice of declaring a person dead based on the loss of brain function rather than the stoppage of the heart and breathing. A “brain dead” person on a ventilator may appear, at least to the untrained eyes, to still be alive.

While legal standards for determining brain death differ from country to country, in the U.S. the law relevant to brain death is the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, which states that an individual who has sustained “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.” All 50 states have adopted the UDDA into their own laws, with a few variations in the language used.

According to a 2020 study, brain deaths made up 2% of all deaths at U.S. hospitals between 2012 and 2016. In the United States, 70% of organ donors were declared dead using BD criteria in 2021, the February statement notes.

What has changed?

Ever since the concept of brain death was first introduced in 1968, the medical community has debated what exactly it entails.

The previous AAN guidelines, released in 2010, did not mandate tests for complete cessation of brain function beyond what can be diagnosed bedside, such as an electroencephalogram.

Further, AAN’s 2023 guidelines, announced in October, state that neuroendocrine function can persist in patients with permanent injury to the brain and “is not inconsistent with the whole brain standard of death.” The signers of the February statement note that AAN’s guidelines are “commonly accepted criteria for determinations of BD throughout the United States and are considered the most rigorous and comprehensive.”

When similar guidelines were introduced last year, the bishops of the United States weighed in, expressing concern that the rewrite “would replace the standard of whole brain death with one of partial brain death.”

“Nothing in Catholic teaching provides support for lowering the criterion to something less than ‘irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain,’” the bishops wrote.

“We are opposed to lowering that standard in the absence of compelling scientific evidence.”

The Catholic view

While the term “brain death” is not found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II asserted in 2000 that, if properly diagnosed, the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain function seems a valid way to assess with “moral certainty” that a person has died. Moral certainty, the saint said, “is considered the necessary and sufficient basis for an ethically correct course of action.”

Catholic doctors and ethicists today largely echo the former pontiff in stating that brain death, when properly diagnosed, is not a “kind” of death; it is simply death, period.

However, brain death remains a hotly debated topic among some Catholic medical professionals and ethicists, partly because brain-dead donors are, today, the primary source of organ transplants. Organs such as the heart, lungs, and pancreas can be — and are routinely — harvested from brain-dead donors as close to the time of death as possible.

In his 2000 address, John Paul II stressed the importance of only removing organs from people who have definitively died. The pope’s speech built upon his writing in the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae in which he decried any practice whereby “organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor,” calling such a practice a form of “furtive ... euthanasia.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its 2018 Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, states that the “determination of death should be made by the physician or competent medical authority in accordance with responsible and commonly accepted scientific criteria.”

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1 Mi 7:14-15, 18-20

Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
That dwells apart in a woodland,
in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old;
As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt,
show us wonderful signs.

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Verse Before the Gospel Lk 15:18

I will get up and go to my father and shall say to him,
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

Gospel Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
"A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.'
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
'How many of my father's hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."'
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.'
But his father ordered his servants,
'Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.'
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
'Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.'
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
'Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'
He said to him,
'My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.'"
- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Catholic bishops object to Senate IVF bill, warn against deaths of preborn children

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on protections for access to in vitro fertilization on Feb. 27, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops are urging lawmakers to oppose a bill that would create a federally sanctioned right to access in vitro fertilization (IVF) — a fertility treatment that has resulted in the deaths of millions of human embryos in the United States.

The bill, called the Access to Family Building Act, was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. This legislation would establish a federally protected right to IVF access, preempting state-imposed restrictions.

“We can understand the profound desire that motivates some of these couples to go to great lengths to have children, and we support morally licit means of doing so,” the heads of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“The solution, however, can never be a medical process that involves the creation of countless preborn children and results in most of them being frozen or discarded and destroyed,” the bishops emphasized.

The four signatories were Bishop Michael Burbidge, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Robert Barron, who chairs the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty.

IVF, the bishops warned, is “a threat to the most vulnerable of human beings.” They further rebuked the IVF industry as one that is “built on millions of children who are created to be destroyed or abandoned.” 

“Contrary to what some have claimed, a position that supports legal enshrinement of IVF, however well-intended, is neither pro-life nor pro-child,” the bishops added. “Approaches such as investing in life-affirming research on infertility, or strengthening support for couples who desire to adopt, would be better to explore.”

IVF is a fertility treatment in which doctors fuse sperm and eggs to create human embryos and implant them in the mother’s womb without a sexual act. Embryos that are intended to be implanted at a later date are frozen. Undesired embryos are routinely destroyed or used for scientific research, which kills those preborn children.

Duckworth’s IVF bill was introduced in response to an Alabama Supreme Court decision, which ruled that human embryos are legal persons under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. With significant Republican support, both chambers of the Alabama Legislature passed a bill that would shield IVF clinics from criminal and civil liability in cases of embryo deaths.

Because of an objection on the Senate floor from Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, the bill was blocked from advancing via unanimous consent and must go through the committee process before it can receive a vote. 

Hyde-Smith claimed that the bill, dubbed the Access to Family Building Act, would go “far beyond providing legal access to IVF.” She suggested that it would force religious groups to facilitate IVF procedures and cover such procedures in their insurance plans. She also said it would legalize human cloning, three-parent embryos, and gene-edited designer babies.

Duckworth rejected that characterization, claiming the legislation would simply prevent states from restricting access to IVF procedures. She said it would not force anyone to provide them or cover them. 

“This bill does three things and three things only,” Duckworth said in response to Hyde-Smith. 

“It protects the right of individuals to seek assisted reproductive technology without fear of being prosecuted,” Duckworth continued. “...It preserves the right of physicians to provide that assisted reproductive technology without fear of being prosecuted. And it also allows insurance companies to cover assisted reproductive technology.”

Hyde-Smith and dozens of other Republicans continued to emphasize that they support access to IVF despite the destruction to human life that is integral to the process. Several lawmakers have even suggested that supporting IVF is pro-life. 

“I support the ability for mothers and fathers to have total access to IVF and [to bring] new life into the world,” Hyde-Smith said when objecting to the proposal. “I also believe human life should be protected.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-South Carolina, has already introduced a resolution that would affirm the House of Representatives’ support for IVF. Supporters of IVF include former President Donald Trump, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the main House Republican political action committee.

Alabama Senate passes IVF protection bill amid Catholic outcry

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

The Alabama Senate unanimously passed a bill granting immunity to in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers in cases of death or injury to unborn babies during the IVF process.

The Republican-majority Senate passed the bill in a 32-0 vote on Friday, just over a week after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that unborn babies conceived through IVF are human children protected under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Introduced by 10 Republican state senators, the bill bypasses the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act to ensure that “no action, suit, or criminal prosecution shall be brought or maintained against any individual or entity providing goods or services related to in vitro fertilization.”

Similar to its counterpart in the House, the proposed bill will be retroactive and is scheduled to automatically expire on April 1, 2025.

According to USA Today, lawmakers aim to get the bill to the governor’s desk to be signed into law by Wednesday. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has not yet signaled whether she intends to sign the bill.

What is IVF?

IVF is a fertility treatment in which doctors fuse sperm and eggs to create human embryos and implant them in the mother’s womb without a sexual act. Embryos that are intended to be implanted later are frozen. Undesired embryos are routinely destroyed or used for scientific research, which kills those preborn children.

This has led to the killing of millions of human embryos and 1 million embryos being kept frozen in labs indefinitely.

The Catholic Church is staunchly opposed to IVF because it separates the marriage act from procreation and destroys embryonic human life.

Snead slams Alabama legislature's 'panicked reaction'

Speaking with “EWTN News in Depth” on Friday, Carter Snead, director of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture said the bill's passage indicates a “very strange, panicked reaction” from Alabama lawmakers who are now on the cusp of providing “blanket immunity to an entire industry in the state of Alabama without any kind of nuance, without any complexity, without any subtlety.”

Snead said that the IVF protections enshrined by the bill are “unjust” to both unborn babies and IVF patients.

“It’s strange to single out one industry, one aspect of medicine, for this kind of civil and criminal immunity,” the Alabama native added.

“It’s unjust from the perspective that it singles out in vitro embryonic human beings and it puts them beyond the protections of the law. It’s also unjust to the families … because there are people who want to build their family using IVF, and now there’s nothing they could do if someone in the IVF context tortuously harms or destroys their unborn child, so long as the unborn child has not yet been transferred to her mother’s uterus.”

In an earlier email referenced on X, Snead lamented that “For a state legislature that has courageously defended the intrinsic equal dignity of every human being regardless of age, size, location, condition of dependence, or social status, this is a shocking error in judgment.”

What does the Church in Alabama have to say?

As both Democrats and Republicans rush to support IVF, Donald Carlson, a representative for the Diocese of Birmingham, told CNA that the Catholic response to IVF is very “straightforward.”

“Human life begins at conception and that life has to be protected in all its forms,” Carlson said.

Carlson said the diocese would not condone the legislation because it contrasts with clear Catholic teaching on IVF.

Birmingham Bishop Steven Raica, Carlson noted, recently called the longing for children “a truly noble desire” but said that “while the in vitro fertilization industry presents itself as the only solution for couples yet unable to have children, the practice is fraught with many unintended consequences and unfettered risks that often are overlooked.”

“That’s really his thoughts on this,” Carlson said. “Bishop Raica encourages couples to continue in their journey towards fulfilling their dreams to have a family and to seek ethical ways to accomplish that goal.”

Archdiocese demands priests apologize for ‘scandalous’ words about Pope Francis

Pope Francis addresses the faithful at his Wednesday general audience on Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Toledo, Spain, has demanded that two priests apologize for comments they made “that harm the communion of the Church and scandalize the people of God.” 

The priests had asked the viewers of their YouTube program to pray that Pope Francis “can go to heaven as soon as possible.”

In a statement posted on its website, the archdiocese expressed its “profound rejection of any manifestation of disaffection toward the person and ministry of the Holy Father.”

The Archdiocese of Toledo also stated that it was “not responsible at all for the statements made” by the priests on the YouTube channel “La Sacristía de la Vendée” (“The Sacristy of the Vendée”), where the controversial comments were made.

The Vendée is a region on the country’s west coast that resisted the French Revolution of 1789–1799. Most of its priests refused to take the oath affirming the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which effectively subordinated the French Catholic Church to the revolutionary government. A bloody civil war ensued, which the Vendeans lost.

The statement of the Archdiocese of Toledo, the primatial see of Spain, stressed that the priests’ remarks “do not in any way [speak for] this particular Church. We reiterate and reaffirm the calls for effective and affective communion with the Successor of Peter that both the archbishop and his auxiliary bishop have made on various occasions.”

The statement noted that “other corrective measures are not excluded with respect to those who are called to be ministers of Christ at the service of the unity and evangelical life in the Church, avoiding any conduct that is contrary to their state.”

“We appreciate the work and dedication that has always distinguished the diocesan presbytery to promote communion and affection for the Successor of Peter with the holy people of God on their journey in Toledo,” the statement concluded.

What is ‘La Sacristía de la Vendée’?

“La Sacristía de la Vendée” is a YouTube channel that once a week broadcasts, among other content, a “counterrevolutionary gathering of priests” in which several priests from different dioceses participate.

The priests who usually take part are Father Gabriel Calvo Zarraute, Father Francisco José Delgado, and Father Rodrigo Menéndez Piñar, all from the Archdiocese of Toledo in Spain; Father Juan Manuel Góngora from the Diocese of Almería, Spain; Father Roylan Recio from the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Father Francisco Torres from the Diocese of Plasencia, Spain.

The words that provoked the public reaction of the Archdiocese of Toledo were spoken at the beginning of the Feb. 22 broadcast of the program, coinciding with the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

In that presentation, Delgado referenced the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, stating that this was a day “to pray for the Petrine office of the Successor of Peter.” Góngora, in his initial greeting, encouraged on the occasion of that feast that viewers be “united in truth and fidelity to the Holy Father and praying for him, for his person and intentions.”

In his presentation, Calvo added: “I also pray a lot for the pope, so that he can go to heaven as soon as possible,” to which Delgado added: “It’s one of the things you can pray for anyone.”

Next, Father Charles Murr, an American priest invited to the video gathering, was introduced and said that he joined with “Father Gabriel Calvo’s prayers for the Holy Father,” to which Calvo replied: “There are many of us with that intention.” It was then that Delgado added: “Well, perhaps we’ll be praying harder.”

Before each episode, the broadcast explicitly states that “the participants in this program submit in everything to the judgment of the ecclesiastical authority” and express “their total adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

There is also a disclaimer: “The opinions expressed in this program are the exclusive responsibility of those who make them and do not necessarily represent the [position] of ‘La Sacristía de la Vendée.’”

Priests apologize for ‘comment in bad taste’

On Feb. 28, “La Sacristía de la Vendée” posted a statement on X in which its members said that “we’re sorry for the unfortunate comment said in jest about ‘praying for the pope to go to heaven as soon as possible.’ It was a comment in bad taste and although it does not express the wish for the pope to die, as some media have maliciously spread about, we understand that it can be understood that way.”

In their statement they expressed their “adherence to Pope Francis, in the same terms in which it was clearly expressed in the program of last Feb. 15. We reject attacks against the pope and the unity of the Church and those who deny the legitimacy of the pope’s ministry.”

At the same time, the statement’s signatories pointedly refused to apologize “to those who pharisaically take advantage of our mistake to attack our entire message.”

In conclusion, the priests regretted “the problems caused to our respective dioceses due to the coordinated protests that came in due to our actions. It would not be a bad thing for those who appreciate our work to express, if they see fit, their support. Long live Christ the King!”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Bishop Barron leads prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood, calls for end to ‘culture of death’

Bishop Robert Barron speaks to EWTN's Colm Flynn about evangelizing the culture today. October 2023. / Credit: Word on Fire

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, Bishop Robert Barron last week hosted a prayer vigil outside a local Planned Parenthood, an effort the prelate said was meant to “pray for the conversion of hearts and minds to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

The bishop posted photos of the Rochester-area event to his Twitter account on Tuesday afternoon. “Friends, on Friday evening I prayed outside a Planned Parenthood with a number of other individuals who tirelessly devote their time and prayers to the unborn,” he wrote.

“We must continue to pray for the conversion of hearts and minds to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to stand firm in protest against the culture of death,” the bishop said. 

Peter Martin, the director of communications for the diocese, told CNA that Barron “joined the seminarians from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (Winona) for an hour of prayer as a part of the 40 Days for Life in Rochester.”

“This has been an annual event in our diocese and the bishop and seminarians join each year to pray for an end to abortion,” Martin said.

The participants “are there to pray for all those involved, in particular, for the lives of the unborn and their mothers.”

Barron, who founded the Catholic media company Word on Fire prior to his elevation to the bishopric, has regularly used his expansive platform to advocate for the unborn and speak against abortion.

The bishop recently engaged with California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna in a wide-ranging discussion that touched in part on abortion. Khanna is pro-abortion and voiced his opinion during the conversation that abortion “should be for the woman and her doctor” to decide. 

The politician suggested that too much attention is paid to late-term abortions, which he called “exceedingly rare cases.”

“Even if that were the case, that is still a lot of babies being murdered from our perspective,” Barron responded. “And how is that ever acceptable in a decent society?”

Trump accuses Biden of ‘persecuting’ Catholics

Former president Donald Trump accused the Biden administration of "weaponizing the government," and targeting Catholics and pro-life advocates. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Former President Donald Trump this week reiterated his claim that President Joe Biden is persecuting Catholics, saying Biden has “weaponized” the Department of Justice (DOJ) against them. 

In an interview with Sean Hannity on Feb. 29, the former president asserted that “Christians and Americans of faith are being persecuted like nothing this nation has ever seen before.”

“I don’t know what’s going on with the Catholics,” Trump said, saying that Biden has “weaponized the FBI and the DOJ to go get his political opponents and many other people.” The most recent comments echo ones Trump has made on the campaign trail, including in December when he said Biden is “going violently and viciously after Catholics” by “sending undercover spies” and sending “SWAT teams to arrest pro-life activists.”

Trump, who is not Catholic and whose views differ from those of the Church in a number of key areas, has frequently accused Biden, a professed Catholic who also disagrees with numerous Church teachings, of persecuting his fellow Catholics.

Under Biden, the DOJ has brought numerous charges against peaceful pro-life demonstrators for violations of the federal FACE Act, which prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

In recent years perhaps the most notable FACE Act charge was made against Mark Houck, a Pennsylvania father of seven who made national headlines when he was arrested by armed authorities at his home on Sept. 23, 2022, and eventually cleared of all charges.

Trump and others who allege Biden is targeting Catholics cite a now-retracted FBI document that appeared to suggest an FBI investigation into “radical traditionalist” Catholics and their possible ties to “the far-right white nationalist movement.” 

The leaked FBI memo, dated Jan. 23, 2023, claims that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists will likely become more interested in “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology” within the next 12 to 24 months “in the run-up to the next general election cycle.” In response to an inquiry from CNA at the time of the leak, the FBI said it would remove the document because “it does not meet our exacting standards.”

After the memo was leaked, the U.S. bishops denounced it as “troubling and offensive.”

Pro-lifers skeptical as new study claims to prove abortion on the rise

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

A pro-abortion group has released a new study in which it claims the monthly abortion rate has remained at the same level or even increased since the Supreme Court’s 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Officials with two national pro-life groups, meanwhile, are casting doubt on the abortion group’s numbers and arguing that pro-life laws passed since Roe’s overturn have been effective at saving unborn lives.

What did the study say?

The Society of Family Planning’s report said that rather than declining after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision overturned Roe, the number of monthly abortions between July and September 2023 “remains similar if not higher” than in the same period pre-Dobbs.

Additionally, the report claimed that abortion volumes have “been consistent with expected month-to-month variation in the average monthly number of abortions” since April 2022, two months before the Dobbs decision. 

This, they said, was due to a sharp rise in chemical abortions as well as an increase in the number of women traveling out of states with pro-life laws to obtain abortions.

The report also found that nearly 1 in 6 (16%) of all U.S. abortions are committed via telehealth medication (also called chemical abortion).

Overall, the Society of Family Planning said the three most recent months of data collection from abortionists show between 81,150 and 88,620 abortions per month.

Are the abortion group’s numbers accurate? 

Kristi Hamrick, a representative for Students for Life of America, disputed the abortion group’s numbers, telling CNA that they were “unreliable” and based on “speculative data.”

Hamrick said that because there is currently no national abortion reporting law, it is very difficult to obtain accurate abortion numbers in the U.S.

Referencing a 2023 study by the Institute of Labor Economics that found 32,000 more babies were born in states with pro-life laws post-Roe, Hamrick said “we know” that “more children were born in states that had abortion-limiting laws post-Dobbs.”

“That’s a real number,” she said. “All the numbers from the abortion side are at best speculation.”

What about the rise in chemical abortions? 

Despite her skepticism toward the Society of Family Planning’s numbers, Hamrick said she is “very concerned” about the increase in chemical abortions, especially those done with little to no medical supervision.

Since the Biden administration has loosened restrictions on chemical abortion in the last few years, it is widely believed to account for as much as half of all U.S. abortions.

Hamrick said that whether the numbers are accurate or not the “real headline” should be that “the abortion industry is willing to risk women’s lives in 1 in 6 abortions.”

Without tests or doctor examinations, she said that abortion pills distributed online expose women to “injury, infertility, death, and abusers.”

Are pro-life laws effective?

Tessa Longbons, a senior research associate with the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that “this report does not indicate that pro-life laws are ineffective and that babies have not been saved from abortion.”

She said that though “it’s difficult to get a firm grasp on abortion numbers,” abortions in the U.S. “had been increasing rapidly prior to Dobbs.”  

“We don’t know what the national total would have been without the Dobbs decision,” Longbons said. “However, available research shows that pro-life laws have been saving babies.”

She referenced the Society of Family Planning report to say that states with pro-life laws have seen abortions “drop by over 120,000 post-Roe,” with the largest decline being in Texas at 46,000 fewer abortions and then in Georgia at 25,000 fewer. 

“I believe it’s important to not forget the major gains the pro-life movement [made] following the Dobbs decision,” Longbons said. “Under Roe, the pro-life movement didn’t even have a seat at the table to advocate for the unborn. Now, we can celebrate the fact that 24 states have put pro-life protections in place.” 

She added that “while passing lifesaving laws is crucial, the pro-life movement has never been solely focused on legislation.” 

“There are over 2,700 pregnancy centers around the country that work to support women and families and save unborn babies from abortion,” she said. “These centers provided over $350 million worth of goods and services in 2022 alone, and research indicates they saved over 800,000 lives between 2016 and 2020.” 

The Society of Family Planning did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the criticisms of its study.

French bishops lament country’s enshrinement of abortion in constitution

Members of the French Parliament are shown when they convened for a previous revision of the country's constitution at Versailles castle, near Paris, in 2008. / Credit: Joel Sagat/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

By a vote of 267-50, the French Senate this week approved a constitutional amendment to include women’s recourse to abortion as a “guaranteed freedom.” 

In the wake of the vote on Monday, March 4, the amendment is expected to receive a final vote of approval at the Palace of Congresses in Versailles. If approved as expected, the country will become the first in the world to specifically make abortion a right enumerated in its constitution.

“I committed to making women’s freedom to abort irreversible, enshrining it in the Constitution,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on X. “The Senate has taken a decisive step, which I welcome,” he added.

French bishops respond

In a Feb. 29 statement posted on X, the French Bishops’ Conference said it was “saddened” by the senators’ vote on the constitutional measure.

The bishops pointed out that abortion “remains an affront to life in its beginnings” and that “it cannot be seen solely from the perspective of women’s rights.”

The prelates also regretted that the parliamentary debate “did not mention the measures to help those women and men who would like to keep their child.”

“The bishops’ conference will be vigilant with respect to the freedom of choice of parents who decide, even in difficult situations, to keep their child and the freedom of conscience of doctors and all health care personnel, whose courage and commitment it commends,” the prelates concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.