Browsing News Entries

7 things to know about Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely new Catholic prime minister

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), speaks at a press conference at the party electoral headquarters overnight on Sept. 26, 2022. in Rome. Italy’s national elections on Sept. 25 saw voters poised to elect Meloni, a Catholic mother, as the country's first female prime minister. / Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic mother is poised to become the country's first female prime minister. 

Cardinal Arinze explains why Belgian bishops can’t bless same-sex couples

Cardinal Francis Arinze. / Padre Mimmo Spatuzzi via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Denver Newsroom, Sep 26, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Belgian bishops’ introduction of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples has drawn rebuke from Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former head of the Vatican’s liturgy office. 

The cardinal said Belgium’s bishops have taken an erroneous and pastorally flawed approach.

“Human beings have no power to change the order established by God the Creator,” Arinze said in a Sept. 24 message included in the email newsletter of Vatican journalist Robert Moynihan.

“Even if the aim is to be pastorally helpful to homosexual couples, this is an error on the part of the bishops,” Arinze said.

The Nigerian-born cardinal, now 89 years old, served as the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship from 2002 to 2008. Even in retirement, the cardinal has responded to the Belgian Catholic bishops’ open defiance of the Vatican and Catholic teaching.

On Sept. 20 Belgium’s bishops announced the introduction of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples in their dioceses. The bishops of Flanders also published a liturgy for the celebration of homosexual unions for the Flemish-speaking parts of the bilingual country.

Arinze criticized the bishops’ statement, citing its title “Being pastorally close to homosexual persons: for a welcoming Church that excludes no one.”

The cardinal said their approach is not pastoral and ignores Catholic teaching.

“Holy Scripture presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,” he said, adding that Church tradition, as represented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

“While persons with homosexual inclination are to be respected and not unjustly discriminated against, they, like every Christian and indeed every human being, are called to chastity,” Arinze said. He cited Christ’s words in Matthew 5:8: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

He also cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that homosexual persons are “called to chastity.”

“By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection,” says the Catechism, as quoted by Arinze.

The cardinal also referred to a recent statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog, though he did not go into detail.

The CDF addressed the question on March 15, 2021. The congregation said that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex relationships. The Vatican statement was issued with the approval of Pope Francis.

The CDF statement made clear that blessings can be given “to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching.”

“(T)he Church recalls that God Himself never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world, because for Him ‘we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit,’” the congregation said. “But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.’”

The CDF statement came amid an effort in the Church in Germany to push for blessings of same-sex unions. The statement sparked protests and open defiance in the German-speaking Catholic world. German priests and pastoral workers also openly defied the Vatican and conducted blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

LGBT advocates who believe Catholic teaching can and should change are active in the U.S.

In 2015, the American dissenting Catholic groups Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry called for the blessings of same-sex unions as marriages within the Church.

Amid outcry, FBI disputes account of raid at pro-life Catholic family’s home

An FBI agent stands outside the Houck residence in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mark Houck was arrested that day and charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood escort outside an Philadelphia abortion clinic on Oct. 13, 2021. / Courtesy of the Houck family

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The FBI is disputing published accounts of a “SWAT” raid on a pro-life Catholic family’s home in Pennsylvania last week.

The alleged circumstances of the Sept. 23 arrest of Mark Houck, a 48-year-old father of seven, have led to a public outcry about what many view as an unnecessarily aggressive show of force.

Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told CNA that a large contingent of federal law enforcement officials arrived early that morning outside the family’s home in Kintnersville in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“A SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door,” she said.

“They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids,” she added.

On Monday the FBI disputed her account.

“There are inaccurate claims being made regarding the arrest of Mark Houck,” the FBI’s Philadelphia office said in a statement.

“No SWAT Team or SWAT operators were involved. FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck’s front door, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked him to exit the residence. He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment,” the statement continued.

An FBI spokesman declined to answer CNA’s questions about the number of law enforcement personnel at the scene and whether any drew their weapons and pointed them at the family.

“Extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant. The FBI then employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or search,” the statement said.

“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence,” the statement concluded.

Brian Middleton, who has acted as the Houck family’s spokesperson, responded to the FBI’s statement.

“They’re turning this into a technical conversation about the representation of a woman who on Friday morning was awakened by a bunch of FBI agents armed with automatic weapons, some of them with body armor … pointing automatic weapons at her and her husband when they arrived in front of their children,” Middleton told CNA.

“This is absurd. If they’re not going to tell us the number, what they’re trying to do is make it look as if the Houcks aren’t telling the truth,” he said. “This isn’t a math contest. The issue is excessive force for the crime of maybe pushing another person.”

Middleton noted that publicist Tom Ciesieka will be taking over the role of family spokesman.

Altercation on video

Mark Houck, the founder and co-president of a men’s spiritual formation apostolate called The King’s Men, faces the possibility of 11 years in prison if convicted of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, more commonly referred to as the FACE Act.

The law carries stiff penalties for those who engage in “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services,” according to the Department of Justice.

A federal indictment accuses Houck of twice assaulting a Planned Parenthood client escort, identified in the document as “B.L.,” outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic on Oct. 23, 2021.

Houck regularly prays the rosary, hands out literature, and “does some sidewalk counseling” outside the clinic, his wife told CNA.

Mark Houck maintains that he pushed the clinic escort away from Houck’s then 12-year-old son because the man was verbally harassing the boy, Middleton told CNA.

The man fell down but was not seriously hurt, Middleton said, requiring only “a Band-Aid on his finger.”

Mark Houck with two of his seven children. Courtesy of the Houck family
Mark Houck with two of his seven children. Courtesy of the Houck family

Middleton said the altercation was captured on camera, though he said Sunday that the Houcks were still trying to locate the video.

Middleton said after local authorities declined to press charges, the escort pressed charges in Philadelphia municipal court, but the case was dismissed when the man repeatedly failed to show up for court dates.

As of Monday afternoon, an online fund drive for the Houck family has raised more than $191,000.

Defended by Thomas More Society

Houck’s arraignment on the charges is scheduled for Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia. In a press release issued Monday, the Thomas More Society nonprofit legal firm announced it is representing Houck.

The law firm said one-on-one altercations like the one involving Houck do not fall under the federal FACE Act, citing a decision in a similar case Thomas More lawyers won in June 2019 on behalf of a sidewalk counselor.

“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and pro-life Americans,” Peter Breen, a Thomas More vice president and senior counselor, said in a statement. “Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court.”

The law firm said it informed the Department of Justice in June that if Houck were charged he would turn himself in voluntarily.

“Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending 20 heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” Breen said.

“In threatening form, after nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark’s head and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children, who were terrified that their husband and father would be shot dead before their eyes.”

Accounts of how Houck was taken into custody have been met with sharp criticism from GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

“I want to know from Merrick Garland directly why Biden’s DOJ is arresting Catholic protestors like terrorists — complete with SWAT-style tactics — while letting actual terrorist acts like firebombings go unpunished,” Hawley said in a tweet.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, wrote a letter to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary, imploring him to “get to the bottom of this duplicity.” 

“I am not in a position to judge the veracity of the account offered by the FBI or Houck. But it surely seems that the FBI overreacted in its handling of this matter. Houck had seven children at home as the SWAT team pounded on his door, showing up fully armored, yelling at him to open it,” Donohue wrote.

“This kind of overreaction for a minor infraction of the law is deeply troubling, and it becomes even more troubling when paired with the underreaction by the Department of Justice when the pro-life side is targeted,” the letter said.

Donohue wrote in June to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to “immediately deploy the full resources of the Department of Justice to apprehend and prosecute domestic terrorists who have recently attacked Catholic individuals, vandalized Catholic churches, and torched Catholic-operated crisis pregnancy centers.”

“Not only did I not receive a response from the attorney general, there have been no news stories on SWAT teams crashing the homes of abortion-rights terrorists,” Donohue said in the letter to Grassley.

Giorgia Meloni: 7 Things to Know About Italy’s Likely New Catholic Prime Minister


Cardinal Zen on Trial: Several Catholic Bishops and Other Leaders Offer Support


Cardinal Arinze Explains Why Belgian Bishops Cannot Bless Same-Sex Couples


Bishop Pfeifer asks Supreme Court to recognize ‘personhood’ of the unborn

U.S. Supreme Court building / Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2022 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

An emeritus Texas bishop is asking the Supreme Court to explicitly affirm the personhood of the unborn child in the womb.

“While the Supreme Court should be praised for overturning Roe v. Wade, it did not go far enough,” Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI, bishop emeritus of San Angelo, said of the court’s decision that leaves abortion up to the states. “Now as a follow-up to this pro-life decision, the Supreme Court must recognize explicitly fetal personhood.”

In a September statement, Pfeifer called on the court to recognize the personhood of the unborn under the 14th Amendment to ensure that no state will “deprive any person of life, liberty, [or] property without due process of the law.”

“Affirming the fetal personhood is totally in accord with medical science, which over and over in recent years recognizes that there is a new human being in the act of conception — which has always been our biblical belief,” he wrote. “Hence as we move into the future after Roe v. Wade, governments and courts at a national and state level must respect and protect the tiny unborn person made in God’s very image and must never be deprived of life and liberty.”

Pfeifer, who served as Bishop of San Angelo from 1985 to 2013, criticized the “negative forces at a presidential and congressional level” proposing bills and policies “to approve the terrible killing of the unborn through abortion.”

Earlier this year, Pfeifer called on his fellow bishops to hold President Joe Biden accountable and take action against pro-abortion policy in favor of pro-life measures that support women and the unborn. More specifically, in April he encouraged the bishops to respond after Biden’s proposed 2023 budget removed pro-life protections.

Pfeifer’s latest statement came ahead of Respect Life Month, which the U.S. bishops celebrate in October. Pfeifer told CNA that Catholics and pro-life Americans with their children, family members, and friends “have countless opportunities, especially in the pro-life month of October, to show respect for the sacred personhood of each one, especially for the unborn, whose moms might be considering an abortion.”

“They do this by the kindness they show one another, especially for a pregnant mom,” he said. “They can do this by praying together, taking time to share with one another about needs, and by reaching out with loving hearts and caring helpful hands, especially for those who struggle and feel left out.”

In his statement, he likewise encouraged the pro-life movement to take action — and promote personhood.

“Now is the time for all pro-lifers, led by the bishops and leaders in government and civil positions, to strongly and clearly preach and protect this fundamental life issue of the sacredness of the personhood beginning with the unborn,” he said.

If the personhood of the unborn is recognized, he added, that could make way for a nationwide abortion ban.

At the same time, Pfeifer called on the faithful to pray to the Holy Spirit and encourage all pro-lifers — beginning with the bishops — to show more concern for women struggling with pregnancy problems.

“Pope Francis stresses the closeness, compassion, and tenderness we must have for all pregnant women and those considering an abortion decision and offer them spiritual, human, health, and financial means to assist them with their many needs and to encourage them to save their babies,” he said. “And we must work with our elected officials to provide the proper aid to cover the cost of the birth, and the early and ongoing care and education of their children.”

“God created the human person in the divine image and likeness as the pinnacle of all creation,” he concluded. “Each of us, including the unborn, share in the image of God’s glory. Human life as a gift from God is sacred and inviolable.”

Election 2022: Abortion appears on ballot in 5 states this November

null / roibu / Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2022 / 11:40 am (CNA).

Americans in five states will vote on abortion and the life issue in November. Three states — California, Michigan, and Vermont — are proposing constitutional amendments to advance abortion. At the same time, citizens in Kentucky and Montana are voting on pro-life measures.

The ballot initiatives follow the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and leaves abortion up to the states. They also come after the pro-life “Value Them Both” amendment recently failed in Kansas.

“I think the challenge of a ballot initiative is just getting your message out there when there’s so many other messages,” Katie Glenn, state policy director at SBA Pro-Life America, told CNA. “It’s all coming down to this one moment and capturing attention to get voters out there.”

“What we’ve really learned from Kansas was that the other side is willing to spend millions of dollars to lie and to really try to scare people into something that is not the reality of — certainly abortion law in Kansas — but of any state,” she added.

For pro-life candidates also on the ballot, she said, this means that they should talk about their position rather than letting their opponents define it.

“It should be the easiest thing in the world to say ‘I support women, I support babies, I support families,’” she said.

Americans will make their decision on those candidates — and these five ballot initiatives — on Nov. 8.

California: Proposition 1

Proposition 1 would amend California’s constitution to explicitly protect abortion.

It reads: “The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

California currently allows abortion for any reason before viability, when a baby can survive outside the womb — generally considered to begin around 24 weeks of pregnancy. After viability, California allows abortion when a woman’s life or health is threatened.

The California Catholic Conference encourages pro-life voters to say “no” to Prop. 1.

“Proposition 1 is a worst-case scenario for abortion in California,” the group warns. “It is an expensive and misleading ballot measure that allows unlimited late-term abortions — for any reason, at any time, even moments before birth, paid for by tax dollars.”

A campaign for the amendment led by pro-abortion groups, called Yes on Proposition 1, argues that Proposition 1 would “ensure that, in California, people continue to have the power to control their own bodies and personal decisions.”

Kentucky: Amendment 2

Kentucky citizens will vote on Amendment 2 — a pro-life amendment — in November.

It reads: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

As a state, Kentucky currently prohibits abortion with exceptions for saving a woman’s life or preventing serious risk to her physical health.

The Yes for Life alliance, which includes the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, asks pro-life citizens to vote yes. The group says that the amendment’s language “will prevent state judges from asserting their own preferences over the will of legislators and the voters.”

Opposing the amendment, the Protect Kentucky Access coalition claims that the amendment would “pave the way for the state to ban abortion in all cases.”

Michigan: Proposal 3

Michigan’s proposed constitutional amendment, Proposal 3, would advance abortion.

The wording of the measure has been a source of controversy. On the ballot, the amendment is called a “proposal to amend the state constitution to establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make all decisions about pregnancy and abortion; allow state to regulate abortion in some cases; and forbid prosecution of individuals exercising established right.”

The amendment would “Establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility; Allow state to regulate abortion after fetal viability, but not prohibit if medically needed to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health; Forbid state discrimination in enforcement of this right; prohibit prosecution of an individual, or a person helping a pregnant individual, for exercising rights established by this amendment; Invalidate state laws conflicting with this amendment.”

In Michigan, women can obtain abortions for any reason before viability. After viability, abortion is permitted to save the woman’s life.

The Citizens to Support MI Women and Children coalition, which includes the Michigan Catholic Conference, advises pro-life voters to vote no on the amendment. The group says it would “radically distort Michigan’s Constitution to create a new unlimited right to abortion.”

“This poorly-worded amendment would repeal dozens of state laws, including our state’s ban on tax-funded abortions, the partial-birth abortion ban, and fundamentally alter the parent-child relationship by preventing parents from having input on their children’s health,” the group says.

The coalition criticized the amendment’s wording last month, saying state officials should strike it from the Nov. 8 ballot.

In support of the amendment, Reproductive Freedom for All argues that, “in addition to ensuring access to a broad range of reproductive health care, this amendment would make sure no one goes to prison for providing safe medical care.”

Montana: Legislative Referendum 131 (LR-131)

Voters in Montana will consider Legislative Referendum 131, which says it will protect babies who are born alive after attempted abortions.

It reads: “An act adopting the born-alive infant protection act; providing that infants born alive, including infants born alive after an abortion, are legal persons; requiring health care providers to take necessary actions to preserve the life of a born-alive infant; providing a penalty; providing that the proposed act be submitted to the qualified electors of Montana; and providing an effective date.”

Montana law allows abortion before viability. Abortion is also permitted after viability to save a woman’s life or prevent serious risk to her physical health.

SBA Pro-Life America’s Glenn said that she personally found the ballot initiative in Montana — a state she said has been getting progressively more pro-life — the most interesting.

“I think that one’s different than the other four, which are all very much time-gestational bans, in that this is not a pro-life/pro-choice issue,” she said. “This is about providing lifesaving care to a child who’s already been born.”

Opposing the referendum, Compassion for Montana Families claims that it “​​would introduce extreme penalties for medical providers who, at the family’s request, do not take a dying infant away from its parents in order to perform invasive and even painful medical treatments in tragic circumstances where they have no chance of survival.”

Vermont: Article 22

In Vermont, citizens will vote on the constitutional amendment Article 22, also known as Proposal 5, which promotes abortion.

It reads: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Abortion is legal up until birth in the state.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which includes the entire state of Vermont, published a piece in its diocesan bulletin warning that the amendment “promises to enshrine unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in our state’s founding document” and “would permanently block any attempt to protect the unborn — even those who can survive outside the womb.”

Vermont Right to Life Committee urges citizens to vote no.

Led by pro-abortion groups, Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Ballot Committee argues: “We need this amendment because important medical decisions should be guided by a patient’s health and wellbeing, not by a politician’s beliefs.”

Donnelly College Renews Vision of Students ‘Fully Alive’ to God’s Glory


Amid Outcry, FBI Disputes Account of Raid at Pro-Life Catholic Family’s Home