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Italy’s ‘most handsome man’ leaves modeling career to become a priest

Edoardo Santini. / Credit: Instagram/Edoardo Santini

ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 7, 2023 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

Edoardo Santini, considered “the most handsome man in Italy,” has decided to leave his promising career as a model and enter a seminary to become a priest.

Texas judge’s ruling that woman can have abortion leaves hospitals liable to prosecution

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned Texas hospitals that despite a Dec. 7, 2023, court ruling that a woman could have a legal abortion, hospitals involved may be persecuted for violating the state's law. / Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 7, 2023 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned three Houston-based hospitals that they are not immune from civil or criminal liability for violating the state’s abortion laws despite a court order that purports to allow a woman to receive an abortion.

Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a temporary restraining order Thursday morning that prevents the state from taking legal action against an abortionist who intends to perform an abortion on a woman whose unborn child has a low likelihood of survival after birth. The order expires on Dec. 21, but a hearing to make the restraining order permanent is set for Dec. 20.

Although the temporary restraining order blocks the state from enforcing its abortion laws while it is in effect, Paxton warned that the state can enforce the law against the abortionist and the hospitals with which she is affiliated once it expires. 

In a letter, Paxton said the temporary restraining order “will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas’ abortion laws expire,” which would allow the state to enforce its laws if a permanent restraining order does not hold up in court. 

“Your hospital may be liable for negligently credentialing the physician and failing to exercise appropriate professional judgment, among other potential regulatory and civil violations, if you permit [the doctor] to perform an unlawful abortion,” Paxton wrote. 

Paxton’s letter states that the court order will not shield the doctor, the hospital, or anyone else from civil or criminal liabilities, which could include first-degree felony prosecutions and fines of at least $100,000 for each violation. It adds that the order would also not prevent legal action brought by private citizens or the enforcement of Texas’ pre-Roe laws by a district or county attorney. 

The court order claims that the woman who is seeking an abortion qualifies for the medical exemption in Texas law, stating that her “life, health, and fertility are currently at serious risk” if she continues with the pregnancy. 

The order states that the doctor “reviewed [the woman’s] medical records and believes in good faith, exercising her best medical judgment, that [an] … abortion is medically recommended … and that the medical exception to Texas’ abortion bans and laws permit an abortion in [her] circumstances.”

However, Paxton said in his letter that the court’s reasoning is not based on “the legal standard” necessary to allow a medical exception for an abortion, which requires “reasonable medical judgment and a life-threatening physical condition.” He said the order fails to identify a specific life-threatening medical condition and does not explain “how the unidentified condition places [the woman] at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed or induced.”

“The temporary ruling fails to show that [the doctor] meets all of the elements necessary to fall within an exception to Texas’ abortion laws,” Paxton said. “[The judge] is not medically qualified to make this determination and it should not be relied upon. A [temporary restraining order] is no substitute for a medical judgment.”

Texas prohibits most abortions in almost all circumstances, except when the life of the mother is at risk or the physical health of the mother is seriously threatened. The woman who is seeking an abortion is about 20 weeks pregnant with her third child. The unborn child was diagnosed with trisomy 18. Only about 5%-10% of babies born with this condition will live past their first birthday.

Congress drops amendment banning military spending on abortion and sex change surgeries  

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum in 2022 announcing that the department would provide paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion. / Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense|Wikipedia|CC

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 7, 2023 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The House and Senate reached a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday in which they dropped House amendments banning military spending on abortion and sex change surgeries.

draft of the compromise version, released by the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, revealed the House backed off from both the abortion and transgender amendments that were passed in July.

The abortion amendment, which was filed by Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson, would have mandated that the U.S. military stop its program of granting service members paid leave and paying for travel expenses to obtain abortions. The amendment banning military spending on transgender hormonal treatments and surgeries was filed by Montana Republican Rep. Matthew Rosendale. Both passed in narrow, near party-line votes.

The NDAA is an annual “must-pass” spending package that sets the military’s budget for the next year. While the package has typically passed in bipartisan votes in previous years, several controversial military policies, including the abortion and transgender surgery spending, have made the NDAA’s passage a more hotly debated topic.

Both the House and Senate passed their versions of the package in July, before the two chambers’ armed services committees met to reconcile the differences with a compromise bill.

The compromise version of this year’s NDAA funds the military at nearly $900 billion. The package must now be approved by both bodies of Congress and then signed by President Joe Biden.

The decision to drop the pro-life amendment from the NDAA comes as a blow to pro-life efforts to stop the military’s use of tax dollars to facilitate abortion. This comes just shortly after Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, ended his 10-month-long blockade on military promotions that sought to force the Pentagon to change its abortion policies.

The Senate went on to confirm 425 military promotions that same day, leaving only 11 of the military’s highest-ranking promotions, four-star generals, on hold, according to reporting by NBC News.

Though vowing to continue fighting the military’s abortion policy, Tuberville announced on Tuesday that he would be ending his blockade that had held up hundreds of high-ranking military promotions.

In accordance with a memorandum sent by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in October 2022, the Department of Defense has been providing paid leave and reimbursement for travel expenses for service members who seek to obtain an abortion. It also covers travel costs for dependents and spouses.

Tuberville and several other Republican lawmakers have argued that the Defense Department’s policy violates federal laws such as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal tax dollar spending on abortion. 

“This policy is illegal,” Tuberville said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “Yesterday I announced that I would change my tactics and let the promotions go through … I’m not going to stop fighting for these things and I’m not going to stop fighting for the American people.”

Wisconsin court rules that pro-life law doesn’t apply to abortion

A sonogram picture in the second trimester of a woman’s pregnancy. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Dec 7, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

A Wisconsin circuit court judge has affirmed her earlier ruling that an 1840s law protecting unborn children does not outlaw abortion.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper wrote in her Dec. 5 ruling that the 1849 law “does not apply to consensual abortions but to feticide.”

The statute in question says that “any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony.” After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the law was reactivated but has since been enmeshed in legal challenges.

“The court declares Wis. Stat. § 940.04 does not prohibit abortions,” Schlipper wrote.

The abortion giant Planned Parenthood announced that it would be resuming operations at one of its clinics in the eastern city of Sheboygan because of the ruling.

After a pause in operations after the fall of Roe, Planned Parenthood had resumed abortions at its Milwaukee and Madison locations in September following Schlipper’s July ruling that the statute “does not prohibit a consensual medical abortion.”

Heather Weininger, executive director at Wisconsin Right to Life, denounced the ruling, calling it “disappointing for all Wisconsinites.”

“A law that was enforced before the flawed decision of Roe is now one that pro-choice activists on the court are willing to use as a tool for their cause,” she said. “Instead of providing true support for women and families in this post-Dobbs landscape, they are putting lives on the line.”

The defendant in the case, Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski, said he plans to appeal the court’s decision. 

Following the overturning of Roe last year, Urmanski told a local outlet that he would prosecute illegal abortions under the law, which triggered the lawsuit against him and others. 

“If there is a violation, we will enforce the law,” he said at the time. “It’s a law that’s on the books through legislative action. You are seeing other states passing laws or enforcing laws to address this issue. If there’s a higher court that says there’s a problem with the statute, then we’ll follow that.”

In a statement shared with CNA on Thursday, Urmanski said: “As I have previously stated, I believe that, properly interpreted, the statute at issue prohibits performing abortions (including consensual abortions) unless the exception for abortions necessary to save the life of the mother applies.”

Urmanski said he would comply with the Dane County Circuit Court’s ruling unless the decision is stayed or reversed.

“To be clear, I disagree with and intend to appeal the decision. In my view, the statute plainly applies to abortions and, while it may be that the citizens of the state of Wisconsin would be better served by a different statute, I do not believe it is my job or the role of the courts to make that determination. It is an issue for the Legislature and the governor to resolve,” he said.

‘Social emergency’ of low fertility may be driven partly by pesticides, study shows

null / Chinnapong / Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Dec 7, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

In addition to social and cultural trends affecting marriage and birth rates, new findings from a meta-analysis released last month found “evidence of an association” between exposure to some insecticides and “lower sperm concentration in adults” — a sign that commonly-used industrial chemicals may be helping to propel the plunging rates of fertility.

Last year, Pope Francis described the ongoing collapse of fertility in Western countries as a “social emergency” and a sign of “new poverty,” with the Holy Father arguing that the “beauty of a family full of children” is “in danger of becoming a utopia, a dream difficult to realize.”

Fertility in the U.S. and in other developed Western countries has been trending downward for decades.

A review out of the University of Pennsylvania last year noted that the U.S. fertility rate at the time was 1.7 births per female, which is “below the replacement rate of 2.1 that is required for the U.S. population not to shrink without increases in immigration.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said last month that the U.S. population will peak later this century before experiencing a decline by 2100, with that decline driven in part by low fertility rates.

The bureau noted at the time that “immigration is projected to become the largest contributor to population growth,” with low fertility helping to drive a “natural decrease” in population.

The low numbers come even as Americans are increasingly of the view that families should be having more children.

Pesticides possibly driving down male fertility

A major study, prepared by a group of U.S.- and Italy-based researchers and published last month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, pointed to “contemporary use insecticides” as a possible driver of dropping fertility. 

A “comprehensive investigation” of nearly two dozen studies “found sufficient evidence of an association between higher organophosphate and N-methyl carbamates insecticide exposure and lower sperm concentration in adults,” the researchers said. 

The “strength of evidence warrants reducing exposure to OP and NMC insecticides now to prevent continued male reproductive harm,” the scientists said. 

“To our knowledge, this investigation is the most comprehensive systematic review on this topic to date,” they wrote, arguing that the data indicate a “clear association” between “higher adult OP and NMC insecticide exposure and lower sperm concentration.”

Melissa Perry, the dean of the George Mason University College of Public Health and one of the co-authors of the pesticide study, told the Guardian last month that a reduction in pesticide usage is necessary to ensure that couples are not left incapable of conceiving.

“The message is we need to reduce insecticide exposure in order to ensure men who are planning a family or want to conceive children are able to do that without interference,” she said. 

Are these pesticides ‘immoral’? 

Phil Cerroni, an associate ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said Catholic ethics dictate both positive and negative moral duties, including that we are bound to “protect our physical and functional integrity” and that we “shouldn’t do anything that directly suppresses or impedes physical or functional integrity.”

“Similarly, we need to protect workers,” he said. “We shouldn’t do anything that directly places them in any harm. I think the question there becomes, with the use of these pesticides, is it a direct harm or indirect harm?”

Cerroni said the issue is likely one of a “double effect.” 

On the one hand, he said, a “high-pesticide method of agriculture” offers a “basic good for the world’s population” — arguably a more abundant food supply. Yet the potential harm to workers, he said, could outweigh that benefit. 

“The question would be, is there proportionality?” he said. “As a general rule, you can’t achieve a small or moderate good through a means that also causes a great evil.”

“I think the proportionality hinges on whether it’s immediately morally problematic,” he said of the potential effects of pesticides. “If this is the only reasonable means of producing enough food to provide for people’s basic goods or basic needs, then it’s not immoral,” he said, adding that “we still have a moral duty to try to develop processes and techniques that don’t have these bad effects, that aren’t harmful to workers, and that don’t cause harm, either to workers or the people who are eating it,” he added.

Infertility’s effect on marriage ‘profound’

Mary-Rose Verret, who along with her husband, Ryan, founded the marriage renewal and preparation initiative called Witness to Love, said there are “definitely more couples struggling to conceive.” 

“A lot of times it has to do with the fact that people are getting married a lot later,” she said. “A lot of them have never heard of the Church’s teaching on this topic. If you’ve been on contraceptives since 12, and now you’re 27 and you want to get married, you can’t just flip a switch and expect everything to go back to normal.”

Varret said extended contraception use by women can mask a whole host of fertility problems in addition to those potentially stemming from pesticide use.

“It’s not just pesticides,” she said. “It’s the one-size-fits-all system where contraceptives are the only thing being thrown at anyone with any cycle issues. Instead of looking at hormones, or thyroids, or doing blood work, they’re not getting that treated.”

The Verrets’ ministry has a fertility awareness course for Church leaders, she said. “Unfortunately, right now, there’s not much being done in that area,” she said. 

Ann Koshute, the co-founder of the Catholic infertility ministry Springs in the Desert, said that the effect of infertility on marriage is “profound,” including spiritual and emotional impacts.

“Since we founded Springs in 2019, the CDC stats on infertility have been adjusted upward, from 1 in 8 couples to now 1 in 5,” she said.

“The conversation about infertility and pregnancy loss, thanks at least in part to social media, seems to be coming more into the open, which means that more people are comfortable sharing about their experiences.”

Though medical experts are able to assist Catholics struggling with infertility, Koshute said, “the medical implications of infertility are only the tip of the iceberg.”

“While it is important for couples to strive to be healthy — not only to increase their likelihood of conceiving, but just in general — it is also imperative that the underlying grief, feelings of isolation and abandonment, and spiritual difficulties that result from infertility be addressed,” she said.

“We also believe it’s important to give our clergy the tools they need to accompany couples carrying this cross, so we have developed specific resources to help them,” she added.

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Religious sisters sue Smith & Wesson for ‘facilitating’ mass shootings

null / Credit: Guy J. Sagi/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 7, 2023 / 15:05 pm (CNA).

Four congregations of Catholic religious sisters filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson on Tuesday, accusing the company of participating in illegal marketing tactics that they said attract a “dangerous category of consumers” and facilitate “an unrelenting and growing stream of killings.”

The suit was filed in district court in Clark County, Nevada, and demands a trial by jury regarding the sisters’ accusations.  

The four congregations — the Adrian Dominican Sisters; Sisters of Bon Secours USA; Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia; and Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary, U.S.-Ontario Province — filed their lawsuit as Smith & Wesson stockholders.

The sisters said in a joint Dec. 5 statement that their goal is to stop Smith & Wesson from manufacturing and selling any more AR-15 rifles, which as they point out have been used in several recent mass shootings.

“These rifles have no purpose other than mass murder,” the sisters said. “By design, they inflict the greatest number of casualties with maximum bodily harm in the shortest amount of time.”

The sisters collectively own 1,000 shares in Smith & Wesson, according to The Wall Street Journal. Though a small percentage of the company’s total shares, this amount gives the congregations the right to file legal action.

The suit, called a “derivative complaint,” was filed against the Smith & Wesson board and executive officers. Neither the complaint nor the sisters’ statement said how long the sisters have been shareholders of the weapons-manufacturing company. Their attorney Jeffrey Norton also declined to say.

Their suit, however, does state that they have been investors “at all relevant times” to their complaint.

The sisters said that Smith & Wesson’s leadership is violating its fiduciary duties by “prioritizing short-term profit over long-term risk.”

“The company is intent on marketing and selling AR-15 rifles in whatever manner results in the most sales — even if the marketing is illegal and attracts a dangerous category of buyers, facilitates an unrelenting and growing stream of killings, and causes the company to face an ever-increasing and substantial likelihood of liability that threatens its long-term existence,” the sisters said in their statement.

In their suit, the sisters call on Smith & Wesson to return to being “a successful beacon of responsible gun ownership” by stopping all manufacturing and selling of AR-15s, which they call “military-grade, mass-killing assault weapons.”

Smith & Wesson is an American firearms manufacturer founded in 1852. It currently operates out of Nevada and Tennessee. The company makes and sells a wide array of firearms, including ArmaLite-type rifles, commonly referred to as “AR-15s,” which it has been selling since 2006.  

AR-15s are semi-automatic rifles that are legal for ownership by civilians in most U.S. states.

The sisters claim that Smith & Wesson AR-15s have “been used by numerous perpetrators of highly publicized mass shootings” since 2012 and that “it was Smith & Wesson’s targeted marketing practices that ensured that its AR-15 rifles would be purchased and used by emotionally troubled young men through advertisements designed to take advantage of young men’s impulsive behavior and lack of self-control.”

The congregations argue in their suit that Smith & Wesson’s marketing techniques violate a 2000 agreement the company made with the federal government to not market in such a way as to appeal to juveniles or criminals.

“The company’s executives and board members have since chosen to flagrantly ignore the safe marketing practices … and instead focus on the continued targeting of young consumers, eschewing any effort to mitigate the potential harm to the company caused by such practices,” the sisters assert.

Further, the suit alleges that the Smith & Wesson’s board and executives “intentionally fail to take any steps to prevent or curb Smith & Wesson’s continued marketing and sale of the company’s AR-15 rifles in those jurisdictions [that ban the sale of AR-15s].”

Mark Smith, the president and CEO of Smith & Wesson, told CNA in a statement that Smith & Wesson “is proud to empower law-abiding American citizens with the ability to defend themselves and their families from harm.”

“This frivolous lawsuit is simply another instance in their long history of attempting to hijack and abuse the shareholder advocacy process to harm our reputation and company,” he said, adding that “this activist group is not interested in the best interests of the company or its stockholders.”

Norton, the sisters’ attorney, said in a Dec. 5 statement that the congregations of sisters “have long sought corporate responsibility” through “their shareholder activism,” which is the practice of buying stock in a company expressly to use that share to try to change how the organization is run.

This is not the first time this group of sisters has sued a company through shareholder activism. The sisters have also filed similar lawsuits against Hyatt Hotels and General Electric in the past, according to reporting by The Wall Street Journal.

All four congregations are also part of a group called the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which has net assets in the low millions and, according to its website, is a “coalition of faith- and values-based investors who view shareholder engagement with corporations as a powerful catalyst for change.”