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How to bless your home on the Feast of Epiphany 2022

A chalk home blessing from the feast of the Epiphany / A.Davey via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, Jan 6, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Have you ever gone past a door with what appears to be random letters and numbers written at the top? These letters and numbers actually have a great significance. 

Traditionally on the feast of Epiphany, Catholics bless their homes by writing the letters C, M and B and the numbers of the year, for example 2022, at the top of their doors. The letters stand for the names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also represent the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means “May Christ bless this house.” 

Many Catholic parishes will give their parishioners a piece of chalk, a small bottle of holy water, and the house blessing written so that each family can go and bless their homes.

Epiphany, which is also known as “Little Christmas,” is the feast that celebrates the arrival of the three Magi who had come to worship the Child Jesus shortly after his birth. It is traditionally celebrated on Jan. 6. However, in the United States, in the Novus Ordo, it is celebrated on the Sunday between Jan. 2 and Jan 8. Many around the world celebrate this feast with as much pomp and circumstance as Christmas, including the exchanging of gifts. 

The blessing, which is popular in Poland and other Slavic countries, has spread around the world and is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. 

How do you bless your home?

Begin by having all family members gather outside the front door. All make the sign of the cross. One person will then read this prayer:

Priest/Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who dwell herein.

Leader: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Enter your home and read the Magnificat, the hymn of praise sung by the Blessed Virgin Mary in Luke’s Gospel after being greeted by Elizabeth. During this, sprinkle the area you are in with holy water. After that is complete: 

All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Leader: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead and lead us not into temptation,

All: But deliver us from evil.

Leader: All they from Saba shall come

All: Bringing gold and frankincense.

Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come unto Thee.

Leader: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Leader: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee– Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

All: And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

Leader: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

After the prayers are recited, walk throughout your home sprinkling each room with holy water. Then write the initials of the Magi connected with crosses at the top of your front door. Then the numbers of the year. The numbers will be split so that they are on each side of the initials.

Here’s an example:

20 + C + M + B + 22  

This tradition is done at the beginning of each year so that you can invite God into your homes and place your family under his protection.

Educational video platform aims to share Catholic teaching on controversial issues

Unsplash.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic political advocacy organization recently launched an online video platform designed to educate people and change minds on controversial issues, informed by Catholic teaching and “the foundational principles of America.”

EDIFY, an initiative of the nonprofit CatholicVote Education Fund, says it aims to be “a PragerU for Catholics,” a reference to the nonprofit media company PragerU, which is known for its popular videos which espouse conservative ideas. 

Scot Landry, executive director of EDIFY, told CNA in an interview that he believes PragerU has proven the concept that five-minute videos on timely topics can do very well on social media because of their shareability and low barrier to entry. 

"We seek to accomplish for Catholics what PragerU has accomplished for young conservatives," Landry told CNA, noting that because so many young people are interested in and talking about politics, political discussions can be a great place to draw young people in and introduce them to the truths of the Catholic faith. 

According to EDIFY’s website, topics to be covered in its weekly videos include Human Dignity, Religious Liberty, A Just Economy, “The Best Way to Live,” Care for the Environment, and Social Justice. Each video focuses on a single topic and features a transcribed monologue from an expert speaker, along with on-screen text and motion graphics. 

Landry said he sees EDIFY’s mission as educational and, hopefully, evangelistic. 

"If we can persuade somebody who might see the world from a secular point of view to understand the wisdom of Church teaching on a particular hot-button issue of the day, that can lead them to be curious on a second issue,” he explained.

“By just starting with that one issue that they're interested in, and presenting, in a very pragmatic way, Catholic Church teaching on that political issue, or an issue related to human dignity...I think it's one door God can use to bring people back to Him, to the fullness of truth."

EDIFY’s first video posted was on the topic of “Seeing the World as a Catholic,” narrated by Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. 

Another recent video, on the topic of gender ideology, is narrated by Mary Rice Hasson of the Ethics and Public policy Center. Hasson is a contributor to Person and Identity, an online project of the Catholic Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., which features information about current trends in gender ideology, scientific evidence against those ideologies, and explanations of Church teaching on the topic with the goal of promoting a Catholic vision of the human person. 

On Nov. 30, EDIFY released a video narrated by legal scholar O. Carter Snead on the topic of “The Supreme Court & Abortion,” ahead of Dec. 1 oral arguments in the consequential abortion case currently before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. 

While CatholicVote has a reputation for primarily promoting Republican politicians and policies, Landry said he takes seriously EDIFY’s responsibility to ensure the content of their videos is authentically Catholic, rather than partisan. 

"Ultimately my job is to make sure that everything EDIFY publishes is in line with the Catholic faith and our Catholic teaching, and that's a significant responsibility on my shoulders; it's not the first time where I've had a job where people trust me to make sure that what is being said— in their name, on behalf of our organization, on behalf of the Church— is fully Catholic," Landry continued. 

He also emphasized that, depending on the topic being discussed, EDIFY typically asks independent people from outside the organization to take a look at and fact-check each video before publishing. 

"When the speaker is speaking on behalf of the Catholic faith, we want to make sure that that is well-sourced," Landry said, citing a recent video EDIFY posted on vaccine mandates. He said he personally made sure that that video cited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "squarely and fairly.”

To vet the speakers featured in each video, Landry said the EDIFY team reads each prospective speakers’ published work, examining not only the factual content but the person’s tone as well. Special attention is paid to ensure that all the speakers are “people we know live the Catholic faith in private and in public,” Landry said. 

Landry added that many of the speakers are chosen by EDIFY based on personal recommendations. For example, Landry’s twin brother Father Roger Landry is a well-known Catholic writer and commentator, and is scheduled to make an appearance in an upcoming EDIFY video. 

CatholicVote says it is non-partisan and aims to encourage voter registration and voting among practicing Catholics, and the group’s platform is not completely aligned with either major party platform. 

In the past CatholicVote has highlighted the importance of "a culture that celebrates life," "marriage is between one man and one woman," has noted that "we are all called to help the poor," has called for environmental stewardship, and has said that "the death penalty is an unnecessary legal penalty in the developed world."

However, in recent years, some have criticized aspects of CatholicVote’s strategy, particularly with regard to former President Donald Trump. In 2016, CatholicVote joined calls for then-presidential candidate Trump to step down following his lewd comments about women in a leaked audio recording from 2005, calling the comments “disgusting and simply indefensible.”

After Trump’s election, however, in Facebook and blog posts, the group regularly promoted Trump’s decisions or policies and those of other Republican lawmakers, and regularly criticizes Democratic lawmakers, with the exception of former Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski, who was one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress before ultimately losing his seat. 

Landry said it is plain to see that CatholicVote is known primarily for its political advocacy at the moment, but he wants to see the “education” side of CatholicVote’s mission come more to the forefront. Landry said CatholicVote’s educational mission is “to help Catholics apply the truths toward the issues that we're facing in America, and at the local level in our communities and in our states.” 

"There's a very pragmatic application of it that many other organizations don't get down to, that ground level, because their mission is a different mission than CatholicVote," Landry told CNA, adding that EDIFY’s goal is to "present Church teaching in a way that makes young people want to explore more.”

Brian Burch, the leader of CatholicVote, told CNA in a statement that “EDIFY is designed to transform the way Catholics and all Americans think about today’s hot button issues, using the insights of the Catholic Church, and the foundational principles of America.”

“With the volume of information we are inundated with every day, more and more people are searching for how to make sense of it all. With the help of experts from around the country, EDIFY will be an invaluable resource that everyone can use to navigate the messy world of ideas and politics.”

When does Christmas actually end?

Three Kings / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

How many days is Christmas? When should you finally take those lights off the porch, or remove the tree? Read on for some of the arguments for and against commonly agreed-upon end dates for Christmas.

Christmas is one day

This, of course, is the simplest answer. Christmas is typically celebrated on Dec. 25 for most of the world, and on Jan. 7 for Churches using the Julian calendar, and on Jan. 6 for yet another, considerably smaller, part of the world. On this day, the liturgy celebrated is the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. Priests wear white vestments on Christmas, which is different from the violet they wear during Advent. 

Christmas is eight days

There’s also an argument to be made that Christmas is eight days long. The Church regards Christmas as an octave, or eight-day celebration. The octave of Christmas begins on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and concludes on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1. 

During the eight days of Christmas, clergy wear white, except during St. Stephen’s Day and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when they wear red. 

Christmas is 12 days

We’ve all heard the Christmas carol “Twelve Days of Christmas.” While it’s unclear as to why someone would give someone 23 separate birds, a pear tree, and the services of 50 people over a 12-day period, there actually is a liturgical precedent for claiming that Christmas is 12 days long. 

Twelve days after Christmas is the Feast of the Epiphany. This day marks when the Magi encountered Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and gave Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, Epiphany celebrates the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God. It focuses primarily on this revelation to the Three Wise Men, but also in his baptism in the Jordan River and at the wedding at Cana. 

In the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, Theophany — as Epiphany is known in the East  — commemorates the manifestation of Jesus' divinity at his Baptism in the River Jordan.

But here’s where it gets a little confusing. While the traditional date for the feast is Jan. 6, in the United States the celebration of Epiphany is moved to the second Sunday after Christmas in the Novus Ordo. Because Christmas 2021 fell on a Saturday, Epiphany was observed on Jan. 2, which was just eight days after Christmas Day.

During the 12 days of Christmas, clergy wear white, except during St. Stephen’s Day and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when they wear red. 

Christmas ends Jan. 13

In the usus antiquior of the Roman rite, per the general rubrics of the Roman Breviary, “Christmastide” includes both “the season of Christmas” (the 12 days seen earlier) and “the season of Epiphany,” which is the eight days from the Epiphany on Jan. 6 to the commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 13. 

What is now called the season of Epiphany was, until 1955, observed as the Octave of the Epiphany.

Christmas ends on Candlemas 

Now we’re talking. 

Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is Feb. 2. On this day, many Catholics bring candles to the church to be blessed. They can then light these candles at home during prayer or difficult times as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

Candlemas is the last day that the Alma Redemptoris Mater is the Marian antiphon appended to hours of the Divine Office. The Alma Redemptoris Mater is used from the beginning of Advent through Feb. 2, and so Candlemas has come to be associated with the close of the Christmas season. 

Candlemas is still observed with public, Christmas-esque celebrations throughout the world, including in Peru, Puerto Rico, France, and Belgium. 

On the other hand, Septuagesima Sunday — which is definitely not part of Christmas — has been known to fall before Feb. 2, giving the lie to the Christmas-is-until-Candlemas party. 

What do the U.S. bishops say?

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the liturgical season of Christmas ends with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. 

The Baptism of Christ, which the USCCB states is the end of Christmas, is observed on the first Sunday after Jan. 6 in the Novus Ordo. This year, that is Jan. 9.

After the Baptism of Christ, clergy are to wear the green vestments of Ordinary Time. 

So when does Christmas end?

The exact right time to observe the end of the Christmas season? That is largely a personal call, based on your own traditions, customs, and other factors. For safety reasons, CNA recommends that you take your tree down as soon as it starts shedding a ton of pine needles, but other than that, there’s an argument for leaving things up as late as Feb. 2. Of course, your neighbors may disagree, but that’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem. 

Merry Christmas!

Despite censorship, Heartbeat International's Abortion Pill Reversal program is saving lives

Abortion Pill Reversal seeks to counter the effects of the first progesterone-blocking abortion pill, providing an opportunity to save the unborn child. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 14:32 pm (CNA).

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, predicts that 2022 will be a "a year of great promise" for pro-life efforts to provide an alternative to the growing number of women who seek chemical abortions online.

2021 saw the FDA approve the delivery of abortion pills by mail, while Google banned all advertisement of the pro-life alternative known as the Abortion Pill Reversal (APR). The latter uses the natural hormone progesterone to counter the effect of the first progesterone-blocking pill taken in the chemical abortion regimen.

Despite those developments, Godsey told CNA that last year's unexpected growth in women seeking to keep their babies and reverse the two-step drug-induced abortion by mail, "is an amazing new achievement that makes 2022 a year of great promise." 

"The 2021 achievements at Heartbeat are all the more remarkable considering we've been targeted for censorship by Big Tech (Google) and misinformation campaigns by Soros-funded leftist outlets," he said.    

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. Courtesy of Heartbeat International
Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. Courtesy of Heartbeat International

Describing Heartbeat International's accomplishments, Godsey explained that the "our statistics suggest that more than 3,000 babies were saved through successful APR starts," a record high for the organization.

Google blocked all ads promoting the abortion pill reversal arguing that one of its "fact checkers," the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, claim that the use of female hormones to reverse the powerful action of the drug mifepristone is not supported by science.

"Facts are important, especially when discussing the health of women and the American public. Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence, and does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion,"  ACOG has stated.

But pro-life activists who promote the APR claim that the ACOG's position is ideological and not scientific. They argue that the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine has published important studies demonstrating that APR is safe and effective. One 2016 study that observed 754 women seeking to reverse their abortions reported that intramuscular progesterone and high dose oral progesterone had successful reversal rates of 64% and 68%, respectively, with no apparent risk of birth defects.

Godsey mentioned several other significant achievements of crisis pregnancy centers affiliated to Heartbeat International, including nearly 1 million interactions of women interested in opting for life rather than abortion.

"2022 holds immense promise for the pro-life world, especially in the U.S., and 2022 holds immense opportunity for Heartbeat International and the pregnancy help movement to reach and rescue more lives," Godsey told CNA. 

"The intense attacks from Big Abortion allies only highlights how vital the life-saving work of the pregnancy help movement. While Big Abortion focuses on profits, Heartbeat International will continue to help women choose life for their babies," he said.

Editor's note: CNA Executive Director Alejandro Bermudez is a member of the board of Heartbeat International.

Archbishop offers condolences to those mourning after Philadelphia fire

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia. Courtesy photo. / null

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 5, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Following a fire in a Philadelphia apartment building that killed at least 13 on Wednesday, the city's archbishop offered condolences and prayed for those who died.

“In the name of the people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I extend my deep condolences to all those in mourning. Please join me in praying fervently for the happy repose of the those who have died, for the speedy recovery of those who were injured, and in gratitude for the fire, police, and medical personnel responding to this tragedy,” Archbishop Nelson Perez said Jan. 5.

“May the Lord wrap his loving mantle of mercy around them all.”

The fire occurred at a public housing block owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. There are believed to have been 26 people in the building when the fire started around 6 am. Seven children are known to be among the dead.

A public housing official said the building was inspected in May, and that smoke detectors were then working.

'Hail Full of Grace!': Colorado resident pens reflection after losing home in Marshall Fire

A Mary statue stands amid the remains of the Greany home in Louisville, Colo., following the Marshall Fire. / Kat and Tom Greany via Archdiocese of Denver.

Denver, Colo., Jan 5, 2022 / 11:14 am (CNA).

On Dec. 30, a fast-moving wildfire destroyed approximately 1,000 homes and structures in Louisville, Superior and unincorporated Boulder County. Among those who lost their homes are Kat and Tom Greany of Louisville. When the couple returned to what was left of their home, they found their statue of Mary still standing. Tom Greany wrote the following reflection on what they have been through the last few days, and how their faith in God has remained strong despite everything they have lost.

Hail Full of Grace!

When we arrived at our home, it was completely destroyed. All but five of 55 homes in our neighborhood were. Those that were not were completely unscathed. Very strange. Across the street, a similar picture. To the south, the same. All three neighborhoods gone.

When we climbed down into the smoldering rubble of what had been our home, almost nothing was recognizable. A few pots and pans. Twisted steel I-beams, disconnected from the foundation, had fallen onto the ash. On our front porch we could see the crumbled concrete of the foundation, bricks strewn about. And the beautiful designer front doors themselves melted into a twisted ball. But Mary remained. Covered by black soot on the right half of the statue’s body, she was unscathed. Bricks appeared to have fallen all around her — some probably even hit her. But she didn’t even fall over. At her feet, beneath the debris, are many heart-shaped stones that Kat and I have collected on our many hikes. Reminding us that we have consecrated our lives to Jesus through Mary. And that her Sacred Heart and His will protect and sustain us through anything.

The statue is a symbol. Amid the smoldering ruins that hours earlier had been an inferno, Mary remained. As she will in our lives. Interceding for us through the darkest of times, praying for us to Jesus Christ, her son, Our Lord and Savior. It stings to look at this — our home and all of its contents were lost. The Christmas giving we had celebrated with our sons up in smoke along with everything else they and we owned. The entire neighborhood gone in less than a day.

We did not think for a moment that we would lose our home. On the far side of the Davidson Mesa, away from prairie grass. How would the fire reach our home? Large lots with manicured lawns and little ground cover to burn. How would the fire ignite it? So when the fire department told us to leave we took almost nothing. A safe with important documents and our laptop computers was all we took. Not even a change of clothes or a toothbrush.

Seeing this when we returned was shocking, horrifying. Awareness of the loss stings mightily. But we can only feel the loss as pain because of the extraordinary magnitude of the gifts we had been given in our lives. How richly blessed are we!

God did not torch our homes to teach us a lesson. But through the loss of the home, He gave us an opportunity to experience His comfort through the intercession of His mother. Our mother. Mary. We had just completed a major renovation to the home nine months earlier. It was our dream home. But all of this is temporal. We cannot take it with us. We were blessed to be together, safely away; and to get our cars safely out. And no one can take the faith that is rooted deeply within us, fed by signs such as this that the Holy Family is not only with us; they’re looking out for us. They love us and they care. They pray for us. And they pray for the world in these dark times we live in.

I had asked for only one thing for Christmas: That The Lord would make my family holy. Maybe that starts with stripping away our possessions and becoming fully reliant on him. “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mt 19:21)

Hail Full of Grace! The Lord is with you.

This reflection was first published by Denver Catholic Jan. 3, and is reprinted at Catholic News Agency with permission.

Bishop appointed for Spain's Diocese of Solsona

Bishop Francisco Simón Conesa Ferrer, who was appointed Bishop of Solsona Jan. 3, 2021. / CEE

Solsona, Spain, Jan 4, 2022 / 17:39 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday appointed Bishop Francisco Simón Conesa Ferrer as Bishop of Solsona. The Spanish diocese had been vacated by the August 2021 resignation of its bishop, who has since attempted marriage.

NYT report fuels concerns that many abortions are based on false test results

Prenatal blood tests for genetic conditions have become an enormous unregulated industry generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 4, 2022 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

Pro-life leaders say they are deeply disturbed by a recent New York Times investigation that found some prenatal blood tests have alarmingly high false positive results for genetic disorders that frequently result in the abortion of unborn children.

Pregnant women have been misled to believe “that a few vials of their blood, drawn in the first trimester, can allow companies to detect serious developmental problems in the DNA of the fetus with remarkable accuracy,” the Times reported on Jan. 1.

Yet the "grave predictions" that some of the most commonly used newer tests make "are usually wrong," the Times found.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, told CNA that the findings underscore the need to provide expectant parents with greater support to prepare for the health problems their children potentially might have.

Instead, such children are "disproportionately targeted for abortion," she said.

“Parents who receive such a prognosis while their baby is in utero should be given the medical and other supports necessary to allow them to cherish the gift of life, but most often they are not supported in this way,” Mancini said.

“That prenatal tests are consistently erroneous adds an even deeper level of tragedy to the wrongful pressure on parents to abort,” she said. “In the end, every life is a gift and deserves protection — regardless of disability.” 

The Times interviewed researchers and combined studies “to produce the best estimates available of how well the five most common microdeletion tests perform”: DiGeorge syndrome, 1p36 deletion, Cri-du-chat syndrome, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, and Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes.

The tests’ positive results are wrong around 85% of the time, the Times found. Yet a positive test result can amount to a death sentence for an unborn child. 

Prenatal testing for conditions such as Down syndrome has been commonplace for decades. In some countries, upwards of 95% of babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted. 

“It’s horrific that prenatal tests are used to ‘justify’ abortion,” pro-life leader Lila Rose of Live Action reacted on Twitter. “Every child, regardless of their health, deserves a chance at life and to be loved.”

Father Matthew Schneider, LC, who identifies as autistic, tweeted to his nearly 60,000 followers that “Prenatal testing often leads to abortion for disabled babies.”

“This is the ‘Throwaway culture’ in action,” said Schneider, who went on to ask when our culture will "respect the lives of the unborn & disabled.”

Pro-life leaders: Down tests also unreliable

The Times report made only passing reference to prenatal blood tests for Down syndrome, the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Times said screenings for Down syndrome "work well, according to experts."

The newspaper's investigation instead focused on more recently developed tests for less common disorders that it said fuel a lucrative but unregulated prenatal testing industry that generates billions in revenue each year.

Some of the companies that share in this windfall misleadingly tout their tests as "reliable" and "highly accurate," the Times found. One company advertised “total confidence in every result” on its prenatal testing website but said nothing about how often false positives can occur, the Times noted.

"Some of the companies offer tests without publishing any data on how well they perform, or point to numbers for their best screenings while leaving out weaker ones," the report said. "Others base their claims on studies in which only one or two pregnancies actually had the condition in question."

While the Times report does not delve deeper into screening for Down syndrome, pro-life advocates stressed that those tests, too, can be unreliable.

“The New York Times is bringing attention to a serious problem, but their reporting could have gone even further,” Dr. Tara Sander Lee, senior fellow and director of life sciences at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA.

“One out of every two U.S. babies who test ‘positive’ for Down syndrome in prenatal screenings are aborted, yet the false positive rate is over 50% when screening pregnant women at low risk. The false positive rates are even worse for some of the less common conditions," she said.

“More than a dozen states now prohibit discrimination against unborn babies based on these unreliable prenatal screenings,” Lee added. “A significant number of healthy babies without any risk for disease are being aborted, and a significant number of differently-abled babies are being denied the opportunity to enrich our communities due to this modern-day form of eugenics.” 

The American Association for Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists also expressed deep concerns about the Times’ report.

“Noninvasive screening tests for genetic disorders have high rates of false positives, especially for rare conditions,” the group told CNA in a statement. 

“Even for common conditions, such as Down syndrome, the false positive rate can be as high as nearly 20%," the statement said, citing data from a 2016 review of clinical studies contained in a report by the London-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

"Not only does this lead to unnecessary stress on families and possibly unnecessary medical procedures, but it also all too often leads to a choice to end the lives of these preborn children through abortion," the statement said.

“All human beings, including those with disabilities, are valuable,” the group added.

“It is a travesty that women and families are making life-altering decisions based on misleading information and that children with disabilities are deemed unworthy of life," the statement said “Our patients — both born and preborn  — deserve excellent healthcare and this must include full disclosure of the accuracy of genetic screening tests.”

Federal judge issues injunction over military COVID vaccine mandate

null / Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jan 4, 2022 / 16:05 pm (CNA).

A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration and the Department of Defense over their apparent refusal to grant several Christian Navy SEALS religious accommodations to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued the injunction, which prevents the Department of Defense from taking “any adverse action” against the plaintiffs in the case because of requests for religious accommodation, on Jan. 3.

In August 2021, the Pentagon announced that all service members would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In advance of that announcement, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services said that receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States was morally permissible, and that a vaccine mandate “seems prudent” and would be “very similar” to mandates already enforced in the military.

First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group, say they filed a federal lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of “dozens” of U.S. Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel, who represent Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity. 

First Liberty says the religious objections that the plaintiffs raised fell into four categories: opposition to abortion and the use of aborted fetal cell lines in development of the vaccine; belief that modifying one’s body is an afront to the creator; direct, divine instruction not to receive the vaccine; and opposition to injecting trace amounts of animal cells into one’s body.

Most of the requests made have been denied, O’Connor wrote in his ruling, and some of the plaintiffs report mistreatment as a result of asking for a religious exemption. 

O’Connor notes that the Navy has granted exemptions for non-religious reasons, such as allergies to vaccines. 

“The Navy provides a religious accommodation process, but by all accounts, it is theater,” the judge wrote. “The Navy has not granted a religious exemption to any vaccine in recent memory. It merely rubber stamps each denial. The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect. The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

Archbishop Broglio has encouraged Catholics to follow the guidance of the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, both of whom have stated that it is morally permissible to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations currently available in the United States, even ones with a remote connection to aborted fetal tissue. 

Archbishop Timothy Broglio has also said that service members should not be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine against their consciences. 

“The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” Broglio said in October. 

Catholic bishops across the country have issued varying guidance for Catholics wishing to seek conscientious objections to COVID-19 mandates. A few have expressed explicit support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions; some have said that Catholics may seek exemptions, but must make the case for their own conscience without the involvement of clergy; and some have stated that Catholic teaching lacks a basis to reject vaccination mandates.  

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, has been vocal about its opposition to mandatory immunization for COVID-19. While acknowledging that reception of COVID-19 vaccines is morally permissible, the center has maintained support for the rights of Catholics to refuse the vaccines because of conscience-based concerns.

Ireland to follow France in offering free contraception to women under 25

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Dublin, Ireland, Jan 4, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The move underlines the rapid social changes in Ireland in recent years.