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The modern miracle of Fatima

Image of Our Lady of Fatima in Lisbon's cathedral. / Kate Veik/CNA

Fatima, Portugal, May 13, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

While men in the trenches of World War I faced chemical gasses and industrialized weaponry that wrought unprecedented human carnage, an Angel of Peace appeared with a message.

German bishops' president asserts 'the need to develop the Church's teaching'

Bishop Georg Bätzing at the closing press conference of the spring plenary meeting of the German bishops’ conference. / Martin Rothweiler/EWTN.TV.

Denver Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 17:23 pm (CNA).

The president of the German bishops’ conference has expressed his belief that Church teaching needs further development, in response to critique of the synodal path in that country.

‘It’s a way to keep people in fear’: Chinese Catholics react to Cardinal Zen’s arrest

Cardinal Joseph Zen. / Yung Chi Wai Derek/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The 90-year-old cardinal was arrested and bailed under Hong Kong’s national security law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What you should know about this new Catholic saint from India

A statue of Devasahayam Pillai at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Kottar, India. / Kumbalam via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 07:17 am (CNA).

Devasahayam Pillai will be canonized in St. Peter’s Square on May 15.

Hong Kong diocese ‘extremely concerned’ about ‘Cardinal Joseph Zen’s incident’

Cardinal Joseph Zen. / Rock Li via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 04:59 am (CNA).

‘We have always upheld the rule of law,’ the diocese said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lori and Dolan’s response emphasized these details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Senate vote drew criticism from Republicans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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