Browsing News Entries

How this mom of disabled children is helping others to 'accept the gift'

Berlin, NJ, May 25, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Kelly Mantoan doesn’t have a lot of free time. Between mothering 5 children, homeschooling some of them, getting her two youngest sons on the school bus on time, and juggling a writing career and a successful blog, she has a full schedule.

Her days even look a little different from those of the typical mother to a large family, because the Mantoan family’s two youngest children, Fulton, 10, and Teddy, 8, were both born with a rare degenerative genetic disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA.

Both boys use motorized wheelchairs full time for mobility, and require round-the-clock care to ensure their health needs are met. Kelly and her husband,Tony know something about the strain that can accompany such comprehensive care.

That’s where the idea of a day-long conference designed especially for caregiving, special needs parents called “Accepting the Gift” was born.

“There's really nothing else out there like it for Catholics – there are Protestant ministries to support parents of special needs children, but we looked and couldn’t find anything that ministered to Catholic parents, whose needs can be really unique,” Mantoan explained.

“From a theological standpoint, the Catholic faith is so instrumental in how I deal with my struggles as a special needs parents, we have such a rich theology of suffering.” Mantoan said, explaining that her Catholic faith has uniquely equipped her to accept her sons’ diagnoses.

“As a Catholic, I've been able to see that there is nothing wrong with my child, and God can bring joy in this, and this is who he is.’

Mantoan wanted to bring that kind of spiritual and emotional support to other parents of children with special needs, too.

“Last summer I started looking around and couldn't find anything like what I was envisioning. We asked our pastor in August of 2018 if he would be supportive - he has a brother with Down’s syndrome who is very involved in our parish life, so we thought he would - and we got permission, set the date, and went ahead and started asking other special needs parents, you know, ‘What kind of talks and things would you want?’”

“We just started throwing things together willy nilly, and I quickly realized realized I needed to fundraise, it was very haphazard, a couple at our church stepped up and did all food and meals and logistics.”

“I'd run a conference before, I've run a major homeschool conference, so I'm like, 'Wow I'm totally qualified to plan something like this,'” Mantoan told CNA.

She called the conference’s inaugural installment  a “trial by fire learning experience,”

“It didn't totally squash my spirit,” she clarified. “It was hard for me at first to figure out how to get the word out reliably to everybody. I have an online presence, our keynote has an online presence, I just figured, well, if we get the word out...”

What Mantoan didn’t count on, however, was that she would find few diocesan offices had staff members responsible for ministry or formation with disabled Catholics.

Still, despite those initial difficulties, the first conference was an encouraging start, she said.

Several dozen parents came to Mater Ecclesiae Church in Berlin, NJ, for the April 27 conference, and a larger remote audience streamed online.

The conference featured a series of talks and expert panels by author Mary Lenaburg, David Rizzo, creator of the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit, and National Catholic Bioethics Center ethicist DiAnn Ecret, onhand to provide insight into complex ethical scenarios including adverse prenatal diagnoses and known genetic susceptibility.

Rev. Matthew Schneider, the priest behind the Twitter handle @AutisticPriest, was also in attendance. Since announcing his autism diagnosis this spring, he has started a YouTube channel where he speaks openly about his life and ministry through the lens of autism.

Mantoan called Schneider, who live-tweeted the event, “a real ray of hope to parents of autistic kids who are wondering what the future may hold. He advocates for those with autism, but also speaks from the perspective of a priest and offers a unique insight on how to make parishes more open to disabled people.”

Keynote speaker Mary Lenaburg reminded attendees “my daughter - your children - are heralds for a new world … our children show us the face of God every single day.”

Looking toward next year’s event, Mantoan said, “I have to work at getting the word out more in advance so it's not such a surprise – logistics, not being well-known or established...it’s a work in progress, and there is no major network for Catholic special needs parents to connect – so we’re asking ourselves, how can we connect and share resources?”

“Many special needs parents are full time caregivers. They can’t leave. They can’t fly somewhere for multiple days of travel for an event. They are on 24/7. That’s who we most want to reach, and that’s why we streamed the content,” she said.

“This is for the frazzled stay-at-home caregiver who feels like they really can't get out, for whom it’s so hard to get that face to face support.”

“I know what it's like when you have a lot of little kids, a lot of special needs kids, you might feel isolated, might be the only special needs family in your parish,” she explained.  

When asked whether other factors affect Catholic special needs parents uniquely, Mantoan pointed out that family planning can be a big difficulty and source of stress.

“In so many families, you have a special needs child - especially with a grave medical condition, and that’s it, you’re done. You get sterilized, you stop having kids.”

Mantoan continued, “If you're a faithful Catholic and you have kids with genetic diseases or you are disabled with a genetic disease that makes childbirth dangerous, if you have a large family with disabilities, do you keep being open to life? How do you manage special needs parenting and continue living your life?”

“For us, for a long time, the whole family planning aspect was a huge struggle...When we got their diagnoses, it was like, oh, I have a 1 in 4 chance of having a child who also carries this disease.”

“It was difficult for a long time,” Mantoan admitted.

“Probably I can say within the last 3 years we've finally reached a point of peace. Basically up until that point, we were doing what the Church taught because we knew it was right, but we weren't happy about it.”

“We're still very, very prudent and very, very cautious with NFP, and I'm really excited we didn't go ahead and do something drastic like get sterilized. Thankfully we hadn't taken any permanent steps during all that difficulty.”

“I think that's the thing, you get to a point where you say ‘thank goodness we were faithful;’ it strengthened us as a couple. And my feelings now are totally different. My heart is in a different place in terms of what I can accept. We were really angry, and now we're really happy we were faithful. Because there is peace now, and our marriage is stronger.”

Online access to “Accepting the Gift” is still available at the Catholic Parents of Special Needs Children (CPSNC) website, and planning for next year’s event is underway.

“If you're in the middle of nowhere and your parish is telling you, ‘We don't know how to give your kids sacraments;’ if you don’t have support, if you feel isolated, we want to alleviate some of that for you, to help you understand what your rights are as Catholic parents, to help you navigate that,” Mantoan said.

“The message is that there is joy here; joy in accepting your kids and who they are, and joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship.”

 

Five men charged amid Michigan clergy sex abuse investigation

Lansing, Mich., May 24, 2019 / 03:26 pm (CNA).- Five men who served in Michigan as Catholic priests have been charged with 21 counts of sex abuse, the state attorney general announced Friday.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at May 24 press conference, reported by the New York Times. “We anticipate many more charges and arrests.”

She added: “Although we have charged these men with very serious crimes, I want to remind everyone that they are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.”

The five men are accused of abusing five individuals: four of them male, and one of them female, M-Live in Michigan reported. Four of the alleged victims were minors.

Those charged are: Timothy Crowley, 69, and Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, of the Diocese of Lansing; Patrick Casey, 55, of the Archdiocese of Detroit; Jacob Vellian, 84, of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Kottayam, who served in the Diocese of Kalamazoo for one year in the 1970s; and Neil Kalina, 63, of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, who served in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

One of the men was arrested in Michigan, while three others were arrested in Arizona, California, and Florida. The fifth, Vellian, could be extradited from his home country of India.

Casey was removed from ministry in 2015, and faces an ongoing canonical process. Kalina left active ministry in 1993. DeLorenzo was removed from ministry after the Lansing diocese receiving a complaint against him in 2002, and the diocese is seeking to have him dismissed from the clerical state. Crowley was removed from ministry after an allegation was made against him in 1993, and he has been dismissed from the clerical state.

Vellian is retired and resides at Bethsleehe Seminary, according to the MSP Society at the website of his archeparchy.

The charges were made during the ongoing statewide investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic Church.

Michigan launched an investigation into Catholic clergy in September 2018, following the release of a Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania which detailed decades of abuse allegations against 300 Catholic priests in that state. It also followed the suspension of the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct with seminarians. McCarrick was suspended from public ministry in July 2018, and was dismissed from the clerical state in January 2019.

After the announcement of the investigation in the fall of 2018, the dioceses said they welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit said at the time that they “looked forward” to cooperating with state officials and actively participating in the investigation. The archdiocese also emphasized its confidence in its safe environment practices already in place, but added that the investigation would be the next step toward healing.

So far, the Michigan investigation team has reviewed hundreds of tips, as well as hundreds of thousands of abuse-related documents that were seized in police raids of all seven Catholic dioceses in the state, M-Live reported. Most of the tips have come through a hotline established specifically for abuse.

Nessel said at the press conference that she believed only 5-10 percent of the documents had been reviewed thus far.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg...This is about taking on large-scale institutions that turn a blind eye to victims and making certain we hold all of them accountable – that includes unapologetically pursuing any and all individuals who abuse their power by victimizing our residents,” she said.

Ned McGrath, the public affairs director for the archdiocese, said at the news conference that the Archdiocese of Detroit continues to promise its full cooperation with authorities in the investigation.

In March of this year, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the state’s legislature for an additional $2 million in funding for the abuse investigation, which is expected to last two years.

In April of this year, Michigan State Rep. Beau LaFave told CNA that he was concerned that Nessel appeared to demonstrate an anti-Catholic bias over multiple previous statements made either in public or on social media.

Similar clergy sex abuse investigations have been launched in multiple states throughout the country, including in Georgia, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Nebraska.

Last year Michigan extended the statue of limitations in sexual assault cases to 15 years after the incident in criminal cases and 10 in civil cases. Indictments for abuse of minor victims can be filed within 15 years of the crime or by the victim's 28th birthday, whichever comes later. First-degree criminal sexual abuse, such as rape of a minor, has no statute of limitations in the state.

Newark church asks school to cover LGBT mural

Newark, N.J., May 24, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Newark has instructed a charter school to cover a pro-LGBT mural painted on church property.

Fr. Paul Prevosto, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Hackensack, instructed administrators at Bergen Arts and Science Charter School to paint over the mural on a cafeteria pillar, after parishioners complained that church property was being used for the display.

Bergen Arts and Science leases the school building from Holy Trinity. Both the church and the school share use of common spaces including the cafeteria, which the church uses the space for events and parties.

Several charter schools in different dioceses rent space from empty school buildings owner by parishes.

The mural was painted by a 16 year-old student “to support the LGBT community.” The painting featured a rainbow heart and interlocking abstract male figures, which were covered following the instruction.

Fr. Prevosto said that parishioners had come to him with concerns about the “sexual” depiction and that he had instructed the school to “take care of it.”

The lease agreement between the school and church states that “due to the Catholic nature of the Landlord, [the] Tenant promises to conduct no affairs or establish any organizations that would be contrary to its Catholic moral values, ethics and faith.”

According to reports in the Bergen Record, Fr. Prevosto was simply applying the terms of the lease in the light of concerns expressed by the church community and that anything "that would be contrary to our Catholic sensitivity should not be displayed or seen."

The non-profit organization which manages the school, iLearn Schools Inc., stressed the importance of mutual respect in resolving the situation.

“As a public school, we are inclusive, supportive, and respectful of the artistic expression of our students, and likewise are respectful of the directives of the church as a private entity and owners of the property,” iLearn said in a statement to local media.

LGBT activist organization Garden State Equality released a statement Friday demanding that the mural be restored and calling the church instruction “militant opposition to LGBTQ people.”

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Newark on May 23 said that the facts of the matter had been “grossly misrepresented” in local media reports, calling the situation “unfortunate.”

“The Archdiocese of Newark embraces and welcomes all within our faithful community,” the statement said.

“The Holy Trinity Church simply raised two concerns. First, that the school refrain from consistently painting on the building surfaces. Secondly, that the school remove some content in a new painting, which included some symbols of sexuality that were inappropriate for the building, as the building is utilized by parishioners of the Church, as well as the School.”

“Holy Trinity simply has asked the tenants to be cognizant of this when displaying information and materials. The mural violated that understanding in its permanent nature – directly painted on the surface – and in some of the content.”

Senators highlight pro-life protections ahead of 2020 spending bills

Washington D.C., May 24, 2019 / 01:35 pm (CNA).- A quarter of the Senate signed a letter on Wednesday seeking to keep pro-life and religious freedom protections intact during the drafting of upcoming appropriations bills.

The bills will be for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020, which begins this fall.

The letter, sent to Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Wednesday, requested that the appropriations committee decline to advance any bills with language that would weaken or remove pro-life or pro-religious liberty measures out in place by the Trump administration.

Sentor Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is a member of the committee and a signatory of the letter, told CNA that he was committed to preventing a single dollar of public money being used to support abortion.

“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to end an innocent, unborn life,” Rubio told CNA.

“As a member of the committee, I am committed to retaining long-standing pro-life and religious freedom protections in all funding bills.”

In addition to Rubio, the letter was signed by 24 other Republican senators and cites specifically the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, which blocks funding to organizations that promote abortions; and the updated Title X rule, which prohibits Title X money from going to clinics that perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, is set to lose about millions of dollars in federal funding due to this new Title X rule.

“The unborn are the most vulnerable members of our society, yet they are under attack. In 2015 alone, 638,169 unborn children lost their lives to abortion,” reads the letter.

“We must continue to prevent federal funding from supporting the unjust practice of elective abortion.”

Recent polling indicates that most Americans are opposed to the use of taxpayer funding for abortions.

At the March for Life in 2019, President Trump promised to veto any legislation that weakens current law on abortion.

The senators who signed the letter “remain committed to ensuring that no such legislation ever makes it to the President’s desk” and will review the appropriations bill to ensure this is so.

Rubio told CNA that is was vital to oppose “divisive pro-abortion policies” and to “protect the dignity of life.”

California advances bill to violate sacramental seal

Sacramento, Calif., May 24, 2019 / 09:38 am (CNA).- State senators in California have voted to approve a law that would require priests to violate the seal of confession. Senate Bill 360 passed Thursday by an overwhelming margin, with legislators voting 30-2 in favor of the measure.

The bill would require priests to report any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained while hearing the confession of another priest or colleague.

In a statement released Friday, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said he was “deeply disappointed” by the result and insisted that strong child protection measures did not require the violation of the sanctity of the sacrament of confession.

A previous draft of the law would have compelled the violation of the sacramental seal any time a priest came to suspect abuse from any penitent. In a statement released Monday, Gomez acknowledged the changes but said that “no government, for whatever reason, should violate the privacy and confidentiality of that sacred conversation.”

“SB 360 still denies the sanctity of confession to every priest in the state and to thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries.”

The sacramental seal is covered by civil law in many jurisdictions around the world. The “clergy-penitent privilege” is widely regarded as a fundamental exercise of religious liberty.

The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.”

Despite the volume of investigations into the clerical sexual abuse crisis no data exists establishing or indicating the use of sacramental confession either to facilitate or perpetuate the sexual abuse of minors.

Critics of the proposed legislation have noted that sacramental confession between accomplices is invalid unless in imminent danger of death, as is the absolution of a penitent who intends to reoffend.

Similar legislation is currently under consideration in Western Australia, following the recommendations of a Royal Commission report into clerical sexual abuse.

While the commission's executive summary states that "the practice of the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) contributed... to inadequate institutional responses to abuse," it does not provide data detailing the frequency of that contribution.

South Australia and the Northern Territory have already passed similar laws mandating that clergy report suspected abuse in violation of the seal of confession.

Despite the interventions of Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, Western Australia’s Child Protection Minister, Simone McGurk, said the matter was non-negotiable.

"I've received calls from the Archbishop of Perth, as has the [Prime Minister], but we think the time for discussion about this has passed,” McGurk said.

“I understand that is the Catholic Church's position, however as a Government we have an obligation to put in place laws and to implement those laws to make sure that children in our community are safe and that is what we are doing."

Canon law describes the seal of the confessional to be “inviolable”, and priests are “absolutely forbidden” to disclose the sins of a penitent “in any way, for any reason.” Violation of the seal by a priest is a grave crime against the faith and is punished by an automatic excommunication which can be augmented with other penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state.  

Pro-life leaders invite GOP to discuss language surrounding abortion exceptions

Washington D.C., May 24, 2019 / 12:26 am (CNA).- Shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that state pro-life laws should include exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life, a group of pro-life leaders invited the Republican party to discuss the way in which the pro-life message is discussed in America.

“The time has come for the Republican Party and pro-life advocates to reconsider the messaging that the abortion industry used and still uses to justify their deadly enterprise,” the letter read. “For too long the debate over protecting life left out children conceived in difficult circumstances, so it’s not surprising that opening up that discussion now reveals room to educate on protecting these children.”

On May 22, nearly 20 pro-life leaders released an open letter to Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee.

Signatories included Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America; Abby Johnson, founder of And Then There Were None; and Tom McClusky, president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund.

Arguing that the Democratic Party is becoming more extreme in its support for abortion without limits, the group encouraged the GOP to continue strengthening its stance against abortion, and to reconsider its view on children conceived in incest or rape.

“With such a widening gulf between the parties, we are asking that the Republican Party continue their support of the abolition of abortion as it supported the abolition of slavery,” they said.

“As a society, we don’t issue birth certificates with points ranking some people as better than others based on their parents’ race, income, marital status or events on the night of conception. A birth certificate tells a simple truth: a unique life is in the world.”

The letter followed a series of tweets from President Trump, who suggested that state-level abortion bans should include certain exceptions.

“I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan,” the president said on Twitter May 18.

“We must stick together and Win for Life in 2020. If we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one, all of our hard fought gains for Life can, and will, rapidly disappear!”

Trump’s tweets come after Alabama recently passed a law to make abortion a felony. The law does not have exceptions for rape or incest, but it does make an exception in cases where a doctor believes there is a risk to a woman’s health. Similar legislation passed in Missouri last week, banning abortions after eight weeks. It is expected to be signed into law soon.

With states across the country seeing a surge in pro-life laws, the letter stressed that now is the time for the Supreme Court to reverse the 1973 decision of Roe v Wade. The pro-life leaders said polls indicate that younger generations favor at least some types of abortion bans.

“In January of this year, Students for Life of America commissioned a poll and found that 65 percent of Millennials want a voice and a vote on abortion policy. A recent Marist poll found that 80 percent of Americans would like abortion limited to - at most - the first three months of pregnancy, if not outright banned,” the letter read.

The signatories stressed that those who commit acts of sexual assault should be penalized with the full force of the law. However, it is not the child’s fault that they were conceived during rape, they said, added that the person in the womb should not be punished.

Topics of incest and rape are not easily discussed, they pro-life leaders acknowledged, but these children are born with value that can make a difference in the world. They encouraged the Trump administration to meet with pro-life leaders to better advocate for a pro-life America.

“There are no better witnesses to the value of all life, no matter how a child was conceived, than pro-life leaders today whose birth stories began in such moments. We hope you will meet with us to learn more on how we can collectively advocate for a pro-life America at this moment in time, as life is too precious a national resource to waste.”

Georgetown Visitation alumnae respond to ‘heartbreaking betrayal’

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Former students of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School have published an open letter challenging a recent decision they say undermines the Catholic identity of the school.

“The false choice you have set up, between embracing the truth of Catholic teaching and loving our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, is already spreading a culture of fear” graduates of Visitation wrote May 23, in response to the school’s recent decision to announce the same-sex legal unions of graduates in its alumni magazine.

“If Visitation’s leaders will not affirm Catholic teaching, the school cannot promise to be a home for students and teachers who do.”  

Visitation’s policy change was announced earlier this month in an email sent to the school community by Sr. Mary Berchmans VHM, who is head of the Salesian monastery that runs the school and the past-president of Visitation.

The graduates’ letter was published on the website of First Things magazine, and addressed to Berchmans VHM.

“Above all else, we write with sadness,” the letter says, while outlining the alumnae’s concerns with the policy and the rationale offered for it.

Although Berchmans was the lone signatory of an email to the school community announcing the change in policy, a group of pro-LGBT former students indicated on a private Facebook group that they had been in contact with her and organized support for the decision.

In her May email to the school community, Berchmans said she had been “reflect[ing] upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our LGBTQ alumnae.”

“The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages,” Berchmans wrote. “But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love.”

The sister also wrote that she had been praying over what she called the “contradiction” between the Church’s perennial teachings on human sexuality and the Gospel imperative to love.

In their own letter, the alumnae affirmed that they “share [the] desire to ensure that Visitation is a welcoming and inclusive community,” but noted that even if the school is determined to share same-sex union news of former students “there are loving and faithful ways to do so.”

The alumnae letter said that Berchamns’ explanation of the school’s decision “signals a fundamental shift in the administration’s approach to Visitation’s Catholic identity and Salesian charism.”

The former students said that Berchmans’ communications suggested a false conflict between Church teaching on sexuality and loving one’s neighbor which “betrays a deep misunderstanding of Catholic sexual teaching.”

“For Catholic educators to suggest that Church teaching is in error is misguided and offensive,” the alumnae wrote.

“Sexual union in marriage is only one among many possible paths to a life full of love; human dignity does not depend on sexual expression, and it is perplexing to hear a professed religious sister insinuate otherwise.”

The open letter accused Berchmans of “a heartbreaking betrayal” of the Salesian order’s founder by using quotes from St. Francis de Sales in an argument which seemed to pit the Gospel imperative of love against the Church’s teaching on same-sex unions.

The alumnae said Berchmans implied that those who affirm Catholic teaching “act out of hate.”

That implication, they said, would be an indictment of Pope Francis, St. Francis de Sales, and millions of faithful Catholics around the world.

The letter’s four signatories said they had been overwhelmed with private messages of support from other recent Visitation graduates who shared their concerns but believed they would be “rejected and condemned” if they came forward publicly.

Before the open letter was published, CNA spoke to several parents of current students who voiced similar concerns. Those parents said they are concerned that the school’s decision to publish same-sex union announcements is part of a growing pro-LGBT agenda within a small section of the school community.

One father explained to CNA that he believes the new policy for the alumni magazine would serve as an example for other Catholic schools to break with Church teaching.

“This isn’t just being watched by the immediate community. I’ve spoken to parents from other schools concerned this could be the start of a national trend [by Catholic schools] away from the Church and towards a progressive agenda,” he said.

“This isn’t what we want for our daughters, we make sacrifices as a family to get them to a school where the faith will be taught and nurtured, not undercut by the administration.”

One mother told CNA that the alumni magazine decision had crystalized growing concerns among the wider school community.

“This isn’t about one or two or ten families taking issue with something in a newsletter,” she said.

“A lot of families - a lot of us - have been concerned for a while now about a real move away from a truly Catholic identity to something just ‘in the Catholic tradition,’ and that’s not what we signed up for.”

Several parents told CNA that they have been in touch with the Archdiocese of Washington asking for newly-installed Archbishop Wilton Gregory to review the situation. While the school is under the direct oversight of the Salesian Sisters and not the archdiocese, the local bishop has a general responsibility for ensuring that all Catholic schools are faithful to Church teaching.

On May 15, a spokesperson for Visitation told CNA that "I can't speak for the archdiocese, but I can say we have been in touch with them and our goal is to work with them as we move forward and remain committed to our Catholic identity."

An official spokesman for the archdiocese declined to comment on the situation.

CNA also confirmed that Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Va., had written to the school’s administrators expressing the concerns brought to him by Visitation parents living in his diocese.

Georgetown Visitation was founded in 1799, and is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States. Tuition is $30,100. Approximately 500 students are enrolled in the school.

Pro-life activist conceived in rape addresses Alabama abortion law

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed the Human Life Protection Act into law. The legislation would make performing or attempting to perform an abortion a felony in the state.

The bill permits exceptions if the life of the mother is at risk, but controversially makes no exception for victims of rape or incest.

In an interview to air May 23 on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, attorney and pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling said that she applauds Alabama for refusing to make such exceptions because they dehumanize people like her.

Kiessling is the founder and president of Save the 1, a pro-life advocacy group dedicated to supporting the rights of unborn children conceived in rape or incest, or with disabilities. She told Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro that she was conceived when her biological mother was abducted at knifepoint and raped, and that she owes her birth to abortion having been illegal at the time.

Adopted at birth, Kiessling met her biological mother for the first time when she was 19 years old. While her birth mother “was happy to meet me,” Kiessling said her mother told her that she would have had an abortion if the procedure had been legal at the time.

“She said, ‘it should have been my right,’” Kiessling said.

But, Kiessling said, her mother has since undergone a change of heart, and the pair are now both “thankful that we were protected by Michigan law at the time.”

Asked about the Alabama law and its lack of a rape exception, Kiessling said state Rep. Terri Collins, who introduced the bill, was defending the lives of people like her.

“He really went to bat for us,” Kiessling said, while noting that the rhetoric around the debate had been distressing for her and others like her.

“It really hurts when our people group are under attack,” Kiessling said, adding that Save the 1 has eight hundred members who were either conceived in rape or became mothers after rape.

Shortly after Gov. Ivey approved the bill, President Donald Trump opined on Twitter that although he considers himself “strongly Pro-Life,” he believes in “three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother.” Trump did not name Alabama, although the tweet was widely interpreted as commentary on the bill.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan. We have come very far in the last two years with 105 wonderful new.....</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1129954110747422720?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 19, 2019</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Asked about the president’s tweet, Kiessling called Trump “the most pro-life president we’ve had by far,” but that this only made his comments about rape exceptions “hurt so much more.”

“You want somebody like that to be willing to defend you,” Kiessling said.

Asked how pro-life advocates can discuss such a sensitive topic, Kiessling said that it is important to “appreciate people’s concern for rape victims who become pregnant,” without dismissing the humanity of the unborn children involved.

Kiessling said pro-life advocates should “appeal to the sense of justice, that we do not punish innocent people for someone else’s crime.”

“People respect that answer,” she said. “And I did not deserve the death penalty for the crime of my biological father.”

Kiessling said Save the 1 has “made a lot of progress” in working to terminate the parental rights of rapists.

“I tell people, look if you really care about rape victims who become pregnant, please, protect them from the rapist and the abortion,” she said. “The baby is not the scary enemy.”

Kiessling's full interview will air Thursday at 10:00 PM Eastern.

Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Chemical abortions may be slowing the decline in US abortions

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA).- While the number of abortions procured in the US has steadily declined in recent decades, recent data indicate that this decline may be slowing as the use of chemical abortions rises.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, issued a report this month that analyzed the 2017 abortion figures released by 37 states.

Chuck Donovan, president of Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that 2018 data from six states indicate a continuance of the increasing use of chemical abortions.

“What we may be seeing is that, through the promotion of chemical abortions and increasing the range of distribution ... the long-term decline could be coming to an end,” he said.

The reported stated that in 2017 more than 470,000 abortions occurred in 37 states and that 39% of these were chemically induced. Out of 31 states, it highlighted an increased tendency to procure chemical abortions, and, out of 25 states, it mapped the trend of these chemical procedures from 2008 to 2017.

“Since 2008, total abortions among these 25 states have declined by 23 percent, while chemical abortions have increased by 68 percent. Between 2015 and 2017, total abortions fell by three percent, while chemical abortions rose by almost 20 percent,” the report stated.

As opposed to surgical abortions, chemical procedures induce termination through a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration loosened restrictions on in 2000 and 2016. Since these have become more available, chemical abortions have widely increased.

Abortions have been decreasing since the '90s, but the decline has slowed in recent years, even showing a slight increase in abortions in some states. Out of 30 states that reported on both abortions and chemical abortions in the past two years, 14 of them saw an escalation in abortions, according to the report.

Donovan said the trend follows the abortion industry’s push for telemedicine. He said chemical abortives have a wider range of distribution than a medical associate at a physical clinic.

“When you get to chemical abortions, then one or two doctors with telemedicine or things like that can cover a wider area, and we see the abortion industry moving to make the distribution of chemical abortions available through every pharmacy in the country...as well as through the mail,” he said.

“Conceivably, a doctor could reach a 15, 20 county area and dispense the drugs without ever seeing the patent. Telemedicine and chemical abortions will be that much more aggressively marketed and reach a wider range of people.”

According to the report, there is an underestimation of abortions in the U.S. both in its numbers and potential dangers, especially some of the risks for chemical abortions. Ohio issued a report on the adverse effects of chemical abortives, noting that women are having increased difficulties as a result of mifepristone.

“Chemical abortions have a much higher complication rate than surgical abortions performed at the same point in pregnancy and result in more frequent visits to the emergency room,” the report read.

A major concern, the reported added, is the lack of information on abortion statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Among other issues, some states do not report their abortion numbers or problems, and some states only report on residents who received abortions.

For example, California, Maryland, and New Hampshire do not disclose their abortion information to the CDC, though together they account for 20% of all abortions in the U.S., the report stated. Ohio is also one of the only states to require abortion complications to be disclosed to the government. The FDA only tracks abortions that have resulted in a woman’s death.

“The lack of accurate chemical abortion data at the national level means that adverse events caused by chemically induced abortions may be much more common than researchers realize,” the reported stated.

Donovan said the CDC will receive real time information on a state’s births and deaths, but abortion numbers are about two years behind. To keep women better educated on the dangers, he said, the government should be more determined to use modern technology to track these statistics.

“These reports are not giving us a true picture of the harm that chemical abortions do, but that harm is higher than surgical abortions done at the same stage of pregnency. We should be on top of this, women should be warned of the heightened risk of using these drugs and it should be tracked by the medical monitory system. That’s not happening,” he said.

Although there is a concern for the future, Donovan expressed gratitude that there has still been a decline in abortions, noting that the pro-life movement and increase in pregnancy centers have likely impacted the decrease in abortions and changes in attitude toward unexpected pregnancies.

“Women are more inclined to keep an unexpected pregnancy than they were a couple of decades ago. Things like ultrasounds, more services, and, possibly, expanded health care coverage for women; those things have been beneficial,” he said.

“We don’t want to discount all of the decline, we are just concerned that it may be coming to an end and we should know why and be prepared to the health impacts of that.”

Pelosi says pro-life laws show ‘lack of respect’ for women

Washington D.C., May 23, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has condemned the recent passage of pro-life laws in several states and accused pro-life lawmakers of being afraid of women.

“This is about lack of respect for women,” said Pelosi on Wednesday while speaking at a event for the Center for American Progress.

“This is about some fear that is in our community, our society about women having the ability to have the size and timing of their families working with their husbands, with their doctors, with their God whatever it is, but to just see it as a choice issue is one piece of it.”

Pelosi, who describes herself as a “practicing and respectful Catholic,” also accused the lawmakers of disrespecting women by failing to pass equal pay or family medical leave policies, and targeting birth control and in-vitro fertilization. She said the language used by pro-life lawmakers was untruthful.

“This is about family planning. It’s about birth control,” she said.

“They like to argue the case in some words that aren’t true but are alarming to people about abortions that must take place in the late term, the health of the mother whatever, but they describe it terribly, and it has a market. That’s why they do it. What woman should know is this is not about just that. It’s about family planning, and access to women’s health, it’s about in vitro fertilization to have babies.”

The Catholic Church is opposed to both birth control as well as in-vitro fertilization.

Pelosi also decried the discharge petition effort for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act currently on the House floor, saying it was a bunch of “guys, guys, guys, just white guys, guys signing for their discharge petition in a way that doesn’t represent the truth of what they are putting down there.”

The discharge petition has been signed by nearly every Republican representative, as well as three Democrat representatives. Eighteen more signatures are required before the bill can be heard.

The Born Alive bill does not impact abortion access, but would penalize doctors who do not perform appropriate care to infants who are born alive after an abortion procedure.

Pelosi’s comments follow a growing number of Democrats who have made prominent defences of abortion in recent days. Former Vice President Joe Biden, and Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg, who are both running for president, recently affirmed their support for the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Biden said that he would support federal legislation to enshrine access to abortion, and Buttigieg chastised men for not doing more to fight for abortion rights. Both Biden and Buttigieg were baptized Catholic, although Buttigieg now attends an Episcopalian church.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress, is facing a second successive primary challenege. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), canceled a fundraiser for Lipinski amid speculation she was pulling support in response to Lipinski’s support for life issues.

“I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” said Bustos in a statement, although she did not specifically cite this reason for why the fundraiser was canceled.

Last year, the DCCC declined to endorse Lipinski until it was pointed out that their bylaws required they support incumbent candidates.

Lipinski’s challenger, Marie Newman, is a strong supporter of abortion rights.