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Abortion activists at Florida university charged with assaulting police officers

Ian Dinkla, 21, and Bryn Taylor, 26, abortion activists and students at the University of Florida are arrested by university police. / Created Equal

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2023 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

Two pro-abortion activists were caught on video stealing pro-life signs and then violently resisting arrest on March 10 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The activists, identified by the police as Ian Dinkla, 21, and Bryn Taylor, 26, were arrested by officers from the University of Florida Police Department. They now face violent felony charges including “battery of a law enforcement officer” and “resisting an officer with violence.” They will stand trial in Alachua county court in Florida. 

The signs stolen by the abortion activists included photos of aborted babies and were posted on campus as part of a temporary demonstration by the pro-life group Created Equal. The group had received permission to post their display from the University of Florida administration. 

An Ohio-based group, Created Equal trains and sends students to colleges and high schools across the East Coast to raise awareness of the reality of abortion.

According to the police arrest report, Dinkla repeatedly shoved a police officer in attempts to resist arrest while Taylor struck the officer over the head with a bullhorn and punched him in the face. 

The video, posted by Created Equal, first shows Dinkla grabbing a large pro-life sign and walking off with it to put in his car.

Video taken later that day shows Dinkla approaching another pro-life display and then being confronted by a plainclothes law enforcement officer who identifies himself as “Detective Tarafa with the University of Florida Police Department.”

Dinkla becomes noncompliant and shoves the detective away, saying “stop this person, I’m being attacked.”

As Dinkla can be seen resisting arrest, Taylor intervenes, striking the detective, jumping on him, and shouting profanities.

According to the police arrest record, Taylor “struck Det. Tarafa in the back of his head with a bullhorn. Det. Tarafa then attempted to detain the Defendant [Taylor] and was punched in the face with a closed fist.”

During the altercation additional uniformed police officers converged on the scene. Dinkla is recorded shouting for other students to intervene, saying: “You fools, you get involved! Bystander effect!”

After both students have been subdued Taylor continues to shout at the police, saying; “Are you f---ing insane?” and “You’re defending people who come here and harass people?”

Taylor is now facing two felony charges for battery of a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence, along with a misdemeanor charge of resisting without violence for interfering with a lawful arrest.

Dinkla is also facing two charges for robbery by sudden snatching and resisting an officer with violence. University of Florida Police documentation states that he “knowingly and willfully resisted, by doing violence to Det. Tarafa, by forcefully pushing him away, and then pulling away once Det. Tarafa placed his hands on Dinkla.”

Created Equal’s president Mark Harrington told CNA that harassment, vandalism, and theft against their pro-life efforts is “commonplace.”

“As you can imagine, going to a college campus and presenting a pro-life message is generally not very welcomed on a campus,” Harrington said. “Doing it the way we do, which is to show the victims of abortion, often brings even a higher level of opposition.”

“We face this kind of opposition everywhere we go. We will never back down or cower to these types of tactics by abortion advocates. It only emboldens us to continue on with the mission,” Harrington said. “There are a large number of students who are interested in discussing with us about abortion and that’s why we’re there.”

In a March 10 statement on Facebook, Harrington said: “It is no surprise that those who advocate for the killing of preborn humans resort to violence towards those with whom they disagree … We are grateful no staff members were injured in this incident. We also appreciate the efforts of the university and its law enforcement officers to protect the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights.”

The University of Florida confirmed with CNA that both Taylor and Dinkla are enrolled as students and that the school is currently conducting a disciplinary review.

Though the school could not disclose what type of disciplinary action the students could be facing, university spokesman Steve Orlando told CNA that “the University of Florida will be absolutely clear about these two things: Speech is protected, and violence is not tolerated.”

“Everyone — regardless of their views — can exercise their First Amendment rights on this campus, and nobody has a right to violence,” Orlando said. “Violent behavior and resisting arrest are unacceptable.”

Graduate Assistants United, a graduate employees’ labor union at the University of Florida of which Taylor is a member, took to Twitter in defense of the arrested students and asked for donations to pay their bail.

The group tweeted:

“!!NEED SOLIDARITY AND HELP!! 2 friends, GAs were arrested today while protesting in Turlington Plaza for women’s rights. Court support needed, Bail Money needed” and “Please share, show up, and help in any way. We will not be intimidated.”

Both Taylor and Dinkla have since been released, with Taylor being released on the condition she cannot return to the University of Florida campus during her trial, according to local news outlet WCJB.

WCJB reported that a crowd of nearly 100 protesters showed up at the county courthouse to demonstrate their support for Taylor and Dinkla.

This comes as pro-life groups and churches across the U.S. face a spate of vandalism and harassment since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

CNA has tracked and mapped more than 100 incidents of pro-abortion vandalism across the U.S., including at least 56 at pregnancy centers and 33 at churches of various denominations. 

Members of Congress have criticized the Department of Justice under the Biden administration for largely failing to respond to these crimes against pro-life groups and churches.

On Jan. 11, a resolution by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, condemning the attacks against pro-lifers and calling for the administration to act in their defense passed the House in a 222-209 vote.

Cardinals Müller, Burke rebuke German bishops over same-sex union blessings

German Cardinal Gerhard Müller (left) and American Cardinal Raymond Burke. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2023 / 13:09 pm (CNA).

A synod of German bishops overwhelmingly approved Church blessings of same-sex unions and unions between divorced and remarried Catholics, but the move has faced harsh criticism from some members of the Catholic hierarchy who have accused the German bishops of abandoning the faith. 

German Cardinal Gerhard Müller and American Cardinal Raymond Burke rebuked the German bishops and called on them to be sanctioned in an interview on EWTN’s “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo,” which aired on Thursday night, March 16. 

“There must be a trial and they must be sentenced and they must be removed from their office if they are not converting themselves and they are not accepting the Catholic doctrine,” Müller said during the interview.

“That is very sad that a majority of bishops voted explicitly against the revealed doctrine, and the revealed faith of the Catholic Church and of all our Christian thinking, against the Bible, the word of God in the Holy Scripture and in the apostolic tradition and in the defined doctrine of the Catholic Church,” the cardinal added. 

Müller said the laypeople and the bishops who supported these resolutions at the German Synodal Way are “influenced by this LGBT and woke ideology, which is materialistic and nihilistic.”

“It is absolutely blasphemic to make a blessing about those forms of life which is, according to the biblical and the ecclesial doctrine a sin because all forms of sexuality outside of a valid matrimony is sin and cannot be blessed,” he said. 

“If you look in the Bible, it’s absolutely only the matrimony between man and woman who are united in love in the body and in the soul,” the cardinal said, “and to have the possibility [to] become fathers and mothers and to found a family.”

Burke urged the Vatican to sanction the bishops who voted in favor of blessing homosexual unions.

“Whether it’s a departure, heretical teaching and denial of one of the doctrines of the faith, or apostasy in the sense of simply walking away from Christ and from his teaching in the Church to embrace some other form of religion, these are crimes,” Burke said. “I mean, these are sins against Christ himself and, obviously then, of the most serious nature. And the Code of Canon Law provides the appropriate sanctions.”

The cardinal warned that the Church is being “used” to push an ideological agenda. 

“These are human inventions, human ideologies that are being pushed and the Church is being used,” Burke added. “And what it does is it renders the Church then into some kind of a human agency, almost like a government agency that’s being manipulated to foster certain programs and certain agenda. And so we need to wake up to what is happening.”

“You will notice that in a lot of this talk, you never hear the name of Our Lord,” Burke said. “You never hear talk about what Our Lord Jesus Christ is teaching us, what he’s asking of us. So this is a very serious situation.”

The cardinal also responded to Arroyo’s suggestion that “opponents of these reforms are often derided as going against the pope.”  

“We are the ones who love the pope and are trying to help him to carry out his mission, whereas these people who simply ignore what Rome is saying to them, what the See of Peter is saying to them, show that they have no respect for him, whatever they are indeed the enemies of the pope. I think it’s clear any reasonable person can see that,” he said.

Burke said that Pope Francis “sometimes says things that are very clear and in accord with the Church’s teaching with regard to these matters.”

“What the agents of the revolution do is simply ignore these statements and take other statements in which he seems to be favorable,” he said.

Here’s why a popular canon law website will have to remove much of its content

null / Credit: Alex Verrone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2023 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

A popular canon law website, CanonLaw.Ninja, is removing much of its content by Friday, March 17, to comply with a copyright complaint, which will leave the website without an English translation of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. 

The website, which describes itself as “a resource for both professional and armchair canonists,” includes an up-to-date translation of the Code of Canon Law with a tool that helps users easily find the information they’re seeking. Father Paul Hedman created the website when he was a seminarian and pays for the website’s upkeep with donations from users.

“Prior to my site, the only place that the code was online was http://vatican.va, which was out of date, poorly formatted, and unsearchable,” Hedman said on Twitter

“So I made a tool to be of help. Sourcing the canons from the Vatican website and other places the code was freely available, I put together a website that for the past several years has helped hundreds of canonists, students, and Christian faithful know the law of the Church,” he wrote.

Hedman was served with a cease-and-desist order from the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA), which is the copyright holder of the translation. 

“The Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition,” which is the society-owned translation, is sold on the CLSA website for $75 but is currently out of stock. “The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches” is available for $50. “Dignitas Conubii: Norms and Commentary” is also available for $50. 

The Minnesota priest tweeted that the letter “came as a shock” and wondered why “the CLSA [would] want to prevent people from accessing the law” and why they had not contacted him before taking legal action, based on the principles of Canon 1446. 

“If the CLSA chooses to make their fine translation of the code less accessible, the study [and] application of canon law will suffer,” Hedman said. “I beg them to reconsider: rather than make an adversary of a priest trying to serve the Church, be a team for the salvation of souls — the Lex Suprema.”

Hedman said he requested several alternative solutions to the problem, which would have allowed the content to stay on the website, but the CLSA did not accept any of them. He offered to stop collecting donations, split the donations with CLSA, pay yearly royalties, or even give the CLSA rights to the tool. 

“I am asking the CLSA to reconsider their course of action and allow for licensing of their translation of the code so that it may be used on http://CanonLaw.ninja,” Hedman said. “It would be regrettable if the resource had to be temporarily disabled until another translation can be found.”

The CLSA did not respond to requests for comment from CNA. 

Some priests took to Twitter to voice their opposition to the legal action. 

“The reality is that whether it’s a biblical translation (USCCB) or translation of the code (CLSA), these things need to move into the public domain after cost is recouped,” Father Josh Miller tweeted. “Instead, they end up paying for the cocktail parties, and that’s pretty disgraceful.”

Father Matthew Schneider, a priest with the Legionaries of Christ, urged the CLSA to work with Hedman to ensure the website can continue to function as it has. 

“Please find some way to work with Fr. Paul & keep http://canonlaw.ninja operating with the best English translation of canon law,” he tweeted to the Canon Law Society’s Twitter handle.

The cease-and-desist letter demands Hedman remove and destroy all copyrighted material from the website and halt any further use, reproduction, and transmission that would infringe on CLSA’s copyright. It further demands that Hedman destroy all materials, including physical copies, of the copyrighted translation, except for publications purchased from CLSA. 

According to the cease-and-desist letter, copyrighted materials include the website’s Code of Canon Law translation, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches translation, and the Dignitas Connubii translation, which is a Vatican document on the nullification of marriages. This would not affect the other material on the website. 

The letter requests that the content be removed on March 16, but Hedman told CNA that he was given a one-day extension. He said he will comply with all of the demands in the letter and remove the copyrighted materials by Friday, March 17. 

“I fully intend to comply with the cease-and-desist order and remove the content that the CLSA owns, if that is what it comes to,” Hedman said in a tweet. “I hold no animosity against the society, and if I ever became a canonist would plan to join.”

Ecclesiastical documents are often copyrighted, except for older documents that have entered the public domain. According to Canon 828: “It is not permitted to reprint collections of decrees or acts published by some ecclesiastical authority unless the prior permission of the same authority has been obtained and the conditions prescribed by it have been observed.” 

Other Catholics have also had similar problems when trying to republish ecclesiastical works and specific translations. Matthew Warner, who founded a church communications software company called FlockNote, sent free daily emails with excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was meant to cover the entire catechism in one year. 

He discontinued that practice after he received a cease-and-desist letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which owns the copyright to the catechism.

The English version of the Code of Canon Law is available on the Vatican’s website. 

UPDATE: Where are Catholics allowed to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day this Lent?

St. Patrick and corned beef. / Left: Hope Phillips / Shutterstock. Right: Slawomir Fajer / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday.

For those who aren’t Catholic but are keen on observing the feast day with green beer and the traditional corned beef and cabbage, this is something of a happy coincidence and a great way to end the work week.

For Catholics it’s problematic. It’s Lent, a penitential time when Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays.

As the luck of the Irish would have it, there is a way out of this dilemma. Diocesan bishops can give the faithful a dispensation to allow them to eat meat on March 17.  The National Catholic Register’s Matt McDonald surveyed all of the bishops in the U.S. to find out which ones are offering a free pass on St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s what he heard back:

“As of Thursday, March 16, 73.1% of the dioceses — 128 — were offering some relief from the no-meat-on-Fridays-during-Lent rule for St. Patrick’s Day.

“Of those saying some form of yes, 94 diocesan bishops are providing a dispensation with no strings attached — although many of those bishops suggest extra prayers or spiritual exercises or abstaining from meat on another day. Thirty-four diocesan bishops said some form of ‘yes, but …’  — requiring a substitute through what canon law calls a ‘commutation’ of the requirement, such as attending Mass on St. Patrick’s Day, saying the Breastplate of St. Patrick, praying the rosary, abstaining from meat another day, or helping the poor.

“Also in the yes-but category is the Archdiocese for the U.S. Military Services, which is requiring abstinence from meat on another day the same week as St. Patrick’s Day for those planning to eat meat on Friday, March 17.

“Forty-five diocesan bishops have said no to a general dispensation or commutation for all Catholics in the diocese, although many of those say they would grant individual dispensations upon request. That’s 25.7% of the dioceses.”

So, before heading out to celebrate, here’s a handy map showing which dioceses have given the green light (sorry) to eating meat on St. Patrick’s Day:

To learn about the history of the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day by Irish Catholics in the United States read this fascinating article by McDonald in the National Catholic Register.

Texas lawmakers propose making illegal immigration a felony

Migrants, mostly of Venezuelan origin, attempt to forcibly cross into the United States at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on March 12, 2023. / Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2023 / 15:24 pm (CNA).

The Republican leadership in the Texas House announced last week that passing a bill to make illegal immigration a felony is a top priority this spring.

The “Border Protection Unit Act,” introduced last week by state Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer and supported by key leaders of the majority-Republican Texas House of Representatives, would create a specialized border protection police force and make illegal immigration a state felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan issued a March 10 press release announcing that House leadership will prioritize passing the Border Protection Unit Act. 

“Addressing our state’s border and humanitarian crisis is a must-pass issue for the Texas House this year, and I thank Representatives Guillen and Schaefer for filing … [bills that] will lead to a safer Texas that overall reduces the cost to taxpayers,” Phelan said.

The act would give the new border protection unit full legal authority to “arrest, detain, and deter individuals crossing the border illegally including with the use of nondeadly force.” Additionally, the unit’s chief, who would be appointed by the governor, would have the authority to deputize civilians “to participate in unit operations and functions” so long as those individuals have not been convicted of a felony.”

Another bill proposed by state Rep. Ryan Guillen would establish a Border Safety Oversight Committee to oversee the new border protection unit and provide border policy recommendations to the Legislature.

The Texas House Mexican American Legislative Caucus immediately denounced Schaefer’s proposed legislation, calling it an “extreme vigilante death squads policy.” 

“This dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional proposal which empowers border vigilantes to hunt migrants and racially profile Latinos is going to result in the death of innocent people,” the statement read.

Schaefer responded in a tweet: 

“The Texas Border Protection Unit will be an organization of professional men and women hired/trained under the authority of the Dept. of Public Safety to protect Texans. Many will be licensed peace officers, others trained and specifically authorized by the Governor to make lawful arrests. Exactly as the Nat’l Guard & DPS operate now under Operation Lone Star.”

Operation Lone Star is an ongoing border security initiative that was first launched in the spring of 2021 by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 

The initiative has dedicated billions of state dollars and resources to border security and sent thousands of public safety officers and National Guard soldiers to the Texas-Mexico border. 

To become law, Schaefer’s bill will have to pass both houses of the Texas Legislature before the end of the legislative session in May. Republicans hold majorities in both the Texas House and Senate, making increased border security policies very possible.

According to the Border Protection Unit Act’s text, if two-thirds of both houses approve the act it will take effect immediately. If the bill is passed without a two-thirds majority, it will take effect on Sept. 1 of this year.

Texas Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell introduced similar legislation in the Senate, making illegally crossing the border a state felony punishable by jail time. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the state Senate, has signaled his support for Birdwell’s bill.

Abbott, who is a Catholic Republican, has said that securing the border is an “emergency item” for the 2023 Texas legislative session.

A Feb. 16 press release from Abbott’s office announced that he intends to work with the Legislature to “secure another $4.6 billion to bolster border security efforts” and to “pass legislation making it at least a 10-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for anyone caught smuggling in Texas.”

With a record 2.76 million-plus undocumented migrants crossing the border in the fiscal year 2022, illegal immigration has been a growing concern for not only Republicans but also some key Democrats, including President Joe Biden.

In February, the Biden administration announced a new policy that will take effect May 11 and automatically deny asylum to migrants who cross the border illegally or cross other countries illegally to get into the United States. Biden’s new rule, which is his most restrictive border policy yet, will remain in effect until May 11, 2025.

Responding to Biden’s new policy, Dylan Corbett of the Catholic relief group Hope Border Institute told CNA that those setting immigration policy should consider the effects on migrants.

“We spend billions of dollars every year on border and immigration enforcement. There is no doubt that we can reinvest some of those resources into putting in place a safe, efficient, welcoming system at the border that upholds the rights of vulnerable migrants and keeps our country safe.

“At this point, it is only a question of overcoming the political hurdles. Unfortunately, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle today only see the political cost of making progress on immigration, but they don’t realize that there is also a moral cost to shutting the door on the most vulnerable that is far more consequential,” Corbett said.

Facing hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits, Albany Diocese to declare bankruptcy

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. / Drew Proto via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Denver, Colo., Mar 16, 2023 / 09:47 am (CNA).

The Catholic Diocese of Albany has decided to file for bankruptcy, saying a financial reorganization will help provide some compensation for the hundreds of sex abuse victims who have filed lawsuits.

“I understand this filing causes uncertainty, but as a Church and a community of faith, we must recognize that victim-survivors are our sons and daughters, and our brothers and sisters, and all of us, without exception, must work together to find ways to help them,” Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany said in a March 15 statement. 

“It’s a natural thing for us to do, especially for those who have been hurt by an institution we are all called to be a part of. We must reach out to all and journey with them through the healing process,” the bishop’s statement read.

Parishes and schools are not part of the filing and are incorporated as different entities, the bishop said.

“It is very important for me to point out that the mission and ministries of the diocese and parishes will continue during the reorganization proceedings,” he said. He asked for prayers “for all involved, that God’s peace and healing can prevail.”

Scharfenberger said the diocese has been named in more than 400 lawsuits filed from August 2019 to August 2021 under the Child Victims Act of 2019. The act allowed a retrospective one-year “look back” window during which alleged abuse victims could file lawsuits long after the statute of limitations had ended. Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the window through 2021, citing the obstacles caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The diocese has settled more than 50 of these lawsuits. Settlements have been “large” and the “limited funds” have been depleted, the bishop said.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy will ensure “some compensation” for all abuse victims with pending litigation. The collection of debts and legal actions against the diocese will halt and a reorganization plan will determine available assets and insurance carrier participation “to negotiate reasonable settlements” with abuse victims and other creditors.

There is no timeline for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Albany Diocese said in a statement. Other reorganizations have continued for several years. Bankruptcy reorganization plans usually must be approved by the affected creditors, including lawsuit plaintiffs, and also by the bankruptcy court.

The bankruptcy announcement follows months of negotiations between attorneys for the diocese and for the plaintiffs. Several attorneys for plaintiffs complained that the diocese’s offer of a global settlement fell far short of a reasonable amount and alleged that the diocese’s attorneys had obstructed the legal discovery process, the Albany Times-Union reported.

Scharfenberger took office in 2014. According to the diocese’s website, the Albany Diocese serves about 316,000 Catholics in a population of 1.4 million. About 68 diocesan priests are in active ministry, the diocese’s website reports.

The Albany Diocese joins five New York dioceses that have declared bankruptcy amid the lawsuits brought under the Child Victims Act. The other dioceses are Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rockville Centre.

The St. Clare Hospital pension fund is also a subject of lawsuits. More than 1,100 former employees of the closed Schenectady hospital lost some or all of their retirement savings when the fund emptied in 2019 as a result of a decision in the 1990s to drop the fund’s federal pension insurance protection, WAMC Northeast Public Radio reported. The hospital, which shut down in 2008, operated under the diocese. A 2019 lawsuit against the diocese seeks damage on behalf of the pensioners.

Though these lawsuits will be halted, Scharfenberger said this was not the diocese’s aim for filing the bankruptcy.

A special section on the Albany Diocese’s website addresses the reorganization. The bishop pointed to information on the diocese’s child protection and safe environment resources and its Hope and Healing effort for abuse survivors.

“I apologize to the victim-survivors and their families for the inexcusable harm that was done to them by those in positions of trust,” he said. He emphasized the dioceses’ commitment to its programs for victim-survivors, including work to facilitate mental health services and to provide opportunities for spiritual healing.

“They are part of our community in Christ, and as a Church we are called to share his love, to be his heart in the world today,” the bishop said of abuse victims.

Albany’s Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, who led the diocese from 1977 until 2014, gave a deposition made public in March 2022 in which he admitted that he did not report several instances of alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests, instead choosing to keep the allegations quiet and to refer the priests for treatment.

Hubbard has defended his response to abuse cases, saying that it was “common practice” in the 1970s and 1980s to act as he did, though he acknowledged that his failure to notify the parish and the public when a priest was removed from or restored to ministry was a “mistake.” 

In a majority of the cases “the victims themselves did not want to make the matter public and many times sought confidentiality through their attorneys.”

A March 2021 lawsuit has accused him of abusing a boy in 1977, an allegation that he has denied. Hubbard has asked the Vatican to permanently remove him from the clergy, contending he can no longer serve in public ministry.

Miami University student group hopes to install Plan B ‘morning after pill’ vending machine on campus

Plan B. / Mike Mozart via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

Miami University’s student government association has plans to install a “Plan B” emergency contraception vending machine on its Oxford, Ohio, campus in time for the fall semester.

Plan B emergency contraception, also known as “the morning-after pill,” is a one-step pill that can sometimes act as an abortifacient.

Though plans have not yet been finalized, the university’s student government has proposed purchasing the pills in bulk and selling them in a campus community hall to make them available to students 24/7 at a discounted price, according to student government meeting notes.

Miami University would be the first school in Ohio to have a contraception vending machine on campus.

Sophomore Ryan Parker, one of the students behind the proposal, told The Miami Student that he expected the university’s administration to approve the initiative.

“We’re still kind of working out those logistics with a bunch of different departments on campus, but everyone has been overly supportive so far,” Parker told the student newspaper.

Several universities throughout the U.S. already have similar emergency contraception vending machines on campus including George Washington University, the University of California-Los Angeles, and Boston University.

The initial purchase of the machine and pills would be paid for by the school’s Associated Student Government, which, like other student-run organizations, receives money from the university. The continued stocking of the pills would be funded by the sale of pills to students.

According to the manufacturers, the pill is designed to be effective for up to 72 hours, preventing ovulation and thus stopping a pregnancy before conception.

However, some say that the Plan B pill can act as an abortifacient. According to Miami University Students for Life, “emergency contraception has the potential to end a human life.”

“There are two ways Plan B is capable of ending the life of a conceived human. First, its chemical makeup directly affects the hormones at play within the female reproductive system and can prevent enough progesterone (the ‘pregnancy hormone’) from sustaining the offspring,” the petition states.

“Second, Plan B is capable of creating an inhospitable uterine environment with the thinning of the endometrium. This uterine lining is, without artificial interference, thick and ready for a conceived child to implant and continue the gestational process. If the embryo survives all of Plan B’s previous defenses and arrives at the uterus only to find nowhere to implant, he or she will die.”

Miami University Students for Life said the initiative, which proposes allocating $3,500 for the Plan B vending machine, would use student-funded dollars for something that could be harmful to women’s health.

“Current research shows Plan B can cause serious complications, be ineffective, and potentially create more serious long-term health conditions,” Miami University Students for Life said in an online petition to stop the vending machine.

Alecia Lipton of Miami University’s media relations office told CNA that “the proposed Plan B vending machine is not a university initiative but is a student-led project of the Associated Student Government [ASG] at Miami University.”

“If an emergency-contraception vending machine were to be purchased by the Associated Student Government, it would be funded by monies controlled by ASG, not the Miami administration,” Lipton said. “The proposed vending machine would dispense the over-the-counter contraceptive medication, Plan B, which delays or prevents ovulation but does not end a pregnancy that has implanted.”

According to Lipton, “at this point there is neither any certainty that a vending machine will be installed nor a specific time frame or date for completion of this proposed initiative.”

Still, she told CNA that plans are underway to make a Plan B vending machine available to students.

“The Associated Student Government is working to determine sourcing of products, costs, and a potential on-campus location,” she said. 

Caroline Wharton, a representative of the national group Students for Life of America, told CNA that the organization supports its Miami University chapter’s petition to stop the Plan B vending machine.

“‘Emergency contraception’ is really an abortifacient with the potential to kill preborn life,” Wharton said. “Beyond being a danger to children in the womb, having such drugs in a vending machine also increases their ability to be put in the hands of an abuser, putting women at risk as well.”

“Campuses should have life-affirming resources available for students — assisting with things like child care, financial aid, needed materials, food, etc. for pregnant and parenting students — instead of encouraging a culture of irresponsible sexual activity, disregard for preborn life, and possible abuse,” Wharton said.

Abortion is legal in Ohio until 22 weeks of pregnancy. An Ohio law banning abortion after a detectable heartbeat, typically six weeks’ gestation, is currently blocked as it works its way through the state court system.

Group of Jewish parents sue state of California for equal access to special needs education

null / Credit: Cherries/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

A group of Jewish parents filed a lawsuit Monday against the California Department of Education, calling for the state to provide religious schools with equal access to special needs education funding for their students.

Under California law, federal and state special education funding is available to public schools and secular private schools. However, state law prohibits these funds from going to private religious schools, such as the Orthodox Jewish schools these California parents want their children to attend. The prohibition also applies to Catholic schools, Protestant Christian schools, Muslim schools, and any other religiously affiliated school.

“It takes a special kind of chutzpah to deny Jewish kids with disabilities equal access to special education benefits,” Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement. Becket, which provides pro bono legal assistance to defend religious liberty, is representing the parents in this lawsuit.

“California politicians can end this unlawful discrimination the easy way or the hard way,” Rassbach continued. “Either they change the law that is hurting children with disabilities, or they can shamefully fight in court for the right to discriminate.”

The lawsuit represents three sets of Jewish parents whose children require special needs education. According to a news release from Becket, the parents desire that their children receive an education that allows them to reach their full potential and is centered on Jewish religious beliefs. The news release notes that both Shalhevet High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy want the ability to provide this education to children with special needs but do not have any access to state or federal funding for those services. 

“California’s elected officials should want to help the most vulnerable members of our society, not hurt them,” Rassbach said. “There is no reason to stand by this outmoded law instead of giving kids with disabilities equal access to benefits.”

The lawsuit claims that the current funding rules violate the parents’ civil rights under the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to the lawsuit, the policy violates the First Amendment in several different ways.

The lawsuit argues that the rule “categorically excludes religious schools” from a public benefit otherwise provided to members of the community “because of their religious exercise.” They argue further that the rule treats “secular activity more favorably than religious exercise” and that “religious schools must give up their religious identity” to access these funds. They also argue that the rule discriminates against the parents’ right to “direct the religious upbringing of their children.” 

According to the lawsuit, the rule violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it denies the parents’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law and that the Department of Education does “not have a compelling interest in discriminating on the basis of religion.” 

Laura Wolk Slavis, who serves as counsel at Becket, told CNA that the “[legal] precedent is absolutely on our side” given recent decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“Once a state offers a public benefit, it can’t exclude otherwise qualified participants just because they’re religious,” Wolk Slavis said. 

On June 21, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a Maine law violated the First Amendment because it provided tuition assistance to private secular schools but categorically excluded religious schools from accessing the same funds. On June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the City of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment by denying a contract with Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia because its foster care agency refused to place children with homosexual couples on religious grounds. 

Wolk Slavis said the California policy is based on an “outdated reflection of the First Amendment and must be changed.” She said it’s not clear how many parents and students are affected by the law because it does not allow religious schools to even apply for the funding but estimates that it affects a few thousand students.

A spokesperson for the California Department of Education told CNA that the department has not been served with the lawsuit yet and cannot comment because it could not fully review the lawsuit. 

Texas man sues ex-wife’s friends for facilitating unborn child’s abortion

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, Colo., Mar 15, 2023 / 08:25 am (CNA).

A Texas man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his aborted unborn child. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million from each of the three women the man says helped his then-wife obtain abortion pills.

“Abortion harms not only the unborn children who are killed but also the fathers who have had their fatherhood stolen from them,” Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation at the Thomas More Society, said March 11.

Breen’s Chicago-based public interest law firm is representing the father, Marcus A. Silva of Galveston County, Texas.

“We commend Mr. Silva for stepping forward, and we will help any father who seeks justice on behalf of his unborn child who is killed in an unlawful abortion,” Breen said.

Silva’s ex-wife is not a defendant in the lawsuit. She had filed for divorce in May 2022 and the couple divorced in February. They have two living daughters. According to the lawsuit, she learned she was pregnant in July 2022.

According to Silva’s lawsuit, she “concealed this pregnancy from her husband and decided to kill the unborn child without Marcus’ knowledge or consent.” The wife’s friends allegedly conspired with her “to murder her unborn child with illegally obtained abortion pills.”

“The wrongful-death statute allows surviving parents to sue those who cause the death of an unborn child by a wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default,” says the lawsuit, which refers to the unborn child as “baby Silva.”

“Jackie Noyola, Amy Carpenter, and Aracely Garcia each caused the death of baby Silva through their wrongful acts,” says the lawsuit, which expressly notes that Silva’s ex-wife is exempt from civil and criminal liability.

In July 2022 Silva’s then-wife sought assistance in obtaining abortion pills from Noyola and Carpenter, who live in Houston. They offered their homes as a place where the abortion could take place. Garcia, the third defendant, allegedly conspired with Noyola to obtain the abortion pills in Houston.

None of the defendants are physicians or health care providers and the abortion pills were not administered in accordance with the law, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is more aggressive in choosing to allege wrongful death.

It does not take advantage of a 2021 Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone believed to be involved in helping a woman procure an illegal abortion in the state. The legal awards under this law are only in the tens of thousands of dollars, National Public Radio reported. One of Silva’s attorneys is Briscoe Cain, a state representative who helped design that legislation.

Damages for wrongful death are much more severe. The lawsuit cites a Texas law that dates back to 2003. That law states a person who assists a pregnant woman in obtaining a self-managed abortion has committed murder and can be sued for wrongful death.

“Anyone involved in distributing or manufacturing abortion pills will be sued into oblivion,” Cain said in a March 11 statement. “That includes CVS and Walgreens if their abortion pills find their way into our state.”

Breen, the Thomas More Law Center attorney, agreed.

“It’s well past time to hold accountable those who are involved in the distribution and manufacture of these murderous drugs,” he said.

The manufacturer of the abortion pill used by the pregnant woman is also liable for the baby’s death and will be added as a defendant once it is identified, the lawsuit says. Anyone else involved in the distribution of the abortion pills is also liable.

The lawsuit also seeks an injunction barring the defendants from distributing abortion pills.

The lead attorney in Silva’s lawsuit is Jonathan Mitchell, former solicitor general of Texas.

Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, called the lawsuit “absurd and inflammatory.” In her view, there is no underlying cause of legal action for a self-managed abortion because the pregnant woman is protected from prosecution. She said the law will have a chilling effect on those who seek to help others procure an abortion.

“Who is going to want to help a friend find an abortion if there is some chance that their text messages are going to end up in the news? And maybe they’re going to get sued, and maybe they’re going to get arrested, and it’s going to get dropped eventually, but in the meantime, they will have been terrified,” Grossman told the Texas Tribune.

While Grossman doubted that the lawsuit would hold up in court, Charles Rhodes, a law professor at South Texas College of Law, told the Texas Tribune the lawsuit could have merit under Texas law.

National Catholic Prayer Breakfast speakers address attacks on human dignity

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak addresses the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2023. / Credit: Shannon Mullen/CNA

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.

Addressing an audience of more than 1,000 people, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak brought attention to the human toll of the continuing war in Ukraine.

“What is the worth of our dignity?” Gudziak asked during his keynote address. “Ukrainians are sacrificing their lives for the land, justice, truth, and dignity that God gives us.”

“In the 21st century … when truth is transactional, when media, politics, diplomacy, and popular culture are by a post-truth anti-ethic,” Gudziak said, “Ukrainians have been saying, ‘No, not so fast. There is good and there is evil. There is truth and there are lies.’ And they are doing it at the risk of their own lives.”

In a moving moment, Gudziak brought up to the stage a Ukrainian father whose son was killed while fighting against the Russian invasion in the Ukrainian armed forces.

“Last June his son … gave his life for human dignity,” Gudziak said. “Like the heavenly Father, he blessed his son on a mission that led to the sacrifice of his life.”

Gudziak thanked the American Church for its support and asked for continued prayers as Ukraine fights Russian aggression.

Speakers at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast also addressed violations of human dignity occurring within the United States.

Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2023. EWTN News
Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2023. EWTN News

Catholic bioethicist Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, spoke about the continued threat of abortion to the unborn and mothers.

Snead called for a compassionate Catholic response to attacks against human dignity through abortion, especially now in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

Abortion, Snead said, divides the world into “persons who bear human rights and nonpersons who live on the sufferance of others based on their interests and desires. And in doing so, isolating the woman in her moment of need and absolving us of our obligation to care for her and her child. ‘Her body, her choice, her problem.’”

“We are made for love and friendship,” Snead said. “We as Catholics are specially equipped and called upon and have a special obligation to build a culture of life and a civilization of love.”

“[Catholics must] respond with love — radical, unconditional, self-emptying love,” Snead added. “Love of neighbor, love of mothers, fathers, and their babies. Love of our enemies … locking arms to care for moms and babies and families, seeking to put women and children and families first as we rise to build a culture of life and civilization of love in a post-Roe world.”

Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, accepted the 2023 Christifideles Laici Award honoring the work of the laity. She is the co-founder and director of the Person and Identity Project. In her speech, Hasson brought attention to the increasing gender ideology indoctrination in public schools, yet another form of attack against human dignity facing children outside the womb.

According to Hassan, 80% of Catholic children attending non-Catholic schools are inundated by an LGBTQ+ ideology that is both antithetical to Catholic teaching and human dignity.

“It’s impossible for 40 hours a year of religious education to overcome 1,200 hours of being saturated in an anthropology that is false, that renders [children’s] hearts and minds inhospitable to the Gospel,” Hassan said. “Drawn in by this false anthropology, burdened with a false freedom to have to create themselves, young people don’t know who they are.”

“But there’s hope. Our hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This moment, where gender ideology is flooding our culture is a tremendous opportunity,” Hassan added. “Young people are seeking meaning; they want to know who they are. And we have an answer to give them: ‘You are a son or daughter of the Lord. You are loved incredibly. God has a plan for your life.’”

Since 2004, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has gathered politicians and Catholic leaders from across the country for a morning of prayer and fellowship.

Other key leaders in attendance this morning included Sen. Pete Ricketts, R-Nebraska; former U.S. Attorney General William Barr; and the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.