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Tourist who ‘wanted to see the pope’ smashes busts at the Vatican Museums

The sculptures of the Chiaramonte Gallery in the Vatican Museums on June 8, 2020, in Vatican City. / Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

A man visiting the Vatican museums in Rome on Wednesday flung two ancient Roman busts to the ground, causing moderate damage to the valuable works of art.

According to an article in the newspaper Il Messaggero, the middle-aged American tourist asked to see the pope and became enraged when told that would not be possible. He then threw one bust to the ground and knocked the other over while trying to run away.

The man had bought a ticket to the Vatican’s Chiaramonti Museum where the busts were displayed.

After the incident, he was restrained by security guards and taken to the police station for questioning.

“The person who pulled down the statues has been arrested by the gendarmes and handed over to Italian authorities,” Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni told reporters.

The man had been cited for public indecency in the United States in the past, reported Corriere Della Sera.

The damaged marble sculptures were representations of “minor figures” and part of the collection in the Chiaramonti Museum created under Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) that includes more than 1,000 busts, statues, and sarcophagi from ancient Rome.

The Vatican told Corriere Della Sera that damage to the busts “is not significant, the faces have not suffered great damage, perhaps one of the two specimens has detached a piece of the nose.”

The busts have been moved to the marble restoration workshop of the Vatican Museums, the report said.

Elizabeth Lev, an art historian who offers tours of the Vatican Museums, shared the news on Twitter, noting, “Tragically, our first great post-pandemic tourist season has been marred by irresponsible tourists.”

Since Italy reopened tourism, on several occasions visitors have damaged or placed the country’s historic landmarks at risk.

Earlier this year, in Rome and in Pisa, tourists crashed drones into medieval buildings. And in June, two tourists rode their scooters down Rome’s Spanish Steps, causing $27,000 worth of damage.

None of these incidents compares with the time in May 1972 when a man entered St. Peter’s Basilica with a hammer hidden in his coat. He then proceeded to smash Michelangelo’s Pietà, damaging Our Lady’s arm, nose, and eyelids. The sculpture of the body of Jesus held by his mother has since been restored and is now back at St. Peter’s, protected behind a bulletproof acrylic panel.

Large sign outside Peru’s Congress tells OAS: ideology does not define women

A poster against gender ideology exhibited in front of the Peruvian Congress, Oct. 3, 2022. / Photo credit: Carlos Polo

Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A large mobile sign mounted on a delivery truck was temporarily parked outside Peru’s Congress with the message “women are defined by biology, not ideology,” addressed to the dignitaries who will be participating in the 52nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Lima.

The sign critical of gender ideology, which bore the unofficial logo of the OAS and the trademark of the CitizenGO platform, appeared in front of the Congress building Oct. 3, two days before the start of the international meeting that will end Oct. 7.

The action was criticized by members of the congressional “Caucus for Equality and Gender,” which presented a letter Oct. 3 to the president of Congress, José Williams, requesting “information about those responsible for allowing the truck to enter (the congressional grounds) which had a message of intolerance and anti-rights.”

In response, several members of Congress opposed the caucus’ request  as a violation of freedom of expression.

“They speak of intolerance while attempting to censor an idea for the simple fact of not sharing it. That has never happened when in different (formats) in Congress you have conveyed ideas that not necessarily everyone shares. It’s called freedom of expression, colleagues,” tweeted Congresswoman Adriana Tudela of the Go on Country – Social Integration Party.

In addition to the sign that sparked the controversy, dozens of banners from the group “Don’t mess with my kids” were placed on overpasses in the capital displaying messages such as: “The family is the greatest treasure of humanity,” “In the Americas we fight for those who have no voice but do have rights,” “OAS: the Americas defend life and the family,” “Life: it is not debated, it’s defended,” and “Peru, a pro-life country, welcomes you.” 

Pro-life lawmakers oppose OAS interference in local laws

The Parliamentarians in Defense of Life and the Family Caucus made up of 30 Peruvian members of Congress spoke out against possible interference by the OAS in local laws.

In an Oct. 3 press conference, the caucus charged that resolutions with high ideological content that violate the Peruvian legal framework were about to be approved.

Congressman Alejandro Muñante, one of the spokesmen for the caucus, explained that the OAS Draft Resolution referring to the “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights” includes “concepts not recognized by Peruvian national legislation such as same-sex marriage, gender identity, and the legalization of abortion, among others.”

He also pointed out that none of these concepts is contained in the American Convention on Human Rights.

“We demand that the officials who make up the Peruvian delegation to the OAS take care not to subscribe to changes to our constitutional order, nor contravene the Peruvian legal system,” the Pro-Life Caucus said in a statement.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

New EWTN poll: Where do Catholics stand on abortion ahead of the 2022 midterms?

Anna Lulis from Moneta, Virginia, (left) who works for the pro-life group Students for Life of America, stands beside an abortion rights demonstrator outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022, after the court's decision in the Dobbs abortion case was announced. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 13:31 pm (CNA).

U.S. Catholic voters are split on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but a majority agrees that abortion should be restricted and that there should be at least some protections for the unborn child in the womb, according to a new EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll. 

The court’s June 24 ruling in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization upended 49 years of nationwide legalized abortion and freed states to regulate abortion as they see fit.

When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with Roe being overturned, 46.2% agreed, 47.8% disagreed, and 6% said they weren’t sure.

Catholic voters were similarly split on whether they are more or less likely to support a candidate who agrees with Roe’s dismantling: 42% said they were more likely, 41.9% said they were less likely, and 16.1% were unsure.

At the same time, the poll results point to apparent inconsistencies in Catholic voters’ positions on abortion.

While nearly half of Catholic voters in the poll said they disagreed with Roe being overturned, a large majority (86.5%) said they support some kind of limit on abortion, even though Roe and related abortion cases allowed only narrow regulation at the state level. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 26.8% said abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother;

  • 19.8% said abortion should be allowed until 15 weeks when the baby can feel pain; 

  • 13.1% said that abortion should be allowed only during the first six months of pregnancy;

  • 9.9% said that abortion should be allowed only until a heartbeat can be detected, and

  • 9.1% said that abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother. 

Of special note for Catholic pro-life leaders, only a small minority of Catholic voters — 7.8% — were aligned with the clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion should never be allowed.

On the other end of the spectrum of abortion views, 13.4% of Catholic voters said that abortion should be available to a woman at any time during her pregnancy.

The poll, conducted by the Trafalgar Group from Sept. 12–19, surveyed 1,581 Catholic voters and has a margin of error of 2.5%. The questionnaire was administered using a mix of six different methods, including phone calls, text messages, and email.

The poll’s results echo surveys of the general U.S. population on abortion. A Pew Research Center survey from March found that 19% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all cases, while 8% said it should be illegal in all cases. More recent Gallup data from May found that 35% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal under any circumstances while 13% said it should be illegal in all circumstances. 

The Pew Research Center data also looked at Catholic adults. Thirteen percent said abortion should be legal in all cases, while 10% said it should be illegal in all cases.

A previous EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll released in July found that 9% of Catholic likely voters said abortion should never be permitted and 18% said that abortion should be available at any time. The poll similarly showed that a majority of Catholic voters (82%) support some kind of restriction on abortion.

Confused about what Roe said?

The poll’s results came as little surprise to Catholic pro-life public policy experts such as Elizabeth R. Kirk.

“This study confirms a phenomenon we have known for some time, i.e., that there is an enormous disconnect between the scope of abortion practices permitted by the Roe regime and what abortion practices Americans actually support,” Kirk, director of the Center for Law and the Human Person at The Catholic University of America, told CNA. 

Kirk, who also serves as a faculty fellow for the Institute for Human Ecology and research associate and lecturer at the Columbus School of Law, noted the finding that nearly 42% of Catholic voters said they are less likely to support a candidate who agrees with Roe being overturned.

“At first glance that suggests that many Catholic voters wanted to keep Roe in place,” she said. “Yet, the study also reveals that 86.5% of Catholic voters want some type of restriction on abortion access.”  

Why the inconsistency? “Most people do not realize that Roe allowed states to permit unlimited abortion access throughout the entire pregnancy and made it difficult, or even impossible, to enact commonsense restrictions supported by the majority of Americans,” Kirk observed. 

“Many people who ‘support Roe’ actually disagree, unknowingly, with what it permitted,” she added. “All Dobbs has done is return abortion policy to the legislative process so that the people may enact laws which reflect the public consensus.”

Mass-goers more strongly pro-life

The new poll, the second of three surveys of Catholic voters tied to the midterm elections on Nov. 8, shows that the opinions of Catholic voters on abortion and other issues vary depending on how often respondents attend Mass.

Only a small portion of those who attend Mass at least once a week said that abortion should be allowed at any time: 0% of those who attend Mass daily, 1% who attend more than once a week, and 8% of those who attend weekly support abortion without restrictions. In contrast, 57.5% of Catholic voters who attend Mass daily, 21.5% of those who attend more than once a week, and 15.6% of those who attend weekly say abortion should never be permitted.

In addition to respondents’ apparent confusion about what Roe stipulated, the poll suggests that many Catholic voters don’t fully understand what their Church teaches about abortion.

Less than one-third of Catholic voters who said they accept all Church teachings (31.1%) said that abortion should never be permitted, and 5% who profess to fully accept the Church’s teachings said abortion should be permitted at any time.

Overall, 32.8% of respondents reported attending Mass at least once a week, with another 30.7% attending once a year or less. Only 15% agreed that they accept all of the Church’s teachings and live their lives accordingly, with another 34.5% saying they generally accept most of the Church’s teachings and try to live accordingly.

Pew Research Center also looked at how Mass attendance factors into Catholics’ views on abortion. Among those who attend Mass at least once a week: 4% said abortion should be legal in all cases, and 24% said it should be illegal in all cases, Pew found. 

Strong support for pregnancy centers

The poll asked Catholic voters about a variety of other topics including abortion limits, Holy Communion for pro-abortion politicians, conscience protections for health care workers, and pro-life pregnancy centers.


Among the findings:

  • Catholic voters are prioritizing other issues above abortion. Only 10.1% of Catholic voters identified abortion as the most important issue facing the nation, falling behind inflation (34.2%) and the economy/jobs (19.7%) and tying with immigration. At the same time, a higher percentage of Catholic voters chose abortion than crime (8.7%), climate change (8.1% ), health care (6.8%), K–12 education (1.7%), or religious freedom (0.8%).

  • About half of Catholic voters (49.3%) disagreed that Catholic political leaders who support abortion publicly and promote policies that increase abortion access should refrain from taking Communion, while 36.7% said they should refrain.

  • A majority (67.4%) of Catholic voters said they support public funding for pro-life pregnancy centers that offer pregnant women life-affirming alternatives to abortion, while 18.3% said they did not favor using tax dollars for this purpose.

  • A comparable majority (61.8%) said that political and church leaders should be speaking out against the recent attacks and acts of vandalism on pregnancy resource centers.

  • When asked about conscience protections for health care workers that would allow them to opt out of providing “services” such as abortion, a majority of Catholic voters (60.7%) said that health care workers should not be obligated to engage in procedures that they object to based on moral or religious grounds. Conversely, 25.3% said that health care workers should be obligated to engage in procedures that they object to based on moral or religious grounds. 

Work to be done

What is the takeaway from the latest poll, where abortion is concerned?

“This polling shows that Catholics, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, support commonsense protections for women and the unborn,” Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, told CNA.

“It also affirms other recent polling that found Americans by strong numbers support the work of pregnancy resource centers in providing women facing crisis pregnancies with a real choice and the chance to thrive as mothers despite difficult circumstances,” she noted.


At the same time, McGuire added, “This new polling is also a reminder that more work needs to be done in catechizing Catholics on foundational Church teaching in support of vulnerable life in all stages — an effort that is continually undermined by Catholic politicians in the highest echelons of power who use their platforms to advocate for extreme abortion policies in direct violation of Church teaching.”

Nearly all of those surveyed (99.2%) said they plan to vote in the midterm elections on Nov. 8.

Philly synod artwork misrepresented our views, Catholic students say

A screenshot of the image produced from the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod, which participants say misrepresented them. / null

Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Artwork based on a listening session for Philadelphia-area Catholic university students drew global comment and criticism after it was shared on Vatican social media. Organizers are now taking seriously some students’ objections that the art mislabels their images and misrepresents their professed Catholic faith.

“We thought it was misrepresenting what we were standing for,” Sean Smith, a student who is an active member of the Catholic Newman Center at West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania, told CNA Sept. 30. “The artist put us in the spot where it looks like we are saying the beliefs found in the artwork. None of that is any of the beliefs that we share.”

Smith and several companions had attended a session of the Philadelphia Catholic Higher Education Synod, which drew about 400 participants from 11 Catholic colleges or universities and three non-Catholic universities’ Catholic centers. The synod’s final report included artwork that drew global attention after the Synod of Bishops on Sept. 24 shared cropped images on its social media accounts.

One image summarizes the synod against the backdrop of the Philadelphia skyline. An element of local color is included: a small image of Gritty, the mascot of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers. The image includes a statistical summary of this gathering: 48 listening sessions at 14 universities, 28 interracial sessions, and 27 interreligious meetings.

Further, the artwork realistically draws six young people sitting in folding chairs. They are labeled as “Muslim,” “first-year education student,” “physics major,” “CLC leader,” “grad student,” and “Queer.” Various opinions are written in cursive across the whole image.

Smith objected that the artistic image misleadingly used his likeness and the likeness of fellow students he knew. Smith identified himself as the student portrayed as wearing a cross and holding a microphone. He said he was wrongly labeled as a Christian Life Community leader, when he has no association with the student group.

“The art portrayed in the picture of the synod does not correctly represent us as practicing Catholics. The artist depicted four out of five of us with false identities seemingly to fit a more inclusive and skewed agenda,” he told CNA.

Furthermore, the woman next to Smith was drawn with her real-life features, except she was drawn as a person of color and labeled as a graduate student, when she is a white undergraduate student.

“The woman next to her was labeled as queer, but she is a heterosexual woman in agreement with Church teaching on sexuality,” Smith told CNA. “This image warps the truth.”

Maureen O’Connell, a spokesperson for the local synod team, said synod organizers were “alarmed and upset” upon learning of the students’ concerns and quickly reached out to the relevant campus minister “to try to figure out the appropriate way to address those very legitimate concerns.”

“We worked very hard as a team who designed this experience to make sure we really actively listened and listened well to students,” she told CNA Oct. 4. “To know that some of them feel as though that did not happen, or that that happened in a way that actually was harmful, is obviously a real concern to us.” 

Father Tom Gardner, chaplain at the West Chester University Newman Center, echoed the concerns of the students. He said it was important to clarify that those represented in the art were not expressing the views “that were at least implicitly expressed in the painting.”

“They were hurt because they were presented in a painting that was presenting an agenda that was not in line with anything they had said,” he told CNA. “It was a misrepresentation.”

O’Connell said that, in her understanding, the artist used an image from the cross-campus gathering to try to “communicate the broader demographic of the 400 students.”

“Our intention there was that art expands the conversation, it doesn’t contract the conversation. Art opens up space for multiple interpretations,” O’Connell, who is an associate professor of Christian ethics at La Salle University in Philadelphia, said. “Hearing that there have been students who feel as though their very selves have been misrepresented is a cause for real concern. So we are definitely trying to address that.”

O’Connell said the first synodal session is focused on listening.

“This isn’t about articulating truths, it’s about articulating what the hopes and the dreams of the people of God are,” she said. She hoped that art in the next stage of the synod is “something that can help us cultivate much-needed skills for communal discernment.”

She said organizers need to address the harm that the concerned students might have experienced, and there is also a need to show concern for those who might see hostile responses on social media from critics of the artwork or of the synod reports.

“We don’t want that to cause harm to any student who showed up and had entered into a space of trust to risk telling us what was really on their hearts in terms of their wounds and their hopes,” she said.

Smith, one of the students who says he was misrepresented, said he and his companions were “trying to represent truth” and wanted to say that the youth would like the clergy to “share that truth found in Scripture.”

“There’s a lot of confusion in the Church regarding clergy and opposing views between progressive bishops and conservative bishops,” he said. “What I’m looking for is a unifying voice.”

In Smith’s view, the discussion at the cross-campus synod gathering reflected cultural pressures, including the discussion on homosexuality. He said the event “started out talking about women deacons and more representation in the Church and in the clergy.”

Other artwork from the synod report included a picture of a “woman priest” that drew particular comment and criticism when it was shared by the global Synod of Bishops on social media, given that the Catholic Church has rejected as impossible the ordination of women as priests.

Synod organizers said they had commissioned the artwork from Becky McIntyre, a northwest Philadelphia artist and alumna of St. Joseph’s University, because she has commitments to the Church and has “a deep background in an understanding of the arts and human dignity and the common good.”

“We believe in the power of artistic expression to help people speak and hear truths, to build empathy and compassion, to build participation especially for voices that are often marginalized in our Church,” organizers told CNA in a Sept. 29 email.

The primary goal of this “listening phase” of the synod was “to listen well to the students,” organizers said.

“Our report is consonant with Catholics across the country shared about women’s leadership and ordination,” they added, citing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ own instruction that during the synodal process “one may agree or disagree with some of the perceptions heard and expressed, but we cannot assume they have no importance in lived reality.”

Guidelines for the synodal process emphasize the need for people with different experiences and perceptions to “continue to meet and listen to one another” to help perceptions “become more realistic and less based on broader cultural or political narratives,” local organizers told CNA.

“We believe in building trust among students who named experiences of broken trust,” the local organizers said.

Public spat between German bishop, Swiss cardinal leads to private meeting in Rome

Bishop Georg Bätzing (left) and Cardinal Kurt Koch / Maximilian von Lachner / Synodaler Weg // Paul Badde / EWTN

CNA Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 06:46 am (CNA).

Following demands for an apology and a threat he might “file an official complaint with the Holy Father,” the German Bishops’ Conference president met with a Vatican cardinal in Rome this week.

Bishop Georg Bätzing sat down with Cardinal Kurt Koch on Oct. 4 to apparently clear the air over what the German Bätzing had called a “totally unacceptable gaffe” by the Vatican cardinal, who is a native of Switzerland and president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The exchange was the result of a disagreement over remarks involving “German Christians,” Nazi ideology, and theological claims of a key document of the German Synodal Way.

“For Cardinal Koch and Bishop Bätzing, it is clear after the conversation that the theological debate, to which the cardinal wanted to contribute in the interview, must continue,” spokesman Matthias Kopp said Wednesday, according to a report by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language partner agency.

According to the bishops’ conference statement, the cardinal had “assured the bishop that he in no way meant the Synodal Way of the Church in Germany or the Synodal Assembly by the comparison he drew between theological debates on the Synodal Way and the events surrounding the so-called ‘German Christians’ during the Nazi era.”

“Expressly Cardinal Koch emphasizes that it is completely far from him to want to impute the terrible ideology of the 1930s to the Synodal Way,” the spokesman continued.

“Cardinal Koch asks for forgiveness from all those who feel hurt by the comparison he made.”

However, this assertion is not new, nor is the apology that Bätzing said he found not to be to his satisfaction.

CNA contacted Koch about his perspective on the encounter but had not received a response at the time of publication.

On Sept. 29, Koch had apologized for any hurt but at the same time defended himself against Bätzing’s claims of an “unacceptable gaffe,” saying, “I cannot retract my essential point, simply because I have in no way compared the Synodal Way to a Nazi ideology, nor will I ever do so.”

At that time, this clarification did not sit well with the German Bishops’ Conference president.

One day after Koch’s rejoinder, on Sept. 30, Bätzing replied he would not accept this apology as “satisfactory,” reported CNA Deutsch.

So what did the Swiss prelate say that enraged the German bishop and now led to a meeting in Rome?

In an interview with a German newspaper, Koch — an internationally respected theologian — had said he was shocked that, of all places, the German Synodal Way was talking about new sources of revelation.

“This phenomenon already existed during the National Socialist dictatorship, when the so-called ‘German Christians’ saw God’s new revelation in blood and soil and in the rise of Hitler,” Koch told the weekly Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost.

The “German Christians” (Deutsche Christen) were a Nazi-era pressure group that wanted to align Protestantism with racist Nazi Ideology.

The National Synod of “German Christians” in Wittenberg, September 1933. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H25547 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
The National Synod of “German Christians” in Wittenberg, September 1933. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H25547 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

In contrast, the opposing Confessing Church’s Barmen Theological Declaration spoke against such distortions of Christian teaching.

The 1934 statement said, in its first article: “We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.’”

Following demands by Bishop Bätzing for an apology, Koch said in a response, written Thursday last week: “It was a matter of concern to me to recall the Barmen Theological Declaration in this context, because I still consider it important today, also for ecumenical reasons. In order to make the content understandable to those who read it, I had to briefly note what this declaration responded to.”

“In saying this, I was in no way comparing the Synodal Way with the mentality of the ‘German Christians,’ nor did I want to do so,” the Swiss prelate added.

Koch pointed out he was far from “alone in my criticism of the orientation text of the Synodal Way,” adding: “My critical comment, then, cannot simply be an expression of a completely mistaken theology.”

“Just as the so-called ‘German Christians’ — thank God — did not comprise all German Christians, I also, in no way, had all [Synodal Way] participants in mind with my statement, but only those Christians who represent the assertion formulated in the question. And I hope to continue to assume that this assertion is not the opinion of the Synodal Way.”

‘Synodal Way’ flags fly in front of the Congress Center Messe Frankfurt in Germany. Max von Lachner/Synodal Way.
‘Synodal Way’ flags fly in front of the Congress Center Messe Frankfurt in Germany. Max von Lachner/Synodal Way.

The Synodal Way — Synodaler Weg in German, sometimes translated as “Synodal Path” — is a controversial process that has come under sustained criticism from cardinals, bishops, and theologians both internationally and in Germany.

The Vatican intervened in July, warning of a threat of new schism from Germany arising from the process.

Writing about the Synodal Way, Pope Francis warned of disunity in his letter to German Catholics in 2019.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian considered close to Pope Francis, in June 2022 warned that the German process is at risk of “breaking its own neck” if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a “fraternal open letter” to Germany’s bishops, warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference raised serious concerns.

Bishop Bätzing has repeatedly rejected any and all concerns, instead expressing disappointment in Pope Francis in May. In his first reaction to the criticism by Cardinal Koch, the German prelate said Koch’s words betrayed a fear that “something will change.”

“But I promise you: Something will change and even Cardinal Koch will not be able to stop that — certainly not with such statements,” Bätzing added.


Pope Francis shares a spiritual life hack: Know the ‘passwords’ of your heart

Pope Francis greets pilgrims on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 5 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 03:04 am (CNA).

Pope Francis shared a spiritual life hack for discernment at his general audience on Wednesday.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 5, the pope said that the “spiritual life, too, has its passwords.” 

Just like on one’s computer, where “we know how important it is to know the password in order to get into the programs where the most personal and valuable information is stored,” the pope said that discernment requires unlocking “the passwords of our heart.”

Crowds welcome Pope Francis on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Crowds welcome Pope Francis on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Pope Francis underlined that “self-knowledge” is key to discernment. When discerning whom to marry or whether one is called to be a priest or religious sister, the pope said it is important to know what one’s heart is most sensitive to protect oneself from temptation. 

He said the devil “knows these passwords well, and it is important that we know them too, so as not to find ourselves where we do not want to be.”

“Temptation does not necessarily suggest bad things, but often disordered things, presented with excessive importance,” the pope said.

“They can be, for example, degrees, careers, relationships, all things that are in themselves praiseworthy, but towards which, if we are not free, we risk having unrealistic expectations, such as the confirmation of our worth. … From this misunderstanding often comes the greatest suffering, because none of those things can be the guarantee of our dignity,” he said.

Pope Francis recommended the practice of an “examination of conscience” to learn and note “what we give most importance to” in daily choices. 

Above all, he said that it is crucial to understand what truly “satiates the heart.”

“For only the Lord can give us confirmation of what we are worth. He tells us this every day from the cross: he died for us, to show us how precious we are in his eyes. There is no obstacle or failure that can prevent his tender embrace,” he said.

The pope’s reflection was part of a weekly catechesis series on spiritual discernment that he launched on Aug. 31. 

Pope Francis noted that “underlying spiritual doubts and vocational crises” is often a lack of self-knowledge.

The pope quoted Thomas Green’s book on discernment, “Weeds Among the Wheat”: “I have come to the conviction that the greatest obstacle to true discernment (and to real growth in prayer) is not the intangible nature of God, but the fact that we do not know ourselves sufficiently, and do not even want to know ourselves as we really are. Almost all of us hide behind a mask, not only in front of others, but also when we look in the mirror.”

Pope Francis added: “Forgetfulness of God’s presence in our life goes hand in hand with ignorance of ourselves … ignorance of our personality traits and our deepest desires.”

General audience with Pope Francis, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
General audience with Pope Francis, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis recalled that the Church celebrates the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska on Oct. 5.

“Through her, God directed the world to seek salvation in his mercy. Let us remember this especially today, thinking especially of the war in Ukraine,” he said in his greeting to Polish-speaking pilgrims.

Pope Francis reminded people of his appeal for Ukraine in his Angelus address on Sunday and added: “We trust in God’s mercy, which can change hearts, and in the maternal intercession of the Queen of Peace.”

Italian court acquits three Legionaries of Christ of extortion charges

null / null

Denver Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 17:20 pm (CNA).

The Legionaries of Christ announced Monday the conclusion of a judicial process in the Ordinary Court of Milan involving three priests and two other persons in Italy.

In a statement posted on their website Oct. 3, the Legionaries reported that the ruling says, “All the defendants have been fully acquitted of the crime of attempted extortion because such an attempt did not exist,” and that “the judge will announce the reasons for her decision within 90 days.”

The statement explains that the accusations were made in 2013, “in the context of the relationship with a family that had reported abuse by Vladimir Reséndiz Gutiérrez.”

Reséndiz is a Mexican national and former Legionary of Christ priest. In 2011 he was accused of committing sexual abuse between 2006 and 2008 in the congregation’s minor seminary in Gozzano, in Italy’s Novara Province.

In March 2011, while working in Venezuela, he was removed from ministry after admitting he had abused a minor there.

In April 2013 he was dismissed from the clerical state.

In a civil proceeding that ended in 2020, Reséndiz was sentenced to seven years in prison and to pay various compensation.

“The Congregation asks forgiveness of those who suffered any abuse and for all the pain that was caused, knowing that this request for forgiveness will never be enough to heal the deep wounds caused,” the Legionaries said.

The Legionaries of Christ is a Catholic religious congregation comprised of priests and candidates for the priesthood.

The order was founded on Jan. 3, 1941, in Mexico City by the late Marcial Maciel, a priest who sexually abused at least 60 minors.

The Catholic congregation and its Regnum Christi lay movement went through a process of renewal and purification with the accompaniment of the Vatican, represented by the late Cardinal Velasio de Paolis.

This renewal led to the creation of the Regnum Christi Federation, which includes the Legionaries of Christ, the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, and the Lay Consecrated Men of Regnum Christi.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

A mobile abortion clinic at a church? Planned Parenthood is considering just that

null / Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Planned Parenthood is responding to state abortion restrictions by trying something new: an abortion clinic on wheels. It will send its first one — a 37-foot abortion RV — to Illinois, where it will offer abortions at various locations by the end of this year.

As the nation’s largest abortion provider maps the best routes for the mobile clinic, it is considering churches as “potential stopping-off points,” NPR reported Monday.

“We are working with our partners across the region to help increase access to care,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told CNA. “Clergy, and the faith community at large, have long been pro-abortion partners and a deep history of standing with people as they make personal decisions that shape their lives.”

She added: “We promised to innovate and that’s just what we’re doing with a mobile health clinic that will take abortion care on the road across southern Illinois.”

The mobile clinic could be the first of many. Planned Parenthood is keeping open the possibility of creating additional ones in the future, the outlet reported officials as saying. The news follows the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave abortion policy up to the states.

The abortion RV will drive along the border of Illinois — a state with liberal abortion laws — to cater to pregnant women in neighboring states that are restricting abortion after Roe. More specifically, the clinic will travel near the borders of southeastern Missouri, western Kentucky, and northeastern Tennessee while staying in Illinois, according to the AP.

A pro-life group in that state condemned the decision.

“Planned Parenthood’s announcement of a mobile abortion unit that will travel the southern portion of Illinois is further proof that the abortion industry will stop at nothing to expand the killing of preborn children at the expense of women’s health and safety,” ​​Amy Gehrke, the executive director of Illinois Right to Life, responded in a press release Tuesday.

This year, the clinic will hand out abortion pills up to 11 weeks’ gestation, NPR reported. Next year, it plans to offer surgical abortions.

“Rather than being the simple solution abortion advocates claim, chemical abortions often lead to massive bleeding and pain,” Gehrke cautioned about the abortion pills. “Women may also have to dispose of their child’s developing body. Finally, chemical abortions have an alarmingly high complication rate, four times that of surgical abortion.”

In 2021, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm for SBA Pro-Life America, cited a study looking at more than 42,000 abortions in Finland from 2000 to 2006, which found chemical abortion has a complication rate four times greater than that of surgical abortion. 

The FDA first approved mifepristone, which is paired with another drug called misoprostol, for earlier abortions in 2000. It is accepted for use up to 10 weeks’ gestation.

McNicholas told NPR that women will consume mifepristone, the first drug, at the clinic. Women will swallow the other, misoprostol, on their own. 

“The mobile abortion clinic is a way to reduce travel times and distances in order to meet patients at the Illinois border,” McNicholas told the AP. 

The RV will feature a small waiting area, laboratory, and two exam rooms. 

Planned Parenthood Federation of America did not respond with comment by time of publication.

The Catholic Church teaches that human life is sacred from the moment of conception and considers abortion a grave evil.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and to cite Catholic Church teaching.

Maryland priest accused of sexual abuse of minors placed on administrative leave

Parishioners of Holy Cross Church in Garrett Park, Maryland, learned in a Sept. 30, 2022, email that their pastor was suspended over allegations of sexual abuse of minors. / Farragutful|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

A priest at a Catholic church in Garrett Park, Maryland, has been placed on administrative leave after he was accused of sexually abusing minors before he became a priest.

The Archdiocese of Washington (ADW) informed parishioners at Holy Cross Catholic Church in a Sept. 30 emailed letter that their pastor, Father Robert P. Buchmeier, had been suspended from his duties and is no longer living at the rectory. Buchmeier has not been charged criminally in connection with any of the allegations.

In the letter, Father Anthony Lickteig, the ADW’s episcopal vicar for clergy, explained that the Archdiocese of Arlington, Virginia, notified the ADW of the accusations against Buchmeier and noted that the abuse was alleged to have taken place decades before in another diocese “prior to his ordination to the priesthood.”

The letter did not specify the number of incidents of abuse cited in the accusation.

WTOP news reported that an email from the principal at Holy Cross Catholic School, which serves children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, said that the alleged sexual abuse took place in Virginia.

The letter indicated that the accusations were first made to the Diocese of Arlington and advised anyone with more information to contact the Alexandria police.

Alexandria police could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. The Catholic Standard reported that as of Oct. 4, charges had not been filed against the priest.

Buchmeier was ordained in 1991 after studies at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. Before entering the seminary, he spent 15 years of commissioned service in the U.S. Army as a Medical Service Corps officer.

He was appointed pastor of Holy Cross by Cardinal Donald Wuerl in 2015. Following his ordination, he served as a parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clinton, Maryland.

He then served at the following Maryland churches: St. Bernardine of Siena Parish, Suitland; Christ the King Parish, Silver Spring; St. Mary Parish, Bryantown; and St. John the Evangelist Parish, Clinton. As a pastor, he has served at St. Nicholas Parish, Laurel, from 1998 to 2005; St. Columba Parish, Oxon Hill, from 2005 to 2011; and Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata from 2011 until his appointment to Holy Cross.

This is a developing story.

Medical groups ask DOJ to investigate critics of hospitals’ gender surgeries on children

Boston Children's Hospital / JosephBarillari|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Three top medical groups have called on Biden’s justice department to investigate and prosecute activists and journalists who report on hospitals that perform irreversible gender surgeries on children. 

The American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch an investigation on Monday in a letter saying the backlash against children’s hospitals that perform gender surgeries amounted to “attacks.” 

“Children’s hospitals, academic health systems, and physicians are being targeted and threatened for providing evidence-based health care,” the letter read.

The letter claims that hospitals and medical staff who came under fire this summer for operating children’s gender clinics have faced harassment on social media and threats of violence in the form of emails, phone calls, and protestors. The letter also referred to a bomb threat that was later discovered to be false.

“The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation, where a few high-profile users on social media share false and misleading information targeting individual physicians and hospitals, resulting in a rapid escalation of threats, harassment, and disruption of care across multiple jurisdictions,” the letter states. 

The groups urged the Department of Justice to “investigate” and “prosecute” anyone responsible for spreading “disinformation” about gender programs. 

“We now urge your office to take swift action to investigate and prosecute all organizations, individuals, and entities responsible,” they wrote. 

Children’s hospitals received backlash for their own content 

One of the hospitals in question is Boston Children’s, which became infamous on social media earlier this summer when activists Libs of TikTok and Chris Elston, also known as “Billboard Chris,” highlighted the hospital’s own videos and website promoting its “first of a kind” gender clinic for kids.

Elston pointed out that the hospitals were coming under fire for their own published content.

“All I do is write the simple but horrific truth about what these clinics are doing to kids,” Elston told CNA.

“I’ve shared content which children’s hospitals themselves produced, and then tried to hide. It’s the words of their own doctors which cause the outrage.” 

Back in August, Elston shared screenshots on Twitter of Boston Children’s website, which said it offered double mastectomies for children as young as 15 and sterilizing genital surgeries for patients as young as 17.

After the hospital’s own videos describing these procedures went viral online, Boston Children’s removed the reference to 17-year-olds and updated its website to say patients must be 18 years of age to qualify. 

The hospital also deleted its entire YouTube playlist of at least 40 videos featuring surgeons describing the procedures.

Conservative activists such as Chris Rufo and Matt Walsh have also publicized the video playlists and websites of other children’s hospitals across the country that offer gender surgeries for children. 

Rufo took to Twitter on Monday, saying: “If ‘gender-affirming care’ is so good, the activists and doctors who promote it — and profit from it — should defend their practices in the realm of public opinion.”

Former transgender teen Chloe Cole replied, “‘Gender affirming care’ is so great that we need to violate 1A rights to convince people of how great it is!!!”

Boston Children’s Hospital did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

In the letter, the medical groups also called on tech companies, including Twitter, TikTok, and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, to censor what they called “disinformation.” 

“[We] ask the platforms to take bolder action when false information is shared about specific institutions and physicians” and “do more to prevent coordinated campaigns of disinformation,” the organizations wrote.

Elston told CNA he has already experienced these effects.

“Twitter is already censoring me, requiring people to enter a birthdate before viewing my account, and flagging all media as ‘sensitive content.’ They’ve also made my account unsearchable,” he said.

But Elston and other activists fighting against gender transitions for children are not deterred. 

“Trying to silence us only amplifies our voices,” he said. “If the AMA and AAP want the outrage over gender clinics to cease, there is only one solution: stop transitioning kids.”

When CNA reached out for comment, the AMA referred to a joint press release put out by the three organizations in lieu of a comment. 

AMA president Dr. Jack Resneck said in the release, “We condemn groups that promote hate-motivated intolerance and toxic misinformation that can lead to grave real-world violence and extremism and jeopardize patients’ health outcomes.” 

“The AMA will continue to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to develop and implement strategies that protect hardworking, law-abiding physicians and other health care workers from senseless acts of violence, abuse, and intimidation,” he added.

The AAP, CHA, and DOJ did not respond to CNA’s requests for comment.