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Abortion groups target Feinstein after Amy Coney Barrett hearings

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- Abortion-advocacy groups have called for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to step down as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. 

In an Oct. 16, statement, Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, called for “new leadership” for Democrats on the committee following Feinstein’s polite tone in remarks at the conclusion of the four days of Senate hearings last week. 

During the hearing on Thursday, Feinstein thanked Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, for presiding over “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.” 

“I want to thank you for your fairness and the opportunity of going back and forth,” she said.

“It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions, and even some ideas--perhaps some good bipartisan legislation we can put together to make this great country even better,” said Feinstein, who is pro-choice, has not supported the nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court, and has in the past criticized the judge's Catholicism.

The two senators then shook hands and embraced. 

Feinstein's remarks to Graham, Hogue alleged, lent an “appearance of credibility to the proceedings,” one that is “widely out of step with the American people.” 

“As such, we believe the committee needs new leadership,” she said, calling Barrett’s confirmation process “illegitimate” and “a sham.” 

Hogue said that Barrett, a Catholic, an appeals court judge, law professor, and mother of seven, poses “a grave threat to every freedom and right we hold dear and tears the very fabric of our democracy.” 

“Americans--whose lives hang in the balance--deserve leadership that underscores how unprecedented, shameful and wrong this process is.”

Barrett was nominated to the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on September 26, eight days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Feinstein has served as ranking member of the committee since January 2017. During hearings that year for Barrett’s confirmation to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Feinstein challenged Barrett over her Catholic faith, observing to Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

NARAL has consistently endorsed Feinstein during her time in the Senate, saying in 2018 that she is “at the forefront of the movement to safeguard our rights.” 

“We need leaders in the Senate like Senator Feinstein who will stand up for the rights of women and families across California,” said NARAL in their 2018 endorsement. 

NARAL was not the only organization calling for Feinstein to step down from her position. The group Demand Justice started a petition drive calling for Feinstein to resign from the committee, stating that the senator’s “behavior during Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings demonstrates that she is only standing in our way of fighting to protect our courts.”

“Sen. Feinstein has undercut Democrats' position at every step of this process, from undermining calls for filibuster and Court reform straight through to thanking Republicans for the most egregious partisan power grab in the modern history of the Supreme Court,” said the petition.

Justice Democrats, which aims to elect progressive candidates to Congress, echoed the calls for Feinstein to depart from the Judiciary Committee, tweeting “Dianne Feinstein must step down.”

Feinstein, who has consistently supported pro-abortion policy in the Senate, opposed Barrett's nomination since the president announced it, calling it “unprecedented” and criticizing the speed at which it was happening. 

“The rush to confirm Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court is unprecedented in my time on the committee,” said Feinstein on October 15. 

“The process exists for a reason, so we can adequately question and evaluate a nominee. There’s absolutely no need to jam this nominee through before a consequential election.”

While NARAL says Feinstein has not done enough, the senator has indicated repeatedly that she will not be voting to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

Faithful and vigilant

Pencil Preaching for Tuesday, October 2020

Poll: Catholic likely voters support Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 04:27 pm (CNA).-  

Catholic likely voters support Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination as a Supreme Court justice by a nearly 20-point margin over those who oppose the appointment, according to a new poll released Monday.

Conducted Oct. 5-11 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, the poll surveyed 1,490 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

Forty-six percent said they support Barrett’s nomination, while 28% oppose it and 27% do not have an opinion, the poll found.

Support was divided among political lines, with 77% of Catholic Republicans supporting the nomination and 4% opposing, compared to 24% of Catholic Democrats supporting and 46% opposing.

Nearly 4 in 10 Catholic independents support Barrett’s nomination, with almost 3 in 10 opposing and about 1 in 3 saying they don’t have enough information to make a decision.

Fifty-seven percent of men surveyed said they support the appointment, compared to 37% of women. Fifty-four percent of white survey respondents said they support the nomination, compared to 40% of Black respondents and 32% of Hispanics.

Catholics who say they accept all of the Church’s teachings were significantly more likely to support Barrett’s nomination, with 74% saying they did, compared to 39% of those who say they do not accept everything that the Church teaches.

Barrett was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump on September 26, to fill the vacancy created by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Democratic leaders have argued that Trump should not have nominated a replacement for Ginsburg so close to the presidential election, but should have waited to allow the winner of the election to make the appointment. Trump has responded by saying that his term is not over and an incumbent president has a responsibility to fill vacancies.

Forty-eight percent of Catholic likely voters said a president should fill a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year, while 43% said a president should wait so that the winner of the election can make the appointment, with another 9% saying they were uncertain.

Republicans overwhelmingly said that a president should fill an election year vacancy, with 8 in 10 agreeing, compared to about a quarter of Democrats and half of Independents who said the same.

Barrett’s Catholic faith has drawn significant attention since her nomination. Her faith was also in the spotlight during her 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nomination hearing in 2017, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told her, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

By a 2-1 margin, poll participants said they found the 2017 comment inappropriate, with 51% saying it was not appropriate, 26% saying it was an acceptable remark, and 23% unsure.

Among Republicans and Independents, more than 60% said it was an unacceptable remark, compared to 38% of Democrats who said the same. Older voters were more likely to find the comment inappropriate than younger voters were.

Almost 3 in 4 poll respondents said they support the constitutional provision that bars religious tests for public office.

Sixty-four percent said religion should not be a factor in confirming a court appointee. Majorities of Republican, Democrat, and Independent respondents agreed with this statement, as did majorities of both men and women, and poll participants from every geographic region of the country.

Barrett’s nomination has also sparked renewed speculation that the Supreme Court could revisit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

Forty-five percent of poll participants said they believe Roe v. Wade should be upheld, while 25% said it should be reversed and abortion should be ruled unconstitutional. Eighteen percent said the issue should be returned to the states, and 13% said they were unsure.

Men and women answered almost identically in their opinions on Roe v. Wade. Black respondents were about twice as likely to say abortion should be ruled unconstitutional as white and Hispanic respondents were.


Where Catholic likely voters stand on issues, candidates, ahead of presidential election

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 04:20 pm (CNA).-  

A poll released this week has found that Catholics from both major political parties said they want candidates to support religious freedom and oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, while they identified the economy and the coronavirus pandemic as major concerns leading up to the election.

The poll found that Catholic likely voters, divided mostly along party lines, favor the election of Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. Biden's lead among Catholic voters narrowed in several swing states, and among Catholics who attend Mass weekly.

Overall, 78% said they were more likely to support candidates who protect religious freedom for people of faith. This included majorities of both men and women, as well as majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, and majorities of every age range, geographic region, and race surveyed.

At least 3 in 4 Catholics – regardless of how frequently they attend Mass – said that they are more likely to favor candidates who support religious freedom.

Conducted Oct. 5-11 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, the poll surveyed 1,490 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

Asked about the upcoming presidential election, respondents overall favored Biden over Trump 52% to 40%. These numbers are virtually unchanged from a previous poll conducted by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News in late August and early September.

In the October poll, 90% of Republican respondents favored Trump, and 92% of Democratic respondents favored Biden. Independents preferred Biden over Trump 44%-34%, with 23% saying they are undecided.

The gap between the candidates narrows significantly in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In those states Biden leads by four points (48% to 44%), which is within the poll’s margin of error.

Among weekly Mass attendees, Biden’s lead in the poll narrows to six points, 48%-42%.

Catholic likely voters who say they accept everything the Church teaches told pollsters they are more likely to vote for Trump over Biden 56%-38%, the poll found.

Catholics who say they believe all of the Church’s teachings also prefer Trump’s policies, 55%-39%. Among all Catholic voters, however, Biden outpaces Trump when it comes to the preference of a candidate’s policies; 53% of Catholic likely voters prefer Biden’s policies, while 41% prefer Trump’s and 5% “don’t know.”

Biden also outperforms Trump on the question of temperament; one-third of Catholics polled said they preferred Trump’s temperament, with almost 6 in 10 saying that they preferred Biden’s temperament. Female Catholic voters and Hispanic Catholics said they preferred Biden’s temperament by a 33-point margin and a 52-point margin, respectively.

On the question of temperament, those who say they accept everything the Church teaches prefer Trump by one point.

When considering issues in light of the upcoming presidential election, 95% of respondents said they are concerned about the economy, and 92% said they are concerned about health care.

In addition, 89% said the coronavirus pandemic concerns them, 83% said the same about civil unrest, 81% about Supreme Court appointments and 77% about race relations. Abortion and religious freedom were each listed as an issue of concern by 66% of respondents.

A majority of respondents said the following were major concerns: economy and jobs (73%), coronavirus (68%), health care (67%) and civil unrest (53%).

Sixty percent said they are less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion at any time in a pregnancy, while 28% said they are more likely to support such a candidate.

Fifty-two percent said they are less likely to support a candidate who favors taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S., compared to 34% who said they would be more likely to support such a candidate.

Women showed more opposition than men did to candidates supporting abortion throughout an entire pregnancy, as well as to taxpayer funding of abortion. Weekly Mass attendees showed more opposition to candidates holding these positions than less frequent Mass attendees did.

Respondents were more closely split on immigration, with 47% saying they would prefer a candidate who supports expanding immigration to the U.S., and 41% saying they are less likely to support a candidate who holds this position.
Younger Catholics are more likely to favor candidates who want to expand immigration than older Catholics are, and Hispanic respondents are more likely to favor these candidates than white or Black respondents are.

Asked their view on candidates who want to require Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage including contraception and abortion, 38% said they are more likely to support such a candidate, while 42% said they are less likely. Twenty percent said they were unsure.

Forty-five percent of poll participants said they believe Roe v. Wade should be upheld, while 25% said it should be reversed and abortion should be ruled unconstitutional. Eighteen percent said the issue should be returned to the states, and 13% said they were unsure.

Men and women answered almost identically in their opinions on Roe v. Wade. Black respondents were about twice as likely to say abortion should be ruled unconstitutional as white and Hispanic respondents were.


Spain's twentieth century martyrs were not only from Spanish Civil War

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- While there is a tendency to associate the Spanish martyrs of the 20th century solely with the civil war of 1936-39, there were decades of preparation leading to this, accompanied by desecrations of churches, according to a Spanish priest serving in Rome.

The religious persecution in Spain in the 20th century took “some preparation. It is not something that can be narrowed down, it cannot be limited simply to the first months of the Spanish Civil War,” Msgr. José Jaime Brosel Gavilà, rector of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli, the Spanish national church in Rome, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner.

Msgr. Brosel is a priest of the Archdiocese of Valencia and an expert on 20th century Spanish martyrs.

“We have martyrs from 1909, such as Brother Lycarión, a Marist religious who died in the context of the Tragic Week in Barcelona. There was destruction of churches in 1931, there were the canonized martyrs of 1934, and certainly the first months of the Civil War,” he said.

“The second half of the year 1936 is perhaps where there was a greater number of martyrs, but the persecution cannot be limited to the Civil War, but covers all those first decades of the 20th century, and also covers not only Spain, but all of Europe.”

During the Spanish Civil War, Republicans martyred thousands of clerics, religious, and laity; of these, 11 have been canonized, and 1,915 beatified.

While a great number of the martyrs lost their lives during the civil war, there were also other periods, such as the Tragic Week, an uprising of Republicans, socialists, and anarchists in Catalonia in July 1909; the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931; and the Revolution of 1934, a movement of rebellious strikes.

These incidents were also accompanied by the destruction of religious buildings, desecrations, persecution, and the murder of priests, bishops, men and women religious, and lay people out of hatred of the faith.

There is some debate about how to refer to the Spanish martyrs of this historical period. Msgr. Brosel said that appropriate designations are "Spanish martyrs of the 20th century, or the first half of the 20th century, or the first decades of the 20th century."

In any case, “it wouldn’t be right to identify the martyrs with the Civil War. A war never produces martyrs, it produces victims. Historians like Msgr. Vicente Cárcel, or the Spanish bishops have strongly emphasized this,” the priest noted.

"They’re not martyrs of war, they’re martyrs of persecution, martyrs who died forgiving, and martyrs whose martyrdom was nothing more than the culmination of a life of faith.”

Many of them “could have been beatified for their virtues without any problem even if they hadn’t died a bloody death. But the motivation was hatred of faith, and that hatred of faith is shown by the lack of trials. There were no trials with legal guarantees. Generally, there weren’t any trials, and if there were, they were sham trials. Those who searched for and captured people generally didn’t know anything about the person other than ‘he’s a priest, he’s a religious, the person is a man or a woman of the Church.’ There was no other motivation.”

“We have to understand these martyrs in a context of religious persecution in many countries. There are martyrs of Nazism, there are martyrs of the communist regimes… We cannot simply identify them with a war or with an ideology,” Msgr. Brosel argued, and adding that “Saint John Paul II called the 20th century the great century of martyrs."

He said the martyrdoms were cruel, “with revenge, with the desecration of corpses. The martyrs were not accused for any political, economic, or social reasons. There was something else to it. There were anti-religious rituals in the destruction of churches.”

For example, he said, “those who destroyed churches, who burned them, wore vestments in mock processions… There was an anti-religious ritual, there was no simple intention of destroying national patrimony, but a complete kind of symbolic language was used, making clear what was intended.”

Another element aspect of this anti-religious ritual is the way people were martyred.

“The persecutor attacked what was considered to be reprehensible, i.e. the mouth. Many martyrs had their tongues cut out because preaching comes through the mouth or because they refused to blaspheme. Or the genital area. Some of martyrs were told: ‘If you agree to consort with prostitutes, we’ll save you.’ And they end up cutting off their genitals.”

In short, “there was no accusation other than hatred of the faith. There were often- repeated false accusations: ‘They have weapons in the convent, there are illegal radio transmitters in the convent, the water has been poisoned, they’re hiding money ....’ In the end, everything was proven to be false. There was no other motivation than hatred of the faith.”

The Spanish Civil War remains controversial in the country. Francisco Franco, leader of the victorious Nationalist forces, was Spain’s head of state from the end of the war until his death in 1975.

In October 2019, Franco's body was exhumed from the Basilica of the Holy Cross at the Valley of the Fallen, fulling a pledge of the government of Pedro Sanchez, secretary-general of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party.

Those who sympathize or identify with the Republican side tend to simply focus on the atrocities committed by the Nationalist side, and vice versa.

Msgr. Brosel acknowledged that there were also innocent victims, not martyrs per se, on the Republican side of the conflict and explained that in that sense "when you try to focus attention on those of one side (of the war) at that time, it’s justified by saying 'perhaps those in the other side have already had enough tributes.’ I believe that what is being considered in some cases is just, i.e. the recovery of bodies, moving toward healing, an encounter. But we can’t always be throwing stones at each other.”

“For the most part, our Spanish martyrs were men and women who had dedicated themselves to teaching the poorest of the poor, giving a free education to the least, the children of workers, creating charitable institutions of charity, supporting the most disadvantaged.”

Msgr. Brosel stressed that “it is unfair to say that (the victims) were from one party or another. A common element among all of them is that they died forgiving. At this time it would be necessary to condemn all deaths because no death is justifiable, not to hide any, and even less, to hide the death of innocent people like the martyrs.”

Regarding the total number of martyrs in Spain during the 20th century, “there is no reliable data. Sometimes hundreds of thousands were mentioned, but there is no reliable data.” The number of those beatified for hatred of the faith is in the hundreds, and “the open processes of hundreds of martyrs continue.”

“I believe that it will never be possible to establish the total figure, and I believe that it will be increasingly difficult because there are no longer many eyewitnesses who knew, not only of the physical death, but also the motivation of the persecutor, or how the person lived his faith: how those who died accepted it from faith. Today we hardly have any witnesses and the documents demonstrating martyrdom are few."

Among the martyr’s testimonies that particularly impacted him, Msgr. Brosel cited the “witness of Teresa Ferragut, an older woman who had four daughters who were nuns. She asked to die last because in that way she could encourage her daughters, like the mother of the Maccabees, not to falter, to remain faithful until the end.”

The expert said he was also moved by the “mothers of young priests. They’re not martyrs, the priests are, but the mother encouraged them: ‘Stay faithful to the end, my son. Faithful to the end.’”

“It is a beautiful puzzle that the Spanish martyrs offer us. With many common elements, a great deal of them, and the main one is a witness of faith and an invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation. And not just the martyrs, the families of the martyrs. It’s rare to find a family who would later file a complaint.”

“What we found are families of martyrs who asked their own children to forgive, to be reconciled. I wouldn’t say to forget, I believe that forgetting isn’t good, because what is forgotten we’re condemned to repeat, but asking that the blood of those relatives who had been martyred serve to build a new country, a different country, and not sometimes a country that gives us the impression that it wants to build by throwing stones, by confrontation, accusations, but from justice, of course, but from forgiveness and looking forward,” he concluded.

A version of this story was first reported by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett Confirmation Hearings (Oct. 17)


After teacher beheaded, some in France turn to Fr. Jacques Hamel

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 02:13 pm (CNA).-  

Religious leaders gathered at a memorial to slain French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel Sunday, following the beheading of a Paris school teacher in an Islamist terror attack.

Catholic Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen was joined by representatives of Muslim, Jewish, and other Christian communities Oct. 18 at the memorial near the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Hamel was murdered by Islamists in 2016.

They laid a wreath in honor of Samuel Paty, who was killed Oct. 16 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris. The religious leaders then observed a minute’s silence.

In a statement, members of the interfaith committee of Rouen said they had gathered “to express their shock and utmost condemnation of the murder.”

“God cannot ask to kill,” they said, alluding to reports that the perpetrator, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, attacked Paty after the teacher showed his class a cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Eyewitnesses said that Anzorov shouted “Allahu akbar” -- Arabic for “God is great” -- as he murdered Paty near the middle school where he taught. The 18-year-old Russian national of Chechen origin was shot dead by police shortly after the murder.

The religious leaders said that they committed themselves, “each according to their tradition, to guide their community, to educate the youth, so that they build a true fraternity with all where dialogue replaces violence.”


Le Comité interconfessionnel de Rouen a déposé aujourd'hui une gerbe en hommage à Samuel Paty devant la stèle érigée en mémoire du Père Jacques Hamel, à Saint-Étienne du Rouvray. Ses membres ont ensuite observé une longue minute de silence en mémoire de l'enseignant assassiné.

— Diocèse de Rouen - Eglise catholique (@DioceseRouen) October 18, 2020  

In a separate statement Oct. 17, Lebrun -- who was Hamel’s bishop -- extended the condolences of Catholics in Rouen diocese to Paty’s family.

“May the murderer and those who feed fanaticism find light in an authentic encounter with God. God never wants death, not even that of the wicked. He wants humanity to turn away from evil to rediscover its vocation to love,” the bishop said in a statement cosigned with two other Catholic officials.

Other French bishops joined Lebrun in lamenting Paty’s murder.

Bishop Éric Aumonier of Versailles, the diocese that includes Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, said Oct. 16 that the killing “shakes us, like all citizens attached to the values of freedom, equality and fraternity.”

“We carry him in our prayers, with his family, colleagues, students, and all those who are deeply wounded by this appalling act,” Aumonier said in a joint statement with Versailles auxiliary Bishop Bruno Valentin.

Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State while offering Mass July 26, 2016. The Rouen diocese began a preliminary inquiry into the priest’s sainthood cause the same year, after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period.




UK court to review Down Syndrome abortion law

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The High Court of England and Wales has agreed to hear a challenge to the country’s abortion law, which allows children with Down syndrome to be aborted until birth, as discriminatory towards people diagnosed with the condition. 

The application, which was filed by Heidi Crowter, a woman with Down syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, mother of 16-month-old son Aiden, who has Down syndrome, was granted on October 17. 

Lawyer Paul Conrathe, who represents Crowter and Lea-Wilson, called it a “hugely significant moment.” 

“The Court has recognized it is arguable that the State is acting unlawfully towards babies with Down’s Syndrome by allowing them to be aborted up to birth,” said Coranthe in a statement released on Saturday. 

Now, said Coranthe, the government has to “prepare its detailed evidence” saying that allowing abortion until birth for babies with Down syndrome is not discriminatory, which the court will review.

He stated that he expected the trial will happen “early next year.” 

Abortion is legal in the United Kingdom until the 24th week of pregnancy, except for when continuing the pregnancy is dangerous to the physical or mental health of the mother, as well as in cases where the baby will "suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."

Lea-Wilson’s son Aiden was not diagnosed with Down syndrome until the 34th week of his gestation. He was born two weeks later, at 36 weeks and three days gestation. She said that she was offered the option to abort Aiden three times after he was diagnosed. 

“During this time of great vulnerability, I was told that my child would not be able to live independently, might not be able to walk or talk, would suffer through surgeries to correct his intestinal issues and possible congenital heart defects, that there was a high chance of stillbirth, and that he would make our lives so much more challenging,” she said in a statement published by Sky News. 

Lea-Wilson said being repeatedly offered an abortion gave her the sense that Down syndrome “must be very, very bad indeed.”

Instead, she said, her son is “a delight” and has exceeded her expectations, but she remains concerned about his future, and cannot trust that he will be treated equally under U.K. law. 

“We live in a society that proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life,” she said. 

“This law, which allows abortion up until birth, is outdated, and we can do so much better than this.”

Supreme Court to hear cases emerging from Trump's immigration policies

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases stemming from President Donald Trump's immigration policies related to financing border wall construction and the requirement that asylum-seekers remain in Mexico until their claims are processed.

Catholic worker who broke into naval base to protest nuclear weapons sentenced

Patrick O'Neill, who together with the Rev. Stephen Kelly, cut a padlock to Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia to protest its stockpile of hundreds of Trident nuclear weapons two years ago, was sentenced Oct. 16 to 14 months in federal prison.