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Priest found guilty of blocking entrance to abortion clinic, faces prison time

Father Fidelis Moscinski (lower left, standing behind the cross), a well-known pro-life activist and priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) is seen during a tense standoff between pro-life and pro-abortion demonstrators in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022. The pro-life marchers were trying to reach a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic where they planned to hold a prayer vigil, and the pro-abortion demonstrators were trying to block their path. / Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

A Catholic priest who blocked access to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic could face up to one year in prison after being found guilty Monday of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, also known as the FACE Act.  

On the morning of July 7, 2022, Father Fidelis Moscinski, 52, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, effectively shut down the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York clinic in Hempstead for about two hours, according to the DOJ. He placed locks and chains on the gated entrance and covered some of them with glue, which prevented anyone from getting through the gate. After the fire department and the police department eventually cut through the locks, Moscinski laid down in front of the entrance to prevent cars from going through the gate, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. 

On Monday, the court delivered a guilty verdict from the bench. Post-conviction motions must be filed by Feb. 7, and the sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 24. 

“The defendant attempted to prevent women from accessing their legal right to vital reproductive and pregnancy services,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement on Sept. 29, 2022, after Moscinski was charged. 

“This office will enforce federal law to protect clinics and staff that provide reproductive health services while safeguarding the rights of their patients. I commend the local police, firefighters, and bystanders who came to the health center’s aid to ensure that it could continue serving the community.” 

In an interview with EWTN on July 16, 2022, Moscinski acknowledged that he blocked access to the clinic so he could “talk to the mothers who were coming in that morning.”  

“Imagine if you were one of those children scheduled to be executed that day,” Moscinski said. “Would you not want every possible effort to be made to save your life? And saying that something is a step too far is simply saying, ‘Well, some lives are less valuable than others; we could sacrifice only up to a point and then we’ll let these others die.’” 

The sentencing will be before Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione. 

Pro-life community commends Moscinski 

Some members of the pro-life community commended Moscinski for his actions at the abortion clinic and criticized those who would put him behind bars.

Michele Sterlace, the executive director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, told CNA that the law is “unjust” and the pro-life movement should work to change laws to “protect innocent human lives.” She cited the overturning of Roe v. Wade as an effective example.  

“People like Father Fidelis that have such courage, that we are in absolute awe of, they’re well aware of the consequences they may potentially face,” Sterlace said. “Father Fidelis is a smart, courageous individual … [who] was there to protect the lives of unborn human beings.” 

Monica Migliorino Miller, the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, also praised Moscinski’s actions.

“When Father Fidelis chained the gate shut on the Planned Parenthood abortion center he performed an act completely appropriate in response to the impending extermination of innocent human persons,” Miller told CNA.

“A true, glorious nonviolent act of love and defense against the killing of the unborn,” Miller continued. “Father also sought to reach out to the women coming to the abortion center. The only reason he is convicted of the unjust FACE law is because in New York the unborn count for nothing as Father was denied a ‘defense of others.’ We can hope that Father’s heroic action will inspire others to rescue the unborn. We must be their voice.” 

The FACE Act 

Moscinski was found guilty of the FACE Act, legislation passed in 1994 to grant protections to reproductive health care centers including abortion clinics and pro-life counseling centers. According to the DOJ, a person is guilty if he or she engages in “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with an individual’s right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

According to the DOJ, first-time convictions are misdemeanors, which can carry up to one year in federal prison. All subsequent convictions are felonies.  

In New York, abortion is legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, abortions are legal past that point if the woman’s life or health is at risk or if the preborn child is not viable.  

Past protests

Moscinski has garnered media attention in recent years for his prayerful protests in the face of pro-abortion opposition and his work with the group Red Rose Rescue. In 2021, photos of the procession at Brooklyn’s Witness for Life day of prayer showed pro-abortion advocates shouting, holding signs, and smoking cigarettes in the face of a calm Moscinski.

The priest has served jail time for his Red Rose Rescue efforts before. Typically, a rescue involves a pro-life advocate entering the waiting room of an abortion facility to offer a red rose along with pro-life literature. 

Trial of Mark Houck, pro-life advocate, begins with night of prayer

A woman attends a rally for Mark Houck outside the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse in Philadelphia on Jan. 24, 2023, while holding a sign that says “Justice for Mark Houck!” / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 24, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Opening statements for the trial of Mark Houck, a pro-life advocate charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, won’t begin until tomorrow, but that didn’t stop a crowd of about 50 supporters from gathering in front of the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Tuesday to rally for Houck’s acquittal.

Houck, a Catholic father of seven, was arrested at his home in front of his terrified wife and children by federal agents last September and is being charged under a controversial law known as the FACE Act.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” More about the allegations, and the charges, can be found here.

Kathleen McCarthy, Houck’s mother-in-law, spoke at the rally and talked about his courage and faith through this time of trial.

“Mark Houck is the real deal,” McCarthy said, fighting back tears.

The allegations in this case stem back to an incident that occurred at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 2021. The federal indictment alleges that Houck twice shoved a clinic patient escort during a verbal altercation while a then 72-year-old man — identified in the indictment by the initials “B.L.” — was attempting to lead clients inside the clinic.

Houck and his lawyers dispute the allegations, saying that he was just defending his son from being harassed by the clinic escort. Criminal charges were never filed with local law enforcement. The clinic escort filed a civil suit, but that was thrown out.

Almost a year after the altercation, Houck was arrested at his home in Kintnersville in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the early hours of the morning and was charged with violating the FACE Act.

The rally Tuesday was organized by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Coalition, a pro-life advocacy group. Attendees prayed and sang hymns while several speakers stood in front of the crowd with a microphone and gave testimony in support of Houck. Some members of the media were there as well as a police presence.

A longtime advocate for the unborn, Houck runs a Catholic men’s ministry called “The King’s Men,” which aims to help men become better husbands, fathers, and leaders.

Father Jim Hutchins, a retired priest living in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, who serves as the chaplain of the apostolate, showed up to support Houck.

Hutchins told CNA that he was praying that Houck would “receive justice” and compared the pro-life advocate to Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

Also in attendance was Jack O’Brien, 87, who has worked on behalf of the unborn with The King’s Men in the past.

Calling the FACE Act “phony” and an “obscenity,” O’Brien said: “We think the charges are going to be dismissed.”

Ryan-Marie Houck, Houck’s wife, told CNA at the courthouse that the couple prayed before the Blessed Sacrament at eucharistic adoration all through the night on Jan. 23 in preparation for the trial, which is set to begin Jan. 25 at 9 a.m.

Brendan Whitaker, a Catholic and supporter of Houck who was also at the courthouse, told CNA that he was one of 40-50 people who joined the Houcks in prayer at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

Whitaker, of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, said that about 25 people stayed and prayed past midnight and mentioned that the group prayed at least three rosaries and some other scriptural prayers.

Some of Houck’s siblings were present at the court, along with members of his wife’s family. The couple’s children were not there.

The Houcks’ teenage son, Mark Houck Jr., will, however, be taking the witness stand during the trial.

Houck is being represented by a legal team of four attorneys: Brian McMonagle of McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak & Davis; Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive vice president and head of litigation; Michael McHale, Thomas More Society senior counsel; and Andrew Bath, Thomas More Society executive vice president and general counsel.

Representing the Department of Justice (DOJ) is Anita Eve from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Ashley Martin, also from the U.S. attorney’s office; and Sanjay Patel from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, criminal section in Washington, D.C.

Gerald Pappert is the presiding judge. Pappert said on Tuesday that jury deliberations could begin as early as Thursday.

See more photos from the rally below.

‘Never take human life for granted,’ Archbishop Cordileone says after second mass shooting

FBI agents arrive at a farm on Jan. 24, 2023, where a mass shooting occurred in Half Moon Bay, California, the day before. Seven people were killed at two separate farm locations that were only a few miles apart. The suspect, Chunli Zhao, was taken into custody a few hours later without incident. / Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in California, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone released a statement Monday reminding people of the frailty of human life.

“The recent shootings in Monterey Park and now in Half Moon Bay remind us of how fragile human life is, but also how precious human life is,” the archbishop said in the statement posted on the archdiocese’s website. “We must never take human life for granted. We must never take out our aggressions and our frustrations on others, especially in any form of violence.”

Seven farmworkers were killed and one was critically injured after a gunman opened fire Monday afternoon at two separate nurseries in Half Moon Bay, California, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

The 67-year-old suspect, Chunli Zhao, is thought to have worked at one of the farms and is believed to have acted alone, NBC Bay Area news reported. He was taken into custody without incident later that afternoon.

“We must never take out our aggressions and our frustrations on others, especially in any form of violence,” Cordileone said in his statement.

“Yes, we need to come together to pray, and we pray for the victims, their families, the perpetrator, but we need to pray all the time,” he said. “Not just during these moments of great tragedy, but all the time.”

Investigators on Tuesday were still trying to figure out a motive for the crime, according to NBC Bay Area news.

The Half Moon Bay shooting comes just two days after another gunman killed 10 and wounded several others at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park outside Los Angeles on Saturday. An 11th victim succumbed to injuries sustained in the shooting on Monday, KTLA reported. The shooter in that incident died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as authorities surrounded his van Sunday morning.

The niece of one of the victims of that shooting — which occurred in the midst of the Lunar New Year festival — 65-year-old My Nhan, posted a tribute to her aunt on Twitter.

“She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends. It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance,” Tiffany Liou wrote. “We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly.”

“We need to reclaim God at the center of our lives,” Cordileone concluded his statement. “He is the one who will grant us his peace.”

Seattle archdiocese says parishes must merge due to decline in number of Catholics 

St. James Cathedral, Seattle. / DarrylBrooks/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Jan 24, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

A decline in Catholic religious practice and other changes in western Washington state means parishes will have to merge so that parish life can sustain itself, the Archdiocese of Seattle said Sunday.

“The mission of the Catholic Church is at the heart of strategic pastoral planning,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said Jan. 22. “To achieve our mission, we must reinvigorate the faith of our people and re-envision how we live our faith in our parish communities, which includes adapting to our current reality so that we can strengthen our relationship with Jesus, accompany one another in faith, and credibly proclaim the Gospel.”

Despite a growing overall population in western Washington, the number of practicing Catholics continues to decline, the archdiocese said in a statement. There are fewer households registered with a parish and fewer people attend Mass, receive the sacraments, and take part in parish life. From 2010 to 2019, the archdiocese said, Mass attendance fell by 11%, baptismal numbers declined by 30%, and weddings declined by 18%.

“With all of the changes that we’re facing today — globally, culturally, and within the Church — it’s very clear the status quo is no longer an option,” Etienne said.

The archdiocese’s strategic planning process, called Partners in the Gospel, is “a plan for how we embrace these realities with hope and confidence,” the archbishop said.

Under the planning process, most parishes will combine into a “new family structure.” Two or more parishes will become a single canonical parish under the leadership of one pastor and one or more parochial vicars. The pastor, parish leaders, and parishioners will then determine questions such as how to share resources, staff, ministries, outreach efforts, and facilities.

The Seattle Archdiocese has fewer resources, including priests, lay leaders, and financial assets. There are 80 diocesan pastors for 174 locations, but it predicts it will have only 66 pastors in 2036.

“We need to adapt to times,” said Jesús Gómez Sánchez, a member of the archdiocesan pastoral council. “The worst we could do is remain not doing anything about it and just seeing the numbers in our Church decrease.”

The archdiocese’s 2021 annual report said it had about 600,000 Catholics in its territory. There were about 182 diocesan priests, including 81 retirees, 118 permanent deacons, 17 religious brothers, and 292 religious sisters. That year there were almost 3,200 infant baptisms, 4,700 confirmations, and 849 total marriages.

Caitlin Moulding, chief operations officer for the Archdiocese of Seattle, said the situation of Catholicism in the region has changed.

“We have churches that were built for many more people than are attending Mass, and most parishes have constrained resources with significant expenses to maintain facilities,” she said. “Many smaller parishes have fewer resources, so they can’t invest in the programs and the staff needed to bring people together and re-enliven their faith.”

The Minnesota-based PartnersEdge consultancy, which specializes in assessment, planning, and leadership, will aid the archdiocese in gathering data, analysis, and structural redesign.

The consultation launches this month. Parish and archdiocesan consultations will take place in spring 2023, while public comment on parish groupings will take place in fall 2023. The final “parish family” structures will be announced in early 2024 and will take effect in July of that year. By 2027, parish groupings are planned to merge into canonical parishes.

The archdiocese’s financial report for fiscal year 2020-2021 said parish collections drew in $93 million. The archdiocese financial report found a 3% decline in parish offertory giving on top of a 4% decline the previous year. The previous 10 years, however, showed “moderate increases” each year.

For 27 parishes and missions, especially in rural areas, ordinary income was under $100,000 each. About two-thirds of parishes operate at a deficit when income from rental properties and special gifts is excluded, the Seattle Times reported. The archdiocese as a whole is fiscally solvent with about $16.5 million in cash and investments.

The Seattle Archdiocese covers the western part of Washington state, from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade Mountains. At present, it has 72 Catholic schools and 174 parishes, missions, and pastoral centers. It celebrates more than 500 weekly Masses in eight languages.

Washington state is among the most secular in the country. About 32% of its residents are religiously unaffiliated, the Pew Research Center reported in 2019. Still, 61% of Washingtonians are Christian. Evangelicals make up 25% of the population, while Catholics make up 17%.

Pelosi reportedly arranged an ‘exorcism’ of her home. Can any Catholic priest do this?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, following the final vote on the Respect for Marriage Act in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2022. / Credit: PBS NewsHour screenshot via YouTube

Denver, Colo., Jan 23, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

After someone broke into her house and violently attacked her husband, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought the services of a priest to perform an “exorcism” of the couple’s San Francisco home, her daughter told the New York Times.

“I think that weighed really heavy on her soul. I think she felt really guilty. I think that really broke her,” Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra Pelosi told opinion columnist Maureen Dowd. “Over Thanksgiving, she had priests coming, trying to have an exorcism of the house and having prayer services.”

Pelosi’s office did not respond to CNA’s request for comment by publication. According to the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Washington, any priest can “expel demons” from a house.

“A priest can only conduct a solemn exorcism of a person with the direct permission of his bishop,” Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, who is also a research associate professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNA Jan. 23. 

“However, to expel demons from a place does not require any special faculties for a priest. As with any ministry of a priest, discretion and protecting the confidentiality of his people involved is expected and important,” Rossetti said.

The alleged assailant, David DePape, has pleaded not guilty to multiple state and federal charges, including assault and attempted murder. According to friends and neighbors, he had become enmeshed in internet conspiracy theories and political extremism, CNN reported. In October 2022 he reportedly entered the Pelosi home in search of then Speaker Pelosi in a plan to kidnap her but attacked her husband, Paul Pelosi, instead, causing a fractured skull and severe injuries to his arm and hands.

Pelosi told the New York Times she could not imagine seeing her home become “a crime scene.”

“This has been tough. It’s going to be about three or four more months before he’s really back to normal,” she said.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco, in which the Pelosis reside, said it was “unaware” of the exorcism.

“We would respect the privacy of families with regard to exorcisms and house blessings,” Peter Marlow, executive director for communications and media, told CNA Monday.

“Exorcisms and house blessings are not activities we would promote to the media,” he said. “If a parishioner is interested in a house blessing, they should contact a priest at their parish.

Marlow referred CNA to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ discussion of exorcisms on its website. While “major exorcisms” are conducted on a person by a bishop or priest with the special permission of the local ordinary, “minor exorcisms” are used in the rite of baptism or in a series of prayers that may be used by the faithful, including “any demonic influence on places and things in particular.”

Rossetti told CNA that the exorcism of a place is “specifically used when there is a demonic infestation.”

“This typically happens when evil actions have been done in a place,” he said. “Some of the behaviors that we have found to result in a demonic infestation are homicides, drug dealing, abortions, sex trafficking, child abuse, and occult practices such as Satanism or witchcraft.” 

Father Vincent Lampert, exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, described to the New York Post a possible exorcism rite.

“It would be the recitation of a particular prayer, inviting the presence of God back into the house, casting out any presence of evil that may be there,” he said. “Then the house would be blessed with holy water, reminding us of our new life in Christ and the fact that we need not fear any evil, because recognizing that Christ is dwelling with us.”

Lampert said he gets “thousands” of requests for such prayers each year.

In the wake of the attack on Pelosi’s husband, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco asked for people to join him in prayer “for the swift recovery of Paul Pelosi and comfort for his wife and family, too.” 

Earlier last year, Cordileone publicly rebuked Rep. Pelosi because of her staunch support for abortion, warning that it causes scandal and endangers her soul.

“I asked her to repudiate this position or else refrain from referring to her Catholic faith in public and receiving holy Communion,” Cordileone said in May 2022, reporting that he had repeatedly sought to reach out but had received no response.

Pelosi reiterated abortion support as recently as Jan. 22, the anniversary of the now-defunct Roe v. Wade pro-abortion Supreme Court decision.

“We must keep fighting to enshrine Roe into law,” she said on Twitter.

Watch the March for Life in a 30-second video

Pro-lifers march on Washington D.C. during the March for Life / Katie Yoder

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Were you unable to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C.? Well, you can watch the entire march in the same time it takes to say two Our Fathers.

The official March for Life account released a 30-second time-lapse video showing the massive crowd making its way toward the U.S. Capitol in the first post-Roe March for Life on Friday, Jan. 20.

As is evident from the video, the turnout for this historic event was huge. However, an official estimate of the crowd size has not been given.

photo taken from the rally stage at the march also shows an impressive crowd getting ready to march in the defense of the unborn.

This year’s theme was “Next Steps: Marching into a post-Roe America,” which emphasized the need to continue to fight for legislation at the state and federal levels that protects the unborn, despite the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“While the march began as a response to Roe, we don’t end now that Roe is done. The human rights abuse of abortion is far from over,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said in a tweet from the group’s official account. “We will continue to march until the human rights abuse of abortion is a thing of the past.”

The March for Life also included powerful speeches from NFL coach Tony Dungy; Sister Mary Casey and her twin sister Casey Gunning, who has Down syndrome; and actor Jonathan Roumie from “The Chosen.” Watch the videos of each speech below:

Pakistan tightens its already far-reaching blasphemy laws

Pakistanis protest Nov. 2, 2018, in Lahore, shortly after the nation's supreme court acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges. / AMSyed/Shutterstock.

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 23, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

The parliament of Pakistan moved this week to tighten its already far-reaching blasphemy laws, under which numerous Christians and other minorities have been prosecuted and subjected to mob violence, often for dubious charges of blasphemy against beliefs or figures associated with Islam. 

Insulting the Prophet Muhammad is already, at least on paper, a capital offense in Pakistan. Under the newest legal changes, those convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, companions, or close relatives will now face 10 years in prison, a sentence that can be extended to life, along with a fine of 1 million rupees, or roughly $4,500, reported the New York Times. It also makes the charge of blasphemy an offense for which bail is not possible.

Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, and blasphemy laws have been on the books in the country for more than a century, even before it became an independent nation. A notable escalation of the country’s blasphemy laws occurred in 1987 when the death sentence was made mandatory for some violations. 

One of the most famous cases in recent years was that of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman who spent nearly a decade on death row after being accused of disparaging Islam. Numerous world leaders called for her immediate release, including Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. In October 2018, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned her blasphemy conviction. She subsequently fled the country and reportedly still receives death threats.  

Edward Clancy, director of outreach for the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), told CNA that each time Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been changed since the 1980s, they have become harsher. He noted that although the laws are not applied solely to Christians — many Muslims are charged as well — the fact that accusations against Christians are so common in a country that is 97% Muslim means the laws are not being equally applied. 

“Any time Pakistan enhances the law or increases the possibility for cases to be brought up, it’s not good for Christians,” Clancy told CNA in an interview.

Clancy noted that even if a Christian is not arrested or prosecuted by the state, accusations of blasphemy can ruin lives or even lead to death, as mobs and vigilantes, stirred up to violence, often take the matter into their own hands. Pakistani authorities, while touting the fact that the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy law, often ignore the many mob killings and disappearances that have taken place after an accusation of blasphemy, he said.

“The punishment is almost never administered by the state, but rather by mob justice,” he noted.

ACN’s primary mission is to support the pastoral life of the Catholic Church, and in the case of Pakistani Christians, this means helping many of the victims of the blasphemy laws in their legal cases, Clancy said. Of great concern, he said, is the difficulties they have faced in finding lawyers willing to argue the cases because they can themselves become targets of a mob. Many of those accused of blasphemy are murdered, and advocates of changing the law have also been targeted by violence.

Clancy said ACN will continue to offer support for those victims of the blasphemy laws in legal and pastoral support. He urged prayers for the Christian community in Pakistan and suggested that people contact their elected representatives about the issue. Pakistan is designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) by the U.S. State Department, a designation that carries with it the possibility of sanctions, but these have not been well applied, Clancy said. He said he worried about the continued strengthening of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, warning that such laws are making Christianity virtually impossible to practice in Pakistan. 

He mentioned a current blasphemy case in Pakistan of two Christian nuns who, in April 2021, were accused of blasphemy after temporarily moving some decorative Islamic phrases from the wall of a hospital room while cleaning the room. Two years later, the women are still under this “prolonged indictment,” he said. 

“The evidence is in their favor. The accusation appears vindictive and baseless. Even should these two women be found not guilty, they will not be safe in Pakistan. They and their families will have to flee. With the new laws being broadened, there will be more opportunities for injustice,” Clancy said. 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are reportedly used to settle scores — even among the most powerful — or to persecute religious minorities. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who supported the country’s blasphemy laws as a candidate, was himself charged by his successor’s government for blasphemy in May of last year. In November, Khan survived an assassination attempt at a political rally that appeared to be religiously motivated.  

Pakistan’s authorities have consistently failed to implement safeguards on behalf of religious minorities, despite numerous policies in favor of economic and physical protections for members of non-Muslim religions. As of 2020, at least 40 people were serving a life sentence or facing execution for blasphemy in the country.

Pro-abortion counter-protesters at March for Life were few but loud

Pro-life and abortion rights activists protest during the 50th annual March for Life rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. / Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 23, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The 2023 March for Life, which saw tens of thousands of pro-life activists march to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, only faced a handful of disruptions from a very small number of pro-abortion counterprotesters.

Although some had speculated that the pro-abortion presence might be larger this year because it was the first march since the overturning of Roe V. Wade, only about a dozen pro-abortion protesters stood in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and only a few others were scattered within the march and on the outskirts of the march.

Despite the low turnout, some of the counterprotesters did manage to cause disruptions and a few had verbal clashes with pro-life activists. Pro-abortion activists briefly interrupted two pre-march events: a prayer service organized by Priests for Life at DAR Constitution Hall and a moment of silence in front of the Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood clinic.

During the prayer service, a handful of pro-abortion protesters stood up and interrupted while the group was trying to pray. One man shouted “abortion is forever; protect trans lives” and “my body; my choice” before walking out of the event. Another man yelled “this community supports abortion access” before being escorted out of the event.

Another man interrupted a moment of silence held in front of Planned Parenthood by repeatedly chanting “thank God for abortion” into a megaphone. The same man yelled at groups of protesters through a megaphone as they were walking toward the march, accusing pro-life activists of being fascists. A woman with him chanted “keep your religion off my vagina” while the man danced in a crosswalk and yelled at other activists. The woman later blasphemed Christ repeatedly.

When activists gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, some protesters used megaphones to amplify siren sounds in an apparent attempt to disrupt conversations and speeches. One woman who held a sign that said “America is not a Christian nation” shouted profanities at pro-life activists before chanting “thank God for abortion.”

In a few instances, pro-life activists and pro-abortion counterprotesters tried to cover up each other’s signs with their own. In one case, this led to minor shoving, but Catholic News Agency did not witness any fights break out.

The Metropolitan Police Department told Catholic News Agency that there were no arrests made in connection to the March for Life.

Montse Alvarado Named President and COO of EWTN News

Montse Alvarado speaks with EWTN News Executive Editor Matthew Bunson during a live broadcast of “EWTN News In Depth.” / EWTN News / EWTN

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2023 / 13:43 pm (CNA).

EWTN Global Catholic Network announced today that Montse Alvarado has been named the new president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, Inc. 

Alvarado comes to the role from her position as executive director and chief operating officer at the Becket Fund — a renowned nonprofit public interest group that defends religious freedom legally as a human right at the U.S. Supreme Court and elsewhere. She also serves as the founding host of the TV news program “EWTN News In Depth.”

“As a seasoned executive, Montse will bring new energy and perspective to our global news services,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “Her background in organizational management, understanding of the Church, and experience in the public square are key elements that make her ideal for this role. This combination of skills will allow EWTN News to become even stronger in delivering critical reporting and analysis.” 

Warsaw, who has collaborated with Alvarado for more than a decade through her work at Becket, praised her leadership on “EWTN News In Depth” in “covering the underreported stories and clarifying the Church’s position on key teachings with a focus on the laity’s needs and concerns.” He called the program “a model of how to cover the issues facing the Church and the world today by reflecting the universality of the Church and diversifying the voices featured in the discussion.”

As president of EWTN News, Alvarado will have oversight of EWTN’s news media platforms, which include Catholic News Agency, the National Catholic Register, the ACI Group, ChurchPop, and EWTN’s lineup of television and radio news programming, such as “EWTN News Nightly,” “The World Over,” and “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.” EWTN News, Inc. is the largest Catholic news organization in the world, creating content in English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, and Italian. 

EWTN Global Catholic Network, launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica, broadcasts 11 global TV channels in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 400 million television households in more than 160 countries and territories. 

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, Sky satellite radio, iHeart Radio, and over 600 domestic and international AM and FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; several of the most visited Catholic web, digital, and social-media outlets in the world; and its book division, EWTN Publishing. 

Montse Alvarado was named the new president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, Inc. on Jan. 23, 2023. EWTN
Montse Alvarado was named the new president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, Inc. on Jan. 23, 2023. EWTN

Alvarado will work from EWTN News’ Washington bureau and will assume her new position March 6.

“It’s an enormous undertaking and one that’s impossible without God’s providence,” she told the Register, “but I think it’s the perfect moment for this team to step into a new kind of vision that reflects what Mother Angelica always wanted EWTN to be.” 

She described Mother Angelica’s vision as “entrepreneurial, committed to excellence, and reliant on Providence.”

Defense of religious freedom

Alvarado has served the Church for the last two decades through various apostolates dedicated to the new evangelization, from the defense of free speech to the role of women and the treatment of marginalized communities in society.  

Since 2009, she has worked in various roles at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. During that time, Becket’s team secured 12 victories at the Supreme Court on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor and Muslim death-row prisoners, as well as charitable groups, such as Philadelphia Catholic Social Services, among others. They also obtained a victory in EWTN’s case objecting on religious grounds to the Obama administration’s mandate that contraception be included in employee health care plans.

Mark Rienzi, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, praised Alvarado as “an essential part of Becket’s growth and success for more than a decade.” Said Rienzi, “EWTN is welcoming a proven executive known for team-building impact and dedication to mission.”

Having known Alvarado in their mutual defense of religious liberty as well as her media work, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York praised her as “a first-rate journalist, a top-notch administrator, and, just as importantly, a faithful daughter of the Church.” 

Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor emerita and former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, praised Alvarado’s achievements at the Becket Fund, saying she “played an enormous role in making the Becket Fund the powerhouse it is today.” Glendon believes that “her extraordinary talents will bring EWTN News to new heights as well.” 

Recognized Catholic leader

Born in Mexico City, Alvarado is a proud Latina Catholic who was recently recognized for her leadership by the Chicago-based Latino youth-outreach ministry Iskali. 

She also has been a strategic partner to apostolates facing the challenges of secularization and the shifting demographics of the global Church, serving on the advisory council to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the GIVEN Institute, and the Catholic Information Center, among others. She holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts from Florida International University in political management and political science, respectively.

Alvarado recalled watching and learning from EWTN as a child in Mexico and believes that’s part of what makes the network so special. “It’s so reflective of the universal Church, in that it’s not just based here,” she said. “My experience as a Catholic in Mexico is not that different from my experience as an American Catholic now because EWTN created that bridge.” 

Upon hearing of her new role, Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia said he was “absolutely thrilled.” He described Alvarado as “a vibrant, intelligent, inquisitive Catholic young-adult leader.” He referenced working with her on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty and said she will “bring new perspectives, new excitement, and new vision” to the role “because that’s who she is.” 

“Montse is a natural leader, one of the best-informed, intelligent, and articulate people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” said Francis X. Maier, senior fellow of Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former editor in chief of the National Catholic Register. “She brings a wealth of experience to EWTN on a wide range of cultural, public policy, and legal issues, and she does it with consummate grace.”

Biden vows to increase abortion pill access on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade  

President Joe Biden speaks to mayors from across the country during an event at the East Room of the White House on Jan. 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. / Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden issued a memorandum on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, directing federal agencies to support wider access to abortion pills.

In his memo, Biden called upon the secretary of Health and Humans Services, the attorney general, and the secretary of Homeland Security to issue guidance to help women and providers legally obtain abortion drugs.

Biden’s memo comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its policy on Jan. 3 to allow any patient with a prescription to obtain mifepristone from her local retail pharmacy, such as CVS or Walgreens.

Shortly following the FDA’s rule change, both CVS and Walgreens quickly announced they would soon begin offering abortion drugs. Rite Aid announced Jan. 19 that it would dispense the drugs at a limited number of pharmacies and through the mail.

Abortion drug distribution remains legally limited to hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices in states such as Texas and Florida. 

In yesterday’s memo, Biden vowed to fight state efforts to limit abortion drug distribution. 

“My administration remains committed to supporting safe access to mifepristone, consistent with applicable law, and defending women’s fundamental freedoms,” Biden said in the memorandum. 

Mifepristone is the first of the two pills used in a chemical abortion. The drug works by cutting off nutrients necessary for a fetus to continue developing. Mifepristone is commonly taken with a second drug, misoprostol, which is ingested 24 to 48 hours later and induces contractions that expel the dead unborn child.   

Until this month, FDA policy only allowed certified doctors, clinics, and some mail-order pharmacies to dispense mifepristone. 

On Jan. 19, 22 state attorneys general signed a letter addressed to the FDA condemning the administration’s policy change and vowing to uphold state laws limiting the distribution of abortion drugs. 

Biden’s memorandum specifically condemned the actions taken by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to ensure the distribution of abortion drugs remains limited to hospitals, clinics, and physician offices, per Florida law. 

“In Florida, the governor recently said that major pharmacy chains in the state will not offer mifepristone … These actions have stoked confusion, sowed fear, and may prevent patients from accessing safe and effective FDA-approved medication,” Biden said. 

Vice President Kamala Harris announced the memo while commemorating Roe v. Wade in Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital. 

Taking a swipe at DeSantis and congressional Republicans, Harris said: “Can we truly be free if so-called leaders … dare to restrict the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?”

“Members of our Cabinet and our administration are now directed, as of the president’s order, to identify barriers to access to prescription medication and to recommend actions to make sure … that women can secure safe and effective medication,” Harris said. 

Biden’s letter directs federal agencies to issue guidance in support of abortion drug access within the next 60 days.  

Earlier this month, the U.S. Catholic bishops condemned the Biden administration’s decision to allow pharmacies to distribute abortion drugs.

“The FDA should protect the life and health of both mothers and children, not loosen safety standards under industry or political pressures,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, the chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “We call on the administration to correct its policy priorities and stand with mothers in need.”

As pro-life chair, Burbidge reaffirmed the Church’s position on life.

“The Catholic Church is consistent in its teaching on upholding the dignity of all life, and that must include care for both women and their children,” he said. “We decry the continuing push for the destruction of innocent human lives and the loosening of vital safety standards for vulnerable women.”