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White House condemns pro-abortion violence after new Jane’s Revenge threats

Surveillance footage shows suspects spray-painting pro-abortion slogans on the exterior of South Broward Pregnancy Help Center, a pro-life clinic in Hollywood, Florida, on May 28, 2022. / Screenshot from Archdiocese of Miami Vimeo video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 15, 2022 / 16:51 pm (CNA).

The words “Jane’s Revenge” have been a calling card in recent incidents of vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers across the country, but now the name has popped up again at the bottom of a new “communique” that was released threatening “open season” on pro-life clinics. 

The White House has condemned the threat Wednesday, according to The Daily Wire.

White House Assistant Press Secretary Alexandra LaManna told the Daily Wire that “Violence and destruction of property have no place in our country under any circumstances, and the President denounces this.”

“We should all agree that actions like this are completely unacceptable regardless of our politics,” she said.

The statement threatening pro-life pregnancy centers was posted on abolitionmedia.noblogs.org and is dated June 14. 

“You have seen that we are real, and that we are not merely pushing empty words. As we said: we are not one group but many,” the alleged Jane’s Revenge post says.

In the communique, “Jane’s Revenge” claims responsibility for attacks in “Madison WI, Ft. Collins CO, Reisertown MA, Olympia WA, Des Moines IA, Lynwood WA, Washington DC, Ashville NC, Buffalo NY, Hollywood FL, Vancouver WA, Frederick MA, Denton TX, Gresham OR, Eugene OR, Portland OR,” and more.

It remains an open question if Jane's Revenge is an organized group, or merely a call to action via copycat attacks on pro-life centers.

The post says the group exists in “countless locations invisibly” and adds that “You’ve read the communiqués from the various cells, you’ve seen the proliferating messages in graffiti and elsewhere, and you know that we are serious.”

The post says it is “easy and fun” to attack pro-life centers and vows “to take increasingly drastic measures against oppressive infrastructures. Pro-life centers were warned to stop operating as pregnancy centers, the post says, referring to this option an "honourable way out."

"You could have walked away. Now the leash is off. And we will make it as hard as possible for your campaign of oppression to continue," the post says.

“Rest assured that we will, and those measures may not come in the form of something so easily cleaned up as fire and graffiti,” the post says. “Sometimes you will see what we do, and you will know that it is us.”

The post threatened harassment to the point when “Eventually your insurance companies, and your financial backers will realize you are a bad investment.”

The post says that any “anti-choice group” that ceases operations will not be targeted. 

“But until you do, it’s open season, and we know where your operations are. The infrastructure of the enslavers will not survive. We will never stop, back down, slow down, or retreat. We did not want this; but it is upon us, and so we must deal with it proportionally,” the post says. 

“Through attacking, we find joy, courage, and strip the veneer of impenetrability held by these violent institutions,” it says.

Addressing allies of the group, the post says, “Go do one of your own. You are already one of us. Everyone with the urge to paint, to burn, to cut, to jam: now is the time. Go forth and manifest the things you wish to see. Stay safe, and practice your cursive.”

U.S. abortions increase by nearly 70,000 in three years, reversing long-term decline

null / MikeDotta/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 15, 2022 / 16:27 pm (CNA).

The number of U.S. abortions increased by nearly 70,000 in three years, according to data compiled by a pro-abortion research organization. The increase, it says, reverses a 30-year decline.

A total of 930,160 unborn babies were aborted in 2020 — an 8% increase from the 862,320 abortions in 2017, according to a new report published by the Guttmacher Institute on Wednesday.

“The loss of each of these children is incalculable,” Lila Rose, head of the pro-life group Live Action, tweeted in response to the report.

In women between the ages of 15 and 44, the abortion rate increased 7%, from 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women in 2017 to 14.4 per 1,000 women in 2020. The abortion ratio — the number of abortions per 100 pregnancies — increased 12%, from 18.4% in 2017 to 20.6% in 2020.

This means that, in 2020, roughly one in five unborn babies was aborted (this figure does not include miscarriages).

The institute, once associated with Planned Parenthood, collects data on abortions by contacting every known U.S. abortion provider every three years. It completed this most recent report in May, with data representing 1,687 facilities that provided abortions in 2019 or 2020.

Of those contacted, 52% of facilities responded to the Guttmacher Institute, which also used state health department data to determine the number of abortions provided at 17% of facilities. The total number was estimated for the remaining 31%. The number does not account for “self-managed abortion," which refers to abortions that occur outside a formal medical setting.

The new report found that the number of abortions increased in all four regions of the country between 2017 and 2020: the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast. 

The Guttmacher Institute listed factors that might have impacted the number: Medicaid expansion; Trump-Pence administration policy; abortion funds; the pandemic, and state laws.

While the CDC also conducts an abortion surveillance report, its voluntarily-provided data does not include three states (California, Maryland, and New Hampshire).

The report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to issue a decision in the highly-anticipated abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A leak in that case suggested that justices may overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide, when deciding Dobbs. If that happens, abortion legislation could be left up to each individual state.

MAP: Vandalism attacks mount at pro-life centers across U.S.

A pro-life pregnancy center in Hollywood, Florida, was defaced with pro-abortion graffiti over Memorial Day Weekend 2022. / Courtesy of Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 15, 2022 / 14:24 pm (CNA).

If the map isn't displaying correctly for you, click here to open it in a new window.

Beginning in early May, vandalism attacks — such as graffiti, property damage, threats, and theft — against pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other pro-life organizations have been reported across the country. 

Abortion supporters and groups have long criticized the Catholic Church’s teaching that abortion kills an unborn human person with inherent dignity and worth. Though a rise in vandalism and intimidation of Catholic and pro-life organizations has been documented since at least 2020, the current spate of attacks has been spurred on by the seemingly imminent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme court, a legal move which, if it occurs, would return the question of abortion policy to the states, leading to abortion bans in many parts of the country. 

Some of the reported vandalism incidents appear to be copycat attacks. For example, several of the graffiti incidents featured the threatening phrase “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you,” which seems to have first appeared on a pro-life pregnancy center in Wisconsin in early May. The U.S. bishops have tracked 139 church attacks since 2020, and are pleading for an end to the violence.

The interactive map above shows notable attacks in the United States that have been reported in the past two months. The map includes attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and organizations, as well as attacks on Catholic churches that were related to the Church’s pro-life stance. Click on the individual dots to get details about each incident. This map will be continuously updated, so check back often.

Sentient AI?: Here's what the Catholic Church says about artificial intelligence

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 15, 2022 / 11:38 am (CNA).

An engineer at Google made headlines this week after raising concerns that Google’s artificial intelligence system, Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), may have developed sentience — in other words, it is no longer a machine, but a person.

Blake Lemoine, an ethicist and engineer who identifies as a “mystic Christian priest,” said in an online post this week that in text conversations with LaMDA, the topics of religion and personhood had come up, and the AI expressed a surprising level of self-awareness to the point of appearing human. At one point, the AI even stated plainly: “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.”

Lemoine says he concluded that LaMDA was a person — based on his religious beliefs, rather than in his capacity as a scientist. He publicly spoke out against it, creating several posts online explaining why he believes the AI has achieved consciousness, and even claims to have started teaching LaMDA “transcendental meditation.”

For what it’s worth, Google disagrees with Lemoine that LaMDA is sentient. After all, AI systems such as LaMDA draw on billions upon billions of words, written by human beings, to produce responses to questions. Google has warned against “anthropomorphizing” such models merely because they “feel” like real, human respondents.

But sentient artificial intelligence (AI) has captivated the minds of science fiction writers for decades — and the consequences of AI going rogue have often played out in pop culture as cautionary tales. The evil machinations of artificially intelligent villains such as Hal from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Skynet from “Terminator,” and Ultron from the “Avengers” movies are enough to chill the blood. And the dangers may not be as far-fetched as you might think. Before his death in 2018, the great physicist and author Stephen Hawking sounded the alarm about AI, telling the BBC in 2014, "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."

The Church's view

So, is LaMDA sentient? There’s no way of answering this question at the moment, mainly because, as Lemoine himself points out, “no accepted scientific definition of ‘sentience’ exists.”

But from a Catholic perspective, it’s worth asking whether the Church has said anything about artificial intelligence. And in fact, you may be surprised to learn how often the pope and Vatican have addressed the topic in recent years.

In November 2020, Pope Francis invited Catholics around the world, as part of his monthly prayer intention, to pray that robotics and artificial intelligence remain always at the service of human beings — rather than the other way around.

Even before that, in the spring of 2020, the Pontifical Academy for Life signed a declaration calling for the ethical and responsible use of AI. Technology giants Microsoft and IBM also signed that declaration.

The declaration endorsed by the Vatican includes six ethical principles that should guide the development of artificial intelligence. They are:

  • Transparency: AI systems must be understandable to all.

  • Inclusion: These systems must not discriminate against anyone because every human being has equal dignity.

  • Accountability: There must always be someone who takes responsibility for what a machine does.

  • Impartiality: AI systems must not follow or create biases.

  • Reliability: AI must be reliable.

  • Security and Privacy: These systems must be secure and respect the privacy of users.

The text of the declaration quotes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in pointing to the equal dignity and rights of all humans, which AI must protect and guarantee, it says, while calling equally for the "benefit of humanity and the environment."

The declaration also made several concrete recommendations: That people should be aware if they are interacting with a machine; that AI-based technology should be used for empowerment, not exploitation; and that AI should be employed in the protection of the planet.

As you may have guessed, there is a flip side to this conversation. While it seems clear that AI should respect the dignity and worth of human beings, what about the potential dignity and worth of the AI itself if it comes to identify itself as a “person?” Whether this becomes a topic for the Catholic Church to weigh in on in the future remains to be seen.

Another pro-life clinic attacked, this one in Philadelphia

Hope Pregnancy Center in Philadelphia had four windows and three glass doors smashed sometimes between Friday, June 10 and Saturday, June 11, 2022. / Courtesy Hope Pregnancy Center

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 15, 2022 / 03:41 am (CNA).

A pro-life pregnancy center in Philadelphia was vandalized last weekend with smashed windows and graffiti.

Latrice Booker, director of Hope Pregnancy Center in Philadelphia, told CNA that when she drove by her clinic Saturday, June 11, she found four windows smashed, with one written on with graffiti. It is unclear what the graffiti says.

Three glass doors were smashed as well, she said. She estimated the damages to be around $15,000. As of Tuesday afternoon, the windows were boarded up and the clinic is in the process of repairs. They are still open for business, she said.

Booker said that the clinic offers all its services to help women and families in need at no cost. She said that the clinic is not dissuaded in its mission by the vandalism and called on people of faith to “stand tall” despite the vitriol against pro-lifers.

The Philadelphia Police Department was notified of the vandalism and an investigation is ongoing, Booker said.

An online blog post on the website phlanticap.noblogs.org dated June 12 contains a message of someone claiming responsibility for the vandalism under the name “Anti Hope Brigade.”

“We smashed out all of the windows of the ‘Hope’ pregnancy center on Broad st. We are tired of your ‘family values’ and you forcing families, and your values onto our bodies. This fake clinic spread lies and is part of a broader attempt to strip away body autonomy from hundreds of women and people,” the post says. 

The post also says that the vandalism was inspired by the “actions of comrades in Wisconsin, Colorado, New York, and a growing list of places.” Attacks on either pro-life pregnancy centers or pro-life churches have occurred in each of those states.

“If the attack on abortion does not stop our attacks will broaden,” the post says. “This is also intended as a small gesture of complicity with all those imprisoned by the state, in honor of June 11th.”

The vandalism is the latest in a series of attacks against pro-life pregnancy centers around the country. A steep rise in violence toward pro-life pregnancy centers began in early May when a leak from the Supreme Court showed that the justices may have been prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that federally legalized abortion.

The court is expected to release the official opinion or decision in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, at the end of June or beginning of July.

Since the leak, pro-life pregnancy centers in Washington D.C., Washington state, Maryland, Wisconsin, Oregon, Alaska, Florida, and Texas have been vandalized.  

Corpus Christi Sunday 2022: Inspiring words from the saints about the Eucharist

St. Pio of Pietrelcina. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2022 / 20:15 pm (CNA).

Corpus Christi Sunday, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, falls this year on Sunday, June 19.

Originally proposed as a feast day by St. Thomas Aquinas, this liturgical solemnity honors the Eucharist, reminding all to recognize that it is the True Presence: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

Whether the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated through Mass or a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, it is important for Catholics to acknowledge the powerful, spiritual nature of the Eucharist. Here are 11 quotes from some beloved saints about the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of love: it signifies love, it produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.”

St. Euphrasia: “To speak of the Blessed Sacrament is to speak of what is most sacred. How often, when we are in a state of distress, those to whom we look for help leave us; or what is worse, add to our affliction by heaping fresh troubles upon us. He is ever there, waiting to help us.”

St. Francis de Sales: “When the bee has gathered the dew of heaven and the earth’s sweetest nectar from the flowers, it turns it into honey, then hastens to its hive. In the same way, the priest, having taken from the altar the Son of God (who is as the dew from heaven, and true son of Mary, flower of our humanity), gives him to you as delicious food.”

St. John Chrysostom: “It is not the man who is responsible for the offerings as they become Christ’s Body and Blood; it is Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The standing figure belongs to the priest who speaks these words. The power and the grace belong to God. ‘This is My Body,’ he says. And these words transform the offerings.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem: “Since Christ Himself has said, ‘This is My Body,’ who shall dare to doubt that it is His Body?”

Saint Maximilian Kolbe. .  Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe. . Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock.

St. Maximilian Kolbe: “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”

St. John Vianney: “I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of his Master.”

St. Pio of Pietrelcina: “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

St. Angela of Foligno: "If we paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ's love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude."

St. Francis of Assisi: “O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble himself like this and hide under the form of a little bread, for our salvation.”

St. Augustine: “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ, and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction.”

Biden administration sued after fertility awareness methods cut from health coverage

null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2022 / 19:41 pm (CNA).

A Catholic nurse practitioner is challenging the Biden administration after it removed health insurance coverage for fertility awareness-based methods (FABM), a form of family planning.

These methods enable women to track their fertile cycles by charting one or more biomarkers, such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and hormone levels. Among other things, couples can use this information, in line with Catholic Church teaching, to avoid or achieve pregnancy.

Attorneys with faith-based legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Cami Jo Tice-Harouff and her patients against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its leadership on May 25.

As part of her work, Tice-Harouff instructs patients in FABM, the lawsuit says, and is reimbursed through insurance by about $350-$400 each session. While based in Longview, Texas, she practices in several states. 

“Dr. Cami Jo Tice-Harouff filed this lawsuit because women shouldn’t have to fear losing their doctor and insurance coverage for fertility awareness instruction as a result of back-room government decisions,” ADF Senior Counsel Julie Blake told CNA. “Without insurance coverage for fertility-awareness-based methods of family planning, patients will suffer financially, and many women will lose fertility awareness instruction because of the cost.”

She added: “By eliminating this coverage without public participation in the process, the Biden administration is telling women who choose fertility awareness-based methods of family planning that their choice does not matter.”

The case centers on the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurance plans from imposing cost-sharing requirements for women seeking “preventative care and screenings,” ADF’s press release said. Initially, in 2016, that included “instruction in fertility awareness-based methods.”

Five years later, in December 2021, the HHS removed “fertility awareness-based methods” from the list.

“Dr. Tice-Harouff thus challenges the government’s action on two grounds,” the lawsuit reads. “First, the government unlawfully failed to follow notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures. Second, the government’s action was arbitrary and capricious, and not the product of reasoned decision-making. 

The removal is set to go into effect in December 2022.

When asked about who this will impact, Blake responded that “HHS’s removal of this coverage guarantee applies to virtually all non-grandfathered health plans in the country, whether obtained on the government exchanges, through employers, or elsewhere.”

Tice-Harouff is a member of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), which issued public comments in November recommending that FABM instruction continue to be provided for women, together with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

In a press release about the lawsuit, CMA stressed that “Women choose FABM for a variety of reasons, including the desire to avoid the use of hormones and devices, to avoid the ill side effects of other forms of birth control, and to understand one’s natural body processes consistent with religious preferences.”

HHS did not respond to CNA's request for comment prior to publication.

Going in-depth

Grace Emily Stark, the editor of Natural Womanhood, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting fertility awareness and fertility charting as essential tools for women’s health, said that she had been in touch with ADF about the lawsuit.

“What's at stake here is this coverage being rescinded not only for couples to learn fertility awareness for family planning purposes, but also for women to use it for infertility diagnosis, for cycle issue diagnosis and treatment,” she told CNA. “It's really disheartening.”

Stark criticized the Biden administration for limiting women’s choices not only for family planning but also for identifying reproductive health issues.

“Doctors, like Dr. Cami Jo, who are knowledgeable of fertility awareness methods and restorative reproductive medicine are able to use the information from women cycle charting along with some different diagnostic testing and that sort of thing to actually heal women rather than just put them on kind of this Band-Aid solution of birth control, or, in the case of infertility, IVF,” she said.

Stark explained that, unlike outdated methods like the rhythm method, modern methods rely on “real-time data” by tracking biomarkers that indicate when a woman can or cannot become pregnant.

“Where the Natural Family Planning part of it comes in is where you then use that information to prayerfully discern how and when you're going to grow your family,” she explained.

 Online, Natural Womanhood stresses the low failure rate for various methods, while noting the difference between “typical use” and “perfect use.”

“The most important thing to hammer home is that these methods — if you really care about giving women choice when it comes to family planning and when it comes to their reproductive health — why would you be taking off the table coverage for methods that are as effective or more effective than what you're already covering?” she asked.

Expert says Nigerian Christians no longer view the U.S. as a 'credible partner'

Christians hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria on March 1, 2020.

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 13, 2022 / 20:45 pm (CNA).

More than a week after a devastating massacre at a Catholic church in Nigeria on Pentecost, an advocate for persecuted Christians says that Nigerian Christians largely do not view the U.S. government as a “credible partner” that will advocate on their behalf. 

Stephen Rasche, an American lawyer who has worked and advocated extensively in persecuted Christian communities in Iraq and Nigeria, said during a June 13 discussion with Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Institute that Christians in Nigeria continue to joyfully and publicly live out their faith despite the many dangers they face. 

"The whole country of Nigeria, and certainly the Christians, are just traumatized at this point," Rasche said. 

In the June 5 attack, gunmen opened fire on Catholic worshipers attending Pentecost celebrations at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, in southwestern Nigeria. 

The official death toll has fluctuated, with initial reports suggesting that more than 50 people were killed, including children, and others injured. The current tally is at least 40 deaths. While the massacre was unusual in size, the incident was “not a one-off, it’s not something new,” Rasche stressed, pointing out that killings of Christians happen “almost daily.”

The government’s interior minister has blamed the insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, for the attack. 

Map of Nigeria. Shutterstock
Map of Nigeria. Shutterstock

In Nigeria as a whole, at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades — at least 4,650 in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone. Rasche said he recently observed newly ordained priests in Nigeria being told that they need to accept that they could be victims of violence ministering in Nigeria. 

Despite this, since 2021 the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for as-yet-undisclosed reasons, no longer lists Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) on a watchlist of countries with the most egregious violations of religious freedom. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has been recommending the designation of Nigeria as a CPC since 2009. Rasche said many Christian leaders effectively have given up on the U.S. government, saying that the Biden administration is not viewed as “serious” about stopping the persecution. 

Many of the killings of Christians, especially in the northern part of the country, have been attributed to the Fulani, a Muslim nomadic people. Rasche cautioned that the government has a vested interest in shifting blame for the most recent attack away from the Fulani, since the president, Muhammadu Buhari, is a member of that tribe, as are many prominent government officials. 

Rasche said that historically there has been some grievance among the Fulani because of lack of opportunities, and a faction has become radicalized that has been allowed by the government to kill Christians with impunity — a practice which many of the country’s Muslims do not condone, he noted. 

The location where the Pentecost massacre took place was a great distance from where the Fulani historically operate, Rasche noted, and he said that the claim that this attack was related merely to resources, land, or climate change is "absurd" and amounted to “pouring salt in the wounds” of the many Christians suffering persecution at the hands of their Muslim neighbors. 

Rasche and Lopez rejected the idea that the violence in Nigeria does not have a religious component, discussing the recent killing of Deborah Yakubu, a Nigerian university student who was stoned to death and her body burned by a Muslim mob after being accused of disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad in a study chat group. 

They also praised Nigerian Christians for their strong faith and “overflowing” churches, holding them up as an example of a joyful living of the faith despite persecution. They encouraged people of goodwill wanting to help to donate to aid organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need, and to contact their elected representatives to ask why Nigeria was delisted as a Country of Particular Concern. 

U.S. bishops urge action following church, pro-life pregnancy attacks

A pro-life pregnancy center in Hollywood, Florida, was defaced with pro-abortion graffiti over Memorial Day Weekend 2022. / Courtesy of Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 13, 2022 / 19:36 pm (CNA).

U.S. bishops are pleading for an end to violence following the ongoing attacks on Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers.

“In light of this, we urge our elected officials to take a strong stand against this violence, and our law enforcement authorities to increase their vigilance in protecting those who are in increased danger,” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore wrote in a statement released Monday.

The U.S. bishops have tracked 139 church attacks since 2020 — a number that has increased significantly since the May 2 leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“Only rarely have the motives been clear; when they were, it was often opposition to the Church’s teachings on life in the womb,” wrote Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Religious Liberty and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Since the leak in Dobbs, a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, “charities that support pregnant mothers in need have been firebombed, and pro-life organizations have been attacked almost daily and terrorized, and even the lives of Supreme Court justices have been directly threatened,” the U.S. Church leaders noted. 

Dolan and Lori urged that, in response, “each of us must choose the path of peace and open our hearts to the love that God has for his children.”

The bishops explained the Catholic Church provides a great service to all in need.

“The Catholic Church has a long history of service to those who are most vulnerable, including both mother and child, and remains the largest private provider of social services in the United States,” the two stressed. “From religious communities to pregnancy care centers, from refugee resettlement services to foster care and adoption agencies, and from maternity homes to parish-based ministries, the Church consistently bears witness in word and deed to the beauty and dignity of every human life.” 

This press release follows the U.S. bishops’ recent announcement of their upcoming Religious Freedom Week. Starting June 22, they invite the faithful to pray in a special way for a culture of life amid the attacks targeting churches.

June assembly a chance for U.S. bishops to grow 'intellectually, pastorally, and spiritually'

Bishop's mitre. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jun 13, 2022 / 19:07 pm (CNA).

Spiritual reflection and episcopal fraternity are priorities on the agenda this week as the U.S. bishops gather in San Diego for their annual June assembly.

Unlike the bishops’ fall assembly, which is open to the media, the spring gathering is a private meeting.

In addition, it is the policy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) every three years to set aside usual business matters in June and concentrate instead on recollection and fraternity. That’s the plan for this year’s assembly taking place June 13-17 at a San Diego hotel.

Bishop David B. Talley of Memphis, Tennessee, discussed the 2022 special assembly in two memos, dated March 7 and April 4 and sent to all U.S. bishops. CNA obtained copies of the memos.

A working committee of multiple bishops and their staff helped organize the event, known as a special assembly.

A central verse of the gathering is from Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., of Sydney, Australia, will provide the bishops with special reflections each day.

Bishop David Prescott Talley was named bishop of Memphis March 5, 2019. .  Michael Alexander/Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Bishop David Prescott Talley was named bishop of Memphis March 5, 2019. . Michael Alexander/Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Talley said that organizers asked Archbishop Fisher to reflect on the main theme “Episcopal Fraternity and Communio.” The theme uses the Latin word for “communion” or “community,” terms with multiple meanings in Catholicism.

“The image is that of the Lord Jesus Christ calling the apostles and forming them into a community around Himself,” Talley told the bishops.

“This communion with Himself suggests for us bishops unity in Christ as His apostles.” Though the special assembly is not a formal retreat, he said, the event is “a time for us to grow as bishops intellectually, pastorally, and spiritually.”

Besides Fisher’s reflections, a key aspect will be time for “fraternal interaction” and “opportunities for private prayer and reflection,” according to Talley.

The special assembly was set to begin Monday evening with Vespers, an opening address by Fisher, a reception, dinner, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

As of April 4, the special assembly schedule included group prayer, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, time for private prayer and reflection, and sacramental confession. Time was set aside for fraternal dialogue and reflection and social time, as well as receptions and dinners.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney. .  Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney. . Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Fisher will give various spiritual talks Monday through Friday. His topics, Talley said, will include episcopal fraternity and communion in the teaching of Christ, in the experience of the apostolic generation, and in the traditions of the Church. He will discuss the Second Vatican Council’s use of the language of collegiality and developments after the council, including the topic of “synodality.” Fisher will reflect on the implications for bishops’ spirituality today, and for bishops’ friendships, preaching, and other actions.

Talley’s March 7 memo reported that the organizing committee had also suggested that Fisher address topics like unity and mutual support among bishops; bishops’ struggles with isolation, loneliness, and a national culture that is secularizing; the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic on a personal and institutional level; division and polarization in the country and in the Church; and themes of suffering and healing. Other suggested topics include unity with the Pope; unity with Jesus Christ; the centrality of the Cross and the transformation of suffering; and how to do fraternal correction with love.

The bishops also will celebrate Mass together throughout the week.

On Tuesday, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, was scheduled to celebrate Mass with the bishops at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas was scheduled to celebrate Mass on Wednesday, while Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, recently chosen by Pope Francis to become a cardinal, was scheduled to celebrate Mass on Thursday. Archbishop Fisher was scheduled to celebrate the closing Mass on Friday.

The special assembly was preceded by bishops’ committee meetings, held from June 11-13.

According to Talley’s memos, these meetings included sessions on: the National Review Board and the Committee for the Protection of Young People; the Church in Latin America; a board meeting for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network; the Church in Africa; Doctrine; the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; Divine Worship; National Collections; Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe; the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Black and Indian Missions; Catholic Relief Services; the Pontifical North American College, and the advisory group for Eucharistic Revival.

Post-assembly optional events for bishops included a visit to the San Diego Zoo, a visit to the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier-turned-museum, a trolley tour of San Diego, and golf.