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Pregnancy clinic firebombed in ‘Jane’s Revenge’ attack sues police for surveillance footage

CompassCare, a pro-life pregnancy center near Buffalo, New York, was heavily damaged by fire and spray-painted with pro-abortion graffiti on June 7, 2022. / CompassCare

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

After the pro-life pregnancy center he runs outside Buffalo was firebombed and vandalized on June 7, James Harden gave investigators video-surveillance footage of the attack, along with what he described as a “mountain of other evidence.”

Now, frustrated that no arrests have been made in the case after more than three months, he wants the footage back.

“It’s Day 106. There have been no arrests. There have been over 50 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers. And our patience is at an end,” Harden, president and CEO of CompassCare Pregnancy Services, told CNA on Wednesday.

Harden said that he has asked both the FBI and local police for access to the footage so he can make a copy of it, to no avail. The police showed him still images taken from the video, he said, but would not give him access to the footage itself.

So on Tuesday CompassCare filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the police department to provide CompassCare with a copy of the footage.

“Time is of the essence to commence a civil litigation because the longer time goes by the more likely it will be that those responsible for the firebombing will spoliate other evidence,” reads the complaint, which was filed in state Supreme Court in Buffalo.

The legal action is the latest manifestation of mounting frustration about what some see as a lackluster response by the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies to the wave of violent attacks on pro-life groups and Catholic churches across the U.S. since an early draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked on May 2.

The same day CompassCare filed its lawsuit, Republican Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington introduced a bill that, among other things, would require the Biden administration to publicly report its handling of the investigation and prosecution of those engaging in “domestic violent extremism” against pregnancy centers.

The legislation, called the Protect Pregnancy Care Centers Act of 2022, already has 28 co-sponsors and boasts the support of national pro-life organizations, including SBA Pro-Life America, the March for Life, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

‘Jane’s Revenge’

The June 7 attack on CompassCare’s clinic, located in Amherst, New York, is one of at least 18 attributed to assailants invoking the pro-abortion moniker “Jane’s Revenge.” To date, there have been no arrests in any of those cases, Fox News reported last week.

In fact, no arrests have been reported in the more than 50 vandalism attacks on pregnancy centers since the Supreme Court leak, according to CNA’s tracker of these crimes.

“The public has a right to know what’s going on,” Harden told CNA. 

“There is a serious sickness in the body politic of America and the FBI isn’t even talking about it,” he said. “It’s the largest law enforcement agency on the globe and it appears that they’re treating this like some sort of bubble gum theft.”

CompassCare, a pro-life pregnancy center near Buffalo, New York, was heavily damaged by fire and spray-painted with pro-abortion graffiti on June 7, 2022. CompassCare
CompassCare, a pro-life pregnancy center near Buffalo, New York, was heavily damaged by fire and spray-painted with pro-abortion graffiti on June 7, 2022. CompassCare

In the attack on CompassCare’s Amherst facility, windows were shattered, an office was burned and heavily damaged, and the words “Jane was here” were spray-painted on the side of the building.

In an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo not long after the attack, Harden said it was clear from video footage that “multiple perpetrators” were involved.

“We had video footage on security cameras trained at all the points of penetration,” he said at the time. You can watch the full interview with Arroyo in the video below.

Harden told CNA he does not understand why the Amherst Police Department has not released the video to the public. He said the footage shows clear figures and license plates that ought to make it possible to identify someone. CompassCare was not able to make a copy of the footage before handing it over to authorities because of the damage to its building, its lawsuit notes.

A ‘quiet’ investigation?

The Amherst Police Department did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. In a statement released Aug. 1, the department said it was “working diligently” with the FBI to resolve the case.

“There have already been multiple leads examined and we are continuing to follow up with those at this time,” the statement read. Anyone with information about the case should contact the police department at 716-689-1311, referencing case number 22-224665, the statement added.

Stanley J. Silwa, the Amherst town attorney, told Buffalonews.com that giving CompassCare a copy of the footage would put the police investigation in jeopardy and added that the police would release the footage after the investigation is complete.

“Apparently they don’t like the explanation,” Silwa said, referring to CompassCare officials. “They should understand that.”

In an interview with the Epoch Times, Silwa said that the police department wants a “quiet” investigation because of fears that “these people don’t go further underground, as they may already be.”

“You’re aware of all the nut jobs out there with guns and AK-47s, bombing and killing people because they have certain political views,” Sliwa said in the interview.

Asked to elaborate on which people he was referring to, Silwa told the Epoch Times he was referring to the riot on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Silwa clarified that he was not linking supporters of CompassCare with the Capitol riot.

Silwa was not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Congressional bill aims to protect pro-life pregnancy centers against ‘terror attacks’

Photos of the June 3 vandalism show a splash of red paint covering the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center’s white door. On the brick outer building, the words “Jane says revenge” are written in black spray paint. / Mary Margaret Olohan, reporter for The Daily Wire

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Republican Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at protecting pro-life pregnancy centers against a surge in violent attacks. 

“Despite dire threats and horrific attacks, the selfless volunteers and medical professionals who serve at these pregnancy care centers continue to heroically provide life-affirming medical care and crucial material support to pregnant women in need,” Smith told CNA. “We must ensure that those who work at these centers and the women who rely on them for support are safe from violent extremists who seek to inflict harm and terror.”

The Protect Pregnancy Care Centers Act of 2022 already has 28 co-sponsors and boasts the support of national pro-life organizations, including SBA Pro-Life America, the March for Life, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bill, among other things, would require the Biden administration to publicly report its handling of the investigation and prosecution of those engaging in “domestic violent extremism” against pregnancy centers.

“Now more than ever, we need to ensure the safety and security of the estimated 3,000 pregnancy care centers that provide life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” Smith said in a press release. 

McMorris Rodgers added, “My goal is to foster an environment where no woman feels like their only option is abortion.”

The new legislation responds to a growing number of pro-abortion attacks targeting churches and pro-life pregnancy centers in the United States surrounding the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision leaves abortion up to the states.

The Smith-McMorris Rodgers bill lists and condemns the dozens of “terror attacks.”

“Pregnancy care centers across the country have suffered a surge of violent attacks, firebombing, and vandalism by pro-abortion activists in a coordinated effort to intimidate front-line volunteers and licensed medical professionals providing critical support to mothers in need and their unborn baby boys and girls,” Smith said.

McMorris Rodgers cautioned that the attacks “only endanger and intimidate the women who depend on them for critical medical care, education, and other resources.”

“I believe all extreme and hateful acts of violence should be condemned, which is why I’m helping lead this legislation to hold President Biden accountable for his failure to respond to this threat with the urgency it deserves,” she added.

The bill would require the inspector generals of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to report information to Congress on the Biden administration’s response to the attacks, including information on groups that have claimed responsibility and the number of prosecutions initiated.

It would also require the administration to identify funding available to pregnancy centers for security measures and provide recommendations for the creation of additional grant programs.

In the press release, Smith said that these “crimes against innocent victims” violate 18 U.S. Code § 248, a law that he said requires the Biden administration to investigate and prosecute the individuals threatening, vandalizing, and damaging pregnancy centers. The law, titled the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and prohibits the destruction of reproductive health care facilities, including pro-life counseling centers.

“Our new bill takes President Biden to task for his dereliction of duty to protect these centers from domestic violent extremists and will help hold the Biden administration accountable for its obligation to prosecute those who are inflicting terror and destroying these vital resource centers,” he said.

These centers, Smith stressed, save lives. 

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of SBA Pro-Life America, roughly 828,130 unborn babies’ lives were saved over the course of five years because of pregnancy centers. CLI also reports that these centers offered services and material assistance amounting to more than $266 million in 2019 alone. These centers serve hundreds of thousands of women at little to no cost by offering everything from medical services, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and parenting classes to supplies such as diapers, baby food, and even a place to stay.

The White House press office did not respond with comment by time of publication.

Pro-life pregnancy center network calls Elizabeth Warren accusations a political ‘stunt’

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren addresses the public during a rally to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe Vs. Wade at the Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 24, 2022. / Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 20, 2022 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

A leading international network of pro-life pregnancy centers is pushing back against claims made by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other top Democrats that it engages in “misleading practices” and could use the data it collects to incriminate women seeking abortions.

Warren and six other senators made those allegations in a Sept. 19 letter sent to Jor-El Godsey, the president of Heartbeat International.

“We all know what this is,” Godsey said in a statement Tuesday. “This is naked politics intended not to help women but to influence elections. It is clearly a stunt designed to appease Big Abortion power brokers.”

Heartbeat International currently serves over 2,800 affiliated pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies worldwide.

The senators’ letter claims that the data that the organization gathers from women who access its pregnancy centers is not protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, most commonly referred to as HIPAA, which grants protections to a patient’s health information.

The letter also requests that Godsey answer more than a dozen questions related to Heartbeat’s operations. One question reads, “Does Heartbeat International share people’s data with anyone? If yes, with whom?”

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. Courtesy of Heartbeat International
Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. Courtesy of Heartbeat International

Godsey says that the senators’ letter is promoting a fabricated narrative based on “unfounded speculation.”

“What we do is safe, secure, and legal. Heartbeat has been providing help for more than fifty years and never once did we receive any of these questions or concerns until recently, and then from those with a clear abortion agenda,” he said in the statement.

“It’s politics, and we regret only that it’s a distraction to our important work of helping women find alternatives to abortion,” he added.

Godsey also criticized the senators who signed the letter for not condemning any of the acts of vandalism that have targeted pro-life pregnancy centers in recent months. 

“Instead,” Godsey wrote, “they’ve spent their time fabricating a narrative on unfounded speculation. Rather than finding ways to help women be able to choose something besides abortion, they have used their political powers to bully those who are helping women make life-affirming choices.”

Besides Warren, of Massachusetts, the other senators who signed the letter are Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Catholic Charities to provide aid to Puerto Ricans devastated by Hurricane Fiona

A man walks down a flooded street in the Juana Matos neighborhood of Catano, Puerto Rico, on Sept.19, 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Fiona. Hurricane Fiona smashed into Puerto Rico, knocking out the U.S. island territory's power while dumping torrential rain and wreaking catastrophic damage before making landfall in the Dominican Republic on Sept. 19, 2022. / Photo by AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 20, 2022 / 15:51 pm (CNA).

More than a day after Hurricane Fiona dumped 30 inches of rain on Puerto Rico before heading toward the islands of Turks and Caicos, a million people still do not have electricity, and 760,000 are without running water.

The storm hit Puerto Rico just before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the most devastating storm to hit the island since 1928. The island is still reeling from that storm, which the government says caused $90 billion in damage and killed almost 3,000 people.

In the hardest-hit areas, in southern and central Puerto Rico, more than 900 people had to be rescued as surging floodwaters submerged houses and damaged roads. Authorities report two deaths: one man drowned in a flooded river, and another was killed filling his generator with gasoline while it was running.

Kim Burgo, vice president of Catholic Charities USA’s disaster operations, told CNA that the local Catholic Charities agencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are planning to do assessments Tuesday to get an idea of what aid is needed. Their staff is currently organizing distributions of food, water, and other essential items.

Many families are still recovering from Hurricane Maria, she noted; some had gotten to a point where things were better, only to lose everything again.

While no two disasters are alike, Burgo said Catholic Charities learned important lessons from the experience of responding to Hurricane Maria. One of those lessons was about the importance of strategically pre-positioning supplies around the island — especially the kinds of items that go quickly from supermarket shelves — so that they can be quickly distributed to those in need when a disaster hits. 

Those who would like to donate to the hurricane relief effort can visit the Catholic Charities website. Every dollar will go directly to the recovery effort, Burgo said.

Father Enrique “Kike” Camacho, executive director of Cáritas Puerto Rico, coordinated relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Working closely with Catholic Charities, he helped relief get to those who needed it most through a support network operated out of 500 parishes.

Cáritas Puerto Rico’s Facebook page on Monday published an appeal for monetary donations with a promise that the organization would once again serve those affected by the disaster.

It read: “At Cáritas of Puerto Rico we are already activated to help so many Puerto Rican families and communities affected by the passage of Hurricane Fiona on our island. As on other occasions, we will be receiving monetary donations to use for top needs that arise to support our people.

“Just like in Hurricane Maria, in which we helped the 78 municipalities of PR with love and dedication, we are ready to repeat this gesture. We are resilient people and with faith we will stand again. Let us remain united in prayer, faith, and action, and may God bless you always,” the message read, advising people to donate through caritaspr.net (via PayPal).

‘To dust you shall return,’ but human composting? California bishops raise objections

null / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 20, 2022 / 13:33 pm (CNA).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday signed a bill into law that will allow the composting of human remains — a bill that the state’s Catholic Conference had opposed.

The process of human composting — also known as natural organic reduction (NOR) — is a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S. and is legal in a handful of other states. When a body is composted, it is placed in a reusable container where microbes and bacteria decompose it into soil over the course of 30–45 days.

The resulting soil can then be used on private land, such as on a farm or garden, and otherwise would be subject to the same restrictions as scattering cremated remains in the state, the LA Times reported.

A demonstration "vessel" for the deceased, which has been decorated with flowers and compostable mementos by Return Home on top of a bed of straw, is pictured during a tour of the funeral home that specializes in human composting in Auburn, Washington, on March 14, 2022. Human composting is now legal in Washington, California, and a handful of other states. Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images
A demonstration "vessel" for the deceased, which has been decorated with flowers and compostable mementos by Return Home on top of a bed of straw, is pictured during a tour of the funeral home that specializes in human composting in Auburn, Washington, on March 14, 2022. Human composting is now legal in Washington, California, and a handful of other states. Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

The state’s Catholic conference had expressed opposition to the bill in a June letter.

Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said the use of a body composting method originally developed for farm animals creates an “unfortunate spiritual, emotional, and psychological distancing from the deceased.” In addition, she said, the process “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity.”

The process will be available in California beginning in 2027. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, argued that the process is more economical and eco-friendly than traditional burial methods and could help to reduce overcrowding in cemeteries.

The Catholic Church does not have an official teaching on the composting of human bodies but has weighed in many times over the years on the practice of cremation. While strongly discouraged, cremation can be permissible under certain restrictions; notably, the remains are not to be scattered and must be kept in a sacred place, out of reverence for the Church’s teaching on the eventual resurrection of the body.

“We believe that the ‘transformation’ of the remains would create an emotional distance rather than a reverence for them,” Steve Pehanich, a spokesperson for the California Catholic Conference, told Religion News Service in 2020.

“Even with cremated remains, they directed that they remain in a communal place befitting of the dignity inherent in the human body and its connection to the immortal soul,” Pehanich said.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s October 2016 instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo states that while cremation “is not prohibited,” the Church “continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased.”

In that same document, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarified that a person’s ashes are not to be scattered, nor kept in the home or preserved in mementos or jewelry, but instead must be “laid to rest in a sacred place,” such as in a cemetery or church. As the document explains, “by burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.”

U.S. synod synthesis shows ‘desire for greater communion’

Synod on Synodality logo / Courtesy USCCB

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2022 / 16:36 pm (CNA).

The Synod on Synodality has thus far demonstrated the “joys, hopes, and wounds” shared by members of the Church in the United States, according to a report on the process issued Monday. 

“These consultations express a deep desire for greater communion,” read the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Synthesis document, released Sept. 19.

The fruit of consultation in the Latin-rite dioceses in the U.S, as well as Catholic associations, organizations, and national ministries, the synthesis noted several themes: enduring wounds, especially those inflicted by the sexual abuse crisis; enhancing communion and participation in the life of the Church; ongoing formation for mission; and engaging discernment.

In a letter prefacing the report, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, chair of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee, wrote that it is “an expression of what we as a Church have heard each other say when asked about our deepest preoccupations and hopes for the Church of which, by the grace of God, we are all a vital part.”

He emphasized that “the publication of this document is not a concluding moment, however; it is a reflective, forward-moving moment. It is an invitation to listen, to discuss together and to discern together as the Church, about how best to understand and act upon those matters that sit deeply in the hearts and minds of Catholics in the U.S.”

The report noted that the abuse crisis “has eroded not only trust in the hierarchy and the moral integrity of the Church, but also created a culture of fear that keeps people from entering into relationship with one another and thus from experiencing the sense of belonging and connectedness for which they yearn.”

Division within the Church was also a major wound, especially related to the use of the Traditional Latin Mass: “The limited access to the 1962 Missal was lamented; many felt that the differences over how to celebrate the liturgy ‘sometimes reach the level of animosity. People on each side of the issue reported feeling judged by those who differ from them.’”

Division among the bishops was also noted: “The perceived lack of unity among the bishops in the United States, and even of some individual bishops with the Holy Father, as a source of grave scandal. This perceived lack of unity within the hierarchy seems to, in turn, justify division at the local level.”

Marginalization was another wound highlighted in the synthesis, with two groups highlighted. The first is those with a lack of social or economic power, “such as immigrant communities; ethnic minorities; those who are undocumented; the unborn and their mothers; people who are experiencing poverty, homelessness, or incarceration; those people who have disabilities or mental health issues; and people suffering from various addictions. Included also in this group are women, whose voices are frequently marginalized in the decision-making processes of the Church.”

The second marginalized group, the report said, “includes those who are marginalized because circumstances in their own lives are experienced as impediments to full participation in the life of the Church. Among these are members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons who have been divorced or those who have remarried without a declaration of nullity, as well as individuals who have civilly married but who never married in the Church.”

Regarding greater communion and participation, the synthesis indicated a desire “to be a more welcoming Church where all members of the People of God can find accompaniment on the journey. The synodal consultations mentioned several areas where there existed a tension between how to walk with people while remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church.”

Prominent here was “the desire to accompany with authenticity LGBTQ+ persons and their families” and the “deep need for ongoing discernment of the whole Church on how best to accompany our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.”

The divorced often feel unwelcome, the report noted, suggesting “a more transparent and clear annulment process.”

Greater “leadership, discernment, and decision-making roles for women” were included as a desire in nearly all the synodal consultations.

“Another common hope for becoming a more welcoming Church revolved around removing barriers to accessibility and embracing those with special needs and their families, particularly as it relates to an individual’s sacramental life,” the report highlighted. “One of the regions reported a lack of inclusion because there are so few priests and other ministers who are fluent in American Sign Language. Families expressed great joy when steps of inclusion were taken, while many acknowledged the work still left to be done.”

Greater efforts should be made “to welcome diverse cultural and ethnic communities” and to overcome racism, according to the synthesis.

Concern over young people’s failure to practice the faith was widespread, and “young people themselves voiced a feeling of exclusion and desired to participate more fully as members of the parish community. The feeling of exclusion also manifested itself in some youth seeking a sense of belonging in the Church’s ancient tradition of faith, prayer, and devotion.”

The need for continuing spiritual, pastoral, and catechetical formation was recognized, along with the importance of strengthened communication: “Nearly all of the synodal consultations saw clear, concise, and consistent communication as key to the strong desire for appropriate transparency … As the Church seeks to continue down the synodal path, a commitment to clear, transparent, and consistent communication will be crucial.”

Turning to discernment, the synthetic document said: “The rediscovery of listening as a basic posture of a Church called to ongoing conversion is one of the most valuable gifts of the synodal experience in the United States.”

According to the report, about 700,000 people participated in the diocesan phase of the synod in the U.S., out of 66.8 million Catholics in the country. 

The reports of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the U.S. were not included in the National Synthesis; these were shared directly with the Holy See and will be incorporated into the continental stage of the synod.

The national synthesis concludes the diocesan phase of the Synod of Synodality. The continental stage, in turn, will be a preparation for a Synod of Bishops to be held at the Vatican in 2023.

Virginia Gov. Youngkin revokes schools’ transgender policies, asserts parental rights

null / itakdalee/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 19, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Parental rights and religious freedom are central to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new statewide policies for public schools, which Virginia’s education department released Friday. 

The updated policies reverse the transgender school mandates put in place by his predecessor, Gov. Ralph Northam, which permitted schools to withhold a student’s gender transition from parents for “privacy” reasons.

The change also requires students to use bathrooms in accordance with their sex and asserts the right of parents to be involved in their children’s education and health. 

The policy document, 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools, states that Virginia’s education department “fully acknowledges the rights of parents to exercise their fundamental rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.”

Importantly, the model policy says that parents have the primary right to make decisions concerning their children’s health and well-being. 

“Schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children,” the policy reads. 

The document states that parents — not schools — should be in charge of deciding whether or not their child begins a gender transition and goes by a different name or pronoun. 

Many schools across the country implement gender support plans encouraging children to transition to a different sex without their parents knowing. 

The policy also explicitly says students will use bathrooms and participate in sports programs in accordance with “his or her sex.” 

It also affirms that teachers are guaranteed religious freedom under the First Amendment and cannot be forced to comply with policies contradicting their religious beliefs.  

“Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex,” the model policy reads, adding “Many Virginians reject this belief.”

Transgender policy and parents’ rights

Earlier this year, Youngkin’s education department conducted a review of Northam’s 2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students

Among Northam’s policies, schools were required to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice and use students’ preferred pronouns. 

Youngkin called out Northam’s version for “disregarding the rights of parents” and ignoring “other legal and constitutional principles.” 

“The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools,” the department wrote.

According to Equality Virginia, an LGBTQ advocacy group, only 10% of Virginia school boards implemented Northam’s controversial rules for how schools should educate transgender students. The low participation rate was indicative of the backlash the policies received from parents who mobilized in school boards. 

Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told CNA that “the previous policies implemented under the Northam administration did not uphold constitutional principles and parental rights, and will be replaced.”

“It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students. Key decisions rest, first and foremost, with the parents,” she said. 

Porter added that Youngkin’s 2022 policy “delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students.”

Parental rights in 2021 campaign

The issue of parental rights figured prominently in the 2021 gubernatorial race, and many credit it as the basis for Youngkin’s victory over Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. 

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out ... I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe said during a 2021 debate. 

“I believe parents should be in charge of their kid’s education,” Youngkin replied. 

Virginia House Delegate Glenn Davis applauded the governor’s model policy Friday in a tweet, saying it fixed “one of the most overreaching and abusive uses of a ‘model policy.’” 

“This new standard ensures all students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying,” Davis wrote. 

LGBTQ activist groups are denouncing the move. The ACLU of Virginia took to Twitter last week saying it was “appalled by the Youngkin administration’s overhaul of key protections for transgender students in public schools.”

The official public comment period for Youngkin’s model policy is expected to open at the end of the month on the department’s website, when Virginians have 30 days to issue feedback. 

After public comments are reviewed, the new standard goes into effect after the state superintendent issues final approval.

“Empowering parents is not only a fundamental right, but it is essential to improving outcomes for all children in Virginia,” the document reads. 

Cardinal Zen’s trial has been delayed due to COVID

Cardinal Joseph Zen speaks during a Mass at the Holy Cross Church on May 24, 2022, in Hong Kong, China. The cardinal was set to stand trial on Sept. 19, 2022, in connection to his role as a trustee of a pro-democracy legal fund, which he and other trustees are accused of failing to register civilly. The trial was delayed. / Photo by Louise Delmotte/Getty Images

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 19, 2022 / 11:51 am (CNA).

The criminal trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has been delayed after the judge presiding over the case tested positive for COVID-19, Hong Kong media reported. 

Zen, 90, was to have stood trial beginning Monday in connection to his role as a trustee of a pro-democracy legal fund, which he and other trustees are accused of failing to register civilly. Zen is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, an outspoken advocate for religious freedom and democracy, and a sharp critic of the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. 

Local media reported over the weekend that the trial — originally set to begin Sept. 19 and expected to conclude with a verdict on Sept. 23 — has been delayed by at least two days because Permanent Magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee, the judge overseeing the case, contracted COVID-19. Zen has been free on bail since early May. 

In addition to Zen, lawyer Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, activist Sze Ching-wee, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho are accused of failing to apply for local society registration for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund between July 16, 2019, and Oct. 31, 2021. 

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty; Cyd Ho is already jailed for a different charge. The fund helped pro-democracy protesters pay their legal fees until it dissolved itself in October 2021. The defendants’ lawyers argue that they had the right to associate under Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the legal framework created when Great Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997. 

It appears the defendants have not — as of yet — been indicted under Hong Kong’s national security law, which broadly criminalizes “sedition” and “collusion with foreign forces,” and which would have carried with it much more serious penalties. 

The trial will be conducted in Chinese with the closing arguments in English, HKFP reported in August. Without the national security law indictment, the defendants could face only a fine of up to $1,750, Asia News reported. 

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with its own government, and its citizens have historically enjoyed greater freedom of religion than on the Chinese mainland, where religious believers of all stripes are routinely surveilled and restricted by the communist government. But in recent years, Beijing has sought to tighten control over religious practices in Hong Kong under the guise of protecting national security.

Zen, who led the Hong Kong diocese from 2002–2009, is one of several high-profile Catholics who have run afoul of the Chinese government in recent years for their support of pro-democracy activities. Catholic pro-democracy figures such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai and lawyer Martin Lee have garnered media attention for their arrests at the hands of Chinese authorities. 

Amid Zen’s trial, the Holy See continues to work toward the renewal of the China-Vatican agreement for the appointment of bishops, first agreed to in 2018. That deal was meant to unify the country’s 12 million Catholics, divided between the underground Church and the Communist-administered Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and clear a path for the appointment of bishops for Chinese dioceses. Despite the deal, persecution of the underground Church has continued and, according to some, intensified.

The Vatican Secretariat of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin recently hinted to CNA that he has worked toward changing some terms of the agreement, though it is unknown which terms of the agreement could be tweaked, given the deal is secret and its terms remain unknown to the public.

Life-size Stations of the Cross to be ‘tool for evangelization’ at Disney World

A detail of Timothy P. Schmalz's fourth station: Jesus meets his mother. / Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Catholic artist Timothy P. Schmalz sought to find and bring to life the most important subject matter an artist could ever express.

“I wanted to create a sculpture project that would be the heart of Christianity,” the Canadian sculptor said.

He settled on Christ’s crucifixion and death. 

His new creation, once finished, will be a life-size set of the 14 Stations of the Cross — scenes depicting Christ’s journey from being condemned to death to his burial — placed right next to Disney World. The faithful will be able to encounter the 12-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide sculptures at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida.

“I hope to rival Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and every other feature in Orlando by creating what has never been done before, and that is one of the biggest, most complex Stations of the Cross,” Schmalz said.

Once completed, visitors will encounter the 12-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide sculptures at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida. “It's right in the center of a place that desperately needs a spiritual Catholic oasis,” sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz says. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
Once completed, visitors will encounter the 12-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide sculptures at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida. “It's right in the center of a place that desperately needs a spiritual Catholic oasis,” sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz says. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

Schmalz is not new to sculpting. The experienced artist’s work can be found worldwide, from St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican to Washington, D.C. He is perhaps best known for his “Homeless Jesus” sculpture and the “Angels Unaware” statue. 

His new Stations of the Cross, he hopes, will serve as a tool for evangelization and conversion for the roughly 50 million people that visit Disney each year. 

“It’s right in the center of a place that desperately needs a spiritual Catholic oasis,” he said, adding that bringing the Stations of the Cross to Orlando is “bringing the Gospels [to] where the people are, in a sense.”

The stations — which combine mural painting and sculpture — will offer visitors “visual doorways into a Catholic-Christian experience,” he said.

So far, he has completed the first four stations: Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus carries his cross, Jesus falls for the first time, and Jesus meets his mother.  

It will take another year, he says, before all 14 are done. On his YouTube channel, Schmalz walks viewers through the process of creating each station, from sketching them on paper to sculpting them in bronze.

Each scene, made of bronze, bursts with symbolism, movement, and emotion. The foreground shows Jesus’ passion. In the background, Schmalz plans to include every single parable found in the New Testament.

“When you see Jesus in the front, you’re going to see … a raw, hardcore scene from the passion,” he said. “But in the distance, you’re going to see the parables that he taught us. So it might be in the distance, you’ll see a camel trying to get through a little hole in the wall or the eye of the needle.”

While he works in his studio located in St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada, he listens to an audio recording of the New Testament, he said. 

“Things are pulled out and things describe themselves as I create,” he explained, comparing his role to a “passenger” or “director.”

The stations are getting funded by various donors, he said, as he works on them. As they progress from one to 14, each station will become “more and more intense.”

“The passion now has become my passion,” he said. 

He hopes that viewers will feel like they are a part of the stations.

“We know there’s a lot of kids going to Walt Disney in Orlando every year,” he said, giving one example. “I’m putting a lot of children within them so they can see themselves in the scene.”

The 53-year-old artist also sees himself in them.

“It’s fascinating because you really become a part of the subject matter as you’re working on it,” he said. “It evolves and it grows as you’re working on it, and it’s almost like it tells you what to do in a sense where I don’t necessarily know exactly how the piece will end up.”

He called the project mentally, spiritually, and physically taxing. He might dedicate one entire day to creating a little corner of one of the stations, he said, and another day just focusing on the face of Jesus.

But, he added, the work is worth it. These stations allow him, as an artist, to “get to the absolute essence of Christianity” in the hope that “it will be one of the greatest tools to convert and inspire Christianity.”

“I hope to rival Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and every other feature in Orlando by creating what has never been done before, and that is one of the biggest, most complex Stations of the Cross,” says Timothy P. Schmalz, shown here in his studio looking at the fourth station. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz
“I hope to rival Universal Studios, Walt Disney, and every other feature in Orlando by creating what has never been done before, and that is one of the biggest, most complex Stations of the Cross,” says Timothy P. Schmalz, shown here in his studio looking at the fourth station. Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz

“I want [people] to come back from Orlando and, sure, talk about the rides, talk about Mickey Mouse. But I want them to say that the most exciting and most interesting and most moving thing with their vacation was this Stations of the Cross project,” he said. “And if I can do that with this piece of artwork, I have succeeded.”

At a time when many people are attacking Christianity and Christian symbols, Schmalz’s response is to create new, stronger symbols. “Sculptures that are bold, sculptures that celebrate and glorify Christ, but also encourage people to walk through that doorway and see Christ in focus,” he said.

“As they try to make us invisible, we have to sharpen,” he concluded. “And me, as an artist, that is my job, to sharpen our identity with these symbols and art.”

Single mom credits maternity home with saving her life 

Amid recent attacks against pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes from pro-abortion protesters, Danielle Nicholson told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Sept. 15, 2022, that she owes her life to one. / EWTN Pro-Life Weekly/screen shot

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Amid recent attacks against pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes by pro-abortion activists, one mother says she owes her life to one. 

Danielle Nicholson found herself in a crisis pregnancy when she was 20 years old and turned to the Paul Stefan Foundation in Locust Grove, Virginia, for aid. Welcomed with open arms by the founders of the center, Randy and Evelyn James, she is now the mother of a 9-year-old daughter and has made a career as a foster care social worker. She credits her success to the fresh start and help she received during her stay at the maternity home.

In an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Sept. 15, she reflected: “At the time my situation was pretty dire in that I wasn’t working towards any future goals for myself. I wasn’t living a very good life. I was just trying to get by, but the moment I found out that I was pregnant completely changed the trajectory for my life.”

“I realized I now had a little baby that I needed to live for and so I immediately changed my mindset,” she said. 

Nicholson began living a sober life, went back to school, and started to organize her life so she could take care of her baby. During this time, she came across the Paul Stefan Home. During her five-year stay, the home provided her with “the most perfect opportunity to accomplish all the goals that I had for myself.”

Not only was she given resources to pursue a professional life but she was also shown love, which Nicholson says she was still very much in need of during that time.

“I still needed a lot of love and support from adults and parents myself,” she said. “Randy and Evelyn just immediately started to shower me with so much love and support, kindness, patience.”

“They taught me some really significant life lessons — what it meant to be a professional, what it meant to be respectful, what it meant to have integrity, what it meant to be ambitious,” Nicholson added. “And Evelyn taught me the best way to be the best mother. She walked me through every step of motherhood.”

In her work today as a foster care social worker, Nicholson strives to use her story to encourage others to overcome their struggles. 

“I try my very very best to make an impact on anyone’s life that I have to work with,” she said, “[some who have] experienced abuse, experienced trauma, experienced neglect, because my background has all of that and I made a way to get through it.”

Nicholson continued: “I just present it as it’s a process that requires a lot of dedication and work, but it is possible and if those people are willing to walk through that, I offer for myself to walk that through with them to support them.”

In light of recent attacks on pregnancy centers and maternity homes, Nicholson shared her heartfelt message about her experience with these resources for pregnant women.

“They’re completely voluntary. There is absolutely nothing about these places that mandate a woman to choose either way, regarding life for their baby, regarding adoption, regarding parenthood,” she explained. “It’s just a resource to give a woman the ability and the opportunity to just take a breath, to learn what her options are, what her resources are.”

“It’s completely conditional on what that woman wants for her life and for her baby and all women are met right where they’re at when they walk in the door regarding what they want for themselves, what they want for their babies.”

“Ultimately, these clinics and these resources are just an added layer of support to help a woman follow through with the choice that she’s made,” Nicholson concluded.

Watch the full interview with Nicholson below.