Vatican City, Sep 18, 2019 / 04:34 am (CNA).- Because of sinfulness, human projects will always fail, but the Church remains steadfast, even in times of scandal, because she is sustained by the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
“Let us think of the history of Christians, including the history of the Church, with so many sins, with so many scandals, with so many bad things in these two millennia. And why did it not collapse? Because God is there,” the pope said Sept. 18.
“We are sinners, and so often we even give scandal. But God is with us,” he added. “But the Lord always saves. Strength is ‘God with us.’”
In contrast, human projects always fail, Pope Francis noted, pointing to the many political projects of history, including the empires and dictatorships of the last century.
“They felt very powerful, they thought they dominated the world. And then they all collapsed,” he stated. “Even today, think of today’s empires: they will collapse, if God is not with them, because the strength that men have in themselves is not lasting. Only the strength of God endures.”
During his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles with a reflection on the importance of the Holy Spirit.
In the fifth chapter of Acts, the Apostles are facing opposition from Jews, but they “respond with courage,” showing they possess the “obedience of faith,” Francis said.
They have this courage, he said, because from Pentecost they are no longer alone, but the Holy Spirit is working through them.
“They feel they cannot say, ‘I’ alone,” he added. “Strengthened by this covenant, the Apostles do not let themselves be intimidated by anyone. They had an impressive courage!”
Pope Francis noted that at Jesus’ arrest, the disciples ran away like cowards. “But, from cowards they have become so brave. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was with them.”
“The same happens to us: if we have the Holy Spirit inside, we will have the courage to move forward, the courage to win many struggles, not for ourselves but for the Spirit that is with us,” he said, pointing to the martyrs, who gave their lives and never hid their Christian identity.
The pope recalled, in particular, the Coptic Orthodox Christians who were killed in Libya in 2015. “But the last word they said was, ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ They were filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said.
In Acts, the Apostles are living like “megaphones” of the Holy Spirit, and this “makes the Jewish ‘religious system’ tremble,” feel threatened and respond with violence and death threats, Francis explained.
However, the pope said, one Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, tries to stem this reaction, showing how to practice discernment. He shows that what is of God will last while human projects may first succeed but then become “shipwrecked.”
“Gamaliel concludes that, if the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth believed an impostor, they are destined to disappear into thin air; if instead they follow one who comes from God, it is better to give up fighting them; and warns: ‘Do not happen to find yourself even fighting against God’ (Acts 5:39). He teaches us to make this discernment,” he stated.
Gamaliel’s reasoned words teach people to “recognize the tree by its fruits.”
“We ask the Holy Spirit to act in us so that, both personally and as a community, we can acquire the habitus of discernment,” Francis concluded.
Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- A dispute has developed between Facebook fact checkers and a pro-life group about whether abortion is ever medically necessary. One philosophy professor suggested the key to resolving the discussion lies in a clear definition of abortion.
“I think the inherent ambiguity of ‘abortion’ – the gap between its medical and social meanings – gets used as a tool to muddy up the debate,” said Dr. Angela Knobel, a philosophy professor at The Catholic University of America.
In recent weeks, the investigative pro-life group Live Action has raised objections, after it was penalized by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program.
Through a program launched in December 2016, Facebook uses more than 54 third-party fact-checking partners, who label content that they determine to be false or misleading. The fact-checkers must be certified through a non-partisan fact-checking network.
Pages that consistently publish or share information marked as “false” by fact-checkers are penalized with a reduction in their reach and the loss of the ability to advertise.
On Aug. 30, Live Action was informed that a video it had created and posted was labeled “false” by fact checkers, and that the distribution of their posts would be lowered as a result.
According to Live Action, the video featured a neonatal-perinatal physician and had been flagged as false because it made the claim that “abortion is never medically necessary.”
On the same day, Health Feedback, a website operated by Science Feedback, one of Facebook’s six U.S. fact-checking partners, published a feedback review of Live Action’s claim.
The Health Feedback review pulled from a website operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which defines abortion as “a procedure to end a pregnancy. It uses medicine or surgery to remove the embryo or fetus and placenta from the uterus.”
The review charges that Live Action “redefines the meaning of abortion to exclude the cases when abortion is medically necessary,” in order, it said, to claim that abortion is not actually necessary.
The review cites the example of an ectopic pregnancy, in which an embryo implants outside the uterus. The embryo is unable to survive in this situation, which is also life-threatening to the mother if not promptly removed.
Live Action says that in such a case, removing the fallopian tube or a portion of it, is not an abortion because, although it results in the death of the unborn child, it does not have as its goal the death of the child.
Knobel said the debate essentially comes down to definitions.
Live Action defines abortion as “the intentional killing of a preborn child.” In some cases when a medical emergency arises, the group says, it may be necessary to induce labor early, when the baby has little – or even no – chance of survival. But this differs from abortion, Live Action says, because the death of the baby is not intended, but rather accepted as an undesired outcome of treating the mother’s medical condition.
This distinction is important, Knobel said, because how one defines abortion determines whether one believes it is ever medically necessary.
“Live Action is referring correctly to the social meaning the term abortion has taken on — the direct, intentional killing of a pre-born child,” she said. In contrast, the Facebook fact checkers are “referring to the technical medical definition, and according to the very old, very technical, non-social medical definition, ‘abortion’ actually is sometimes medically necessary.”
Knobel suggested that the difference in the definitions can cause confusion.
“The medical meaning gets used as a tool to insist that what conservatives want will kill and oppress women,” she said. “Because when people read headlines, it’s the social, not the medical meaning of abortion they assume. So they come away believing that abortion (understood socially) is necessary for women’s health, when of course that’s not true.”
Live Action objected to the August fact-check, saying the doctors who carried it out also performed abortions, and that one is a board member of the pro-abortion group NARAL. Live Action said it is a violation of Facebook policy for fact-checkers to advocate on the issues they fact check.
On Sept. 12, Live Action founder Lila Rose said Facebook had removed the page violations and was investigating the matter. Rose said that Live Action could still face future penalties pending the result of that investigation.
But as pro-life legislation moves forward at both a state and federal level, the debate over definitions is not over. Knobel stressed that wording is important in preserving the legality of life-saving procedures that do not intend to end a human life.
For example, she said, a woman may spontaneously miscarry, but her body does not naturally expel the baby, and a dilation-and-curettage procedure is necessary to remove the baby’s body.
This is similar to the dilation-and-evacuation procedure commonly used in second trimester abortions. Using the procedure to remove the remains of already-deceased baby may fall under some technical definitions of abortion, but would not match the social definition of abortion, Knobel said.
A 2015 Oklahoma lawcurrently being challenged in court bans dilation-and-evacuation abortions. But the text of the legislation explicitly clarifies that a procedure intending to save an unborn child’s life, or to remove the body of a dead unborn child, is not considered an abortion under the law.
This type of clarification is important to avoid confusion, Knobel said.
“[I]f our efforts ever succeed, we need to make sure we don’t make laws the prohibit things we don’t actually intend to prohibit.”
Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 18, 2019 / 12:39 am (CNA).- The Oklahoma County District Court has denied a motion to pause a law banning a common abortion procedure during the second trimester.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Cindy Truong declined to issue a temporary injunction that would have stopped the bill from going into effect while the case progresses.
Officials have agreed to wait until the Oklahoma Supreme Court considers an emergency motion before enforcing the ban.
The law bars dilation-and-evacuation abortions, which remove an unborn baby from the womb with clamps, scissors, or similar medical tools. It is the most common abortion procedure during the second trimester.
The legislation specifies that use of the procedure intending to save an unborn child’s life, or to remove the body of a miscarried unborn child, is not considered an abortion under the law.
The law had been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights in 2015, shortly after then-Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed the bill into law. On July 12, 2019, Judge Truong upheld the ban.
Autumn Katz, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the group would continue to fight against the ban as the case advances to the state Supreme Court.
“Oklahoma’s law is part of this orchestrated national strategy that we’ve seen where states are passing hundreds of restrictions on abortion... [including] these kinds of D&E bans and many other restrictions on abortion that are completely politically motivated and designed to push abortion out of reach for women,” Katz told HuffPost.
The law is one of several pro-life measures in recent years to have passed in Oklahoma and brought to court. In May, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a law restricting the use of abortion medication.
H.B. 2684 required all abortion clinics to follow the protocol established by the FDA in 2000 instead of a 2016 update, which endorsed an off-label use of abortion medication three weeks later into pregnancy.
Pro-life leaders argued that the updated protocol would place more women at risk for complications. The Oklahoma Supreme Court disagreed, stating that the restriction placed “a substantial obstacle in the path of women’s choice.”
Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City), President Pro Tempore of the Senate, decried the decision. He said the law was a legitimate effort to protect women’s health and safety.
“This measure was intended to protect the health and safety of women who sought a medication abortion by requiring the abortionist to follow the instructions on the pill bottle,” he said, according to The Oklahoman.
Austin, Texas, Sep 17, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Last week the Austin City Council voted to provide funding for costs associated with abortion, a move that was protested by the city's bishop when it was proposed in August.
The city council voted Sept. 10 to provide $150,000 for transportation, lodging, or childcare for Austin residents seeking to procure abortion.
“I am saddened by the recent news that members of the Austin City Council are working on a proposal to increase financial support for access to abortion in the community,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin had said Aug. 21.
“I, along with the Catholic Church, continue to affirm the intrinsic value of human life and the dignity of every person in a way that transforms culture,” he stated.
He added that the funds “would be better used to provide emotional, material and spiritual support for pregnant women and families in need.”
“Please join me in continuing to work with our government leaders, praying that all life will be protected from conception to natural death,” Bishop Vasquez said.
Texas had passed a law earlier in the year banning local governments from financially supporting abortion providers. The state law was in reaction to Austin's decision to lease a building to Planned Parenthood for $1 a year.
Sen. Donna Campbell, who authored the Texas law, said she was unsurprised Austin would “use taxpayer dollars to pay for transportation and lodging to those seeking an abortion.”
Austin's decision has been challenged in a lawsuit by former councilman Don Zimmerman, who charges the policy violates a state law criminalizing the furnishing of “means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended,” the Texas Tribune reported.
Texas has adopted several laws regulating abortion in recent years.
A study published in March found that the number of abortions procured in Texas decreased 18 percent after the application of a 2013 law regulating abortion clinics. Though the total number of abortions fell, the number of abortions procured during the second trimester increased.
Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- With the end-of-the-month deadline for Congress to pass legislation to fund the federal government fast approaching, lawmakers remain at odds over a series of issues, including key pro-life policies, making the need for a short-term extension agreement likely.
Such a funding extension—a Continuing Resolution (CR)—would be “the best thing for pro-lifers right now,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told CNA last week.
McClusky’s analysis came after Senate Democrats tried twice last week to insert pro-abortion measures into appropriations bills, resulting in two of the 12 bills meant to fund federal agencies being pulled from consideration.
The two amendments would have rolled back pro-life administration policies, the Title X “Protect Life Rule” and the expanded Mexico City Policy. Both are protections against taxpayer funding of abortions at home and abroad.
One of the policies, the “Protect Life Rule” which went into effect in August, clarified that any recipients of Title X family planning funding could not refer for women for abortions or collocate in the same facility with abortion clinics.
The administration’s expanded version of the Mexico City Policy applies restrictions to federal funding of abortions abroad to over $8.8 billion of U.S. foreign assistance, barring funding of foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions.
Two Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—were expected to vote for the amendments. In response, the legislation was pulled from consideration before it could reach a scheduled markup hearing last Thursday.
Senators from both parties are also at odds over other issues in the appropriations process, including border wall funding.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cited the budget agreement struck between President Trump and Congressional leaders in July, and said Democrats were walking back their agreement not to insert “poison pill” amendments into appropriations bills.
McConnell added that he was moving to advance a package of House-passed appropriations bills in the Senate before resorting to a CR.
“They include several of the domestic funding bills along with the legislation to fund the Department of Defense. There should be no reason for Democrats to vote against this first procedural step,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday criticized Senate Republicans for “acting in a totally partisan way” by seeking to allocate an additional $12 billion in funding of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in part by taking funding from medical research, opioid treatment and funding for military families.
“This is a stunt if I’ve ever seen one. Putting this bill—$12 billion more for the wall, no buy-in from Democrats—for a vote. It will lose. We know it will lose,” Schumer said on the Senate Floor on Tuesday.
As the Senate considers the 12 appropriations bills which must be passed before the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the House is now working on a CR in case the bills do not suceed, the text of which was yet to be released by Tuesday afternoon. House leaders indicated that a vote on a CR was likely before the end of the week.
While debate among legislators continued, a Continuing Resolution would at keep funding at the “status quo” level without the threat of new pro-abortion amendments in the meantime, McClusky told CNA last week.
A scenario that would be concerning, he added, would be the passage of a CR combined with an omnibus bill which would provide new funding for certain government agencies for the 2020 fiscal year in the “omnibus” section—while providing a short-term funding extensions for other government agencies in the CR section.
McClusky said that, because such a bill would be a much larger and more comprehensive piece of legislation than a simple CR, it would be harder for members to keep track of amendments as they were added—including controversial amendments to repeals of pro-life policies.
McClusky told CNA that the Congressional appropriations proves was in clear need of reform. “This is their day job,” he said.