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‘Come and get it’: Texas Catholic charity gives away nearly 50,000 pounds of potatoes

Local residents collect potatoes from Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle on May 17, 2024. / Credit: Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle

CNA Staff, May 25, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic charity in Texas managed to give away nearly 25 tons of potatoes to the local community after receiving the massive donation as part of a food drive.

Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle’s Interfaith Hunger Project “received a HUGE donation of potatoes” from an anonymous donor earlier this month, the group said in a press release.

“And by HUGE, we’re talking the 50,000-pound range,” the charity said. “Because there’s no way we can distribute that many potatoes to our clients before they go bad, we are inviting anyone in the public to come and take as many as they can use FREE of charge.”

Local residents collect potatoes from Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle on May 17, 2024. Credit: Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle
Local residents collect potatoes from Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle on May 17, 2024. Credit: Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle

The charity had already distributed “more than 12,000 pounds to other local nonprofits,” but roughly 35,000 pounds of the spuds were still remaining.

“So, come and get it. There’s plenty for everyone who wants it,” the charity said.

Kelly James, the director of development at the Texas charity, told CNA that the remaining 18 tons of potatoes were collected in a matter of hours after they invited the public to take them.

“[We] opened it up Friday morning at 9 and we gave them all away in less than three hours,” James said.

The charity “had originally planned to give out potatoes on an additional date,” the group said, but “because of the overwhelming response” there were no potatoes available for a second date.

The charity’s Interfaith Hunger Project “serves needy residents 50 years of age and older within the Texas Panhandle as well as the disabled of any age or financial need,” the group said.

Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle is located in Amarillo, Texas, under the diocese of the same name.

Local residents collect potatoes from Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle on May 17, 2024. Credit: Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle
Local residents collect potatoes from Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle on May 17, 2024. Credit: Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle

The charity says on its website that Bishop Rudolph Gerken established the group in 1932. It was originally called Catholic Family Service and works to combat “food insecurity, poor vision, lack of English language proficiency, and a lack of cultural understanding.”

Iowa parish still working to help tornado victims after deadly twister

Residents continue recovery and cleanup efforts on May 23, 2024, with the help of family and friends following Tuesday’s destructive tornado in Greenfield, Iowa. The storm was responsible for several deaths in the small community. / Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 18:08 pm (CNA).

Ever since a massive tornado ripped through the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, the afternoon of May 21, St. John’s Catholic Church has been mobilizing volunteers to provide material assistance and respite to those in need. 

According to a blog post from the Diocese of Des Moines, St. John’s opened its doors the afternoon of the disaster to provide shelter, food, a place for the community to charge their phones, and to rest. That evening the parish provided pizza in their parking lot until 9 p.m. and Greenfield residents used the parish hall to charge their phones until 10 p.m. 

Believed to be an EF-4 based on data from the National Weather Service, the tornado, which left a line of destruction from 2:57 p.m. to 3:43 p.m. local time, has killed at least five people and injured 35. Peak winds were estimated at 175-185 mph and the tornado was at least 1,000 yards across. Greenfield is situated about an hour’s drive southwest of Des Moines.

“Our church has been designated as a collection point for nonperishable food and hygiene items, and providing meals,” Father Philip Yaw Bempong, St. John’s pastor, told the diocese.

“This morning [May 22], we provided breakfast for those impacted and our volunteers. Currently, we are distributing sack lunches, and local volunteers are cooking food in our parking lot … We will continue serving warm meals three times daily and remain open as a place to eat, relax, charge devices, and access necessities such as hygiene products, food, and water.”

On its Facebook page, the parish said on Friday that it has been “abundantly blessed with donations” of nonperishable food items, hygiene items, and gift cards, and encouraged community members who are in need after the tornado to come and get them. They also said restaurants have been donating food in order to help the parish continue to provide free meals. 

The Diocese of Des Moines said Wednesday it is doing a damage assessment, inviting all pastors and parishes to send to its communications office what kind of damage their communities sustained and how the diocese might be of assistance.

Bishop William Joensen will be with the Greenfield community on Saturday, the diocese said, celebrating the 5 p.m. Mass at St. John’s.

Pro-life roundup: Louisiana passes abortion fraud bill, California invites abortionists from Arizona

A pro-abortion activist displays abortion pills as she counter-protests during an anti-abortion demonstration on March 25, 2023, in New York City. / Credit: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 17:48 pm (CNA).

Here’s a look at major abortion-related developments that took place in the states this week. 

Louisiana passes bill to make abortion coercion a crime

In the wake of the case of a pregnant Texas woman being poisoned with an abortion drug, Louisiana is taking steps to criminalize “abortion fraud” and defining abortion drugs mifepristone or misoprostol as controlled substances.

When Catherine Herring told her husband Mason she was pregnant, he spiked her drink with abortion drugs. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years on probation. Their daughter, Josephine, survived his multiple attempts to poison her, though she has developmental issues as a result and was born 10 weeks early.

A Louisiana native, Herring testified in support of the Louisiana law while Herring’s brother, Sen. Thomas Pressly, introduced the bill.

Louisiana SB 276 was established “to create the crime of coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud,” establishing penalties of five to 10 years in prison or $10,000 to $75,000 fines for those who give a pregnant woman abortion drugs without her knowledge or consent.

The bill contains harsher penalties when the unborn child is more than 3 months old given that the nonconsensual use of an abortion drug can “substantially increases the pregnant woman’s risk of death or serious bodily harm” and carries the penalty of either 10 to 20 years in prison or a fine between $50,000 and $100,000, or both. 

“We are proud of Sen. Pressly’s outstanding defense of SB 276, which will protect women like his sister for decades to come,” Sarah Zagorski, the communications director for Louisiana Right to Life, said in a May 23 statement, adding: “The intention of SB 276 is to stop the abortion industry from profiting off of abuse and trafficking of vulnerable women through their flagrantly illegal distribution of pills.”

The Louisiana Senate passed the law on Tuesday and it is expected to be signed by the governor. The bill would still allow pregnant women to abort their unborn children through the medication but would prevent anyone who does not have a prescription from obtaining the drug.

Louisiana Right to Life noted that its statement was issued “in response to the onslaught of misinformation” about the bill and noted that no female senators voted against the bill. 

“From my experience in northeast Louisiana, medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol are recklessly available online and on the street without a prescription or a physician’s exam,” Dr. Amber Shemwell, a Louisiana OB-GYN, said in the Louisiana Right to Life press release.

“Without proper physician screening for ectopic and molar pregnancies, these medications have the potential to be dangerous,” she continued. “For these reasons, I support categorizing both of these medications as controlled substances. Physicians commonly use controlled substances, and I’m confident that my care for women will not be harmed by this legislation, even as it applies to the appropriate use of misoprostol in my practice.”

Louisiana protects unborn children from abortion in all stages except for cases where the life of the mother is threatened or the baby is discovered to have a lethal fetal anomaly.

California allows traveling abortionists from Arizona 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Thursday that allows Arizona abortionists to come to California to perform abortions until the repeal of a pro-life Arizona law goes into effect later this year.

An Arizona Supreme Court repealed the 1864 law protecting unborn babies at all stages of life except for those conceived by incest or rape. The 1864 law came into effect in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s overturn, and though it was repealed, the repeal won’t go into effect until September.

The California law, SB 233, which immediately went into effect, allows any licensed Arizona abortionists to come to California to offer abortions until Nov. 30 of this year. In a May 23 press release, Newsom said the state of California “stands ready to protect reproductive freedom.”

“Together, we will continue to work to ensure that all who are forced to leave their home state to access abortion care can get the services they need and deserve in California,” CEO Jodi Hicks of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California added in the release.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature’s Democrat supermajority have found yet another devilishly clever way to promote the abortion industry,” California Right to Life Director Mary Rose Short told CNA in an email. 

“Based on the fact that Arizona law may protect the right to life of all unborn children for a few weeks’ duration, they passed SB 233 as an urgency bill, encouraging the fiction that pregnancy is a deadly disease that strikes without warning,” she added. 

“Not content with the executions of over 100,000 of our state’s baby boys and girls every year, California Democrats want to facilitate the deaths of Arizona children as well,” she concluded.

What would a road trip with Jesus and Mary be like? These young Catholics are finding out

Small white vans dubbed "monstrance mobiles" are being used for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. They are just big enough for some of the "perpetual pilgrims" and a pedestal upon which Christ in the monstrance can be placed. / Credit: Jonathan Liedl/CNA

Houston, Texas, May 24, 2024 / 16:44 pm (CNA).

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be one of the apostles and journey, eat, joke, and live out your daily life beside Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary? 

Or perhaps you may have wondered about a more modern question: What would it be like to go on a road trip with Jesus in the car?

These questions are being answered for 23 young “perpetual pilgrims” as they embark on trips that will collectively span the entire contiguous United States as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

After crossing the country with the Eucharistic Christ, these young Catholics will culminate their journeys in Indianapolis for the first U.S. National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years.

On their journey, the pilgrims are scheduled to meet thousands of people and cross mountains, deserts, and some of America’s greatest landmarks. But with all these grand and historic events happening, it is in small, ordinary moments in the van with the Eucharistic Jesus that the pilgrims are finding some of their greatest joy.

Already being dubbed by some as “monstrance mobiles,” the pilgrims are traveling portions of the journey in small white vans, which are just big enough for them and a pedestal upon which Christ in the monstrance can be placed.

As if traveling the country with the real presence of Jesus in the car was not incredible enough already, the seven perpetual pilgrims on the southern Juan Diego Route are getting an added bonus: his Blessed Mother.

Beside the monstrance is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, crafted in Mexico and gifted to the pilgrimage by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros. The image will be carried by the pilgrims right behind the Eucharist in every procession they lead from south Texas to Indiana.

Framed in gold and portraying the serene beauty of the Virgin Mary as she appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac in 1531, the image is a unique contribution to the pilgrimage.

An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, crafted in Mexico and gifted to the pilgrimage by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros, is being carried along with the Eucharist as the Juan Diego Route processes from south Texas to Indiana. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, crafted in Mexico and gifted to the pilgrimage by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros, is being carried along with the Eucharist as the Juan Diego Route processes from south Texas to Indiana. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame and one of the Juan Diego pilgrims, told CNA that the image represents the special friendship between the Dioceses of Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros. And with Our Lady of Guadalupe being made the patroness of the entire national pilgrimage, the image also represents the close ties of faith between the Church in Mexico and the U.S.

“It’s really a blessing that we get to carry her image with us,” he said.

According to Velasquez, the way the image of Our Lady is positioned in the van appears “as if she’s looking directly towards the tabernacle, towards her Son, reminding us to look towards him always.” 

But what is it really like to travel with Jesus in the car? 

Velasquez called it “a very modern privilege.” 

“There’s often moments where you can’t help but be drawn into prayer because of how amazing and how unique this experience is, to not only walk with God but drive with God.”

But does one feel like they must be quiet and contemplative all the time?

“Practically speaking,” Velasquez said he has found that “it’s both an invitation to prayer but also a really unique way to live out life in a similar way to how the apostles would have lived with Jesus.” 

Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame and one of 23 "perpetual pilgrims" deployed as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, asked for Catholics across the country to pray that each person who sees them processing by, whether in big cities, small towns, or the countryside, will be moved. Credit: Peter Pinedo / CNA
Joshua Velasquez, an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame and one of 23 "perpetual pilgrims" deployed as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, asked for Catholics across the country to pray that each person who sees them processing by, whether in big cities, small towns, or the countryside, will be moved. Credit: Peter Pinedo / CNA

“They were in the presence of our Lord and Savior, our God, but were having fellowship with him,” he explained. “Being able to sit in a van with Our Lord is very much a reminder of the fellowship that we have with him.”

Though a unique privilege, Velasquez hopes that many more throughout the country will be inspired by the pilgrimage to share in the same closeness with Christ.

He asked for Catholics across the country to pray that each person who sees them processing by, whether in big cities, small towns, or the countryside, will be moved. He hopes that like how St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was converted to the faith by a passing Eucharistic procession, people across the country will be moved by their encounter with the love of God.

“Us perpetual pilgrims get to be with Our Lord for two months. But as we go on the pilgrimage and as we pass through these places, people spend maybe a day or two, an hour, a second even,  as we’re walking by on the streets,” he said. “I just pray that the next St. Elizabeth to answer, that the next saints, will have that moment of encounter with Our Lord as we walk with him.”

Catholic bishops sue Biden administration over abortion provisions in pregnant workers law

null / Credit: sergign/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 24, 2024 / 16:08 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other Catholic institutions filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration over new rules that could require them to provide workplace accommodations for women who seek abortions.

The lawsuit challenges regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to the implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The Catholic University of America (CUA) and two Catholic dioceses joined the USCCB in the lawsuit.

Although the law itself does not mention abortion, the regulations would require that employers accommodate women for workplace limitations that arise from “having or choosing not to have an abortion.”

The law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to women who develop workplace limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The EEOC rules consider “having or choosing not to have an abortion” as one of the related medical conditions covered under the legislation.

The law itself also includes a prohibition on interference with the accommodations or retaliation against a person who uses the accommodations.

The bishops express concern in their lawsuit that the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion could jeopardize pro-life speech from certain employers, as it could be seen as retaliation. 

Religious employers are subject to the rules, but the EEOC will consider requests for religious exemptions to certain aspects of the rules on a case-by-case basis. 

The bishops, who are represented by the legal advocacy group Becket Law, argue in the lawsuit that the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion accommodations must be declared invalid because it is “contrary to the [law’s] plain text and purpose.” 

“Intentionally ending a pregnancy is opposed to both pregnancy and childbirth, and is not a related medical condition to either,” the lawsuit states. 

It further argues that the religious exemption is insufficient because addressing those requests on a case-by-case basis would ensure “religious defendants could never know ahead of time if they would face liability for exercising their rights.”

“The end result stacks the decks against religious employers: In EEOC’s view, the agency could normally be sure that it would have a compelling interest sufficient to override religious defenses,” the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit also states that the EEOC’s inclusion of abortion goes against legislative intent. It cites several lawmakers who supported the legislation saying that the EEOC could not interpret the law to mandate accommodations for abortions. One lawmaker cited is Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat from Pennsylvania, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

“Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the [EEOC] could not — could not — issue any regulation that requires abortion leave, nor does the act permit the EEOC to require employers to provide abortions in violation of state law,” Casey said on the Senate floor in December 2022. 

Laura Wolk Slavis, one of the lawyers representing the bishops, told CNA that the law “does not mention abortion at all.” She said it is intended to ensure employers provide accommodations “related to a woman being able to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy childbirth.” 

“This law was meant to be a very simple, uncontroversial law that all Americans can and should support,” Slavis added.

The EEOC’s regulations, she said, is an attempt to “hijack that law and turn it into something fundamentally different.”

Slavis also said the EEOC’s decision to address religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis means the bishops and all religious employers are “forced to comply right now” and do not know whether they will receive exemptions when requested. She said the EEOC “interpreted that exemption so narrowly that it means nothing.”

CUA President Peter Kilpatrick said in a statement that the university provides accommodations for pregnant workers but that the abortion accommodation requirement conflicts with the university’s mission.

“The Catholic University of America community remains steadfast in our commitments to upholding the sanctity of life and supporting women and pregnant mothers in the workplace,” Kilpatrick said.

“We firmly reject any suggestion of tension between those two core commitments. We can — and we do — support women as they grow their families, and we believe it is possible to do so wholeheartedly while also supporting the dignity of life at all stages. Our mission to cultivate a culture of love, respect, and compassion demands nothing less.”

When reached for comment, the EEOC referred CNA to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.

Bishop Conley asks Pope Francis to provide ‘encouragement, clarity, support’ to U.S. bishops

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska. / Credit: Diocese of Lincoln

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 13:02 pm (CNA).

Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday encouraged Pope Francis to “familiarize himself” with the American episcopate before a prospective return to the United States, which Conley said “could be an opportunity for the Holy Father to see the Catholic Church here in a different light.”

In a column first published May 15 and posted to the diocesan website May 24, Conley described his brother bishops as “unquestionably loyal to Pope Francis, which makes his ambiguities and seeming criticisms difficult to understand.”

“In my case, life as a bishop has been a blessing, because my brother U.S. bishops have been overwhelmingly good, committed men. They have very different skills and personalities. All have strengths and weaknesses. None of them is close to perfect. But they’re faithful to the Church and devoted to their people,” Conley wrote.

Pope Francis has in the past said that the Church in the United States is marked by “a climate of closure” and “a very strong reactionary attitude,” which “is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally.”

More recently, when asked about “conservative bishops in the United States,” the pope said a conservative is someone who “clings to something and does not want to see beyond that.”

“It is a suicidal attitude,” the pope said, as reported by “60 Minutes.” “Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to consider situations from the past, but quite another is to be closed up inside a dogmatic box.”

Noting that Pope Francis remains very popular among American Catholics, Conley said Pope Francis’ statements about the Church in the U.S. have “caused resentment among some faithful Catholics” and that his criticisms of the bishops specifically have “perplexed American bishops who, as a body, have a long record of loyalty and generosity to the Holy See.”

It was reported in April by a French newspaper that Pope Francis is reportedly considering returning to the United States in September — which would be his first visit to the U.S. since 2015 — to speak before the United Nations General Assembly. The Vatican has not confirmed the visit. 

Conley wrote: “Before the Holy Father makes his next visit to the United States, I’d ask him to spend a little time familiarizing himself with the real terrain of American Catholic life, because so much of it is hopeful and good despite the many challenges we face.”

Conley noted that before becoming a bishop, he served at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, the office tasked with evaluating and recommending men for the episcopate, a process he said remains “objective in essence, with plenty of checks and balances along the way.” 

“I’ve been away from Rome now for nearly two decades. I’ve experienced the selection process from its other end. I’ve served as a bishop in the United States for the past 16 years, both as an auxiliary and now as an ordinary, the bishop in charge of a diocese. No matter what a man knows in advance, the ministry of a local bishop is a surprise and a challenge,” Conley continued. 

“Whatever social prestige Catholic bishops once enjoyed is long gone. The clergy abuse crisis buried it. Today the reality can be quite the opposite. But this is not finally a loss, because true Christian leadership is a ‘privilege’ only insofar as it involves service to others in a spirit of humility.”

The men serving as bishops today, Conley said, are “men who know full well that they will suffer” and who are “ready to carry the cross of Christian leadership and have prepared themselves through deep prayer, faithful theological formation, and pastoral experience in the trenches.”

“They need — and they deserve — encouragement, clarity, and support from the man who holds the office of Peter. Pope Francis can provide all three. We should hope and pray that he will do exactly that,” Conley concluded.

Survey: Pro-abortion laws ascendant globally

Pro-abortion activists include the Marea Verde, or Green Wave Movement, a grassroots coalition of protesters who wear green bandanas at events. / Credit: EWTN Pro-Life Weekly/Screenshot

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 12:27 pm (CNA).

The Vatican recently released a staunchly pro-life document, Dignitas Infinita (“Infinite Dignity”), that identifies various threats to human dignity such as abortion, euthanasia, and surrogacy.  

Nonetheless, various nations continue moving in the opposite direction on core life issues. This week, “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” surveyed the state of abortion policy and related family life issues across several continents. 

Europe elevates support for abortion 

In March, France became the first nation in the world to specifically enshrine abortion as part of the country’s constitution with an abortion amendment passing by a 780-72 vote conducted in the Palace of Versailles.

In April, the European Union (EU) Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution to add abortion and include abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The resolution criticized the doctor’s rights of conscience and specifically called out Poland and Malta for their pro-life laws.

The EU is not the only international body that supports and pushes abortion on a global scale.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee called on the U.S. government to bring its laws in line with the World Health Organization’s 2022 Abortion Care Guidelines, calling the laws human rights violations. These guidelines call for abortion to be available on request with no limits on gestation, without any waiting periods, and without recommendations or parental consent.

The U.N. and World Health Organization, among other organizations, recently launched the Human Reproductive Program, part of which features videos promoting abortion and guiding health care workers around the world to walk clients through the abortion process.

Asia and the Middle East

Abortion is broadly legal in the two of the most populous countries in the world: China and India. Legalized in 1953, China has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world, at 49 abortions for every 1,000 reproductive-aged women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, supported by the nation’s family planning program.

But India has another issue impacting abortion: sex-selective abortion, or aborting a child because she is a girl. According to a 2022 Pew survey, 40% of Indians say sex-selective abortion is acceptable. 

In the interview with EWTN News President and COO Montse Alvarado on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Rebecca Shah, co-director of the University of Dallas’ program for Indo-American Friendship and Understanding, explained the broad legality of the practice and the alarmingly accepted custom of sex-selective abortion.

In spite of India’s large population — 1.4 billion people — population decline is a “serious issue,” Shah noted. 

“For the first time in India, the total fertility rate has dipped below replacement level of 2.1. We are now at 2,” she noted. “India’s population is slowly declining.”

India enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1971 and has many criteria allowing women to obtain abortions. 

Though many nations have increasingly permissive abortion laws, such as Japan, where abortion was decriminalized in 1948, some countries, such as Singapore, are starting to promote family. Singapore officially decriminalized abortion in 1974 and widely accepts abortion, but currently has a strong pro-family government. 

EWTN News Vice President and Editorial Director Matthew Bunson recently interviewed Cardinal William Goh, the archbishop of Singapore, to talk about ongoing work in the country to encourage family life.

“We are trying to protect the family. We have 11 organizations that deal with family life, so we have to work hard at it,” Goh said. “I won’t say that we are doing extremely well, but because we belong to this Asian culture, that family dimension is always important.”

Goh noted that factors such as affluence, or both parents working, can impact family size, while younger people “are not interested” in having families as it affects their commitments, career, and social time.

While Singapore is below the replacement rate for population growth, the government is stepping in to promote family life.

“The beautiful part is this, the government is working with us all. We have a ministry, we call it a Ministry of Social and Family. This ministry, they try to promote family life,” Goh continued. “The programs that they have are very good programs, so we complement each other. We are grateful that the government also sees the importance of growing the family, strengthening our family, and healing people who are divorced and those from dysfunctioning families.”

In contrast, abortion remains fully illegal in Laos and the Philippines as well as in Iran. Numerous East Asian and Middle Eastern nations have strong limitations on abortion. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, and Bhutan, abortion is permitted in cases to save a woman’s life. Some of those countries have exceptions for rape, incest, or the physical and mental health of the mother.

Expansion of abortion in Latin America 

Currently, 12 of Mexico’s 32 states allow abortion, while Argentina made headlines in 2020 after its Congress legalized abortion up to 12 weeks, making it the largest country in Latin America to allow the procedure. 

In 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court struck down a pro-life law in Coahuila that criminalized abortion. Just two years later, the high court threw out all federal criminal penalties by ruling that national laws prohibiting the procedure were unconstitutional. The ruling requires federal health institutions to offer abortions, but access to the procedure remains restricted through most of Mexico. 

The Marea Verde, or Green Wave Movement, a grassroots coalition of pro-abortion protesters who wear green bandanas, have pushed for more access to abortion. Their bandanas have become a badge for pro-abortion movements across Latin America as well as in the United States. 

However, pro-life Argentinians see a glimmer of hope in their new president, Javier Milei. Since taking the helm of Argentina in December 2023, the controversial leader has expressed a desire to roll back Argentina’s law and even called abortion “aggravated murder.” 

Pro-life leader launches ‘life-affirming, family-strengthening’ health ministry for women

Valerie Huber, the president and CEO of the Institute for Women's Health, speaks to EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Thursday, May 23, 2024 / EWTN News

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

One woman is working with world leaders to promote women’s health without also submitting to the pro-abortion ideologies that often come with international aid.

President of the Institute for Women’s Health Valerie Huber spoke with EWTN News President Montse Alvarado on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” Thursday about current worldwide efforts to support women’s health from conception until death.

Huber founded the institute after completing her service as the first special representative for global women’s health under former President Donald Trump.

“I had the whole world, but only one focus, and that was promoting women’s health,” she told Alvarado about her tenure in public service. “And to ensure that health was not equated with abortion, because it shouldn’t be, and it’s not.”

Since then, through the Institute, Huber has continued her outreach to various nations to encourage them and provide them with support.

For example, Huber recently worked with the first lady of Uganda to launch the Women’s Optimal Health Framework, a new initiative developed with the pro-life government of Guatemala that marks the “first life-affirming, family-strengthening framework that ministries of health can use in these countries to affirm every life.”

“It’s looking holistically at helping a woman receive optimal health,” Huber said. “That’s not just physical health. It’s emotional health. It’s intellectual health, [it’s] physical health, it’s spiritual health,” she said.

“There’s not another framework that takes these elements, empowers a government and literally empowers a woman and a girl at that community level to have opportunities that she has not had in the past.”

Huber noted that many countries are pressured to promote abortion ideology or else their aid will be taken away.

“What we want to be as the Institute for Women’s Health is that encourager that not only encourages them to stand but gives them the tools and the resources so they can stand,” she said.

This can be a challenge when many U.S. allies equate women’s health with abortion, Huber said.

“When I was special representative for global women’s health, I saw that women’s health had experienced a devolution where women’s health was being equated with abortion,” Huber said. “It’s just not true. It’s very limiting. It’s a narrative that leaves women who are dying every day behind with no assistance for anything else.”

“Our goal really was to put the focus where it should be, and that is: look at those authentically vulnerable women and girls in countries around the world to which the United States provides foreign assistance, other countries provide foreign assistance.”

When she proposed during the Trump administration that other nations work with the U.S. to address “unsolved conditions” for women worldwide, she found that no countries would “agree to leave abortion out of that equation in order to promote women’s health.”

“I saw that even though at that time, the U.S. administration was very pro-life, many of our traditional allies were not,” she said. “What did that tell me? It told me that the priority was not really helping the women who needed help. It was promoting ideology above women’s health, and actually that women were being used as a vehicle for ideology.”

“It was based on that that I started having conversations with countries that were pro-life, pro-family, that wanted to make genuine improvements to the health of their women and girls,” she continued. “But they were being held back by these conditions that were standing in the way.”

During her time as a representative, she united the U.S. with Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda and numerous other countries by initiating the Geneva Consensus Declaration, which stipulated several pro-family principles and rejected the premise of a “human right” to abortion.

Representatives from 37 different nations have signed the declaration, including Sudan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Paraguay, and Poland.

The declaration upheld several principles, Huber noted, including that “the family is foundational to society,” that “there is no international right to abortion; it’s not a human right,” and that “the sovereign right of countries to defend life, family, and women’s health with their own laws and not have external meddling, forcing them or pressuring them to change.”

“It created a coalition of nations that said, regardless of where we are, we commit to improve health and thriving for women and girls,” she said.

Hundreds brave extreme heat to accompany the Eucharistic Lord in south Texas

Hundreds of Catholics join the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas on May 22, 2024. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

San Juan, Texas, May 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

There’s hot and then there’s south Texas hot. 

MacKenzie Warrens, a National Eucharistic Revival “perpetual pilgrim,” told CNA that the heat in the Texas Rio Grande Valley is unlike anything she has ever experienced. 

A doctoral student at Rice University in Houston, Warrens is no stranger to heat. But the weather in the valley, which instantly makes one feel as if he or she is swimming in a pool of heat and humidity, is something entirely different. 

Warrens is one of two dozen young Catholics who as part of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival are accompanying Christ in the Eucharist in a series of pilgrimage processions that are currently traversing the length and breadth of the contiguous United States. 

For Warrens and seven other young pilgrims who are leading the southern “Juan Diego Route,” the journey begins just as the region’s sultry temperatures begin to soar.

Despite these challenging conditions, hundreds of Catholic faithful joined the perpetual pilgrims in an approximately six-mile procession beginning at San Martin de Porres Parish in Weslaco and ending at the National Shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.

The atmosphere was both joyful and reverent. From the moment the procession started at 6:30 a.m. through the end, there was hardly a moment that went by without the crowds entoning popular Spanish hymns such as “Bendito sea Dios” and “El Espíritu de Dios se mueve.” 

Now and then someone in the crowd would shout “Viva Cristo Rey!” or “Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe,” to which hundreds would immediately respond: “Que viva!” 

While some of the other routes had striking beginnings, such as the western route, which began at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and the northern route, which started at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, the southern route began in a place special in another way. Instead of a significant landmark, the aptly named Juan Diego Route began in a place where devotion to Christ and his Virgin Mother is as grand as the Golden Gate and as deep as the Mississippi. 

The Catholic faith is strong in south Texas. Located just minutes from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the Rio Grande Valley is over 90% Hispanic and largely Spanish-speaking. The vast majority of residents are Mexican-Americans whose parents or grandparents immigrated in years past. 

The region’s historic faith was on full display as the Eucharistic Lord was carried through the streets. In addition to the hundreds in the crowds, many locals stopped and crossed themselves when they recognized the Eucharistic monstrance leading the procession. A few even fell to their knees and bowed as the monstrance passed, while still others waved with large smiles on their faces. 

One woman, a local named Tricia, hopped on her bike and joined the back of the procession, singing and praying with the other pilgrims. A homemade sign attached to her bike read “Eucaristía el Origen de mi Fortaleza,” that is: “Eucharist the Source of my Strength.” 

Many locals stopped to genuflect or make the sign of the cross as the Eucharist passed by on May 22, 2024. One woman, Tricia, joined the procession on her bike. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
Many locals stopped to genuflect or make the sign of the cross as the Eucharist passed by on May 22, 2024. One woman, Tricia, joined the procession on her bike. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

For the last mile of the procession, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, carried the monstrance, finally climbing the grand steps leading up to the Our Lady of San Juan del Valle shrine. 

A storied pilgrimage site that regularly sees over a million annual pilgrims from the U.S. and Mexico, the shrine has long been a place of Marian and Eucharistic devotion.

Established in the 1950s, the basilica houses a 3-foot statue of Our Lady of San Juan, a replica of an image popularly associated with several miracles, including the resurrection of a little girl killed in an acrobatic act in 1623. In 1999, St. John Paul II elevated the shrine to the status of basilica.

Flores placed the monstrance atop the shrine altar as majestic organ notes swelled and pilgrims filled the pews. Suddenly the hymns and music ceased and there were a few minutes of silent adoration as all eyes focused on Christ in the monstrance.

Faithful fill the National Shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in McAllen, Texas, on May 22, 2024. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
Faithful fill the National Shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in McAllen, Texas, on May 22, 2024. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

To culminate the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s time in the Diocese of Brownsville, Flores celebrated a special Mass at the shrine. Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcía of Matamoros, Brownsville Auxiliary Bishop Mario Avilés, and several other priests concelebrated. 

To deliver his homily, Flores walked to the center of the church, where his large metal crozier could be heard clanging on the stone floor. Preaching in both Spanish and English, he focused on the reality of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist, saying that “another name for God is ‘for you.’”

Pointing to a massive crucifix on the wall, Flores said: “This is the God we need, the God who pours himself out, the God who gives himself up, the Lord who gives his life, for us. Those simple, precious words, ‘for you.’” 

Reflecting on the day, Joshua Velasquez, another member of the Juan Diego perpetual pilgrim team and a native of the area, told CNA that he was very glad to be able to start the pilgrimage in the valley. Currently an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, he believes there is a special faith rooted in the people of the valley’s identity. 

Members of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Juan Diego Team make a stop in the Rio Grande Valley on May 22, 2024. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
Members of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Juan Diego Team make a stop in the Rio Grande Valley on May 22, 2024. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

“I hope that something about the devotion here can inspire the rest of the country to greater Eucharistic devotion as well,” Velasquez said.

“I learned love of the Eucharist from the people here,” he went on. “It was here that I started to fall in love with the Mass, where that became a rhythm pattern in my own faith. That devotion to the Mass and the Eucharist is very much rooted here, and I’ll be bringing that with me the whole way.”

Florida priest charged for biting arm of woman he says was desecrating Eucharist

null / Credit: Pixabay

CNA Staff, May 23, 2024 / 18:21 pm (CNA).

A priest in Florida bit the forearm of a woman he says was desecrating the Eucharist in a Communion line at church this past Sunday and has now been charged with one count of battery.

Father Fidel Rodriguez, 66, admitted to police that he bit the woman but said he did so only after she reached into the ciborium and tried to grab a host from it, damaging other hosts as she did so.

“The only defense that I found to defend something that for us, for all of us, is sacred, was biting her. I have recognized that I bite her. I’m not denying that,” Rodriguez told police, according to body camera video obtained by CNA.

“I recognize that I bite her, as a defense, and as defending myself and defending the sacrament,” he said in English with a Spanish accent.

The woman told police the priest denied her Communion after she refused to answer his questions about whether she had been to confession recently.

“I just wanted a cookie. That’s all,” the woman told police, according to body camera video.

Firefighters treated the arm of the woman at the police station. She refused to go to a hospital, according to police video.

Police in St. Cloud, Florida, have charged Rodriguez with one count of battery stemming from the incident, which occurred during the noon Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

St. Cloud is a city of about 65,000 located about 21 miles south of Orlando.

First Communion leads to scenes

The woman told police she went to the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 19, with her same-sex partner because it was the woman’s niece’s first Communion.

The parish’s video of the 10 a.m. Mass shows an interaction between the priest and the woman, who neither presents her hands to receive the host nor opens her mouth to receive on her tongue. The priest and the woman speak for about 45 seconds, holding up the Communion line, though their conversation can’t be heard over the music and singing.

The woman later told police she suspected the priest wouldn’t give her Communion because of the way she was dressed and because of her sexual orientation.

“I believe that his excuse was that I wasn’t super-holy, in his eyes,” the woman, who was wearing a white shirt and pants, told police.

But the priest told police sexual orientation had nothing to do with it.

When the woman didn’t hold her hands out one on top of the other or open her mouth and didn’t say “Amen” after he said “body of Christ,” he said, he knew she didn’t know what she was doing.

He said he asked her when the last time she received Communion was, and that she said it was many years ago. He said he asked her if she had gone to confession, and she replied, “I don’t need to explain you that.”

He said he told her that he has the authority to ask her that question and that he could not give her Communion, but he could give her a blessing instead, which he said he did.

Second Mass

The woman and her partner then went to the noon Mass in Spanish, which Rodriguez celebrated, and the woman again went to him to receive Communion.

He told police he asked her if she had gone to confession in between Masses.

According to him, she replied: “No, I don’t need to explain to you, I don’t need to give an explanation, you don’t have authority, you don’t need to judge me.”

To which he says he said: “I’m not judging you, I’m asking you only, did you confess after the other Mass [to] received the Communion now? Because if you did not confess, I can’t give you the Communion.”

“And she grabbed all the hosts in the hands, because she wants to receive for herself. She is not permitted. And she break all the hosts, spreading them,” the priest said.

The priest said he was worried that she would spill the hosts on the floor.

The Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Jesus, whom Catholics worship as God. The Church also teaches that to receive Communion a person must be a Catholic in a state of grace, meaning not being mindful of having committed a serious sin without getting absolution from a priest in confession.

The woman told police that during the second Mass the priest “forced it in my mouth,” which she didn’t want.

“He wouldn’t give me a cookie. I don’t know if it was how I’m dressed. You know, what it is that I like,” the woman said. “He said basically I needed to do confession and do all of this, I need to go to Mass every Sunday or whatever. And I said, ‘That doesn’t matter. I’ve done everything I needed to do as a kid. I’m just here to accept the bread.’ And he wouldn’t give it to me.”

“And I’m not gonna front. I tried to just grab another cookie, and that when he grabbed my hand and he just bit me,” the woman said.

Video of the incident published by WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando shows the woman’s hand in the ciborium, which is the bowl that holds Communion wafers, while the priest holds onto it with both hands. It also shows the priest moving his head down toward the woman’s right arm but does not show the actual bite.

The Diocese of Orlando released a statement Thursday supporting the priest’s efforts to defend the Eucharist while not endorsing the bite.

The statement notes that during the noon Mass the priest offered the woman Communion on the tongue.

“At that point, the woman forcefully placed her hand in the vessel and grabbed some sacred Communion hosts, crushing them. Having only one hand free, Father Rodriguez struggled to restrain the woman as she refused to let go of the hosts. When the woman pushed him and reacting to a perceived act of aggression, Father Rodriguez bit her hand so she would let go of the hosts she grabbed. The woman was immediately asked to leave,” the diocese said in a written statement.

“It should be noted Father Rodriguez had no prior knowledge of the woman’s background. Further, while the Diocese of Orlando does not condone physical altercations such as this, in good faith, Father Rodriguez was simply attempting to prevent an act of desecration of the holy Communion, which, as a priest, Father Rodriguez is bound by duty to protect,” the diocese said.

The statement continues: 

“The full video and the police report show the woman initiated physical contact and acted inappropriately. The priest was trying to protect the holy Communion from this sacrilegious act.

“In the Catholic tradition, the Eucharist is considered ‘the source and summit’ of worship and faith. The act of participation in holy Communion therefore calls for a proper understanding, reverence, and devotion. It is not something a person can arbitrarily demand and is certainly not a mere ‘cookie’ as the complainant called it.”

A police spokesman told CNA on Thursday that the state attorney’s office will determine the next steps in the case.

Rodriguez did not respond to a request from CNA for comment.