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Evangelization begins with listening, Cardinal Tagle says

Quezon City, Philippines, Dec 10, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Listening is the first step in evangelization, the newly-appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said Tuesday in Quezon City.

“Evangelization is communication. God is a God who communicates, who dialogues. But He is also a God who listens,” Cardinal Luis Tagle said Dec. 10, according to ABS-CBN News.

He was speaking during a meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, which included the groundbreaking of the Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communications.

Cardinal Tagle encouraged a “spirituality of listening, to God, to neighbors and to the signs of the times.”

“Listening comes first,” he stated. “Many people are longing for someone and a community to listen. Even if you have no words, you communicate your presence, your compassion, your unity.”

The cardinal commented that “we are all in a hurry, rushing to say something, to issue a statement even when we have not heard yet. We have already something prepared without knowing what the question or statement is.”

He added that the Church needs people “who generate greater trust and confidence, as “in our world today [there is] so much fear, suspicion and prejudice. We don’t know whom to trust. We need people who can generate that atmosphere of trust.”

Cardinal Tagle also reflected that “having a beautiful building in itself does not guarantee evangelisation; it is the training and formation of people,” saying that “some of the most memorable catechetical lessons were learned under a tree” when he was a child. “If I were asked where we had these catechetical lessons, I could not name any building. Children were gathered. We had cookies. We had candies. And we came to the lessons.”

The cardinal, who is 62, was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples Dec. 8. He had served as Archbishop of Manila since 2011.

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Imus at age 24, and was appointed bishop of that see in 2001.

Vatican’s investment manager backed company that ‘misled investors’

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- The Italian businessman responsible for investing millions of Vatican funds owned a stake in an online options trading company fined in 2016 by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors.

Raffaele Mincione, through whom the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from the faithful, bought in 2015 a 5% stake in EZTD Ltd, an Israeli-based company known as EZTrader.

Through a privately arranged sale, instead of on the open market, Mincione paid only $.25 per share for his stake in the company, while the publicly listed share price was $5.10. For only $1.6 million, he acquired a stake in EZTD valued on the market at $32 million.
 
That investment lost 90% of its value after a 2016 SEC finding that the company had misled investors and violated both the Securities Act and the Securities and Exchanges Act. EZTD’s share price dropped to $0.001 after the SEC announced its findings and fined the company.

EZTD offered American investors a binary options platform, inviting customers to make an all-or-nothing bet on whether a stock would increase in value. The company did not explain the risks of its products, or register in the United States as a broker-dealer, the SEC found.

Fewer than three percent of the company’s 4,000 account holders made a profit investing through the company, according to the SEC.

“Not only did the firm fail to register the binary options or register as a broker-dealer to legally sell the investment to U.S. investors in the first place, but it failed to disclose on its trading platforms that there was significantly greater potential for investors to lose rather than earn money,” the SEC said in 2015

Because his stake in EZTD qualified him as a “beneficial owner,” Mincione was listed in the company’s 2015 SEC filing.

Mincione’s involvement in multiple Vatican investments has featured in a series of media reports in recent months.

In 2014 Mincione was managing $200 million for the Holy See’s Secretariat of State through his company Athena Capital, with 55% allocated to “speculative investments,” according to Corriere della Serra.

Among these, the Financial Times reported Oct. 17 that Mincione used Vatican funds to purchase unrated bonds in another of his holding companies, Time and Life SA, which financed his personal investments, while at the same time charging the Vatican millions of euros in performance and management fees.

That report raises the possibility that Vatican funds were used to finance Mincione’s stake in EZTD.

Also in 2014, Mincione’s Athena Capital was used to channel Vatican investment into a 45% share in another Mincione project - the luxury real estate development at 60 Sloane Avenue in London - at a price of 180 million euros, more than Mincione paid for his original investment in the whole building. CNA has reported that the Vatican’s funds for the purchase came from loans from two Swiss banks, and were concealed on Vatican balance sheets in breach of Vatican financial regulations.

While paying Mincione’s company, Athena, to manage the transaction, the Secretariat of State, under the authority of then sostituto Cardinal Angelo Becciu, decided to purchase the remaining 55% stake in the development from Mincione in 2016, allowing him to clear hundreds of millions of euros in profit on the sale of the second set of shares in the project.

Although it sold the Secretariat of State 30,000 of 31,000 shares in the project, Minicone’s holding company retained the 1,000 voting shares needed to control the holding company which owned the building. It offered to part with those at greatly inflated prices. That sale was eventually arranged through – according to Italian media – another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi.

Mincione’s estimated profit from managing the deal, excluding profit from selling the building itself, is 60 million euros, with Torzi making a further 10 million from his participation.

In early 2019, Becciu’s replacement as sostituto, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, became aware of the details of the deal and sought advice from Rene Brülhart, then the head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority.

Vatican Gendarmes executed a raid at the Secretariat of State and AIF offices on Oct. 1 as part of an investigation related to the investment. Five people were suspended as a result, including two Secretariat employees listed as directors of the Vatican’s UK holding company now managing the building investment, London 60 SA Ltd.

A director of London 60 SA Ltd charged with leading the development project is Luciano Capaldo, a UK resident and UK-Itallian citizen. Capaldo was originally registered with Companies House in London as a Vatican citizen, raising still-unanswered questions about why the Secretariat of State might have conferred Vatican citizenship on a layman living in London.

Capldo himself has several business links to Torzi. FEG International Assets, a Luxembourg based company formerly run by Torzi, is a major investor in Capaldo’s Italian architecture and development company, Imvest, which was raided by Italian financial authorities in May 2018 on charges of preparation and submission of false budgets.

FEG and Torzi were named recently in a commercial fraud suit in London’s High Court. Also named as respondents in the suit was Odikon Services PLC, of which Torzi and Capaldo were also directors. Odikon, currently suspended by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, is a major shareholder in Meti Capital, which is itself the major shareholder in Imvest.

During a recent in press conference, Pope Francis was asked about the London investment. While confirming that he had personally authorized the October raids, he emphasised that proof of corrupt or illegal activity was “not yet clear,” before concluding that “it passed what passed: a scandal,”

“They have done things that do not seem clean,” the pope said. Last week, the Holy See press office confirmed that several investments and funds used by the Secretariat of State were under investigation.

“Lines of enquiry which may help clarify the position of the Holy See with respect to the aforementioned funds and any others, are currently being examined by the Vatican judiciary, in collaboration with the competent authorities,” a statement said.

Franciscan University forms partnership with Iraqi Catholic university

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 10, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- A Catholic university in the U.S. has partnered with an Iraqi Catholic college to promote opportunities for scholarship, collaboration, and understanding between the two countries.

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and the Catholic University of Erbil (CUE) in Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Dec. 6.

“The agreement forges ties between the two schools and cities that include cultural exchanges, such as the visit this past September by Iraqi high school students to Steubenville,” Tom Sofio, a Franciscan University spokesman, told CNA.

“The agreement also allows for the development of language courses in Arabic and Aramaic to be offered to Franciscan University students, the pursuit of scholarship funding for Iraqi students to study at Franciscan University … and Skype sessions between students at Franciscan University and The Catholic University of Erbil,” Sofio added.

The document was signed by Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan, and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who founded the Iraq university in 2015.

Under the agreement, students from Iraq can receive scholarships to take Franciscan University courses in person or online, and, in turn, Franciscan University students will have opportunities to visit Erbil, study there, and better experience the culture of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

Erbil’s Catholic university, only four years old, has 147 students and offers 10 programs, including pharmacy technology, accounting, law, and international relations, the Herald-Star reported.

The partnership will also explore avenues of catechetical assistance for the Diocese of Erbil, which could involve the collaboration of Franciscan University’s Catechetical Institute, Conference Office, and Wild Goose, a ministry led by the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular and founded by Pivonka. 

The partnership has been supported by Aid to the Church in Need USA. The organization also recently funded two of CUE’s computer labs, which especially benefit students in civil engineering or architecture programs.

Warda founded the CUE in 2015 to promote higher education and to help Christians displaced by the Islamic State. 

Some 125,000 Christians live in Iraq. The Christian population of the country has declined dramatically in recent years, as Christians fled the persecution of the Islamic State or were killed. The northern Kurdistan region in Iraq has about 4,300 Chaldean Christians, the Herald-Star reported, and several thousand more have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan since 2014.

Pivonka expressed hope that the partnership will be an opportunity for U.S. Catholic students to interact with Christians in other countries who have faced terrible persecution.

“Largely the Christians in Iraq have been forgotten. But they have much to offer us,” Pivonka told the Herald-Star this week.

“We talk about inconveniences in our faith. But in Iraq there are people who are dying for it. All of the (Iraqi) youth here have family members who have been killed. It’s just part of their faith.”

 

Peoria bishop announces novena for Venerable Sheen's sainthood cause

Peoria, Ill., Dec 10, 2019 / 02:38 pm (CNA).- Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria is inviting the faithful to pray a novena beginning Dec. 12 to "petition God unceasingly" that Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s sainthood cause may move forward.

Sheen, a beloved American evangelist and television personality who died in 1979, was set to be beatified Dec. 21 in Peoria, but the Holy See announced Dec. 2 that the beatification was to be postponed.

“I know how deeply saddened we all are about the postponement of the beatification of Fulton Sheen,” said Bishop Jenky said in a video message Dec. 9.

“But in these turbulent times when our faith is being tested...we need to remain faithful to prayer like Archbishop Sheen.”

The novena will begin Dec. 12 and include daily meditations on reflections from Sheen, Jenky announced.

In the days after the Diocese of Peoria announced the postponement, Catholics around the world reportedly led a grassroots effort to have “a million” Masses celebrated for Sheen to pray for his beatification to move forward.

Lo Anne Mayer, a Catholic in New Jersey who in 2017 helped to organize an effort calling on Catholic churches around the world to celebrate a special Mass on Sheen’s May 8 birthday, put the word out to Catholics to celebrate a special Mass for Sheen Dec. 9.

Dec. 9 marked the 40th anniversary of Sheen’s death at the age of 84. Catholic media outlets, including EWTN, helped to spread the word.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was 24 when he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

The Peoria diocese initially attributed the Vatican’s decision to postpone Sheen’s beatification to “a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.”

CNA reported Dec. 4 that it was Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester who asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States to delay the beatification, citing concerns about an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into the dioceses of New York state.

New York’s attorney general began an investigation in September 2018 into whether any of the state’s eight Latin rite dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969.

The Rochester diocese said Dec. 5 that it expressed concern about the advancement of Sheen’s cause “without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments.”

“The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification,” the diocese said.

Monsignor James Kruse, a former Peoria vicar general, told CNA that Bishop Matano expressed his concerns in a Nov. 19 letter, after the beatification was announced, saying that he could not support the scheduled beatification and requesting that it be delayed.

According to Kruse, a copy of this letter was also sent to Bishop Jenky, Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Both Kruse and the Peoria diocese insist that Sheen’s life has been thoroughly examined and with regard to Sheen’s handling of the cases of two former priests accused of abuse, he “did nothing wrong.”

“Under the veneer of the Rochester diocese’s call for caution, more than an overwhelming majority of people would conclude that it is an unexplainable act of sabotage — a sabotage that simply hurts the faithful,” Monsignor James Kruse, an official in the Diocese of Peoria involved in advancing Sheen’s cause, wrote in a Dec. 7 op-ed.

Raleigh pro-life pregnancy center to move next door to abortion clinic

Raleigh, N.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 01:43 pm (CNA).- A pregnancy resource center in Raleigh, North Carolina will be allowed to move into a house next door to an abortion clinic following a settlement in a federal lawsuit, three years after the city council denied the center’s rezoning request.

Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center had been located about a half-mile from A Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic, for several years, and wanted to move into a house next door to the abortion facility to save money and to be closer to the women seeking out the abortion clinic.

In July 2016 the city council denied the center’s rezoning request, classifying it as a medical facility because of its use of ultrasounds, and saying a medical facility is a poor land-use fit in that area. The city’s Board of Adjustment also ruled against the center, local newspaper The News & Observer reports.

The pregnancy center has rejected the label of medical facility, arguing that its ultrasounds are “non-diagnostic.” The center sued in federal court, with its attorneys arguing that it should be categorized instead as a civic organization since it is religiously affiliated.

According to the News & Observer, which obtained a copy of the Sept. 27 settlement terms, the city of Raleigh will pay Hand of Hope $25,000 after the lawsuit is dismissed. The pregnancy center agreed to not allow protesters on its site, “provided public prayer does not constitute protesting,” the terms state.

Though the agreement will allow Hand of Hope to continue providing free ultrasounds, the terms also require that less than one-fourth of the house’s square footage be used for medical activities. In addition, Hand of Hope will be able to provide a “predetermined set of medical services” for only one in four people visiting the office, The News & Observer reports.

The center will have to follow state law in administering its ultrasounds and other medical procedures, explain its religious origins on its website, and include the phrase “Hand of Hope” on any sign at its new location, according to The News & Observer.

Tonya Baker Nelson, executive director of the center, said the center’s attorneys provided hundreds of hours of their time for free, but the center still has significantly reduced legal expenses to cover.

“We are eagerly anticipating the earliest possible date for us to occupy our property that we have owned since December 2015 beside one of the busiest privately owned abortion clinics in the Southeast!” Baker wrote in an announcement on Facebook Nov. 27.

She said the new facility has a timeline of a “few months” to be open for business, and they plan to offer free ultrasounds, abortion pill reversal procedures, education classes, mentoring, and Bible studies.

‘This is Francis:’ A Vatican photographer’s call from the pope

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Imagine that your cell phone rings, and the display says the call is from a “private number.” You expect it to be a telemarketer. But instead, when you answer, you hear a man with an Argentine accent say: “This is Francis. I received your letter.”

That phone call happened to Daniel Ibanez, the CNA and EWTN News Vatican photographer, on an ordinary weekday morning in December 2018.

“I effectively stayed frozen, because I was speaking with the pope,” Ibanez told CNA. “He said: ‘I would like to invite you to the Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Dec. 20, 2018, which will be the last I publicly celebrate in the Vatican [before Christmas].’”

Ibanez had sent a letter to Pope Francis two months prior, in October 2018, telling him about his experience as a young Catholic from Palencia, Spain, living and working in Italy as a photographer for a Catholic media organization.

He had also expressed his desire for the opportunity to experience Pope Francis as an ordinary Catholic, since Ibanez is always working – that is, taking photos – during papal Masses and events.

The 27-year-old Ibanez said he was touched and surprised that during their phone call, which lasted about five minutes, Pope Francis asked his pardon for not responding to his letter sooner.

The pope also gave him the directions for what to do in two days to attend the private Mass at the Vatican’s guesthouse.

“He repeated what I should do four times, like a grandfather. Because I was not understanding. My brain was really frozen... I was speaking with the pope on my cellphone!” Ibanez said.

On Dec. 20, 2018, the photographer went through all the security to arrive at the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta. He said at first he sat at the very back, but the priests made him move to the front: “From a photographic perspective, the best seat.”

Ibanez said he remembers one part of Pope Francis’ homily that day in particular: “God enters history and does so in his original style: a surprise. The God of surprises, surprises us.”

After the Mass, the pope greeted each person individually. Ibanez introduced himself as a photographer for CNA and EWTN and gave him two photos he had taken of him.

He also gave the pope some letters from his friends and family, including one from a young woman who wrote about her elderly uncle, a retired priest in Spain. Pope Francis called this priest a few months later, speaking to him for about an hour.

Ibanez also told the pope about his friend, a wife and mother who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a few days prior. Francis put his hand over the woman’s photo, staying in silence for some seconds. In that moment, “I felt that he is a very empathetic person, who listens,” he said.

Then, before the pope left, Ibanez asked if he could give him a hug, and the two embraced.

Ibanez is the youngest fully Vatican-accredited photographer, and the only one from Spain. He explained that he originally came to Rome to study, but he finds the words of St. Josemaria Escriva relatable, that one should “dream and your dreams will fall short.”

He only expected to be in Rome for six months, and instead he has been here for almost six years, he told CNA.

“This work is beautiful, even if it is a little tiring. But I am a Catholic and above all it is an honor to do this work,” he stated.

“It is true that the negative part is that [Pope Francis] is a person who never gets tired. So, if you follow the pope, the agenda of the pope is very complicated, very complex too. That is, to work on Sundays and holidays...”

Ibanez’ newest project has been to create a 2020 wall calendar, available for free from EWTN, featuring his photos. Each month showcases a full-page photo he took at the Vatican, in Rome, or in other places important to Catholicism, such as the Holy Land and the Shrine of Our Lady in Fatima.

Ibanez said the calendar is a way of helping people see the Vatican, and the Church, from their homes.

“It is a way of making these places present in the homes of American families.”

 

Two guards injured in attack at Washington Basilica

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Police have ended a standoff with a suspect after an attack at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception left two people injured.

Two security guards at the shrine are reportedly “conscious and breathing” after one was stabbed and another was struck by a vehicle shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10. 

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, a 911 call was recieved at 9:14 a.m. after a female security guard was struck by a car in the parking lot east of the basilica. The suspect’s SUV also hit several other cars that were parked in the lot. The suspect then chased a male security guard before stabbing him inside the shrine itself. 

The suspect then fled the scene in a Lincoln Navigator, which was later found in Northwest DC. Metropolitan police said that the suspect then barricaded himself inside his home before emerging and being taken into police custody. He was taken to a hospital where he will be treated for minor injuries, including lacerations. Police confirmed that charges will be filed.

An update from Assistant Chief of Police Jeffery Carroll stated that police were able to establish communication with the suspect, who then gave himself up. Carroll said that it is believed that the suspect had some sort of domestic relationship with the female security guard.

“There’s no information there’s any actual connection to the Shrine, other than the individuals worked at that location,” said Carroll. “The motivation that we have, preliminarily, is that it appears to be domestic in nature.” 

Carroll also provided a more details on the attack, saying that the female security guard is believed to have been struck “at least” twice by the suspect’s vehicle, and was “pinned” between his car and another car for a period of time. The male security guard was stabbed “several times” inside the basilica after the female guard was hit by the car. 

Both of the victims are “stable at a local hospital,” said Carroll.

No further information about the suspect was released. It is not clear if he had any criminal history or if he was ever employed at the Shrine.

Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the National Shrine, told CNA that “the suspect was known” to both security guards, and that no other information was being released at this time. 

No visitors or pilgrims to the shrine have been reported as injured. 

This story is developing and is being updated.

Pro-life group: Curtailed study on abortion pill reversal is misleading

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 10, 2019 / 03:31 am (CNA).- A small case study on the safety of the abortion pill reversal procedure that was cut short due to safety concerns does not accurately represent the safety and efficacy of the procedure to the public, a pro-life group has said.

“Pro-abortion researchers would rather continue to mislead women about the real risks of the abortion pill regimen Mifeprex than protect them from the risks of this dangerous drug,” Dr. Tara Sander Lee, senior fellow and director of life sciences for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers from the University of California at Davis attempted to study whether administering high doses of the hormone progesterone can successfully override the effects of the progesterone-blocking drug, mifepristone, the first of two pills taken in a medically induced abortion. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

This abortion pill reversal procedure is administered to women who have taken the first pill, mifepristone, but have changed their minds and do not want to continue with the abortion. Creators of the protocol say it has saved hundreds of babies whose mothers changed their minds about aborting.

According to an NPR report, while the researchers at UC Davis were hoping that 40 women would enroll in the study, only 12 did. Of those 12, three women were transported to the hospital for serious vaginal bleeding - one of those women had been given progesterone, the others had received a placebo.

Of the remaining participants, six of the women had a fetal heartbeat detectable on their subsequent ultrasounds, evidence of a continued pregnancy - four of them in the progesterone group, and two in the placebo group. Two women left the study and had surgical abortions.

The researchers stopped the study in July due to the lack of participants and safety concerns.

“Encouraging women to not complete the regimen should be considered experimental,” Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis and the lead researcher on the study, told NPR. “We have some evidence that it could cause very significant bleeding.”

“It's not that medical abortion is dangerous,” he added. “It's not completing the regimen, and encouraging women, leading them to believe that not finishing the regimen is safe. That's really dangerous.”

Creinin, who has a long history of performing abortions, also told NPR that because the study was smaller than expected and cut short, it cannot answer the question it was intended to answer.

“Does progesterone work? We don't know,” he said. “We have no evidence that it works.”

Lee, however, said in her statement that the UC Davis study does not prove the dangers of the progesterone protocol, but rather the dangers of mifepristone, as two of the three women who experienced bleeding had not even been given progesterone.

“Long before this study was published, it was a known fact that Mifeprex (brand name of mifepristone) can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, excessive bleeding, and incomplete termination requiring follow-up surgery. This study does nothing but further prove these serious, life-threatening risks when taking the abortion pill,” Lee said.

“The study was ended early because of severe hemorrhage in 25% (3 out of 12) of women, requiring emergency ambulatory care, because they took the abortion pill. Even the authors highlight that this is a rate much higher (42% higher) than previously reported. In fact, the bleeding was so bad for one woman, described as ‘significant brisk bleeding,’ that she needed a blood transfusion. She also developed hypotension and tachycardia.”

The progesterone protocol for an abortion pill reversal is available at several pro-life clinics throughout the United States. While the procedure has not been approved by the FDA, many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe, as progesterone is a hormone that naturally occurs in and helps sustain pregnancy, and is used to treat some pregnancies at high risk of miscarriage.

Teresa Kenney, a women's health nurse practitioner with the Sancta Familia (Holy Family) Medical Apostolate in Omaha, Nebraska, previously told CNA that because progesterone is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, and the benefit of reversing a medical abortion is so great, the procedure “makes complete sense” from a scientific standpoint.

“If I give a medicine that decreases or blocks progesterone to stop a pregnancy, then it makes perfect logical medical sense to give progesterone to help reverse that,” Kenney told CNA in September.

She added that the benefits are “overwhelmingly positive,” as the procedure in a sense saves two lives - that of the unborn child, and that of the mother who regretted her decision to have an abortion.

“Just because there hasn't been a randomized controlled double-blind study on abortion pill reversal doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense to implement it in medicine, because there is already scientific support for progesterone in early pregnancy in the prevention and miscarriage,” she said.

“Do we need more research? Absolutely. But to withhold treatment when, again, we know that it does no harm...we know that it medically makes sense, it scientifically makes sense, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive, why wouldn't we do it?”

Dede Chism, a nurse practitioner and co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado, told CNA in 2018 that a recent case study had shown that the progesterone protocol was significantly more effective in helping women keep their pregnancies after taking mifepristone than if nothing was done.

That study, published in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals, and showed that the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Both procedures significantly improved the 25% fetal survival rate if no treatment is offered and a woman simply declines the second pill of a medical abortion. The case study also showed that progesterone treatments caused no increased risk of birth defects or preterm births.

That study was authored by Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009. Delgado also sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Medical abortions make up a significant portion - roughly 30-40% - of total abortions in the United States. At least seven states, including Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho and South Dakota, have laws mandating that women undergoing medical abortions or who are questioning their decision in the process be informed in some way of the option for a medical abortion reversal.

A North Dakota judge in September granted a temporary injunction against a proposed law in the state that would have required doctors to tell their patients that a medically-induced abortion could be reversed if the patient acted quickly.

 

St. John Henry Newman’s meditations on the Litany of Loreto

Loreto, Italy, Dec 10, 2019 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Morning Star. Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory. House of Gold. For centuries, Catholics have recited these titles of Mary in the Litany of Loreto prayer.

One of the Church’s newest saints, St. John Henry Newman, wrote a series of meditations in 1874 elucidating the meaning behind each Marian title in the litany.

For Newman, many of these titles of Mary link back to her integral identity as the Immaculate Conception, born without the stain of original sin. Thus, the British saint connected a dogma declared 20 years prior by Pope Pius IX to a litany prayer approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.

“We must recollect that there is a vast difference between the state of a soul such as that of the Blessed Virgin, which has never sinned, and a soul, however holy, which has once had upon it Adam's sin; for, even after baptism and repentance, it suffers necessarily from the spiritual wounds which are the consequence of that sin,” Newman wrote. “She never committed even a venial sin, and this special privilege is not known to belong to anyone but Mary.”

The Marian title, “Mater Amabilis,” today translated as “Mother most amiable,” is connected to Mary’s sinlessness, Newman explained: “Sin is something odious in its very nature, and grace is something bright, beautiful, attractive.”

“There was a divine music in all she said and did—in her mien, her air, her deportment, that charmed every true heart that came near her. Her innocence, her humility and modesty, her simplicity, sincerity, and truthfulness, her unselfishness, her unaffected interest in everyone who came to her, her purity—it was these qualities which made her so lovable,” Newman wrote.

Mary is particularly loveable “to the children of the Church, not to those outside of it, who know nothing about her,” Newman said.

A convert himself, Newman’s own thoughts on Mary developed from praising the holiness of the Mother of Christ as an Anglican preacher to defending Mary’s role as intercessor in “Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching Considered.”

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

In October, Pope Francis declared Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint. That same month, the pope elevated the Dec. 10 feast of Our Lady of Loreto to the Church’s universal Roman Calendar.

In his Loreto meditations, Newman sheds light on titles of Mary whose meaning may not immediately evident to a modern reader.

Tower of Ivory

While an ivory tower is colloquially understood today as a privileged shelter from the practicalities of the real world, Newman connect’s Mary’s title, “Tower of Ivory,” to her courageous presence at the execution of her son.

“When we say a man ‘towers’ over his fellows, we mean to signify that they look small in comparison of him,” he wrote. “This quality of greatness is instanced in the Blessed Virgin. Though she suffered more keen and intimate anguish at our Lord's Passion and Crucifixion than any of the Apostles by reason of her being His Mother, yet consider how much more noble she was amid her deep distress than they were.”

“It is expressly noted of her that she stood by the Cross. She did not grovel in the dust, but stood upright to receive the blows, the stabs, which the long Passion of her Son inflicted upon her every moment,” Newman wrote. “In this magnanimity and generosity in suffering she is, as compared with the Apostles, fitly imaged as a Tower.”

Mirror of Justice

Newman explained that the Marian title “Mirror of Justice” needs clarification to fully understand how Mary reflected Christ.

“Here first we must consider what is meant by justice, for the word as used by the Church has not that sense which it bears in ordinary English. By ‘justice’ is not meant the virtue of fairness, equity, uprightness in our dealings; but it is a word denoting all virtues at once, a perfect, virtuous state of soul—righteousness, or moral perfection; so that it answers very nearly to what is meant by sanctity,” Newman wrote.

“Therefore when our Lady is called the ‘Mirror of Justice,’ it is meant to say that she is the Mirror of sanctity, holiness, supernatural goodness,” he continued.

Newman further posited: “Do we ask how she came to reflect His Sanctity? —it was by living with Him. We see every day how like people get to each other who live with those they love … Now, consider that Mary loved her Divine Son with an unutterable love; and consider too she had Him all to herself for thirty years. Do we not see that, as she was full of grace before she conceived Him in her womb, she must have had a vast incomprehensible sanctity when she had lived close to God for thirty years?”

Morning Star

Newman divided the titles of Mary in the Litany of Loreto into four categories: Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Assumption.

For example, Newman compares the “Morning Star” to Mary’s Assumption into heaven: “Mary, like the stars, abides for ever, as lustrous now as she was on the day of her Assumption; as pure and perfect, when her Son comes to judgment, as she is now.”

“It is Mary's prerogative to be the Morning Star, which heralds in the sun. She does not shine for herself, or from herself, but she is the reflection of her and our Redeemer, and she glorifies Him. When she appears in the darkness, we know that He is close at hand,” he wrote.

By papal decree, the feast of Our Lady of Loreto will be celebrated for the first time as an optional memorial in the Roman calendar this year on Dec. 10. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said in the October decree:

“This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.”

 

In scandalized Buffalo diocese, bishop seeks victims’ voices  

Buffalo, N.Y., Dec 9, 2019 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- Efforts to recover from clergy sex abuse scandals in Buffalo require listing to victims and others affected by the diocese’s handling of abuse, the apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese Bishop Edward Scharfenberger has said.

“I know there’s a lot of pain. I know that pain sometimes presents itself first as anger,” Bishop Scharfenberger said in opening remarks at a Dec. 7 symposium at Canisius College in Buffalo.

“We can’t deny the fact that there is a lot of anger and frustration. Maybe in our personal lives but also in those who expect much of us as leaders to be able to help them find a way out of the darkness that they have experienced,” he continued.

“The darkness of fear is absolutely chilling,” he said. “Remember, Jesus tells us that fear is useless. It’s faith that counts. The more we trust in him, that he’s with us…. He accompanies us wherever we go.”

“We can do this together,” he said, adding that Jesus Christ is the “ultimate healer.”

“People are not giving up,” he said. “And there are reasons for hope too, because God is with us, and we’re going to get through this.”

Scharfenberger became apostolic administrator of the diocese December 4, following Pope Francis’ acceptance of the early resignation of 73-year-old Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, who has faced a year of controversy over his handling of sexual abuse by clergy.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

That was the background for the Dec. 7 symposium, held by the Movement to Restore Trust. The group’s organizing committee is comprised mostly of business and non-profit Catholic leaders.

“The biggest thing that we need is that trust,” Michael Whalen, a survivor of clergy sex abuse who advocates on behalf of victims, said at the symposium, the NBC affiliate WGRZ reports.

Whalen made suggestions for the bishop administering the diocese.

“How do we go about getting that trust back? I think by him making big changes in the diocese, getting rid of the old garb, people who've been there decades, who knew about the abuse, and didn't do anything about it,” he said.

The bishop praised Whalen’s comments, Scharfenberger said to reporters, according to audio published by the Buffalo AM radio station WBEN.

“His heart is so full of a desire to help, and to help us heal,” Scharfenberger said. “I thanked him, because I believe that our victim-survivors are an essential part of our mission.  They’re our family. Their experience and the experience of every one of us is very, very valuable.”

“We have to be able to feel that we have a safe space, that we can come together and talk about that and learn from one another, and hear our stories and share our pain, and our vision,” said the bishop.

For Scharfenberger, who will serve as both Bishop of Albany and apostolic administrator pending further decisions by the Vatican, the restoration of trust is ultimately a matter of proving oneself trustworthy and hoping that this is recognized. Though he thought the good faith displayed at the symposium was “heartwarming,” he compared it to a honeymoon period. Upcoming decisions might not be popular.

“I just want everybody to know that whatever I do, I will do with a spirit of justice and charity and openness and listening,” he said. “I don’t want to make any decision that does not take into account and does not show respect for all of those that these decisions affect.”

Whalen, the survivor of sexual abuse, has advocated for the release of the diocese’s confidential files.

The bishop pledged transparency but also said clarity was needed in the release of records which might not give the full context or accurate knowledge.

“I want to be transparent. I want everybody to know what they have a right to know but I want to do it in a way that is clearly understood,” he said.

The possible financial bankruptcy of the diocese was a topic at the symposium. University at Buffalo Law School Vice Dean Todd Brown said if the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy it would not liquidate, but rather reorganize.

The Movement to Restore Trust’s organizing committee members include John Hurley, the lay president of Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo.

Hurley said bankruptcy would represent “the fairest option” because court cases would be done all together. He said “everyone will be treated equitably and all at the same time, and it won't be who has the better lawyer, or who can get the first trial.”

In comments to reporters, Scharfenberger said there are many different sides to the arguments for and against bankruptcy. He stressed the need to make the right decision and the need to help people to know why he made that decision.

“It has to be done with deliberation,” he said.

“Ultimately this is a spiritual crisis… People did unholy bad things, evil things, and the only way to eradicate evil is by returning to holiness and to return to God, and to live according to the way our faith teaches us to live,” the bishop continued.

“It’s in God’s time when that happens. God has been trying to restore trust with the human race since the Fall of Adam and Eve,” he said. “We keep turning away. And God keeps coming back.”