WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House June 8 “would invalidate nearly all existing state limitations on abortion,” said Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for National Right to Life. “This legislation would also prohibit states from adopting new protective laws in the future, including various types of laws specifically upheld as constitutionally permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said in a June 9 statement. The measure was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and in the House by Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Blumenthal first introduced the measure in 2013 and has reintroduced it off and on over the years. The current measure has 48 Democrats as co-sponsors in the Senate; Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., are not co-sponsoring it. In the House, there are 176 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said the measure “would essentially remove all legal protections for unborn children on the federal and state level. The Women’s Health Protection Act is, in effect, a no-limits-on-abortion-until-birth bill. Tragically, the only ones to benefit from such a law would be abortionists and abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood,” she added.
HOUSTON (CNS) – The founder of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s program Angela House addressed a national webinar recently about what is needed most to help imprisoned women successfully transition back to their community and families. First is to understand “these are really just human beings and not evil-doers,” said Dominican Sister Maureen O’Connell, a social worker by training who also spent 13 years as a Chicago police officer and chaplain. Speaking during the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition webinar in May, she explained how other dioceses and community groups can provide similar guidance for the women, 85% of whom have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lives. “It all started for me when I was a volunteer chaplain in Gatesville (women’s prison in Texas) and realized that the women who had been incarcerated two or three times basically needed a safe place to live when they left prison to get away from negative people, places and things,” Sister O’Connell said. Since 2002, she has developed a program of interventions focused on trauma-informed counseling, addiction recovery, employment readiness, and personal and spiritual growth including residential living at Angela House in southeast Houston, free for women recently released from incarceration.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Agreeing with German Cardinal Reinhard Marx that Catholic leaders cannot adopt an “ostrich policy” in the face of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis still told the cardinal that he would not accept his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. “If you are tempted to think that by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this bishop of Rome – your brother who loves you – does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented him with his resignation: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner.’ And listen to the answer: ‘Shepherd my sheep,'” the pope wrote to Cardinal Marx. The German cardinal, who is only 67, announced June 4 that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis because he believed bishops must begin to accept responsibility for the institutional failures of the church in handling the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis wrote a long reply to the cardinal June 10, and the Vatican press office published the letter the same day. “I agree with you in describing as a catastrophe the sad history of sexual abuse and the way the church dealt with it until recently,” the pope wrote. “To realize this hypocrisy in our way of living the faith is a grace; it is a first step that we must take.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Seminarians can learn more from the way their bishops, rectors, spiritual directors and formators live than from what they say, Pope Francis said. Noting the yearlong celebration underway dedicated to St. Joseph, the pope said all those responsible for the formation of new priests – primarily their bishops, but also staff at their seminaries and schools – need to have St. Joseph as their inspiration and model, caring for and protecting priestly vocations. During an audience at the Vatican June 10 with members of the Pontifical Regional Seminary Pius XI of the Marche Region in Ancona, Italy, the pope said that seminarians “can learn more from your life than from your words.” Therefore, he said, “may they learn docility from your obedience; diligence from your dedication; generosity toward the poor from the witness of your sobriety and helpfulness; paternity from your deep and chaste affection.” The pope also urged seminarians to seek out and visit elderly priests, who are “the church’s treasure,” but are often forgotten or isolated in care facilities. They possess wisdom and knowledge that has matured like “fine wine” and can help new ministers in solving their pastoral problems.