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Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More: following God’s law above all else

Details from St John Fisher by Jacobus Houbraken (c. 1760), and St Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527). / Credit: Public domain

London, England, Jun 22, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More is observed as an optional memorial June 22. So that readers don’t have to fish for more information (pun intended), CNA has compiled a question-and-answer lowdown on their lives and legacies:

Who was St. Thomas More?

St. Thomas More (1478–1535) was a humanist and intellectual — he worked as a lawyer and explored theology through his written works, many of which were defenses of the Catholic faith against heresy. He studied at Oxford and briefly considered religious life, but he eventually followed a vocation to marriage and fatherhood.

More was appointed by King Henry VIII to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.

What does “lord chancellor” mean?

The “lord chancellor” was the highest-ranking member of the king’s cabinet. This role was commonly filled by a clergyman. Historically, the role entailed great judicial responsibility — its influence has evolved to scale back on this particular front.

How did he manage to get on Henry VIII’s bad side?

St. Thomas More stood firmly in his Catholic faith when Henry VIII began to pull away from the Church.

The king wanted a declaration of nullity for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but the Church, upon examination, could not find his marriage to Catherine invalid. More refused in 1530 to sign a letter asking the pope to declare the marriage null, and he would not sign an oath acknowledging the monarch as the supreme head of the Church in England.

In May 1532, Henry pressured the English synod, the Convocation of Canterbury, to submit the clergy’s authority to his own. The day after the convocation agreed to Henry’s terms, More resigned as lord chancellor.

More wished to retire from public life, but when he refused to assent to the Act of Supremacy 1534, which repudiated the pope’s authority over the Church in England, he was imprisoned on charges of treason.

He was sentenced to execution, which took place July 6, 1535.

Why is he a saint?

More’s persistence to remain with the Church rather than the king, ending in martyrdom, was a testament to his tireless devotion to God’s law. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 and was named patron of statesmen and politicians by Pope John Paul II.

I’ve heard something about his beard…?

Yes. You’re not imagining things, don’t worry.

The story with St. Thomas More’s beard is that he laid his beard outside of the execution blade’s path in one final, humorous gesture.

His last words were, “This hath not offended the king,” implying that while his head had angered Henry VIII, his beard was innocent and did not deserve to be severed.

Who was St. John Fisher?

St. John Fisher (1469–1535) was ordained a priest when he was about 22 and was appointed bishop of Rochester in 1504. He lived an intentionally simple lifestyle and was an intellectual. He studied theology at Cambridge, where he became chancellor. Among his writings is a commentary on the seven penitential psalms.

His mission as a bishop was to perfect how the Church’s teachings were conveyed by his diocese. Fisher spent much of his time traveling to parishes with the mission of theologically correcting and realigning clergy. He also wrote various apologetic defenses in response to Martin Luther.

What did he have to do with the whole Henry VIII situation?

St. John Fisher studied Henry’s request for a declaration of nullity but could not find grounds for such a declaration.

He refused to assent to the Succession to the Crown Act 1533, which recognized the king’s supremacy over the Church in England, and declared the daughter of Catherine of Aragon illegitimate and was imprisoned for treason in April 1534.

Fisher was jailed, starved, and deprived of all sacraments, but he didn’t budge on his position.

Fisher was made a cardinal in May 1535 in the hopes that Henry would not dare execute a prince of the Church.

Please don’t tell me it ended like More’s story…

It didn’t. There was no beard on the line.

However, Fisher was executed, head on the chopping block and all. He removed his hair shirt and said the Te Deum and Psalm 31 right before giving his life for the kingdom of God and the honor of the Church, June 22, 1535. He is the only cardinal to have been martyred.

Why is Fisher a saint?

Same deal as More — he stuck to what he knew to be the truth and died for it. He was canonized with More in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.

But he’s not nearly as well known as St. Thomas More.

No, he’s not. St. John Fisher’s grave, which also contains the bones of More, doesn’t even bear his name. But he did it for the glory of God.

This article was first published on June 22, 2018, and has been updated.

UPDATE: Tennessee priest indicted on additional sex crime charges

Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin. / Credit: Courtesy of the Franklin Police Department

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

A priest in Tennessee already facing multiple sexual abuse charges has been served with two additional battery charges this month, police have revealed. 

A grand jury earlier this month returned a superseding indictment against Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza, charging him with two additional counts of sexual battery, according to a press release from the Franklin, Tennessee, Police Department. 

In February, Garcia was indicted on eight other charges, including continuous abuse of a child, aggravated sexual battery, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and two counts of sexual battery.

The priest is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin.

The Diocese of Nashville had said in a press release in January that it first learned of accusations against Garcia in November 2023 when “a teen in the parish had made a report of improper touching” involving the priest. 

The diocese made a report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; it also contracted with a former FBI agent to oversee the diocesan investigation into the claims.

A spokesman for the diocese told CNA on Friday that Garcia had been removed from active ministry in November after the first report was made regarding the priest. 

Earlier reports had suggested the diocese delayed for several weeks in removing the priest from active ministry; the spokesman denied those reports. 

“The diocese has kept the Holy See informed throughout this matter and the canonical process is ongoing separate from the criminal proceedings,” the spokesman told CNA.

Garcia was ordained in 2020 and served at several parishes in the Nashville Diocese before his indictment. 

This story was updated on Friday, June 21, at 4:30 p.m. with additional comments from the Nashville diocesan spokesman.

Vatican’s secretary of state rues Russia’s absence at Ukraine peace conference

The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin attends a plenary session at the summit on peace in Ukraine at the luxury Burgenstock resort near Lucerne, Switzerland, on June 16, 2024. / Credit: ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin this week appealed for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine amid their ongoing war while noting the absence of Russia at the Swiss conference on peace in Ukraine. 

“Peace is always made together,” he said June 19 as reported by Vatican News. 

Parolin led an observer delegation from the Vatican to the Conference for Peace in Ukraine, held in Switzerland June 15–16. About 100 delegations, mostly from Western countries, attended the conference, AP News reported. Russia was not invited.

Parolin in a statement following the conference reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to maintain “regular communication with the Ukrainian and Russian authorities” and assist in potential mediation initiatives, Vatican News said.

Parolin also said the Holy See is greatly concerned about the tragic humanitarian consequences of the war “and is especially committed to facilitating the repatriation of children and encouraging the release of prisoners, especially seriously wounded soldiers and civilians.”

“On behalf of Pope Francis,” Parolin concluded, “I wish to confirm his personal closeness to the tormented Ukrainian people and his unwavering commitment to peace.“

Pope Francis, and Parolin, have repeatedly called for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine as a means of brokering peace in the now two-year-long Russian war of aggression. However, the pope faced criticism when on March 20 he suggested that “the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate,” the pope said. At the time, Parolin issued clarifying remarks in an interview with Corriere della Sera, saying that it is incumbent upon Russia “as the aggressor” to “put an end to the aggression.”

In his more recent remarks, Parolin said that in the face of war, it is crucial to continue to seek ways to end the conflict “with good intentions, trust, and creativity.”

Parolin has in the past reiterated that Ukraine has a “legitimate” right to defend itself from Russian aggression, but he also has warned that weapons being sent there by other countries could lead to a “terrible” escalation of the war.

In mid-2023, Pope Francis asked Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine. However, Parolin has since clarified that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal.

EWTN earns multiple accolades at 2024 Gabriel Awards

The first season of the EWTN series “James the Less” received the Best Video award at the 2024 Gabriel Awards presentation on June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. / Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA

Atlanta, Ga., Jun 21, 2024 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

The 58th annual Gabriel Awards saw EWTN, the world’s largest Catholic media organization, win five awards in multiple categories in recognition of “outstanding artistic achievement in a television or radio program or series that entertains and enriches with a true vision of humanity and true vision of life.”

Sponsored by the Catholic Media Association, this year’s awards took place on June 20 within the context of the association’s annual conference in Atlanta. EWTN News President and COO Montse Alvarado and National Catholic Register Editor-in-Chief Shannon Mullen accepted the awards for Best Feature Film, Best Video, Best Television Special Event Coverage, Best Single News Story, and Best Short Documentary on behalf of their colleagues.

Winning first place for Best Single News Story, “EWTN News in Depth” anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, whose body was exhumed in May 2023 in an unexpected state of preservation.

EWTN News in Depth anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA
EWTN News in Depth anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA

Winning along with Hadro for the report were EWTN News editor Andrew Spangenberg and videographer Craig Campbell.

Taking top honors for Best Television Special Event Coverage was EWTN’s 2023 World Youth Day coverage, led by EWTN News correspondent Colm Flynn along with Eleonora Vescovini and Father Mark Mary, MFVA. EWTN Vice President of Programming and Production Peter Gagnon was also among the network’s award winners for his role as executive producer of the network’s coverage of the event.

Meanwhile, Season 1 of EWTN’s innovative series “James the Less” received the prestigious Best Video award. EWTN Director of Studio Operations Stephen Beaumont worked with EWTN producers Michael Masny and Greg Hendrick to develop the scripts for the five-part romantic comedy.

Speaking of the series, whose second season is currently in production, Beaumont told CNA: “The narratives provide an opportunity to attract people who might not otherwise watch Catholic programs. Our hope is that Catholics and non-Catholics alike will find the show entertaining and that atheists will gain insight into what Catholics believe.”

The global Catholic network, the parent company of CNA, also took first place in the feature film category for “Faith of Our Fathers,” a riveting original film about a Catholic priest defending the faith against the 19th-century English penal laws and the determination of the Irish community to protect him in the face of unrelenting persecution. EWTN President Doug Keck in his capacity as executive producer of the film received the award, along with fellow executive producer Aidan Gallagher, director Campbell Miller, and producer John Elson.

Finally, the network’s short documentary “Alive in Christ — The Eucharistic Martyrs” also took top spot in its category. The documentary brings to life the account of the first Christians and their courageous struggle to live their faith in the midst of persecution. Once again, Keck received the award in his capacity as the documentary’s executive producer, along with fellow executive producers Elson and David Sipoš, who was also the director.

In addition, EWTN News anchor Hadro also won the Best Podcast — Single Episode award for her role as co-host and producer of the “Purposeful Lab” podcast “Is Extraterrestrial Life Compatible with Christianity?” produced by the Magis Center and co-host Dr. Daniel Kuebler.

The Catholic Media Association notes that “the Gabriel Awards have been a beacon of inspiration since their inception in 1965, encouraging media professionals to create works that serve, enrich, challenge, and uplift audiences.”

Commenting on the wins for the network, EWTN Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board Michael Warsaw said “this year’s Gabriel Awards are particularly meaningful to EWTN as our submissions reflected the broad range of productions the team is committed to bringing our audience— from an online digital series aimed at young audiences to the deeply meaningful story of determination of our Irish forefathers, to our wall-to-wall coverage of World Youth Day.”

Warsaw added: “We’re grateful to the Catholic Media Association board and the award selection committee for their recognition and support of the team’s hard work and are honored to stand alongside the other nominees and winners that seek to share the truth of our faith with the world through media.” 

For her part, EWTN News President and COO Alvarado observed that “the recognition of the ‘EWTN News In Depth’ team’s coverage of the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster is especially significant as Catherine Hadro takes on the role of host of the program this week. We’re all grateful for the recognition from our peers in the Catholic media space and applaud the other nominees and winners for their submissions.”

Diocese of Rome closes first step toward sainthood for young wife and mother

An attendee holds a photo of Chiara Corbella Petrillo at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 21, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Rome on Friday officially closed the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a joyful 28-year-old wife and mother who died from cancer in 2012 in Rome.

“We strongly trust that the Church, after a careful and accurate discernment of her life and virtues, will want to soon celebrate also on Earth this daughter of our Church of Rome and propose her as an example of Christian life to contemporary Christian generations,” Bishop Baldassare Reina said at the closing ceremony June 21.

Reina, vice regent of the Diocese of Rome, presided over the session in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where the inquiry was opened nearly six years ago on Sept. 21, 2018.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella, Reina said, shows us that “holiness is possible and it is the only path that makes us happy. Let us enjoy, or rather I would say, let us savor this moment, with all the processes that will be explained to us.”

Hundreds of people attended the session despite temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city of Rome. More than 3,000 people also watched a video livestream of the event on the YouTube page of the diocese.

The servant of God’s family sat in the first row of the basilica for the ceremony and included Corbella’s husband, Enrico Petrillo; their 13-year-old son, Francesco Petrillo; her parents Roberto Corbella and Maria Anselma Ruzziconi; and her sister Elisa Corbella.

In an interview before the session, Enrico Petrillo told CNA the closing of the diocesan phase for beatification “brings me so much peace.”

“The most beautiful testimony, he said, is this one made by the Church herself, because it is necessary for the Church to say, ‘Yes, what you have experienced is really something great.’” 

During the closing session on Friday, diocesan officials tied up the documents and sealed them with wax. The beatitudes were also read and everyone sang hymns and prayed together the Our Father and the Glory Be in thanksgiving for the life of Corbella.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella’s cause for beatification was opened exactly five years after her death, following the requirements of canon law.

With the closing of the diocesan investigation into her life, virtues, and sanctity, documented testimonies and other materials will now be sent to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for further scrutiny.

The next step in the process will be for the pope to recognize her as someone who lived a life of heroic virtue and declare her venerable. Corbella will then need two miracles attributed to her intercession to be declared a saint. 

Corbella’s life and message

Corbella met her husband at the age of 18 while on a pilgrimage to Međugorje. They married six years later in Assisi on Sept. 21, 2008. Within the first two years of their marriage, they suffered the death of two children, Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, both of whom died less than an hour after birth from incurable disabilities.

Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Despite receiving the terminal diagnoses in pregnancy, Corbella chose to carry her babies to term.

Enrico Petrillo told CNA on June 21 that the couple made the decision to let their babies die a natural death in their parents’ arms because “for us they were lives, they existed and they were not problems to be eliminated. ... This, in my opinion, is a core part of our experience: the fact of safeguarding life.”

Sometimes Catholics use the language to “defend life,” he continued. “Life is not even to be defended, it is to be guarded, which is perhaps a nuance, but it is a nuance that Chiara helps us to grasp, because those who ‘defend’ have enemies. We don’t have any enemies and we embraced [the story] the Lord was writing.”

Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“That is why it did not feel right,” he said, “to substitute ourselves for what the King of History was thinking of for us, because we knew, because we sensed, that it could be the most beautiful thing.”

Corbella became pregnant for a third time with their son Francesco in 2010 and ultrasounds showed that he was in perfect health. The joyful news was short-lived as Corbella was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors removed a tumor on her tongue that turned out to be cancerous.

As the cancer metastasized, it became difficult for Corbella to speak and see clearly. A photo of her wearing an eye patch with a big smile was taken in April 2012, less than two weeks after she learned that her condition was terminal. She prepared for death by receiving the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Corbella died on June 13, 2012, at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends, one year after her son was born. Hundreds of people packed into the filled church at her funeral three days later.

“The most beautiful message” Corbella reveals to the world “is that we are all children like her,” Enrico Petrillo told CNA.

“And so, these years and all that we experienced help to make people understand that Chiara is not a holy card to put on an altar,” he continued. “She is like us, she is a daughter like us, she is not ... a heroine or a superhero, but she is simply a girl who knows that she is loved by God and because of that she can do anything.”

In a speech at the closing session, Reina, who is also an auxiliary bishop of Rome, recalled an important moment in the young life of Corbella. During a difficult period before her marriage to Enrico, a spiritual adviser told Corbella: “When God opens a door, no one closes it, and when God closes it, no one opens it.”

It was a reference, Reina said, to Revelation 3:7: “‘The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open.’”

Corbella wrote that “this word changed my life,” Reina said. “From that moment on, Chiara understood God as the king of history, but above all as the king of her own personal story.”

“That which God thought good, beautiful, or holy for her life, he would realize, and because of this, she should not be discouraged, nor have fear, because despite sin, trials and tribulations, sickness, and death, God is faithful!” the bishop continued.

“That verse of Revelation,” he said, “would be the hermeneutic key to understanding everything that would happen: The Lord would give to her the husband, children, time, and health in the measure that he always thought of for her.”

“Her desire to be a wife and mom, to grow old together with her husband and to raise their children, would not be realized according to her human aspirations, but in the measure and way that God had planned and without depriving her of his happiness,” the bishop said.

Corbella’s father, Roberto Corbella, told CNA on June 21: “I always say that we are lucky parents, because every day, in the news, we hear about young kids who have died in violent situations ... meanwhile [Chiara] left with a smile, meanwhile she left after telling us all, ‘I love you.’”

“Then, the fact that we see that so many people in the world rely on her helps us to accept [her death] better, in the sense that it’s clear that I would rather ... still have her sitting on my lap,” he said with tears in his eyes. “But seeing so many people ask for help certainly makes us accept everything much better.”

Pope Francis advances martyred Albanian priests along path to sainthood

Father Luigi Paliq (left) and Father Gjon Gazulli were declared martyrs by Pope Francis on June 20, 2024. / Credit: Screen capture from aciprensa.com of photo courtesy of The Order of Friars Minor, Episcopal Conference of Albania

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 13:51 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday advanced the cause for sainthood for two martyred Catholic priests who were killed “in hatred of the faith” in Albania in the first decades of the 20th century.

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints made the announcement of the priests’ martyrdom and subsequent beatification in a press release on Thursday. When the pope declares that a person was martyred for the faith, that individual is beatified, and the title “Blessed” is granted.

Father Luigj Paliq was murdered in Albania in 1913, and Father Gjon Gazulli was killed in 1927. In 2016, Pope Francis beatified 38 Albanian clerics and lay Catholics who were martyred under the country’s communist regime between 1945 and 1974.

Paliq, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor in Cortemaggiore, was the rector of the Franciscan Convent of Gjakova. He defended local populations, including Muslims, from the persecutions of the Montenegrin forces that took control of the region after the First Balkan War. 

He was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Montenegrins on March 7, 1913. Before his death, he “confirmed his full willingness to die for Christ and for the Church,” with his last words to that effect “heard and reported by those who had witnessed his shooting.”

Gazulli was born in Dajc, Albania, in 1893. He entered the Pontifical Seminary of Skorka at age 12, being ordained a priest in 1919 after overcoming several health problems. 

He established a parochial school in the Koman region of Albania; eventually, he drew the ire of local authorities due to the religious influence he held over priests and other locals.

Arrested by the government, he was “subjected to a farce trial” and convicted on false charges. He was hanged in the square in Skorko on March 5, 1927. 

The priest died “by forgiving his killers and professing his loyalty to Christ and the Church,” the dicastery said. 

The dicastery on Thursday also put several other faithful on the path to being declared saints, including recognizing the heroic virtues of Servant of God Isaiah Columbro, an Italian priest who during his life was “much sought after for his prayers and blessings.” 

Columbro was “above all esteemed and well-liked for the indefatigable exercise of the sacrament of penance.” He died in 2004.

The Vatican also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Vicenta Guilarte Alonso, a member of the Spanish Daughters of Jesus who joined the order in 1909 and subsequently traveled to the Brazilian town of Pirenopolis to found a community there. 

She was later transferred to the municipality of Leopoldina, where she was made doorman and sacristan. Though she had earlier been deputy superior, she “humbly accepted this situation, which astonished many sisters, without protesting and expressing regret,” the dicastery said. 

She served in that role until her death in 1960. 

Democrats move to repeal federal law that forbids abortion materials in U.S. mail

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Jun 21, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Democrats worried that a new Trump administration may use a 150-year-old federal law to stop abortion pills from being sent through the mail have announced an attempt to repeal it.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, said in a Thursday press release on her website that she had introduced a bill to repeal the Comstock Act, a law she claimed “Republicans and anti-choice extremists want to misuse to ban abortion nationwide.”

Passed in 1873, the Comstock Act bans in part the usage of the U.S. Postal Service to send any materials that can facilitate or cause abortions.

The portions of the Comstock Act banning the mailing of abortion-causing items have not been enforced for decades, at least since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared a right to abortion under the federal constitution in Roe v. Wade.

Yet the question came up again after the court overturned Roe in June 2022 and declared that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion, sending abortion law back to legislatures and state referendums.

Smith in her announcement on Thursday said the Comstock rule is “a 150-year-old zombie law,” one that’s “long been relegated to the dustbin of history.”

“Now that Trump has overturned Roe, a future Republican administration could try to misapply this 150-year-old Comstock law to deny American women their rights, even in states where abortion rights are protected by state law,” she alleged. 

The senator said it was “too dangerous to leave this law on the books.” Multiple other Democrats signaled their support for the bill on Thursday. 

The federal Food and Drug Administration began allowing abortion pills to be sent through the mail on a temporary basis in April 2021, not long after President Joe Biden took office. The agency made the approval permanent in December 2021.

The Biden Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said in December 2022 that mailing abortion pills does not violate federal law “where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully.”

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, decried attempts to repeal the Comstock Act’s references to abortion-causing items.

“It’s quite astounding. Democrats in Congress must wake up every day wondering what else they can do to make it easier to end the lives of unborn children,” Tobias told CNA by text.

“These are the same people trying to shut down pregnancy centers, trying to block pregnancy centers from online search engines, and vilifying the abortion pill reversal process,” Tobias said. “This latest effort is one more attempt not to help women and babies but instead an effort to make it easier to kill preborn babies.”

“It’s sad that the Democratic Party has become the party that pushes death for the most innocent and vulnerable among us.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, meanwhile, said the Comstock Act repeal isn’t likely to gain traction in Congress this year, given that Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats control the Senate, both by a narrow majority.

“The bill is unlikely to go anywhere given the makeup of the House and Senate,” a spokesman for the organization told CNA by email.

“Instead of fearmongering about how a law may be applied, Democrats should be ensuring that the FDA is actually protecting women’s health with proper safety standards for abortion drugs.”

Is there a satanic element in rock music? An expert explains

null / Credit: NOVODIASTOCK/Shuterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Claudia Caneva, an Italian professor at the Roma Tre University, gave a presentation recently on “Music and Satanism” in the course “Exorcism and Deliverance Prayer” that was held in the Italian capital and sponsored by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the Italian Socioreligious Research and Information Group.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Caneva warned about the influence that rock music and other subgenres such as heavy metal, death metal, or death rock have on the behavior of youth, mere “victims” of a cultural industry produced by the “adult world.”

Caneva, who is also a professor at the Institute of Sciences of the Pontifical Lateran University and the Salesian University of Rome, has been studying for years how artistic products influence the behavior of young people.

An author of books on the incitement of the contemporary imagination or on the relationship between music and philosophy, Caneva asserted that this type of music is harmful and can even “physiologically alter adolescents.”

“Demonic influence through music, a choice vehicle of dissemination, is a phenomenon to which we must be very attentive,” she warned.

The professor also stated that heavy metal, “which has a very piercing sound that envelops young people,” has become an object of study and is a topic “that is currently of interest to experts and researchers.”

In this regard, she recalled the case of the Italian Davide Canotti, a former follower of Marco Dimitri’s Satanic sect known as “Satan’s Children,” which was founded in 1982 in Bologna, Italy.

Canotti, Caneva noted, was interrogated by the police after he had desecrated several ossuaries in cemeteries in Italy and stolen bones of buried children.

“In his response to the authorities, he said that he had never taken drugs and that his only drug was music,” the expert pointed out. The man claimed that he listened to black metal groups in whose songs they even invited people to “destroy the tombstones and break the crosses.”

Young people, the main victims

According to Caneva, this is just one example of how Satanism is present in this type of music, which from the beginning stirs up a certain type of behavior and “induces certain emotions” in a person.

She also pointed out that music albums include subliminal invocations to Satan, although she clarified that “if you listen to it, it’s not an inevitable result that the devil is inside you.”

However, the professor noted that many exorcisms that are carried out are due to the victims listening to these types of songs.

“I believe that young people are victims of this situation, and I always ask myself: Who produces these things? Who controls them? Why are certain things allowed?” she lamented.

Along these lines, Caneva made reference to the phenomenon called “mirror neurons,” a relevant discovery of neuroscience used in the educational field that explains how neurons have a behavior similar to that of a mirror.

This dynamic shows “that the action we observe in another individual is reflected in our brain, making neurons play a decisive role in our behaviors.”

Consequently, she warned that “music is not just music, music is a show, it’s a performance,” and young people are “victims of those who produce it.”

The fundamental role of parents

Caneva stressed to ACI Prensa the importance that parents play in this area and in their role in forming their children. “Parents are educators and must be attentive, initiate a conversation with young people, fostering maturity.”

“Young people are very sensitive to neuroendocrine dynamics, and especially in adolescence, where they experience a hormonal explosion, loaded with aggressiveness and emotional affectivity,” she said.

She also reiterated that prohibiting this type of music “is of no use,” but rather it’s a process requiring a serious effort and working on awareness to make young people see that this type of music “can have very negative consequences.”

Caneva also cited the musical subgenre of Trap and other sectors of the industry such as video games or television series, which lead to “negative emotions, aggressiveness, and restlessness.”

The purpose? Hopeless and manipulable youth

Regarding the purpose pursued by a large part of the current industry, the Italian expert said that they seek “a lack of hope that destroys young people, to make them insecure and to be able to manipulate them.”

“In television series they propose ‘antiheroes’ as role models. Young people are the future and Satanism is not only found in music, those who engender war or who exploit the poor at work are also Satanic,” she emphasized.

Finally, Caneva noted that if you look at the album covers or posters of this type of musical group, Satanism “is easily identifiable.”

“But remember that Lucifer was the most beautiful of the angels on the throne of ice, and ice means indifference, something that this industry also aims to do, to make young people become cold and indifferent people,” she concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Catholic abbey and Baptist university exchange land ‘to build up the kingdom’

In exchange for the transfer of the 74-acre Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) Green Campus — formerly St. Gregory’s University — to St. Gregory’s Abbey, OBU will receive two parcels of land for future development totaling 134 acres in Shawnee, just east of Oklahoma City. The abbey and the university announced the news on June 7, 2024.  / Courtesy: St. Gregory’s Abbey

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

In a unique sign of ecumenicism, a Catholic abbey and a Baptist university are exchanging property so the abbey can receive historically significant land that once was home to the abbey’s university.

In exchange for the transfer of the 74-acre Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) Green Campus — formerly St. Gregory’s University — to St. Gregory’s Abbey, OBU will receive two parcels of land for future development totaling 134 acres in Shawnee, just east of Oklahoma City. The abbey and the university announced the news on June 7.

The abbey shared the announcement in a press release on June 7, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, stating that the “entirety” of the former campus of St. Gregory University “once again is dedicated to the life and ministries of the monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey!”

The announcement also coincides with the 147th anniversary of “the beginning of the liturgical life of our community.”

Founded in 1875, St. Gregory’s University first began as a high school, then a college in the 1990s, and finally a university in the early 2000s. But when it closed in 2017 after the university filed for bankruptcy, it came into the ownership of OBU.

“Over the last two years, we have been in quiet conversations with the leadership of Oklahoma Baptist University as to how we might work together for the betterment of our complementary missions,” the statement read.

“Through these conversations, we discerned a path by which the abbey could exchange part of our undeveloped pastureland for the grounds and facilities that for some 120 years had served the legacy and ministries of our monastic community,” it read.

“We prayerfully considered both the opportunities and the risks that such an exchange could present and now are thrilled that the exchange has taken place,” the announcement continued. 

“The monastic community is thrilled that our historic grounds and facilities once again are available for the benefit of our mission and ministries,” Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen said in a June 7 press release.

“We were pleased that these facilities dedicated to the kingdom of God were entrusted to our brothers and sisters in Christ at OBU after the closure of St. Gregory’s University,” he noted. “Now they come back to the abbey but will continue to be accessible to the needs of OBU.” 

The abbot noted that this reflects the brotherly bond beyond between the two groups. 

“As we read in Proverbs 17:17, the bonds of Christian brothers are strengthened in times of adversity,” Stasyszen continued. “Whether it be through the closure of St. Gregory’s University or the ongoing aftermath of the 2023 tornado, our relationship has grown stronger in challenging times for the good of our institutions and of the broader community.” 

Heath Thomas, president of OBU, said in the release that the lands received from the abbey will help their community “for years to come.” 

“While we are honored to have stewarded this gift for the past several years, we are thrilled that the historic heritage of the Green Campus will go back to the abbey. It is fitting and right,” he noted. 

“Our trustees voted unanimously for this land exchange and we are both excited and hopeful as we look towards the future opportunities that will result for OBU,” said Eric Costanzo, chair of the OBU board of trustees.

“We are grateful to President Thomas and the leadership of OBU for working with us in such a positive way so that the complementary missions of OBU and the abbey can continue to flourish and be of benefit to our many constituents,” the abbot continued.

“We look forward to continuing our positive relationship with OBU to build up the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ Our Lord,” he noted. 

“Our work now begins in earnest as we seek to restore these historic grounds and facilities to their former splendor and even improve them to welcome many others to share in our life and service to the kingdom of God!” the abbey press release concluded.

Safeguarding: Church must place disabled persons at center, experts say

ROME (CNS) -- To prevent abuse across the board, the Catholic Church must place disabled persons at the center of its safeguarding efforts and ministry, speakers said at an international safeguarding conference in Rome.

Hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care, the June 18-21 conference brought global experts to Rome to discuss the relationship between safeguarding and disability.

During the conference, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the institute, told Catholic News Service that the theme for this year's edition of the conference was selected to bridge the gap that exists between safeguarding -- referring to practices meant to address and prevent emotional, physical and sexual abuse -- and caring for people with disabilities.

"The framework is there but very often it is not really linked to the real needs of the people on the ground, of those who have been abused, and so we are here to learn from those with disabilities what their particular needs are and what the church can do as one of the key players in the health system worldwide in the implementation and inculturation of these different models that we have," he told CNS June 18.

After the conference was opened by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Sheila Hollins, delivered the opening keynote address. Hollins was a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and founded Books Beyond Words -- a non-profit that produces word-free books for people with disabilities that engage with topics from relationships to surviving abuse.

She said "although disabled people might be a minority demographically, they're at considerably greater risk (of abuse), and if disclosure was easier for them they may actually constitute a majority of abused people."

Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, presents at a conference.
Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, presents at a conference on safeguarding and disability hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care in Rome June 18, 2024. (CNS photo/courtesy Pontifical Gregorian University)

She told CNS that many "unconscious biases" put disabled persons at risk of abuse, such as the perception that nobody would abuse a disabled person because of their impairment. Disabled people also face additional barriers "to being heard, to being able to explain, to being able to understand" their abuse, she said.

Hollins, a Catholic and parent of five disabled adult children, said those biases and barriers can arise within the church by considering disabled people as "other" than non-disabled church-goers. As a result, the church can perpetuate structural exclusion of disabled people, such as by not creating space for wheelchair users in the congregation or holding separate Masses for neurally divergent people.


Hollins suggested that a way to root sensitivity to the experience of disability in the church could be to have every seminarian "get to know a disabled person and their family, their lives, and continue knowing them, because they've become part of their circle."

"I think that we could actually change things quite substantially by getting priests to get to know disabled people," she said.

Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington who presented her talk at the conference in American Sign Language, told CNS through a sign-language interpreter that while there has been a lot of research about the disability community and abuse, "specifically within the deaf community there is very little research regarding abuse and the church."

Additionally, she stressed that direct input from disabled and deaf people must be involved in the development of safeguarding policies. Safeguarding training, Lynch-Ryan said, "goes through hearing systems" and is developed by "people that don't have experience working with deaf people or even people with disabilities."

Maryann Barth, course designer at the University of Dayton and board member of the Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative for the Americas, said the conference is key to exploring ways of overcoming the obstacles involved in protecting people with disabilities, especially since "the main barrier that we face is communication."

Barth told CNS through an interpreter that in her presentation at the conference she aimed to explain "the theory behind language deprivation, language dysfluency," which she said "really impacts deaf children who have experienced abuse."

Sheila Hollins, a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and founder of Books Beyond Words, speaks at a conference.
Sheila Hollins, a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and founder of Books Beyond Words, speaks at a conference on safeguarding and disability hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care in Rome June 18, 2024. (CNS photo/courtesy Pontifical Gregorian University)

There needs to be a framework for what hearing people can do to safeguard deaf people, she said, and help for those that have been abused, "because if somebody were to come to try to disclose (abuse), the other barrier is the ability to express what they experienced, and we need to be able to be present and help them navigate that."

Dafne Aida Zapata Pratto, a psychologist at Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University in Peru, said that biased beliefs about disabled people prevent society and the church from reaching out to people with disabilities and considering their needs in order to be fully integrated into the community

For example, she told CNS, that a widespread myth among Peruvians is that disability is a "divine punishment" for a sin or error committed by a family and that "many families have prejudices against their disabled children."

Combatting that attitude "is an important challenge for the church," Zapata said. "How can the church change the image of God and make people understand that disability is not a punishment?"

The church's response must involve including disabled people more centrally in the life of the church but also considering "the type of message and image of God that we express and share with others," she said.

Jesuit Father Justin Glyn, general counsel for the Australian Province of the Society of Jesus and a visually impaired person, said that as society becomes increasingly individualistic and achievement-based, the church has a key role in upholding a sense of community that is central to the experience of disability.

"The disabled world is the world of interdependence," he told CNS. "We may need assistance in various ways, but we can provide it also."

Similarly, Catholics professing the communion of saints "don't believe that salvation is an individual thing," he said.

"We are the people who actually are invested in each other in Christ," Father Glyn said," and disability is a classic demonstration of that."