Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

PHOTOS: Pilgrims honor Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica

Prayer for Mary in St. Peter's Basilica on May 11, 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 10:02 am (CNA).

On Wednesdays during the month of May, pilgrims can gather in St. Peter’s Basilica for a prayer service honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On May 11, the prayer began at the entrance of the basilica, in front of the holy door, and was followed by a procession through the basilica, stopping at images of the Virgin Mary.

The Marian artistic works in the basilica include Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Pietà, the ancient image of Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church), a small painting of Mater Peregrinorum (Pilgrim’s Mother), and large mosaics of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and the Presentation of Mary.

Mass at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter concluded the prayer service.

Catholic, pro-life leaders say women shouldn't be punished for abortions

Thousands of pro-life advocates gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021, in conjunction with oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., May 12, 2022 / 09:35 am (CNA).

More than 70 pro-life leaders, including Archbishop William E. Lori who leads the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, are demanding that state lawmakers refuse to punish or criminalize women who obtain abortions. 

“As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts,” the May 12 letter to state lawmakers reads. 

The letter comes as lawmakers in states such as Louisiana consider legislation that could subject women who obtain abortions to criminal prosecution and prison.

Laura Echevarria, a spokesperson for the National Right to Life, the pro-life group that coordinated the letter’s release, told CNA that it responded, in part, to actions by states like Louisiana. The letter also responded to rhetoric from abortion activists.

“This has been a long-standing policy issue of ours” and many of the other signers, Echevarria said. “We felt we needed to make it clear that this was something that we did not agree with. That we do not believe in prosecuting women who have had abortions. We see them as a second victim in these situations.”

“We wanted to make sure that this was very clear to state legislators, but also to the public-at-large,” she added. “We do not want women thinking that this is something that the movement approves of, because we don’t.”

In addition to Lori, signers include Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, and Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life. You can read the full letter below:

The open letter follows a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, later this year.

The letter takes care to say that there are two victims with every abortion: both the mother and her unborn child.

“The mother who aborts her child is also Roe’s victim,” the letter reads. “She is the victim of a callous industry created to take lives; an industry that claims to provide for ‘women’s health,’ but denies the reality that far too many American women suffer devastating physical and psychological damage following abortion.”

In bold text, the letter adds, “Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.”

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, as the leaked draft suggests, the issue of abortion will be left up to each individual state — and elected lawmakers.

“But in seizing that opportunity,” the letter cautions, “we must ensure that the laws we advance to protect unborn children do not harm their mothers.” In other words, the letter continues, “turning women who have abortions into criminals is not the way.”

Several organizations, many of them run by Catholics, offer healing and hope to women harmed by abortion, including Project Rachel, Rachel's Vineyard, and Silence No More Awareness Campaign. 

While the Catholic Church condemns abortion, it also stresses the importance of forgiveness and mercy for the women who have obtained abortions. Just as the unborn have inherent dignity and worth as human persons, so do their mothers.

“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

What you should know about this new Catholic saint from India

A statue of Devasahayam Pillai at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Kottar, India. / Kumbalam via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 07:17 am (CNA).

When Neelakanta Pillai was baptized a Catholic in 1745, he knowingly left behind the comfort of his wealthy, high-caste Hindu family for almost certain persecution and death.

“Despite the threats to his life, despite the persecution, despite dangers for his own existence, he was ready to proclaim to everyone that he truly loved Christ, that he was ready to witness and to give his life for Christ,” Father Harris Pakkam told CNA.

Pakkam, the director of the Salesian news agency (ANS), explained that it was only four years later that Pillai, who took the Christian name Devasahayam at his baptism, did experience arrest, imprisonment, humiliation, torture, and eventually death.

On May 15, just over 270 years after his martyrdom, Devasahayam Pillai will be canonized together with nine other men and women in St. Peter’s Square.

“With this moment ... of freshness that is being instilled through this canonization of Devasahayam Pillai, I believe there will be a great revival, great growth, and a moment of great strength for the Church in India,” the priest from India said.

“He is the first Indian martyr, the first Tamil saint, the first Indian layman [to be canonized] ... It’s a great moment of joy for the Indian Church, because of the context that we are living in today, a Hindu man who was punished for becoming a Christian is now elevated to the altars.”

Father Harris Pakkam. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Father Harris Pakkam. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pakkam, who first discovered Devasahayam in 2012, shortly after the layman’s beatification, said that, while there had been pushback on the canonization from some Hindu hardliners, “the whole of India is rejoicing at this great news.”

“You should know that India is a country with a number of religions, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and so on. So the Christians are a very small minority,” he explained. “Christianity came right from the time of St. Thomas the Apostle, though it has not grown much.”

He explained that the Catholic Church in India was in constant dialogue with the other faiths and that it ran schools and charitable activities.

“Most of the Hindus who have been educated in our institutions are very appreciative of this, of what Christianity has done for them, and definitely even the Hindus who are looking at this event are joining hands with the Christians,” he noted.

“So I think it is a very positive moment and definitely it can also sow a lot of positive seeds among the hearts of the people, especially the Hindus, the Muslims and so on.”

Devasahayam, whose Christian name means Lazarus in Tamil, grew up in an affluent family in what is now India’s Tamil Nadu state. By his early 30s, he had been a soldier, an officer in the court of the Kingdom of Travancore, and in charge of the king’s treasury.

Through this work, he met a Dutch naval officer who became his friend. When Devasahayam began struggling with sadness over difficulties in his family, the officer first introduced him to the Old Testament story of Job and, over time, to Christianity as a whole.

Though conversion was illegal, Devasahayam soon knew he wanted to give himself to Christ. The naval officer introduced him to a Jesuit priest, who prepared him for baptism.

“And once Father Bouttari [Italus] was convinced that this man was not afraid of death, that he was ready even to give up his life for Christ, he says: ‘Let’s go ahead and let us baptize him,’” Pakkam noted.

The priest said that from his baptism at the age of 32, Devasahayam attended church, frequented the sacraments, evangelized others, and spoke against injustices.

Devasahayam’s wife and other family members converted to Christianity following his witness.

“How to live this holiness even in your ordinary family life — this man shows it,” Pakkam said. “He has first evangelized his family, then his friends... his colleagues. And this is what this saint is asking us: How much are you sharing Christ with the people around you?”

Devasahayam was not a mediocre Catholic, but gave 100% to living the faith and proclaiming Christ, the priest underlined.

Just four years after Devasahayam’s conversion, his faith was put to the test when he was arrested on false charges.

Instead of being killed right away, Devasahayam was tied up and dragged through the streets, where people spat on him and struck him with thorny sticks, as a warning to other Hindus to not become Catholic.

He was periodically tortured for years for refusing to submit to the Hindu rites and rituals.

“In fact, the Christians suffering in so many countries in the world, even today experiencing persecution, they should look up to him, draw strength and hope and courage from him,” Pakkam said.

“The story of his martyrdom is really very touching. So much pain, agony, that he suffered for almost three years. And his joy was there in full when he knew that he was going to offer himself for Christ.”

The soldiers guarding Devasahayam were so amazed by him and his faith, and the small miracles they witnessed, that they offered to let him escape. But he declined because he knew they would be punished.

On the night of Jan. 14, 1752, Devasahayam was taken from prison to a rocky hill, where he was shot three times. When he did not die, he was shot twice more, and then another three times.

His killers left his body in the jungle, hoping he would be consumed by animals. But after five days of searching, people who knew Devasahayam recovered his remains and buried him in the local church. His tomb is still in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in Nagercoil, southern India.

“I believe that all the agony that he had gone through, over the course of those three years, [gave] a powerful testimony,” Father Pakkam said. “The number of Christians ... increased at a very great level.”

“And so definitely I feel that the suffering that he has undergone and the great patience, the great zeal that he manifested, is a great lesson for us today.”

“For the rest of the world also, this saint can be a powerful intercessor. His commitment, his zeal for Christ can be also a great invitation for everyone to live their faith well.”

Catholic archdiocese in Nigeria announces death of kidnapped priest

Father Joseph Akete Bako. / Courtesy photo.

Kaduna, Nigeria, May 12, 2022 / 06:20 am (CNA).

A Catholic archdiocese in Nigeria on Wednesday announced the death of a priest who was kidnapped in March.

The Archdiocese of Kaduna said on May 11 that Father Joseph Akete Bako died more than a month after he was seized on March 8, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

Father Christian Okewu Emmanuel, chancellor of the archdiocese, said: “It is with a heavy heart, but with total submission to the will of God, that we announce the death of Rev. Fr. Joseph Aketeh Bako, which took place in the hands of his abductors between 18th and 20th of April 2022.”

“The fact of the circumstances leading to his death and the date of the incident have been carefully verified, hence this communication at this time.”

Bako, 48, was kidnapped by bandits following an attack on St. John’s Catholic Parish, where he served as pastor.

Before the archdiocese’s announcement, there were conflicting reports about the priest’s fate, with some sources indicating that Bako, who suffered from ill health, was tortured to death.

Father Emmanuel Anyanwu, the assistant pastor at St. John’s Catholic Parish, told the charity Aid to the Church in Need in April that Bako “suffered greatly before his death.”

“He was tortured because they were forcing him to pay a huge amount of ransom for his release. In this case, there was physical torture and beatings which caused him huge amounts of pain and agony,” Anyanwu said.

He added: “Because of his fragile health challenges, he couldn’t survive the torture.”

But Father Anthony Shawuya, deputy director of the Catholic Media Service Centre in the Archdiocese of Kaduna, told ACI Africa in a May 4 interview that he had not received an update on the priest’s condition.

“There were negotiations and efforts for his release but no news as to what has happened to him,” Shawuya said.

In an interview with ACI Africa shortly after the kidnapping, a priest who asked to remain anonymous provided details of the incident.

“Father Joseph Akete was abducted with his younger brother who visited him. The kidnapping happened around 1:30 a.m. Sadly, his security guard was killed,” the priest said in the March 8 interview.

In his May 11 statement, the chancellor of the Kaduna archdiocese conveyed the “deepest sympathies” of Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso to Bako’s family.

The funeral arrangements will be announced “as soon as they are ready,” Father Okewu said.

He added: “Kindly continue to pray for his peaceful repose, and for the consolation of the bereaved Christian community in the Archdiocese of Kaduna.”

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Agnes Aineah. It has been adapted by CNA.

Pope Francis: Low birth rate is a ‘social emergency’

Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 11, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 05:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis decried the low birth rate in Western countries on Thursday, describing it as an urgent social emergency and a “new poverty.”

“It is not immediately perceptible, like other problems that occupy the news, but it is very urgent: fewer and fewer children are being born, and this means impoverishing everyone’s future; Italy, Europe, and the West are impoverishing their futures,” Pope Francis said in a message to a May 12 event on the birth rate in Italy.

The pope’s message was read during the second edition of the meeting “The General State of the Birth Rate,” held in Rome on May 12-13. Pope Francis spoke at the meeting in 2021.

“Sorry that I cannot be among you physically this year,” he said. “But I will follow your work closely, because the issue of birth rate represents a real social emergency.”

“The General State of the Birth Rate” brought together political, business, and organization leaders to reflect on Italy’s demographic crisis, caused by one of the lowest birth rates in Europe: 1.24 births per woman.

“The data, the forecasts, the numbers are now known to all: we need concreteness,” Pope Francis said in his message.

“It is time to give real answers to families and young people: hope cannot and must not die of waiting.”

Francis said there was an invisible “existential periphery” in the West, consisting of the men and women who want to have children but are unable to achieve it.

Struggling to realize their dream of children, some people settle for “mediocre substitutes,” he added, such as work, cars, travel, and leisure time.

“The beauty of a family full of children is in danger of becoming a utopia, a dream difficult to realize,” he said.

“This is a new poverty that scares me,” the pope commented. “It is the generative poverty of those who discount the desire for happiness in their hearts, of those who resign themselves to watering down their greatest aspirations, of those who settle for little and stop hoping big.”

“Yes,” he continued, “it is a tragic poverty, because it affects human beings in their greatest wealth: bringing lives into the world to care for them, passing on to others the received existence with love.”

Hong Kong diocese ‘extremely concerned’ about ‘Cardinal Joseph Zen’s incident’

Cardinal Joseph Zen. / Rock Li via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2022 / 04:59 am (CNA).

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong said in a statement on Thursday that it was “extremely concerned” about “Cardinal Joseph Zen’s incident.”

“We have always upheld the rule of law. We trust that in the future we will continue enjoying religious freedom in Hong Kong under the Basic Law,” the statement said.

“We urge the Hong Kong Police and the judicial authorities to handle Cardinal Zen’s case in accordance with justice, taking into consideration our concrete human situation.”

The message concluded with a quote from Psalm 23: “As Christians, it is our firm belief that: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.’”

The statement, published on May 12, was not signed by Bishop Stephen Chow, the current bishop of Hong Kong.

Within minutes of the statement’s release, several people in Hong Kong expressed concern about its language.

Hong Kong-based writer Rachel Cheung questioned the use of the phrase “in accordance with justice,” adding: “because the laws are …”

Antony Dapiran, the author of “City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong,” highlighted the diocese’s use of the word “incident” in the title of its statement.

Cindy Wan, who is originally from Hong Kong, said: “Doesn’t sound like criticism. Any outrage? Condemnation?”

Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, was arrested on May 11 and released on bail hours later from Chai Wan Police Station on Hong Kong island.

Zen is believed to have been detained in his role as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

The 90-year-old, who served as Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop from 2002 to 2009, is an outspoken supporter of the pro-democracy movement.

In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”

Reuters reported that Zen and four others — Canadian-Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, academic Hui Po Keung, and former opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho — were arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces.”

Earlier this week, former security chief John Lee, a baptized Catholic, was named as Hong Kong’s next chief executive. Lee succeeds Carrie Lam, also a Catholic, who held the post since 2017.

The Vatican issued a brief statement on May 11 expressing concern at the reports of Zen’s arrest.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention,” the Holy See press office said.

Pope Francis: Migrants and refugees have ‘enormous potential’ to help society

Pope Francis visits a reception center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, Italy, on March 24, 2016. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 04:27 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that migrants and refugees have “enormous potential” to help society if they are given a chance.

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, issued May 12, the pope said history showed that new arrivals played a “fundamental role” in social and economic growth.

“This continues to be true in our own day. Their work, their youth, their enthusiasm, and their willingness to sacrifice enrich the communities that receive them,” he wrote.

“Yet this contribution could be all the greater were it optimized and supported by carefully developed programs and initiatives. Enormous potential exists, ready to be harnessed, if only it is given a chance.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees, instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, is celebrated annually on the last Sunday in September. This year it falls on Sept. 25.

The theme of the 108th World Migrant and Refugee Day is “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees.”

In his 1,200-word message, dated May 9, the pope described the presence of migrants and refugees as both “a great challenge” and “an immense opportunity.”

He noted that migration had enriched Catholic communities around the world.

“As we have seen, the arrival of Catholic migrants and refugees can energize the ecclesial life of the communities that welcome them,” he said. “Often they bring an enthusiasm that can revitalize our communities and enliven our celebrations.”

“Sharing different expressions of faith and devotions offers us a privileged opportunity for experiencing more fully the catholicity of the People of God.”

Pope Francis closed his World Day of Migrants and Refugees message with an appeal to young people to “build the future” together with migrants and refugees.

“We cannot leave to future generations the burden of responsibility for decisions that need to be made now, so that God’s plan for the world may be realized and his Kingdom of justice, fraternity, and peace may come,” he said.

The pope concluded with a prayer:

Lord, make us bearers of hope,
so that where there is darkness,
your light may shine,
and where there is discouragement,
confidence in the future may be reborn.

Lord, make us instruments of your justice,
so that where there is exclusion, fraternity may flourish,
and where there is greed, a spirit of sharing may grow.

Lord, make us builders of your Kingdom,
together with migrants and refugees
and with all who dwell on the peripheries.

Lord, let us learn how beautiful it is
to live together as brothers and sisters. Amen.

Senate again rejects sweeping federal abortion bill. Bishops relieved, Biden adamant.

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

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2022 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

An expansive abortion bill that would declare abortion a human right, undercut existing state pro-life laws, and force objecting doctors to perform abortions, again failed to pass the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

The Women’s Health Protection Act failed 49-51 by a largely party line vote, with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., voting against the bill. An almost identical version of the bill failed in a February vote by an identical margin.

While leading Catholic bishops called on Congress to stop pushing abortion, President Joe Biden called on voters to support candidates in favor of abortion rights in upcoming Senate races and pledged to sign the bill into law.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said May 11: “More than 60 million unborn children have already lost their lives to abortion, and countless women suffer from the physical and emotional trauma of abortion. This radical bill would add millions more to that tragic toll.”

They said the proposed legislation was “an utterly unjust and extreme measure that would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute.”

“We are relieved that the Senate vote to advance this bill failed for the second time in less than three months,” Lori and Dolan said.

While backers claimed the bill would have simply codified current Supreme Court abortion precedent, it in fact it would go far beyond and threaten existing laws which limit abortion.

Lori and Dolan’s response emphasized these details.

“This bill insists that elective abortion, including late-term elective abortion, is a ‘human right’ and ‘women’s health care’ -- something that should be promoted, funded, and celebrated,” they said. “S. 4132 is far more extreme than Roe v. Wade.”

“It would invalidate widely supported laws that protect women and unborn children from an unscrupulous abortion industry, would force all Americans to support abortion here and abroad with their tax dollars, and seeks to force religious hospitals and health care professionals to perform abortions against their beliefs,” said Lori and Dolan.

The bill would also have forced insurers and employers to cover for or pay for abortion.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a professed Catholic who was once publicly critical of legal abortion, blamed Senate Republicans for blocking the bill. His statement said that “fundamental rights are at risk at the Supreme Court.”

“This failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack – and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people,” he said.

While surveys indicate that many Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision, they simultaneously support limits on abortion that are not currently allowed. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to vote to return the abortion debate to the states this June.

“To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House,” Biden said. “If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law.”

Thirteen Catholic Senators, including Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., D-Penn., voted in favor of the bill.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said the legislation was “extreme” and “goes further than Roe.”

“I am confounded as to why the Democratic Party is pushing a bill that will allow an industry to avoid any governmental oversight and operate freely without health and safety protocols,” said Day, whose organization also emphasizes the need for government support for pregnant women and mothers.

“(Senate Majority Leader) Schumer wanted to put Senators on record and he may not like the outcome this fall,” Day said. “A vote against abortion extremism will bring voters to the polls--particularly in the states like Ohio, Georgia, and Arizona that are toss-ups.”

Though Manchin voted against the bill, he also made statements indicating he is in favor of codifying Roe.

“I’ve just thought this legislation we’ve had for 50 years… It’s precedent and law,” he said, according to CNN correspondent Manu Raju. Manchin nonetheless rejected the Women’s Health Act as an “expansion,” not a “codification” of Roe v. Wade.

The proposal was Democrats’ response to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, and related precedents.

The Senate vote drew criticism from Republicans.

“Americans overwhelmingly support commonsense pro-life protections and limits on abortion, but Democrats are doubling down on taxpayer-funded, unlimited abortion on demand up to the moment of birth,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

The non-partisan Susan B. Anthony List announced an ad buy to emphasize what the group said is an unpopular position.

“Pro-abortion Democrats are dramatically out of touch with the American people, who overwhelmingly reject abortion on demand until birth,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said, adding, “Radical pro-abortion lawmakers who shamefully advocate a ‘right’ to abortion at any time for any reason will see the consequences of their extremism at the ballot box this fall.”

While direct abortion is strongly rejected in Catholic teaching, Lori and Dolan emphasized that legal abortion is also contrary to Americans’ understanding of God-given rights.

“As a nation built on the recognition that every human being is endowed by its Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we implore Congress to stop pushing abortion as a solution to the needs of women and young girls, and instead embrace public policy that fully respects and facilitates these rights and the needs of both mother and child,” the bishops said.

Senator Tim Scott responds to claim that abortion helps low-income Black women

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) speaks during a U.S. Senate committee hearing May 11, 2022. / YouTube screenshot via Senate Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Committee

Washington D.C., May 11, 2022 / 15:21 pm (CNA).

When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claimed that abortion economically helps women — including low-income, Black women — one senator challenged her with his personal story. 

“I’ll just simply say that, as a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty, I am thankful to be here as a United States senator,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Tuesday.

He made his comments during a May 10 hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. At the hearing, Yellen testified as a witness and claimed that abortion enables women to succeed in the workforce.

“I believe that eliminating the right of women to make a decision about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades,” she said. “Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation.”

Yellen’s remarks followed a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. 

Roe v. Wade, Yellen claimed, enabled women to pursue an education, increase their earning potential, balance their families and careers, and benefit their planned children.

Studies show that “denying women access to abortion increase their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance,” Yellen added.

At a later point in the hearing, Scott asked her to clarify.

“Did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor force participation rate?” he asked.

The increased labor force participation rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work.

“To the guy who was raised by a single mom who worked long hours to keep us out of poverty — I think people can disagree on the issue of being pro-life or pro-abortion — but, in the end, I think framing it in the context of labor force participation is, just feels callous to me,” he added. “I think finding a way to have a debate around abortion in a meeting for the economic stability of our country is harsh.”

Yellen replied that she did not intend to come across as harsh. 

“In many cases, abortions are of teenage women, particularly low-income and often Black, who aren’t in a position to be able to care for children, have unexpected pregnancies, and it deprives them of the ability often to continue their education to later participate in the work force,” she said. “So there is a spillover into labor force participation. And it means that children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves.”

Scott responded that “there’s a lot of ways for us to address the issue about the child that’s here.”

“We can, at the same time, have a real conversation about increasing child tax credits that are refundable,” he said. “We can, at the same time, have a conversation about the opportunity to have a more robust system around the issue of child care, of early childhood education. We could have a conversation about financial literacy.”

At the end of the hearing, Scott stressed that millions of children face circumstances similar to his: being raised in poverty by single-parent households that are Black.

“Telling Black teenage moms that there’s only one alternative for them is a depressing and challenge message,” he said. “What I’m talking about is the importance of understanding the reality that even during tough financial times in households like the one I was raised, there is still hope.”

He ended, “I’m simply saying that the experience of so many of us, millions of us, in poverty, I conclude is a reason to be hopeful about what’s possible even for those incredibly powerful positive women making really hard choices.”

The argument that women rely on abortion to succeed economically is a common one made by abortion supporters. 


An amicus brief submitted by hundreds of professional women in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that could overturn Roe, argues that, instead, abortion harms women.

Documentary chronicles Bishop Michael Portier,  the 'Servant of the South'

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile, Ala., consecrated by Bishop Michael Portier in 1850. / DXR via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2022 / 13:28 pm (CNA).

In the early 19th century, what is now the southern United States was — at least from the Vatican’s perspective — largely empty and unknown. It was into this frontier that a young French clergyman ventured, seeking to serve the people of Alabama. 

A new documentary chronicles the life of Bishop Michael Portier, the first Bishop of Mobile and a giant in the history of Catholicism in the American south. 

Produced by the Archdiocese of Mobile and 4PM Media, “Servant of the South- The Life of Bishop Michael Portier” is set to air on EWTN on May 22 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. It is also available to view online, now. 

Portier, a Frenchman, was appointed to lead a vast swath of what is now the southern United States in the early 19th century. During his remarkable tenure, Portier oversaw the establishment of the first university in Alabama, founded a hospital that continues to serve patients to this day, and built Mobile’s cathedral. 

“His legacy is perseverance. He was planting the seeds of what we have now,” Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile said. 

“You can’t write the history of Alabama without mentioning the Catholic Church.” 

Born in Montbrison, France in 1795, Portier was a contemporary of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. Portier grew up under the French First Republic, the product of the French Revolution, when the Catholic Church was largely suppressed by the new government, and many were guillotined for their loyalty. The revolutionaries adopted a ten-day a week calendar, in an attempt to demote the importance of Sunday. 

Though none of Portier’s writings talk about this time of his life, he likely saw “a society in disarray,” said interviewee Dr. Charles Nolan, formerly the archivist for the New Orleans archdiocese. 

In 1801, a concordat between the Vatican and France allowed the country’s seminaries to reopen, and in 1815, Portier entered a seminary in Lyon which would become an incubator for priests being sent to the fledgling U.S. and other parts of the world. 

At the time, Bishop Louis William Valentine Dubourg, of St. Louis, was pleading to the seminarians in France for help in his diocese, but did not mince words about the miseries that they were likely to endure as missionaries in the harsh territory of North America. Despite his mother’s reluctance to let him become a missionary, Portier felt called to come and help to convert the people of this new land, and to lay down his life for them in a heroic fashion. 

Immediately upon arrival in the United States in 1817, Portier continued his studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, and then was called to New Orleans to minister to young people there. 

Portier was ordained a priest on September 29, 1818 in St. Louis, and was tasked with starting a Catholic school in New Orleans. Soon after, however, he was asked to minister to the people of the territory that is today Alabama and Florida. 

The territory was vast and sparsely populated. Portier traveled — with some difficulty — from town to town preaching, an event which attracted both Catholics and Protestants in the towns he visited. 

The territory was home to many free blacks, slaves, and mixed-race people. Portier himself had several slaves as housekeepers, but by all accounts treated them well. 

Portier’s priesthood was marked with challenges at every turn. At one point he fell ill and nearly died; at another, his church burned down and two other priests abandoned him. Desperate, he went back to France on a begging tour, and brought back some additional help. 

Eventually, the Vatican asked him to become the bishop of a new local Church, the Vicariate Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas. At Bishop DuBorg’s prompting, Portier wrote back to Rome saying he felt inadequate for the role, citing his youth and inexperience. But Pope Leo XII would not hear of it. 

Portier was consecrated a bishop, and in 1829 the vicariate was raised to the Diocese of Mobile.

Portier wrote about striving all the greater for his own sanctity, in order to be a “worthy instrument” of God’s will. 

As bishop, Portier established Spring Hill College in Mobile, with the goal of giving the Church an institutional presence that would serve students, including women, of all religions, and serve the greater community. The college was the first institution of higher learning in Alabama, and despite some setbacks over the years, continues to provide Catholic education to college students to this day. 

Portier ministered to the territory’s extreme poor during the late 1830s. He helped to establish a women’s charity to care for orphans, and the Daughters of Charity later took over the operation, helping with Mobile’s orphanage, hospital, and schools. 

During this time, the capital of Alabama moved several times as the territory gained more residents and the balances of power shifted. Portier made sure there was at least one Catholic Church in every capital of Alabama. 

After 13 years of work, on Dec. 8, 1850, Mobile’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated. The cathedral is, today, one of the oldest cathedral buildings still in use in the U.S.

On May 14, 1859, Portier died at the hospital he helped to found. His legacy was not only a planting of the Catholic faith in the hearts of many residents of Alabama, but also an establishment of an institutional presence for the Church in the form of a cathedral, parishes, a university, a hospital, and more. 

“Servant of the South- The Life of Bishop Michael Portier” can be viewed on EWTN on May 22 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, or viewed online.