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Italy's fledgling pro-life movement finds inspiration in US abortion fight

Rome, Italy, May 22, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- The Italian March for Life was held Saturday as thousands of people from Italy and around the world rallied and marched one mile through the center of Rome to protest legal abortion and to support the pro-life cause.

But forty-one years after the legalization of abortion in Italy, some members of the pro-life movement in the country look to the United States as an example of the fight that lies before them – and the progress that can be made in more than forty years of marching for life.

The Italian “Marcia per la Vita” was itself modelled after the U.S. March for Life in Washington, D.C., which is now in its 45th year; but March organizer Virginia Coda Nunziante said Italy seems to be much further from the possibility of overturning its abortion law.

Italy’s “law 194,” established in 1978, made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician. Since abortion’s legalization in Italy, it is estimated more than 6 million children have been aborted.

Nunziante referenced the Alabama’s law outlawing abortion in her final remarks at the March for Life May 18.

She called it a “first step” reached only after more than 40 years of dedication to the cause, and encouraged March participants to take energy from this fact to keep fighting the “great moral and civil battle” and to grow in determination “not to retreat” from the defense of innocent human life.

In comments to EWTN News, Nunziante said that “unfortunately, we’re not so close” to overturning legalized abortion in Italy, and that she sees part of the challenge to be the influence legal abortion has had on the culture.

“The law really enters in the minds of people, and especially young people,” she said, “so this is the reason why we want to have the March and we want to keep the debate on the social and political level.”

Nunziante, who has participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. several times, said she started the Italian version because she saw the impact of the U.S. March on encouraging a culture of life, especially among young people.

The March for Life in D.C. was also the inspiration behind the start of the Italian University Students for Life.

Chiara Chiessi, a student in Rome and the president of “Universitari Per La Vita,” said she was moved by the size of the pro-life demonstration in D.C. when she attended in 2016 and was struck particularly by the large participation of young people.

She told EWTN News that despite Italy’s strong cultural Catholicism, she finds the environment to be largely unsupportive of their group’s pro-life efforts.

“It is very, very difficult, because I think there is a crisis of faith,” Chiessi said, “so people don’t have the courage to show the reality of facts...” She also noted a lack of support from university chaplains in some cases.

Chiessi explained that praying or protesting outside abortion clinics, a common practice of some American pro-lifers, is only just beginning to take place in Italy, and culturally, she thinks many Italians are embarrassed to make such public demonstrations for the pro-life cause.

“It is not very, very easy, but we know that we have to go forward and not have fear about that,” she said.

Nunziante also noted a resistance among many Catholics in Italy to “go into the public square.”

She recalled the fear this generated when they first started the March for Life. But hearing Benedict XVI tell the U.S. bishops in November 2011 that Catholics should bring their voice to the public square encouraged them.

“So, we understood that it was the right moment to do this, so even if it is an effort, we have to do it,” she said.

Meanwhile, the March for Life in Italy continues to grow each year, with views towards leveraging international participation so “that Rome and the Roman March can become a hub for the whole world,” Nunziante said.

Home to the Vatican, “Rome is the capital of the Catholic world,” she argued. “So, I think that people from all the other countries, who are engaged in the pro-life movement, are very interested in being in Rome, because from Rome you can give a voice to the whole world.”

The generals who marched with 'Warriors' in Lourdes

Lourdes, France, May 22, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa, and Lt. Gen Chris Cavoli, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, are two of the highest-ranking members of the American military. And over the weekend, they joined the thousands of military pilgrims who traveled to Lourdes seeking healing and peace.

Harrigian and Cavoli were asked to join the official American delegation to the International Military Pilgrimage, Warriors to Lourdes. Warriors to Lourdes is a program of the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Although the two generals are both Catholic, neither had been to Lourdes previously. Both explained to CNA how their faith impacts their military career, and what the pilgrimage meant to them.

Harrigian has been in his current position for only a few weeks, but joined the Air Force in 1985 and attended the Air Force Academy.

“I wanted to fly airplanes,” he explained, which led to him applying to the Academy.

Harrigian was unfamiliar with the story of Lourdes prior to this trip, but he said his wife taught him about the significance of the site, and thought the pilgrimage would be fruitful for the family, for a multitude of reasons.

“She thought it would be a great opportunity, first to experience it but also to be with some of our warriors here and have an opportunity to interact with them,” said Harrigian.

The size and scope of the pilgrimage came as a surprise to the general, who repeatedly used the word “extraordinary” to describe the event. Approximately 12,000 servicemembers from about 40 countries traveled to Lourdes.

"The first thing I would say is, I didn't truly understand the breadth of all the nations that participated in this,” he said. “And to have an opportunity to interact with the different nations, the families, the warriors, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that I'm not sure I truly appreciated as I read about it.”

“But now that I'm here I find it to be an extraordinary experience," he added. Part of this experience included talking to senior French military officers and members of the Italian military.

“The interaction has been extraordinary,” he said. “It’s been a great opportunity to interact with them on a personal basis and get a sense of what Lourdes means to them as well.”

Harrigian said that he considers his Catholic faith to be an important facet that helps him maintain balance in his life and helps him with his military duties. He told CNA he is “always praying for our troops that are deployed down-range.”

“Reflecting on what your faith brings to you, your background, and having that underpin who you are is very important to any person,” he said. “And for me personally, it really helps in the command role that I have now.”

Cavoli is also visiting Lourdes for the first time. Unlike Harrigian, he was very familiar with the story of Lourdes and had been wanting to visit.

“I’ve been hearing about [Lourdes] my whole life, since I was a kid, so this is a unique opportunity to get to do something I’ve wanted to do so much,” he said.

Cavoli told CNA that he finds his faith to be “intertwined” with his military career, and calls upon his faith to provide the graces needed to carry out the duties of his job.

“Of course, I have my strictly military duties, which are mainly secular in nature, but the moral compass that religion gives me, the moral compass and the ethical fortitude, as well as the emotional strength to deal with what is a pretty hard profession, that helps me a great deal,” he said.

Additionally, Cavoli credits his faith with giving him the wisdom to make the choices in tough decisions, as well as “the strength to carry on when things are hard.”

One of the benefits of the International Military Pilgrimage is that it gives servicemembers a chance to be surrounded by people who have similar experiences and can understand and empathize.

“It gives folks time to be together and to share their thoughts. In this case, in the context of their faith, which adds strength to the discussion.”

Of course, soldiers, sailors, and airmen train and deploy to defend lives and to risk their own in the service of others. But an inherent truth of military service is that it can involve armed conflict and the taking of human life.

Even in pursuit of the noblest cause or in defense against the clearest of evil, killing and death leave marks on the consciences of all those involved. The “moral injuries” of armed conflict can be as real and as in need of healing as physical wounds.

“Moral injury is a serious thing," Cavoli said, offering that civilians could best help in the healing process by not make assumptions about the experiences of servicemen and women. Listening comes before understanding, he said.

During the pilgrimage, there were major events for all pilgrims, and smaller events for subsets. Both Cavoli and Harrigian said that they considered a shared Mass for English-speaking pilgrims, including servicemen and chaplains from the U.S., the U.K., and Ireland at the Lourdes Grotto, to be a highlight of the journey.

“The Mass at the Grotto was absolutely moving. It was beautiful,” said Cavoli. Afterwards, he joined a group for the Stations of the Cross, something he said added up to a “beautiful, beautiful morning” that was “just perfect.”

Harrigian called the Mass was “a great chance to just reflect upon everything that this experience brings to the entire community of warriors that are here, along with our families.”

And while neither had visited the baths when they spoke to CNA, both were carrying specific intentions with them.

“Personally, internal to our family, I’m always looking for grace and the opportunity to appropriately look over all those that I work with and work for, in the role that I currently have,” Harrigian told CNA. He said he was extremely grateful to the Knights of Columbus for orchestrating Warriors to Lourdes, which he called “an incredible event.”

Cavoli had similar intentions, saying he would be praying for “Peace, my soldiers, [and] my family.” He has appreciated his time in Lourdes, saying it was a place that made him feel “very calm” and fully aware of the presence of God.

“It’s just a wonderful pilgrimage,” he said.

Investigative authority continues to fight misuse of Vatican financial entities

Vatican City, May 22, 2019 / 11:49 am (CNA).- The Vatican's Financial Information Authority said in their annual report Tuesday that they continue to catch cases of fraud involving the city state's financial institutions, including a case of money laundering.

The report, presented to journalists March 21, showed that there were 56 Suspicious Activity Reports filed with the AIF in 2018, down from 150 in 2017.

SARs filed over the last three years have led the AIF to investigate cases of money laundering and financial fraud within Vatican financial entities.

Among these appears to be the case of Argentine Msgr. Patrizio Benvenuti, who was arrested and charged with financial fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering in 2016.

Sums worth around 9 million euros were seized from Benvenuti’s non-profit organization, Kepha Invest. It is believed he defrauded some 300 people out of around 30 million euros ($33.5 million).

The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to supervise the Vatican’s financial activity and prevent and counter money laundering. It investigates suspicious activity and then passes the information on to the competent authorities for prosecution.

The competent authority may be a foreign state or the Vatican’s Office of the Promoter of Justice.

Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and any non-profit organizations which have registered offices in the Vatican City State fall under the supervision of the AIF, which may take measures to counter and prevent money laundering and terrorism financing as well as undertake “prudential supervision” of financial activities.

The AIF also monitors and reviews actions carried out by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings, and the Institute for Religious Works, which is commonly called “the Vatican bank,” though a misnomer.

During 2018, the AIF referred 11 cases to the Office of the Promoter of Justice. The report gave limited to no information on the conclusion of those cases. The report gave four example cases from the last three years, the investigations of which were completed in 2018, but without identifying information.

One of the examples given likely refers to the case of Angelo Proietti, who was convicted by a Vatican court in December 2018 of money laundering and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. The conviction is currently under appeal. This was the Vatican tribunal’s first conviction for money laundering.

Another example likely refers to the case against Angelo Caloia, president of the IOR from 1989-2009, and his lawyer, Gabriele Liuzzo, who were indicted March 5, 2018, on accusations of having embezzled money from Vatican real estate sales during the years 2001-2008.

The report also lists the AIF’s uncovering of a fraudulent “branch” of the IOR in Spain. The alleged non-profit organization presented itself as a canon law foundation, like the IOR is, and used the name of the Vatican institution to elicit donations. The head of the network was also falsely posing as a diplomat.

According to the report, the AIF collaborated with the Financial Intelligence Unit in Spain and “the beneficial owners of the company were arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy, and sums of money and valuables, including firearms, were seized.”

Also, in 2018, the AIF exchanged information with counterpart authorities in foreign jurisdictions in 488 cases, and signed eight new “Memoranda of Understanding,” meaning it now has agreements with financial intelligence units and supervisory authorities in 57 countries.

René Bruelhart, president of the AIF, told journalists May 21, “if we look back in 2018, I think it has been a very positive and also encouraging year."

While he said challenges still exist, now they have the systems in place to tackle them. “At this point, I think a fully functioning system has been implemented and achieved,” he said. “The path we are walking on has become a well paved one... and we continue moving forward.”

Pivonka appointed Franciscan University president

Steubenville, Ohio, May 22, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- Franciscan University of Steubenville announced that Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, has been appointed the university’s seventh president.

“It’s both humbling and an honor to be chosen to lead Franciscan University of Steubenville,” Pivonka said in a May 22 statement.

“Over 30 years ago, I first arrived at Franciscan as an undergrad and received an outstanding education as well as life-changing spiritual formation as part of a dynamic, Catholic intellectual and faith community,” he added.

Pivonka will assume presidential duties immediately, and be formally installed as president at a date not yet determined.

A 1989 graduate of the university, the priest has a long affiliation with the school. He served in 1998 and 1999 as assistant to Fr. Michael Scanlan, and is closely associated with Scanlan’s tenure at the university.  

Scanlan is the long-time university president who is credited with imbuing a failing regional college with a sense of “dynamic orthodoxy,” introducing the charismatic renewal to its campus, stabilizing the college financially, and attracting faculty and students from across the country.

Pivonka played a key role in one of Scanlan’s major initiatives: the establishment of the “household” system at the university. Households, small single-gender, dorm-based faith communities, were among the aspects of university life Scanlan introduced in order to support the faith formation of students. Pivonka served as director of household support from 1996 to 1998.

The priest has also served as director of the university’s well-known youth conferences, a professor of theology, director of the school’s Austria program, and as vice president for mission and planning from 2003 to 2005.

In recent years, the priest has led Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic initiative of his Francscan province, focused on conversion, spiritual formation, and the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics. In that role, he produced “The Wild Goose” video series on the Holy Spirit, as well as other documentaries and pastoral videos.

Pivonka “brings a unique array of perspective, experience, and qualifications to this role. His work as a nationally known preacher and evangelist combined with prior senior-level administrative experience at Franciscan will serve the University well,” the university’s board chairman, Fr. Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, said in a March 22 statement.

In addition to an undergraduate degree from Franciscan University, Pivonka has an MA in theology from Washington Theological Union, a doctorate in education from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

The priest’s appointment follows the tenure of Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, who announced last month that he would resign after nearly six years in the role.

David DeWolf, vice chair of the university’s board of trustees, said that after Sheridan’s resignation, the university board searched for “ a president who was led by the Holy Spirit, a champion for dynamic orthodoxy, and an exceptionally strong executive who understands and values the unique culture and demands of academia and the importance of strong collaboration between the president and the faculty.”

“After significant prayer and a robust interview process, it quickly became clear that Father Dave Pivonka possesses all of these qualities,” DeWolf said.

Pivonka takes the reins after the university has faced questions about the handling of historical sexual harassment cases, and its manner of addressing sexual assault claims made by students. Scanlan, in particular, has been criticized for his apparent response to allegations of sexual misconduct made against a fellow Franciscan priest.

In his last year as president, Sheridan also faced criticism from some faculty members and internet-based groups and blogs, who questioned his commitment to ensuring a faithfully Catholic approach to university education, especially following a January incident in which a professor was found to have used a text with inflammatory passages – termed "blasphemous" and "obscene" by critics – for an advanced reading course.

Sheridan apologized to those disturbed by the text’s use, and highlighted the importance of forming students “to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today.”

Pivonka said May 22 that he is eager to being his new appointment.

“A lot has changed in our culture in the last 30 years, but Franciscan University continues its mission to provide a superior education in a vibrant faith community where students and parents alike can be confident in their choice of Franciscan University.”

States sue over HHS' stronger conscience protections for doctors, nurses

Washington D.C., May 22, 2019 / 09:55 am (CNA).- An array of states and cities filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a new Department of Health and Human Services rule allowing medical professionals to refuse to take part in procedures because of religious or conscientious objections.

The suit filed May 21 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York claims the conscience provision illegally favors healthcare workers over patients.

The HHS rule, announced May 2 and published May 21 in the Federal Register, strengthens a series of laws intended to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses. It is due to take effect two months from its publication in the Federal Register.

Under the rule, medical providers may opt out of direct participation, as well as having to refer patients to other providers who will perform procedures to which they object, such as abortion and sterilization.

Roger Severino, director of the HHS' new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, has said the rule “ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”

“Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law,” he stated. “Finally, laws prohibiting government funded discrimination against conscience and religious freedom will be enforced like every other civil rights law.”

Abortion activists have said that the new rule will severely curtail access to such procedures in rural and other communities.

New York is leading the suit against the new rule; its co-plaintiffs are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, Chicago, New York City, and Cook County, Ill.

The plaintiffs say the rule would force some healthcare facilities to hire more staff in case there are too many conscientious objectors to provide requested procedures.

California filed a separate lawsuit against the rule, saying it “impedes access to basic care” and “encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients.”

San Francisco also filed a suit against the rule earlier this month.

The text of the rule acknowledges that several submissions were made during consultation regarding the possible limitation on access to abortion and sterilization in some communities, saying these submissions proved the inadequacy of previous conscience protections.

“The Department observed that it was contradictory to argue, as many commenters did, both that the rule would decrease access to care and that the then‐current conscience protections for providers were sufficient,” the rule reads.

“If the Department’s new rule would decrease access to care because of an increase in providers’ exercise of conscientious objections, it would seem that the statutory protections that existed before the regulation did not result in providers fully exercising their consciences as protected by law.”

Pope Francis prays for China invoking Mary Help of Christians

Vatican City, May 22, 2019 / 03:56 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday asked Our Lady Help of Christians to intercede for Chinese Catholics, whom he said continue to believe and hope amid trials.

“Dear faithful in China, our Heavenly Mother will help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, keeping you always united in the communion of the universal Church,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square May 22 following his weekly Wednesday audience.

The pope expressed his closeness and affection for all Catholics in China ahead of Friday’s feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a Marian devotion particularly venerated in Shanghai’s Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan.

Pope Benedict XVI established the custom of praying for China on the Marian feast in 2007, and composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan for the occasion.

This year Pope Francis’ prayer for unity with Chinese Catholics has added significance following the signing of a provisional agreement between Beijing and the Holy See in September 2018.

While the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement have not been made public, Vatican officials have said that the pact was intended to unify the underground Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

The Chinese Communist Party government has continued to persecute Chinese Catholics and other religious believers following the agreement by demolishing Marian shrines and forbidding religious practice for anyone under the age of 18.

Pope Francis offered his blessing for Catholics in China, whom he said “continue to believe, hope, and love” amid “daily labors and trials.”

The pope concluded Wednesday the weekly catechesis he has provided on the Our Father prayer since 2018. He said that the Gospels describe how Jesus lived out the Our Father prayer throughout his life.

“For example, on the night of Gethsemane Jesus prays in this way, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will,’” he said.

“How can we fail to recognize in this prayer, however brief, a trace of the Our Father?” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis said that the Holy Spirit is at the center of Christian prayer found in the New Testament.

“The Holy Spirit makes us capable of praying as children of God,” he said. 

“A Christian can pray in every situation,” Pope Francis said. “And to the Father we never cease to tell of our brothers and sisters in humanity, because none of them, especially the poor, remain without a consolation and a portion of love.”

'If you want to be happy for the rest of your life' - Study finds women of faith most satisfied in marriage

Denver, Colo., May 22, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A new study examining the correlation between religion and marital happiness found that women who are part of a highly religious, traditional couple are most likely to report being happy in marriage, as well as sexually satisfied in their relationship.

In addition, a woman in a highly religious couple was most likely to report that she and her spouse share responsibility for important household decisions, rather than one spouse making all the family’s decisions.  

The study of families in 11 countries, conducted by the Institute for Family Studies, found that “highly religious couples in heterosexual relationships” enjoy happier marriages and more sexual satisfaction than less religious, mixed, or secular couples.

At the same time, however, religious couples are not any less likely to experience domestic violence than are less religious or secular couples, the study found.

“In many respects, this report indicates that faith is a force for good in contemporary family life in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania,” the authors, made up of a mix of sociologists, professors and researchers, wrote. Many of the religious respondents to the survey cited family prayer as an important factor in a flourishing family.

“Men and women who share an active religious faith, for instance, enjoy higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction compared to their peers in secular or less/mixed religious relationships. They also have more children and are more likely to marry. At the same time, we do not find that faith protects women from domestic violence in married and cohabiting relationships.”

The 11 countries studied were Argentina, Australia, Chile, Canada, Colombia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and the study drew on data from the World Values Survey (WVS) and the Global Family and Gender Survey (GFGS). Authors included those affiliated with Brigham Young University and Pew Research Center.

The authors focused on four outcomes regarding marriage: relationship quality, fertility, domestic violence, and infidelity. They note that many societies are experiencing a general turning away from “traditional” family life as fewer people marry and have children, and more people cohabitate or wait to marry later than in the past.

“Faith may buffer against this post-familial turn, both by attaching particular meaning and importance to family life and by offering norms and networks that foster family solidarity,” the authors wrote in the introduction.  

“But these questions are also important given that religion may be a force for ill—legitimating gender inequality or violence in the family—a concern that has taken on particular salience in light of recent headlines about religion, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse.”

Relationship satisfaction

The researchers defined “relationship quality” in terms of several factors, including a couple’s reported overall satisfaction, how important they view the relationship in their life, their satisfaction with their sex lives, and whether or not important household decisions are decided jointly or by just one of the partners.

In the sample used, 19% of couples reported never attending religious services, 60% attended only minimally, and 21% attended regularly.

Both women and men in “highly religious” couples— i.e. regular attendees— reported significantly greater satisfaction in their relationship than did both the other groups, with liberal, secular couples running a close second.

The difference was especially notable for women: women in “highly religious” relationships were  about 50% more likely to report that they are “strongly satisfied” with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts.

“For women, then, there is J-Curve in relationship quality, with secular progressive women doing comparatively well, women in the middle doing less well,and highly religious women reporting the highest quality relationships,” the authors wrote.

“Among men, highly religious traditional men were found to be significantly higher in relationship quality than men in shared secular progressive and less religious progressive relationships.”

In addition, women in highly religious couples were most likely to report that she and her spouse practice joint decision-making in their relationship.

The researchers assigned a “relationship quality” score in order to compare different religious affiliations in their sample, with a higher score representing greater overall satisfaction. Catholic couples sampled reported an overall score of 15.83, which is equal to the score reported by Muslims and slightly higher than the score for nonreligious couples.

Protestants and Latter-Day Saints lead the table with scores of 16.36 and 17.24, respectively.

“In listening to the happiest secular progressive wives and their religiously conservative counterparts, we noticed something they share in common: devoted family men,” the authors wrote in a New York Times op-ed accompanying the release of the study.

“Both feminism and faith give family men a clear code: They are supposed to play a big role in their kids’ lives. Devoted dads are de rigueur in these two communities. And it shows: Both culturally progressive and religiously conservative fathers report high levels of paternal engagement.”

Relationship to domestic violence

The study found that “women in highly religious couples are neither more nor less likely to be victims of IPV [Intimate Partner Violence], and men in highly religious couples are neither more nor less likely to be perpetrators of IPV.”

Domestic violence— including hysical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behaviors— is neither more nor less prevalent among religious couples than among nonreligious ones, they concluded. Infidelity was highest among men in mixed or less religious couples than any other, however.

“Although women in less/mixed religious couples have a 26% probability of ever having been the victim of violence in their relationship, compared to a 21% probability for women in highly religious couples, and a 23% probability for women in shared secular couples, none of these differences are statistically significant,” the authors note.

Religion’s and fertility

In terms of fertility, the study found that people aged 18-49, who “attend religious services regularly have 0.27 more children than those who never, or practically never, attend,” and thus  “those with egalitarian gender role attitudes are less likely to be married and have slightly fewer children.”

The authors also examine a theory, which they say is common among academics in their field, that a shift in many societies toward greater gender equality, which often takes the form of married women continuing to seek work outside the home, may actually help to raise the fertility rate back to replacement levels in countries where it is especially low.

“In modern societies where women typically have high demands in the public (paid work) sphere of their lives, support from partners is necessary to make bearing two children commonplace,” the authors explained.

“Today, this support often comes in the form of a father involved at home with his family. If women commonly carry a “second shift” of work after they get home from paid work, they are more likely to retreat from childbearing than if they have a supportive partner on the home front...it is men’s sharing of the second shift—their involvement at home—that is expected to support replacement fertility.”

In contrast to this theory, however, the authors’ research demonstrated that those who hold egalitarian gender role attitudes have far fewer children than people of faith.

“Individuals who support workplace equality, those who embraced a progressive gender role ideology, actually had significantly fewer children than those who supported favoring men when jobs were scarce,” they noted.

Even in areas such as Europe where fertility rates are low, across the board people of faith have more children than their secular counterparts, they found.

“Across low-fertility countries in the Americas, Europe, East Asia, and Oceania, highly religious people are not decreasing in number, and neither are their more traditional gender role attitudes impeding their fertility,” the authors concluded in that chapter.

“We have shown that people of faith contribute toward sustainable fertility in modern low-fertility societies.”

 

Florida Catholic Conference asks governor to halt execution of serial killer

Tallahassee, Fla., May 21, 2019 / 05:38 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Florida are calling on the state’s governor to spare the life of Bobby Joe Long, a convicted serial killer who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday.

“Although [Long] caused much harm, society has been safe from his aggressive acts in the decades of his incarceration. Without taking his life, society can be protected while he endures the alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, in a May 20 letter to Governor Ron DeSantis.

Long has been on death row since 1985 and is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 23.

He pleaded guilty to killing eight women in and near Tampa Bay during an eight-month span in 1984. He also claimed to have raped dozens of women.

Long’s lawyer has argued that the 65 year old is mentally ill and suffers from epilepsy, which could lead to him having a seizure when the lethal injection drugs are administered. The lawyer said that Long is constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty.

The Florida Supreme Court recently denied Long’s appeal on procedural grounds.

On behalf of the state’s bishops, Sheedy asked the governor to consider commuting the sentence to life without parole.

“Floridians around the state are gathering in prayer for all who have been harmed by Mr. Long’s actions, for him, and for an end to the use of the death penalty. We also pray for you as you consider this request,” he said.

Sheedy acknowledged the heinous nature of Long’s crimes but said that capital punishment will not further public safety.

Since Long was sentenced, Sheedy said, modern medicine has gained a greater understanding of brain trauma and its effects on behavior. He highlighted the history of Long’s brain injuries.

“His attorneys have filed briefs that call attention to the multiple traumas he experienced throughout his life, including the motorcycle accident he suffered in 1974. That incident profoundly affected him and his behaviors. It contributed to his receiving a disability rating from the military, from which he was honorably discharged,” said Sheedy.

Even without these mitigating circumstances, the Florida Catholic Conference would still oppose the death penalty for Long, he said, pointing to a change in the Catehcism of the Catholic Church last year to hold the death penalty as inadmissible.

“The death penalty is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person and denies the possibility of redemption,” Sheedy said.

“Please promote a consistent pro-life ethic in our state. The cycle of violence – to which Mr. Long’s acts have contributed – must end. His execution would only perpetuate it.”

Democratic governor of Louisiana says he will sign heartbeat bill

Baton Rouge, La., May 21, 2019 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- The governor of Louisiana - a Catholic Democrat - says he will sign a bill banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, if the legislation arrives on his desk.

“My inclination is to sign it,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards, according to the Monroe News Star.

“It's consistent with my unblemished pro-life record in my years as a legislator and governor,” he said earlier this month.

Last year, Edwards signed a bill to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The governor has cited his Catholic faith as influencing his pro-life beliefs.

The bill still needs approval by the House. If enacted into law, it would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy. Similar laws have been passed in several other states this year, including Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio.

While the national Democratic platform is clear in its support for legal abortion, Edwards said on his monthly radio show that his views align with many members of his party in Louisiana.

“I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that's not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Edwards ran for governor on a pro-life platform. In a TV advertisement in 2015, his wife Donna had spoke about her first pregnancy. She said they were pressured to have an abortion by the doctor after they found out their daughter had spina bifida. They couple refused, and their daughter is now married and employed as a school counselor.

“I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first child when the doctor discovered she had Spina Bifida and encouraged me to have an abortion. I was devastated, but John Bel never flinched. He just said ‘No, no we are going to love this baby no matter what’,” said Donna in the video.

Edwards is up for re-election this year. According to the AP, his Republican opponents U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone have tried to associate him with the abortion advocacy of the national Democratic party.

But the governor rejects that characterization.

“This is not an easy issue to pigeonhole people - or especially me - on, at least, because I don't think the labels really work,” Edwards said.

Pennsylvania Catholic church vandalized with pro-choice graffiti

Philadelphia, Pa., May 21, 2019 / 03:54 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in Pennsylvania was vandalized with pro-choice graffiti over the weekend as the abortion debate escalates around the country, following the passage of a major abortion law in Alabama.

Parishioners at Notre Dame de Lourdes parish in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania were greeted at Sunday Mass by messages that had been spray-painted on the church’s doors and outside walls, according to CBS Philly.

A message painted in black on the front doors read: “You do not have the right to decide how others live.” Another message on the side of the church read: “#ProChoice.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A church in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DelawareCounty?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DelawareCounty</a> was vandalized with abortion rights graffiti. <a href="https://twitter.com/JoeHoldenCBS3?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@joeholdencbs3</a> has the story: <a href="https://t.co/MTdrO6GehW">https://t.co/MTdrO6GehW</a></p>&mdash; CBS Philly (@CBSPhilly) <a href="https://twitter.com/CBSPhilly/status/1130311097733582848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 20, 2019</a></blockquote>
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“It was very shocking to come up to the church and see that,” Jessica Prince told CBS Philly. “I’d have to say the first half of Mass was me crying the whole time because I was so upset somebody would do that to the church.”

“If people wanted to come and stand outside our church and protest our beliefs, go for it,” Prince added, “but vandalizing a property, I think, is taking it way too far.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia told CBS Philly in a statement that security footage of the incident had been found and handed over to police, who were investigating the incident.

“...the parish will cooperate with law enforcement as it investigates the incident. This afternoon, parishioners successfully removed the graffiti,” the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said.

In February of this year, an incident in which a man threw a statue of Mary into the trash and damaged the statue at a Brooklyn parish was investigated as a hate crime by authorities.

The graffiti incident comes after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that will outlaw nearly all abortions in the state. The law is intended to directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared it unconstitutional for states to prohibit abortions.

The Human Life Protection Act (HB314) will make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense for doctors, though women would not face criminal charges for undergoing an abortion.

It also comes just weeks after Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims posted videos to Twitter in which he harassed and doxed multiple people, including three minors, who were praying quietly outside of a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia.

Sims later apologized for violating Planned Parenthood’s policy of not engaging protestors, although he did not apologize to the woman he had confronted.