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Eucharistic congress ‘a moment of unity’ for the U.S. Church, Bishop Cozzens says

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who spearheaded the National Eucharistic Revival and congress taking place in Indianapolis from July 17-21, 2024, takes questions from the media. / Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 20, 2024 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Amid divisions in the United States and within the Catholic Church, the National Eucharistic Congress is “a moment of unity” for American Catholics, Bishop Andrew Cozzens told CNA.

In an interview at the congress in Indianapolis on July 19, the bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, who spearheaded the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, observed that a fruit of the congress has been “a real experience of unity.”

“Our society is wrought with division and especially American society with the individualism that breeds division,” Cozzens said.

“Unity in the Church is really essential for us today because that attitude of division in our society affects our Church, and it affects it dramatically,” he added.

More than 50,000 Catholics from all 50 states who speak more than 40 languages are present at the congress, which features keynote speeches and Eucharistic adoration in the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

“What’s beautiful is we are united here with our bishops. It was the bishops who called us together. We are here because we are Catholic and we share the same faith,” the bishop said.

On Saturday morning, throngs of the faithful packed together in the NFL stadium for a Syro-Malabar liturgy. The Syro-Malabar Church is an Eastern Catholic rite primarily celebrated in India in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Tim del Castillo from California described the experience of attending the Syro-Malabar liturgy as “a very powerful spiritual moment.”

At the end of the nearly two-hour liturgy, the hundreds of concelebrating priests and bishops processed out the corner of the stadium where the football players usually run onto the field at the beginning of the game, he said, and the people spontaneously started clapping and even cheering for the bishops.

“You could feel the support of the laypeople and everybody in the Catholic Church for our bishops who are our leaders — even though we don’t always agree with them necessarily on everything, they are our leaders, they are our fathers,” Castillo said.

“These are the ministers of our sacraments that are going out into the world for us laypeople and giving us the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

For Castillo, the National Eucharistic Congress has “absolutely” been an experience of Church unity, especially with the opportunities each day for Catholics to pray together at different liturgies, including the Ruthenian-Byzantine rite, the Traditional Latin Mass, and youth Masses with praise and worship.

“You have all these Catholics who are all here to worship the Lord, and it’s okay that we’re doing it in different ways,” he said.

“And the center of it all is the adoration chapel across the street. Jesus in the Eucharist is where all these graces are flowing from,” he added.

Each day of the National Eucharistic Congress, the perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapel has been full of people of all ages kneeling and praying in silence. 

In the opening ceremony of the congress, Cozzens held up the Blessed Sacrament in a 4-foot monstrance in the center field of the football stadium and led tens of thousands of people in prayer in adoration of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Reflecting on the moment, the bishop said: “It was mainly an experience of gratitude to the Lord. I’m just so grateful to the Lord for his faithfulness and his provision and his love for each of us and for love for all these people.”

An invitation to find healing in Jesus: Day 3 of the National Eucharistic Congress

Father Boniface Hicks, O.S.B., a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, processes the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 20, 2024 / 09:27 am (CNA).

Attendees at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis were urged Friday night to approach Jesus just as people approached him in the Gospels: with their sins and brokenness, seeking healing. 

Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, carried the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. Kneeling before the Eucharist, Hicks reminded the crowd of Jesus’ great and freeing love for every person. 

“He loves you. He made you. He desired you. He chose you. He knit you together with love, with his own hands in your mother’s womb. You are a masterpiece of his loving creativity. He sees you. He gazes on you now with love. He delights in you. I want to invite you on a new journey of healing,” Hicks prayed before the silent, kneeling crowd of 50,000. 

“He sees, in your whole life, a golden thread of goodness. He made you in his own image, and you’ve never lost that. That golden thread of goodness has continued even through the deepest sorrows, the darkest moments … Even in times of weakness, in times of sins and failures, times that you were hurt, and times that you hurt others, he wants to bring healing. Healing for your hurts, healing for your failures. And so I invite you to open your heart to his healing love.”

Hicks invited the crowd to pray a litany — a series of petitions to God — focused on healing. The first response was “Jesus, heal my heart with your love.” The second was “Jesus, come close to me.” The third was “Please forgive me, Jesus.” And the fourth was “Jesus, help me to believe.”

“Let us pray for courage as we hold the hurting places in our hearts before Jesus’ loving gaze,” the priest said before solemnly processing the Eucharist around the stadium.  

Hicks had previously told the National Catholic Register that his purpose in offering the healing prayers is to “help people open their hearts to how they can invite Jesus not only physically closer but also closer to those places where they carry insecurities and fears, tears and wounds from the past, as well as places where we have failed through our own sin.”

“I think there’s a temptation to reduce these things to an intellectual exercise, and I think the design of the organizers, and certainly my desire, is to let it be a real personal encounter that reaches the heart,” Hicks said ahead of the service. 

Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, processes the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, processes the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Before the adoration session, Sister Josephine Garrett of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth spoke of the importance of repenting of sin, quoting her community’s foundress, who said that God is pleased with “a soul who is susceptible to many falls, but who, knowing her weakness, turns to God in humility.”

“Tonight, I am begging you on behalf of Jesus Christ … tonight is a night of healing, but the healing begins with repentance,” the popular podcasting sister, who is also a licensed mental health counselor, said.

“No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine, and what I think, say, do, and achieve in my life spills over into that of others, for better or for worse. And this is good news. The healing that you and I long to see in the body of Christ — it begins with my repentance, with your repentance.”

The congress, the first such event to be held in the United States since World War II, is the fruit of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ multiyear project of Eucharistic Revival. The initiative aims to galvanize Catholics in their faith and love for the Eucharist as preparation for a special nationwide year of mission. Catholics young and old, from all across the country, are in attendance. The energy was high ahead of the keynotes last night, with an impromptu mosh pit forming in front of the stage during a high-energy worship song. 

Before the keynotes, the crowd heard from Paula Umaña, a former top-ranked tennis player from Costa Rica who lost the use of her legs due to a neurological condition. Today, she credits her family’s prayers and Mary’s intercession with helping her restore her ability to walk with the help of special leg devices. She appeared before the crowd with her son, Charles, who told the crowd: “When it seems impossible, run to Jesus.”

Paula Umaña, a former top-ranked tennis player from Costa Rica who lost the use of her legs due to a neurological condition, appears with her son Charles at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Paula Umaña, a former top-ranked tennis player from Costa Rica who lost the use of her legs due to a neurological condition, appears with her son Charles at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Today, Saturday, will have as a highlight a massive Eucharistic procession through downtown Indianapolis, beginning at the convention center and ending at the Indiana War Memorial. 

At tonight’s Revival Session, attendees will hear from Bishop Robert Barron, Gloria Purvis, Tim Glemkowski, and Jonathan Roumie, and will have praise and worship led by acclaimed musician Matt Maher. 


National Conference for Single Catholics promises to deepen faith, foster relationships

Participants at NCSC 2023 in Plymouth, Michigan. / Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jul 20, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The upcoming 2024 National Conference for Single Catholics promises to embolden the faith of participants who, as single people, seek to discover through fellowship a deepened relationship with Christ the bridegroom — and perhaps even a like-minded spouse.

Anastasia Northrop, who started the annual event more than 20 years ago, told CNA that it provides practical aids for growing in faith and forming lasting relationships.

This year, the conference will be held Aug. 16–18 in Las Vegas and feature opportunities for worship, prayer, and sacraments but also dancing, socials, and exhibits.

“There was a template for dating in my grandparents’ time, but now there isn’t because of the hookup culture and everything. So good Catholics ask, ‘How do I date? How do I have a relationship?’ They want a practical instruction manual about how to go about it,” Northrop said. 

Featured speakers for the conference this year are Christin Jezak, Matt Ingold, and Marilyn Sherman.

Jezak is an actress, producer, and playwright featured in “Confessions of a Catholic Single” — a recorded comedy podcast — and produced the “For the Sake of the Gospel” TV program for EWTN.

Ingold graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served two overseas tours with the Marine Corps. He co-hosts Catholic Coaching Podcasts and co-founded Metanoia Catholic to lead Catholics in team building and a greater purpose and meaning with God.

Sherman is the author of motivational books such as “Why Settle for the Balcony: How to Get a Front-Row Seat in Life” and a frequent keynote speaker.

Previous speakers have included Preacher of the Papal Household Father Raniero Cantalamessa, co-founder of the Theology of the Body Institute Dr. Christopher West, author/motivational speaker Matthew Kelly, and Father Thomas Loya, a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, and proponent of the theology of the body propagated by St. John Paul II. Eminent churchmen including Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia; Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez; and Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Metropolitan Church are supporters of the conference.

Pete Burak, speaks at NCSC 2023 in, Plymouth, Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC
Pete Burak, speaks at NCSC 2023 in, Plymouth, Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

Northrop said that through her parents’ Catholicasts apostolate, she was exposed to John Paul II’s theology in 1999 and started working with West and other speakers.

“We started a study group because I wanted to see what the pope actually said. I really got into it and really loved the message and how it got to the root of who we are as human beings,” she said.

Five years later, after recognizing that there was little attention given to single Catholics beyond their 20s, the first conference kicked off in Colorado and attracted more than 400 participants.

Since then, conference participants have come from all 50 states of the U.S. as well as Canada, Mexico, and from as far away as the Philippines and Europe. 

Participants at NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC
Participants at NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

While the conference may bolster parishes’ outreach to singles seeking to marry, Northrop said, “this conference isn’t really about matchmaking. It’s a big retreat for single Catholics and the whole person to help us be who we are created to be and live fruitfully in the present moment and then hopefully prepare for vocation, whether to marriage or religious life or stay single. It does take some pressure off the participants. The outcome might not be marriage or to meet your future spouse, but if you’re single and you’re Catholic and want a Catholic spouse, it’s a very logical place to go.”

Northrop said that at the coming conference, participants will find their faith strengthened and will “meet other people that are also seeking to live their faith, and so it’s a very encouraging atmosphere. Even if you go alone, you can start talking to a few people and feel like you have new friends right away. It’s good to know that you’re not alone.”

The Church’s focus on marriage is “super-important,” Northrop said. “In a sense, we are in the midst of a culture war. The fallout is lack of people to marry who are serious about their faith, well-formed for marriage and family life. So as a single person, there is a fine line where God has us at the moment and being prepared as we can be for marriage or a religious vocation.”

She also added: “Sometimes singles can feel a little bit left out and that their needs aren’t being addressed. They might feel invisible, even though they may be serving as a parish secretary, teaching catechism, or volunteering in pro-life ministry. I’m not sure why that is, but I think sometimes it takes a while for people in the Church to realize this.”

Adoration with Deacon Ralph Poyo during NCSC 2018 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, June 8-10, 2018. Credit: AFL Photography
Adoration with Deacon Ralph Poyo during NCSC 2018 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, June 8-10, 2018. Credit: AFL Photography

Paraphrasing St. John Paul II, she said: “Man is the only creature on earth willed for itself and he cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. That’s what the theme of the conference is. We’re called to make a gift of ourselves at every stage and state of life and so even while we’re single and not living that gift of self in marriage or that total gift of self in the religious life or consecrated vocation, we can still make a gift of ourselves in our daily lives.”

She said that while numerous people have met their spouses at the conference and are now happily married, “I think it’s better to go with the expectation that you learn more about [the] faith and learn about relationships.” 

“The single life itself is not a vocation. We all have a baptismal vocation, a consecration, which in the terms of St. John Paul II is a vocation to love,” she said. “Consistent charity is the definition of holiness: union with God through charity. God has a particular calling for each of us. Being single is the default state; we are born single. In marriage we make a total gift of self throughout the rest of our lives; in a celibate vocation we make a total gift of self to God and the Church. As a single person, I don’t think it’s comforting to be told that being single is a vocation, too. I might think that I am stuck in a state that I haven’t chosen.”

“To focus instead on my baptismal vocation to love is much more fruitful because we can do that in our daily lives and make a difference in the Church through volunteer work, supporting our families,” she continued. “If you have nieces and nephews, you can babysit and give their parents a date night. By fostering those relationships, in community, we can find fulfillment.”

Pre-conference excursion before NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC
Pre-conference excursion before NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

As for the coming conference, Northrop concluded that if participants go to learn more about relationships and their Catholic faith, “they will also meet hundreds of other wonderful people that are also seeking to live their faith. If you go with that expectation, your expectations will be fulfilled.”

Texas attorney general appeals decision in case against Catholic nonprofit

A migrant woman prays in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas, run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 18:16 pm (CNA).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing a district judge’s dismissal of a state investigation into an El Paso Catholic nonprofit accused of facilitating illegal immigration.

Paxton’s office is also going forward with investigations into other border nonprofits he suspects of illegal activity including Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

According to Paxton, his investigation into Annunciation House, the El Paso migrant shelter at the center of the controversy, determined that the nonprofit is “in a category of its own among these NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], openly operating in violation of the law without any pretense of trying to comply with the law.”

“For too long,” Paxton said, “Annunciation House has flouted the law and contributed to the worsening illegal immigration crisis at Texas’ border with Mexico. I am appealing this case and will continue to vigorously enforce the law against any NGO engaging in criminal conduct.”

Located just a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Annunciation House is a lay-run Catholic organization that offers migrants temporary shelter, food, and clothing and advocates on their behalf. 

On Feb. 7 Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in unlawful activities. Annunciation House refused to comply with the order and denied any illegal activity.

In early July, El Paso District Court Judge Francisco Dominguez dismissed Paxton’s suit, partially because he said it violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Dominguez wrote that the state’s suit “violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by substantially burdening Annunciation House’s free exercise of religion and failing to use the ‘least restrictive means’ of securing compliance with the law.”

In response, Paxton’s office said that Dominguez “falsely accused” Paxton of investigating Annunciation House because of the organization’s Catholic ties, saying that “the judge’s assertion is not supported by any evidence, and the judge tellingly failed to identify any.”

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates a migrant shelter and is a part of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, is also contesting Paxton’s investigation in court.

Volunteers and staff with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley assist Latin American and Haitian migrants at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
Volunteers and staff with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley assist Latin American and Haitian migrants at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

State District Judge J.R. Flores said in a Wednesday hearing that he would rule as early as next week whether the state could depose one of the leaders of Rio Grande Catholic Charities, according to reporting by local news outlet KBTX3.

According to KBTX3, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Brownsville Diocese Catholic Charities, responded to the hearing by saying she was “glad we had a chance to present our case in court today” and that “the small staff at Catholic Charities works tirelessly around the clock to serve needy people throughout our communities.”  

Scott Hahn urges priests at National Eucharistic Congress to ‘rekindle Eucharistic amazement’ 

Priests respond to a talk at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. / Credit: Photo by Josh Applegate, in partnership with the National Eucharistic Congress

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 19, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Nearly 1,000 priests and bishops packed in together at the National Eucharistic Congress to listen to the theologian and apologist Scott Hahn, who urged the clerics to rekindle their “Eucharistic amazement.”

Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the Eucharistic congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions.

During the first session on Wednesday, Hahn offered priests a retreat meditation on the biblical account of the road to Emmaus.

The meditation by the Catholic convert and founder of the St. Paul Center of Spiritual Theology began with a quote by Pope John Paul II.

“In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous ‘capacity’ which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist,” John Paul II wrote in his encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

“But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist … I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic ‘amazement.’”

Hahn also asked the priests in the room to examine and reflect on how they prioritize the importance of sacred Scripture in their lives and ministry, underlining the resurrected Jesus made it a priority to “open the Scriptures” to his disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“It’s his first day back from the dead. Just imagine, if you will, what would you do if you were Jesus? What would your to-do list look like on your first day back from the dead? I don’t know about yours, but I would suspect that mine is something similar, and that is, I’d like to drop in to pay a visit to Pontius Pilate … [and say] you should have listened to your wife … And then just go down the street and drop in on King Herod … and just say, ‘I’m back! And you have a lot to rethink,’” Hahn joked.

Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

“The one thing that Jesus apparently had at the top of his list,” he added, “was to lead a Bible study, going through all of salvation history beginning with Moses and the law and all the prophets for hours and hours, mile after mile, setting their hearts of fire.”

“Jesus did not consider it to be a waste of time to spend his first day back from the dead taking — not only the clergy, the hierarchy, Peter, and the others … even Cleopas and his companion — through the Scriptures in order to set fire to their hearts and then bring them to the dynamics where he is made known to them in the breaking of the Eucharist’s bread,” he said.

According to the event organizers, the special programming for the priests at the National Eucharistic Congress is meant to offer a unique experience of reflection, encounter, and prayer, inviting ministers “to greater intimacy with Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest.”

Bishop Robert Barron, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Dan Cellucci, Monsignor James Shea, and Jonathan Reyes gave special talks for the priests attending the congress.

Father Cassidy Stinson, a 32-year-old priest from the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, told CNA that he “appreciated starting the conference with Dr. Hahn’s reminder that we should prioritize Scripture in order to be effective in our proclamation of the Gospel.”

The young priest said he was also grateful for the other opportunities the congress provided for prayer and fellowship.

“I was really inspired to have the opportunity this afternoon to join my brother priests in adoration and to be encouraged in my ministry by our bishops,” Stinson said.

“As a priest, it’s inspiring to hear our own shepherds urge us to be bold, creative, and prayerful in how we evangelize.”

Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story remembered as ‘true man of God’ after sudden death

Mark Story. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

Mark Story, a pro-life activist and photojournalist best known for his poignant pictures of the “D.C. five,” died on Wednesday evening. He was 52.

In tributes to him on social media, Story was remembered as a skilled photographer, joyful pro-life warrior, and beloved friend.

A Christian, Story had just completed his nightly prayer walk in his neighborhood when he was struck by an apparent heart attack. His death was announced by his father, Roger Story, in a Facebook post early Thursday morning.

“Our nationally famed pro-life photographer son, Mark David Story, suddenly went to be with the Lord he loved and served last evening with an apparent massive heart attack as he was returning from his daily evening prayer walk,” Story’s father wrote. “Mark was a true man of God and left an incredible legacy.”

Based in Washington, D.C., Story was a mainstay of pro-life events in the area, using his skills as a professional photographer to document the pro-life fight.

In 2022, Story took several photographs of five late-term-aborted babies who were found by the group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) outside the Washington Surgi Center run by abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo. The photos evidenced significant scarring and wounds to the babies’ bodies that suggested that some of the babies were killed via partial-birth abortion, which is illegal under federal law.

The discovery of the deceased babies, who came to be known as the “D.C. five,” caused national outrage and sparked calls from lawmakers for investigations on whether their killing violated federal law.

Speaking at a PAAU rally after the discovery, Story said he was thankful to be able to help give the D.C. five a voice. He described the moment the babies were found as both a “very morbid” but also joyful moment.

“I felt like God was telling me: ‘This is a celebration,’” he said of the babies’ discovery. “These children have been found and now are being heard, their stories are being told all over the world.”

Along with many other pro-life leaders, PAAU mourned Story’s passing, calling him a “brilliant photographer,” a “fierce fighter for life,” and an “unwavering friend.”

“We are honored to have worked alongside him in the pro-life movement,” PAAU said in a statement posted to social media.

Story was also mourned by the photography community. A tribute to him in the Daily Pulse Report called him a “visionary artist, a compassionate mentor, and a cherished friend.”

“In his memory, let us continue to appreciate the power of photography to connect us, to illuminate our world, and to tell stories that transcend time,” the Daily Pulse said.

Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story (far right) attends an event with Live Action founder and president Lila Rose (second from left). In a statement mourning his July 17, 2024, passing, Rose said that Story “passionately served the pro-life movement for the last five years, exposing millions to the truth about abortion through his creative photography.” According to Rose, “his incredible talent and gentle spirit of joy and service touched everyone who was blessed to work with him. He will be sorely missed.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action
Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story (far right) attends an event with Live Action founder and president Lila Rose (second from left). In a statement mourning his July 17, 2024, passing, Rose said that Story “passionately served the pro-life movement for the last five years, exposing millions to the truth about abortion through his creative photography.” According to Rose, “his incredible talent and gentle spirit of joy and service touched everyone who was blessed to work with him. He will be sorely missed.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action

Michael New, a pro-life professor of social research at The Catholic University of America who knew Story, told CNA that he was “saddened” to learn of his passing.

“Mark was the best photojournalist in the pro-life movement,” New said. “His professional photos of the five abortion victims obtained outside the abortion facility of Cesar Santangelo exposed the injustice of late-term abortion and revealed potential criminal misconduct on the part of Santangelo.”

“Mark was a great ally in our efforts to build a culture of life,” New added. “He will be missed. 

Friends of Story are inviting those interested to donate to a GoFundMe campaign he and his sister started for their father, who is suffering from cancer.

Pro-life sidewalk counselors appeal to Supreme Court for stronger free speech protections

U.S. Supreme Court building. / Credit: Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

Pro-life sidewalk counselors — who work to deter women from getting abortions and connect them with life-affirming pregnancy care — are appealing to the United States Supreme Court for stronger free speech protections outside of abortion clinics.

The sidewalk counseling organization Coalition Life petitioned the Supreme Court this week to consider its lawsuit against the City of Carbondale, Illinois, which has a so-called “bubble zone” ordinance that prevents sidewalk counselors from approaching anyone or demonstrating within 100 feet of an abortion clinic.

According to the ordinance, it is illegal to knowingly get within eight feet of a person for the purpose of providing a flier, displaying a sign, or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling” unless given express consent by the person — if that person is within 100 feet of an abortion clinic, medical clinic, hospital, or health care facility. The ordinance considers a violation to be disorderly conduct. 

Although the Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that “bubble zones” are not a violation of the First Amendment, Coalition Life is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the subject. In 2023, the Supreme Court declined to hear a similar case, which challenged a “bubble zone” ordinance in Westchester County, New York.

“The ‘bubble zone’ ordinance has been nothing more than the continued and relentless persecution of our team on the sidewalk,” Brian Westbrook, the executive director of Coalition Life, said in a statement.

“This fight won’t be over until [the precedent] is overturned and thousands of municipalities across the nation, like Carbondale, understand you cannot trample on our rights,” Westbrook added.

The 2000 ruling in Hill v. Colorado allowed Colorado to enforce a “bubble zone” around abortion clinics. The state law similarly set a 100-foot perimeter around abortion clinics and health care facilities, in which people could not get within eight feet of another person to provide fliers or engage in counseling.

In the 2000 ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the law does not “place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else” but that it does “make it more difficult to give unwanted advice.” Ultimately, he found that the law was “reasonable and narrowly tailored.” 

“Persons who are attempting to enter health care facilities for any purpose are often in particularly vulnerable physical and emotional conditions,” Stevens wrote. “The State of Colorado has responded to its substantial and legitimate interest in protecting these persons from unwanted encounters, confrontations, and even assaults by enacting an exceedingly modest restriction on the speakers’ ability to approach.”

Paul Clement, the lead attorney representing Coalition Life, wrote in the petition to the Supreme Court that Hill v. Colorado perpetuates a “denial of constitutional rights,” which is “more pressing now than ever.” 

“For nearly a quarter of a century, sidewalk counselors like those who work with Coalition Life have been forced to live with ‘an entirely separate, abridged edition of the First Amendment’ when it comes to the kind of peaceful, conversational speech outside an abortion facility in which they wish to engage,” Clement said.

Peter Breen, the executive vice president and head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, which is helping represent Coalition Life, said in a statement that “Hill v. Colorado was egregiously wrong on the day it was decided, and it remains a black mark in our law to this day.”

“‘Bubble zones,’ like the one in Carbondale, are an unconstitutional and overzealous attempt to show favor to abortion businesses, at the expense of the free speech rights of folks who seek to offer information, alternatives, and resources to pregnant women in need,” Breen added. “It’s time to end, once and for all, the political gamesmanship places like Carbondale play with our free speech rights.”

Three states have so-called “bubble zone” laws on the books: Colorado, Massachusetts, and Montana. However, numerous local governments throughout the country have adopted similar ordinances, preventing sidewalk counselors from approaching women who are considering an abortion.

Appeals court rejects Biden administration request to enforce ‘gender identity’ Title IX rules

The U.S. Department of Education sign hangs over the entrance to the federal building housing the agency's headquarters on Feb. 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: J. David Ake/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 15:22 pm (CNA).

An appellate court rejected a request from President Joe Biden’s administration to enforce a regulation in four states that would broadly prohibit discrimination based on a person’s self-asserted “gender identity.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that prevents the U.S. Department of Education from enforcing any part of the “gender identity” provisions in the Title IX rule for public schools and colleges in Montana, Idaho, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

The lower court’s order will remain in place as all five states continue their lawsuit, which challenges the legality of the regulation.

Courts have blocked the Department of Education from enforcing the regulation in 15 states altogether, while attorneys general in about a dozen other states have also filed lawsuits. The regulation will go into effect on Aug. 1 in jurisdictions where courts have not blocked its enforcement.

The regulation, which the administration promulgated in April, reinterprets Title IX’s prohibition on “sex discrimination” to include a prohibition on “gender identity” discrimination. 

Some lawyers and Republican attorneys general have warned that the rule would jeopardize state laws that restrict girls’ and women’s locker rooms, bathrooms, dormitories, and athletic competitions to only girls and women and could force states to allow access to men who identify as women.

“The Biden administration’s radical redefinition of sex turns back the clock on equal opportunity for women, undermines fairness, and threatens student safety and privacy,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Natalie Thompson, who is representing the Louisiana-based Rapides Parish School Board in the lawsuit, said in a statement

“The 5th Circuit now joins the 6th Circuit in holding back the Biden administration’s illegal efforts to rewrite Title IX while this critical lawsuit continues,” she added. “The administration continues to ignore biological reality, science, and common sense.” 

“The Rapides Parish School Board and schools and teachers across the country are right to stand against the administration’s adoption of extreme gender ideology, which would have devastating consequences for students, teachers, administrators, and families.”

After the lower court blocked the Department of Education from enforcing any part of the rule, the department filed an appeal that requested permission to partially enforce the rule while the litigation continues. The department claimed that the prohibition on enforcement was too broad and requested permission to enforce reporting and record-keeping rules, grievance procedures, and a variety of provisions related to “gender identity” discrimination included in the new rule.

In the ruling, the judges wrote that “the answer is no,” adding that the provisions the department wants to enforce are “complex, lengthy, and burdensome” and that the department “has given us little basis to assess the likelihood of success” in the case.

“The implementation and compliance costs would double if the partially implemented rule differs from a final judgment,” the judges wrote. “They would first have to amend their policies, alter their procedures, and train their employees to comply with a partial version of the rule pending appeal, and then they would have to do it all over again to comply with the rule as it stands at the conclusion of the litigation.”

The prohibition on sex discrimination written into the law itself makes no mention of “gender identity.” When Congress added the Title IX sex discrimination provisions into federal law in the 1970s, the intent was to provide girls and women with equal access to education and did not have any reference to transgenderism.

In spite of this, the Biden administration argues that interpreting “sex discrimination” to include “gender identity” discrimination is within the scope of the Department of Education’s regulatory authority. The states opposed to the rule argue that this interpretation is not consistent with the actual text of the law and falls outside of the department’s regulatory authority.

Pro-life roundup: Trump says abortion ‘will never be a federal issue again’

Republican presidential nominee former president Donald Trump speaks after officially accepting the Republican presidential nomination on stage on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 18, 2024, in Milwaukee. / Credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 13:52 pm (CNA).

Here’s a roundup of pro-life-related developments that took place in the U.S. this week. 

Trump says states will decide abortion, Heritage Foundation goes ‘too far’

In an interview with Fox News released during the Republican National Convention, former president Donald Trump reasserted his stance that abortion is exclusively a state issue and said that it “will never be a federal issue again.”

“By getting rid of Roe v. Wade I was able to get it back into the states and now I’ve given it back to the people, the people are voting and frankly the people are voting in many cases quite liberally,” he said.

He added: “They can vote the way they want, it’s not a federal issue, it will never be a federal issue again.”

In the interview Trump was being questioned about his stance on Project 2025, a policy agenda published by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

He distanced himself from Project 2025, particularly with its stance on abortion, arguing that it is “too severe” and “goes way too far.”

Project 2025 holds that “abortion and euthanasia are not health care” and that the Health and Human Services Department must ensure that all its programs and activities are “rooted in a deep respect for innocent human life from Day 1 until natural death.” 

It also posits that the FDA should reinstate a ban on mailing abortion pills and administering the drugs via telemedicine without in-person doctor visits.

“They have a strong view on abortion,” Trump said. “From what I’ve heard it’s not too far, [it’s] way too far, they’ve gone really too far.”

Abortion group sues Arkansas for invalidating broad abortion amendment

A pro-abortion group is suing Arkansas after its Secretary of State John Thurston invalidated a proposed abortion amendment, blocking its placement on the state ballot this November.

According to Thurston, the group, which goes by the name “Arkansans for Limited Government,” did not follow the proper procedures when submitting its request to have the amendment added to the ballot.

In response, the abortion group filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court in which it asked the court to reverse Thurston’s decision and order him to resume processing its request.

The group contends that it followed all necessary procedures to have the proposal added and that Thurston’s decision constitutes a “disregard for the power expressly reserved by the people in the Arkansas Constitution.”

In response, Thurston stood by his decision, telling Arkansans for Limited Government in a July 15 letter that the “defects” in their request “required me to reject your petition.”

Currently, Arkansas protects unborn life beginning at conception, only allowing abortion in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger.

If successfully passed by Arkansas voters, the abortion amendment would mandate that the state not “prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict” abortion before 18 weeks of pregnancy. The amendment would further prohibit the state from restricting abortion at all stages in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or health of the mother.

Iowa abortion supporters ask to block heartbeat law

After the Iowa Supreme Court issued a decision in June to allow the state’s pro-life heartbeat law to go into effect, an attorney for Planned Parenthood is asking the court to reconsider its decision.

The court’s decision was based on the belief that abortion is not a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution. The decision is temporary and allows the heartbeat law, which protects life beginning at six weeks, to go into effect while legal challenges against it proceed in the courts.

According to reporting by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, attorney Peter Im, a lawyer with Planned Parenthood, is petitioning the court to review and potentially revise its decision. Im is arguing that laws restricting abortion should have to face higher legal scrutiny and not impose an “undue burden” on abortion access.

The Iowa heartbeat law could take effect as early as Friday evening depending on a ruling by a state district court in the afternoon. 

Montana judge orders state to count signatures from inactive voters

A Montana district judge issued a temporary ruling on Tuesday that requires the state to count inactive voters’ signatures in support of a broad abortion amendment.

This comes after Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen invalidated thousands of signatures from citizens whose voting status was “inactive.”

Judge Mike Menehan ruled that the state must count those signatures in its assessment of whether to add the abortion proposal to this November’s ballot.

If added to the ballot and passed by voters, the Montana abortion amendment would prohibit the state from “denying or burdening the right to abortion” before fetal viability or beyond when a health care professional determines it is “medically indicated to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

Pennsylvania governor refuses to defend law banning state-funded abortion

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, filed a court notice on Tuesday that the state will not defend its long-standing law banning Medicaid funding for abortion. 

The ban on tax-funded Medicaid abortion, which has been in place since 1982, is being challenged by Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, a Pittsburgh abortion clinic, and several other abortion groups, in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court. 

In a Tuesday statement, Shapiro said that “the current ban imposes a burden on women that is not sustainable and therefore violates our state constitution.”

“My administration looks forward to making our arguments in court and is urging the court to strike down this ban that denies Pennsylvanians access to health care solely because of their sex and clearly runs counter to the recent Supreme Court ruling,” he said. 

Abortion is currently legal in Pennsylvania until 24 weeks of pregnancy. There were 34,838 abortions in Pennsylvania in 2022, the most recent year with complete data. 

Wisconsin leaders join lawsuit to establish right to abortion

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, have joined a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court to establish a right to abortion in the state constitution. 

In a Wednesday statement, Evers said he was joining the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Urmanski, which is centered on whether the Wisconsin Constitution guarantees a right to abortion. 

Evers claimed that efforts to enshrine abortion into state law have “never been more important” because of what he called “looming Republican threats” to enact a national abortion ban and restrict access to birth control and emergency contraception.

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a pre-Roe law protecting life at conception went into effect for a short time until a ruling by a district judge found that the law did not apply to abortion. 

Currently, abortion is legal in Wisconsin until 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

‘There’s a better way’: Baltimore Archdiocese doubles gun buyback budget to $100,000

The Archdiocese of Baltimore said it acquired several hundred guns as part of a “buyback” program financed by local parishes and individual donors on Aug. 5, 2023. / Credit: Baltimore Police Department

CNA Staff, Jul 19, 2024 / 12:54 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Baltimore will hold its second gun buyback program next month with the aim of doubling its budget from last year and taking even more guns off the streets of its titular city. 

The archdiocese said last year that it obtained 360 guns using $50,000 in raised funds in what officials described as an interfaith event to build “a coalition for peace in West Baltimore.” 

Long known for its high crime and homicide rates, murders in Baltimore have been particularly elevated for roughly a decade. The city in 2023 recorded a homicide rate of about 46 per 100,000 people compared with the U.S. rate of 5.5 per 100,000. 

Father Mike Murphy, the pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish in Irvington, told CNA last year that the diocese would do another gun buyback program “for sure.” 

The program arose “out of sadness and a desire to make a difference,” he said at the time, and a desire “to move the Church, all churches, into the streets and build strong community relationships.”

The Catholic Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, reported this week that the event will once again take place in August of this year with a doubled budget goal of $100,000 for buyback purchases. 

“We’re not under any illusion that we are going to stop all gun violence,” Murphy told the Catholic newspaper this week. 

“But we’re trying to change the narrative and promote the message that life is sacred,” he said. 

In a video message last month, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said of the 2023 buyback that “every gun that was turned in brought with it the potential to save a life.”

“Our effort aligns with the Church’s belief that every human life is sacred and answers the Holy Father’s repeated call that the faithful work to reduce the trafficking of firearms,” Lori said. 

The archbishop said that “any money raised this year that is not used to purchase guns in the buyback will go towards the needs of families of homicide victims” through the archdiocese’s grief ministry program, which offers care packages to those who have lost loved ones to violence. 

“Ultimately, these efforts provide us with an avenue to channel God’s love towards peace and healing for Baltimore and all our neighbors who call the city home,” Lori said. 

Last year’s program netted nearly 160 handguns as well as shotguns and rifles. Handguns and long guns were purchased for $200 apiece, while assault weapons were bought for $300. All of the purchased firearms were destroyed. 

Murphy indicated to the Catholic Review this month that the program will continue after this year. “

“This isn’t a one-and-done event. We’re trying to show people there’s a better way,” he said.