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Biden's Catholic cabinet nominees mirror him on abortion

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2021 / 05:45 am (CNA).- While President Joe Biden has nominated a number of Catholics to serve in his cabinet, some of them have publicly contradicted Church teaching on abortion.


Joe Biden on Wednesday became the 46th president of the United States and only the second Catholic to hold that office. 


While U.S. bishops offered him their prayers and congratulations upon his inauguration, and noted areas of agreement such as immigration and protecting the environment, the bishops’ conference also noted that Biden had promoted “policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”


Like Biden himself, many of the Catholics he has nominated to cabinet roles have also publicly supported pro-abortion policies--and they could further these policies in their administrative roles. 


Xavier Becerra, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, was previously attorney general of California. In that role he defended the state’s law mandating that medically licensed pro-life pregnancy centers advertise where clients could obtain abortions. 


The Reproductive FACT Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2018. Kamala Harris, now the vice president, also defended the law as attorney general of California before she was elected to the U.S. Senate. 


Becerre also defended a state mandate of abortion coverage in employer-provided health plans; pro-life and Catholic groups, including the religious community Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, challenged the mandate.


Becerra previously served as a congressman from California, where the National Right to Life Committee gave him a 100 percent pro-abortion score. Politico reported in December that pro-abortion groups view their “pressure campaign” towards Biden as “wildly successful,” in part because of Becerra’s nomination. 


Should Becerra be confirmed as health secretary, his role at HHS would allow him to roll back certain pro-life rules and policies, as well as conscience protections for health care workers. 


Biden nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to serve as Secretary of Labor. During his campaign for mayor in 2013, Walsh’s campaign website said that the disparity in the number of pro-life pregnancy centers to abortion clinics in Boston was detrimental to women’s health.


“In terms of reproductive choices, crisis pregnancy centers outnumber women's health providers in Boston three to one, seriously undermining women's access to quality family planning, appropriate counseling, and overall choice,” the website said. 


Walsh also recieved a “Men for Choice” award from NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts in 2016, according to the Boston Globe. Walsh stressed to that “I’m a pro-choice candidate, I’m a pro-choice mayor, I was a pro-choice legislator.


Three other cabinet nominees--Gina Raimondo, Tom Vilsack, and Jennifer Granholm--all backed pro-abortion measures in their roles as governor of Rhode Island, Iowa, and Michigan, respectively. Raimondo has been tapped to lead the Commerce Department, Vilsack the Agriculture Department, and Granholm the Department of Energy.


Denis McDonough, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, served as White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, who held pro-abortion policy positions. 


McDonough was reportedly among the administration staff who pushed Obama to soften the rules on the HHS contraceptive mandate in 2012, to accommodate objecting religious groups. However, many groups including the Little Sisters of the Poor and the USCCB still opposed that revised rule, saying it required unacceptable participation in the immoral provision of contraceptive coverage.

Gen. Lloyd Austin, Biden’s nominee to serve as defense secretary, has not taken a public policy position on the issue of abortion in his military roles. Austin is also a Catholic, and has ties to the Biden family through the president’s late son Beau Biden, with whom he served in Iraq.

Speaker Pelosi implies religious pro-lifers are sellouts

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused pro-lifers of putting their opposition to abortion over the tenets of democracy in a recent appearance on former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s podcast. 


“I think that Donald Trump is president because of the issue of a woman’s right to choose,” Pelosi said on the Jan. 18 episode of “You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton,” blaming pro-life voters for boosting Trump into office. 


“When you take the greed of those who want their tax cuts, that’s probably a small number [of voters], but nonetheless a number,” said Pelosi. Conversely, “then you take the abortion issue--and many of these people are very good people; that’s just their point of view. But they were willing to sell the whole democracy down the river for that one issue.”


Pelosi said that that support for Trump by pro-life religious voters is an issue that “gives me great grief as a Catholic.”


When Clinton ran against Trump in 2016, the Democratic Party platform was noted for its extreme pro-abortion stance. That platform included, for the first time, a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment which prevents the use of tax money to pay for elective abortions. The policy has received bipartisan support throughout its nearly 50 years of existence. 


The party platform further said that “every woman should have access” to “safe and legal abortion.”


On the Jan. 18 podcast, Pelosi said that when Trump in 2016 produced a list of judges he would appoint as president, it amounted to a “dog whistle to the Evangelicals, to the Catholics, and all the rest: a woman will not have the right to choose.” 


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that while issues such as poverty and the death penalty cannot be ignored, ending abortion remains the “preeminent priority” for the bishops “because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.” 


Clinton replied that one of the “terrible ironies” of the pro-life position was the declining abortion rate under Democratic presidents. The former senator said that “with proper contraception and education and a stigma-free conversation, the numbers can continue to go way down.” 


“So, what’s really incredibly sad is how those who, in my opinion and experience, do not view this issue as a priority, have used the legitimate questions, concerns, and yes, understanding of faith, to obtain and use power,” said Clinton.


Pelosi said that those who “reject terminating a pregnancy” should “love contraception,” and said that those who were opposed to this were hypocrites as they themselves did not have large families.


“Many of these people, of course, are not having 13 children,” said Pelosi. “And as somebody who had five children almost exactly to the day in six years, I said to my colleagues, when you have five children in six years, you come around and talk to me as a Catholic.” 


While Clinton is correct that the abortion rate declined in the 90s, she did not mention that in the United States, abortion rates peaked in the early 80s and have been decreasing regularly since then, regardless of which political party has held the presidency.  


In 2011, the abortion rate in the United States was below that of the year 1973, the year Roe v. Wade brought legal abortion to the United States. 


And although both Clinton and Pelosi credited contraception use for the declining abortion rate, the Guttmacher Institute found that abortion rates in the United States began a steeper decline beginning in 2008, well before the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate was enacted. 



Recently ordained Catholic priest dies after Madrid parish explosion

Rome Newsroom, Jan 21, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).- A recently ordained Catholic priest died in hospital early Thursday morning after an explosion destroyed a parish building in the Spanish capital, Madrid.

Fr. Rubén Pérez Ayala was ordained to the priesthood last June. His first assignment was at the Virgen de la Paloma parish near the Puerta de Toledo in the center of Madrid, where he was serving when an explosion destroyed much of the parish rectory and office at 3 p.m. on Jan. 20.

The young priest was taken to hospital and underwent an operation for his injuries. His brother, Pablo, also a diocesan priest, administered the anointing of the sick.

Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, the archbishop of Madrid, announced the following morning that Fr. Pérez Ayala had died from his wounds overnight. He was 36 years old.

“Last night the young priest has died, Rubén Pérez Ayala, whom I ordained only seven months ago. I am grateful for his life of dedication to Christ and to his Church,” the cardinal wrote on Twitter on Jan. 21.

At least four people have now died from the explosion, according to the Archdiocese of Madrid, which released a statement citing a gas leak in the parish building as a possible cause for the blast on Calle Toledo.

Cardinal Osoro said that he was praying for the victims of the explosion and all those affected by it.

The archdiocese identified one of the deceased as 35-year-old electrician David Santos Muñoz, a parishioner and father of four, who had come to the building “to lend a hand” with the building’s boiler.

Another victim was an 85-year-old woman, according to CNN. Two pedestrians who had been walking by the building at the time of the explosion were among the victims, according to ABC News.

Madrid’s emergency services reported on Jan. 20 that at least 11 people were injured in the explosion.


Breaking: Reports of a large building explosion in Madrid, Spain.

— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) January 20, 2021  


The building, owned by the Parish of the Virgen de la Paloma, had two floors that made up the priests’ residence and also contained space used by the parish and Caritas.

At Fr. Rubén Pérez Ayala’s first Mass, offered at the Virgen de la Paloma parish on June 21, the priest, who was part of the Neocatechumenal Way, invited those present and watching his livestreamed homily “to look to the Lord, to trust him.”

He said: “When difficulties come, let us cry out to the Lord.”

“You will experience that the Lord is your tranquility ... May we experience the joy that the Lord is with us,” he said.

In an interview with Info Madrid shortly after his ordination, Fr. Pérez Ayala said: “Only when I realized that Christ was calling me to give my whole life without keeping anything for myself was I able to live it with joy.”

Why 2021 is the Year of Dante

Denver Newsroom, Jan 21, 2021 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Dante Alighieri died 700 years ago, and Italy is ready to celebrate the author whose epic poem through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven has influenced the art, imagination, and faith of so many down the centuries.
Anthony Esolen, a Dante translator who is writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, is a fan.

“If we consider Shakespeare to be a playwright rather than a poet, I believe that Dante must win the laurels as the greatest poet in the history of man,” Esolen told CNA Jan. 6.
“There is hardly a subject you can name that he has not thought deeply about, and has not written about, in ways that clarify the subject and that suggest its relationships with others; and only Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are as fruitful as Dante is, in inventing characters whom we will remember all our lives,” he said.
Dante, a Florentine native, died in exile in Ravenna in September 1321, shortly after completing “The Divine Comedy”. The poem, rich with symbolism and allusions, has Dante himself as the narrator. He is a pilgrim whose journey begins in a dark wood. His story passes through the various “circles” of hell, purgatory, and heaven.
Esolen emphasized the Christian foundation of the work.

“Dante’s Divine Comedy is meant to be the poetic exposition of the whole universe: physical, spiritual, moral; and of the whole history of man, from his creation and fall, to his redemption in Christ, to the consummation of time in eternity and the beatific vision,” Esolen said. “To say that Dante is inspired by his Christian faith is to say not nearly enough. The faith is the air he breathes, and the blood that flows in his veins.”
A “Year of Dante” was launched in Ravenna Sept. 5 in the presence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella. The year will be marked by events throughout Italy, including in Dante’s birthplace of Florence and 70 other towns and villages. Teachers have been encouraged to teach about the poet in class.
Last year the Italian government declared March 25 to be celebrated annually as “Dante Day.” In his January 2020 announcement of the celebration, Italy’s Minister for Culture Dario Franceschini said it is “a day to remember Dante’s genius throughout Italy and the world.” The effort to commemorate Dante “reminds us of many things that hold us together. Dante is the unity of the country. Dante is the Italian language. Dante is the idea of Italy itself.”
Dante Day coincides with the feast of the Annunciation. That is the date many scholars believe marked the beginning of Dante’s journey in the Divine Comedy.
The work is called a “comedy” because of the arc of its story, Esolen explained.
“If you begin in misery or poverty or confusion, and you end in bliss and riches and clarity of vision, then that is a comedy,” he said. “If the converse, then it is a tragedy. The Christian view of the world is essentially comic, so much so that critics have sometimes wondered whether the Christian can properly, as a Christian, write any tragedy at all.”
“The crucial event in the history of man is the Incarnation of the Son of God, and his passion, death, and resurrection,” said Esolen. “To incorporate yourself into that story is to embrace the comedy of love.”
Dante’s epic poem is separated into three books of 33 sections, or “cantos” each: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
“In Inferno, we see what happens when God gives us the evil that we choose, but stripped of all the veneer of glory in this world, and drained of even the temporary sweetness of pleasure that evil choices may bring,” Esolen said. “It is a cramped place, befitting the constriction of the mind and heart and soul that sin visits upon us.  Yet of all the people in the comedy, we sinners are most like the people we meet down there, and that should cause us some discomfiture.”
“Purgatory is the realm, wonderfully imagined as a mountain on an island in the western sea, exactly opposite on the globe from Calvary, where what is crooked in us is made straight, what is feeble is made strong, and what is dim is made clear,” Esolen continued. “Think of it as an infirmary, or an exercise-ground, a place where the effects of habitual sin are scoured and cleansed away.”
“Then comes Paradise: the realm of the saints in full, which Dante divides according to the heavenly bodies, assigning to each, in conscious allegory, its own degree or variety of blessedness,” he said.
According to Esolen, Italian literature is “unimaginable” without Dante. While his reputation was eclipsed for centuries in much of Europe, his place has been secure since the romantic movements of the nineteenth century.
“Countless poems, paintings, sculptures, operas, and other musical compositions have been inspired by him,” said Esolen, who also praised Dante’s other works, such as the love poetry of “La Vita Nuova”.
In observance of the Year of Dante, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence has launched a free online exhibit of 88 drawings of The Divine Comedy by Federico Zuccari, a 16th-century Renaissance artist. The pencil-and-ink originals are fragile and rarely exhibited in physical form.
“The Uffizi Gallery is really proud to open the anniversary of the great poet’s death by making this extraordinary collection of graphic art available to all,” Eike Schmidt, the gallery’s director, said, according  to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
Schmidt said Zuccari’s works are valuable both for researchers and for those passionate about Dante and his pursuit of “knowledge and virtue.”
Pope Francis has spoken about Dante on several occasions.
In an Oct. 10 meeting with a delegation from the Archdiocese of Ravenna-Cervia, the pope blessed a gold cross that St. Paul VI had donated to Ravenna for Dante’s tomb.
The pope had his own advice for an introduction to Dante. When teenagers encounter Dante in an accessible way, despite their “great distance from the author and his world,” they can “perceive a surprising resonance” with him.
“This happens especially where allegory leaves space for the symbol, where the human being appears most evident and exposed, where civil passion vibrates most intensely, where the fascination of that which is true, beautiful, and good, ultimately the fascination of God, makes its powerful attraction felt,” Pope Francis said.
Esolen doubted that Dante could be taught in American public schools, both because they have generally abandoned poetry and “because you can’t teach his work without talking about the Christian faith.”
“Students should read the Divine Comedy -- and take it in as a work of art, one of the three or four most splendid works of art that a human being may encounter,” he advised. “Everything they learn about Dante should be subordinated to that encounter with the art.”
In his October audience, Pope Francis said that “with God’s help” he would propose “a more extensive reflection” on Dante to be released in 2021.
In 2015, the Pope issued a message marking 750 years since Dante’s birth. In it, he noted that many of his predecessors had paid tribute to the poet, including Benedict XV, who wrote his 1921 encyclical In praeclara summorum on Dante.

San Francisco archdiocese hosting webinar on future of the pro-life movement

CNA Staff, Jan 21, 2021 / 12:45 am (CNA).- As the United States undergoes a transition in leadership, the Archdiocese of San Francisco will host a webinar this week discussing the future of the pro-life movement.

The webinar takes place on Jan. 22 with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; Marjorie Dannenfelser, founder and president of the Susan B Anthony List; and Charles Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University.

Moderated by J. A. Gray, a former editor at First Things and New Oxford Review, the webinar will discuss how the pro-life cause will move forward in 2021.

“I think this will be a very lively and inspiring webinar – a chance to hear from Archbishop Cordileone on what he sees as the way forward, ‘being a light in the midst of this darkness; a light being a witness to the sanctity of human life,’ as he said on Jan. 9 during a Mass for life and prayer walk to a Planned Parenthood clinic,” Valerie Schmalz, the archdiocese's director of Human Life and Dignity, told CNA.

Prior to the event, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption will have a live stream Mass for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which will be celebrated at noon by the archbishop. Other parishes throughout the archdiocese are encouraged to offer a noon Mass or the regular weekday Mass for that intention as well.

“By offering Mass in each of our parishes on this day for this particular intention, we will pray together but in safer smaller gatherings for the restoration of the right to life for all, from conception to natural death, on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion throughout the country,” the website reads.

During the webinar, Archbishop Cordileone will converse with both Dannenfelser and Camosy. Schmalz said the presenters will discuss the next steps in establishing a “society where all human life is cherished and protected.”

She said Dannenfelser has advocated for a greater representation of pro-life women in politics and helped elect 18 new pro-life women to the incoming House of Representatives, also removed 10 pro-abortion lawmakers from their seats in the House.

“Susan B. Anthony is just one of the most powerful forces for pro-life in the country,” she said. “[Dannenfelser] really comes out of the pro-life feminist movement.”

“Women are empowered and they're making a difference in the pro-life arena. That is what's so great about what she's accomplished this election cycle is she has gotten pro-life, articulate women into Congress.”

Camosy, who last year left the Democratic Party over the issue of abortion, served as a board member for the Democrats for Life for years. In his book “Resisting Throwaway Culture: How a Consistent Life Ethic Can Unite a Fractured People,” Camosy offers insight into how a progressive stance would promote pro-life issues, Schmalz said.

“This will be an opportunity for Marjorie Dannenfelser and Charles Camosy to articulate what they believe is the ‘action plan’ for life in the next two years, with an administration and a majority of Congress that embrace the abortion agenda,” she said.

She noted that while the incoming administration has some laudable stances, including its opposition to the death penalty, it is also “extremely invested in abortion and making it legal.”

Schmalz said she believes that there are challenges ahead for the pro-life movement, noting that it has recently become more challenging to purchase pro-life and religious liberty ads online. She said the pro-life movement will need to respond with creativity and ingenuity.

Schmalz stressed that in the current political environment, charity is particularly important for the pro-life movement.

“A big question will be how the pro-life movement can counter inevitable efforts to tar pro-life advocates with the awful actions of the rioters who descended on the Capitol. The riots have accelerated and are being used to justify a polarization of our society and are fueling a campaign to marginalize many, including pro-life and religious freedom advocates.”

“We've been drawn to such chaos right now … You look at the screen and you see this stuff happening and you just want to cry. It’s horrible,” she said. “So, as pro-life people, we have to do everything peacefully and with charity, don't get caught up in the polarization.”