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Former Michigan school teacher donates $1.1 million to local Catholic schools

Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

A former Catholic school teacher in Michigan donated $1.1 million to create an endowment for local Catholic schools, the Jackson Catholic Schools district announced on May 6. 

Donna Ambs, a 1958 graduate of St. Mary Star of the Sea grade school in Jackson, Michigan and longtime teacher for Jackson Catholic Schools, made the donation, the district announced. The district is comprised of four Jackson-area Catholic schools: Lumen Christi Catholic School, St. Mary Star of the Sea Elementary, St. John the Evangelist Elementary, and Queen of the Miraculous Medal Elementary.

“This is a very clear message to our students, teachers, parents and the Jackson Catholic community that Catholic education is important and here to stay in the Jackson community,” Tim Dewitt, executive director of Jackson Catholic Schools, told CNA.

Dewitt told CNA that Ambs’ donation will have a direct impact on the district’s teaching staff, supporting efforts to retain and recruit teachers.  

“The fund will be invested in the Catholic Foundation as an endowment.  Once a year there will be a determined amount of distribution that will then be allocated to all schools to help underwrite teacher salaries,” said Dewitt. 

Ambs was part of the the founding group of teachers at Lumen Christi High school in Summit Township, when it opened in 1968, the district said. She retired from teaching in 1997.

“As a former Jackson Catholic School teacher, Donna was happy to give back to the very place that helped enrich her life for so many years,” Lumen Christi Catholic School said in a May 6 press release.

“She believed the role of teacher was one of the noblest and most relevant professions in the world, and that it is vital that institutions like Jackson Catholic School be a welcome place for educators to build their careers and influence young lives,” the press release said. 

“This endowed gift will go on in perpetuity to ensure we have the very best Catholic teachers,” he said.

In March, the school district received another gift of $1 million as part of the school’s Illuminate the Future Capital fundraising Campaign. The campaign has a goal of raising $7 million for operational improvements.

The school system has secured $5.5 million in pledges, Dewitt told CNA.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Polish bishop after ‘Vos estis’ investigation

Polish Bishop Jan Tyrawa. / Krzysztof Mizera via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Polish Bishop Jan Tyrawa, who was investigated for negligence in handling cases of sexual abuse by priests in his diocese.

According to a statement by the apostolic nunciature in Poland May 12, the 72-year-old bishop submitted his letter of resignation to the pope at the end of a Vatican-led investigation into accusations that he had failed to properly handle cases of sexual abuse against minors by priests in his diocese.

“Following formal reports, the Holy See -- acting in accordance with the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi -- conducted proceedings concerning the reported negligence of the Bishop of Bydgoszcz Jan Tyrawa,” the statement said.

“After completing this procedure, taking into account also other difficulties in managing the diocese, the bishop of Bydgoszcz resigned from his ministry, accepted today by the Holy Father,” it concluded.

Tyrawa, bishop of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz, in northern Poland, since 2004, was accused in February of last year of knowing about the abusive tendencies of one of his priests and yet of having transferred him from parish to parish, rather than removing him from situations with minors.

The complaint was made by a former altar boy who said he was sexually abused by a priest in the Diocese of Bydgoszcz. Bishop Tyrawa testified in court during a settlement hearing. The victim was awarded compensation of over $80,000 to be paid by the diocese together with the Archdiocese of Wrocław.

Poland’s apostolic nunciature also announced May 12 that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Wiesław Śmigiel of the Diocese of Toruń to oversee the Diocese of Bydgoszcz as apostolic administrator sede vacante, following Tyrawa’s resignation.

Tyrawa was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Wrocław in 1973. In 1988, he was named an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, where he served until his appointment to lead the Bydgoszcz diocese in 2004.

Tyrawa is the latest in a series of Polish bishops to have faced investigations under the Vos estis norms for handling sex abuse cases, issued by Pope Francis in 2019 for an experimental period of three years.

The apostolic nunciature in Poland announced in March that the Vatican had sanctioned two retired bishops after canonical inquiries into accusations that they were negligent in their handling of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, archbishop of Gdańsk from 2008 to 2020, and Bishop Edward Janiak, who led the Diocese of Kalisz from 2012 to 2020, were ordered by the Holy See to live outside their former dioceses and told they cannot participate in public liturgies or non-religious gatherings within the territory of the dioceses.

Another Polish bishop investigated under Vos estis for alleged negligence is Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy.

On Oct. 9, the archdiocese of Kraków said that the pope had authorized Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków to conduct an inquiry into negligence claims against Rakoczy, concerning abuse cases involving two priests in Bielsko-Żywiec diocese.

Rakoczy, 82, served as bishop of Bielsko–Żywiec from 1992 until his retirement in 2013.

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

Maine Catholic schools to observe Fatima anniversary

Oct. 13, 2017: Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Via Conciliazione in Rome, Italy on the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition. / CNA

Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Children at Maine’s Catholic schools will participate in a series of Marian devotions on Thursday, to honor the Blessed Mother on the anniversary of the Fatima apparition.

School children at six Maine Catholic elementary and middle schools will be praying the rosary and participating in a “May Crowning” ceremony, among other Marian devotions. The children will pray for Mary’s intercession and the protection of the world. The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 

“The events fall on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, during which we celebrate Christ's bodily ascension into heaven in the presence of his apostles,” said a press release from the Diocese of Portland. 

“Because Christ ascended, we, as members of the Body of Christ, also look forward to ascending into heaven after our bodily resurrection. On the solemnity, we are also reminded of our evangelizing mission. Before Christ ascends, he gives his disciples final instructions, telling them to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit and then ‘go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature’,” the diocese said. 

Although in some U.S. dioceses the solemnity has been transferred from its traditional date - 10 days before Pentecost - to the following Sunday, other provinces have maintained observance of Ascension Thursday. The Portland diocese, which includes the entire state of Maine, is part of the ecclesiastical province of Boston which observes Ascension Thursday.

In addition to the Solemnity of the Ascension, May 13 also marks the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 1917, Mary appeared for the first time to a group of three Portuguese children in Fatima, Portugal. Over a series of six months, the Blessed Mother appeared to the children in the same location on the 13th of the month - except for when the children were briefly kidnapped by local authorities on August 13, after which Mary privately appeared to them several days later. 

The final visit, October 13, has come to be known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” or “the day the sun danced.” Around 70,000 people traveled to the location of Mary’s apparitions, and various accounts reported supernatural phenomena where the sun appeared to spin, twirl, and veer toward earth before returning to its place in the sky. 

The two youngest Fatima visionaries, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were canonized on May 13, 2017. The other visionary, their cousin Lucia dos Santos, died in 2005 and has since been declared a servant of God. 

Italian broker for Vatican’s London property arrested in UK

London, England. / Daniel Gale/Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Gianluigi Torzi, the Italian businessman who brokered the final part of the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London investment property, has been arrested in the United Kingdom.

The arrest, which took place May 11 in London, was requested by an Italian judge in Rome in April.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service said: “Officers from the National Extradition Unit attended an address on Campden Hill Road, W8, on Tuesday, May 11.”

“Gianluigi Torzi, 42 (16.01.79), was identified and arrested on a Trade and Cooperation Act (TACA) warrant issued in Italy on Wednesday, May 5 and certified by the National Crime Agency on Thursday, May 6.”

“He is accused in Italy of money laundering and fraud offenses.”

“Mr. Torzi appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court for an initial extradition hearing where he was remanded in custody. His next appearance is on Tuesday, May 18.”

Torzi, who has denied wrongdoing, is being investigated by Italian authorities for suspected fraudulent billing, money laundering, and other financial crimes in collaboration with three of his associates.

He is also under investigation by the Vatican for his role in facilitating the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London property on 60 Sloane Avenue in 2018. The Vatican alleges that in doing so, Torzi was part of a conspiracy to defraud the secretariat of millions of euros.

Based on the investigation, Vatican prosecutors had requested the seizure of Torzi’s U.K.-based bank accounts earlier this year. In March, a British judge reversed the action, stating that Vatican prosecutors withheld and misrepresented information in their request to the U.K. court.

Torzi was also arrested by the Vatican last summer and held in custody for a little more than a week on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.

At the center of the Vatican’s investigation is the scandal involving the London property at 60 Sloane Avenue, which the Secretariat of State bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from businessman Raffaele Mincione. Torzi brokered the sale, earning millions of euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

Torzi sold the secretariat the 30,000 majority shares in Gutt SA, the holding company through which the London property was purchased, while he retained the 1,000 shares with voting rights.

The Vatican claims that Torzi was “secretive and dishonest” when he retained the voting shares, while Torzi argues that everything was transparent and communicated to Vatican officials in conversation and in documents signed by them.

In his ruling, British judge Tony Baumgartner of Southwark Crown Court sided with Torzi, saying that the claim that the broker was “secretive and dishonest” was not supported by the evidence before him and was a “misrepresentation” by Vatican prosecutors.

Torzi is one of several figures under investigation by Vatican City State prosecutors in connection with multiple financial scandals involving the Secretariat of State.

The mishandling of funds in the secretariat in recent past years has led Pope Francis to issue financial reforms for the Roman Curia, including moving investment funds from the control of the secretariat to APSA, the Vatican's central bank.

Biden administration reconsiders abortion pill regulations


Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-abortion groups last week praised the Biden administration for reconsidering federal safety regulations of the abortion pill regimen.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on Friday said it was “thrilled” that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was reviewing restrictions on the regimen that have been in place since the year 2000. The FDA has long required the abortion pill regimen to be dispensed in-person in a health clinic setting, but pro-abortion groups have recently pushed for the pill to be prescribed remotely and dispensed through the mail.

In its statement on Twitter, ACOG supported the FDA’s “evidence-based review” of the “burdensome” and “unnecessary” regulations.

“We are confident that due to the FDA's commitment to regulatory decision-making that reflects science and patient-centered care, the needless restrictions on #mifepristone will soon end and patients will have less restrictive access to medication abortion & miscarriage care,” ACOG stated on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the review “long overdue, but a major move forward.” The group, on behalf of ACOG and other pro-abortion groups, sued the Trump administration last year for leaving the abortion pill regulations in place during the pandemic.

Since it approved the abortion pill regimen in 2000, the FDA has listed the protocol on its “REMS” list, reserved for higher-risk procedures. Under the classification, the abortion pill regimen must be prescribed by a certified health provider and dispensed in-person in a health clinic setting.

The regimen involves women taking mifepristone, which blocks nutrients to the unborn child, up until 70 days gestation. That is followed by a dose of misoprostol 24 to 48 hours later, which expels the deceased unborn child.

A federal judge last year sided with the pro-abortion groups, blocking the FDA’s in-person dispensing requirements during the pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Trump administration, allowing them to continue with their restrictions on chemical abortions.

In April, the acting FDA commissioner said that the agency would allow for remote dispensing of the abortion pill during the pandemic by not enforcing its regulations.

Now, however, the agency is reviewing its regulations with the prospect of altering them beyond the pandemic.

On Friday, both the Biden administration and groups challenging the FDA regulations jointly filed for a stay on the case until Dec. 1, due to the FDA’s ongoing review of its regulations.

“The Parties jointly seek a stay of this matter in light of Defendant U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (‘FDA’) current review of the risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (‘REMS’) at issue in this case,” the motion stated.

The parties cited the FDA’s recent “review of the in-person dispensing requirement” for the abortion pill regimen “in the context of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The motion noted that “the outcome of FDA’s review of the REMS could have a material effect on the issues before this Court.”

The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, has said he not only supports lifting the regulations during the pandemic, but added at his confirmation hearing that he favors increased use of telemedicine, in response to a question about the abortion pill regimen.

Calif. bill targets university healthcare links to Catholic hospitals, demands further moral compromise


Denver Newsroom, May 11, 2021 / 17:08 pm (CNA).

A bill threatens to ban University of California health systems from partnering with institutions that follow Catholic ethics, prompting concern ideological motives on abortion and LGBT issues will damage longtime partnerships and limit medical care access.


An organization of Catholic hospitals has defended its efforts to adhere to Catholic ethics, but also defend the partnership on the ground that they or their network hospitals provide some procedures related to gender transitioning and have won recognition from major LGBT groups.


“Currently there are many, many, many, contracts with the University of California and Catholic healthcare,” Edward Dolejsi, interim executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “Primarily because we provide services in a variety of underserved communities, and the University of California wants access to those communities and wants to train their physicians in those communities.”


Dolejsi said Catholic institutions are “proud” to partner with the university system.


“But as always if you’re working at one of our facilities, we follow the (Catholic bishops’) ethical and religious directives,” he said. “We do not allow abortions, elective sterilizations, transgender surgeries etc. in those healthcare facilities.”


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, last revised in 2018, aim to ensure ethical treatment at Catholic hospitals.


However, prospective state legislation called the Equitable and Inclusive University of California Healthcare Act would require the University of California health system to renegotiate agreements with Catholic hospitals. The hospitals would be forced to allow its staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary or to end its links to the state university medical system. The proposal, numbered Senate Bill 379, is under consideration in the California Senate.


A spokesman for bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, told an LGBT California publication that partnering with institutions like Catholic ones violates California standards.


“It is unacceptable to subject patients to discriminatory and harmful restrictions on the types of care they can receive, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care,” the spokesman said. “California law recognizes reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as basic healthcare. California state law restricts public health entities from preferring one pregnancy outcome over another, and prohibits discrimination against transgender patients seeking gender-affirming care. Despite existing law, people in California are still being denied these very critical healthcare services.”


Co-sponsors of the legislation include the ACLU of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Equality California.


Dolejsi said the controversy is “primary ideological.” Passage of the bill would end up limiting medical access for many Californians, particularly the poor and struggling. It would also limit physicians’ abilities to practice or train.


“That’s always the challenge here: do you want to provide services and resources in a quality way for all the people of California or do you want to expand an ideology?” Dolejsi asked. He suggested that Catholic health care  systems are “probably one of the larger providers of medical services in California.”


“It’s going to be interesting to see how it moves forward,” he said, adding that legislators are “trying to require us to allow physicians to do whatever they wish to do within our facilities.”


In February Weiner’s office said the university system’s agreements “explicitly prevent (University of California) doctors and students from providing reproductive and LGBTQ inclusive care, including: contraception, sterilization, abortion, gender-affirming care, and urgent care, such as treatment for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.”


In a May 3 letter to Sen. Anthony Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Alliance of Catholic Health Care made its case against the bill. Critics of Catholic healthcare have made allegations with “numerous inaccuracies,” the alliance letter said. It stressed that Catholic hospitals’ services are “provided to all, without discrimination.” Resident physicians trained at Catholic hospitals are not arbitrarily assigned, but choose their training.


“Catholic hospitals agree to uphold Catholic values, and therefore we do not provide elective abortion or procedures for the primary purpose of sterilization such as tubal ligations, hysterectomies (when no pathology is present), vasectomies and in-vitro fertilization (the latter two services are not typically performed in hospitals regardless of religious affiliation). Catholic hospitals do not limit availability of emergency or medically-necessary pregnancy care,” the letter said.


The alliance said Catholic hospitals “provide the standard of care for women with pregnancy complications, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.” They always provide “urgent and emergent care”  to the mother, “even if it results in the foreseen, but unintended, death of the fetus.”


“Our health facilities provide compassionate and comprehensive care to victims of sexual assault, including the provision of emergency contraception,” the alliance said, adding, “More than 10 Catholic-affiliated facilities are designated as the comprehensive rape treatment center or are the sexual assault response team.


Catholic ethics forbid direct abortion and direct sterilization. The U.S. bishops’ ethical and religious directives allow medication to sex assault victims to prevent conception if there is no evidence conception has already taken place. The directives add: “it is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”


The Catholic alliance letter described intra-uterine devices, which prevent implantation, as a “multi-purpose device.” If the appropriate care for a patient is “elective sterilizations,’ the letter said, “we expect the physician to ensure that care is provided in a facility that provides that service.”


The alliance’s health systems include 51 acute care hospitals, nearly 15% of all hospitals and 16% of hospital beds in California. Affiliations with the University of California health system are “essential to ensuring and expanding access to quality health care services across our State – especially so for underserved communities,” the alliance’s letter said. University of California Health has estimated the bill would cost millions of dollars in lost revenue currently generated through partnership agreements.


In some parts of California, University of California health care is reliant on its Catholic partners.


The alliance said its health systems played an important role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing “scarce front-line medical, bed-capacity, PPE, testing and vaccine resources.”


The alliance letter added that its hospitals offer primary, specialty, and urgent care for LGBTQ persons. It added: “specifically for transgender patients, we provide hormone therapy, breast augmentation or reduction, and facial feminization or masculinization”


CNA asked the Alliance of Catholic Health Care why its hospitals provided transgender-specific drugs and procedures. Lori Capello Dangberg, vice president at the alliance, told CNA May 10 that “numerous states in which Catholic hospitals operate have statutes that prohibit discrimination against patients on the basis of sex and gender identity, among other things.”


“Should the hospitals decline to provide a service to one protected class of people that they can morally provide to another class of people, they will be in violation of these statutes. Such a practice cannot be defended on the basis of religious freedom, as the courts will hold that it’s first and foremost a matter of discrimination against a protected class of people.”


Dangberg did not address the question of legislation, but there are concerns that proposals like the federal Equality Act and other decisions advocated by the Biden Administration could further mandate the provision of drugs and procedures which violate Catholic ethics while also stripping religious freedom protections. While Catholic institutions have some protections under existing federal rules and laws such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, California has fewer religious protections at the state level.


The letter to the Senate appropriations committee chairman also mentions non-Catholic hospitals under the Alliance for Catholic Health Care umbrella that provide specialty transgender care.


“We are proud to offer the only specialty transgender care center in San Francisco, the Gender Institute at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital,” the letter said. The institute has been established “to deliver compassionate, high-quality, affordable health services to transgender patients and their families.”


The letter noted that St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach is the first in the Dignity Health System to be recognized with health equity leader status by the Human Rights Campaign, an influential LGBT advocacy group.


The Human Rights Campaign has been effective at recruiting major companies to advocate for compliance to LGBT policies and political demands, including for a federal Equality Act stripped of religious freedom protections. It has asked the Biden administration to create accreditation regulations of religious schools that would enforce the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages and other LGBT causes.


In 2014, the campaign launched a lobbying effort linked with the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family, targeting leading Catholic bishops it said have been “most outspoken in their rejection of LGBT Catholics, their civil rights, and their rightful place in the Church.”


Another proposed California bill, S.B. 642, purports to defend medical staff’s clinical judgement from hospital administration’s “non-clinical” standards, including ethical standards, that hinder a doctor from providing a particular medical treatment. Such treatment could include legal abortion and legal assisted suicide. The legislation would significantly impact the ability for Catholic hospitals to require staff to follow Catholic ethical directives.


“Catholic healthcare is fighting on two fronts here in California,” Dolejsi told CNA.

Joe Bukuras contributed to this report.

Biden will not address Notre Dame commencement, was invited by the university

University of Notre Dame / CNA

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

In a break with recent tradition, President Joe Biden will not be delivering the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this year - although he was invited by the university to do so.

On Tuesday, the university announced that its May 23 commencement speaker will be Jimmy Dunne, a finance executive and trustee of the university. During the last three presidential administrations, U.S. presidents or vice presidents have addressed the university's commencement in their first year in office, but that trend will not continue in 2021. 

Although a university spokesman told CNA that, as a policy, “we do not discuss who may or may not have been approached to address our graduates,” sources from the White House confirmed to CNA that Biden had indeed been invited by the university but could not attend due to scheduling. 

The White House expressed its hope that Biden would appear at a future commencement ceremony of the university, during his first term. 

U.S. presidents have customarily been invited to address graduates at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremonies. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama addressed the university’s commencement in their first year in office, while other presidents have appeared later on in their presidential terms. 

In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence - a Catholic who now identifies as simply a “Christian” - addressed Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony. The university would not say if it invited President Trump to speak. 

“Neither President Trump nor President Clinton, we understand, was invited,” stated an open letter to Fr. Jenkins asking him not to invite Biden. The letter, signed by more than 4,300 “members of the Notre Dame community,” cited Biden’s “pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda” as reasons not to invite him to address the commencement.

A university spokesman said on Tuesday, “While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office--or at all."

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush each addressed Notre Dame’s commencement in their last year in office, Brown noted. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter each addressed the commencement in their first year in office. President Gerald Ford did speak on campus, but the event was an academic convocation on St. Patrick’s day.

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump did not address Notre Dame’s commencement at all. 

Obama’s address in 2009 drew controversy due to his ardent support of legal abortion. Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix sent a letter to Notre Dame’s president Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, saying that the invitation of Obama to speak and receive an honorary law degree at Notre Dame’s commencement is a violation of the USCCB’s 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life.”

Bishop John M. D’Arcy, who served as the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend until his retirement in November 2009, issued a statement at the time that Jenkins gave a “flawed justification” for the university’s commencement invitation to President Obama, and should have consulted with his bishop before extending the invitation. 

Biden is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history. While he has mentioned his faith on the campaign trail and has attended Sunday Mass while in office, he has supported taxpayer-funded abortion and pushed for the passage of the Equality Act in defiance of the U.S. bishops’ conference. 

His administration has begun rolling back restrictions on public funding of abortion providers, and is fighting in court to keep a mandate in place that doctors provide gender-transition surgeries upon referral, regardless of their medical or conscientious beliefs.

While Biden will not be speaking at Notre Dame’s commencement this year, he has spoken at the university in the past. 

In 2016, Biden appeared at the Notre Dame commencement with former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); the two were given the Laetare Medal, the highest honor given by the school. 

“By honoring Biden, Notre Dame would make a bad situation worse,” the open letter in protest of Biden's invite stated.

“The University would be seen as little troubled by Biden’s actions, the voice of a more ‘progressive’ Catholic Church. Catholics – including especially Catholic politicians — and others who share Biden’s views would be confirmed in their ruinous error while others would be newly led astray,” the letter stated.

This article was updated on May 12.

Mobile clinic to offer ultrasounds outside Utah Planned Parenthood 

Thomas Andreas/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The group Pro-Life Utah will park a mobile ultrasound clinic outside one of the largest abortion clinics in the state, it announced this week. 

The “Pregnancy Choice Utah Mobile Ultrasound Clinic” will be parked outside of Planned Parenthood Metro in Salt Lake City, the group said on its website. The “bright pink mobile clinic” will offer women free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and options counseling about pregnancy, parenting, and adoption resources. The mobile clinic’s ultrasound machine was donated by the Knights of Columbus.

In a video promoting its mobile clinic, the group said its services are offered by “licensed medical staff and trained client advocates.” 

“Pregnant women will have the opportunity to actually see their own baby and hear the heartbeat,” the Pro-Life Utah website stated. “

“Statistics show that up to 80% of abortion-minded women experience a change of heart and choose to keep their baby upon seeing the ultrasound. The ‘clump of cells’ lie is exposed, and women who view their ultrasound can realize that this is a baby!” the group said.

Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, said in the group’s video that the ultrasound for the mobile clinic was donated by the Knights of Columbus. 

“I have to take a minute and thank the Knights of Columbus,” Taylor said. “They’ve raised money and donated ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers across the state and across the country. We are so grateful to be a recipient of this project.” 

Through its initiative that began in 2009, the Knights of Columbus has donated ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers around the world. State and local Knights councils raise 50% of the cost of the machine while the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council provides the other 50%. In the case of a mobile medical unit, the Supreme Council provides 100% of the cost of the ultrasound machine.

The 1,000th machine donated under the initiative was given to an abortion clinic-turned-medical clinic, the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, Virginia.

Karrie Galloway, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah - the affiliate that operates the Planned Parenthood Metro clinic in Salt Lake City - said in a statement provided to CNA that "We acknowledge first amendment rights to publicly gather and disagree with our mission.”  

“At Planned Parenthood, our patients are always our number one priority, and we do all we can to ensure each person has the information they need to make health care decisions that are best for them. That includes providing ultrasounds to every patient who comes to us for abortion care,” Galloway added.  

Local Catholic association supports physicians in their vocation

Dr. Saad Jazrawi, president of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, holds daughter Samar, age 7 months, during a dinner following the annual White Mass for Catholic health care workers in 2019. “If I combine my faith and my work, I’m a better Catholic and a better physician,” said Jazrawi. / Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel

Portland, Ore., May 11, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

As a committed Catholic and newly minted medical doctor, Saad Jazrawi was clear about his mission: treat patients with Christlike compassion.

He also knew distractions would abound, from the allure of a bigger house or fancier car to the stress of navigating insurance companies and administrative demands. And he’d encounter an array of moral issues — if not regularly in his own work, in his interactions with colleagues — abortion, medically assisted suicide and new views on gender.

“If I combine my faith and my work, I’m a better Catholic and a better physician,” said Jazrawi, a gastroenterologist who deals with digestive diseases and abdominal cancer. “I wanted to make sure that the two would not be in conflict, and I needed support.”

When Jazrawi moved to Oregon, he found the spiritual and practical encouragement he sought in the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild.

“It’s a small community of morally sound physicians who have been so helpful,” said Jazrawi, who was named guild president seven years ago. “I’ve become more comfortable not being distracted by things and can focus on what’s important — caring for patients with respect for the whole human person.”

Medical residents, including Temilola Yvonne Abdul (center), pose during the 2018 Catholic Medical Association conference, held in Dallas. / Courtesy Catholic Medical Association/Catholic Sentinel
Medical residents, including Temilola Yvonne Abdul (center), pose during the 2018 Catholic Medical Association conference, held in Dallas. / Courtesy Catholic Medical Association/Catholic Sentinel

The Portland guild is a chapter of the Catholic Medical Association and one of about 110 such organizations nationwide. It aims to uphold principles of Catholic morality in medicine, communicate Catholic medical ethics to the broader community, and fortify medical professionals in their faith.

The local guild began in the early 1950s as a loose affiliation of Catholic doctors. Most were parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Southwest Portland and lived near “Pill Hill,” so dubbed for its proximity to Oregon Health and Science University.

The group grew more active in the 1960s, and members gave talks on natural family planning at Oregon parishes. The guild essentially dissolved for a time, but in the 1990s Dr. Thomas Pitre and his wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, revitalized it.

Physician-assisted suicide was gaining support locally, and within a few years Oregon would become the first state in the nation to legalize lethal prescriptions.

Dr. Thomas Pitre and wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, helped revitalize the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild in the 1990s. / Courtesy of Dr. Thomas Pitre/Catholic Sentinel
Dr. Thomas Pitre and wife, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre, helped revitalize the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild in the 1990s. / Courtesy of Dr. Thomas Pitre/Catholic Sentinel

“We felt the need as Catholic physicians to get Catholic doctors together to preserve our ethic that the Catholic faith is not incompatible with being a physician” and to address new practices that violated core tenants of the faith, said Pitre, who retired last year after 45 years in urology. He and Bissonnette-Pitre, a psychiatrist, are converts.

The couple added additional events to the guild’s calendar and restarted a White Mass, held for medical professionals on the feast day of St. Luke. The saint was both Gospel writer and physician.

Cardinal Francis George, former head of the Portland Archdiocese, spoke at several functions and encouraged Lynne and Thomas’ efforts. He also connected them with the Catholic Medical Association.

In 2005, the Portland guild hosted the association’s annual conference, drawing more than 300 medical professionals to the city for a gathering that included talks and daily Mass. The following year Pitre began a term as president of the national association.

The local guild’s most notable achievement is Holy Family Catholic Clinic, founded by three guild members and opened last year in West Linn, a suburb of Portland.

“They are doing marvelous work there at the medical clinic,” said Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, guild chaplain. The monsignor is director of the Portland archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship and recently was named rector of St. Mary Cathedral.

“Holy Family is a great resource for me now as a parish priest,” Msgr. O’Connor said. “I can send young couples who are planning to marry to the clinic to learn about natural family planning.”

Membership in the Portland guild has fluctuated over the past few decades, but it currently has about 25 core members, with many others attending special events such as the White Mass and annual dinner. There are meetings the first Saturday of the month, occasional social gatherings and retreats.

Dr. William Toffler, a member of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, speaks during a 2016 Catholic Medical Association event in Mundelein, Illinois. The doctor is one of three co-founders of Holy Family Catholic Clinic, the Portland guild’s most significant achievement. / Courtesy Marc Salvatore/Catholic Sentinel
Dr. William Toffler, a member of the Portland Catholic Physicians Guild, speaks during a 2016 Catholic Medical Association event in Mundelein, Illinois. The doctor is one of three co-founders of Holy Family Catholic Clinic, the Portland guild’s most significant achievement. / Courtesy Marc Salvatore/Catholic Sentinel

“It’s been a tremendous comfort to know there are other like-minded physicians in a culture that is increasingly at odds with what we believe,” said Pitre, echoing fellow members.

Periodically multiple guilds convene to learn about issues or upcoming legislation with ethical or religious liberty implications. Members also have engaged in advocacy, testifying at the Oregon state Capitol against euthanasia and collecting signatures for various respect-life measures. The guild sometimes collaborates with other Christian associations on issues.

In November of last year, the Portland group sent a letter to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown conveying concerns about pandemic-related restrictions on communal worship. They were most worried about how the rules would impact psychological well-being. The physicians praised Brown for responding to an uptick in COVID-19 infections but asked her to consider each church’s capacity, an approach backed by science. Archbishop Alexander Sample also sent a letter to the governor, who eventually reworked the guidelines.

Archbishop Alexander Sample offers encouragement to medical professionals following a 2019 Mass in their honor. / Courtesy Saad Jazrawi/Catholic Sentinel
Archbishop Alexander Sample offers encouragement to medical professionals following a 2019 Mass in their honor. / Courtesy Saad Jazrawi/Catholic Sentinel

Archbishop Sample has been a champion of the Portland guild, as have previous archbishops. “We’ve also been fortunate to have many great chaplains,” said Pitre, noting Benedictine Father Bernard Sander, Msgr. Richard Huneger and Father Eric Andersen.

The current chaplain expressed his immense respect for guild members.

They work within a culture that’s not pro-life and even encounter hostility to Catholic teaching at some Catholic hospitals, said Msgr. O’Connor.

The camaraderie the guild affords, plus the support from the national organization, “allows men and women of faith to share with courage and knowledge church teaching in the world,” he said. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

This article was first published by the Catholic Sentinel and is reprinted with permission.

Revered icon of Our Lady unscathed after Belarus church fire

The icon of Our Lady of Budslau. / Vitaly Polinevsky/

CNA Staff, May 11, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A Marian icon revered by Catholics in Belarus was recovered undamaged on Tuesday following a fire at a church in the village where it has been venerated for centuries.

The icon of Our Lady of Budslau was found unscathed on the morning of May 11 amid the blaze at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Budslau, about 90 miles north of the capital, Minsk., the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus, reported that minutes after smoke was seen billowing from the roof, pastor Fr. Dmitry Dubovik and volunteers entered the church and removed the icon and the Blessed Sacrament.

Belsat TV reported that the church’s roof was destroyed in the blaze which firefighters battled for more than four hours. The cause of the fire is currently unknown. said that the icon is being kept at a safe location and would soon be available for veneration again.

/ Vitaly Polinevsky/
/ Vitaly Polinevsky/

The bishops of Belarus appealed to Catholics May 11, following a visit to the site, to support the reconstruction of the late Baroque church, also known as the National Sanctuary of the Mother of God of Budslau.

They said: “We, the Catholic bishops of Belarus, call on all the faithful to join together in prayer and possible assistance in the restoration of the shrine in Budslau, built by our ancestors with great love for God and His Blessed Mother.”

“May the Mother of God of Budslau help us to restore her house in Budslau as soon as possible. May our Blessed Mother and Patroness of Belarus continue to take care of our homeland, the Church in Belarus, and all of us, may she save and protect from all evil and lead to her Son.”

Catholics are the second-largest religious community after Orthodox Christians in Belarus, a country of 9.6 million people bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

An annual celebration in honor of Our Lady of Budslau was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018.

In its citation, the United Nations’ cultural agency said: “Since the 17th century, every year on the first weekend of July tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over Belarus and other countries have come to Budslau to participate in the celebrations in honor of the Budslau icon of Our Lady, with some making the pilgrimage on foot.”

“The icon, the patroness of Belarusian people, is known for many miracles and Budslau is recognized as the place where, according to legend, Our Lady appeared to believers in July 1588.”

“Elements of the celebration include priests welcoming the pilgrims, Masses, a night procession with the icon and candles, a youth prayer vigil, and hours of prayer to the Mother of God.”