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Bishop of Charleston prohibits confirmation, anointing of the sick in ‘Tridentine Form’

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, South Carolina / Bill Kennedy/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 16:12 pm (CNA).

Priests in the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. may no longer administer confirmation or the anointing of the sick in Latin using the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal, under a new policy that goes into effect Sunday.

The policy announced by Charleston Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone also limits the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, and comes in response to Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes, or “Guardians of the tradition.” The papal edict states that it is each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the Traditional Latin Mass in his diocese.

The Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 is known as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

The new “Policy Regarding Celebration of the Mass of 1962 in the Diocese of Charleston” goes into effect on Nov. 28, the first Sunday of Advent. It identifies four parishes in the diocese where the Traditional Latin Mass may be said on Sundays and holy days of obligation, under certain conditions.

Guglielmone stipulates in the new policy that the Traditional Latin Mass cannot be celebrated for midnight Mass at Christmas, or during the Triduum or the Easter vigil. A single Traditional Latin Mass is allowed on All Souls Day. On weekdays, the older rite may be celebrated “if an additional Mass is celebrated according to the ‘NOVUS ORDO’ on the same day,” the policy states.

The four parishes where the Traditional Latin Mass can be celebrated are: Stella Maris in Sullivans Island; Sacred Heart in Charleston; Prince of Peace in Taylors, and Our Lady of the Lake in Chapin.

The policy also limits the celebration of certain sacraments in the “Tridentine form.”

Confirmation and anointing of the sick are not permitted, the bishop states. Baptism is allowed only at the request of the parents. Matrimony using the older rite is permitted with permission of the bishop, and funerals are allowed only at “specific prior written request of the deceased.”

A note adds that “Baptism, Matrimony and Anointing of the Sick can be celebrated in Latin according to the most recent updating of the rites.”

“Those priests who have been celebrating this Mass prior to the date of Pope Francis’ MOTU PROPRIO and who have indicated to me that they were doing so, may celebrate this Mass” in the four parishes, Guglielmone states in the policy.

A spokeswoman for the diocese confirmed that the new policy is in response to Traditionis custodes. “The motu proprio from the Holy Father requested that each bishop evaluate their diocese and implement specific instructions regarding the celebration of the Mass of 1962,” she told CNA. “After reviewing the rites thoroughly and consulting with the pastors of our diocese, the bishop approved this policy effective the first Sunday of Advent.”

The spokeswoman also addressed the sacramental regulations in the policy. “Regarding the specific limitations on certain sacraments, these decisions were made based upon the rubrics and study of the rites,” she said. “For example, before Vatican II the Mass could not be celebrated after 12:00 p.m. on a Sunday and not before midnight the day before a major feast day. Thus, there is no permission in the rubrics to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass on Christmas Eve.”

Guglielmone was appointed bishop of Charleston by Pope Benedict in 2009. The text of the new policy is below.

The new policy of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., regarding the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. CNA
The new policy of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., regarding the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. CNA

Catholic University of America: Unintentional abortion coverage for students wasn't used

The Catholic University of America. / Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 14:51 pm (CNA).

Although it has acknowledged that its student health plan unintentionally covered certain abortion services for the past three years, The Catholic University of America said Monday that no abortion claims occurred during that time.

"Aetna reported that there were no abortion claims paid under the plan," university spokeswoman Karna Lozoya told CNA. 

Aetna is a healthcare provider often used by universities to offer students and staff a university-sponsored health insurance option. 

CUA’s report comes days after a media report uncovering that the university's student health care plan provided by Aetna covers abortion “when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or if it places the woman’s life in serious danger.”

The College Fix, a new site that features the work of student journalists, originally reported Nov. 9 that CUA was offering the services. 

The news outlet has written a series of stories about student health care plans at a number of Catholic higher-education institutions that cover abortion services, sterilization surgeries, contraception, and even sex change surgeries, all in contradiction to the explicit teachings of the Catholic Church.

In an earlier statement to CNA, Lozoya explained that the abortion coverage was not intentional on the university’s part.

“The Catholic University of America is committed to defending life at every stage, and we work hard to live out that commitment in all aspects of University operations. For our student and staff health plans, we have always excluded abortion from coverage,” she said.

“A few years ago our health insurance provider for our student health plan (Aetna) made a blanket change to their plans to add limited exceptions to the abortion exclusion — in the case of rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is in danger. Unfortunately, the change was not intentional on our part. Our health insurance plan for staff never included these exceptions,” the statement continued.

“As a result of our direct communications with Aetna, they have removed all exceptions to the comprehensive exclusion of abortion coverage from our student health plan, and we have removed the plan from our website. An amended plan will be available soon, and it will be explicit that abortion is excluded from coverage,” Lozoya said. “The Catholic University of America apologizes for the error.”

A senior and student senator at Catholic University of America, Gerald Sharpe, told CNA that the university is pro-life.

“As the university mentioned, this was a colossal error. I know and have worked closely with the administration when I was student body President — they are deeply committed to protecting all life in the womb. As a senior at Catholic U, I can easily say the Church’s teaching on life is upheld and fostered on campus,” he said.

This article was updated with additional information on Nov. 22.

Faith leaders unite to ‘Pray for Dobbs,’ the case that could overturn Roe

Adult and young people hold signs protesting abortion. / Murloc / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 14:13 pm (CNA).

Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians recently united for a day of prayer in anticipation for an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case concerning abortion. 

“Our Christian churches and all people of goodwill must pray, fast, and work harder to end this pandemic of child sacrifice,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., said at the event held on Nov. 18.

The National Virtual Prayer Gathering comes as part of the “Pray for Dobbs” campaign. On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that involves Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. The case challenges two landmark cases: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

The “Pray for Dobbs” campaign provides “resources to help your church, school, ministry, or faith community pray for a just decision in the Dobbs case,” including an informational webinar, flyers detailing the case, and action ideas. Those ideas include prayer, fasting, and organizing local prayer vigils for Dec. 1.

Kat Talalas, the assistant director for pro-life communciations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), explained the initiative during in an informational webinar on Oct. 19. Some 3,500 church leaders participated in the webinar.

“Several faith leaders, all around the same time, had simultaneously the same idea, which is that we need a unified effort of Christians across the country joining together in prayer and fasting to end the scourge of abortion,” Talalas said during the webinar. “They also realized this would have to be an effort that comes out of the body of Christ and is not necessarily tied to any political group or political movement, but is truly an effort from people who are seeking to intercede and to ask God to protect all human life.”

With leaders of different faith traditions involved, she stressed, “We welcome you, we hope that you will join us in prayer and fasting from now until June 22.” The Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case is expected to come sometime before July 2022.

The prayer event, hosted by Mary Szoch, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council (FRC), featured 16 guests including Naumann, former chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Our nation stands guilty of not only promoting, endorsing, and enshrining abortion across the land, but we are responsible for exporting abortion throughout the world in a sinister form of colonial imperialism,” Naumann said during the event. He asked God for forgiveness and to “strengthen us to stand against evil, to love those who may attack us, and show great compassion to those who’ve been involved in sins against life.”

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the superior general of the Sisters of Life, began her prayer during the event with the sign of the cross. She prayed for those wounded by abortion and for the children who have perished by abortion. 

“We pray that those whose hearts have been pierced by abortion may experience anew your gaze of love upon them and, in your gaze, be restored to experience their own great dignity,” she said.

“Holy Spirit,” she added, “inspire our Supreme Court justices and clerks for the deep sense of reverence for the sacredness of every human life so that every human life be protected in law. That the sufferings of abortion may end.”

Szoch described “Pray for Dobbs” as “bringing together Christians from around the country to pray for the end to abortion in America.” 

“It was really an effort all across the board,” she told CNA. “We had Catholics involved, we had Baptists involved, we had Presbyterians involved. I know I'm leaving out people there, but we really did have a unified effort.”

The speakers at the prayer event included Tony Evans, the senior pastor Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Benjamin Watson, a former NFL star and Super Bowl champion, Tony Meléndez, a singer and concert guitarist, and Metropolitan Tikhon, the archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada for the Orthodox Church.

She said it was advertised by churches across the country, the USCCB, FRC, and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

She acknowledged the importance of prayer and fasting in anticipation of the case.

“The atrocity of abortion is a grave evil and we know that God, the author of life, is pro-life,” she said. “He is the being who brought every unborn child into being, and he knows each unborn child intimately, and he has called each one of them by name for a purpose.”

Szoch highlighted another upcoming cross-denominational and non-partisan event called “Pray Together for Life.” Separate from “Pray for Dobbs,” FRC is organizing it to be held on Nov. 28 in Jackson, Miss.

“We need America to return to a nation that believes in the dignity of the human person,” she said, “and for that, we can't do it without God.” 

Heart surgery scheduled for San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy

Bishop Robert McElroy. / Catholic News Agency

San Diego, Calif., Nov 22, 2021 / 11:32 am (CNA).

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego is scheduled for a coronary bypass surgery on Monday. He is expected to make a full recovery, though he will not return to work until after Christmas.

“I have great confidence in the medical staff who are carrying out this operation and, generally, patients are able to return to work in about four weeks,” he told the diocese’s priests in a letter.

“Of course, God will be in charge of all this,” he added.

The 67-year-old bishop began discussing the possible surgery with doctors after he received results from medical tests over the summer, the diocese said in a statement on Friday.

McElroy was born in San Francisco and ordained a priest there in 1980. He served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Francisco from 2010 to 2015, when he was named Bishop of San Diego.

He is currently president of the California Catholic Conference and a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

His predecessor in San Diego, Bishop Cirilo Flores, died in September 2014 at the age of 66 after only one year in office. Flores had suffered a stroke and was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

Waukesha parade tragedy: Priest, Catholic schoolchildren hurt when SUV plows into marchers

Catholics and others were injured, and at least four people killed, when a car drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Nov. 21. / Getty Images

Waukesha, Wisconsin, Nov 22, 2021 / 01:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic priest, parishioners, and Catholic schoolchildren were injured when an SUV plowed into marchers during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisc., on Sunday, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has said.

“Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha,” the archdiocese’s communications director, Sandra Peterson, said Nov. 21.

“Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.”

According to authorities, at least five people were killed and 40 injured when the driver of a red SUV barreled through barricades and into a crowd marching down the main street of the Milwaukee suburb just before 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 21. Videos posted on social media showed a dark SUV racing down the parade route past horrified onlookers moments before marchers were struck, with police in pursuit.

The Catholic Community of Waukesha, which includes four parishes, confirmed on Facebook late on Sunday night that several members of the community have been hospitalized for injuries.

The Catholic community was among those marching in the parade. The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team, and a marching band were also struck, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Waukesha police department said they have a person of interest in custody.

The Catholic Community of Waukesha will hold a livestreamed prayer service Nov. 22 at St. William Church, and said it is planning to provide counseling and support for parishioners following the tragedy.

“We continue to monitor the impact of yesterday’s tragic event and minister to our injured parishioners and to anyone who was in attendance,” the group wrote on Facebook.

“It is in our most difficult hours that we, as a community, turn to our Lord for refuge, strength and love. Please join us and with your community for prayer.”

The city’s four Catholic parishes have been livestreaming the rosary and Eucharistic adoration every night. The rosary following the incident Nov. 21 had almost 300 comments, over 250 reactions, and 53 shares.

A Roe v. Wade reading list: Must-read books to understand the landmark abortion ruling

People praying at an abortion clinic. / Diocese of Saginaw, CC BY ND 2.0.

Denver Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 00:00 am (CNA).

Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

With oral arguments for the greatest challenge to Roe v. Wade in a half century set for Dec. 1, readers may be intrigued to know more about the landmark 1973 abortion case. These books can help explain where Roe went wrong and how to get it right.

Getting the science right

"Embryo: A Defense of Human Life" (Doubleday, 2008) by Robert P. George and Chris Tollefsen.

Legal scholar Robert P. George and philosophy professor Chris Tollefsen team up to provide a scientific and philosophical argument as to why the human embryo is a human being from the moment of conception. Though heavily focused on stem cell research, this book provides an excellent summary, based on scientific realities, as to why it is immoral to take the life of a human being in the womb.

Amicus Curiae brief filed in support of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by Monique Chireau Wubbenhorst, M.D., M.P.H., Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., Colleen Malloy, M.D. and the Catholic Association Foundation (July 2021.)

While Supreme Court briefs aren’t generally the easiest or most compelling reads, this 35-page document is an exception to the rule. Filled with important scientific advances, the brief contextualizes what Roe didn’t get right about the science. It includes stunning visual information that helps average readers conceptualize the fetus as a human being. Medical doctors treat these human beings as patients endowed with the right to life and who call forth from them a responsibility to save, thus many of these doctors are on the vanguard of new interventions that save lives. These scientific advancements uncover the hypocrisy of also treating fetuses as human beings that should be eliminated upon demand.

Getting the public policy right

"What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics" (Harvard University Press, 2020) by O. Carter Snead.

O. Carter Snead, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, lays bare the anthropological undergirding of abortion case law — an anthropology known as “expressive individualism”— and its implications for society. By returning to the fundamental question about what it means to be human, Snead asks his readers to consider a more “capacious” understanding of humanity: human beings as embodied, vulnerable, social, and dependent beings whose good is found in community, and not simply the naked expression of self-determination. Chapter three, which focuses on abortion, provides a robust summary of the six most important cases that have shaped abortion case law, beginning with Roe v. Wade, and analyzes the questions underneath the case law, bringing to light all the anthropological shifts that need to be made in order to get the public policy right.

"Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice" (Cambridge University Press, 2007) by Francis J. Beckwith.

According to Siobhan Maloney from Humanum Review, “Francis Beckwith’s book is heralded as the ‘most comprehensive defense of the pro-life position, morally, legally and politically, that has ever been published.’ Perhaps the word comprehensive is the best that can be found to describe the task undertaken in this book.”

This 314-page work focuses heavily on answering the arguments made by pro-choice activists and politicians. It provides a thorough moral and legal response to the questions that are at the heart of Roe v. Wade, with chapters such as “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law,” and  “Abortion, Liberalism, and State Neutrality.”

Beckwith, a philosophy professor at Baylor University, tackles the policy questions by asking and answering questions about anthropology, ontology, and morality. Because we can know that the fetus is a human person by reason and not just by faith, he argues, we know that they are endowed with the same human rights as every being who is human in nature.

Understanding Roe’s impact

"Black and Pro-Life in America: The Incarceration and Exoneration of Walter B. Hoye" (Ignatius Press, 2018) by Robert W. Artigo.

Robert W. Artigo, an award-winning investigative journalist, details the powerful witness of the Rev. Walter B. Hoye II, a popular black Baptist minister who defied an unjust law without compromise, despite all the efforts of pro-abortion authorities to avoid the embarrassment of penalizing a beloved black minister if he would only "bend a little." 

Book cover of "Black and Pro-Life in America," by investigative journalist Robert W. Artigo. CNA screenshot
Book cover of "Black and Pro-Life in America," by investigative journalist Robert W. Artigo. CNA screenshot

Hoye was arrested on March 20, 2009 after defying a law passed by the City of Oakland, Calif., that made it illegal to approach a woman entering an abortion clinic without her consent. He went to jail for standing on a public sidewalk with a sign saying, "God loves you and your baby. Let us help you."

Hoye was offered a lesser sentence of community service, provided he agreed never to return to the clinic. Instead, the pro-life leader spent 30 days in jail to serve as a witness to his constitutional right to free speech and his Christian duty to offer help to women in need, most of whom were black like him. 

Two higher courts eventually exonerated Hoye; one overturned his criminal conviction, and the other struck down the Oakland "bubble law" as unconstitutional. Artigo provides a detailed play-by-play account of the political pro-abortion machinations that created the "bubble law” and the unexpected violator who defied it — a descendant of slaves and disciple of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Hoye not only scored a huge legal victory for the pro-life movement, he became one of the greatest pies in the face to attempts to legally sacramentalize abortion.

Critiques of Roe v. Wade

"Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade" (Encounter Books, 2013) by Clarke D. Forsythe.

Much can be said of Clarke D. Forsythe's incredibly detailed recount of how Roe was nothing but an embarrassing legal blunder by seven out of the nine justices of the 1973 Supreme Court. But let's just quote the review that Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Rosen wrote back in 2013.

"Mr. Forsythe's generally fair-minded narrative about the internal dynamics on the Roe court will not change the minds of activists on either side of this intensely polarized debate. Nor can it tell the justices whether to overturn Roe, given that the case has been repeatedly reaffirmed over the past 40 years. But ‘Abuse of Discretion’ provides a cautionary tale about the political and constitutional hazards of unnecessarily broad Supreme Court decisions,” Rosen wrote in his review.

“Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, said in a 1991 interview that the court's decision to hear the abortion cases was a ‘serious mistake’ because the justices initially thought they were considering a narrow procedural question of when courts should intervene in pending criminal prosecutions. As a result, they decided the abortion cases without possessing a factual record about the medical, social and legal effects of various abortion restrictions,” Rosen continued.

“This gave a free-floating quality to the deliberations, which Mr. Forsythe documents in detail. Drawing on the private papers of the justices that have been released in the past two decades — including those of Blackmun, Potter Stewart and Byron White — he traces the horse-trading that occurred behind the scenes.”

Forsythe is the senior counsel at Americans United for Life Action (AULA.) So far, there is no account from the pro-choice side that has dared to refute his explanation of how the Supreme Court failed the country and the rule of law by legalizing abortion.

"A Private Choice: Abortion in America in the Seventies”  (Life Cycle Books, 1979) by John T. Noonan, Jr.

While Forsythe makes his case in a massive, 477-page book, John Thomas Noonan Jr., a brilliant Catholic scholar and federal judge, makes his argument in 192 pages divided into 21 chapters called “Inquiries.”  

In a review of Noonan's book published by the Marquette University's Linacre Quarterly journal in 1980, philosophy professor Patrick Lee accuses Noonan of being too nice to the "enemy." But at the same time, Lee recognizes that the book gives "a political and legal history of the abortion controversy, explaining where abortion got its political support, how its proponents and the press masked the ‘liberty’ of abortion with legend, and how the ‘liberty’ so expanded that its proponents forced the active cooperation of all in the abortion act.” 

Noonan's effort to reach a compromise may be dissapointing, but Lee highlights one of the strenghts of  “A Private Choice”: The proof that "mere legality of abortion was therefore not enough." 

Noonan points to the fact that "pro-abortionists demanded that government finance the exercise of this ‘liberty,’ even though the government finances the exercise of no other traditional, real liberty, such as of speech or of religion.”

Noonan continues: “Government does not buy printing presses or build churches for the poor. Supposedly, humanitarian concern for the poor motivated the demand for funding. Yet no one objected when the same Supreme Court ruled also that states can refuse welfare assistance to the fifth child of a mother on welfare.”

By this logic, “government must finance the poor's ‘right’ to abortion ... but not the poor child's right to eat,” Noonan writes. “How ‘humanitarian’ is a government that says, ‘We will help you, but first let us abort your children’?" 

Pro-life attorney: 'No court should be able to usurp state laws that protect human life'

Dorinda Chiappetta Bordlee, a New Orleans-based attorney. / Courtesy of Dorinda Chiappetta Bordlee.

Denver Newsroom, Nov 21, 2021 / 18:52 pm (CNA).

Part of a continuing series examining the U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

On Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many legal experts say the case presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Dorinda Chiappetta Bordlee, a New Orleans-based attorney who strives to live out her Catholic faith by creating life-affirming options for pregnant women and their unborn children. She is one of 240 pro-life women to sign an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Mississippi law at the heart of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which will be decided in 2022. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Have you always considered yourself to be pro-life, or was there a moment or event that convinced you of the position?

I had gone through a period in college and law school where I took the position that I was personally pro-life, but believed a woman should have a right to choose. Then one of my closest friends — who was 30 years old at the time, I was maybe 27 —  shared with me about an abortion that she had had when she was 18 years old.

They had punctured her uterus and they sent her home, not even realizing they had done that. She had almost bled to death at home. Her sister had brought her to the ER, and they repaired her uterus. But her pregnancies after that were very high risk, and she almost lost the two babies that she had. Eventually, she was forced to have a hysterectomy. Not only was that abortion physically destructive to her, but even more so psychologically. It was just so traumatic. 

When I saw what abortion did to women — to my friend, my very close friend — the idea of being personally pro-life, but believing a woman should have a right to choose, that bubble popped because I could see that this is an industry preying on women. Abortions are kept a secret. And women are left to pay the price with our bodies, minds and spirits.

At the same time, I had just had my first child, my daughter. My heart had just burst open. I had no idea the incredible amount of life-changing love that comes from holding your child. I remember thinking if I had made a so-called ‘choice,’ that had taken the life of my daughter, then not only would this extraordinary child not be here but I, as a woman, would have been completely robbed of this extravagant yet unexpected joy. 

How did you come to the place where you are professionally?

After I became aware of the exploitive role of the abortion industry, I started writing letters to national pro-life organizations, offering my services as a lawyer. 

At night, it was almost like I was being antagonized by an unseen accuser who would make arguments for abortion, for the so-called “pro-choice” position. It was like I was being trained in my heart on how to answer those questions in a pro-woman, pro-child way. 

At the time, in 1994, the tagline of the pro-life movement was “abortion stops a beating heart,” and the pro-abortion tagline was “a woman’s right to choose.” What I came to understand was that pitting the child against the mother is not the right way to look at this. When a woman is pregnant, there is a unity of bodies, minds and spirits. What is good for the baby is good for the woman, and what hurts the baby hurts the woman. We have to be able to love them both, and to advocate for them both. I don't have to be pro-life or pro-woman, I can be both pro-woman and pro-life. 

After three nights of this, I finally told the Lord that I would write this “authentic woman” position in a letter to the editor. So I got up at three in the morning and I wrote an op-ed to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The letter addressed people who were being arrested for praying and offering alternatives in front of abortion clinics. 

What I pointed out was that these people were speaking on behalf of women and children. I wrote the op-ed and I faxed it in, because that's what you did at the time, and I finally got some sleep. And I remember a little voice in my ear saying, “Your life is never going to be the same again.”

The next day, the editor called me to verify that I had sent the letter, and they published it. That day, I received an invitation to attend the board meeting of New Orleans Right to Life, and they asked me to work with them on the passage of a law, going to the Louisiana legislature, and lobbying for what's called the Woman's Right to Know Act. 

That legislation requires abortion clinics to give women a booklet that is drawn up and created by the Department of Health. I ended up helping to write that booklet with doctors, and so forth. It shows the development of an unborn child in two-week increments. It also covers abortion’s medical risks, short-term and long-term, to a woman's health, including the increased risk of breast cancer. 

That pro-woman, pro-life act was passed and signed into law. To this day, when a woman goes into an abortion clinic in Louisiana, instead of just getting the sales pitch, she also gets the booklet with pictures of what her unborn baby looks like. She has to be told how far along she is in the pregnancy, so that she can look at the right pictures. Then she has to be given at least 24 hours before they do the procedure. 

My work on that law is how I ended up being hired by a national organization, Americans United for Life, and that law is now enacted in about 27 different states. In 2005, I helped co-found Bioethics Defense Fund to incorporate a Catholic understanding of the human person in all areas of biotechnology, including embryo stem cell research and end of life issues.

It's funny that the people who call themselves “pro-choice” — in an industry that calls itself “pro-choice” — would not support a law that gives women information, so that they can make a choice. You can't make a choice unless you have full information, and that’s what informed consent is. 

I was so naive at that time that I asked Planned Parenthood if they would join me in supporting this law. Not only did they not support it, they fought it tooth and nail. We would have two- and three-hour legislative hearings, and they by no means wanted the woman to get any information about the child, about the medical risks to the woman, about alternatives. Why would they not want that? Because it would hurt their bottom line of selling abortions. That's what this industry does. They sell death, they sell emotional destruction, they sell trauma, they sell despair.

How did it come about that you signed an amicus brief in this case? Have you signed amicus briefs in similar cases in the past? 

Since 1994, I've been so humbled to have the opportunity to actively work in the Louisiana legislature and to consult with legislatures around the country to enact laws that empower women to have information to choose life. Another example of that is ultrasound requirements, because what we learned was women thought that they were in a place where they could make a choice. When they do the ultrasound to see how far along they are in the pregnancy, the women ask to see the ultrasound on the screen and they're told no.

We're talking about basic information to connect women back to the reality that this is a child — that this is their child — that they are putting themselves at risk with this procedure and that there are alternatives. 

This brief laid out an argument about the fact that the abortion industry has disadvantaged women, and lured them into decisions that they then have to live with for the rest of their lives.

I signed this amicus brief as a client, and I co-filed a second amicus brief in this case as an attorney for Bioethics Defense Fund. Both briefs address how the abortion industry exploits women, but the separate brief goes into some procedural issues, like stare decisis, or whether the court should have to be bound by Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, just because they ruled that way in the past. The brief argues that wrongly decided, gravely immoral decisions have to be reviewed by the court, if you believe that the legal system is based on justice to human beings. 

Consider Dred Scott v. Sandford, in which the court said that people brought to the United States from Africa could be enslaved, and that they were not persons, for purposes of being able to have citizenship. That was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. If we would say, “Well, that's what they said, so that's the law” then, we would still have people enslaved.

And it’s the same issue at stake in Dobbs. We're dealing with two classes of human beings here, the unborn children and their mothers, who are in vulnerable situations and can be exploited by a multimillion dollar industry. The amicus brief argues that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe because no court should be able to usurp state laws that protect human life.

Group prays outside of abortion clinic.  Catholic Diocese of Saginaw
<p>Group prays outside of abortion clinic. Catholic Diocese of Saginaw</p>

Many people are talking about what a “post-Roe” country could look like. What could the legal landscape of the United States look like, in terms of abortion law, if Roe is overturned?

If this court were to reverse Roe, it would basically mean that the court is saying abortion is an issue that should be regulated by state legislatures, just like any other crime or any other medical procedure. It should not have been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, where you had nine individuals setting abortion policy for the whole entire country. 

 So if it is returned to the states, then we have about 12 or 13 states, including my state of Louisiana, that have passed state constitutional amendments saying that there would be no constitutional protection for abortion, and abortion would become unlawful. It would become criminal for a doctor to perform an abortion. The woman would never be criminalized, because the law would view the woman as the second victim of abortion. That’s because it's such a risk to her, and often she is coerced by others into the abortion clinic. Those constitutional amendments would go into effect immediately.

All of the hard-core blue states, however many of them there are, would likely have liberal abortion laws. Sadly, it would be abortion on demand, if that’s the will of the people in those states. 

The other states in the middle would debate abortion law in their state legislatures. Women who were hurt by abortion would tell their stories. Doctors and nurses that were coerced by medical boards to participate in abortion against their will, against their conscience, against their faith, would tell their stories. So you would see a lot of debate, and a lot of people coming out with their stories.

There’s just a host of ways that this could turn out. But it's going to be a chance for all of us, especially as Catholics, to step up and be there for one another through our churches, through our health services, through pregnancy resource centers, through being there at the kitchen table talking to our own sons and daughters. 

Do you believe Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has the potential of being a major turning point for women in the U.S., and the pro-life movement in the U.S.? 

Oh, absolutely yes. If this court puts abortion back into the proper stance of being in the democratic process, it will take away that false mask that abortion is just something that the court has to deal with. When it's back in your home court, then legislators and citizens have to step up and say, “OK, what am I willing to do so that I can be of service to my family or to my community?” That's how it should be. It's not easy, but this is what democracy looks like. 

This will put us back into that position that Catholics are so good at, which is providing health services, social services. We have food banks, we have Catholic hospitals, we have pro-life ministries for pregnant women. This will be our time to shine, and to tell women that they do have a choice, and they can choose life with all the support that they are entitled to as beloved daughters made in the image and likeness of God.

We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science” or “anti-intellectual.” Do you face this accusation often? If so, how do you respond?

What we have always done with all of the pro-life groups that I've consulted with is that when we have an initiative and we take it to the legislature or the courts, we lead with the science. We always make sure that we have medical doctors talking about the reality of abortion, or the impact on women's physical and psychological health. 

When doctors and scientists discuss abortion outside of the realm of politics, there's no question. This is, of course, a human being. That evidence is just unassailable. 

And so, the reality is that because the science is so clear that this is a human being, and because it's becoming more clear that abortion hurts women's health, being anti-science doesn't really become part of the debate. The debate is more about whether an industry can be regulated or not. This has gone from asking whether this is a child or not, to whether we should have an industry that gets to do what it wants to do, with no regulation and no protections for women.

What do you hope for the future of the pro-life movement? How can other faithful women support your efforts? 

My hope for the future of the pro-life movement is that it continues to be a movement of love in action. That's what I have seen all along. My vision of the future is a robust, young, innovative movement of people providing the services that are needed on the ground, at the local level. 

The Catholic Church talks about the principle of subsidiarity. For example, we hold to the principle that local school boards should be making the decisions for the schools because they know their unique needs. The same should happen in the pro-life movement. It needs to be local and tailor-made to the needs that are in each particular community.

Any other thoughts you would like to share? 

I would just encourage your readers to pray for the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and to pray for our nation as this next phase comes into being. Pray that we can debate these important life-and-death issues with civility and respect, by speaking the truth in love. I realize that’s a big ask in today’s political climate.

We in the pro-life movement have to model that. The women who are being deceived by this industry are not the enemy. The women who even advocate for this industry are often post-abortive and wounded. And so I always encourage audiences to have compassion for those advocating for the pro-abortion position, because most of them honestly think that they're helping women by getting them out of a bad situation. They're just not aware of how harmful that escape of abortion is. They know not what they do, and our nation will be blessed if we can learn to forgive and to have compassion.

A post-Roe world is going to require a lot of prayer, and a lot of work. The pro-life movement is made up of extraordinary people who are beacons of God’s light and love. A post-Roe world is an opportunity for us to be love in action.

Fertility awareness website founders inform women on scientific, holistic alternative to birth control

Emily Frase (right) and Mary Bruno have a launched a new website, FAbM, for women seeking effective alternatives to artificial birth control. / Courtesy of Emily Frase and Mary Bruno

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 21, 2021 / 10:21 am (CNA).

The co-founder and president of a new nonprofit dedicated to fertility awareness wants women to ask questions.

“I just want to encourage women to be curious,” Emily Frase of FAbM Base (pronounced “fam base”) told CNA. “Don’t be afraid, get curious, and see what happens.”

Frase, along with FAbM co-founder and executive director Mary Bruno, celebrated the website launch for their nonprofit on Oct. 15. The two have much in common: Both are Louisiana natives, devout Catholics, and mothers; both write about fertility awareness, and they practice fertility awareness-based methods. However, they also have their differences.

“That’s really been a strength for us,” Bruno stressed. While Bruno, who adopted her daughter, Bella, with her husband Chris, suffers from infertility, Frase had two surprise babies before her third wedding anniversary.

FAbM Base, short for “fertility awareness-based methods,” provides fertility care resources and support for women and couples. Among those resources, the site educates users on various methods and provides a database of instructors. For Catholic users, it offers a “Catholic Corner” with resources on Church teaching about sexuality.

The corner includes documents such as Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which emphasizes the beauty of human sexuality and warns against the dangers of contraception. 

Fertility awareness-based methods can be used to adhere to this teaching, allowing couples to plan their families by charting phases of a woman’s cycle.

Different methods do this in different ways, but they all use one, or more, of five scientific biomarkers that women can track, Frase said. These are: basal body temperature, cervical mucus, cervical position, vaginal sensation, and hormone levels.

In other words, she said, it’s not the rhythm method that her grandmother once used. 

“Modern methods of fertility awareness are tracking your fertility signs in real-time,” Frase explained. These methods provide an alternative to birth control, a “cookie-cutter for all women,” by focusing on the “uniqueness of each individual woman,” she said.

Frase emphasized its holistic approach.

“The fruit of fertility awareness practice includes but is also beyond family planning,” she said. “It is the recognition of the intimate integration of the whole person, mind, body and soul.”

“Fertility awareness teaches us that healthy women have healthy cycles, and that if a woman experiences debilitating pain, heavy bleeding, irregularity, PMS, mental or hormonal disorders, weight fluctuations, or infertility, there is an underlying issue that needs to be treated,” Frase told CNA. “It teaches us that ovulation is the main event of the menstrual cycle, that the hormones involved have key health benefits, and that the purpose of ovulation is to make a baby, so women develop a deep respect for the design and purpose of their fertility.”

Not just for Catholics

FabM, Frase pointed out, is different from “FAM,” or “fertility awareness methods.”

FAbM is synonymous with NFP (natural family planning) in that “abstinence-only during the fertile window is used to avoid pregnancy, whereas those who practice FAM use non-hormonal contraception measures (barrier or surgical) or non-vaginal intercourse during the fertile window to avoid [pregnancy],” she explained. “The methods themselves are precisely the same, but with the practices during the fertile window being the distinction.”

“Using ‘FABM’ as opposed to ‘FAM’ or ‘NFP’ was our way of making our values clear (we are Catholic) but without being overtly Catholic because of our strong commitment to making this information accessible to every woman no matter her faith,” she added.

Frase and Bruno speak from firsthand experience. Bruno is a practitioner for Creighton — a mucus-only method — while Frase uses the Marquette method, a sympto-hormonal method which tracks hormones and other symptoms. The two joined forces after collaborating on a project about NFP, which they define as “fertility awareness plus discernment.” 

“The response was so big, I was like, ‘This needs to go someplace,’” Frase recalled. She circled back to Bruno with a proposition: “Let’s brainstorm some ways that we can make this bigger.”

That idea turned into FAbM Base.

The website welcomes visitors with a splash of color and user-friendly tabs.

“Our bold color scheme was chosen very intentionally to match our bold mission and represent precisely who we are,” the site reads. “Orange and blue are complementary colors, which means they are opposite each other on the color wheel. This captures both the opposite fertility journeys and complementary personalities of the founders, Mary and Emily, and their passion for making fertility awareness accessible to all.”

The home page identifies and walks visitors through three steps: defining fertility awareness, choosing the right method, and finding an instructor. 

“One of the biggest barriers to accessibility is just limited knowledge,” Bruno said. “That’s the lane we want to fill, is really helping women of all ages, single, not single, any faith background, just really educating them on the reality of what NFP really is.” 

While they both identify as Catholic, Frase said that their organization is not limited to Catholics, “because we really do believe that this information is so helpful for women.”

She pointed to a “growing number of secular and non-Catholic Christian women who are so fed up with birth control.” In agreement, Bruno added, “They just have no idea that they have options.”

The most common complaints they hear about birth control include loss of libido and depression. Another problem that Frase identified, for women who take the pill for health reasons, is that it manages their symptoms rather than treats the problem.

In contrast, they said, fertility awareness and the tracking of biomarkers can help women and their doctors identify the underlying issue. 

Drawing from personal experience

Frase and Bruno are also open about the challenges that come with practicing fertility awareness and NFP. For Frase, she recalled unsuccessfully avoiding pregnancy — twice.

“I was introduced in marriage prep, and the way that it was packaged and pitched was just, ‘Oh, it’s going to make your marriage amazing, it’s going to give you the best sex, the most sex,’” she said. “None of that played out in our marriage.”

Among other things, people told her that practicing NFP meant six or seven days of abstinence per month, at most. Instead, she and her husband were looking at two weeks.

“I just wasn’t prepared for that,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing something wrong.’”

“The way that I describe it is, we live in a post-resurrection world and so we like to focus on the resurrection and deny the crucifixion,” she said. “But you don’t get one without going through the first one.”

She used her struggle to help others, she said. 

“Basically, I just started speaking very honestly about NFP practice and people were like, ‘Thank you so much for saying this,’” she recalled. “I started just seeing how that would free people, when they knew it was OK to struggle.” 

Bruno agreed. “How much better will we set people up to choose something other than birth control long term by actually being honest with them.”

“For all my Creighton clients, there’s a slide that says that it’s easy to learn and easy to interpret,” she described. “I always stop, and I’m like, ‘OK. This is sort of true, but I want you to know there’s a learning curve. You’re going to mess up, this could get frustrating, you’re going to be forming a lot of new habits. So you can do this, but be patient with yourself.’”

While the effectiveness rates of avoiding pregnancy with fertility awareness and hormonal birth control are “comparable,” they also have major differences, Frase said.

“Typical use for fertility awareness is higher than typical use for hormonal birth control,” she said. “The difference is, it takes work and it takes discipline and it’s a lifestyle change.” 

Today, both Bruno and Frase realize the health benefits of NFP and charting. 

“It helped my doctors figure out hormone imbalances, helped me to time blood draws and hormonal supplementation, but also it gave my doctors indication about endometriosis and infection, some thyroid abnormalities,” Bruno said. “Then [it] ultimately connected me with restorative surgeries.”

For Frase, she said, “the reason that we stuck with it is because we needed to avoid pregnancy and we are faithful Catholics.” But, she added, “over time, I’ve been able to use it for the health component, as well.”

“I think that this is really one of the best tools of self-care,” she added, “because it really does have you clued in to, how do my hormones affect my mood and behavior and then what impact does that have on the people around me and then how can I use that information to make these little adjustments to clue in, to give myself a little grace and patience here and there.”

For women exploring fertility awareness, Frase delivered a special message. 

“It can feel isolating, and I think that’s probably one of the most scary things,” she said, especially if they don’t know anyone who practices it. But, Frase concluded, “there’s a ton of women just waiting to be like, ‘Hi, welcome, how can we help?’”

USCCB demonstrators: The scene outside the bishops' meeting in Baltimore

A demonstrator at the "Enough is Enough" rally in Baltimore Nov. 16 outside the fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. / Christsine Rousselle

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2021 / 14:42 pm (CNA).

About 230 members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came to Baltimore Nov. 15-18, along with their staff, members of the media, four Orthodox bishops, and a handful of observers, for the 2021 Fall General Assembly of the USCCB. 

Also in Baltimore this week were well over a thousand people who were protesting what they see as inaction by the bishops, and a desire for increased transparency and accountability among the leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States. 

CNA spoke to some of the people who traveled to Baltimore who were hoping to get their voices heard in some way or another. 

Monday, Nov. 15

The first day of the general assembly, Nov. 15, was closed to the media and was an “executive session” of the bishops. But that did not stop different groups notably, Catholics for Choice and The Men’s March, from making an appearance. 

In the “Bread Not Stones” march, a small group organized by Catholics for Choice processed in Baltimore with signs. They argued that one’s belief in the right to a legal abortion should not be disqualifying from the Eucharist. 

The Catholic Church teaches that intentionally procuring an abortion is a mortal sin that automatically incurs an excommunication. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, The Men’s March took to the streets of Baltimore for the exact opposite reason. They wished to see bishops take a stronger stance on enforcing canon law. 

“The greatest social issue we face is the issue of abortion, because it takes the lives of 2,300 human beings every day in America, and 200,000 human beings every day in our world,” said Gabriel Vance, 26, to CNA. Vance founded a pro-life organization with his wife earlier this year. 

“The Catholic Church,” he said, “needs to be taking a stand against that.” And that means Catholic men — bishops, priests, deacons, and laymen — can’t remain silent, he added.

Tuesday, Nov. 16

The largest of these demonstrations was the “Bishops: Enough is Enough” rally, sponsored by St. Michael’s Media on Tuesday, the second day of the assembly. 

The six-hour rally, held at the MECU Pavilion adjacent to the hotel hosting the assembly, featured a slew of speakers, including “canceled priest” Father James Altman, controversial author Milo Yiannopoulos, leaders of Catholic organizations, and many others. 

Speaking to CNA on Monday, Yiannopoulos said he did not think that Church leaders are afraid of Mass-going Catholics. 

“And I think perhaps they ought to be, because there is a huge rupture coming" between faithful Catholics and those Catholic leaders who contradict Church teaching, he said. 

"Something big is building, something big is coming."

In 2017, Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart News and saw his book canceled after an old video of him defending sexual relations between adults and young boys resurfaced. 

Yiannopoulos, who himself is a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, said that he eventually “came to realize some of the consequences it had on me, and the lack of acknowledgment, support, seriousness from everybody I went to about it thereafter. And I've come to view the subject with renewed seriousness."

Yiannopoulos said he feels he has an obligation to speak out and hold bishops accountable. "I have by no means the most horrendous, harrowing story, but if I can help to draw attention to people who do have those histories, the wreckage in their lives, in some cases, if I can help them, then I should, and I must, so I am," he said. 

Signs at the event carried such slogans as “MILLSTONES BISHOPS MILLSTONES,” “Monsters in Mitres,” and “We’re on the side of St. Michael and the angels!”

Among those CNA spoke to at the rally were Mary Ann Leimbach and Barbara Flatley, who came from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

“I need an institution I can believe in and I need the Church to clean up their act,” Leimbach told CNA. “No more of this halfway cleaning it up.” 

Leimbach told CNA that she has 16 grandchildren, and they are her primary motivator for pushing for reform in the Church. 

“I want them to have this Church,” she said, “and I just don't see how they're going to do it if [the bishops] don't clean up their act.” 

Flatley, Leimbach’s friend, told CNA that she had come into the Catholic faith with the help of some of the speakers at the rally, particularly Altman. 

Altman was removed from ministry in July 2021, after Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse, Wisc. sought privately to correct the priest for statements he made in social media that some Catholics cheered and others viewed as inflammatory.

“Because of COVID and shutting down the churches, I started listening to different Catholic services with my husband, who is Catholic,” said Flatley. She said prior to entering RCIA, she considered herself to be a “very high Episcopal.” 

“And because of Father Altman and Father Jonathan Meyer in Indiana, I have gotten a real strong faith because of them, but I would like the Catholic Church to be a hierarchy that we could believe in,” she said. 

“We had to take a stand,” said William Bennett of Chambersburg, Pa., another Altman supporter. “I wanted to try to get our Church back. I think it’s been infiltrated from the inside for a long time.” 

Bennett, who was carrying a sign that featured a picture of Jesus peeking in from the side saying “I saw what you did to my holy priests,” told CNA that the message was inspired by Altman. 

“I mean, when he stood up for what he believed in, he got shut down,” he said. “That's what they're doing to any priest that comes up and stands up for what they believe in and what they're supposed to do. They're being shut out. They're being shut down and I think that's wrong.” 

Angie Thies came with a group from north Texas to demonstrate outside the U.S. bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 16, 2021. Christine Rousselle/CNA
Angie Thies came with a group from north Texas to demonstrate outside the U.S. bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 16, 2021. Christine Rousselle/CNA

Away from the rally, but expressing similar sentiment, was Angie Thies, who came to Baltimore with a group from north Texas. 

Thies told CNA that she was not there just to protest the bishops, but to pray for them.

“[We’re here] to protest the bishops, let them know how we feel about the things that the USCCB is doing, and, to pray for them —mostly to pray for them,” she said, “ We weep for them, really.” 

Her neon-green sign proclaimed “You and Biden are causing GRAVE SCANDAL to the faithful!!!” 

She told CNA that she and her group were seeking a “more prayerful” and “more peaceful” atmosphere than what was present at the rally, and chose to demonstrate at a different location, away from the microphones, video screens, and stadium-style seating. 

Thies told CNA that she was most angered with what she viewed as the bishops’ inaction regarding the sanctity of the Eucharist. 

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith,” she said. And for them to give it to people who are causing grave public scandal, then to not safeguard our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament … it is profoundly upsetting,” she said. 

Thursday, Nov. 18

On Thursday morning, shortly after sunrise, a different kind of demonstration assembled outside of the venue hotel. 

Unlike the others, the people demonstrating were not seething at the bishops. They were, in fact, joined by them, along with other faith leaders from Islamic and Jewish traditions. Also unlike the other demonstrations, this one was marked by ribbons, not signs, and most of the participants were survivors of sexual abuse. 

The Pathways to Prevention, Healing and Justice Inaugural Sunrise Walk was organized by the Global Collaborative, “a survivor led network of child advocacy organizations, survivor networks, academic and faith-based institutions, and governments committed to ending Child Sexual Abuse.” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was among those participating in the walk.

Dr. Jennifer Wortham, who led the walk, told CNA that it was providential that her planned event coincided with the bishops’ assembly. As part of her work, Wortham is seeking to establish an “Annual Day of Observance for Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention, Healing, and Justice.” Wortham said her brothers were abused by clergy as children. 

Nov. 18 is the European Day to End Child Sex Abuse, and Wortham told CNA that she hopes to expand this worldwide. 

“My brothers experienced many challenges throughout their lives as a result of their childhood abuse, but I believe the most difficult challenge they experienced was the loss of their faith,” Wortham.

“This walk is just one way to show the collaborative work faith leaders and survivors are making to change the spiritual experience for every survivor and their family.”

Here's the story of how the feast of Christ the King came about

Our Lord Christ the King parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first in the world to have a church with that name. An earlier church building gained that distinction in 1926. This is a photo of the current church, built in the 1950s. / Courtesy of Amber Dawson

Denver Newsroom, Nov 20, 2021 / 13:47 pm (CNA).

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, celebrated this year on Nov. 21, also is referred to as the Feast of Christ the King, Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday.

While the concept of Jesus Christ being King is as old as the Gospels, the feast is fairly recent in the Roman Catholic calendar. 

The feast was introduced in the Western liturgical calendar in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, via the encyclical "Quas Primas." Pope Pius XI was about to close the Jubilee year of 1925 in the context of the growing secularist nationalism that followed the fall of European kingdoms after World War I, and decided to establish the solemnity to point to a king "of whose kingdom there shall be no end.” 

Surprisingly, the first parish in the world to be consecrated in honor of Our Lord Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI not in Europe, but in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1926. 

“The 225 worshippers who attended Our Lord Christ the King’s first Mass on December 5, 1926, embodied the essence of what it means to be ‘church.’ With neither bricks nor mortar to call their own, this gathering of believers placed their faith in Providence and celebrated early liturgies in humble surroundings,” reads an account posted on the parish's website. “There was no electricity for the first Eucharist, so the room was illuminated by headlights beamed from parked cars. Pastor Father Edward J. Quinn, a former World War I chaplain, used his Army Mass kit.”

The current church, built in the 50's, was designed by famed church architect Edward J. Schulte in what is known as a "Brutalist" style.

Our Lord Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1926, an earlier church building became the first church in the world to bear the name Our Lord Christ the King. Courtesy of P.J. Daley
Our Lord Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1926, an earlier church building became the first church in the world to bear the name Our Lord Christ the King. Courtesy of P.J. Daley

Despite the fact that the first parish ever to be dedicated to Christ the King was in the United States, some American clergy originally had difficulty explaining the new solemnity in the context of American Protestant patriotism, which frowned upon kings and kingdoms as opposed to democracy as the most perfect form of government.

A key passage from Quas Primas provided Catholic preachers with a helpful synopsis. “This kingdom (of Christ) is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things ….The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.”

Pope Pius XI established the feast to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, so that it would always take place before the celebration of the solemnity of All Saints. But in the new liturgical calendar of 1970, its Roman Rite observance was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. Therefore, the earliest date on which it can occur is Nov. 20 and the latest is Nov. 26.