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TikTok lifts ban on Ruth Sent Us. Here's what we know about this anti-Catholic group

Pamela Smith dressed as characters of "The Handmaids Tale" walks with a noose around her neck as she joins pro-choice protesters gather in large numbers in front of the federal building to defend abortion rights in San Francisco on May 3, 2022. / Nick Otto/AFP via Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, May 18, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

TikTok's "permanent" ban on the anti-Catholic, pro-abortion group Ruth Sent Us didn't last very long.

The activist group in recent weeks has made headlines for coordinating protests outside the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices, rallying demonstrators to disrupt Catholic Masses on Mother’s Day, and threatening to burn the Eucharist.

On May 14 the group’s main account was “permanently banned" from TikTok "due to multiple violations of terms of service,” according to a message on the social media platform.

But two days later, Ruth Sent Us announced that the ban was lifted.

“GREAT NEWS: our TikTok @ruthsent which was ‘permanently banned’ due to mass reporting is back up due to mass appeals! There’s more of us than them. Take that, haters!” the group tweeted. TikTok has yet to explain the ban, or its rapid reversal.

Unlike NARAL Pro-Choice America, Women’s March, and other better-known, well-funded abortion rights groups, Ruth Sent Us has no publicly known leaders, spokespersons, or financial backers. Its low-budget website, RuthSent.Us, is little more than a bare-bones homepage with a handful of links.

Yet the group’s inflammatory rhetoric and provocative, theatrical tactics have thrust it into the forefront of the media’s coverage of the furor surrounding a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the U.S.

And the Catholic Church is one of its prime targets.

On Feb. 27 — months before the May 2 leak of a draft opinion that suggested Supreme Court justices were poised to overturn Roe — Ruth Sent Us took responsibility for disrupting Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. Demonstrators wore hooded red gowns inspired by the television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Similarly dressed demonstrators disrupted Mass on Mother's Day, May 8, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, but Ruth Sent Us has not taken responsibility for that incident. 

The group contends that the Supreme Court is “extremist” and should be held accountable “using a diversity of tactics.” It demands that pro-abortion rights Catholics, including President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, engage in further activism or legislation to preserve legal abortion. On its social media, the group frequently rails against Catholicism and “Christian Fascism.” Some of its coalition partners also embrace “anti-fascism” and protests outside of churches.

Here’s a closer look behind the group.

Who is Ruth Sent Us?

“Ruth Sent Us” has a social media presence on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. The group promotes protests of political figures, judges and organizations, including churches, which oppose legal abortion or the Roe v. Wade decision.

The group is part of a coalition of like-minded pro-abortion rights groups that aims to rally protests in support of Roe and other pro-abortion rights precedents which mandate legal abortion nationwide.

Its webpage RuthSent.Us lists no identifying information about its leadership. While it lists an email address, the group has no mailing address. Instead, it refers visitors to a pro-abortion rights action called “Strike for Choice,” set for May 8-15. Ruth Sent Us is one of 12 groups backing this action.

There are no indications whether Ruth Sent Us is a registered business or a registered non-profit or whether it has an official fiscal sponsor.

What else do we know?

A WhoIs webpage registration shows that the Ruth Sent Us website was set up in November 2020 and has a Palo Alto, California-based post office box. The RuthSent.Us web domain name is registered to an individual named Sam Spiegel.

Spiegel’s Twitter profile mentions direct democracy mass mobilization strategy “to jam media with vigil and protest stories.” His Twitter page links to Vigil for Democracy, a self-described “mass mobilizing” group whose Twitter account shares Ruth Sent Us tweets to its 5,000 or so followers.

People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images
People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

The Vigil for Democracy is presently an LLC with a Phoenix, Arizona mailing address, but business records show it once had the same California post office box as Ruth Sent Us.

The web registration for the Ruth Sent Us protest group uses the same email as Vigil for Democracy.

The costumed protesters’ web page embedded a Google map of “extremist justices” created by the Vigil for Democracy group to list the streets on which several Supreme Court justices lived. The map was later removed by Google for possible terms of service violations.

What do we know about the Vigil for Democracy group?

Snowden Bishop, radio show host and editor-in-chief at a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based cannabis business magazine, identifies herself as the principal for the Vigil for Democracy and another group, Just Resisting, on her public LinkedIn page. In these roles, she said, “she promotes pro-democracy initiatives and continues to pursue projects aligned with her personal mission to create a better world, one word at a time.” She claims expertise in journalism, marketing, content creation, and political strategy/activism.

In a May 10 phone-call, Bishop told CNA that the Vigil for Democracy group supports “activism of all kinds” but it is not directly in charge of the Ruth Sent Us group.

Bishop did not respond to a follow-up email by deadline. CNA sought comment from Ruth Sent Us and from the email listed on the RuthSent.Us web domain registration but did not receive a response by deadline.

Why “Ruth Sent Us”? Why costumed protesters?

“Ruth Sent Us” was a slogan used in the wake of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong backer of abortion rights. A periodical search indicates that the phrase was first reported in a September 2020 protest outside then-Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home, when the Senate was proceeding with the confirmation of Justice Amy Comey Barrett.

Pro-abortion rights women’s marches used the phrase in October of that year. One year later, the Women’s March of South Florida used “Ruth Sent Us” as the theme for its October 2021 protests.

While costumed protests have taken place for years, the Ruth Sent Us group did not appear in mainstream news media reports until early May 2022. It made the news for two reasons: It posted a map of the streets where U.S. Supreme Court justices lived, and it linked its previous church disruption to other activists’ calls for pro-abortion rights protests on Mother’s Day.

The protesters’ costumes take inspiration from a television series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The pro-feminist dystopian novel portrays life under a bizarre and tyrannical variant of Christianity that forces young women to bear children for older couples. In the novel, the sect also proscribes Catholicism and executes Catholic priests.

What is this Strike for Choice? Why Mother’s Day protests?

The Ruth Sent Us group backs a May 8-15 protest called Strike for Choice. Its social media call for Mother’s Day protests at churches was not originally part of this action, since the relevant TikTok video was posted on April 27.

In a May 3 tweet, the group posted the video and sought to link their efforts to a call for a Mother’s Day Strike. That separate call to action was other pro-abortion rights activists’ response to the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that appears set to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Strike for Choice website calls for protests of Whole Foods and AT&T. This protest aims to pressure the Texas-based Whole Foods to speak out against the recent Texas abortion law and to pressure AT&T over its campaign contributions to legislators who passed the law.

A sign-up form for the strikes seeks participants in various ways of protest, including as both unpaid and paid protesters.

What do we know about Ruth Sent Us allies?

The Strike for Choice website lists 12 groups in its coalition. The best known of these is Code Pink, a women’s activist anti-war group that dates back to 2002. It had been founded to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Vigil for Democracy group is the fiscal host of a fundraiser for the Strike for Choice at the Open Collective fundraising site. As of May 10, the group had raised under $1,400. Some 15 individuals had contributed at least $58 each to support a “striker.” It is unclear whether the money for Strike for Choice participants includes Ruth Sent Us demonstrators.

Refuse Fascism and its project Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights are two more backers of the Strike for Choice.

On its Twitter page, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights said it protested outside St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City on Mother’s Day because “it’s a symbol for the enslavement of women.” It said “Christian fascist lunatics” on the Supreme Court aim to overturn Roe v. Wade, adding “only the people can stop this.”

The protest, which did not disrupt church services but did block a pro-life walk to an area abortion clinic, drew dozens of people to the historic Catholic church.

What does Ruth Sent Us think of Catholicism?

A TikTok video of the group’s Feb. 27 disruption at San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption gives us an idea.

“For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been an institution for the enslavement of women,” one costumed disruptor shouted at the front of the cathedral. This first disruption video, titled “take it to the oppressors,” drew about 234,000 views on TikTok.

On its social media Ruth Sent Us has polemicized against Catholicism and even threatened to burn the Eucharist.

It also objects to a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court.

“Seven of nine Justices on our Supreme Court are Catholic. That’s 78% of Justices, compared to 23% in the population. WHY?!” the group said in its Feb. 27 TikTok post.

Neil Gorsuch reportedly was raised Catholic. Sonia Sotomayor is expected to be a safe vote to preserve Roe v. Wade.

What does Ruth Sent Us say about itself?

On Twitter May 15, the group invoked anti-segregation sit-in protests of the civil rights movement, saying “Extremist Catholic and Evangelical Churches and Judges are 'lunch counters' of today,” using a hashtag to ask “What would Martin Luther King do”?

It contends that protests backed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL are “massive rallies” that are “easy with social media” but ineffective. Ruth Sent Us contended that “direct action” and intentional crossing of “societal red lines” is a more effective path. Its comments sometimes praise peaceful action but also declare the need to make its foes uncomfortable.

“To fight the theocracy, we believe we must take it to extremist judges and churches,” the group said.

Pro-life groups see double standard

Some pro-life advocates see a double standard in how a group like Ruth Sent Us is treated by TikTok and other social media platforms.

“The social media platform pro-abortion bias cannot be denied,” Caroline Wharton, a staff writer with the pro-life group Students for Life of America, told CNA. “It's very conspicuous that pro-abortion groups are allowed to exercise their freedom of speech, even up to and including violating the law, while pro-life groups like Students for Life of America get arrested for merely chalking public sidewalk.”

In August 2020, police arrested both an employee and a student member of Students for Life for writing the pro-life message “Pre-born Black Lives Matter” on the sidewalk outside a Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood clinic. 

Link: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/45384/pro-life-protestors-arrested-for-sidewalk-chalk

“There are double standards on these apps, and every effort is taken to drown out the voices for the vulnerable preborn,” Wharton said.

In late January 2020, the pro-life group LiveAction was banned from TikTok for allegedly violating “multiple community guidelines” and then reinstated quickly. TikTok said the ban was a result of human error by a moderator.

LiveAction was permanently banned from Pinterst in 2019 for alleged misinformation regarding vaccines and “medically inaccurate information and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence.”

The group rejected the allegations.

Before LiveAction was banned, former Pinterest employee Eric Cochran, a reputed whistleblower, said that the social media company had classified as a conspiracy theory the reports from investigative journalist and activist David Daleiden, who has explored connections between abortion providers and possible illegal sales of fetal tissue from abortions.

Link: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/41547/pinterest-suspends-pro-life-groups-account-citing-health-misinformation

TikTok’s terms of service bar any material which is “defamatory,” “hateful” or “inflammatory.” Its terms bar material that is discriminatory on the basis of religion, among other characteristics. The terms of service bar “any material that would constitute, encourage or provide instructions for a criminal offense,” as well as “any material that is deliberately designed to provoke or antagonise people, especially trolling and bullying, or is intended to harass, harm, hurt, scare, distress, embarrass or upset people.”

CNA contacted TikTok for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

CNA staff writer Katie Yoder contributed to this story.

Padre Pio's relics coming to national shrine in DC

The body of St. Pio of Pietrelcina / Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA

Boston, Mass., May 18, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina never visited the United States during his time on earth, but now his relics, which include multiple elements from his body, will be visiting Washington D.C. this weekend as they are displayed for veneration at the nation’s largest Catholic church.

The 20th century Italian priest, often referred to as "Padre Pio", received the stigmata, or wounds resembling those of Christ crucified. He was also well known for the many miracles that occurred through him during his life on earth.

The relics will be visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception May 21-22. A spokesperson for the shrine, Jacquelyn Hayes, told CNA that this weekend will be the first time Padre Pio’s relics will be visiting the basilica.

The first and second class relics include crust from the saint’s wounds, his blood stains on cotton gauze, a lock of his hair, his handkerchief which contains his sweat, and a piece of his mantle.

On Saturday, the relics will be available for veneration from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Great Upper Church. The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, will be celebrating a Mass in honor of Padre Pio at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday as well.

The relics will also be on display Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The relics are being provided by the Tuckahoe, New York-based Saint Pio Foundation, which annually sponsors a tour of Padre Pio’s relics. The showing is happening in partnership with the Archdiocese of Washington.

The foundation’s website says that it sponsors “a tour of the relics each year to give hundreds of thousands of the faithful an opportunity to have a ‘spiritual encounter’ with Padre Pio, to pray to him, and to ask for his intercession.”

A tour schedule for the relics of Padre Pio can be found on the foundation’s website.

The foundation, which has a mission of promoting awareness of the saint and his charism, allows for requests to host the relics in a diocese or parish.

“The request must come directly from the archbishop of an archdiocese, the bishop of a diocese, or the pastor of a parish of the Catholic Church for an archdiocesan, diocesan, or parish veneration, respectively,” the foundation’s website says.

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading I Acts 15:1-6

Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.”
Because there arose no little dissension and debate
by Paul and Barnabas with them,
it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others
should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters
about this question.
They were sent on their journey by the Church,
and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria
telling of the conversion of the Gentiles,
and brought great joy to all the brethren.
When they arrived in Jerusalem,
they were welcomed by the Church,
as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters,
and they reported what God had done with them.
But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers
stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them
and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”

The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.

Responsorial Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5

R.        (see 1)  Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
            “We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
            within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R.        Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
Jerusalem, built as a city
            with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
            the tribes of the LORD.
R.        Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
According to the decree for Israel,
            to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
            seats for the house of David.
R.        Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
or:
R.        Alleluia.

Alleluia Jn 15:4a, 5b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord;
whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

In Michigan, 'rogue decision' blocks longtime state abortion law

Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 17, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Michigan’s longstanding law against abortion cannot be enforced if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a state judge said Tuesday in a temporary injunction.

Michigan adopted a law criminalizing abortion as a felony, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, in 1931.

“After 50 years of legal abortion in Michigan, there can be no doubt that the right of personal autonomy and bodily integrity enjoyed by our citizens includes the right of a woman, in consultation with her physician, to terminate a pregnancy,” Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said May 17, issuing a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the state law.

The law has not been enforced since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but the Michigan Court of Appeals found in 1997 that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.

According to Gleicher, the right to an abortion is almost certainly guaranteed under the state constitution’s due process provisions that protect bodily integrity, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Critics noted that the judge is a donor to Planned Parenthood and previously represented Planned Parenthood in a failed challenge to precedent upholding the state abortion law.

“The judge engaged in an analysis without any advocacy from the other side, and she was demonstrably wrong in her legal conclusions, drawing on precedent which has absolutely no bearing on pro-life laws,” John Bursch, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel and former Michigan solicitor general, told journalists on a May 17 phone conference.

“The Michigan court of appeals has already held that this exact same 1931 law is valid under the constitution, in a case where Planned Parenthood sued, and lost, when represented by the very judge who issued today’s opinion,” he added.

“Even more extraordinary, that same judge makes annual contributions to Planned Parenthood, in effect, indirectly subsidizing the very same legislation she is now decided, and has also received an Award as a Planned Parenthood advocate. She should have recused herself from the case, and not participated in it.”

Planned Parenthood of Michigan, represented by the ACLU of Michigan, had filed a lawsuit against Michigan’s attorney general seeking an injunction against the law.

Bonsitu Kitaba, the ACLU affiliate’s assistant legal director, had previously said an injunction would be the best-case scenario for her clients and for Michigan.

Gleicher’s injunction said the law “criminalizes virtually all abortions, and if enforced, will abruptly and completely end the availability of abortion services in Michigan.”

A preliminary injunction advances the public interest and allows the court “to make a full ruling on the merits of the case without subjecting plaintiff and their patients to the impact of a total ban on abortion services in the state,” she said.

Gleicher is a 2007 appointee of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She is a donor to Planned Parenthood and represented the organization as a volunteer lawyer with the ACLU in a key 1990s abortion case. That case led the Michigan Appeals Court to determine that the state constitution “does not guarantee a right to abortion that is separate and distinct from the federal right,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

When Gleicher disclosed this information, the Michigan Republican Party called on her to recuse herself from the case, but she declined.

Complicating the lawsuit was that Attorney General Dana Nessel agreed that there was a “lack of adversity” and no jurisdiction for the Michigan Court of Claims because she does not intend to enforce the law against abortion. Nessel, a Democrat, does not believe the law is constitutional, but thought the lawsuit should have been dismissed.

Planned Parenthood countered that the attorney general of the state can change.

Bursch said the situation was “extraordinary.”

“This is the kind of mess that you end up with in the court system when the state executive and its attorney general refuse to uphold and defend a law that has been in place since 1931. They may not like it. But no one has the ability to unilaterally ignore, change or encourage the invalidation of Michigan law. They should be working through the democratic process, like anyone else,” he said.

Bursch apologized for initially describing the judge in the case as a “rogue judge,” saying instead “it’s certainly a rogue decision.”

“It’s a rogue decision for someone who is ethically conflicted in hearing the case and lacks jurisdiction to decide the case to nonetheless go ahead and issue an injunction against the attorney general of the state, based on arguments that no one has argued before her in briefing or in oral argument,” he said.

Bursch said the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group had initially been invited to submit arguments, but then was excluded from participating because it wasn’t a party to the case.

“This was all done in secret with parties that agreed on the results. It’s improper, six ways from Sunday,” Bursch said.

Right to Life Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference are considering what options they can pursue. The legal complexities of the case could mean seeking appellate review without necessarily intervening as a party.

“We are unquestionably going to take legal action. I would expect such a decision to be announced by the end of the week,” said Bursch, whose legal group represents the two organizations.

Abortion advocacy groups in the state have launched a ballot initiative to override the 1931 law by way of a constitutional amendment.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has filed her own lawsuit which asks the Michigan Supreme Court “to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution.”

As reason for the lawsuit, she cited a possible decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a pending U.S. Supreme Court case that could alter or abolish precedent mandating legal abortion.

The governor’s lawsuit named as defendants the prosecutors in 13 Michigan counties with abortion clinics. The seven Democratic prosecutors have agreed not to enforce the law, while the six remaining prosecuting attorneys are Republicans.

That lawsuit drew some criticism.

“The right to life for unborn children and its inherent value given by our Creator cannot be reduced to a legal opinion or legislative vote,” Michigan Catholic Conference policy advocate Rebecca Mastee said in an April 7 response to Whitmer’s lawsuit. “While the legality of abortion is contingent upon democratic structures, it is unfortunate that the judicial branch is being used to try to invalidate a longstanding policy approved by elected representatives and left untouched by the Legislature for nearly a century since.”

A 1972 ballot measure in Michigan rejected legalized abortion, Mastee noted.

Whitmer is a staunch backer of abortion. In September 2021, she used a line-item veto to remove from the state budget about $16 million worth of funding for alternatives to abortion, drawing objections from the state’s Catholic conference.

Philly archbishop condemns 'mortal sin of racism' after Buffalo shooting

Mourners light candles at a makeshift memorial outside of Tops market on May 16, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. A gunman opened fire at the store yesterday killing ten people and wounding another three. The attack was believed to be motivated by racial hatred. / Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Denver Newsroom, May 17, 2022 / 15:39 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia said on Tuesday that the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York is a reminder of the continuing “mortal sin of racism.”

A gunman killed 10 Black people on May 14 at a supermarket. Another three persons were injured in the shooting.

The archbishop called the incident “another painful reminder that the mortal sin of racism has not been eradicated in this country. We must continue our work to stamp it out. All lives are gifts from God designed to share their unique gifts with those around them. Tragically, these gifts were violently ripped away from families, friends, and a community that is now struggling with deep grief.”

“I pray that God will comfort those whose hearts have been broken and that He will embolden and strengthen all of us to build and defend a culture of love and respect for all of our brothers and sisters,” he said.

He juxtaposed the shooting with a Concert for Unity sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s racial healing commission: “It featured a unified choir of over 100 gifted individuals from diverse racial and ethnic communities praising God with one voice along with shared reflections and bold statements condemning the sin of racism.”

The Knights of Peter Claver, the largest historically African-American Catholic lay organization in the U.S., has also responded to the shooting.

“We pray for all victims and survivors impacted by the sin of racism. We must even pray that those entrapped by this sinful nature, be released from its oppressing hand,” the fraternity said in a May 16 statement. 

“While the vast majority easily see and understand how horrific this act of evilness is, too few acknowledge and accept the everyday contributing factors that keep leading to these tragic outcomes.”

The Knights of Peter Claver said racism is neither pro-life nor Christian, and “is not of God. Racism and hatred are tools used by the Devil in an attempt to separate the People of God from His Love. God did not create us to be superior or inferior; nor master or slave to one another. He created us in his image and likeness to love and be loved by one another.”

 

“We condemn the evil and racist attacks that occurred in last week’s shooting of innocent Black Americans simply buying groceries. We pray for unity, love, peace, and understanding.  We condemn the thoughts and ideologies that encourage horrific and sinful actions against God’s children. We pray that God’s unconditional, unquestionable, and unending love fill our hearts - replacing any and all dehumanizing thoughts and actions that disrespects the sanctity of life and the love we should have for one another. We condemn all harmful and hateful racist thoughts and actions.”

Authorities called the shooting a racially motivated hate crime and said that the gunman specifically targeted the store because it is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of those shot were Black, while the other two victims were white.

The gunman in Buffalo surrendered to police at the scene. The suspect, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, more than 200 miles from Buffalo, was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder.

The gunman is believed to have posted a manifesto online in which he expressed racist, anti-immigrant views and claimed that white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color.

NJ bishops express 'outrage' over plan to mandate insurance coverage for abortion

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey. / JStone/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2022 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

New Jersey’s Catholic bishops on Thursday expressed their disappointment with a proposal by Governor Phil Murphy to expand abortion access in the state, which already recognizes abortion as a constitutional right.

“The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey join to express our disappointment and outrage over Governor Murphy’s announcement regarding proposed legislation to expand access to abortion in New Jersey, an act that by its very nature terminates human life,” the bishops' May 12 statement says. 

“This proposed legislation is a direct attack on the dignity and sanctity of life and is further evidence that we have failed as a society when a mother feels her only option is to end the life of her child,” the statement says.

The proposed legislation, announced in a May 11 press conference by Murphy, a Democrat, would mandate that health insurance plans fully cover abortion; codify regulations allowing non-physicians to perform abortions; and dedicating more taxpayer funds to abortion.

The bill would also protect “medical providers and patients who provide or receive abortion care in New Jersey from legal actions initiated by states which have outlawed abortion,” Murphy said.

Murphy said New Jersey would not be “cooperating with any out of state investigation into our healthcare providers…that seek to punish anyone: patient, provider, counselor, friend, Uber driver, you name it, for providing abortion care.”

CNA contacted Murphy’s office for clarification on which states and laws he is referring to, but a spokesperson was not immediately available for comment by time of publication.

“Ironically,” the bishops’ letter says, “New Jersey already has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the United States and continues to provide abortion providers tens of millions of dollars in public funds to perform these services.”

The letter, signed by the heads of the state’s five Latin rite dioceses and its two Eastern Catholic eparchies, continues: “New Jersey continues to rank among the top three states in annual abortion procedures nationwide. For these reasons it is incomprehensible to force health insurance providers in New Jersey to cover 100 percent of the cost to expand access to these abhorrent services.”

The bishops wrote that the “Catholic Church is committed to opposing this legislation, but more importantly we stand ready to broaden and increase awareness about the abundant resources and programs we offer from pregnancy and foster care centers to clothing, food, housing services, adoption agencies, family resource centers, and national programs.”

The bishops highlighted Walking with Moms in Need, an initiative of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities which supports pregnant women and pregnancy resource centers through parish life. 

“We promise to assist and stand by every mother and family facing a difficult and unplanned pregnancy,” they concluded.

Pope Francis Appoints Apostolic Administrator of Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics of Eastern Europe

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has appointed Reverend Mikael Bassale as Apostolic Administrator for the Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics of Eastern Europe. The appointment was publicized in Washington on May 17, 2022, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Father Bassale is currently pastor of Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church in Belmont, Massachusetts, a parish within the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg.

###

Media Contact:
Chieko Noguchi
202-541-3200

 

Tuesday of Fifth Week of Easter

Reading I Acts 14:19-28

In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium
arrived and won over the crowds.
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing that he was dead.
But when the disciples gathered around him,
he got up and entered the city.
On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city
and made a considerable number of disciples,
they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and,
with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord
in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch,
where they had been commended to the grace of God
for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the Church together
and reported what God had done with them
and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Then they spent no little time with the disciples.

Responsorial Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13ab, 21

R.        (see 12)  Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
            and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
            and speak of your might.
R.        Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
Making known to men your might
            and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages,
            and your dominion endures through all generations.
R.        Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
May my mouth speak the praise of the LORD,
            and may all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
R.        Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R.        Alleluia.

Alleluia See Lk 24:46, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 14:27-31a

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

New pro-life movie streaming in theaters this week

Ultrasound image. / Courtesy of Matter of Life

Boston, Mass., May 16, 2022 / 17:18 pm (CNA).

A new pro-life movie that explores the case for life and the repercussions of abortion is airing May 16 and 17 in select theaters around the U.S. 

“We stand at a critical point in history where the legality of abortion is being challenged in the highest courts,” the documentary’s description says. “More than ever, it is important for everyone to know where they stand on abortion and why.”

The movie, “The Matter of Life,” is using the distributor Fathom Events, the same distributor for “The Chosen” Christmas special and the Eucharist film, “ALIVE: Who is there?” The Christian distributor Revelation Media has partnered in distributing and marketing the film, as well.

The more than 750 theater locations and movie times can be found on Fathom Events’ website. Although it is only in theaters for two days, Tracy Robinson, the film's director, told CNA that if enough tickets are sold, the film’s showing could be extended.

However, if the film’s showing is not extended, individuals can still see it by registering on this website to screen the film in their schools or churches for 30 days only after the movie's showing in theaters. Licensing, streaming, and DVD will be available at a later date that is still not determined. You can watch the movie's trailer below.

The documentary “compels us to understand the pro-life case and form our own individual beliefs based on more than what is said in the media,” the description of the movie says.

According to the producers, the film also includes expert testimony as viewers “learn about the history, philosophy, morality, and impact of abortion.” The movie includes powerful testimony from women and former abortion clinic workers, “historians, religious workers, pro-life atheists,” and others are also included, the description says.

Speakers featured in the movie include: Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortionist and OBGYN; Stephanie Gray Conners, a pro-life speaker; Romona Treviño, a former manager at Planned Parenthood; Kristan Hawkins, president at Students for Life; Diane Ferraro, CEO at Save the Storks; Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United For Life; Angela Franks professor of theology at St. John's Seminary in Boston; Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, CEO of New Wave Feminists; Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute, and many more.

“The Matter of Life stresses entering this conversation with understanding, love, and support,” the description says. “Doing so is critical to saving the lives of the unborn and to care for the women who carry them.”

The film, which had a budget of $200,000, was directed by Robinson, a 34-year-old woman who used to be a “pro-choice Christian,” the film’s website says.

Robinson, who has a background in video production for documentaries, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly's Prudence Robertson in an May 14 interview that she had been making videos for pregnancy resource centers in 2016 but “was in the mushy middle” on the topic of abortion. She was working in the center because she appreciated the work it was doing for women, Robinson said. You can watch the full interview below.

Robinson, of San Diego, said that her friends at the clinic invited her to a presentation on the topic of abortion at a church in 2016. The topic of the presentation was the case against abortion, she said. 

“In less than two hours the message just clarified for me the true humanity of the unborn child, from the moment of conception and the whole reality of what abortion does really struck me,” Robinson said. 

She continued, “and so I immediately felt compelled to make a documentary because I knew there were so many people in my shoes — young adults, who had never heard the message before clearly.”

Robinson said that she was motivated to research more about how society came to widely accept abortion while learning about the “amazing multi-faceted pro-life movement and so I wanted to take others on this journey with me. 

Robinson told Robertson that the film will eventually be coming to streaming and DVD, but she did not say when. 

Read Carl Anderson's commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College

Carl Anderson, former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, March 17, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Los Angeles, Calif., May 16, 2022 / 13:25 pm (CNA).

In his address to the graduates of Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday, Carl Anderson, former head of the Knights of Columbus, urged that they take up the task of the Catholic intellectual life.

"In addition to what the Lord may be calling you to do—for example, a vocation to the priesthood or religious life or to marriage and family life—you now have the opportunity to continue a life of learning in a special Catholic way," Anderson said May 14 at the commencement ceremony of the college's Santa Paula, California, campus.

The vocation of the Catholic intellectual life leads "to a unity of the love of learning with the love of God" and the "responsibility of serving divine truth through a life of Christian witness," he said.

During the commencement exercises, Anderson received the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion in recognition of his "unceasing efforts to protect the lives of the unborn ... and his leadership of the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus.”

Find below the full text of Anderson's commencement address, Take Up the Vocation of the Catholic Intellectual Life:

I am most grateful for the invitation to be with you today.  Fifty years ago, my wife and I were like you: graduating after having completed a “great books” program at our university.  Although our experience was in many ways different than your experience, we have always felt close to Thomas Aquinas College and so, we are very glad to be with you especially this year as you celebrate your fiftieth anniversary. I have had a varied career in government, academia, business, charity and civil society.  During all that time, no educational experience has served me better than has that multi-year study of those great books. Time and again I have turned to them for wisdom and insight—and most importantly to better understand the significance of current events.  

Let no one tell you that your college experience here was not relevant. Throughout my life I have found such education to be the most relevant.  The world will tell you that what is most important in your life is what you “have.” But you know that what is most important is who you “are.”  Because wherever you go and whatever you do, the most important value proposition you can bring to any situation is you.  Of course, technical and professional skills are important.  But what is more important is your judgment, your wisdom, your compassion, and your integrity.  

Advances in artificial intelligence will continue to make great improvements in the work environment.  But artificial intelligence will never replace what is in your heart and soul.

We commonly refer to studies such as that at TAC as a great books program, but here it is more than that.  I think of it as an encounter with the genius of the West. That genius has taken many forms in many different disciplines and its diversity is like nothing else in the world. We may look at this from many different perspectives. But in a fundamental sense, it is the working out through history of the meeting of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome.  As you know well, this development reached a profound unity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  Even more fundamentally, we may see this in the context of salvation history as the encounter of this genius with the reality of the Incarnation. As you know, this process continues. With the help of an outstanding faculty, you have been part of it. Your achievement now sets you apart from virtually every other college graduate in America.

Thomas Aquinas College has been a great gift to you made possible by the sacrifice of your families, the dedication of the faculty, and the vision of those who built and now sustain this beautiful campus and academic program.  Yet the value of any gift also depends on how it is received. You have not only embraced this gift, but you have worked hard to develop it. Today, we are justly proud of all you have achieved.  

Now, as you graduate, with this gift comes a great task. This task is one that you have already begun.  It is what I would call the vocation of the Catholic intellectual life.  In addition to what the Lord may be calling you to do—for example, a vocation to the priesthood or religious life or to marriage and family life—you now have the opportunity to continue a life of learning in a special Catholic way.  

We often speak of our Church as a pilgrim church. This idea reflects the reality that our life of Catholic faith is not something we possess, but rather is something towards which we continually strive—and not only on our own but as part of a community.  We are all on a life’s journey and for some of us an intellectual pilgrimage is an important part of that journey. You are here today because during the past four years you have made a serious commitment to the scholarly life—a life of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and discipline.  It is to be hoped that this work has not exhausted your wonder at the world which the Lord has given us and the human drama that has been our history in it.  The intellectual life is very much part of the identity of many who have taken up the religious life, as we see in the Dominicans and the Benedictines.  Their communities embody a Catholic culture of learning. Their legacy is part of the great patrimony of our Church.  Yet, there is no reason why lay men and women should not also embrace a life of learning and create a culture of learning. 

You have been given an opportunity that few other Catholics in the world have been given. You have begun an intellectual pilgrimage grounded in some of the greatest works of Christianity—the classic texts of our Faith—with a unique scholarly community. Today should mark a continuation, not an ending, of this chapter in your life. 

Today, our Church needs more of us to take up the special task of defending the truths of our Faith.  Certainly, at the institutional level there are offices in the Church such as that of bishop and theologian as well as academic faculties that have responsibility for safeguarding and communicating the truths of our Faith.  But there is no reason why a new generation of lay men and women who do not hold such positions 

should not also take up this task and in their own way share in this mission. Some might even say the times demand it. 

I would suggest that you look closely at the scholar for whom this institution is named. St. Thomas Aquinas is rightly celebrated as the outstanding model of the Catholic intellectual life.  He truly embodies this vocation, which is to say, a life caught up in the love of learning and the desire for God.  He lived a life of uncompromising and dispassionate discipline in the search for truth.  And he complemented that discipline with a serene confidence, humility and charity in its application. He showed us that the Catholic intellectual has a sacred call, and in response to it he or she must practice the virtues of the Catholic life—and especially those at the center of this life—the virtues of charity and humility. It is a vocation that we could say begins with these words of St. Thomas: “All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, has its origin in the Holy Spirit.” (Omne veru, a quocumque dicitur, a Spiritu Sancto est.)

Thus, we begin in a spirit of humility both as to what we may learn from others as well as what we may ourselves contribute. The Catholic intellectual does not stand alone. Rather he or she is always a member of a community that extends through time—a community that is entrusted with understanding and preserving a great inheritance. It is an inheritance which arises from the very heart of the Church and, like the mission of the Church itself, is intended to bring the reality of the Incarnation ever more deeply into the life of the intellect and thus into the life of the believer.  During your studies the greatest book you have opened is you—and it is in this book that the Lord has been writing during your time here.  No study program, no matter how great, can substitute for what he has written in your heart.  St. Thomas lived in an age when reading and study were closely associated with prayer. A familiar adage of the time was: “You should apply yourself to prayer or to reading: at times you speak with God, at times he speaks with you.”  

The vocation of the Catholic intellectual life goes beyond learning the Christian classics.  It is not about seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge or for the sake of power.  Instead, it is about entrusting oneself to the Spirit of truth. I have suggested this is a vocation that proceeds from the inseparable connection between the love of learning and the desire for God.  But ultimately this vocation moves us beyond this to a unity of the love of learning with the love of God.  It sets our spirit in the one direction that Pope John Paul II told us is the only direction for our intellect, will and heart and that direction is toward Christ.  Thus, a disciplined life of prayer as well as that of reading Sacred Scripture are irreplaceable elements of an authentic Catholic intellectual life.  Here as well St. Thomas Aquinas serves as our sure guide to the sum and summit of the Catholic intellectual life. There is a story told about him that as his death was approaching, he heard the Lord say: “You have spoken well of Me Thomas, what reward would you like?” To which he replied, “Nothing but Yourself, Lord.”   

It has been said that not every age is as good as every other, but there is one age that for us surpasses them all and that one is our own. I need not tell you the challenges which our society presents to those who would faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Some of the most painful examples of those challenges are here in California where agents of the cancel culture have defaced our churches and torn down statues of saints such as Junipero Serra.  Contemporary culture challenges every believer.  But few are better prepared to respond to these challenges than are you. Because in order to defend a culture from those who would cancel it, you must first know it. And few know the achievement of Western genius and the culture which it has produced better than you. Culture is a shorthand way of speaking about what we mean by the way of life of a people: their ideas, their aspirations, their spiritual values, and what they have sacrificed over generations to achieve and why they have done so.  Those who take up the vocation of the Catholic intellectual life have a special responsibility in this regard.

The Thomistic scholar, Etienne Gilson often recounted his experience as a soldier in the French army during the First World War and especially the time a dying French soldier begged him to hear his confession.  Because of such experiences, Gilson could easily have joined those who, disillusioned after the Great War, became members of the so-called “Lost Generation.”  Instead, Gilson and other Catholic philosophers went in a different direction.  They took up the challenge presented by Pope Leo XIII in Aeterni Patris.  They agreed with this great pope on the importance of St. Thomas Aquinas, and they led a rebirth in Thomistic studies.  Undoubtedly at the time, some questioned the relevance of their attention to medieval philosophy. Yet, as we know, no work could have been more relevant to the crisis of the West than the recovery of the great intellectual genius and spirituality of our Catholic Faith. 

These scholars lived in an intellectual culture which since the Enlightenment had put the God of Christianity on trial, and which had found his church guilty of a long list of falsehoods.  Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, the geniuses of the French Enlightenment, positioned their attack on Christianity as a debate between reason and superstition.  They were astute enough in championing the Age of Reason to avoid directly confronting the sublime genius of Christian reason found in the work of the Angelic Doctor.  Their strategy was effective, if cowardly—simply ignore the work of St. Thomas Aquinas and move on.  But their Age of Reason was only a half-way point.  By relying upon an intelligible universe and a rational Creator, the Age of Reason ended up pointing the Nineteenth Century in one of two directions: once again toward the rational faith of Christianity, or alternatively toward the new anti-faith of atheism. 

Pope Leo XIII saw the choice more clearly than most and he sought to build a new confidence in Christian philosophy.  First, by emphasizing the importance of St. Thomas in Aeterni Patris (1879) and then by showing the relevance of such reasoning in finding solutions to the social crises of the day in his great economic encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891).  

But by this time the philosophical turn toward atheism was well underway. The new attack on Christianity was no longer presented as a confrontation between reason and superstition.  Instead, Christianity was said to have created something far more sinister—it had created an entirely false consciousness in the mind of the believer. The fathers of modern atheism: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, each in their own way sought to dismantle what they said was the false consciousness of Christianity.  Whether in the areas of history and economics, freedom and autonomy or psychoanalysis and science, they sought to “wake up” society with a new narrative of reality. The problem for them was not that people have wrong ideas that must be corrected, but that people have an entirely wrong way of looking at reality that must be replaced. That is what they really mean when they describe Christianity as “the opium of the people,” or as “a slave religion” or as a “neurosis.” And it is precisely this false consciousness that prevents society from obtaining economic justice, personal autonomy and individual happiness.

You may judge for yourself the extent to which this thinking has seeped into the ground water of America’s culture. But to the extent that it has, more of our fellow citizens live as though God does not exist.  They live their lives in a closed-in materialist world—a world with no transcendent horizon.  While much here is new, one thing hasn’t changed. Being newly “woke” means feeling no need to climb the heights of Christian philosophy with St. Thomas Aquinas since that philosophy has meaning only within the false consciousness of the Christian.

It seems to me we have once again a problem like that described by Plato in his allegory of the cave.  But this time with a modern twist.  We have people locked in the cave of a materialist world unable or unwilling to turn to the light. They see only the shadows of a secular culture passing in front of them and they call it reality.  And this reality is increasingly one of indifference, isolation and despair.  How then are we to encourage people to escape their cave, to turn and face the light?  Our problem is even more difficult than Plato’s.  In The Republic, Plato is in dialogue with people for whom the soul, the good, the true, the right and the beautiful have meaning.  His readers contemplate an intelligible world with truths that can be discovered by human reason.  Not so today.  Many of those around us do not share these ideas.  Nor do they have confidence in the intelligibility of the world and in the reliability of human reason.  

So, what is to be done? How are we to encourage people to turn away from the shadows of doubt and suspicion and to step out into the light of Christian faith?  St. John Paul II spoke directly to this problem throughout his pontificate.  Listen to what he writes in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis: “The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ.”  It seems to me that “to direct man’s gaze” to the redemption taking place now in the world is to supplement the reasoning of philosophy and theology with the experience of God acting in the lives of believers.  It is to point to the way in which redemption is happening today in the concrete reality of our lives as Christians.  In other words, what it means to us that Christ is our Redeemer. As St. Peter advises us, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (and) Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).  

The witness of redemption is the great drama of Christianity in every age.  In this sense we may even say that every age is a Christian age.  This is true because in every age the Lord is alive and acting through the lives of his followers and therefore every age is an age of Christian witness.  Your age will be so because of your witness.  Here the Catholic intellectual finds his or her greatest responsibility—the responsibility of serving divine truth through a life of Christian witness.  St. John Paul II tells us: “Being responsible for that truth also means loving it and seeking the most exact understanding of it, in order to bring it closer to ourselves and all its saving power, its splendor and its profundity.”

Etienne Gilson once said of St. Thomas Aquinas that “Wisdom, to him, was not philosophy; it was not even theology; in its only perfect form, wisdom was Christ.”  If you commit your lives to seeking this Wisdom, as did St. Thomas, then you will be those witnesses that our time requires and that the Lord is calling you to be.