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Pope Francis cancels Monday audiences due to persisting 'mild flu' symptoms

Pope Francis delivers the Sunday Angelus from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square, Jan. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 26, 2024 / 06:09 am (CNA).

The Holy See Press Office on Monday announced that Pope Francis’s audiences for the day had been suspended as a precautionary measure due to the Holy Father’s persisting flu symptoms. 

The Monday morning telegram sent out by the Vatican noted that while the pope’s “mild flu symptoms persist,” he did not have a fever. The Holy See Press Office did not provide further details on the pope’s condition, nor hint at whether he would continue with his activities for the week. 

On Saturday the 87-year-old pontiff had canceled his meeting with the transitional deacons of the Diocese of Rome, who will be ordained to the priesthood in April, due to  “a mild flu-like condition.”

However on Sunday the pope appeared in good form when he delivered his weekly Angelus address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square from the window of the Apostolic Palace as scheduled. 

Last November the pope was forced to cancel his public appearances due to similarly “mild” flu symptoms. He was later admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Isola Hospital to undergo precautionary testing for pulmonary complications, which came back negative. 

In December the pope canceled his trip to Dubai for the COP28 climate conference, at the request of his doctors, due to a bronchial infection.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Polish archbishop accused of ignoring abuse

Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga of Szczecin-Kamien, Poland. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rome Newsroom, Feb 26, 2024 / 00:01 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Polish Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga, who has faced allegations that he ignored abuse cases in Poland.

Neither the Apostolic Nunciature of Poland, which announced the resignation on Feb. 24, nor the Holy See Press Office provided a reason for Dzięga's resignation. The 71-year-old prelate, who has led the Archdiocese of Szczecin-Kamien since 2009, will not turn 75, the age at which canon law requires a bishop to submit his resignation to the pope, until 2027.

Dzięga published a two-page resignation letter on Feb. 24 in which he apologized to his “brother priests,” saying, “if my weaknesses, including incomplete understanding of specific circumstances, and sometimes even my ordinary human fatigue became the cause of your anxiety, I am sorry.” 

The archbishop said he was resigning due to “a radical weakening of my condition,” adding that in the fall "it became obvious to me" that it was time to step down, and that the Holy Father agreed.

Bishop Zbigniew Zielinski, 59, who became bishop of the Diocese of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg in February 2023, has been appointed apostolic administrator of the Szczecin-Kamien Archdiocese, located in the northwest corner of the country, the nunciature announced.

According to a 2021 report by the Polish Catholic outlet Więź, the nunciature received four reports, from three separate individuals, alleging that Dzięga covered up cases of sexual abuse. The report noted that the complaints were submitted following the publication of Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi, which established a new norms for handling sexual abuse cases. 

In 2021 the Polish television network TVN24 aired a documentary alleging that Dziega knew about abuse allegations against Father Andrzej Dymer as early as 1995 but took no action. According to Polish media, Dymer was convicted by a Church tribunal in 2008 of sexually abusing minors. Dymer appealed but died in 2021 before the appeal was adjudicated.

Pope Francis, recovering from ‘mild flu,’ renews call for peace in Ukraine

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on Feb. 25, 2024, during his weekly Angelus reflection. The pope canceled his audiences the day before due to mild flu conditions, according to the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 25, 2024 / 09:55 am (CNA).

A day after canceling his audiences due to what the Vatican called a “mild flu-like condition,” Pope Francis appeared in good form during his weekly Angelus address Sunday, marking the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine with a call for peace while urging the faithful to “never direct your eyes away from the light of Jesus.”

“How many victims, injuries, destruction, anguish, tears in a period that is becoming terribly long and of which the end is not yet in sight,” the pope said about the war, which began with Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, adding that the conflict has “unleash[ed] a global wave of fear and hatred.”

“While I renew my deepest affection for the tormented Ukrainian people and pray for everyone, in particular for the numerous innocent victims,” Pope Francis said, “I implore that that bit of humanity be found that allows us to create the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace.”

The Vatican said Pope Francis canceled his audiences on Feb. 24 as a “precaution.” When the Vatican said that Francis had a “mild flu” in November, the pope underwent precautionary testing at a Rome hospital. The 87-year-old pope canceled a trip to Dubai in December after his doctors advised him not to travel because of a bronchial infection.

But on Sunday he was back in public view for the weekly Angelus. Reflecting on the Gospel reading for the second Sunday in Lent — Mark’s account of the Transfiguration — the pope described the apostles’ mountaintop experience with Jesus as a transformative moment where Christ “physically manifests himself there in all his light.”

The Transfiguration, he said, sums up all of Jesus’ works up until that point of his ministry while foreshadowing his passion.

“The preaching of the kingdom, the forgiveness of sins, the healings, and the performed signs were, indeed, sparks of a greater light, namely, of the light of Jesus,” the pope said from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace, overlooking nearly 20,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father stressed that it is an event that reminds all Christians that “God is light,” which allows us to “seek his face, that is full of mercy, fidelity, and hope.” In this way we can keep Christ fixed as a singular point of reference as “we journey through life.”

The pope declared: “Always keep the luminous face of Christ before our eyes,” adding: “Never direct your eyes away from the light of Jesus.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for Pope Francis' weekly Angelus address on Feb. 25, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for Pope Francis' weekly Angelus address on Feb. 25, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis suggested that this encounter with the living God is done principally through “prayer, listening to the word, the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist.” But underscoring the sacramental dimension is also a deeply personal, human element.

It is a call for the faithful, the pope suggested, to seek God in one another, noting that it can serve as a “Lenten resolution” that enables us to become “seekers of the light of Jesus.”

“But it also helps to look people in the eyes,” he continued, “learning to see God’s light in everyone and cultivating the ability to marvel at this beauty that shines in each one, without exception: in those close to us and in those we do not know; in the happy gazes of those who are joyful and in the tears of those who are sorrowful; in the sad and dimmed eyes of those who are tried by life and of those who have lost their enthusiasm; and even in those whom we find it difficult to look in the face, preferring to turn away.”

Faith inspires many at CPAC, including numerous Catholic speakers

Supporters of former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 24, 2024. / Credit: Mandel NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

CNA Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 21:58 pm (CNA).

Faith-based convictions were highlighted by numerous Catholic and other Christian participants at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held just outside Washington, D.C., this past week. 

An annual gathering of some of the most prominent conservatives in the United States and around the world, this year’s edition of CPAC took place from Feb. 21 through Feb. 24. 

The conference’s agenda included opportunities for both Mass and Protestant services, a screening of the film “Cabrini” — about the life of St. Frances Cabrini, the first Catholic saint from the United States — as well as panels on a biblical understanding of gender and how to respond to efforts to push Christianity out of the public square.

“The question is what moral code are we going to live by,” former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, said during a panel titled “The Bible Uncanceled” on Saturday. 

“The left has their own woke code that they change depending on what power dynamics are in place to help them control people,” Santorum added. “Whereas conservatives historically have said, no, … the moral code by which our country is going to live will be a biblically-based one.” 

Santorum warned that many in our society have “replaced the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [with] the God of self,” noting that this breakdown has caused “all of this depravity and confusion and depression and anxiety” among young people in the country. 

During an earlier panel titled “Genesis 1:27,” pushing back on gender ideology, Terry Schilling, a Catholic father of six who serves as president of the American Principles Project, warned against the growing threat to parental rights and religious freedom for parents who refuse to go along with or facilitate the “gender transition” of their minor children. 

Parents, he warned, are being punished “for protecting their children from this [transgender] industry that will quite literally chew them up and spit them out with destroyed bodies.”

The faith was also directly referenced by speakers on panels that were not explicitly religious in nature. 

Eduardo Verástegui, a Catholic actor who produced the anti-child-sex-trafficking film “Sound of Freedom,” discussed the faith component in his activism.

“I’m asking God and Our Lady of Guadalupe to help me,” Verástegui told the crowd to resounding cheers.

This expression of faith comes at a time when church affiliation in the United States has fallen and hostility toward traditional Christian views on controversial subjects has been on the rise. 

Santorum in his panel discussion noted that he has faced hostility for his faith-based views for a long time. 

“It’s OK,” he said. “God did not say ‘pick up your box of candies and follow me.’ He said ‘pick up your cross daily and follow me,’ and we all need to do that.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland, who was removed from his post as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, last year, did not speak at the conference’s main event but did give remarks at the Ronald Reagan dinner on Friday night.

Other Catholics who spoke at the conference included Ohio U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance and political activist Jack Posobiec, along with Matt and Mercedes Schlapp, the husband and wife duo who lead the American Conservative Union, the parent organization of CPAC.

Former president and current Republican candidate Donald Trump also spoke at CPAC. The former president focused his remarks on other domestic and foreign policy issues, including the economy and immigration.

Trump’s speech at CPAC took place on the same day he trounced his sole remaining rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in the South Carolina primary. 

The Associated Press called the election for Trump shortly after the polls closed on Saturday evening, with the former president projected to defeat former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in her home state by more than 20 percentage points.  

With more than three quarters of the results in from the Palmetto State at 9:45 p.m. ET on Saturday evening, the AP projection was holding up, with Trump at 60% and Haley at 39%.

Pope Francis cancels Saturday audiences due to a mild flu, Vatican says

Pope Francis delivers an address during his Wednesday general audience on Feb. 14, 2024, in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis canceled his public appearances on Saturday due to a mild flu, the Vatican has said.

The Holy See Press Office released a short statement announcing the cancellation on Saturday morning without further details.

“Due to a mild flu-like condition, as a precautionary measure, the pope has canceled the audiences scheduled for today,” the Feb. 24 statement said.

The cancellation comes after Pope Francis concluded a five-day Lenten retreat at his Vatican residence in which all of his regular activities were suspended from the afternoon of Feb. 18 to Feb. 23.

The 87-year-old pope has slowed down his schedule with less international travel since he underwent abdominal surgery last June to repair an incisional hernia. Francis canceled a trip to Dubai in December after his doctors advised him not to travel because of a bronchial infection.

When the Vatican said that Pope Francis had a “mild flu” in November, the pope underwent precautionary testing at a Roman hospital.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope’s Angelus address on Sunday is still on the schedule and that the Vatican does not plan to release any further health updates on Saturday. 

The pope had been scheduled to meet with deacons from the Diocese of Rome on Saturday morning in addition to his regularly scheduled meetings at the Vatican.

Beer for Lent? The Diocese of Scranton’s ‘40 Days’ brew helps feed the homeless

Beer lovers gather at the release of the "40 Days" beer brewed by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. / Credit: Kristen Mullen

CNA Staff, Feb 24, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Many Catholics give up beer as part of the penitential rigors of Lent. One diocese is brewing it as part of a Lenten tradition stretching back 400 years.

The Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has launched a beer collaboration with a local brewery to support its anti-hunger programs for the homeless.

The tradition of Lenten beer stretches back centuries. In Bavaria in the 17th century, Paulaner monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer — to sustain them through their strict, no-solid-food fast during the Lenten season. Paulaner is now a global brand and is among the bestselling beers in Germany.

In the spirit of the Paulaner brewers, the Scranton Diocese on its Facebook page earlier this month shared that its “Forty Days” beer collaboration with local Breaker Brewing Company would be launching on Mardi Gras, Feb. 13. 

The Forty Days beer is a doppelbock, the announcement said. A doppelbock, according to CraftBeer.com, is “reminiscent of toasted bread” and may include “dark fruit flavors such as prune and raisin,” depending on the recipe used.

The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen
The "Forty Days" Doppelbock beer was produced by Breaker Brewing and the Diocese of Scranton. Kristen Mullen

The brewery created the beer in collaboration with Father Brian Van Fossen. The priest told CNA this week that he went to high school with Mark Lehman, one of the co-owners of the brewery. 

“Back in November we met about the project and Mark asked me to do some research on the beer,” Van Fossen said.

“Though I thought it was a good idea, the diocese was not able to send Mark and me to Munich to do research on beer, so I went to the computer,” he joked. 

“I discovered a doppelbock beer which was rooted with the Paulaner brothers in Munich, Germany,” he said. “The beer consisted of strong grains and an interesting mixture of hops and barley, which provided a strong nutrient content.” 

The priest said the beer was originally developed as part of the “strict fast of the Paulaner monastery.” The beer “celebrates the history of the Doppelbock beer style and its ties with the Lenten season,” the press release announcing the beer said. 

Breaker Brewing is located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes outside of Scranton. The beer collaboration is meant to help fund the diocese’s “Rectory, Set, Cook!” program to help feed homeless people. 

The diocese announced the launch of that program in 2021. It was billed at the time as Scranton’s “first-ever, all-virtual, cook-off-style fundraiser,” one taking the form of “a friendly online showdown among more than 25 priests.”

“Participating parish priests are starring in individual videos showcasing a favorite recipe or recipes and counting on their flocks and friends far and near to show their support by making monetary donations as small as $10,” the diocese said. “Each $10 donation will represent one vote for a pastor chef or team.”

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to local anti-hunger efforts by Catholic Social Services, including the local St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen “as well as food pantries and programs across the CSS footprint.” 

The diocese continued the program for a third year, and the contest this year took the theme “Collars and Scholars,” with “some of the priests [being] assisted by Catholic school students and other young people.”

Sandy Snyder, the director of foundation relations and special events at the Diocese of Scranton, said that upon launching the program the diocese “considered it experimental and hoped to raise $50,000 to call it a success.” 

“We hit $50,000 pretty quickly, and the momentum just kept going,” she said. “We finished at $171,697 raised in our first year. So we knew there would be a Rectory, Set, Cook! 2023.”

“Last year, we finished at $197,313,” she said. “So this is the year we hope to make Rectory, Set, Cook! a six-figure fundraiser times two and raise more than $200,000, which is important because we’ve added homelessness as a second benefiting cause.” The diocese is focused on building a brand-new permanent shelter in Luzerne County, she said.

Lehman, the co-owner of the brewery, told CNA that the beer was brewed using “Pilsen, Munich, and melanoidin malts with Hallertau hops to balance out the sweetness.” 

“Notes of this medium-brown-hued malty sweet delight is that of toasted bread, slight caramel/toffee, with hints of raisins throughout,” he said.

“The beer was one of the top sellers since its release, competing with another one of our beers for the top slot each day,” Lehman said. “Although we made quite a bit, I believe at this rate, we may not have enough to make it through the 40 days.”

Van Fossen confirmed that the beer is selling “like Lenten fish dinners.” Buyers have ordered the drink from as far away as Maine, he said, allowing the diocese to direct considerable funds to its homeless program. 

“All we need to do is look to the cross,” the priest said. “So if the joy of Lent can be found in a beer while feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless, I think God is being glorified in all things.”

CPAC speakers urge lawmakers to embrace life, end coerced abortions

Stanton Healthcare CEO Brandi Swindell and Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance speak at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference. / Credit: CPAC Screenshot/Rumble

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 24, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

With elections in the United States less than nine months away, pro-life speakers at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference are urging candidates for public office to embrace the issue of life and for lawmakers to crack down on coerced abortions. 

“At 16 weeks, a little baby girl has all her major organs, has fingernails and eyebrows, can hear and respond to her mother’s voice, and can feel pain,” Penny Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said during a panel titled “Babies-R-Us.” 

“She’s an important part of our human family,” Nance said. 

The panel addressed the upcoming elections in the U.S., which includes races for the presidency, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 seats in the United States Senate. In 13 states, there will be elections for governor and several states will also hold local races. 

Nance criticized the “media” and the Washington, D.C., “consulting class,” which she claims has fed false narratives of the abortion issue.

“The other side thinks abortion should be legal any time, any reason, any number, at any point in gestation, all paid for by the taxpayer,” Nance continued. “That is an extremist position.”

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, more than 20 states have passed into law stricter limits on abortion. However, in every state in which abortion policy was directly placed on the ballot via a ballot initiative since the overturning of Roe, every pro-life ballot initiative has failed and every pro-abortion initiative has succeeded.

Brandi Swindell, the founder and CEO of the pro-life pregnancy center group Stanton Healthcare, also spoke on the panel and emphasized the need to end coerced abortion. 

“If you are a victim or a survivor of abortion abuse, we believe you, we stand with you, and we will not abandon your stories, and there is help and hope,” Swindell said. “We have got to end abortion abuse as a society.” 

Stanton Healthcare is launching a new initiative and website to combat coerced abortion, which includes seeking criminal charges against anyone who has forced a woman to abort her child. Swindell said the organization already has 2,000 affidavits for confirmed cases of abortion abuse that they are looking into.

Swindell claims that the pro-abortion movement, including Planned Parenthood, “has normalized and enabled” abortion abuse. She said pro-life pregnancy centers provide alternatives for women who desire to keep their children.

“We stop the cycle of substance abuse, of domestic abuse, all these different things, of poverty, economic issues,” Swindell said.” When a woman finds hope through unexpected pregnancy, she gets her life together and does what’s best for her baby and what’s best for her if she has access to quality health care services that are life-affirming.”

During the panel, Nance encouraged women who regret their abortions and men who regret their participation in abortions to join the pro-life movement. “Our movement is replete with people who deeply regret their abortions,” Nance said.

“At the cross of Jesus Christ, he forgives all sin,” Nance continued. “There’s nothing you could ever have done that’s bad enough that he won’t love you, he won’t forgive you, and he won’t be in a relationship with you and want to spend eternity with you.”

CPAC is an annual event that features leading conservative speakers from the U.S. and around the world. The event, which is held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?

The National Eucharistic Revival recleased a detailed map of the upcoming pilgrimage routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 23, 2024 / 18:25 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage released a schedule of all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes planned across the country and ending at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis this July. 

The stops, which were announced by organizers on Thursday, include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks.  

At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

“It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way,” Glemkowski said. “Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life-changing for the Church across America.”

He also stressed that Catholics in communities across the country are “invited to be part of the historic movement to set hearts ablaze.”

What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

The organizers are calling it “our national Emmaus moment” after the biblical passage in which Jesus walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus. Through this campaign, the bishops plan to rededicate the country to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Where can I meet up with it? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s four routes are the Marian Route from the north, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the east, the St. Juan Diego Route from the south, and the St. Junipero Serra Route from the west. 

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here

The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.

The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 

The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

Who will be leading the pilgrimages? 

According to the statement, each route will be led by a team of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims,” who have already been selected and whose names will be announced on March 11. 

A “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will provide “ecclesial support” for the pilgrims. 

How can I participate? 

Participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is simple and costs nothing. Exact details on individual events at pilgrimage stops, including registration information, are available on the route pages

You can also participate by walking portions of the pilgrimage with the Perpetual Pilgrims. To do so, organizers ask that you register, which you can do by clicking here.

After Alabama Supreme Court’s embryo personhood ruling, what comes next?

Technician does control check of the in vitro fertilization process using a microscope. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 23, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

An Alabama Supreme Court decision that established the personhood of frozen embryos drew praise from pro-life groups. The possible wider effects of the decision, meanwhile, remain shrouded in uncertainty. 

The state Supreme Court ruled that frozen human embryos constitute children under state statute, a decision that could have wide-reaching effects on in vitro fertilization treatments.

The nine-judge court said in the 8-1 ruling that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is “sweeping and unqualified” and that its provisions extend to children “regardless of their location.”

“It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation,” the ruling said. “It is not the role of this court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy.”

The court’s decision came about as part of a lawsuit brought by several parents whose frozen embryos had been accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The plaintiffs had argued that the destruction fell under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Pro-life advocates praised the decision. Katie Daniel, the state policy director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement to CNA that the court in its ruling “recognized what is obvious and a scientific fact — life begins at conception.” 

“That does not mean fertility treatment is prohibited,” Daniel said. “Rather it means fertility treatments need not carelessly or intentionally destroy the new life created.” 

“Alabama or anyone concerned by this decision can look to Louisiana, which has had a law in place since the 1980s that requires IVF be practiced in a more ethical way,” she said. She noted that “1,000 babies are born every year in that state as a result of IVF.”

Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action, likewise said after the ruling that the decision “affirms the scientific reality that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization.”

“This ruling, which involved a wrongful-death claim brought by parents against a fertility clinic that negligently caused the death of their children, rightly acknowledged the humanity of unborn children created through in vitro fertilization,” Rose said, calling the decision “an important step towards applying equal protection for all.”

Will it affect other states?

Though the ruling was understandably welcomed by pro-life advocates, it is less certain how the court decision may play out beyond the state of Alabama.

The question before the state Supreme Court was whether or not frozen embryos should be considered children under Alabama state statute. Jay Tidmarsh, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, told CNA that the ruling “decided only a question of state law.”

“On whether this will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, I think many people do not realize that the U.S. Supreme Court decides only issues of federal law,” Tidmarsh said. 

“On matters of [Alabama] state law, the Alabama Supreme Court has the final word, not the United States Supreme Court,” Tidmarsh said. 

“For the United States Supreme Court to become involved in this case, therefore, the Alabama decision must involve an issue of federal law,” he said.

The Constitution established the Supreme Court as overseeing cases involving “controversies to which the United States shall be a party,” as well as “controversies between two or more states.” The Alabama decision “does not decide or invoke any matter of federal law,” Tidmarsh pointed out. 

“I could well imagine some theories of federal law that the decision might implicate, but none of those theories was mentioned in the opinion,” he said. 

Danielle Pimentel, who serves as policy counsel at Americans United for Life, echoed Tidmarsh’s assessment. 

“Right now I don’t see there are any federal questions to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said. The decision was “focused on Alabama law and will stay within Alabama,” she said.

The ruling “doesn’t limit IVF or access to it,” she pointed out. “It simply ensures that both the parents and the children are protected under the Wrongful Death of the Minor Act. If the fertility clinic is acting negligently, parents can potentially bring a civil claim.”

The state Supreme Court’s decision, meanwhile, is only part of the lawsuit brought by the parents whose embryonic children had died at the fertility clinic, Pimentel noted. 

“[The court’s ruling] wasn’t a ruling on the merits,” she said. “We still don’t know what a trial court will decide on whether the defendants have violated the act. I think we’ll have to wait and see what the trial court decides.”

The Catholic Church has long condemned the IVF process and the production of embryos. There are now an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. alone.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted.”

The Holy Father had noted at the time that there “seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.” 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, meanwhile, wrote in the 1987 document Donum Vitae that even an IVF and embryo-transfer procedure that is “free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it.”

CPAC speakers stress the role of faith in healing from sex trafficking

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Faith plays an important role in the healing process for those who have survived human trafficking, a victim of sex trafficking and a founder of a shelter for victims shared during a panel discussion at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Just remember that when you were little, when all of you were small, just like myself, there are dreams … ideas and thoughts about life and what you want to be; who you want to be,” said Tanya Gould, who was a victim of human trafficking and now serves as the director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.

“It takes faith to believe that you’re still that person after all of that has happened to you,” Gould said.

An important part of the recovery process, according to Gould, was “having people and places and folks that believe in … just me being human — who I am and being [made] in the image of God.”

Elizabeth Ameling, the founder and executive director of The Latisha’s House Foundation, which provides housing for sex trafficking victims, said those who work at her shelter tell women that “they’ve always been loved and there’s no one like them,” adding that the group’s housing manager tells them: “You’re the apple of God’s eye, he only made one of you, [and] you’re perfect.”

“We say that to them because [most of them] don’t have moms and dads — overwhelmingly their parents are dead or in prison,” Ameling said. “They have to have that connection. If they develop that while they’re in our house, they do better going through counseling, they do better dealing with addiction and it is transformative because it lets them know they’re loved.”

The panelists also discussed efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement and government initiatives.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, another member of the panel, encouraged officials to go after those who purchase sexual services from women, noting that many of the women are victims of trafficking. He said that this emphasis, which his state is focusing on through Operation Buyer’s Remorse, ensures that women who are victims are not being prosecuted.

“Don’t buy sex in Ohio,” Yost said. “If the money dries up, the trafficking will dry up.”

Yost added that the influx of people immigrating into the United States illegally has heightened the problem of sex and labor trafficking in the United States. He argued that this problem is “dispersing everywhere” and is not just taking place in states that border Mexico.

“There’s no such thing as a border state anymore,” Yost said. “Or maybe I should say every state is a border state.”

Gould also highlighted the importance of raising awareness of sex trafficking as a means to combat the illicit market. She said a major part of Virginia’s efforts includes awareness to businesses and employees.

CPAC is an annual event that hosts conservative and Republican speakers. The event, which is located at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, began on Feb. 21 and concludes on Feb. 24.