Catholic Guide

Military makes policy providing abortions for service members permanent

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in New York City. / Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 4, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making permanent a policy to provide abortions in certain circumstances to service members even in states where abortion is illegal.

The policy, which has been in place since 2022, was made final in a rule posted in the federal register on Monday.

Under the rule, the VA is authorized to perform abortions on service members and their family members in its health care facilities in cases of rape, incest, and to preserve the life or health of the mother. The rule also allows VA facilities to provide service members with abortion counseling.

Though the policy has already been in effect on a temporary basis, the new rule will take permanent effect on April 3. The department reported providing 88 abortions under this policy in the first year of it being in effect.

This is in addition to a U.S. military policy laid out by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in October 2022 that provides paid leave and travel cost reimbursements for service members seeking abortions.

Will VA doctors be forced to commit abortions?

The rule has been criticized as not having any conscience protections for doctors or health care workers who object to providing abortions.

In its final rule, the VA responded to those accusations, saying that the VA “adheres to all applicable federal laws relating to employee rights and protections, including protections based on an employee’s religious or conscience-based objection to abortion” and that it “has a policy in place for reasonable accommodation requests, where employees may request to be excused from providing, participating in, or facilitating an aspect of clinical care, including reproductive health clinical care authorized by this rule.”

The VA said that “if excusal is requested, supervisors should grant interim excusal for employees from duties or training regarding reproductive health care while requests are being processed.” 

Though the VA says that supervisors should grant excusals, it does not appear to mandate that conscience objections be respected. 

Is this legal? 

The U.S. Senate rejected a resolution by Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville to overturn the VA rule in a 51-48 vote in May 2023. However, some experts believe that military expenditures on abortion violate the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal tax dollars from being used for abortion.

Though he said he believes the rule is illegal, Robert Destro, former assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under the Trump administration, told CNA that making the rule permanent makes it very hard to reverse.

According to Destro, reversing the rule would likely now require litigation or perhaps an act of Congress.

For its part the VA explicitly said in its rule on Monday that it “is not subject to the Hyde Amendment,” which it says “addresses federal funds available to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education in legislation on annual appropriations,” not military spending.

When it comes to providing abortions in states where it is illegal, the VA argues that abortion is “medically necessary and appropriate” for the health of VA beneficiaries and that the “supremacy clause of the United States Constitution prohibits states from restricting federal agencies and their employees acting within the scope of their federal authority from providing abortion services.”

Will this impact U.S. military readiness? 

As the U.S. military is undergoing a dramatic shortage of recruits, leading some to label the problem a national “crisis,” Destro said that the military’s abortion policies indicate that it is “more concerned about sex than they are about readiness and weapons.”

“Abortion advocates think that access to abortion paid by government will improve recruiting. It doesn’t,” he said, adding that the “hyper sexualizing” of the military is “destroying the military’s ability to recruit.”

Nonetheless, the military’s new abortion policies received praise from progressive groups such as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), which celebrated the rule as a “critical action” in a press release published Monday.

Fatima Goss Graves, president of the NWLC, argued in the statement that “access to abortion is necessary for the health and safety of veterans — and for all people — to determine their futures.” 

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has previously strongly condemned the military’s new abortion policies, saying in an April 2023 letter that they are “morally repugnant” and that they “fail to incorporate basic conscience protections” for military commanders and VA employees.

“To deny the life of a baby in utero is to deny the Incarnation, and thus, the very source of our hope for salvation,” Broglio wrote.

Finnish study: Transgender surgeries for minors do not solve mental health issues

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 4, 2024 / 17:40 pm (CNA).

A comprehensive new study from researchers in Finland found that providing adolescents with transgender drugs or surgeries does not appear to solve the underlying mental health problems faced by youths who struggle with their gender identity.

While some lawmakers and transgender activists have claimed that puberty-blocking drugs and transgender surgical procedures are “life-saving medicine,” the study disputes that claim. The research did not find any statistically significant reduction in suicides among adolescents who received “medical gender reassignment” through hormonal or surgical interventions. 

“[The research] does not support the claims that [gender reassignment] is necessary in order to prevent suicide,” the researchers wrote in the study. “[Gender reassignment] has also not been shown to reduce even suicidal ideation, and suicidal ideation is not equal to actual suicide risk.”

The study analyzed the mortality rates, including the suicide rates, of Finns under the age of 23 who had sought psychiatric help for gender identity issues between the years 1996 and 2019. The researchers published the study in the peer-reviewed BMJ Mental Health

According to the researchers, suicide was rare among adolescents who sought psychiatric help within the time frame analyzed in the study, regardless of whether they received transgender drugs or surgeries.

Although adolescents who struggle with gender identity issues did have higher rates of suicide than the general population, this discrepancy appears to be rooted in deeper underlying psychological health problems the youths were facing rather than a lack of access to transgender drugs or surgeries. 

The study noted that adolescents who struggle with their gender identity commonly have other underlying psychological health problems. 

“Psychiatric morbidities are also common in this population,” the study argues. “Therefore, the risk of suicide related to transgender identity and/or [gender dysphoria] per se may have been overestimated.”

The researchers, however, noted limitations in their study. Particularly, they pointed out that the individuals studied were young and would likely require follow-up periods of up to several decades to learn more. They further noted the increase in adolescents seeking transgender drugs and surgeries has mostly occurred in the last decade.

Dr. Michael Artigues, the president of the socially conservative American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), told CNA that the Finnish study confirms findings from a recent review of 60 studies published by ACPeds, which found that “any increase in suicide in this population was not based on lack of such intervention but based on comorbidities, such as depression.”

“This emphasizes the need to aggressively treat underlying mental health disorders as well as to address adverse childhood experiences rather than sending children down the road of transgender interventions that often lead to the use of puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or surgeries that destroy their healthy body parts,” Artigues said.

The study comes at a time when lawmakers in Western countries, including the United States, are debating whether transgender-identifying children should have access to puberty-blocking drugs, transgender hormone therapy, and surgical sex changes. Supporters often assert that access to such drugs and surgical procedures will prevent suicide. Opponents frequently reject that characterization and warn against irreversible life-changing procedures on minors that they may ultimately regret.

In some European countries, such as Finland and the United Kingdom, only adults can receive surgical sex changes. In Sweden and the Netherlands, minors cannot receive genital surgeries, but teenagers can receive chest surgeries once they reach 16 years old. Fewer than half of the states in the United States prohibit transgender surgeries for minors — but the number of states banning such procedures has increased substantially over the last few years.

Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Person and Identity Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA that the Finnish study is “critically important” because it is the “first large-scale, reliable study using matched controls and a significant follow-up time (six years), to assess the suicide risk of youth with gender dysphoria.”

“Contrary to claims that young people with gender dysphoria (identity or body-related distress) are more likely to [die by] suicide and that ‘gender transition’ interventions will prevent suicide, this study proves that preexisting psychiatric problems explain the suicide rates of these young people — and that, in fact, the suicide rate is far lower than typically reported,” Hasson said. 

“This is good news, and it points the way to more effective treatment for young people with ‘gender dysphoria’ and confirms the direction taken by several European countries already,” she added. “They are providing gender-dysphoric young people with psychotherapy and addressing underlying psychiatric issues rather than attempting to heal their inner wounds through surgery or hormones.”

Jay Richards, the director of the DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that the assertion that these drugs and procedures will prevent suicide “is probably the No. 1 myth of folks advocating this approach.”

Richards warned that the supporters of transgender procedures for children will often use this claim as a form of “emotional blackmail” against parents who are hesitant about facilitating a sex change for their children. He suggested that parents take “a watchful waiting approach” rather than “a hyper-medicalized approach,” noting that most children will reconcile with their sexed body if permitted to go through natural puberty.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in the United States, or go to Suicide.org to find hotlines in other countries.

Indiana Catholic couple ‘living every parent’s nightmare’ after transgender custody case

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty's Lori Windham joins Montse Alvarado, president and COO of EWTN News, and Josh Payne, a lawyer with Campbell Miller Payne, on “EWTN News In Depth” on March 1, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN News In Depth”

CNA Staff, Mar 4, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

An Indiana Catholic couple is in the grips of a “nightmare” after their son was seized from them when they refused to adhere to his chosen transgender identity, an attorney told EWTN News on Friday.

After Mary and Jeremy Cox didn’t use the pronouns requested by their teenage son when he began to identify as a girl, Indiana Child Services removed their son from his home. The parents sought legal action and their case, M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana, is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite no evidence of abuse or neglect, the Coxes’ son has not been returned to them. The attorney for the Cox family, Lori Windham, told “EWTN News in Depth” anchor Montse Alvarado the couple is “living every parent’s nightmare.”

Windham, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explained that the Coxes’ son “was removed from their care by state officials even after they investigated for months and found out that these were fit parents.”

“They had not abused or neglected him in any way,” she said of the parents. “[Indiana] still used the disagreement over gender as a reason to keep him out of their home until he turned 18.”

“What’s shocking is the Indiana courts upheld this, and now the Supreme Court is their last stop and their last hope to make sure this doesn’t happen again to others,” she said.

Windham said she hopes the court will “wipe this stain off of Mary and Jeremy’s record.”

“They have other young children at home. They don’t want something like this to happen again,” she said. 

The parents hope the Supreme Court will “send a clear signal to lower courts and to states that you cannot interfere with parental rights, you cannot interfere with religious liberty by removing kids from the home of loving parents just because they disagree over gender,” she said.

Three additional cases related to transgender rights have been appealed to the Supreme Court. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appealed to the nation’s highest court to block a ban on transgender surgeries for minors in Kentucky. The group also appealed to reverse a similar law in Tennessee. Another appeal asks justices to allow Idaho’s ban on gender transitions for minors to take effect after a lower court judge blocked it earlier this year.

Josh Payne, a lawyer with Campbell Miller Payne, a law firm that helps “detransitioners” sue their doctors for pushing gender transition surgeries, filed a friend-of-the-court amicus brief in the transgender-related Supreme Court case that began in Idaho. 

These detransitioners, who are often minors, believed that gender-affirming care would resolve their gender dysphoria and allow them to live healthy lives but later felt “misled into these procedures,” Payne explained on “EWTN News in Depth.”

Their clients, he said, detransition after they realize “that they were misled into these physical changes to their bodies that did not help their mental health, gender dysphoria problems, but instead simply left them with mental anguish and in many cases, without their natural, healthy bodies and without their body parts.”

They are now “seeking justice,” Payne said, and hoping that others won’t make the same mistakes they did. 

The testimonies, Payne said, “put a face to why these regulations are so necessary and so important in the lower courts.”

Indiana is not the only state where parental rights are under threat, Windham said. 

“California and Washington have both passed laws that authorize state officials to take custody or to refuse to tell a parent where a child is for the purpose of allowing that child to access what they deem ‘gender-affirming care,’” she noted. 

“Other states, like Maine, are considering similar bills,” she added. “What we’ve said all along about the Coxes’ case is that if this can happen in Indiana, this can happen anywhere.” 

French bishops call for fasting and prayer as France enshrines abortion in constitution 

An attendee prays the rosary during a demonstration called by the association “La Marche pour la vie” against abortion and euthanasia in Versailles, southwest of Paris, on March 4, 2024. / Credit: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Mar 4, 2024 / 15:22 pm (CNA).

The French Bishops’ Conference on Monday issued a call for fasting and prayer as the French government moved to enshrine abortion rights in the country’s constitution.

The French National Assembly in January voted to introduce a “right to abortion” in the French Constitution, moving to make official a “liberté garantie” — a “guaranteed freedom” — to abort an unborn child. The French Senate last week approved the amendment by an overwhelming majority. 

A full parliamentarian vote on Monday, meanwhile, easily cleared the necessary constitutional threshold and made the measure official. Abortion has been statutorily legal in France since 1975.  

“As Catholics, we must continue to serve life from conception to death, to be artisans of respect for every human being, which is always a gift given to all others, and to support those who choose to keep their child even in difficult circumstances,” the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) said in a statement on Monday. 

The prelates stressed the importance of “support[ing] those who choose to keep their child even in difficult situations” and “surround[ing] those who have resorted to abortion with our respect and compassion.” 

“Let us pray that our fellow citizens will rediscover the taste for life, for giving it, for receiving it, for accompanying it, for having and raising children,” the bishops concluded.

The bishops said that France “would have honored itself by instead including the promotion of the rights of women and children” in its constitution. 

“Of all European countries, even Western Europe, France is the only one where the number of abortions has not decreased and has even increased in the last two years,” the statement said. 

The bishops “gladly relay the call made by several Catholic movements to fast and prayer” in response to the measure, they wrote. 

Protestors with cloths covering their mouths, hold candles and a slogan which reads " Free to defend life" during a silent pro-life demonstration in Paris, on February 28, 2024 as the Senate started debates for inclusion of abortion in the constitution. Credit: Photo by KIRAN RIDLEY/AFP via Getty Images
Protestors with cloths covering their mouths, hold candles and a slogan which reads " Free to defend life" during a silent pro-life demonstration in Paris, on February 28, 2024 as the Senate started debates for inclusion of abortion in the constitution. Credit: Photo by KIRAN RIDLEY/AFP via Getty Images

Following the French Senate’s passage of the measure last week, the bishops had said in a statement that abortion “remains an affront to life in its beginnings” and that “it cannot be seen solely from the perspective of women’s rights.”

“The bishops’ conference will be vigilant with respect to the freedom of choice of parents who decide, even in difficult situations, to keep their child and the freedom of conscience of doctors and all health care personnel, whose courage and commitment it commends,” the prelates said at the time. 

Supreme Court says states cannot remove Trump from 2024 ballot

U.S. Supreme Court building. / Credit: Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 4, 2024 / 12:33 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that states cannot remove former President Donald Trump from the ballot ahead of the 2024 elections.

The 9-0 decision, issued Monday morning, reversed a December 2023 ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that had disqualified Trump from that state’s ballot. That order had directed state authorities to not list him on the 2024 presidential ballot and to not count any write-in votes for him.

The Colorado decision claimed the state had the authority to bar Trump from the ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment for his role in allegedly inciting an insurrection against the federal government on Jan. 6, 2021.

After the Colorado ruling, an Illinois judge issued a similar order, while Maine’s attorney general said the state would bar Trump from the ballot. Several other states signaled similar plans

The Supreme Court justices this week argued that while states have the authority under the 14th Amendment to bar individuals from state office, they do not have the power to bar anyone from federal office, with that authority being held by Congress alone.

“Nothing in the Constitution delegates to the states any power to enforce Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates,” the court wrote. “It would be incongruous to read this particular amendment as granting the states the power — silently no less — to disqualify a candidate for federal office.”

“We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.”

While the decision was unanimous, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson issued a separate concurring opinion in which they said that while they agree states do not have the authority to keep individuals from federal office, they believe that authority is held by other federal powers in addition to Congress.  

The decision comes as Trump is widely expected to dominate the Super Tuesday Republican primaries this week. Trump has won every state Republican primary thus far, losing only one primary in Washington, D.C., to former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday.

Leading Haley by more than 60 percentage points in the latest 538 poll, Trump is expected to once again be the Republican Party’s candidate for president in 2024, setting up a rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden in November. 

Historic Notre Dame College in Ohio to close this spring after 100 years

A view of the Notre Dame College administration building from the south, including its tower. / Credit: Josephgg216, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

CNA Staff, Mar 4, 2024 / 09:15 am (CNA).

After more than 100 years in Ohio, Notre Dame College (NDC) will shut its doors this year, joining a growing list of small Catholic colleges that have closed in recent years.

Though the school has been struggling with debt for the past few years, the announcement was sudden, falling just months before the end of the college’s final semester. Rising costs and declining enrollment contributed to the school’s closure.

“Throughout this long process, we evaluated every possible option to continue the mission of Notre Dame College,” said Terri Bradford Eason, the chair of the school’s board of trustees, in a Feb. 29 press release

“Our primary focus has been to ensure our students can successfully continue their education, graduate, and — in the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame — live a life of personal, professional, and global responsibility,” she continued. 

“We are all saddened by the need to make this decision, but rest assured that as we move forward, we are doing everything we can to ensure a smooth transition for our students to continue their education,” Interim President John Smetanka said in the release

NDC, which was established in South Euclid, Ohio, in 1922, was a women’s college until 2001.

Through an agreement with nine colleges and universities, NDC students will be able to complete their college education through a “teach-out” program or as a transfer student. 

“We need to make sure that they’re going to land somewhere, so they can finish their education … and emotionally, to support them too,” Lisa Mobley, a biology laboratory technician at NDC, told local news station WKYC Studios

“This is a big blow to a lot of the students,” she continued. “They were very happy here and now it’s cut out from underneath them.” 

Ursuline College in Cleveland is one of several schools that are taking on NDC students.

“Notre Dame College, its alumni, faculty, staff, and students have been a tremendous asset to Northeast Ohio for more than 100 years,” Sister Christine De Vinne, OSU, Ph.D., president of Ursuline College, said in a Feb. 29 press release

“We mourn the loss of our sister institution and are committed to assisting its students during this challenging time,” De Vinne continued. 

Ursuline will offer a “teach-out” program designed to minimize the impact of the school closure on students by accepting a large amount of the credits that students have already earned at NDC.

“It’s a very labor-intensive process to articulate the programs,” said Kathryn LaFontana, Ursuline’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, in the press release. 

“But we’re happy to help Notre Dame students, especially those close to graduation, finish their degrees, in a similar time frame at a similar cost.”

Students in good standing with more than 60 credits — about two years of classes — will be guaranteed admission to the partnered universities, where all the credits will transfer over and tuition cost will be comparable. Students with fewer credits can transfer to one of the colleges or universities and receive the same benefits as the teach-out program. 

Notre Dame College joins Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in New Hampshire and Cabrini College in Pennsylvania, both of which announced their closures last year and will graduate their final class in spring 2024. 

Though several Catholic colleges are closing this year, many are thriving, and one STEM-based Catholic university is set to launch this fall. Meanwhile, Catholic trade schools are sprouting up across the country.

Pope Francis urges ‘an immediate cease-fire in Gaza’ that frees hostages, grants aid 

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3, 2024, about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 3, 2024 / 09:25 am (CNA).

“Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.” 

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3, the pope made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid.

“I carry daily in my heart, with sorrow, the suffering of the peoples in Palestine and Israel due to the ongoing hostilities,” the pope said, reflecting on five months of war in Gaza.

“The thousands of dead, the wounded, the displaced, the immense destruction, causes pain, and this with tremendous consequences on the little ones and the defenseless who see their future compromised. I wonder: Do you really think you are going to build a better world this way? Do you really think you are going to achieve peace? Enough, please! Let us all say: Stop! Please stop!”

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3, 2024, about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. Credit: Vatican Media
Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3, 2024, about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope made his appeal as negotiations are underway for a weekslong cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. President Joe Biden said last week that he believed that a cease-fire could go into effect as early as March 4.

The Associated Press reported that Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week cease-fire framework that would include Hamas releasing some of the most vulnerable of the roughly 130 hostages being held in Gaza, citing a senior U.S. official. A response from Hamas is expected as talks resume in Cairo on March 3.

Pope Francis said: “I encourage the continuation of negotiations for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and throughout the region, so that hostages can be freed immediately and return to their anxiously awaiting loved ones, and the civilian population can have safe access to due and urgent humanitarian aid.”

People gather in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' March 3, 2024, Angelus address. Credit: Vatican Media
People gather in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' March 3, 2024, Angelus address. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope also urged people not to forget “battered Ukraine where so many people are dying every day.”

Francis gave a shoutout to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war. 

The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme “Overcome Evil with Good.”

During his Angelus remarks March 3, 2024, Pope Francis gave a shoutout to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war. The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme “Overcome Evil with Good.” Credit: Vatican Media
During his Angelus remarks March 3, 2024, Pope Francis gave a shoutout to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war. The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme “Overcome Evil with Good.” Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis also made an appeal for disarmament, calling it “a moral duty” for the international community.

“How many resources are wasted on military expenditures, which, because of the current situation, sadly continue to increase,” he said, noting that March 5 will mark the second International Disarmament and Nonproliferation Awareness Day. 

“I sincerely hope that the international community understands that disarmament is first and foremost a duty; disarmament is a moral duty,” he added. “This requires courage on the part of all members of the great family of nations to move from the balance of fear to the balance of trust.”

“Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday, March 3, 2024, as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.” Credit: Vatican Media
“Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday, March 3, 2024, as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.” Credit: Vatican Media

In his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus driving the merchants out of the Temple. The pope focused on the difference between “the house of God” and a marketplace.

One goes to “the house of God” to encounter the Lord and to be close to him, whereas in a market prices are negotiated and “one seeks one’s own interests.”

“The invitation today, also for our Lenten journey, is to build a greater sense of home and less of a sense of ‘a market’ in ourselves and around us,” Pope Francis said.

“First of all, toward God. How? By praying a lot, like children who knock confidently at the Father’s door without getting tired, and not like greedy and distrustful merchants. And then by spreading fraternity. There is a great need for it.”

What is inclusive language and why is it dangerous?

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. / Credit: Courtesy of Archdiocese of La Plata

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 3, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The move toward so-called inclusive language finds its origins in the feminist movement where activists considered sexist the generic masculine form of words, which has perennially been understood to include both men and women. 

In the past, for example, no one thought of challenging “for the good of mankind” as excluding women. However, the feminist movement drew heightened sensitivity to what activists considered the “patriarchal” nature of language.

Various publications started to use terms or forms of words that made it clear that a job could be performed by both men and women. Hence “fireman” became “firefighter” and “mankind” became “humankind,” etc.

While some of these changes are not that dramatic or noticeable in English, introducing inclusive wording in languages such as Spanish, where nouns are either grammatically masculine or feminine, becomes quite obvious due to the novel alteration of noun endings.

Gender-neutral language has similarly become an issue in Germany, as German nouns are also either masculine or feminine.

Inclusive language has also been identified as “one of the tools” of gender ideology, a school of thought that has been repeatedly criticized by the Catholic Church. 

Pope Francis has warned about this school of thought on several occasions. As recently as March 1, for example, the Holy Father pointed out that gender ideology “erases differences and makes everything the same; erasing differences is erasing humanity.”

What does inclusive language mean?

The Royal Spanish Academy, considered the definitive authority on what is correct Spanish, describes inclusive language as “a set of strategies that aim to avoid the generic use of the grammatical masculine.”

In addressing the issue, the academy has stated that the generic masculine is “firmly established in the language and does not imply any sexist discrimination” and that the recently invented artificial gender-neutral noun endings “that are supposedly gender inclusive are … unnecessary since the grammatical masculine already fulfills this function.” 

In a May 2022 article in the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Alicia María Zorrilla, president of the Argentine Academy of Letters, said that inclusive language is based on the error of taking literally the concept that, in language, the masculine [form of a word] always refers to the men only.”

Pushback

In a YouTube interview with Edgardo Litvinoff, Nobel Prize winner in literature Mario Vargas Llosa said that within feminism “there are some excesses” that he believes are “very important to combat,” for example, in the field of language.

“We cannot force language by completely denaturalizing it for ideological reasons; it doesn’t work that way, languages do not work that way, and so the so-called inclusive language is a kind of aberration within language,” he noted.

Cardinal Fernández weighs in

In 2022, while still archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, the current prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, warned about the “ideological imposition” that “inclusive language” can trigger.

In June of that year, Fernández wrote in a column in the Argentine newspaper La Nación: “Fundamentally, the intention does not seem to be to ‘incorporate everyone’ but to make the very conception of ‘male-female’ disappear. The aim is that what was called ‘sex’ leaves room for a personal construction that ‘fabricates’ the identity that each person comes up with.”

“Destroying the language and expecting everyone to submit to a certain ideology can only be counterproductive and, due to the law of the pendulum, will cause more intolerance and tension,” he warned.

Growing backlash 

In 2021, the French Ministry of Education prohibited the use of inclusive language in educational institutions because, according to the Daily Mail, such alterations “are a threat to the language.” The Académie Française, a nearly 400-year-old institution similar to its Spanish counterpart, said inclusive language is “harmful to the practice and understanding” of French.

Uruguay’s National Administration of Public Education, for its part, established restrictions in 2022, determining that “language that conforms to the rules of the Spanish language” must always be used.

The City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, banned inclusive language in 2022, arguing that this variation of the language creates difficulties for students in learning grammatical rules.

Most recently, Argentina’s government, led by recently elected President Javier Milei, extended the ban to all areas of national public administration. The spokesman for office of the president, Manuel Adorni, announced on Feb. 27 that artificial alterations of word endings to make them gender neutral are now prohibited.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

This tailoring shop in Jordan helps Iraqi refugees knit their lives back together

Woolen scarves produced at the Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The workshop is hosted in the premises of the Latin parish of Mar Yousef and it provides employment for approximately 20 young Iraqi women who sought refuge in Jordan. / Credit: Marinella Bandini

Jerusalem, Mar 3, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In Amman, Jordan, there is a tailoring workshop where, in addition to creating clothing and accessories, the wounds of life are stitched back together. 

It is called Rafedìn, which means “the two rivers.” The rivers refer to the Tigris and the Euphrates, enclosing Mesopotamia, the land of Iraq. The name was chosen by the first Iraqi girls who participated in the project: approximately 20 young women who fled the persecution of ISIS in 2014. In Jordan, they attempted to rebuild their future.

A view of the Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The word “Rafedìn” means “the two rivers.” The rivers refer to the Tigris and the Euphrates, enclosing Mesopotamia, the land of Iraq. The name was chosen by the first Iraqi girls who participated in the project: approximately 20 young women who fled the persecution of ISIS in 2014. Credit: Marinella Bandini
A view of the Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The word “Rafedìn” means “the two rivers.” The rivers refer to the Tigris and the Euphrates, enclosing Mesopotamia, the land of Iraq. The name was chosen by the first Iraqi girls who participated in the project: approximately 20 young women who fled the persecution of ISIS in 2014. Credit: Marinella Bandini

The project was launched eight years ago, on Feb. 24, 2016. Since then, approximately 150 young women have been trained, according to Father Mario Cornioli, the founder and coordinator of the project.

“We started with the ‘cash for training’ formula: Those who attended the training courses received expense reimbursements. It was a way to assist with dignity, providing professional training and helping them support their families,” Cornioli told CNA. 

Cornioli comes from a family of entrepreneurs, a characteristic that emerges in his practical approach to challenges and attention to details, which are coupled with a profound spirit of service.

Father Mario Cornioli, initiator of the Rafedìn project in Amman, Jordan. Cornioli arrived in the Holy Land in 2009 as a “fidei donum” priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Since 2015, he has been in Jordan, serving with Iraqi refugees. “They are people of extraordinary faith," he told CNA. "They have lost everything they had but have kept their faith alive. For me, for my work, they are an endless source of personal enrichment and edification.” Credit: Marinella Bandini
Father Mario Cornioli, initiator of the Rafedìn project in Amman, Jordan. Cornioli arrived in the Holy Land in 2009 as a “fidei donum” priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Since 2015, he has been in Jordan, serving with Iraqi refugees. “They are people of extraordinary faith," he told CNA. "They have lost everything they had but have kept their faith alive. For me, for my work, they are an endless source of personal enrichment and edification.” Credit: Marinella Bandini

In 2013, he founded the nongovernmental organization Habibi, of which he is the president, supporting various human and social development projects, including Rafedìn, in both Bethlehem and Jordan, where Cornioli has carried out his mission. 

In fact, after being ordained a priest in 2002 for the Diocese of Fiesole, Italy, he arrived in the Holy Land in 2009 as a “fidei donum” priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. (“Fidei donum” refers to priests, deacons, and laypeople who serve temporarily in an existing diocese by way of an agreement between the sending bishop and the receiving bishop.) Since 2015, he has been in Jordan, serving with Iraqi refugees.

According to the latest statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in Jordan there are nearly 718,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, including more than 55,000 Iraqis. They have arrived in multiple waves since the 1990s, after the First Gulf War. In 2014, during the significant exodus due to the rise of the Islamic State, Christian churches and organizations alone welcomed over 10,000 refugees.

What began as an emergency of a few weeks transformed into a long-term situation, bringing forth challenges related to residency, the sustenance of families, access to health care, education, and employment. 

As explained in a report from Caritas, Iraqi refugees in Jordan do not receive legal status. This means they cannot work legally, making it difficult for them to sustain themselves. Consequently, they are compelled to seek settlement elsewhere, particularly in Australia, Canada, or the United States, even though their ultimate dream is to return to their homeland one day.

It is in this context that Rafedìn was born. 

“We are here to tell them that God has not abandoned them,” Cornioli said. “We started with the idea of restoring dignity to these people.”

Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The project started on Feb. 24, 2016, initiated by Italian priest Father Mario Cornioli, who serves as a "fidei donum" for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Credit: Marinella Bandini
Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The project started on Feb. 24, 2016, initiated by Italian priest Father Mario Cornioli, who serves as a "fidei donum" for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Credit: Marinella Bandini

With the support, not only financially but also professionally, of friends and volunteers, Rafedìn took its first steps. “Some seamstresses and fashion designers got involved,” Cornioli explained, particularly the designer Rosaria Mininno, who left her job in Italy last year to move to Amman and dedicate herself full time to Rafedìn. The fashion designer Antonella Mazzoni also joined them.

Currently, 19 girls are employed, all of whom are Christians. The workshop is hosted in the premises of the Latin parish of Mar Yousef. This serves as a means to protect the women working there who might not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise.

“One of the crafts that sets us apart is patchwork. The idea originated to reuse fabric scraps, but it also holds symbolic value,” according to Cornioli. “Just as something new and beautiful can emerge from scraps of fabric joined together, these ‘discarded’ girls, when united, can create beauty around them, as demonstrated by this project.”

For Cornioli, contact with refugees is what nourishes his own faith. 

“They are people of extraordinary faith: They have lost everything they had but have kept their faith alive. For me, for my work, they are an endless source of personal enrichment and edification,” he said.

Since 2018, the project has been supported by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and benefits from the collaboration of the association Pro Terra Sancta. Since 2020, there has been a partnership with the French Embassy in Jordan. 

A woman inserts the zipper into a pillowcase lining in the Rafedìn workshop in Amman (Jordan). “We cover expenses and manage to provide a small salary to the girls,” Father Mario Cornioli said. Credit: Marinella Bandini
A woman inserts the zipper into a pillowcase lining in the Rafedìn workshop in Amman (Jordan). “We cover expenses and manage to provide a small salary to the girls,” Father Mario Cornioli said. Credit: Marinella Bandini

Over the years, Rafedìn has grown, developing various production lines and expanding its collections. Now, it is economically self-sufficient: “We cover expenses and manage to provide a small salary to the girls,” Cornioli said.

Luna Sharbel, 25, arrived last November after leaving Iraq with her husband and two children. They are from Qaraqosh and made the decision to leave after a fire destroyed a structure during a wedding party resulting in more than 100 casualties

“There is no work, no security in Iraq. Now we hope to leave soon for Australia, where my husband’s entire family is already settled,” she said. 

In the meantime, Sharbel works at Rafedìn: “I feel good here. Even though I don’t think I’ll continue doing this work, coming here gives me hope.”

Hope is also the word found on Rafedìn’s label: “Fashion seen through threads of hope.” 

“For these young women, being forced to leave their homeland is an open wound,” Cornioli explained. “Working, organizing their day, contributing to support their family has a positive impact, even psychologically. As they sew, the threads of colored cotton become threads of healing, of hope for the future, the fabric of a new life.”

Church Militant to shut down following $500,000 defamation lawsuit brought by priest

St. Michael's Media founder and CEO Michael Voris during an interview for local television news before the "Bishops Enough Is Enough" rally at the MECU Pavilion Nov.16, 2021, in Baltimore. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 14:22 pm (CNA).

Church Militant, the controversial Catholic media outlet that has for years maintained a reputation for combative and antagonistic coverage of Catholic figures and issues, will cease operations next month following a $500,000 defamation judgment against it.

Boston-based law firm Todd & Weld said in a press release this week that Church Militant had “agreed to the entry of a judgment against it in the amount of $500,000” in a defamation lawsuit brought by Father Georges de Laire, the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire.

The media outlet had run an article in 2019 titled “NH Vicar Changes Dogma Into Heresy,” one in which the author, canonist Marc Balestrieri, claimed to “have talked to a number of anonymous sources who allegedly made negative comments about Father de Laire both personally and professionally,” the law firm said.

De Laire brought suit against both Balestriei and Church Militant over the article. In the course of the lawsuit, both the writer and the outlet were “unable to identify a single source who said anything negative about Father de Laire,” Todd & Weld said.

The law firm said the article had been written in “an attempt to discredit Father de Laire” and the Diocese of Manchester.

Todd & Weld said in the press release that St. Michael’s Media, the parent company of Church Militant, “will cease all operations of Church Militant by the end of April 2024.”

Church Militant did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday regarding its reasons for shutting down. Asked for insight into the company’s decision, Howard Cooper — a founding partner of Todd & Weld — declined to speculate.

“Questions about Church Militant’s thinking will need to be answered by them,” he told CNA.

Late last year, Church Militant founder Michael Voris resigned over a “morality” violation, with Voris at the time alluding to “horrible ugly things” he had done, though he did not go into specifics at the time.

“I need to conquer these demons,” he said of his decision to resign. “The underlying cause of it has been too ugly for me to look at.”

The Washington Post reported last week that staffers had “complained that Voris had sent shirtless photos of himself to Church Militant staff and associates” prior to his resignation.

Voris founded St. Michael’s Media in 2006. The company launched Church Militant — originally titled Real Catholic TV — in 2008.