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Survey: Americans overwhelmingly favor limits on abortion

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 09:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Most Americans, including those who identify as “pro-choice,” support limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy, at most, a new survey says.

“It is hardly surprising that after 50 million abortions in this country, an overwhelming majority of the American people want substantial limits,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said Jan. 17.

“This survey shows clearly that the ‘pro-choice’ label can no longer be assumed to mean support for abortion on demand,” Anderson added. “Nor can abortion be thought of as a partisan issue since majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans all agree that it should be substantially restricted. It is high time that our political debates reflected this national consensus and used it as a starting point.”

The survey found that 76 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to no more than the first trimester of pregnancy, with 92 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Democrats agreeing. About 60 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents supported such limits.

Only 12 percent of Americans said the procedure should be available at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, while 11 percent supported abortion up to six months into pregnancy.

Restrictions on abortion face legal hurdles due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973 ruling in the Roe v. Wade decision, which required permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The data drew on a Dec. 4-7 survey of 1,267 adults in the continental U.S. and another of 1,350 adults Jan. 8-10. The surveys were conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus fraternal Catholic society. They respectively claim a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 and 2.7 points.

About 52 percent of respondents agreed that abortion does more harm to a woman than good in the long run, compared to 29 percent who said it improves a woman’s life. The belief that life begins at conception was professed by 47 percent.

Abortion is “morally wrong” according to about 56 percent of respondents. Moreover, 64 percent said it is wrong for abortions to be sought because the unborn child has genetic conditions such as like Down syndrome.

The study also found that abortion plays a role in elections, with about 40 percent saying the issue is a “major factor” in their choice of candidates. Nearly 76 percent of Republicans identified as “pro-life,” compared to 41 percent of independents and just 25 percent of Democrats.

A majority of respondents said that medical professionals and organizations with moral objections should not be forced to perform abortions or provide insurance coverage for the procedure. About 60 percent opposed using tax dollars to pay for abortion.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans say laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child, a figure that has held steady in Marist survey results since 2009.  


Pope Francis in Chile: Don’t water down the joy of faith

Iquique, Chile, Jan 18, 2018 / 07:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At Mass in Iquique Thursday morning, Pope Francis drew attention to the care Mary shows at the Wedding at Cana, pointing to her as an example of how we can help others share in the joy and celebration found in the Gospel.

“The Gospel message is a wellspring of joy… A joy that is contagious, passing from generation to generation, a joy that we have inherited,” the Pope said Jan. 18.

“Like Mary at Cana, let us make an effort to be more attentive in our squares and towns, to notice those whose lives have been ‘watered down,’ who have lost – or have been robbed of – reasons for celebrating.”

“Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the morning of his last day in Chile, before flying to Peru to begin the second part of his Jan. 15-22 trip to the two South American countries.

The Mass was held on the Lobito beach in the northern Chilean town of Iquique, which is bordered by the Atacama Desert to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the story of the Wedding at Cana, relating the festivity of that occasion to the “festive spirit” with which northern Chileans live out their faith.

“I have come as a pilgrim to join you in celebrating this beautiful way of living the faith,” he said. “Your patronal feasts, your religious dances – which at times go on for a week – your music, your dress, all make this region a shrine of popular piety.”

He also pointed out how the party doesn’t remain inside the Church, but that they turn “the whole town into a party.”

Quoting Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on evangelization, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Francis praised their ways of celebrating the faith and God through song and dance, which creates “interior attitudes rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sign of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion.”

To continue this joyful atmosphere, we can take a lesson from the actions of Mary at the wedding feast, he said. Mary, “like a good mother,” is attentive to everything going on around her and “doesn’t sit still.”

Noticing that something threatens to hamper the celebration or “water it down,” Francis said, “she approaches her Son and tells him simply: ‘They have no wine.’”

“In the same way, Mary passes through our towns, our streets, our squares, our homes and our
Hospitals… She notices all those problems that burden our hearts, then whispers into Jesus’ ear and says: Look, ‘they have no wine.’”

The Pope explained that we allow Jesus to continue this miracle when we turn our communities and hearts “into living signs of his presence, which is joyful and festive because we have experienced that God is with us, because we have learned to make room for him in our midst.”

This experience is a “contagious joy and festivity that lead us to exclude no one from the proclamation of this Good News,” he stated.

It’s also a “festive hospitality, he underlined, “for we know very well that there is no Christian joy when doors are closed; there is no Christian joy when others are made to feel unwanted, when there is no room for them in our midst.”

Love is in the air: Pope marries couple mid-flight during Chile visit

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 18, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his five years in office, Pope Francis has gained a reputation for embracing spontaneity. Today, he did it again with another papal first: witnessing the marriage of two flight attendants on board his flight from Santiago to Iquique.

According to journalists traveling with the Pope, the couple – Paula Podesta and Carlos Ciuffardi – went to the Pope during the Jan. 18 flight to ask for his blessing.

The couple told Francis they had been civilly married, but said they had not been able to get married in the Church because their parish was destroyed in the massive 8.8 earthquake that rocked Santiago in 2010.

In response, the Pope offered to convalidate their marriage on the spot. Ignacio Cueto, owner of the airline company, LATAM, was a witness in the ceremony.

According to Ciuffardi, who spoke briefly with journalists after the ceremony, the Pope asked the couple if they were married yet, and when they explained why they hadn't been married in the Church, he said “do you want to get married?”

The Pope, Ciuffardi said, asked them “Are you sure, absolutely sure?” They said yes, gave the Pope thier rings and asked Cueto if he would be a witness. The Pope then blessed the rings, placed their hands together, offered some brief reflections and pronounced them man and wife.

The Holy Father celebrated the marriage of 39-year-old Paola Podestà Ruiz and 41-year-old Carlos Ciuffando Elorriaga, during the LATAM 1252 transfer flight from Santiago to Iquique. ????Credit: Vatican Media/CNA #FranciscoEnChile Read the full story here:

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018 According to Ciuffardi, Francis told them what happened “was historic,” because “never has a Pope married a couple on a plane.”

Referring to the rings, Francis jested that they shouldn’t be too tight, because “they would be a torture,” nor too loose, because they might lose them.

Since they didn't have an official marriage certificate to sign, Pope Francis asked the cardinals with him to draft one, so they grabbed a piece of blank copy paper and each signed their names and what role they played in the ceremony. One of the cardinals also signed as a witness.

#PopeFrancis married these flight attendants aboard the papal plane flying to Iquique, #Chile this morning.

Their wedding was canceled when an earthquake destroyed their church in Santiago in 2010.

Join us in congratulating the happy couple! #FranciscoEnChile

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018 The Pope gave the couple two rosaries, Podesta received a white rosary and Ciuffardi a black one.

The couple – who have two children, Rafaela, 6, and Isabela, 3 – said they will be traveling with the Pope to Iquique, and from there will take a different flight to another destination, and will celebrate after.  

“It was something historic, really. Very exciting. What he told us was very important: he told us 'this is the sacrament that the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married’,” Ciuffardi said.

Pro-life Canadians concerned by Trudeau's abortion ideology litmus test

Ottawa, Canada, Jan 18, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A litmus test on abortion and recent comments from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been slammed by Catholic and conservative critics, and raise new and troubling questions for pro-life Canadians about the state of religious freedom in their country.

In a speech last week, Trudeau defended a policy requiring grant applicants to state their support of abortion. He said that while individuals are free privately to hold pro-life beliefs, there is a difference between freedom of expression and freedom of action.

“Defending rights and freedoms is at the core of who I am and is the core of what Canada is,” he said. “At the same time, we need to know there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those freedoms.”

Furthermore, Trudeau added that pro-life groups which explicitly oppose abortion are “not in line with where we are as a government and, quite frankly, where we are at as a society.”

Trudeau was defending new guidelines of application for a government grant that funds around 70,000 non-profit and for-profit summer jobs, such as camp counseling or landscaping.

Among the new requirements for employers applying for the grants is an “attestation” that the employer is “consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”

The requirement has been criticized by Catholics and conservatives in the country as a litmus test for Liberal party ideology that would unfairly and unnecessarily exclude pro-life groups from participating in the grant program, which is not directly related to abortion or reproductive services.

Sara Francis, a Catholic wife and mother from Calgary, told CNA she was “very disappointed with our prime minister and his comments.”

“I think if you were to talk to everyday Canadians on the street, the majority would be uncomfortable with abortion at some point in the nine-month gestation. I don’t think that his comments represent the majority, I think he’s the one that’s out of touch with Canadian values,” she said.

For Francis, the policy could directly impact the Catholic summer camp to which she sends her children, by disqualifying the group from funding for their summer staff.

In a statement released last week, the Canadian bishops blasted the attestation on abortion and transgender issues as an “obvious and regrettable infringement of freedom of conscience and religion” for the groups applying for the grant.

“Faith communities consider abortion, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression as major questions with ethical, moral, social and personal bearing which determine our understanding of human dignity and thus appreciation for the meaning and significance of each and every human life,” the bishops said.

“This new policy conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience which too are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as in associated case law. It seriously undermines the right to religious freedom since the Government of Canada is directly limiting the right of religious traditions to hold, teach and practise their principles and values in public,” they added.

Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Diocese of Toronto, said everyone should be included in a pluralistic society and not discriminated against because of their views.

“We certainly believe that core values of our faith, including the sanctity of life, should not preclude us from discussion and engagement in the public square. We must do so respectfully and thoughtfully but certainly, ours is a country with citizens holding a variety of views on a number of different topics,” he told CNA.

“We need to be part of the dialogue. It is difficult to see how caring for the most vulnerable among us at every stage of life would clash with Canadian society and values,” he added.

In an opinion column for the National Post, Father Raymond J. de Souza further noted that the policy is a deliberate act of discrimination by the government, which tried and failed to block pro-life groups from the grant last year only to double down this year.

“Last year the federal Liberals denied the applications of several pro-life groups because, well, the Liberal Party bans pro-life Canadians for running for office under its banner and concluded that if you can’t be a good Liberal then obviously you should be disqualified from public programs,” de Souza wrote.

But because there was nothing in the program guidelines requiring applicants to support abortion, the discriminated groups took the government to court and won, de Souza noted.

Demanding “coerced” assent to certain positions is “the hallmark of a totalitarian government,” de Souza added.

“Demand public displays of ideological loyalty, even from those who everyone knows do not really believe it. That the totalitarian ethos, a cabinet minister who advises pastors to make false statements to qualify for programs their own parishioners pay taxes to fund,” he said.

The Toronto Right to Life Association, a pro-life group which has received funding from the grant in the past, is suing over the new policy.

The Catholic Civil Rights League noted in a statement that as the policy currently stands, no Catholic group could in good conscience apply for the grant, and called for change.

“Any Catholic individual or organization, which professes fidelity to the teachings of the Church, cannot make this affirmation, and is thereby excluded from a program which should be open to all law-abiding organizations,” the statement said.

“We call upon the government to revoke this unconstitutional and deeply offensive provision immediately,” said the League. “Canadians of all faiths must recognize what is at stake.”

The Catholic Register in Canada reported that numerous Christian groups have joined Catholic groups in voicing opposition to the measure. The Catholic bishops have advised groups applying for the grant to do so by paper application, in order to avoid automated exclusion from the program, and to explain their pro-life position in writing.

Venezuelan bishops accused of “hate crimes”

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 18, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called for an investigation of two bishops accused of committing “hate crimes” in homilies they gave on the Feast of the Divine Shepherdess, Jan. 14, a popular Marian feast day in the country.

On Monday, the Venezuelan president gave a speech before the Constitutional Assembly asking the Supreme Court of Justice, the Comptroller's Office and the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate the Archbishop of Barquisimeto, Antonio López Castillo; and the Bishop of San Felipe, Víctor Hugo Basabe.

Venezuela’s El Nacional reports that the bishops “cried out for the end of hunger and corruption” in their homilies. Bishop Basabe made reference to a “corrupt plague” causing starvation in the country, and Archbishop Castillo prayed the country would be saved from corruption, according to the report.

In his speech, Maduro said that “a devil comes in a cassock to call for violent confrontations, to call for civil war…and I thank the people of the state of Lara who alerted me to this filth, because I really don't listen to [the bishops]. We don't listen to those bandits.”

Maduro’s allegations came just days after the Venezuelan bishops’ conference called for international monitors to oversee the country’s 2018 presidential elections, calling the Constitutional Assembly controlled by Maduro “unconstitutional and illegitimate.”

Archbishop Castillo told reporters Tuesday that he had received a phone call of support from Pope Francis, according to a report from El Impulso.

“We received Pope Francis' message and he supports us as well as the people of Venezuela,” he said.

Bishop Basabe responded to Maduro's accusations through a letter obtained by ACI Prensa--CNA's Spanish language sister agency. Basabe stated that his “conscience in no way reproaches him” because his “only crime seems to be serving the truth.”

“Mr. Maduro has put in my mouth words I never said. How sad it is  that a national public official would so scandalously lie in front of the whole country on National Teacher's Day. What's worse is he accuses me committing a crime while he commits one himself,” the bishop said.

“I knew that my words would upset those who deep down in their consciences know they are responsible for the tragedy that this people whom I love is going through,” Basabe added.

“Here I am in my own church with my only weapons: my faith in Christ and the certainty that my life is in his hands. [My fate] is up to those who will not be pardoned by conscience or history,” he concluded.

Bishop Mario Moronta Rodriguez, vice-president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, also repudiated Maduro's accusations. On Jan. 16, he appeared on the television program Circuito Éxitos, arguing that the accusations made against Lopez and Castillo are accusations “against the entire episcopate and the entire Catholic Church.”

“What they did was to simply make a statement reflecting everything we have been saying for a long time and it touches on a wound or sore,” he added.

Finally, he said that “when the bishops are called ‘devils in a cassock,' [Maduro] is also inciting hatred.”

“There are a lot of people going hungry. If that's calling for hatred then the dramatic nature of that law has to be changed,” he concluded.

In a Jan 16 press release, the Venezuelan bishops' conference expressed their solidarity with Lopez and Basabe, and said that President Maduro, “totally twisted the message” given by both of them, “with the purpose of claiming the bishops were committing a crime.”

“The truth about what is happening in the country was evidenced in the homilies given that day. The gestures of the thousands of parishioners present at the Mass on Venezuela Avenue showed they agreed with what they were hearing,” the statement added.

Venezuela’s hate crime law “criminalizes any demonstrations” against the government, the bishops noted.

“We exhort all the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto and the Diocese of San Felipe to care for your pastors, to be alert to any move against them, which could attack their human dignity,” the statement added.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA