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Knights on parade: With the Knights of Columbus at the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- Their activism has sparked controversy in recent months, after a U.S. senator called the Knights of Columbus and their pro-life work “extreme.” But the Knights of Columbus say their work in the pro-life movement is a part of their Catholic identity, and that they’re proud of their long-standing involvement in the annual March for Life  

In fact, according to Supreme Knight and CEO Carl A. Anderson, when the March for Life began in the early 1970s, the Knights of Columbus was one of the first groups to lend a hand.

Anderson told CNA that the Knights now play a part in “just about everything that needs to be done” on the days leading up to, and during, the march.

CNA spent the 2019 March for Life getting a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Knights of Columbus during the nation’s largest annual pro-life gathering.

Standing guard

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic Church in North America; it was designed to hold about 10,000 people. The night before the March for Life there were at least that number present for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. People filled the pews, and nearly every space around them in the aisles.

At 5:30 p.m., a procession of priests, bishops, and cardinals entered the basilica. When they did, Knights of Columbus from 19 different local councils were among the volunteers serving as ushers to help keep the crowd in order.

One of those ushers was Alec McGuire, a sophomore at the Catholic University of America.

McGuire told CNA that joined the Knights of Columbus because his grandfather was a Knight. At Catholic University, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest student groups on campus. On Thursday, it was his job to “make sure people are where they're supposed to be."

Patrick McAleer is a field agent for the Knights of Columbus, selling the insurance policies the organization offers to its membership. He is also the chairman of the Shrine’s usher ministry. He’s been a Knight for 25 years.

For McAleer, volunteering at the Vigil Mass and other events is “a way to serve and be around so many young people who travel long distances to take part in the Mass and March.”

As an usher, McAleer said it is his job to “welcome to all our visitors to the Basilica, handle the congregation with care when we have to move people for the processional and recessional, as well as the most important duty: protecting the Blessed Sacrament, at communion time.”



‘An amazing group’

The day of the March for Life began bright and early at 7:30 a.m. for Tyler Lomnitzer, the Knights of Columbus’ program manager for pro-life activities. He spent the morning unloading signs for marchers from a U-Haul, and organizing the volunteers who would help disperse those signs.

“We successfully distributed 10,000 ‘Love Life, Choose Life’ Knights of Columbus signs,” Lomnitzer told CNA. In addition to signs, the Knights of Columbus distributed drawstring bags, fleece headbands, and beanies emblazoned with their logo.

Lomnitzer said he got involved in the Knights of Columbus when he was a freshman at CUA. When he was in school, he thought the Knights were “an amazing group of faithful and dedicated young men, helping one another grow in holiness.” Like McGuire, he too served as a volunteer at the Vigil Mass when he was in school.

“It left such an impression on me that I now oversee the pro-life activities of the Knights of Columbus on a global level,” said Lomnitzer.



On the March

Making sure that throngs of marchers begin and end the march in a safe and orderly way is a tough job, but one the Knights of Columbus have handled for years. Members of councils from around Virginia served as marshalls, and were present on street corners, around the front of the stage, and near the media and speaker areas.

Santiago Garcia, a Knight from Manassas, VA, has been in the Knights of Columbus for about two and a half years. He told CNA that he prayed to the Blessed Mother for her to “find something for me to do in the Church,” and then inquired about the Knights of Columbus. This is the second March for Life at which he has volunteered.

Garcia, along with Chris Sozio, an eight-year Knight but a first-time March for Life volunteer, was posted at the street corner by the Natural History Museum. The two worked to make sure that the sidewalks would stay open and free from loiterers before the march began, and then would walk ahead of the crowd of marchers to make sure nobody jumps ahead.



A long road

It is not unheard of for March for Life pilgrims to endure a several-hour bus journey to Washington for the march. John Moore, a Knight from Gallup, New Mexico, had by far the longest trip of all: he walked to Washington, DC from San Francisco, carrying a 20-pound wooden cross the entire way.

Moore, and his 26-year-old daughter Laura, stepped off from San Francisco on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2018. Laura drove ahead each day and provided assistance as needed, and they spent each night at hotels. She told CNA that her father spent years saving and planning the trip and was inspired by his first March for Life six years ago.

At 11:43 a.m. the morning of the March, their journey came to an end as they finally arrived at the National Mall, just in time for the start of the March for Life Rally.



Leading from the front

Carl A. Anderson, CEO and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, has the most public role of any member of the Knights of Columbus at the March, including an address to the massive crowd during the March for Life rally.

Anderson pumped up the crowd, and announced that his organization had recently donated its thousandth ultrasound machine to a pregnancy clinic.

“Science is on your side, and so is the American public,” said Anderson. He told the crowd that an end to abortion is “not far off” and that one day the March for Life will become a “victory parade.”

“Together we will celebrate the victory of both faith and science--both compassion and common sense.”



Keeping the momentum going

The Knights’ work does not end with the March. Local Washington-area and Virginia councils clean up the mess left behind by marchers, while out-of-town Knights board busses, planes, and cars and travel back to their homes. Once home, they continue the pro-life and other charitable work that the Knights of Columbus have done for decades.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus made $187 million in charitable donations and served over 85 million hours of volunteer time.  

Anderson explained to CNA that in addition to the ultrasound initiative, the Knights of Columbus are also involved in the distribution of educational materials each October for the USCCB’s Respect Life Month. Local councils work with area pro-life groups and do fundraisers and volunteer hours.

"I would say just about everywhere the pro-life movement is active, Knights are involved," said Anderson.

The Knights of Columbus’ core principles are charity, fraternity, and unity.

Over two days, between taking care of marchers and worshipers, distributing warm clothes and cleaning up after the crowds, all while raising thousands of dollars to help women in crisis pregnancy situations, the Knights of Columbus offered a clear picture of their notion of a commitment to charity.

It may not be “extreme,” but it is extraordinary.



 

Photo credits, in order: Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Christine Rousselle / CNA, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus.

Amid curriculum controversy, Franciscan University president calls for unity

Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 18, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville said Monday that the university is committed to a faithful Catholic approach to university education, and he invited university administrators, faculty members, and others to renew with him an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“As some persons raise questions about what it currently means to be faithful to the magisterium- what it means to be orthodox- it is important to remember that Catholic identity should thoroughly pervade our teaching, our research, and all other activities pursuant to which this university advances her mission,” Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, said Jan. 14, in his homily at the university’s opening Mass for its spring semester.

“In recent months, critics of Franciscan University have accused us of compromising our Catholic mission and witness,” Sheridan said.

“Is anyone here perfect? No. Do people here make mistakes? Yes. But our particular Franciscan charism is rooted in ongoing conversion. That we resolve to continue to do better everyday.”

Sheridan’s comments seemed to refer to a recent public controversy over the university’s curriculum. On Jan. 8, the ChurchMilitant website drew attention to a book that had been taught by a university English professor in the previous academic year. The book, “The Kingdom,” by Emmanuel Carrère, included passages that ChurchMilitant described as blasphemous and pornographic.

Sheridan issued a letter Jan. 9 stating that while he believed “the professor’s intention in using this book in his class was not malicious, the book is scandalous and extremely offensive.” He said the book would not again be assigned at the university, and offered an apology to “Our Blessed Mother and Her Son, and to anyone who has been scandalized by this incident.”

Sheridan’s letter added that “Catholic education should prepare students to stand for the truth of the Catholic faith and to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today. To do so, the must be equipped with a firm knowledge of Catholic Church teaching as well as a thorough understanding of the views and philosophies of their opponents.”

Announcing that he had directed administrators to “review and revise our existing policy on academic freedom to prevent future use of scandalous materials,” Sheridan also wrote that university professors “must walk the fine line between underpreparing their students for the mighty tasks ahead and overexposing them to material that may cause them spiritual harm.”

The professor, Stephen Lewis, was subsequently replaced as chairman of the university’s English department.

“The Kingdom” was the subject of a December 2018 review in the magazine First Things. As the controversy erupted, First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz took to Twitter Jan. 14 to opine that: “Mobs are not well qualified to make decisions about literary quality or moral risk. In a more civilized age we allowed popes to compile the Index, instead of giving the job to bloggers.”

In a Jan. 18 essay published by First Things, Lewis wrote that he had assigned the book “in an upper-level course to students whose maturity and intellectual preparation I knew well.”

“Our class read the entire text, focusing not on a few lurid passages but on its appropriation of Renan’s method and its related atheistic concept of witness, so as to understand the superiority of Christian methods and concepts. The aim was not to shock, but to edify. I share the revulsion Catholics rightly feel toward lewdness and blasphemy, but in the end I decided that my students could benefit by reading this text.”

While “certain websites have taken a handful of obscene passages from the book and presented them to the public in a manner intended to shock and scandalize,” Lewis wrote, “the book provided my students with both insights into and questions about the meaning of the collapse of faith for contemporary men and women, from the standpoint of both believers and unbelievers.”

“Discussion of the book ... helped the students to understand more deeply what it means when we Catholics affirm that Jesus Christ cannot be known outside the Church. The Church, as the ongoing presence of Christ among us, is the only way by which we gain knowledge of him,” the professor wrote.

Each of the five students in the class “has claimed to have grown in faith by reading the work, despite its ugly aspects,” Lewis stated. “One has even stated that she feels her current work as a missionary has been made more effective because she frequently encounters people who display features of Carrère’s mindset.”

Sheridan’s homily said that the controversy “has been a serious disruption to our unity. We have stopped trusting one another. And it pulling us apart as a university.”

“With the help of our shared governance council in the next few weeks, I will be working to set up an ongoing commitment to our fidelity and freedom, to advance higher education within our entire faithful, orthodox Catholic university,” Sheridan announced.

That project, he said, “will help to restore that break in our unity.”

Sheridan added that he would be consulting with the leaders of other Catholic universities and Catholics involved in higher education, as well as those connected for Franciscan University, and drawing on the scholarship presented at a university symposium on Ex corde ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. Sheridan, a canon lawyer, wrote a doctoral dissertation on the document.

“It is the responsibility of everyone who belongs to the university family to advance the university’s Catholic identity. It is the responsibility of all of us to strive for unity within this university that we all love.”

In recent months, the university has also faced criticism amid 2018 reports that administrators have improperly addressed allegations of sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct. In response to those reports, Sheridan announced in August 2018 an independent review of university records by a law firm “specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence.”

A report from the firm will reportedly be delivered to the university’s board of trustees this month; university administrators have not announced whether it will be subsequently released publicly.

Sheridan’s homily encouraged a period of rebuilding.

“These days demand courageous Catholics who will stand up for our faith to go forth and rebuild. Our Church, our world, needs people who are willing to stand for truth,” he said.

Sheridan concluded his homily by inviting all members of the university community to join him in renewing the profession of faith and oath of fidelity he had taken upon assuming the university’s presidency in 2013. Members of the university’s theology and philosophy faculties already take the oath annually.

“God has entrusted his university to us to lead and guide,” Sheridan told university faculty members and administrators.

“May we always be courageous Catholics, empowered to fight together, for the fidelity of this university, and the work that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has entrusted to us.”

 

'Every life is worth protecting,' President Trump, VP Pence tell March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive Jan. 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.
 
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”
 
“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding.

Trump is something of an unlikely ally for the pro-life movement. Before he launched his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had a record of pro-abortion rights statements. That record, his personal character and other actions have drawn criticism and concern from some pro-life leaders. His presidency continues to be one of the most controversial in recent history, with his anti-immigrant crackdowns and rhetoric becoming major concerns for Catholic bishops.

For the 2018 March for Life, Trump had given a special live address to the March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden.

This year, following the Republicans’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, Trump pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine “protection for human life.”

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

Pence similarly touted Trump administrative actions, saying Trump “kept his promise” on judicial nominees and signed legislation allowing states to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Karen Pence thanked marchers for “standing in the cold for something that you believe in.”

“Thank you for your stories of courage. Thank you for your stories of regret and forgiveness and starting over,” she said. “Thank you for your stories of hope. Thank you for your stories of inspiration. Thank you for your stories of truth.”

Other elected officials spoke at the event, among them U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J., a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced the launch of what he said was “the first-ever pro-life caucus in the U.S. Senate.” This caucus, he said, “will allow us to accelerate the momentum of the past few years in promoting and protecting life.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., another co-chair of the House’s pro-life caucus, addressed the event. Lipinski is regarded as a leader among pro-life Democrats. In a tight 2018 primary election, he defeated a strong challenger who was pro-abortion rights.

“We don’t agree on everything We’ve got Republicans, Democrats, independents,” he said. “We all agree on one thing: every life is sacred. It needs to be protected. No one is expendable. Our highest priority has to defend life from the first moment. Everyone is unique from day one.”

“We will never ever give up,” said Lipinski. “Together we’ll march until one day life, especially the most vulnerable, are protected.”

Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, claimed Louisiana was the most pro-life state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, black or white, we fight for life,” she told the crowd. “When people ask me ‘Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?’ I say ‘Because I’m a Christian first’,” Jackson said.

Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast, faulted the Democratic Party’s strong pro-abortion rights stand, but also challenged Republican legislators’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood.

He depicted abortion as a betrayal of American efforts to secure “the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty.”

“We decided that we could safely blot out millions of souls who could not protect themselves,” he said. “We lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie,” Shapiro continued, criticizing “anti-scientific arguments” about life’s origins and “euphemisms” like “termination of pregnancy, abortion, choice.”

“We stand between America and the darkness, and we will march until that darkness is banished forever and all our children can stand in the sunlight,” he told the marchers.
 
A video sponsored by the Knights of Columbus showed the pro-life work of the Catholic men’s organization, including its ultrasound machine donation program. Its head, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, spoke to the rally and cited a Knights-sponsored poll showing strong support for “substantial restrictions” on abortion and policies to “protect mother and child before birth.”

He also asked eligible men to join the Knights of Columbus, which has about 1.9 million members worldwide. The group’s many friends and allies spoke out after a controversial December Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which two Democratic senators had questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights due to their views on abortion rights and marriage.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reflected on her journey away from performing abortions.

“If it was wanted, it was a baby. If it wasn’t wanted, it was a fetus,” she said.

While qualms about abortions arose during her neonatal rotation, when she tried to save babies the same gestational age as those she was abortion, only the birth of her daughter made her stop performing abortions.

After realizing that women who kept their babies did better compared to those who had sought abortions, and watching nearly aborted children in her church grow up instead, her views began to change further. Caring family and friends brought her fully to the pro-life cause.

The event emcee Jeanne Mancini said the country was “forever changed” by Roe v. Wade.

“Since that time, we have tragically lost over 60 million American children, little girls and little boys, to abortion. And many mothers and fathers regret having been involved in abortion,” she said.

“We’re marching to end the human rights abuse of our time, abortion,” Mancini told marchers. “That’s why we march. And that’s why you are so urgently needed.”

She encouraged marchers to share their story on social media, using the hashtag #WhyWeMarch.

Dr. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the closing prayer.
 

 

Pope Francis tells Christians to share their gifts with each other

Rome, Italy, Jan 18, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to Christian unity takes a willingness to acknowledge and share in the gifts other Christian communities have also received, Pope Francis said at an ecumenical Vespers service Friday.

To take the first step toward unity requires humble recognition of the fact that the blessings Catholics and other Christians have received do not belong to them by “right,” but are a gift meant to be shared with others, he said Jan. 18.

“Then, we must acknowledge the value of the grace granted to other Christian communities,” he continued. “As a result, we will want to partake of the gifts of others. A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity.”

Held at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the service marked the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the week’s theme, “Seek to be truly just,” inspired by the line from Deuteronomy which says: “Justice, justice alone shall you pursue, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.”

One of the grave injustices of today, he said, is the vast disparity in wealth which exists in many countries around the world.

“When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers,” he said. “We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”

He pointed out that in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the same idea is applied to the Christian community: “those who are strong must bear with the weak.”

“Following Christ’s example, we are to make every effort to build up those who are weak. Solidarity and shared responsibility must be the laws that govern the Christian family,” Francis urged.

He also reminded Christians that it is a “grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem.”

“When we entertain such thoughts, we allow the very grace we have received to become a source of pride, injustice and division. And how can we then enter the promised kingdom?” he asked.

“It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us,” he said, “that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us his children. It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due.”

“The gifts we have received from God can also blind us to the gifts given to other Christians,” he noted.

The Vespers was attended by representatives of various Churches and ecclesial communities, including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, and students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Finland. Members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also present.

Senate fails to advance bill to ban federal abortion funding

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:56 am (CNA).- In a procedural vote on Thursday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate failed to advance a bill that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions.

The Jan. 17 vote to invoke cloture and end debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019 (S.109) need 60 supporters. Only 48 senators, including two Democrats, voted in favor of cloture, with 47 legislators voting against it.

There are 53 Republican senators in the 116th Congress. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the measure, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted in favor of bring the bill to a vote.

Shortly after the bill failed to advance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the pro-life SBA List, praised the vote itself, saying, “Today’s vote sends a strong signal that Leader McConnell and the pro-life Senate majority will be a ‘brick wall’ against pro-abortion House Democrats’ extreme agenda, which includes forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

“We are grateful to our Senate allies for standing with the majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion,” she added.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment, introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

The act would also have barred federal subsidies from being used to purchase insurance plans which include abortion coverage and ensure full disclosure of the extent to which insurance plans on Affordable Care Act exchange fund abortion.

The bill, which has the support of the White House, was sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“As thousands gather in our nation’s capital this week to March for Life, it is well past time Congress passed a comprehensive solution to the patchwork of regulations prohibiting federal funding for abortion services,” Wicker said, according to Politico. “Our legislation would create a permanent, government-wide prohibition on abortion funding so that not one taxpayer dollar goes toward the destruction of innocent human life.”

The Hyde Amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support, but in recent years the Democratic party has called for its repeal.

Also on Thursday, three Congressmen introduced an analogous bill in the House of Representatives.

Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced HR 20 to the lower chamber, which is controlled by the Democratic party.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives: because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise, these individuals survived, and their mothers benefited from prenatal health care and support,” said Smith. “Two million survivors have had the opportunity to live and enjoy the first and most basic of all human rights – the right to life. It’s time to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.”

Lipinski said the bill “would finally make sure the Hyde protections are placed in law. This is long overdue.”

An identical bill passed the House each of the last three years.