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Posted on 12/2/2023 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).
As we begin Advent and prepare for the birth of Christ in all the practical ways — gift buying, tree trimming, decorating, meal planning, and more — it’s important to prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts at Christmas. With the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities, it is easy to lose track of what truly makes this time of year so special.
Here are five resources to help you grow in your faith and dig deeper into the meaning of Advent.
Abiding Together is a weekly podcast hosted by Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT; Michelle Benzinger; and Heather Khym. Their weekly chats provide listeners with a sense of community and offers a voice of hope, peace, healing, and encouragement. During Advent you can join this podcast community by diving deeper into Caryll Houselander’s “The Reed of God,” which depicts the humanity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The four-part series starts on Dec. 4 and includes journaling and discussion questions that accompany the podcast episode.
Blessed is She
“A sisterhood of women who desire two things: prayer and community” is how the popular Catholic platform Blessed Is She (BIS) describes itself. Over the years, it has provided resources and products to help deepen one’s prayer life during liturgical seasons such as Lent and Advent. This year for Advent, BIS has a devotional for women called “Found.” Through daily reflections, Scripture, and lectio divina, women are invited to explore their journey with the Good Shepherd.
Prepare your hearts for the birth of Christ by joining Hallow’s Advent Pray25 with C.S. Lewis. Actors Jonathan Roumie of “The Chosen” and Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” movie, will guide listeners through daily prayers and reflections based on different works of Lewis including “The Four Loves,” “Mere Christianity,” “The Great Divorce,” and more.
She Reads Truth
She Reads Truth is a community of women who come together every day to read God’s word together. For Advent this year, those who join can take part in the “Advent: He Alone Is Worthy Study Book.” The book is filled with Advent prayers, reflections, daily Scripture readings, prayer prompts, journaling space, and even seasonal recipes and tips for hosting Christmas gatherings. If you would like to include your husband, father, or brother in this Advent journey, the He Reads Truth version of the study book is also available.
EWTN Religious Catalog
A brand-new book in the EWTN Religious Catalog is providing hope and inspiration for readers this Advent season. “Rejoicing in Our Hope: Meditations for the Advent and Christmas Seasons” by Bishop Robert Baker, retired bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, is filled with short stories, daily questions for reflection and action, and reflections on sacred Scripture, the saints, popes, and other famous individuals.
This Advent, let us all strive to prepare ourselves to allow the Christ Child to dwell in our hearts and rejoice in the beauty that is the Advent season.
Posted on 12/2/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
The Magdala Tourist Center, located in the biblical town of Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, announced a virtual pilgrimage due to the conflict in the Holy Land, which is preventing pilgrims from visiting in person this Advent and Christmas season.
The “Star of Wonder Advent Pilgrimage of Peace” will start on Sunday, Dec. 3, and continue throughout the Advent season. Each Sunday, a video will be released from a holy site and will discuss its biblical meaning and include daily reflections.
Holy sites in the virtual pilgrimage will include Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene; Nazareth; Ein Karem, the place of the Visitation and birth of John the Baptist; Bat Sahour; and Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.
Kathleen Nichols, the director of Magdala’s English media team who leads in-person and virtual pilgrimages, told CNA in an interview that the virtual pilgrimage was “inspired by the conflict here in the Holy Land.”
Nichols and her small team went into the Palestinian Territories to film in the now-empty sites connected with Christ’s birth. Their hope is that virtual pilgrims can fill these places with prayers for peace from all over the world.
“People cannot come in person, and everyone wants to help by praying for peace,” she said. “And so I wanted to fill the holy sites with peace.”
“We hope people can fill the holy sites, especially the site of the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, with prayer for peace,” she added.
The Magdala Tourist Center, which began construction in 2009, is made up of an archaeological park, guest house, and worship center. As construction began, workers who were digging the foundation of the guest house discovered a first-century synagogue. Inside that synagogue, they also found the Magdala Stone, a discovery many archaeologists consider the most significant archaeological find in the past 50 years.
Other attractions include buildings considered mansions of wealthy merchants from Magdala, a marketplace, and four “mikvaot,” which were ritual baths. Additionally, the Duc In Altum, which gets its name from Luke 5:4 where Jesus instructs Simon Peter to “launch into the deep” or “put out into deep water,” serves as a place of prayer and worship for Christians of all denominations.
While pilgrims are canceling their planned trips to the Holy Land, Nichols hopes the virtual pilgrimage will help participants “fully understand what true peace is by encountering the Prince of Peace” and that “they [will] be encouraged to return soon to the Holy Land once the conflict is resolved."
“And especially support the many people so affected by the conflict,” she added.
Posted on 12/2/2023 10:45 AM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2023 / 06:45 am (CNA).
Pope Francis called the destruction of the environment “an offense against God” in a message given to the participants in the U.N. climate summit on Saturday.
The keynote address that the pope had intended to give in person at the COP28 conference was distributed to the attendees in Dubai, where Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read a shortened version of the pope’s speech to the assembly on Dec. 2.
Pope Francis, who turns 87 in two weeks, canceled his scheduled trip to the United Arab Emirates days before the climate summit at the request of his doctors after coming down with a flu infection that left him with breathing difficulties and acute bronchitis.
“Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired,” the pope said in his message to COP28.
“Even so … I am with you because the destruction of the environment is an offense against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst, and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations.”
Pope Francis would have been the first pope to attend the UN’s climate change conference, known as the “Conference of the Parties” (COP), which has been held annually since 1995.
Care for creation has been an important theme in Francis’ pontificate. The pope has said that he decided to write his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ ahead of the COP21 summit in Paris and recently published a new apostolic exhortation titled Laudate Deum (“Praise God”), called climate change “one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community.”
In his message to the COP28 conference, the pope underlined the need for “multilateralism” to establish “global and effective rules” to fight climate change.
“Climate change signals the need for political change. Let us emerge from the narrowness of self-interest and nationalism; these are approaches belonging to the past,” he said.
The pope called it “disturbing” that “global warming has been accompanied by a general cooling of multilateralism, a growing lack of trust within the international community.”
“How much energy is humanity wasting on numerous wars … conflicts that will not solve problems but only increase them!” he added.
Pope Francis described environmental protections as part of “a culture of life” and underlined that attempts to shift blame for climate change onto the poor or high birth rates “must be firmly dispelled.”
“Births are not a problem, but a resource: they are not opposed to life, but for life, whereas certain ideological and utilitarian models now being imposed with a velvet glove on families and peoples constitute real forms of colonization,” he said.
“Let us join in embracing an alternative vision: this will help to bring about an ecological conversion, for ‘there are no lasting changes without cultural changes’ (Laudate Deum, 70),” the pope added.
“In this regard, I would assure you of the commitment and support of the Catholic Church, which is deeply engaged in the work of education and of encouraging participation by all, as well as in promoting sound lifestyles, since all are responsible and the contribution of each is fundamental.”
During the COP28 summit in Dubai, Cardinal Parolin will also preside over the inauguration of an interfaith pavilion at the climate conference on Dec. 3 alongside Spanish Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, an expert on Islam and current prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue.
The faith pavilion, hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders, will serve as a hub for faith-based engagement on climate issues and as the venue for more than 65 sessions with religious figures, scientists, and political leaders at the conference.
Posted on 12/2/2023 10:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 2, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
For unique Christmas gifts that celebrate your Catholic faith there are many monasteries and religious communities that offer handmade gifts for sale online.
Buying presents from religious brothers and sisters has the added advantage of lending support to these communities, many of whom depend on a successful Christmas shopping season to continue their lives of prayer and service.
Here’s a guide to some of CNA staff members’ favorite gifts to give and receive.
The contemplative Sisters of the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, support themselves by hand-painting chinaware. The exquisite, intricately-designed pieces make lovely Christmas gifts, and the china is dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
The sisters belong to the monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno, which was founded in 1950 when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin, which states that Mary was elevated, body and soul, from earth into heaven. They create their beautiful chinaware in prayerful solitude. Plates, serving bowls, and platters from $31 and up make lovely gifts. Hand-painted porcelain egg cups for $23.97 are also available through EWTN’s Religious Catalog.
Wine from the first papal vineyard
The Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbeys of Le Barroux, a vineyard established by Pope Clement V in 1309 in the Rhône Valley of France, now have a U.S. distributor for their Via Caritas wine. The wine is made in cooperation with local vineyards, and the proceeds help support these winemaking families. The monks’ award-winning wines are available to purchase for $21.99 and up.
EWTN’s Colm Flynn visited the vineyard and witnessed the winemaking process firsthand in this video.
Soap and candles
The nuns from the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, live a life of prayer through Eucharistic adoration and dedication to the rosary. To support this way of life they create handmade candles and skin-care products, which they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. Create your own Christmas gift bag of two bars of soap, a hand cream, a jar candle, a face moisturizer, and a handmade rosary made from olive wood beads from the Holy Land for $50.
Throw in a pair of Bayberry Christmas Eve Tapers for $18 to give your holiday table a festive glow.
Handmade friar’s rosary (supplies limited)
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal handcraft these extra-large wooden rosaries (like the friars use), which are offered for sale through Spirit Juice Studios for $30. The friars live in community, carrying out their mission of evangelization and serving the poor in the tradition of St. Francis.
Check out their weekly Poco a Poco podcast here, where Father Innocent, Father Angelus, and Father Mark-Mary break open the Gospel and offer “practical spirituality” for all pilgrims.
These fruitcakes are not the sort that get regifted. The monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, offer a fruitcake soaked in brandy and aged for three months. It “has converted many a fruitcake ‘atheist,’” according to its creators. Order a one-pound fruitcake for $26.98.
The Monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky, offer a 20-ounce Kentucky Bourbon Fruitcake along with a jar of Trappist Apricot-Pineapple preserves and a jar of Trappist Quince Jelly, which make a lovely Christmas gift for $32.75.
The monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, make their famous fudge with premium chocolate and real butter. Try a 12-ounce gift box for $15. And for a taste of Georgia, try their Southern Touch fudge, “made with real peach morsels, pecans, and a touch of peach brandy.”
The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns make their famous butter cookies from their monastery in Denver. The “Clarisas” come in a beautiful gift box featuring an image of St. Clare and sell for $18 for a 1.5-pound box.
The contemplative nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, are known for their delicious caramels, which they make by hand in order to support their way of life. A 9-ounce box of sea salt chocolate-covered caramels sells for $15.55.
The Wyoming Carmelites of Mystic Monk Coffee hand-roast their beans in small batches to support their community. The website CoffeeReview.com ranks their coffee among the highest of the coffees it reviews. A 12-ounce bag of their most popular flavor, Jingle Bell Java, sells for $13.95.
Since they began their coffee business in 2007, the monks have been able to live out the Carmelites’ vocation of “hidden prayer and union with God for the sake of everyone throughout the Church and the world.”
The monks at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas make a tangy hot sauce from the habanero peppers grown in the monastery’s gardens. Benedictine Father Richard Walz began making his “Monk Sauce” while he was stationed in Belize, Central America. In 2003, he brought back some seeds from the peppers he grew there and created a tangy sauce made from the chilies along with onions, garlic, carrots, vinegar, salt, and “a few prayers thrown in for good measure.”
How spicy is it? According to the abbey’s website, their Monk Sauce has a 250,000 Scoville Unit rating, while Tabasco’s habanero sauce earned a mere 7,000 Scoville Unit rating. Available in green, red, and smoked, the 5-ounce bottles sell for $11 each.
Posted on 12/2/2023 08:00 AM (National Catholic Reporter)
Posted on 12/2/2023 08:00 AM (National Catholic Reporter)
Posted on 12/2/2023 08:00 AM (National Catholic Reporter)
Posted on 12/1/2023 22:20 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).
At a congressional hearing on Thursday, members of Congress and human rights activists urged Nicaragua dictator Daniel Ortega to immediately release imprisoned Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who they said is being mistreated and possibly tortured.
The hearing, which was held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and chaired by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, was titled “An Urgent Appeal to Let Bishop Álvarez Go.”
Among the witnesses testifying were several Nicaraguan exiles who had undergone or witnessed the inhumane treatment of political prisoners by the Ortega regime.
Mike Finnan, a representative for Smith, told CNA that the identities of these witnesses were kept secret “for their safety and the safety of their families.”
Smith said during the hearing that Álvarez, the 56-year-old bishop of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, “is an innocent man enduring unspeakable suffering.”
The regime, run by Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, has been targeting the Catholic Church in the country. Smith said that “bishops and priests as well as worshippers have been harassed and detained” and that the international community “can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening to the people of Nicaragua, including and especially to people of faith.”
Álvarez, a beloved bishop in Nicaragua and a critic of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s human rights violations, was arrested by Nicaraguan authorities on Aug. 19, 2022. After refusing to go into exile he was convicted of treason on Feb. 10 and sentenced to over 26 years in prison.
For most of the time since then, Álvarez has been kept in Nicaragua’s Modelo prison, which is known for its particularly cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, according to testimony given by Nicaraguan witnesses on Thursday.
A former prisoner of the Ortega-Murillo regime was among those who testified during Thursday’s hearing. The witness, who was exiled to the U.S. and arrived in the country in February, testified that while he was in prison he was mistreated by authorities and underwent more than 30 interrogations in which “they blackmailed me and threatened the lives of my relatives.”
“They wanted me to declare that the bishop was a member of an organization that wanted to promote a coup d’état against Daniel Ortega and that he received money from the U.S. government and the European Union,” the witness said.
Another witness who testified during the hearing, a parent of a Nicaraguan political prisoner, shared how on a visit to Modelo prison, she found young prisoners tortured and maimed and kept in poor, unsanitary conditions.
“There were some young men, maybe 15, 16 years old, you could see the tortures they had been subjected to,” the witness said. “I remember that one of them lifted up his pants and showed me his calf, it had been burned with acid; he could not bend the fingers of his hands due to the tortures.”
In response to demands for proof that Álvarez is still alive, the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s Ministry of the Interior released new video and images of the bishop on Tuesday.
In a Nov. 28 press release, the Ministry of the Interior stated that the video and photos show that “the conditions of [Álvarez’s] confinement are preferential and that the regimen of doctor’s appointments is strictly complied with as well as family visits, the sending and receiving of packages, contrary to what slanderous campaigns try to make you believe.”
According to Smith, however, the video of Álvarez released this week by the government of Nicaragua “raises serious questions and concerns about his well-being.”
Smith told CNA on Friday that he is going to continue pressuring the Ortega regime to release the bishop and cease its persecutions through increased sanctions.
He said that the video reminded him of a visit he made to a communist gulag under the Soviet Union in which prison officials tried to convince him that the detainees were well-fed and happy by staging food and forcing them to smile.
Though the video shows seemingly comfortable chairs and couches and food on a table, he said that witnesses who survived imprisonment by the Nicaraguan government informed him that “none of that’s real.”
“It’s all one big fat façade of disinformation because they live a horrible, horrible life in prison and with beatings and other kinds of maltreatment,” Smith said.
“He has lost weight; is he ill?” Smith asked during the hearing. “Is he being provided proper nutrition and basic medical care? We have no idea what is going on day to day.”
Throughout his captivity, Smith said, Álvarez has shown incredible courage and fortitude.
“I am in awe of his courage, faithfulness, and kindness,” Smith said. “And I know so many others in Congress, House, Senate, Democrat, Republican, people in the White House, we’re in awe of his goodness and his extraordinary strength. Bishop Álvarez deserves to be respected and revered and free, not persecuted and incarcerated.”
“We’re really going to keep ratcheting up the pressure,” Smith went on. “I’ve been asking to go and visit with him in prison to ascertain for myself and anyone who goes with me, his welfare, his whereabouts … and the biggest hope would be to walk out with him as a released prisoner.”
What are other groups saying?
The Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), also joined in the push for the Nicaraguan dictatorship to release Álvarez this week.
Kristina Hjelkrem, an ADF Latin America legal counsel, said in a Thursday statement that the group was “grateful to the subcommittee for raising the critical issue of religious persecution in Nicaragua and for hosting this vital congressional hearing.”
“Bishop Álvarez has been harassed and unjustly imprisoned by the Nicaraguan government for simply fulfilling his duties as a Catholic bishop,” Hjelkrem went on. “No person should be punished or prosecuted for expressing their faith.”
Deborah Ullmer, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute, also testified at the hearing. She said Álvarez “has become the courageous face of resistance in Nicaragua.”
Ullmer said Álvarez’s imprisonment violates several international human rights laws and agreements and suggested several actions the U.S. could take to pressure the regime to release the bishop.
Among her suggestions, she said the U.S. should impose stricter sanctions on Nicaraguan officials and Nicaragua’s central bank. She also said that the U.S. should work more closely with friendly Latin American countries “to advance high-level regional dialogue toward a democratic transition.”
“The Ortega-Murillo regime continues to dismantle democratic institutions, erase the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, and consolidate its dictatorial power,” Ullmer said. “It is essential to call out the ongoing crimes against humanity and violations of fundamental human rights endured by Nicaraguans, including Bishop Álvarez.”
Posted on 12/1/2023 22:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
In a Nov. 28 interview with “What We Need Now,” the Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver explained what motivated him to write a pastoral letter on the dangers of using recreational marijuana and drugs and proposed some principles to deal with this reality, which he himself has witnessed since the legalization of cannabis in Colorado in 2012.
In the interview posted on Substack, the archbishop warned that the legalization and cultural acceptance of drugs has been “devastating” for society and explained why he decided to write his Nov. 10 pastoral letter, “That They May Have Life.”
“I felt a need to speak about the devastating effects witnessed firsthand, especially since many states have followed Colorado’s lead. The legalization of marijuana and cultural acceptance of drug use has been disastrous to our society, and there are limited Catholic resources about it,” Aquila said.
Regarding the current perspective that there are “recreational” drugs, as some maintain, the prelate pointed out: “Understanding that we are persons created for loving communion, we can judge that drugs are only an apparent good. They are bad for us since they hinder our ability to know and to love.”
“Drugs diminish our self-possession by harming the very faculties that make us human: They inhibit our use of reason, weaken our will’s orientation toward the good, and train our emotions to expect quick relief from artificial pleasure,” he warned.
The archbishop of Denver noted that the Scriptures teach that “we are made in the image of God. And, as if this isn’t enough, we are invited to eternal union with him.”
“We can sum up the two foundational principles that explain why recreational drugs are immoral,” the prelate continued.
“1) Since the human person is of such value, it is wrong to use any substance that is harmful to human life. 2) Anything that diminishes man’s use of reason and will assails his dignity as a human person and is therefore harmful.”
Aquila also noted that “drugs assault the human person by negatively affecting him on physical, intellectual, psychological, social, and moral levels.”
Regarding the belief that marijuana is not harmful, the archbishop commented that in Colorado they have “witnessed a spike in addiction, with marijuana use disorder more than doubling in a span of less than 20 years. This is not surprising since Coloradans’ cannabis use has increased dramatically since legalization [in 2012].”
“More people using marijuana inevitably means more addiction,” he pointed out.
A response from a faith perspective
The archbishop of Denver said that at the “heart of drug use” two themes are usually found: “a crisis of values and a privation of relational connection that make the person open or susceptible to drug use.”
“While drugs offer fleeting pleasure,” Aquila explained, “Jesus wants to give us a fullness of love, joy, and peace that remains constant through life’s peaks and valleys. Rather than reaching for chemicals when we are feeling weary and burdened, Jesus invites us to turn to him, who promises rest and abundance.”
To conclude, he noted that “the most important thing we can do as Christians in response to a drug culture is to proclaim the Gospel.”
“It is through the love, mercy, meaning, and hope found in Christ that people will be deterred from drug use or inspired to break free of its influence,” Aquila stressed.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/1/2023 21:40 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).
Former U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a swing vote who became a key part of the court’s longtime abortion-supporting majority, died Friday. She was 93 and had been suffering from dementia for several years.
Born Sandra Day in El Paso, Texas, in 1930, she grew up on a ranch in eastern Arizona. She was baptized an Episcopalian and later attended Episcopal churches as an adult.
She went to Stanford and Stanford Law School at a time when few women did either. As an undergraduate, she dated future Supreme Court colleague William Rehnquist and turned down an offer of marriage from him. Instead, she married another fellow law school student, John O’Connor.
As a female lawyer during the 1950s, she initially had trouble getting work but eventually joined a prosecutor’s office. She took five years off from practicing law after the birth of the second of her three children to tend to them.
In 1965 she joined the office of the Arizona attorney general, a Republican, after campaigning the year before for the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, a fellow Arizonan. In 1969 the governor appointed her to fill a vacancy in the Arizona Senate, where she rose to become majority leader. She left in 1974 for a state judgeship, eventually rising to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which is the second-highest court in the state.
O’Connor and abortion
President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 1981, fulfilling a campaign promise to name the first woman to the nation’s highest court.
Reagan was unaware at the time of her selection that O’Connor as a Republican state senator in the 1970s supported abortion, according to conservative columnist Robert Novak’s 2007 autobiography “The Prince of Darkness.” When social conservatives erupted over the announcement, Reagan asked his attorney general to check on complaints about her.
The task went to a young aide, who called O’Connor and reported in a memo that she said she could not recall how she had voted on a 1970 bill seeking to legalize abortion in the state — even though she was a co-sponsor of it. (Before the Internet, it wasn’t easy to check such information.)
She also told the aide — Kenneth Starr, who later served as independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton during the 1990s — that she “had never had any disputes or controversies” with the leader of the pro-life movement in Arizona, according to a memo Starr wrote. But the pro-life leader told Novak a couple of days later that she had frequently clashed with O’Connor, calling her “one of the most powerful pro-abortionists in the Senate.”
Even so, O’Connor’s nomination went forward and sailed through the U.S. Senate.
Once she joined the court, O’Connor’s position on abortion wasn’t immediately clear. In 1986, she voted with the minority in a 5-4 ruling that struck down a Pennsylvania law that required abortion providers to inform a woman seeking an abortion about fetal development and about “detrimental physical and psychological effects” and “particular medical risks” of an abortion.
O’Connor in her dissent called the court’s abortion decisions to that time “a major distortion in the Court’s constitutional jurisprudence” and said the majority’s decision in the case before it, Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “makes it painfully clear that no legal rule or doctrine is safe from ad hoc nullification by this Court when an occasion for its application arises in a case involving state regulation of abortion.”
But her most memorable abortion vote came in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which she joined the 5-4 majority in upholding what the court called the “essential holding” of Roe v. Wade that abortion is a “fundamental right” before a fetus is capable of living outside the womb.
In Casey, O’Connor co-wrote the plurality opinion that continued a federal right to abortion for another 30 years.
‘Loosen up, Sandy’
O’Connor was a key player in other landmark decisions as well.
In 1986, she joined the majority in the 5-4 decision Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld as constitutional a state statute in Georgia that criminalized sodomy. (The court overturned that ruling in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas; O’Connor joined the 6-3 majority, though she made a distinction between the two cases because Texas’ law banned sodomy only between two members of the same sex, while Georgia’s statute banned sodomy generally.)
In 2003, O’Connor wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action based on race in public university admissions. (The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Grutter decision in June 2023 in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.)
In 2005, she sided with the 5-4 majority in McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union that found that displays of the Ten Commandments at two state courthouses in Kentucky violated the Constitution.
She is perhaps better remembered, though, for what happened during a social occasion several years after she joined the court.
In 1985, O’Connor went to a black-tie event in Washington where she was seated near John Riggins, a Washington Redskins star running back, who had drunk “a few beers” and two double scotches before knocking over and spilling four bottles of wine on the table.
O’Connor had previously said she had to leave early and was in the process of doing so when Riggins, trying to get her to stay, piped up: “Loosen up, Sandy baby.”
He then passed out.
O’Connor got a kick out of it and got big laughs when she made a reference to it at the beginning of a speech a few days later.
O’Connor retired from the court in January 2006 at age 75 to spend time with her husband, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around the early 1990s. (He died in 2009.)
O’Connor was replaced by Samuel Alito, who has since become one of the most conservative justices and who wrote the majority decision in Jackson Women’s Health Center v. Dobbs, which last year overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.