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Pro-life ads removed in several Spanish cities

A pro-life ad at a bus stop in Spain. / ACDP

Madrid, Spain, Jan 24, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Alfonso Galdón, founding president of the Spanish political party Valores, denounced Friday the Murcia city government for banning the pro-life “Cancelled” ad campaign.

In a Jan. 21 YouTube message, Galdón stated that “the constitutional rights of the Spanish people have been violated by the Murcia City Council.”

Pressure from the abortion lobby has led several Spanish city councils, including those of Valencia, Valladolid, and Murcia to ban the advertisements.

The “Cancelled” campaign opposes a bill being pushed by the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party which would criminalize "harassing women going to clinics for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy." Anyone promoting, favoring, or participating in demonstrations near abortion clinics would be subject to penalties.

Penalties for what would be deemed harassment would include jail terms of three months to a year, or community service from 31 to 80 days. Depending on circumstances, an individual could also be barred from a particular location for between six months and three years.

The mayor of Murcia is a member of the PSOE.

“Today the Murcia city government has done a great disservice to our democracy by trampling on the right to freedom of speech, requiring the removal the pro-life posters that until this afternoon could be seen in the streets of Murcia,” Galdón declared.

In opposition to the bill, beginning Jan. 18, 260 posters were placed in ad kiosks on streets and at metro stops in 33 Spanish cities to "raise our voices against prison sentences."

According to the bill making its way through Spain’s lower house, pro-lifers could be prosecuted without the aggrieved person or their legal representative being required to file a complaint. 

The "Cancelled” campaign "seeks to combat political correctness, the cancel culture and the repression of freedoms.”

The posters read: "Praying in front of abortion clinics is a great thing." By using a QR code on the poster, the testimony of Dr. Jesús Poveda, one of the main promoters of the pro-life movement in Spain, can be accessed. 

The campaign will also include interviews, educational videos, and written material.

The posters state that “more than 99,000 abortions abortions are performed in Spain every year. The crime of those who pray in front of abortion clinics is to want to save some of these lives.”  

In his video message, Galdón stated that these efforts to cancel the campaign have trampled on the freedom of speech, “which only seeks to defend the life of the weakest, the unborn.” Galdón told the politicians and those promoting abortion that “you’re not going to silence us, we are growing in the face of injustice.”

Legal group seeks protection for Navy personnel objecting to COVID vaccine on religious grounds

null / Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 24, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

A Christian legal group has filed a class-action lawsuit with the goal of blocking the Navy’s COVID vaccine mandate for all U.S. Navy personnel who have requested religious accommodation. 

First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group, had filed a federal lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction earlier this month on behalf of “dozens” of U.S. Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare personnel, who represent Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity. 

As a result of the initial lawsuit, Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Jan. 3 issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from taking “any adverse action” against the plaintiffs in the case because of requests for religious accommodation. 

The amended lawsuit, which the group announced this week, seeks to cover all Navy service members who have submitted requests for religious accommodation against the vaccine mandate, almost all of which, up to now, have been denied. The group says at least 3,000 service members have submitted requests. 

In August 2021, the Pentagon announced that all service members would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In advance of that announcement, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services said that receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States was morally permissible, and that a vaccine mandate “seems prudent” and would be “very similar” to mandates already enforced in the military.

First Liberty says the religious objections that the plaintiffs in the initial lawsuit raised fell into four categories: opposition to abortion and the use of aborted fetal cell lines in development of the vaccine; belief that modifying one’s body is an affront to the creator; direct, divine instruction not to receive the vaccine; and opposition to injecting trace amounts of animal cells into one’s body.

Most of the requests made have been denied, O’Connor wrote in his ruling, and some of the plaintiffs report mistreatment as a result of asking for a religious exemption. 

Catholic bishops across the country have issued varying guidance for Catholics wishing to seek conscientious objections to COVID-19 mandates. A few have expressed explicit support for Catholics wishing to seek exemptions; some have said that Catholics may seek exemptions, but must make the case for their own conscience without the involvement of clergy; and some have stated that Catholic teaching lacks a basis to reject vaccination mandates.  

Archbishop Broglio has encouraged Catholics to follow the guidance of the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, both of whom have stated that it is morally permissible to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations currently available in the United States, even ones with a remote connection to aborted fetal tissue. 

Archbishop Broglio has also said that service members should not be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine against their consciences. 

“The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” Broglio said in October.

Walk for Life West Coast brings 15,000+ to San Francisco

The Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, Calif., Jan. 22, 2022. / Dennis Callahan via Walk for Life West Coast

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 24, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone condemned abortion as the equivalent of a sacrament of a “new secular religion” in his homily at the Mass for Walk for Life West Coast on Saturday at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. 

More than 15,000 people gathered Jan. 22 for the 18th annual Walk for Life West Coast. 

The event was held on the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which found that a woman had a legal right to an abortion throughout her pregnancy. 

Cordileone, speaking about how the devil is using a strategy of “divide and conquer” to alienate humanity from both God and each other, said that this form of secularism “has all become a sort of religion on its own, one that takes the form of a hyper-aggressive, anti-Christian kind of a secularism.” 

“This is all around us nowadays, and this kind of secularism has all the marks of a religion: infallible dogmas, rituals, saints, creedal statements and condemnation of heretical teachings along with punishment of the heretics who hold them and dare to speak them in public, index of forbidden books, even sacraments,” he said. 

Abortion, said Cordileone, has become the “blessed sacrament” of this militant secularism. 

It is “what they hold most sacred, the doctrine and practice upon which their whole belief system is built.” This is why, he explained, “we see such visceral and violent reaction to any even minimal regulation of abortion in the law, regulations that even those who believe it should be kept legal would see as reasonable, such as informed consent and parental consent.” 

“It should come as no surprise that the first to challenge the Texas Heartbeat Bill was the Satanic Temple, and precisely on the grounds of deprivation of religious liberty: they need abortion to carry out their religious rituals,” said Cordileone. 

The antidote to this, said the archbishop, is living “according to true wisdom,” meaning “the path to lasting happiness, a path which is walked by means of the virtues, both the natural and the theological virtues.” This is accomplished by a devotion to the sacraments. 

“We have the real Blessed Sacrament,” said Cordileone. “How much of the desecration of human life we witness in our time is due to a loss of the sense of the sacred, even that which is most sacred, the Blessed Sacrament? Do we do all possible to respect the integrity of the Blessed Sacrament and avoid its desecration by receiving reverently and worthily, always giving God our best in worship?” 

Cordileone stated that Christians who are in favor of abortion rights, who have been “mindlessly co-opted by the new secular religion and its false blessed sacrament” are equivalent to the Israelites who worshiped Moloch. 

“But there is only one Blessed Sacrament; to live as if there were two brings desecration of what is sacred on both fronts: the Bread of Life on the altar and human life in the womb,” he said. 

Now, said the archbishop, society is at a “very pivotal moment” with the upcoming Supreme Court Decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Despite this, and the serious potential for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, Cordileone warned that it is not the time to “think we can relax our efforts even with the right decision.” 

“The devil will not stop until he is defeated and returned to hell definitively when our Lord returns,” he said. “There will always be attacks on the dignity of human life, and they will intensify,” noting that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) pledged to make California a “sanctuary state for abortion.”

“So we will continue to work to build a culture of life, by advocating for life, by providing women in crisis pregnancies love and support and all that they need to know they are valued, respected and have friends walking with them in their time of distress, giving them the opportunity to make the happiest decision of all, the decision for life,” he said.

Finnish MP facing jail after tweeting Bible verse pleads not guilty as trial begins

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, speaks to reporters while holding her Bible at Helsinki District Court on Jan. 24, 2022. / ADF International.

Helsinki, Finland, Jan 24, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

A former government minister facing jail in Finland after tweeting a Bible verse pleaded not guilty to three criminal charges on Monday.

Päivi Räsänen appeared at Helsinki District Court on Jan. 24, the first day of her trial, alongside Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, who is facing one criminal charge.

Finland’s Prosecutor General filed criminal charges against the pair on April 29, 2020, formally charging them with the crime of “ethnic agitation,” which falls under the section of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in the country’s criminal code.

The state prosecutor asserted that the statements made by Räsänen, who served as Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015, were “likely to cause intolerance, contempt, and hatred towards homosexuals.”

The charges against Räsänen, a 62-year-old physician and mother of five, relate to her comments in a 2004 pamphlet, her appearance on a 2018 television program, and a Twitter post in 2019.

The charge against Pohjola concerns his decision to publish Räsänen’s pamphlet, “Male and Female He Created Them.”

When the defendants arrived at the court, they were greeted by supporters holding banners.

Supporters of Päivi Räsänen Juhana Pohjola outside Helsinki District Court, Finland, on Jan. 24, 2022. ADF International.
Supporters of Päivi Räsänen Juhana Pohjola outside Helsinki District Court, Finland, on Jan. 24, 2022. ADF International.

ADF International, a Christian legal group supporting the Christian Democrat MP, said that as the trial began, the prosecution argued that the views shared by Räsänen and Pohjola were discriminatory towards minorities.

The defense appealed to the court not to impose its own theological interpretation of scripture on Finland’s 5.5 million citizens, by criminalizing traditional Christian views on marriage and sexuality.

The defense said that a guilty verdict would amount to the de facto criminalization of the Bible verses tweeted by Räsänen.

Around two-thirds of the population of Finland — a country bordering Norway, Russia, and Sweden — belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, one of the country’s two national churches, alongside the Finnish Orthodox Church.

The MP, who was chairwoman of the Christian Democrats party from 2004 to 2015, is an active member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. But she questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBT pride event in 2019.

On June 17, 2019, she asked in a Twitter post how the sponsorship was compatible with the Bible, linking to a photograph of a biblical passage, Romans 1:24-27, on Instagram. She also posted the text and image on Facebook.

Discussing the tweet in court on Monday, she underlined that the post was directed at Church leaders and concerned an important topic facing the Church.

Police began investigating Räsänen in 2019. She faced several police interviews and had to wait more than a year for the Prosecutor General’s decision.

The International Lutheran Council has described the decision to prosecute Räsänen and Pohjola as “egregious.”

It said: “The vast majority of Christians in all nations, including Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, share these convictions. Would the Finnish Prosecutor General condemn us all? Moreover, shall the Finnish state risk governmental sanctions from other states based on the abuse of foundational human rights?”

Addressing the pamphlet, which described homosexuality as “a disorder of psycho-sexual development,” Räsänen told the court that she was asked to write a text outlining Lutheran teaching on sexuality for members of her church, from her viewpoint as a politician, doctor, and Christian.

She said that the pamphlet was outdated given changes in research and legislation since 2004. But she argued that it should still exist as a document testifying to the discussions taking place at that time.

Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, noted that a guilty verdict would not set an instant legal precedent for other European countries. But he suggested that it would “set a new European low bar for free speech standards.”

He added that similar cases “really could happen anywhere else” because of hate speech laws across the continent.

Closing arguments will take place on Feb. 14.

How St. Irenaeus helped save the early Church from schism

St. Irenaeus depicted in the apse of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Charleston, South Carolina. / Andrew Gould via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

St. Irenaeus once helped to save the 2nd-century Church from schism. Today, the newly declared “Doctor of Unity” is the patron saint of a group of theologians working on current problems in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.

According to the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, the newest Doctor of the Church understood that “diversity in practice does not imply disunity of faith.”

During the “Paschal Controversy” in the 2nd century, Irenaeus played a decisive role in mediating the dispute over the date of Easter.

Two principal traditions existed in the early Church at the time. In much of Asia Minor, Easter was celebrated on the 14th Nisan (the Jewish Passover), an observance known as Quartodecimanism. But in Rome and much of the East, the feast fell on a given Sunday — a divergence that also had implications for fasting practices.

When Irenaeus was serving as a presbyter in Lyons, in modern-day France, he was sent to Rome in 177 to mediate a resolution to the controversy.

Irenaeus wrote: “The disagreement in the fast only speaks for our agreement in the faith.”

The saint “successfully intervened with Pope Victor to lift the excommunication of the Quartodecimans and thus avert a schism,” the Irenaeus group told CNA on Jan. 23.

The 26 Catholic and Orthodox theologians who make up the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group discussed Irenaeus’ role in the Paschal Controversy during its most recent meeting in Rome.

It was during this meeting that Pope Francis first revealed that he planned to name Irenaeus the 37th Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor of Unity.”

The pope made this official on Jan. 21 with a decree signed during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Following the decree’s promulgation, the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group told CNA why Irenaeus was an apt choice for the title “Doctor of Unity.”

“As a native of Asia Minor who eventually became a bishop in the West, Irenaeus in his person reflects the close interconnection between East and West in the early Church,” the group told CNA.

“His writings address critical issues such as the ‘rule of faith,’ apostolic succession, the canon of scripture, all of which are key elements of the faith held in common by Catholics and Orthodox.”

The St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group is comprised of 13 Catholic theologians and 13 theologians from various Orthodox Churches (Constantinople, Antioch, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, America).

The group has met annually since 2004, alternating between Catholic and Orthodox majority countries, including Italy, Russia, France, Romania, Austria, and Greece.

In line with the joint working group’s style, its responses to CNA’s questions were co-written by a Catholic and an Orthodox representative of the group and then approved by both of its co-secretaries: Assaad Elias Kattan, chair for Orthodox Theology at the University of Münster, and Johannes Oeldemann, the Catholic director of the Johann Adam Möhler Institute for Ecumenism.

“Irenaeus has left us a magnificent theological legacy written in a way particularly dear to the Orthodox, because it integrates intellectual and spiritual motifs, and at the same time so cherished in the West that his main writings have been preserved in Latin,” the group said.

With the new papal decree, Irenaeus became the first saint to hold both the titles of martyr and Doctor of the Church.

In the wake of the decree, some have raised the question of whether there is historical proof that Irenaeus was truly a martyr.

The St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, however, explained why it holds that Irenaeus should have both titles.

“Though he is venerated as a martyr by both Catholics and Orthodox, there is little information about the actual manner of his death,” it said.

“However, martyrdom is not only measured by factual suffering, but also by a love expressing that eagerness to go through whatever God allows to happen. Irenaeus, in this sense, was at least a martyr of desire.”

“Moreover, in his influential writings, he was a powerful witness (‘mártys’ in Greek) to Christian faith, certainly deserving the title of martyr and ‘Doctor of Unity.’”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has welcomed the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group’s work over the past 18 years as a valuable support for the international Roman Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

The group’s next meeting will be held in Romania in October 2022.

“The teaching of this saintly pastor and teacher is like a bridge between East and West: this is why we call him a Doctor of Unity, Doctor Unitatis,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Jan. 23.

“May the Lord grant us, through his intercession, to work together for the full unity of Christians.”