I am dedicating today’s column to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., given the enormous impact it always has on the city and our nation, and the even bigger issue it represents – the pro-life movement in America! You will find out how to gain a plenary indulgence by participating in the March, learn about President Trump’s participation, his proclamation of Religious Freedom Day and about the new department in the government for religious freedom.
By the by, President Trump has also proclaimed January 22 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day!!
Last year I participated in the March for Life and it was a thrill and an honor – I clearly remember ever moment of that day! Hope to do it again! I remember telling Teresa Tomeo, as we listened to Vice President Mike Pence address the rally, that I hoped next year (this year) for the 45th March for Life, we would have the just-inaugurated 45th president of the United States! And so it is – via a live White House linkup! http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/01/17/donald-trump-be-first-sitting-president-address-march-life
(Am watching White House feed now – 6:30 pm, Rome time, 12:30 noon in D.C.!)
In addition, my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider” will focus on pro-life issues with a special guest. So take your time to read these special reports and then to listen to VI – unless, of course, you are in D.C. and marching and, in that case, God sit on your shoulder! When you get some down time, then you can put your feet up, relax and ready today’s column!
There’s a lot to digest so take it easy. The prolife movement should be rejoicing this week!
VATICAN INSIDER: ALVEDA KING ON MLK AND PRO-LIFE ISSUES
As you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King Day in America and Friday, January 19, marked the 45th March for Life in Washington D.C., following the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in 1973. This weekend, therefore, seemed the perfect occasion to re-air the interview I did not long ago in Rome for Vatican Insider with Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and an ardent pro-life activist. I tell you more about her life, and background in that conversation.
Alveda King is a niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and the founder of Alveda King Ministries. She is an American activist, author, former college professor and former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. Alveda currently serves as a Pastoral Associate and Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, the African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Among her many talents and ministries, she is also a voice for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, sharing her testimony of two abortions, God’s forgiveness, and healing.
In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=
PRESIDENT PROCLAIMS JANUARY 16 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY
I think the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago would have loved the symbolism of January 16 being named religious Freedom Day – this year he would have been 81 on that day! He was a stirring and sterling voice that fought, taught and spoke against the incursions on religious freedom in our country in recent years!
Saying emphatically that “No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law,” President Trump’s proclamation was issued on January 16.
It begins: “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation. On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the many faiths that make up our country, and we commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of a State law that has shaped and secured our cherished legacy of religious liberty.”
“Today,” states the Proclamation, “Americans from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds remain steadfast in a commitment to the inherent values of faith, honesty, integrity, and patriotism. Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion. Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification. These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy. Therefore, soon after taking office, I addressed these issues in an Executive Order that helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference and the Department of Justice has issued guidance to Federal agencies regarding their compliance with laws that protect religious freedom. No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.
“The free exercise of religion,” writes the president, “is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity. Religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality. Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.”
You can read the full text from the White House here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-16-2018-religious-freedom-day/
There’s also this: President Donald J. Trump Proclaims January 22, 2018, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-22-2018-national-sanctity-human-life-day/
NEW HHS DEPARTMENT TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new division at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work to ensure the protection of religious freedom and conscience rights for Americans, government officials announced Thursday.
The state should not force people to go against their integrated view of humanity,” said the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, at a Jan. 18 press conference.
This new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which falls under the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will focus on the enforcement of existing laws on rights of conscience and religious freedom. It will also provide an outlet to field Americans’ complaints of any discrimination they have experienced in the field of healthcare.
For examples, doctors or nurses who have been forced to participate in an abortion or an assisted suicide that violates their moral convictions will be able to file a complaint directly on the HHS website.
Sarah Hellwege, a nurse-midwife, spoke at the press conference announcing the new division. She said that she experienced discrimination in an interview process because of her membership in a pro-life medical association.
The number of these types of conscience complaints to HHS has increased dramatically since President Donald Trump’s election. Ten complaints were filed with HHS during the eight years of the Obama administration, whereas there have been 34 since November 2016.
Severino told EWTN News Nightly that he attributes this surge in complaints to “pent up demand” and that this new division has been established “to assess complaints, see which ones are meritorious, and to vindicate the interests of justice as the law requires.”
Also speaking at today’s announcement was Montse Alvarado, the Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who explained to CNA what this new division will mean for Catholic healthcare professionals across the country.
“For the past 10 years we have had attacks on conscience that manifested themselves particularly for the Catholic community in the area of healthcare and healthcare providers with individuals and institutions,” she said.
“Because Catholics play such a large role, they finally will have a place to bring their grievances to try to solve things and bring common sense solutions that are so important without having to resort to litigation. And if they do need to litigate them, they will have a partner in this division.”
Several other government officials and religious figures spoke at the press conference announcing the new division.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted a concern from his state of California, where a new law forces pregnancy centers to provide information about local abortion providers. This Supreme Court will hear this case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, this year.
Representatives from HHS cited President Trump’s executive order last May as an impetus for the new HHS division. The executive order called on all executive departments and agencies to “respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech” to the extent permitted by law. The order specifically requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services address conscience-based objections.
Earlier this week, President Trump recognized National Religious Freedom Day, saying in a Jan. 16 proclamation, “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”
When asked by EWTN News Nightly about the likelihood of the new department surviving in future administrations, Severino responded, “It would be very difficult to undo the division. This is a foundational civil right.
Everybody should be in favor of civil rights for all and that includes our first civil right, which is our right to free expression of religion and conscience. This is enforced through our laws that have been passed by bipartisan congresses and presidents in both parties that have been with us for decades. Those are not going to go away and we have to enforce those laws fully.”
The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will enforce existing protection statutes over which the Office of Civil Rights already has authority. This includes the Weldon Amendment, which stipulates that states receiving federal funds cannot discriminate against health plans that do not cover or pay for abortions. The division will also enforce Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act on assisted suicide.
“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions,” said Severino in a press release.
For Americans who are concerned that they have experienced a violation of their conscience rights, Severino told CNA, “We are going to make it as user-friendly as possible, so that people know that the doors are open and that every complaint will be treated appropriately and given the attention it deserves and then those that require enforcement will be handled appropriately.”
“We encourage anyone who believes that their conscience rights have been violated in a healthcare context to reach out to us. They are free to file a complaint. To get more information from our website, just google ‘Office for Civil Rights HHS’ and just add the word ‘conscience.’”
PLENARY INDULGENCE GRANTED FOR MFL PARTICIPANTS
Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics participating in the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19 will be able to receive a plenary indulgence for doing so, the local Church has announced.
“In virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis… a plenary indulgence can be obtained under the usual conditions…by the Christian faithful who are truly penitential and compelled by charity, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life,’” announced a Dec. 20 letter from the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington.
The document was signed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, who together encouraged their brother bishops with the hope “that you will share this information with those entrusted to your pastoral care.”
Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the indulgence may be obtained “by participating in the National Prayer Vigil for Life or the other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life.”
Individuals who wish to obtain the plenary indulgence must engage in the events hosted by the March for Life in Washington, D.C.: the youth rally, Mass at Capital One Area, the adult and family rally at St. Matthews Cathedral, or the Prayer Vigil for Life at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In addition, the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence must be met: that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope’s intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.
The letter also noted that “the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home” are also able to receive the plenary indulgence so long as they “spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God.”
An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven.