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Catholic Daily News

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 02:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Walk along in the March for Life and you may see them: a swarm of women – many of them young – dressed in long blue habits, white veils blowing in the breeze.

    They are the Sisters of Life and they have  a message for women and for the pro-life movement: “You are not alone.”

    “We really see ourselves primarily as a spiritual entity that intercedes for and upholds the work of the pro-life movement,” explained Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV, Vicar General of the Sisters of Life.

    She also said she hopes that the pro-life movement knows that they can depend upon the Sisters’ prayers and support: “They are not alone and they have a family of Sisters who love them very much and are praying for them daily.”

    Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York, where the Sisters of Life were founded, said he believes the Sisters of Life have already made a tremendous impact on the culture since their founding. “It’s about 25 years later and the Sisters of Life are growing, they’re thriving and they’re everywhere” he told CNA.

    “Help Wanted: Sisters of Life”

    While it may be impossible to quantify the full impact of the Sisters’ prayers and efforts, Zwilling said, “I truly believe that they have helped through their prayer, through their example, they’ve helped to change people’s minds and hearts about this issue.”

    “I think that in the long run that’s going to be their greatest contribution.”

    The Sisters’ journey began in 1990 with a newspaper column by then-Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. “This really was the brainchild of Cardinal O’Connor,” Zwilling said.

    In the 1990s Cardinal O'Connor was a prominent leader in the pro-life movement in the Church and in the country, and saw the issue of abortion as one of the most pressing need of the time. Before acting, the cardinal reflected on the long history within the Church of the Holy Spirit giving life to religious communities able to meet these these challenges.

    Cardinal O’Connor suggested  in his column that it was time for another order able to respond to the challenges of abortion. The piece was titled simply: "Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.”

    Eight sisters answered the call, formally founding a community on June 1, 1991. During this time, they lived temporarily with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in the Bronx, praying, fasting, attending Eucharistic adoration, and discerning their vocations.

    Sr. Josamarie, SV, was one of these first women to join the Sisters of Life. “None of us had been religious sisters before,” she said of herself and the other seven women who were part of the initial novice class. Moreover, God “called us from various things” – the young women had such backgrounds as scientists, college professors, and librarians.

    As the sisters prepared themselves for a life of prayer and ministry to the most vulnerable in society, Cardinal O’Connor also introduced the Sisters of Life to members of the pro-life movement, including Mother Teresa.

    Today, the order is thriving, with more than 100 Sisters, whose average age is mid-30s.

    Sr. Mary Elizabeth joined the Sisters of Life in 1993 after graduating from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, having heard the cardinal talk on campus during her junior year. Already involved in pro-life activism, Sr. Mary Elizabeth explained that she “wanted to be part of the solution, offering other options to women” who felt like they had no options and turned to abortion out of desperation.

    A Life of Prayer

    The foundation of the Sisters of Life ministry and daily life is prayer and contemplation, explained Sister Mary Elizabeth. “Our spirituality is Eucharistic-centered and Marian,” she told CNA. In each of their convents, the Sisters participate in Mass and spend a Holy Hour in Eucharistic adoration daily. In addition, the sisters gather together to pray the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day.

    As part of the group’s Marian focus, the Sisters of Life also pray a rosary together “to support the works of the pro-life movement in our country and throughout the world each day.”

    The Sisters of Life also draw upon the example of Mary in their spirituality, and from there, the way they engage other aspects of their lives: “A deep part of our spiritual life is living out a spiritual maternity, and so we take Mary as our model.” Sister Mary Elizabeth said the sisters’ goal is to carry Christ’s presence with them and to echo Mary’s “yes” to life and to Christ.



    The Sisters of Life from The Sisters of Life on Vimeo.

    One of the examples of Mary’s maternity they seek to emulate is her decision to journey forth and visit her cousin, Elizabeth, after the Annunciation. “Just as at the Visitation the presence of Jesus in Mary radiated out” and filled her cousin with joy, Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “so we can have the same life and power dwelling within us and radiating out from us to touch all those women that we encounter every day who are pregnant and in need and hopefully them with joy and with hope.”

    The sisters also seek to bring the example of Mary’s receptivity and welcome into the way they treat people – by recognizing the unique dignity of every person. When sisters encounter someone, Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “we’re not in a rush, we’re not in a hurry.” This patience and attention, she continued, is “deeply rooted in our belief that every human person is created as a unique manifestation of God.”

    “It’s a way we live out our spiritual maternity,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth noted.

    As a contemplative and apostolic order, however, their prayer life does not stop at the sanctuary doors, but carries over into their ministry, too. “Our prayer kind of fuels our apostolic efforts, and then our apostolate brings us back to prayer,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth noted. “We can bring all those people we are working with to the Lord throughout the day.”

    A Mission to Save Lives

    The ministry of the Sisters of Life’s apostolate is focused upon the defense of human life at all stages. Sisters in each of the convents participate in a range of missions, from ministry with women facing crisis pregnancies or regret after an abortion to study of bioethics and theology.

    At the center of the Sisters of Life’s apostolate is the Holy Respite Mission, a sanctuary in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for pregnant women in crisis situations to come and live with the sisters, join in the community and prayer life of the sisters, and stay until they are ready to go back into the world after the birth of their child. Women typically stay with the sisters between six months and a year.

    Just a few blocks uptown lies the sisters’ Visitation Mission, which offers “practical support and compassion to women who are pregnant and find themselves in a crisis,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth explained. “Most of the women that come to us have been abandoned by everyone and are unsure of what they’re going to do.” The Sisters of Life serve around 1,000 women each year.  

    The sisters, along with a crew of volunteer lay helpers called the Co-Workers of Life, provide women with the practical support they need. “We provide everything,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth elaborated, from physical needs like diapers, bottles, strollers, cribs, baby clothes, and maternity clothes, to other forms of aid like helping women find safe housing, moving help, navigating challenges with college administrators or employers, writing resumes, and finding jobs.

    In addition, some Co-Workers of Life open their homes as a safe space for women in crisis and offer their friendship and support. Even simple gestures like talking or texting with expectant mothers can be an immense help for women with few other sources of support.

    “They’re being pressured into having an abortion by their family, by their friends, by the medical community, their employers – it’s really outrageous,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth said. “They just need someone who’s supporting them and encouraging them in their decision to keep their child.”

    Another important service the Sisters of Life provide is hope and healing outreach to women who have had abortions. “From the beginning, Cardinal O’Connor was very sensitive to those who had suffered the wounds of abortion,” explained Sr. Josamarie. Many women, she continued, feel pressured into abortion and then are left to suffer through the emotions alone afterwards.

    Sisters provide opportunities to “work through” feelings of grief, anger and other emotions by counseling women, as well as offering specialized retreats where women also have access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, in addition to someone who will listen to them as they process their experience.

    “It’s our experience that women hold this secret and don’t speak about it to others,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth added on the experience of post-abortive women. “It’s a tremendous burden that they handle alone.”

    Finally, the sisters engage in a range of outreach and evangelization activities through their retreat center in Stamford, Conn., and their presence at pro-life and Catholic events such as World Youth Day, the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the Walk For Life in San Francisco. These activities compliment the education work the sisters do through their pro-life library, their support of the Respect Life/Family Life Office for the Archdiocese of New York, research in their House of Studies in Maryland, and talks on college campuses and in parishes.

    With their lives dedicated to the defense of life every day of the year, the Sisters aim to revitalize a love for life in the world.

    Their hope, Sister Mary Elizabeth said, is to be “a spiritual force that generates a new culture of life within the minds of hearts of men and women across the world.”

    If the thousands of lives they touch every year are any indication, they are well on their way.

    This article was originally published on CNA Jan. 27, 2017.

  2. Tallahassee, Fla., Jan 16, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill presented to the Florida House of Representatives on Jan. 8 would require couples to review a state-published “Healthy Marriage Guide” before tying the knot.

    “The statistics have been staggering over the years for divorces and kind of the subsequent problems that go along with that, like children who don’t have families that are put together,” said Republican Representative, Clay Yarborough, according to CBS 47.

    Yarborough introduced the bill to the state House days after Republican Kelli Stargel introduced a version of it to the Senate.

    The legislation would establish the Marriage Education Committee, who will be appointed by Florida’s Senate president, state speaker of the house, and the state’s governor. The six-person committee would develop the guide, serving a maximum term of one year.

    Couples would be required to read the guide as a prerequisite for a marriage license. The guide would cover communication skills, fiscal control, conflict management, spousal abuse, and parenting responsibilities.

    Additionally, the guide would offer marital advice and resources for extra premarital education or for potentially failing marriages.

    The legislation’s supporters say that money for the project will be funded by private sources, but the financial backers have not been clearly identified.

    If passed, the act would take effect in July 1, 2018.

  3. Damascus, Syria, Jan 15, 2018 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bomb fell in the bedroom of the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus last week. He was spared death, he says, only because of a providential trip to the lavatory.

    Archbishop Samir Nassar related that a shell fell on his bed the afternoon of Jan. 8, when he had been taking a nap. He got up to go to the bathroom shortly before the bomb hit his room, and he said that “a few seconds at the sink saved my life!”

    “Providence watches over his little servant, but now I am exiled like 12 million Syrian refugees who have nothing left,” he told Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

    Archbishop Nassar's cathedral was heavily damaged. He said that “The doors of the cathedral and 43 windows and doors have to be replaced, holes need to be filled, fuel tanks and water tanks need repairing, as does the electricity network.”

    Aid to the Church in Need reports that 10 shells fell that day in various areas of Damascus. A bomb fell in the courtyard of the Melkite patriarchate, and the Sisters of Jesus and Mary convent was also damaged.

    Seven people were hospitalized from the convent, and Sister Annie Demerjian told Aid to the Church in Need, “It was the providence of God that we were not in the room.”

    Archbishop Nassar said that “violence is the only master – innocents are being sacrificed every day.”

    Since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed. At least 4.8 million have become refugees, and another 8 million have been internally displaced.

    What began as demonstrations against the nation's Ba'athist president, Bashar al-Assad, has become a complex fight among the Syrian regime; moderate rebels; Kurds; and Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State.

  4. Aboard the papal plane, Jan 15, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- En route from Italy to Chile on Monday, Pope Francis told journalists of his concerns about war, and especially the use of nuclear weapons, giving each of them a photo of a child in Nagasaki.

    On the back of the photo is printed “the fruits of war”, and it is signed by Pope Francis.

    “I was moved when I saw this photo, and I dared to write only 'the fruits of war'. I thought of printing it to distribute it because it is more moving than 1,000 words,” the Pope told journalists Jan. 15.

    The photo is of a boy carrying the body of his brother while in line at a crematorium in Nagasaki in the wake of the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic bombing of the city by the US.

    Pope Francis made his remarks at the beginning of the nearly 16 hour flight.

    He also noted that he studied in Chile for a year and knows the country well. He will also be visiting Peru, where he has visited two or three times.

    The Pope will be in Chile through Jan. 18, visiting Santiago, Temuco, and Iquique. He will have lunch with the Mapuche residents of the Araucania region, and visit the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

    From Chile he will go to Peru, visiting Lima, Puerto Maldonado, and Trujillo. He will meet with indigenous Amazonians and pray before the relics of Peruvian saints before returning to Rome Jan. 22.

  5. Santiago, Chile, Jan 15, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- On the eve of Pope Francis' visit to Chile, an attack on a church was reported in the city of Melipilla, an hour outside of Santiago. This was the sixth attack on Catholic
    churches in protest of the pontiff's visit.

    Local media reported that around 1:00 am on Sunday, masked individuals threw an explosive at St. Augustine Church, damaging the main door and part of the entrance. Police and firemen responded to the scene.

    ACTUALIZADO + FOTOS | Iglesia de Melipilla sufre ataque incendiario en la víspera de la visita papal https://t.co/PUveGqBmHG pic.twitter.com/3ke44Bj3UM

    — BioBioChile (@biobio) January 14, 2018 The attackers also spray painted the sidewalk with this message: “The only church that illuminates is the one that burns, the one in flames. Hah-Hah No to the Pope.”

    The Church in Chile has been plagued by protests, many centering around the case of Father Fernando Karadima a once-popular Chilean priest convicted  by the Church in 2011 of sexually abusing minors but, controversially, not laicized. Other protests have been related to the political status of the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group. Still another group of protesters attacked the apostolic nunciature, the Vatican Embassy in Chile, on Jan. 12, opposing the cost of the papal visit to the Chilean government.

    The Diocese of San José condemned the Melipilla attack in a Facebook post, and noted that “Saint Augustine Church is the only building on the national register of historical places in the city of Melipilla.”

    “We repudiate this act of hatred against the faith. Today we ask you to raise up a special prayer for those who committed this act of clear religious intolerance,” the diocese said.

    Bio Bio Radio reported that the fire did not do a lot of damage and there were no injuries, since the church was closed down after a 2010 earthquake and is still being remodeled.

    Local police are conducting an investigation to find the whereabouts of those involved.

    Prior to this attack, three other Catholic churches in Santiago were attacked in the early hours of Jan. 12 and suspicious devices were found at two others.

    The Archdiocese of Santiago expressed its deep sorrow for those attacks, and said that they do not represent “the feeling of the vast majority of the population.”

    “We are deeply pained by these incidents which contradict the spirit of peace which animates the pope's visit to the country,” the archdiocese said.

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

  6. Denver, Colo., Jan 15, 2018 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- After an abortion,men and women can experience deep feelings of sadness and emptiness, suicidal thoughts, dreams of the aborted child, trouble with intimacy and difficulty bonding with future children, according to an expert in the field.

    Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel and the National Office for Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, told CNA Jan. 11  these experiences are “a big secret” nobody wants to address, which sometimes prevents women and men who have been involved in an abortion from talking about their difficulties.

    “There's a lot involved there,” she said, explaining that many abortion clinics and post-abortion websites will tell women that having an abortion was a good thing, but minimize adverse reactions by saying “we understand you might be feeling bad.”

    However, Thorn –  a certified trauma counselor and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life – said that despite apparent reassurances that feelings of sadness and regret are no big deal, the reality is that post-abortion, men and women both are “haunted by this experience.”

    According to a recent report from the Guttmacher Institute, some 56 million abortions were performed globally each year between 2010-2014, with 25 percent of all pregnancies during those years ending in abortion.

    The highest number of abortions took place in developing nations, as well as many eastern European countries. While the number of annual abortions in developed nations dropped significantly during the years of the study, it rose in underdeveloped nations, mostly due to population growth, according to the study.

    But despite the relative silence on the post-abortive experience, some celebrities have spoken out about the profound pain and regret they feel over past abortions, some of which took place years ago.

    Among the high-profile personalities who've addressed the issue are Eminem, Sinead O'Connor, Nicki Minaj, Kid Rock, and Kenny Rogers.

    In his new album “Revival,” released Dec. 15, 2017, Eminem includes a song called “River,” telling the story of a man who had an affair with a woman, and the couple’s choice to end a pregnancy through abortion.

    The chorus of the song talks about the pain he feels, and his desire for forgiveness from the “sins” of his past: “I've been a liar, been a thief/Been a lover, been a cheat/All my sins need holy water, feel it washing over me/Well, little one/I don't want to admit to something/If all it's gonna cause is pain/The truth and my lies now are falling like the rain/So let the river run.”

    Later, in the last verse of the song, he speaks to both the woman and the baby, saying: “I made you terminate my baby/This love triangle left us in a wreck, tangled/What else can I say? It was fun for a while/Bet I really woulda loved your smile/ Didn't really wanna abort, but – it/What's one more lie, to tell our unborn child?”

    Similarly, in her 2012 track “Autobiography,” Nicki Minaj refers to an abortion she had at 16. In the song, she asks her child for forgiveness, saying “I'm trapped in my conscience/I adhered to the nonsense, listened to people who told me I wasn't ready for you.”

    “But how the – would they know what I was ready to do? And of course it wasn't your fault (no)/It's like I feel you the air, I hear you saying 'Mommy don't cry, can't you see I'm right here?' (yes)/ I gotta let you know what you mean to me, when I'm sleeping, I see you in my dreams with me.”

    In his song “Abortion,” released in 2000, Kid Rock talks about the grief of a father after an abortion that is so great he contemplates suicide, saying “I've never heard you cry I've never seen you whine...I must die to get to you...where's my gun...”

    Kenny Rogers released the song “Water and Bridges” in 2006, in which he sings about decisions that are “much too late to change.../How a father could have held his son/If I could undo what's been done/But I guess everyone is living/With water and bridges.”

    Thorn said Sinead O'Connor was the first artist she ever heard sing about abortion in her 1990 track “My Special Child,” which talks about the sadness she experienced after she had an abortion after a relationship broke down.  

    Each of the sentiments expressed by these artists “are common experiences,” Thorn said, explaining that men and women can have different reactions to abortion based on their biology and experiences of pregnancy.  

    For women between the ages of 11-19, Thorn noted that their brains haven't finished developing, and they operate mostly out of the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain. Many young women who have abortions, then, “make this decision out of fear.”

    A woman's brain can't fully process trauma until 25, when the corpus callosum, which is “the linker between the right brain and left brain,” becomes fully active, Thorn said, explaining that in the early years of her pro-life work, she couldn't understand why most of her calls were from women around 25 years old.

    “I thought that was the weirdest thing in the world,” she said, noting that it wasn't until several years later when she learned more about brain research that she understood women were calling “because now they can process it.”

    For the woman who's had an abortion and is struggling with the decision, “we have to remember that she's a mother who lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion,” Thorn said. “Society says abortion is a simple medical procedure, but we don't talk about what really happens.”

    In terms of biology, Thorn said pregnant women go through something called “microchimerism,” in which cells from the child pass to the mother. And in cases of abortion or miscarriage, women carry more cells from those children than children they give birth to.

    “These cells are part of biological knowledge, someone's missing,” she said, explaining that the feelings could come up at any time, even years later, but at a certain point there is a “trigger-incident', and I'm suddenly aware that that abortion was an offending event.”

    The sense of loss that comes after is enormous, she said. And while globally abortion is discussed as something that “solves a problem” as simple as a fixing a bunion, “it's much, much deeper, and that knowledge of the cells makes a difference.”

    “The sadness, this sense of responsibility, 'I did this.' Those are all parts of her experience,” Thorn said, adding that many times a woman will have a second or third abortion because “she's compelled to get pregnant again. It's a biological thing. She started the cycle of pregnancy and all the changes that go with it, and didn't finish it.”

    And it's not just women. Men also have a biological experience, she said, and can tell that a woman is pregnant before she herself knows “because our scent changes...at four weeks we smell different.”

    If the woman is with her partner during pregnancy, his body also undergoes “the whole raft of changes, hormonal and other things.” Men, she said, frequently experience “couvade,” also called “sympathy pregnancy,” in which they have some of same symptoms as the expectant mother.

    As the end of the pregnancy gets nearer, the man's hormones “go crazy,” Thorn said. “His testosterone drops, his estrogen goes up, he gets more of a bonding hormone and he gets a nursing hormone for at least six weeks. We don't talk about that. But those are real, physiological changes.”

    She said there are many men who would have tried to stop the abortion of their child if they'd had the chance. “They would have put their life in front of a car, and they grieve deeply, deeply.”

    There are the men who wanted the abortion and later regret it, there are men who wanted to keep the baby but were told it wasn’t not their decision, and there are men who were never told about a pregnancy and didn't find out until years after the abortion and are “blown out of the water,” Thorn said.

    “For men, in a sense the grief for men is difficult because they're told that they should have no feelings about this. It's her body, it's her life, it's none of your business, so he doesn't have a place to turn,” she added.

    In the end, “they turn to drugs, they turn to pornography because they swore they'll never touch a woman again, depression, all kinds of things.”

    She said it's important for men to have a voice in the discussion because “biologically they are changed by the pregnancy, there's a physiological thing going on here. He can't control that, that's biology. God is turning him into a father.”

    Suicide is also frequent and strong temptation for both men and women post-abortion, she said, recalling stories she's heard of men with seemingly perfect lives who jumped from bridges and no one understood why until a friend or relative revealed that there had been an abortion that the man “had never recovered from.”

    Thorn said that just a few years ago in Milwaukee there was a murder-suicide prompted by an abortion in which a man killed his girlfriend and then killed himself after she had an abortion he did not want.

    Many men who would have tried to stop the abortion of their child but couldn't do it at times confess to having “violent thoughts” because “they couldn't protect” their baby, Thorn said. “It's this sense of male impotence, not sexual impotence, but that men are protectors, and they really struggle with that.”

    Women, especially during the teen years, “are ten times more likely to attempt suicide after an abortion in the months that follow, that first six to eight months,” Thorn said. “That tells you the depth of the woundedness.”

    After those first months, “denial kicks in,” she said, noting that while women will say they are doing fine, “they're emotionally very numb.”

    Commitment also becomes an issue for men and women after abortions, she said, explaining that “only about 30 percent of couples survive abortions as a couple.”

    If they move on to another relationship, they often won't tell their partners about feelings of betrayal or regret, “and that's going to be an intimacy killer in the bedroom, because she doesn't trust men – the one she was with forced her to have an abortion – and he doesn't women, it was his fiance that had his child aborted, so this is a huge wound.”

    Women suffering from an abortion loss will often go into a “shut-down” phase, she said, noting that it is these women who become staunch defenders of abortion, and are the loudest voices arguing that it’s a woman's right.

    “That's another way to cope,” she said. Pointing to various stories of people who have left the abortion industry, Thorn noted that “almost all of them had their own abortions first or during that time. It's a way to cope with what they've done; I need it, other women must need it, so I'm going to protect that right.”

    “It's a very incredibly deep sadness and women never forget. They have the biology that makes it impossible to forget, it's always a part of them,” she said, adding that in her experience, the people who have found help and healed from past abortions “never support abortion again.”

    Abortion can also affect parenting and one's relationship with future children, because women who don't heal after an abortion “don't bond very well in a different pregnancy. They're very over protective, but sometimes they're emotionally distant from their child.”

    Fathers, on the other hand, “are overly committed to the child and become enmeshed, they really sort of take the role of the mother and push the mother away.”

    Other family members, such as siblings or cousins, are also affected by abortion, she said, noting that she has met many people who grew up with a strong sensation that they should have had a brother or sister, and only later found out that an abortion had taken place.

    In her view, Thorn said there is not enough discussion or awareness about the effects of abortion “because it's an uncomfortable piece, because there are so many abortions and people do not want to talk about it.”

    “But what we're seeing in these songs is people are finding a way to tell their story to somebody in hopes that somebody's listening, and that's part of the healing process, is an opportunity to tell the story,” she said.

    The fact that so many songs are being sung about the topic is “an indication that people are looking for a way to speak the truth about what happened,” she said, “and that's a way to do it if that's your talent and your gift.”

     

    If you or someone you know is suffering after abortion, confidential non-judgmental help is available:

    Call Project Rachel's national toll-free number: 888-456-HOPE(-4673) or visit HopeAfterAbortion.org.

    Spanish-speakers may visit EsperanzaPosaborto.org”

    Help is also available for men at http://menandabortion.info/

     

     

  7. Warsaw, Poland, Jan 15, 2018 / 12:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Lawmakers in Poland proposed pro-life legislation last week that would outlaw abortions performed because of a congenital disorder or deformity in the unborn child.

    Members of parliament shot down a “Save Women” bill Jan. 10 that would have liberalized abortion access, allowing abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy and opening access to emergency contraception.

    Instead, the country’s lawmakers promoted the “Stop Abortion” bill that would ban abortion for pregnancies in which the baby had received a congenital disorder diagnosis or deformity.

    The new proposal, if passed, could eliminate the majority of abortions legally performed in Poland. According to Deutsche Welle, around 1,100 legal abortions took place in 2016. Of these abortions, 1,042 took place because the child was deformed.

    “We have come to parliament today because we don’t want hospitals turning into abattoirs,” said Kaja Godek of the Life and Family Foundation, who introduced the bill to parliament, according to The Guardian.

    Abortion in Poland is legal in Poland only in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s health is threatened, or if the baby has received a fatal diagnosis or deformity.

    The “Stop Abortion” bill began taking shape late in 2017; it was originally met with threats from the European Parliament, which said it would take legal action if legislators promoted the new restrictions.

    However, Poland’s bishops' conference dismissed the pressure of EU sanctions, and gave their full support for the abortion restriction bill.

    “The Polish bishops’ conference underlines that the right to life is fundamental to every human being, so we should all protect this right for defenseless children,” said Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference, according to the Catholic Herald.

    “Nobody can take this right away, nor can external or internal pressure change the scientifically proven fact that human life begins at the moment of conception,” he continued.

    A crowd of approximately 2,000 met on the steps of the Polish parliament in Warsaw on Saturday to protest the abortion restriction bill. Many of the protestors held signs saying, “My mind, my body, my choice,” and “Women will die without abortions.”

    “The women whose rights and freedoms are being violated today have been left to face this problem alone,” stated Anna Karaszewska of the Let’s Save Women 2017 group, according to Deutsche Welle.

    The Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been in power since 2015, has introduced multiple pro-life bills over the past few years. The PiS has also effectively cut off public funding for in-vitro fertilization and required a prescription for the morning-after pill.

    PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski supported the “Stop Abortion” bill, saying that all babies – deformed or not – have the right to life.

    “We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptized, buried, and have a name,” Kaczynski said, according to The Guardian.

    The BBC reported in 2016 that it is estimated there may be 10,000 abortions performed illegally in Poland every year.

    A 2016 bill to ban all abortions in Poland was defeated.

  8. Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2018 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There are more than 215 million persecuted Christians worldwide according to the 2018 World Watch List, Open Doors USA's annual ranking of the 50 worst countries for violence and persecution against Christians.

    The report found that one in twelve Christians worldwide are victims of violent persecution. Open Doors USA cites the spread of radical Islam and increasing religious nationalism as the two major drivers of global Christian persecution.

    North Korea tops the list of worst offenders, as it has for the past 16 years. Although the communist North Korean government claims to provide freedom of religion in its constitution, no one can be openly Christian within the atheist state without facing arrest, re-education in a labor camp, or, in some cases, execution.

    Despite the danger, Open Doors USA finds that there has been tremendous growth in underground Christianity in North Korea in the last two decades. The report estimates that there might be up to 300,000 Christians living clandestinely in North Korea.

    Afghanistan comes in a close second in this year’s World Watch List ranking. Afghan citizens in this 99 percent Muslim country are banned from becoming Christian. Open Doors USA reports that underground Christians in Afghanistan have been killed by their own family members, who viewed the Christian conversion as a shameful apostasy.

    Islamic oppression continues to be a growing concern for many Christians around the world. For eight of the top ten countries on the World Watch List, Islamic extremism is the primary cause of Christian persecution.

    Islamic militancy has been on the rise in Somalia, where Christians, if discovered, are often martyred. Christians in Egypt, India, Libya, and Kazakhstan also experienced increased persecution since last year’s report.

    Pakistani Christians experienced the most documented violence according to the report. Islamic militants in Pakistan specifically target Christians. A suicide bomb on Easter Sunday 2016 killed 74 people and injured hundreds more.

    In addition to the spread of radical Islam, the report identified a rise in religious nationalism and intense persecution in central Asia as major trends in the persecution of Christians. Hindu nationalism has increased in India and Nepal, as has Buddhist nationalism in Burma and Sri Lanka. And persecution of Christians in central Asian nations, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, is intensifying under nationalist, pro-Islamic governments.

    Also included on the list were Mexico and Colombia, where organized crime and corruption were cited as the source of Christian persecution.

    Open Doors USA documented that 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked within the reporting period for the 2018 World Watch List.

    The World Watch List includes specific prayers requests for each of the top 50 countries, recalling Open Doors USA's founder Brother Andrew’s faith in the power of prayer to aid those who are suffering afar: “Our prayers can go where we cannot … There are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.”

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