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Pro-life group: Curtailed study on abortion pill reversal is misleading

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 10, 2019 / 03:31 am (CNA).- A small case study on the safety of the abortion pill reversal procedure that was cut short due to safety concerns does not accurately represent the safety and efficacy of the procedure to the public, a pro-life group has said.

“Pro-abortion researchers would rather continue to mislead women about the real risks of the abortion pill regimen Mifeprex than protect them from the risks of this dangerous drug,” Dr. Tara Sander Lee, senior fellow and director of life sciences for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers from the University of California at Davis attempted to study whether administering high doses of the hormone progesterone can successfully override the effects of the progesterone-blocking drug, mifepristone, the first of two pills taken in a medically induced abortion. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

This abortion pill reversal procedure is administered to women who have taken the first pill, mifepristone, but have changed their minds and do not want to continue with the abortion. Creators of the protocol say it has saved hundreds of babies whose mothers changed their minds about aborting.

According to an NPR report, while the researchers at UC Davis were hoping that 40 women would enroll in the study, only 12 did. Of those 12, three women were transported to the hospital for serious vaginal bleeding - one of those women had been given progesterone, the others had received a placebo.

Of the remaining participants, six of the women had a fetal heartbeat detectable on their subsequent ultrasounds, evidence of a continued pregnancy - four of them in the progesterone group, and two in the placebo group. Two women left the study and had surgical abortions.

The researchers stopped the study in July due to the lack of participants and safety concerns.

“Encouraging women to not complete the regimen should be considered experimental,” Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis and the lead researcher on the study, told NPR. “We have some evidence that it could cause very significant bleeding.”

“It's not that medical abortion is dangerous,” he added. “It's not completing the regimen, and encouraging women, leading them to believe that not finishing the regimen is safe. That's really dangerous.”

Creinin, who has a long history of performing abortions, also told NPR that because the study was smaller than expected and cut short, it cannot answer the question it was intended to answer.

“Does progesterone work? We don't know,” he said. “We have no evidence that it works.”

Lee, however, said in her statement that the UC Davis study does not prove the dangers of the progesterone protocol, but rather the dangers of mifepristone, as two of the three women who experienced bleeding had not even been given progesterone.

“Long before this study was published, it was a known fact that Mifeprex (brand name of mifepristone) can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, excessive bleeding, and incomplete termination requiring follow-up surgery. This study does nothing but further prove these serious, life-threatening risks when taking the abortion pill,” Lee said.

“The study was ended early because of severe hemorrhage in 25% (3 out of 12) of women, requiring emergency ambulatory care, because they took the abortion pill. Even the authors highlight that this is a rate much higher (42% higher) than previously reported. In fact, the bleeding was so bad for one woman, described as ‘significant brisk bleeding,’ that she needed a blood transfusion. She also developed hypotension and tachycardia.”

The progesterone protocol for an abortion pill reversal is available at several pro-life clinics throughout the United States. While the procedure has not been approved by the FDA, many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe, as progesterone is a hormone that naturally occurs in and helps sustain pregnancy, and is used to treat some pregnancies at high risk of miscarriage.

Teresa Kenney, a women's health nurse practitioner with the Sancta Familia (Holy Family) Medical Apostolate in Omaha, Nebraska, previously told CNA that because progesterone is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, and the benefit of reversing a medical abortion is so great, the procedure “makes complete sense” from a scientific standpoint.

“If I give a medicine that decreases or blocks progesterone to stop a pregnancy, then it makes perfect logical medical sense to give progesterone to help reverse that,” Kenney told CNA in September.

She added that the benefits are “overwhelmingly positive,” as the procedure in a sense saves two lives - that of the unborn child, and that of the mother who regretted her decision to have an abortion.

“Just because there hasn't been a randomized controlled double-blind study on abortion pill reversal doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense to implement it in medicine, because there is already scientific support for progesterone in early pregnancy in the prevention and miscarriage,” she said.

“Do we need more research? Absolutely. But to withhold treatment when, again, we know that it does no harm...we know that it medically makes sense, it scientifically makes sense, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive, why wouldn't we do it?”

Dede Chism, a nurse practitioner and co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado, told CNA in 2018 that a recent case study had shown that the progesterone protocol was significantly more effective in helping women keep their pregnancies after taking mifepristone than if nothing was done.

That study, published in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals, and showed that the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Both procedures significantly improved the 25% fetal survival rate if no treatment is offered and a woman simply declines the second pill of a medical abortion. The case study also showed that progesterone treatments caused no increased risk of birth defects or preterm births.

That study was authored by Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009. Delgado also sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Medical abortions make up a significant portion - roughly 30-40% - of total abortions in the United States. At least seven states, including Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho and South Dakota, have laws mandating that women undergoing medical abortions or who are questioning their decision in the process be informed in some way of the option for a medical abortion reversal.

A North Dakota judge in September granted a temporary injunction against a proposed law in the state that would have required doctors to tell their patients that a medically-induced abortion could be reversed if the patient acted quickly.

 

St. John Henry Newman’s meditations on the Litany of Loreto

Loreto, Italy, Dec 10, 2019 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Morning Star. Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory. House of Gold. For centuries, Catholics have recited these titles of Mary in the Litany of Loreto prayer.

One of the Church’s newest saints, St. John Henry Newman, wrote a series of meditations in 1874 elucidating the meaning behind each Marian title in the litany.

For Newman, many of these titles of Mary link back to her integral identity as the Immaculate Conception, born without the stain of original sin. Thus, the British saint connected a dogma declared 20 years prior by Pope Pius IX to a litany prayer approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.

“We must recollect that there is a vast difference between the state of a soul such as that of the Blessed Virgin, which has never sinned, and a soul, however holy, which has once had upon it Adam's sin; for, even after baptism and repentance, it suffers necessarily from the spiritual wounds which are the consequence of that sin,” Newman wrote. “She never committed even a venial sin, and this special privilege is not known to belong to anyone but Mary.”

The Marian title, “Mater Amabilis,” today translated as “Mother most amiable,” is connected to Mary’s sinlessness, Newman explained: “Sin is something odious in its very nature, and grace is something bright, beautiful, attractive.”

“There was a divine music in all she said and did—in her mien, her air, her deportment, that charmed every true heart that came near her. Her innocence, her humility and modesty, her simplicity, sincerity, and truthfulness, her unselfishness, her unaffected interest in everyone who came to her, her purity—it was these qualities which made her so lovable,” Newman wrote.

Mary is particularly loveable “to the children of the Church, not to those outside of it, who know nothing about her,” Newman said.

A convert himself, Newman’s own thoughts on Mary developed from praising the holiness of the Mother of Christ as an Anglican preacher to defending Mary’s role as intercessor in “Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching Considered.”

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

In October, Pope Francis declared Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint. That same month, the pope elevated the Dec. 10 feast of Our Lady of Loreto to the Church’s universal Roman Calendar.

In his Loreto meditations, Newman sheds light on titles of Mary whose meaning may not immediately evident to a modern reader.

Tower of Ivory

While an ivory tower is colloquially understood today as a privileged shelter from the practicalities of the real world, Newman connect’s Mary’s title, “Tower of Ivory,” to her courageous presence at the execution of her son.

“When we say a man ‘towers’ over his fellows, we mean to signify that they look small in comparison of him,” he wrote. “This quality of greatness is instanced in the Blessed Virgin. Though she suffered more keen and intimate anguish at our Lord's Passion and Crucifixion than any of the Apostles by reason of her being His Mother, yet consider how much more noble she was amid her deep distress than they were.”

“It is expressly noted of her that she stood by the Cross. She did not grovel in the dust, but stood upright to receive the blows, the stabs, which the long Passion of her Son inflicted upon her every moment,” Newman wrote. “In this magnanimity and generosity in suffering she is, as compared with the Apostles, fitly imaged as a Tower.”

Mirror of Justice

Newman explained that the Marian title “Mirror of Justice” needs clarification to fully understand how Mary reflected Christ.

“Here first we must consider what is meant by justice, for the word as used by the Church has not that sense which it bears in ordinary English. By ‘justice’ is not meant the virtue of fairness, equity, uprightness in our dealings; but it is a word denoting all virtues at once, a perfect, virtuous state of soul—righteousness, or moral perfection; so that it answers very nearly to what is meant by sanctity,” Newman wrote.

“Therefore when our Lady is called the ‘Mirror of Justice,’ it is meant to say that she is the Mirror of sanctity, holiness, supernatural goodness,” he continued.

Newman further posited: “Do we ask how she came to reflect His Sanctity? —it was by living with Him. We see every day how like people get to each other who live with those they love … Now, consider that Mary loved her Divine Son with an unutterable love; and consider too she had Him all to herself for thirty years. Do we not see that, as she was full of grace before she conceived Him in her womb, she must have had a vast incomprehensible sanctity when she had lived close to God for thirty years?”

Morning Star

Newman divided the titles of Mary in the Litany of Loreto into four categories: Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Assumption.

For example, Newman compares the “Morning Star” to Mary’s Assumption into heaven: “Mary, like the stars, abides for ever, as lustrous now as she was on the day of her Assumption; as pure and perfect, when her Son comes to judgment, as she is now.”

“It is Mary's prerogative to be the Morning Star, which heralds in the sun. She does not shine for herself, or from herself, but she is the reflection of her and our Redeemer, and she glorifies Him. When she appears in the darkness, we know that He is close at hand,” he wrote.

By papal decree, the feast of Our Lady of Loreto will be celebrated for the first time as an optional memorial in the Roman calendar this year on Dec. 10. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said in the October decree:

“This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.”

 

Blessed Adolph Kolping

Adolph Kolping | Den katolske kirke
Image: Adolph Kolping | Den katolske kirke

Blessed Adolph Kolping

Saint of the Day for December 10

(December 8, 1813 – December 4, 1865)

 

Blessed Adolph Kolping’s Story

The rise of the factory system in 19th-century Germany brought many single men into cities where they faced new challenges to their faith. Father Adolph Kolping began a ministry to them, hoping that they would not be lost to the Catholic faith, as was happening to workers elsewhere in industrialized Europe.

Born in the village of Kerpen, Adolph became a shoemaker at an early age because of his family’s economic situation. Ordained in 1845, he ministered to young workers in Cologne, establishing a choir, which by 1849 had grown into the Young Workmen’s Society. A branch of this began in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1856. Nine years later there were over 400 Gesellenvereine—workman’s societiesaround the world. Today this group has over 450,000 members in 54 countries across the globe.

More commonly called the Kolping Society, it emphasizes the sanctification of family life and the dignity of labor. Father Kolping worked to improve conditions for workers and greatly assisted those in need. He and St. John Bosco in Turin had similar interests in working with young men in big cities. He told his followers, “The needs of the times will teach you what to do.” Father Kolping once said, “The first thing that a person finds in life and the last to which he holds out his hand, and the most precious that he possesses, even if he does not realize it, is family life.”

Blessed Adolph Kolping and Blessed John Duns Scotus are buried in Cologne’s Minoritenkirche, originally served by the Conventual Franciscans. The Kolping Society’s international headquarters are located across from this church.

Kolping members journeyed to Rome from Europe, America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, for Father Kolping’s beatification in 1991, the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s revolutionary encyclical “Rerum Novarum”—“On the Social Order.” Father Kolping’s personal witness and apostolate helped prepare for that encyclical.


Reflection

Some people thought that Father Kolping was wasting his time and talents on young working men in industrialized cities. In some countries, the Catholic Church was seen by many workers as the ally of owners and the enemy of workers. Men like Adolph Kolping showed that was not true.


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In scandalized Buffalo diocese, bishop seeks victims’ voices  

Buffalo, N.Y., Dec 9, 2019 / 08:19 pm (CNA).- Efforts to recover from clergy sex abuse scandals in Buffalo require listing to victims and others affected by the diocese’s handling of abuse, the apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese Bishop Edward Scharfenberger has said.

“I know there’s a lot of pain. I know that pain sometimes presents itself first as anger,” Bishop Scharfenberger said in opening remarks at a Dec. 7 symposium at Canisius College in Buffalo.

“We can’t deny the fact that there is a lot of anger and frustration. Maybe in our personal lives but also in those who expect much of us as leaders to be able to help them find a way out of the darkness that they have experienced,” he continued.

“The darkness of fear is absolutely chilling,” he said. “Remember, Jesus tells us that fear is useless. It’s faith that counts. The more we trust in him, that he’s with us…. He accompanies us wherever we go.”

“We can do this together,” he said, adding that Jesus Christ is the “ultimate healer.”

“People are not giving up,” he said. “And there are reasons for hope too, because God is with us, and we’re going to get through this.

Scharfenberger became apostolic administrator of the diocese December 4, following Pope Francis’ acceptance of the early resignation of 73-year-old Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, who has faced a year of controversy over his handling of sexual abuse by clergy.

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

That was the background for the Dec. 7 symposium, held by the Movement to Restore Trust. The group’s organizing committee is comprised mostly of business and non-profit Catholic leaders.

“The biggest thing that we need is that trust,” Michael Whalen, a survivor of clergy sex abuse who advocates on behalf of victims, said at the symposium, the NBC affiliate WGRZ reports.

Whalen made suggestions for the bishop administering the diocese.

“How do we go about getting that trust back? I think by him making big changes in the diocese, getting rid of the old garb, people who've been there decades, who knew about the abuse, and didn't do anything about it,” he said.

The bishop praised Whalen’s comments, Scharfenberger said to reporters, according to audio published by the Buffalo AM radio station WBEN.

“His heart is so full of a desire to help, and to help us heal,” Scharfenberger said. “I thanked him, because I believe that our victim-survivors are an essential part of our mission.  They’re our family. Their experience and the experience of every one of us is very, very valuable.”

“We have to be able to feel that we have a safe space, that we can come together and talk about that and learn from one another, and hear our stories and share our pain, and our vision,” said the bishop.

For Scharfenberger, who will serve as both Bishop of Albany and apostolic administrator pending further decisions by the Vatican, the restoration of trust is ultimately a matter of proving oneself trustworthy and hoping that this is recognized. Though he thought the good faith displayed at the symposium was “heartwarming,” he compared it to a honeymoon period. Upcoming decisions might not be popular.

“I just want everybody to know that whatever I do, I will do with a spirit of justice and charity and openness and listening,” he said. “I don’t want to make any decision that does not take into account and does not show respect for all of those that these decisions affect.”

Whalen, the survivor of sexual abuse, has advocated for the release of the diocese’s confidential files.

The bishop pledged transparency but also said clarity was needed in the release of records which might not give the full context or accurate knowledge.

“I want to be transparent. I want everybody to know what they have a right to know but I want to do it in a way that is clearly understood,” he said.

The possible financial bankruptcy of the diocese was a topic at the symposium. University at Buffalo Law School Vice Dean Todd Brown said if the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy it would not liquidate, but rather reorganize.

The Movement to Restore Trust’s organizing committee members include John Hurley, the lay president of Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo.

Hurley said bankruptcy would represent “the fairest option” because court cases would be done all together. He said “everyone will be treated equitably and all at the same time, and it won't be who has the better lawyer, or who can get the first trial.”

In comments to reporters, Scharfenberger said there are many different sides to the arguments for and against bankruptcy. He stressed the need to make the right decision and the need to help people to know why he made that decision.

“It has to be done with deliberation,” he said.

“Ultimately this is a spiritual crisis… People did unholy bad things, evil things, and the only way to eradicate evil is by returning to holiness and to return to God, and to live according to the way our faith teaches us to live,” the bishop continued.

“It’s in God’s time when that happens. God has been trying to restore trust with the human race since the Fall of Adam and Eve,” he said. “We keep turning away. And God keeps coming back.”

In Argentina, poverty rate highest in ten years

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 9, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The latest report issued by the Argentina Observatory of Social Debt of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina showed that the rate of poverty and indigence is the highest in ten years.

The report indicated that 6.5% of households and 8.9% of people are indigent, and during the last trimester of 2019, 32.1% of households and 40.8% of people are below the poverty line.

These results show the sudden reversal of the economic conditions recouped by households during 2017.

The Observatory pointed to “cumulative regressive effects” in the country creating “the pitfalls of a growth model that is unstable, unbalanced and unequal, due to the absence of sustainable economic, social and environmental development policies.”

“Both persistent inequality and structural poverty are the result of an economic-productivity imbalance with the effects of exclusion, marginalization, and inequality on the socio-cultural, socio-demographic, and socio-occupational level,” the Observatory stated.

The report measures poverty and indigency rates by income and incorporates a multidimensional measurement that includes access to rights such as food, healthcare and education, basic services, a healthy environment, employment and social security, as well as subjective well-being.

The Observatory determined that although there were "improvements during the decade, structural inequality has increased, expressing itself in food insecurity, poor environmental quality and deficient access to water, energy, sanitation services and decent housing."

"Repeated devaluations, rising inflation, stagnation, rising unemployment and changes agreed to with the International Monetary Fund explain the deterioration," they said.

In addition “household labor and non-labor income in the lower middle sectors of society were below the increases in the price of goods and services of basic consumption ”.

Triggering this decline is a greater deterioration of the labor market due to job losses as well as “the impossibility of compensating that deterioration with alternative work. This explains the increase in the rate of indigency as well as the increase in the poverty gap.”

“All this had regressive effects in terms of economic inequality,” the report summarized.

According to a Congressional Research Service October 10, 2019 analysis, the Argentine peso "has lost two-thirds of its value since 2018; inflation is hovering around 30%; and since 2015 the economy has contracted by about 4% and its external debt has increased by 60%. In June 2018, the Argentine government turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for support and currently has a $57 billion IMF program, the largest program (in dollar terms) in IMF history.”

“Despite these resources, the government in late August and early September 2019 postponed payments on some of its debts and imposed currency controls...Argentina has a long history of economic crises. It has defaulted on its external debt (debt held by foreigners) nine times since independence in 1816. Argentina has also entered into 21 IMF programs since joining the international organization in 1956. The current economic crisis facing Argentina stems from longstanding challenges, as well as more recent developments.”

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Pope Francis blesses 100 nativity scenes near the Vatican

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday stopped by the “100 Nativities in the Vatican” display to bless Christmas scenes from all over the world.

The unscheduled visit took place in the afternoon Dec. 9, with the pope spending about 40 minutes meeting the staff and artists of the exhibition and viewing the nearly 130 nativities from 30 different countries.

He also recited a prayer and blessed those present.

The previous week, Pope Francis visited the Italian town of Greccio, where St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene with live animals in a cave in 1223.

In Greccio, the pope also signed the apostolic letter Admirabile signum, which means “A wonderful sign,” to encourage the tradition of the nativity scene in families, schools, workplaces, hospitals, prisons, and town squares.

“Setting up the Christmas crèche in our homes helps us to relive the history of what took place in Bethlehem,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

“When, at Christmas, we place the statue of the Infant Jesus in the manger, the nativity scene suddenly comes alive. God appears as a child, for us to take into our arms. Beneath weakness and frailty, he conceals his power that creates and transforms all things,” he said.

After his visit to Greccio, “the pope wanted to give a further sign of his attention to this tradition of faith,” according to a Dec. 9 statement from Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni.

The international display of nativities features many different styles, from the elaborate to the homemade.

It brings together nativities from Taiwan to Panama made from a variety of materials, including pinecones, aluminum, coral, yarn, and papier-mache. Among the many historical nativities from Italy is a modern rendition of the nativity made entirely out of pasta.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization organizes the display to share the history and spirituality behind the nearly 800-year-old Christmas devotion.

This year’s exhibit is also sponsored by the Hungarian Embassy to the Holy See, the auxiliary bishop of Esztergom-Budapest Ferenc Cserhati, and the members of the general secretariat of the International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in Budapest in 2020.

The annual “100 Nativities” exhibit was started in 1976 by Italian Manlio Menaglia, who worried that the Catholic devotion was being overshadowed by other Christmas decorations.

Before 2018, the nativities were exhibited in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. This is the second year the nativity exhibition is under the leadership of the Vatican.

The free-to-visit exhibit, situated down the street from the Vatican at the Saint Pius X Hall, is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day from now until Jan. 12. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve it will close at 5:00 p.m.

What do practicing Catholics think about the 2020 election?

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Catholics who say they accept all Church teachings are more likely than other Americans to say they are planning to vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new nationwide poll.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-21 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 2,055 registered voters; 1,223 of them self-identified as Catholic.

In addition to asking about political viewpoints and priorities, researchers asked respondents about their faith tradition. The poll asked self-identified Catholics whether their faith plays a role in their life, and if they accept all, most, or some of Church teaching.

While it is easy to segregate the responses of self-identified Catholics from other voters, it is more difficult to determine which Catholics might be described as “faithful,” “observant,” or “orthodox.”



Almost 4 in 10 Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass once a year or less. Seventeen percent of Catholics said they accept all the Church’s teachings, but only 64% of those Catholics said they attend Mass at least weekly. At the same time, many Catholics who said they attend Mass weekly also said they do not accept all doctrinal teachings of the Church.



To understand one segment of the “Catholic vote,” CNA took a close look at answers from Catholics who told researchers they accept the teachings of the Church and try to live their lives according to them.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching also said they are “sure to vote” for Donald Trump in 2020, compared to 34% of all Catholics and 32% of respondents overall who gave the same answer.

Among Catholic voters who accept all of Church teaching, Trump enjoyed a significant lead in a hypothetical matchup against leading Democratic candidates. These voters favored Trump over Joe Biden by 18 percentage points, over Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by 25 percentage points, and over Pete Buttigieg by 26 percentage points.

Issues of major concern to Catholics who say they accept all Catholic doctrine are religious freedom and immigration.

Sixty percent of all survey respondents say religious freedom is either “a major concern” or “a concern, but not at the top of my mind” in considering presidential candidates for the upcoming general election.

Among Catholics who accept all Church’s teaching, that number is 77%.

Asked about immigration, two-thirds of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said the issue is “a major concern,” compared to just over half of all respondents who answered similarly. Respondents were not asked to indicate specifics about their policy positions on immigration.

On other issues, Catholics who accept all of Church teaching were less likely to voice concern than other respondents.

The survey found that 35% of Catholics accepting all Church teaching listed the environment as “a major concern,” while 44% of all respondents said the same. Fifty-six percent of Catholics in that category listed climate change as either “a major concern” or “a concern, but not at the top of my mind,” compared to 65% of all respondents.

Catholics who accept all of Church teaching were slightly more likely than other respondents to be seriously concerned about national security, foreign policy, taxes, and China trade policy, while they were slightly less likely to list health care as a major concern.

On the issues of college affordability, income equality, and criminal justice, Catholics who accept all of Church teaching responded similarly to other respondents.

Gun control and late-term abortion were the two biggest issues considered “deal-breakers” by this voting demographic, with a little over half saying a candidate disagreeing with their views on these issues would automatically disqualify that candidate from receiving their support.

Forty-two percent in this demographic considered a candidate’s differing views on religious freedom to be a deal-breaker, and 47% said the same about immigration.

Just 25% of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said they would automatically disqualify candidates who oppose their views on same-sex marriage, 11 percentage points lower than the overall response to the question.

Thirty-one percent of Catholics who accept all of Church teaching said a candidate opposing their views on the death penalty would be a deal-breaker for them, compared to just 16% of overall survey respondents.

The poll's entire data set can be downloaded here.

Survey: Americans dissatisfied with bishops’ response to sex abuse crisis

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Americans largely disapprove of the way the U.S. bishops have handled the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church, a new survey has found. A majority said their trust in the leadership of the Church has been damaged by the abuse crisis.
 
The poll was conducted by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News. It surveyed 2,055 registered voters from Nov. 15-21.

Among other questions, participants were asked about their impressions of how Church leaders have acted in response the clerical sex abuse crisis of the last 18 months.



Sexual abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in summer 2018 led to revelations of clerical sexual abuse throughout the United States, as well as some bishops engaging in cover-up and negligence in reporting suspected abuse.

Overall, 19% of survey respondents said they approve of the bishops’ handling of the abuse crisis, while 58% said they disapprove of how the bishops have responded. Another 23% percent said they were unsure.



Of those who identify as Catholic, 30% approve of the bishops’ handling of the crisis, while 55% disapprove. Among non-Catholics, 16% approve and 59% disapprove.

The disapproval rate was consistently more than 50% for Catholics, whether they attend Mass at least weekly, a few times a month, or rarely.

Catholics who say they accept all of the Church’s teachings were more likely to say the bishops are doing an acceptable job handling the crisis. Among this demographic, 52% approve of the bishops’ response to the abuse crisis, and 38% disapprove.

Survey respondents were more likely to voice approval of Pope Francis’ handling of the abuse crisis than that of the bishops, although he still faced significant levels of criticism.



Overall, 31% are satisfied with the pope’s response to the crisis, while 44% disapprove. Among Catholics, 44% approve and 41% disapprove.

Of those who say they accept all of Church teaching, 62% approve of the pope’s response, and just over one-quarter disapprove.

Close to two-thirds of survey respondents, both Catholic and non-Catholic, said the abuse crisis has damaged their trust in the leadership of the pope and bishops. Responses were similar for Catholics regardless of how frequently they attend Mass, as well as for non-Catholics.

The survey also looked at religious practices among Catholics.


 
Almost 4 in 10 Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of Catholics attend Mass once a year or less.
 
Just under half of Catholics said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

 Those who attend Mass more frequently were more likely to believe in the True Presence, with 70% of respondents who attend Mass at least weekly saying they believe the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.
 
Six percent of Catholics who responded to the survey said they go to confession at least once a month. Another 17% percent said they go a few times a year, while 35% receive the sacrament once a year or less, and another 41% percent said they never go to confession.


 
Of those who said they identify as Catholic, 79% said they pray at least weekly, with just over half saying they pray every day.
 
The prayer frequency of Catholics was greater than that of general survey respondents, of whom 64% said they pray at least weekly, and 45% said they pray daily.

New poll shows how Catholics view the 2020 election

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Less than a year before the 2020 presidential election, a landmark poll of both Catholic and non-Catholic voters found that Catholics largely align with other American voters, representing a broad diversity of political perspectives and plans for the upcoming national election.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-21 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 2,055 registered voters; 1,223 of them self-identified as Catholic. Poll findings offer new insights into how Catholics plan to vote and what issues they value.

Since the “Catholic vote” generally tracks with the outcomes of national elections, the data likely offers insights into the direction campaigns could take and the issues that might be prioritized, especially in the weeks leading to the first presidential nominating contest, the Iowa caucus, scheduled Feb. 3, 2020.



John Della Volpe, director of the RealClear survey, explained Dec. 9 that “with few exceptions, for generations, tracking the preferences of the Catholic vote has proven to be a shortcut to predicting the winner of the popular vote -- and I expect 2020 to be no different.”

“Like the rest of America, the 22% of people who comprise the Catholic vote is nuanced and diverse. And like America, the diverse viewpoints based on generation, race, and ethnicity are significant and prove that no longer are Catholic voters a monolith,” Della Volpe added.

Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump look to fare well against the president in the 2020 contest, the survey found.

In hypothetical head-to-head contests, Catholics broke for former vice president Joe Biden 52% to 39% over Trump, similar to the 51% to 39% outcome among non-Catholics. Fifty-four percent of Catholic said they’d vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders in an election against the president, with 39% for Trump; the figures were 52% to 40% among other voters. Catholic voters said they choose Senator Warren, 49% to 41%, in election against Trump, while non-Catholics broke 50% to 41% for Warren.

The narrowest hypothetical election was between South Bend, Indiana’s mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has in recent weeks built leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states with nominating contests. In a head-to-head hypothetical election with Trump, Catholics chose Buttigieg 46% to 41%. Non-Catholic voters preferred Buttigieg 45%-40%.

In addition to preferring other candidates in the 2020 election, 55% of Catholics, and 54% of non-Catholics, said they support the impeachment and removal from office of Trump.

On some issues, Catholics voters differ more significantly from their non-Catholic counterparts. Sixty percent of Catholic voters say that the economy is of great concern to them, compared to 54% of non-Catholics. Fifty-four percent of Catholics say immigration is an issue of greater concern, compared to only 50% of non-Catholics, and 44% of Catholics say climate change is a major issue, compared to 40% of non-Catholics.

On national security, however, along with taxes, the environment, criminal justice, race relations, Supreme Court appointments, education, and foreign policy, Catholics and non-Catholics aligned within two points of each other.



Thirty percent of Catholics said that religious liberty is an issue of greater concern to them, compared to 34% of non-Catholics. Seventy percent of Catholics, however, said that Americans are becoming “less tolerant” of religion in America, while 62% percent of Catholic voters said they would like Christian values to play a more important role in society, compared to 54% of all registered voters.



The survey also found that 37% of Catholics believe the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, while 34% of non-Catholics said the same.

Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, spoke Dec. 9 with EWTN News Nightly about the poll.

“There is not a Catholic vote, and there hasn’t been a Catholic vote in a long time. Catholics, in the aggregate, tend to line up on political questions pretty much the way the country does. There’s not any distinctive margin for Catholics being conservative or being liberal, or really, strictly speaking being Democrat rather than Republican,” George told EWTN News Nightly.

“Catholics in general will sometimes be a majority for Democrats, sometimes be a majority for Republcan So if you know where the American public in general is on a candidate, or on an election referendum, you’ll pretty much know where the Catholics are, taken in the aggregate.”

George pointed out that among Catholics, demographic groups vary widely in terms of partisan affiliation and political priorities.

Indeed, the poll found that among Catholic voters under 35, 56% are Democrats and 20% are Republicans, while 20% identify as independent. Among Baby Boomers and older Catholics, over 55, 45% are Republicans, 36% are Democrats, and 18% are independents.

Thirty-four percent of Catholics under 35 say they approve of Trump’s job performance, while 55% of Catholics over 55 approve of the president’s job performance.

As to ethnicity, 37% of white Catholics are Democrats, 42% are Republicans; while 60% of Hispanic/Latino Catholics are Democrats, 24% Republican.

Twenty-two percent of white Catholics consider themselves to be liberal, 36% conservative; while the opposite is true for Hispanic/Latinos, where 33% report being liberal and 26% conservative.

Fifty-four percent of white Catholics approve of Trump’s job performance, while 31% of Hispanic/Latinos Catholics do.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching also said they are “sure to vote” for Donald Trump in 2020, compared to 34% of all Catholics and 32% of respondents overall who gave the same answer.



Catholics were also asked about their religious practices. Almost 4 in 10 self-identified Catholics said they attend Mass at least once a week, and a similar number attend Mass a few times a year. About one-quarter of self-identified Catholics said they attend Mass once a year or less.

The poll's entire data set can be downloaded here.

Iraqi Cardinal pleads for help for Christians on Nineveh Plain

Mosul, Iraq, Dec 9, 2019 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has appealed for financial and spiritual aid for Christians in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, made the plea in a letter on Friday, December 6.

“Today, after two years of its liberation from ISIS, the Nineveh Plain area still needs the help of our brothers and sisters who can pray and give us a hand,” said Cardinal Sako. 

In the letter, addressed to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social institutions, churches, and governments, Sako said that the Christians in the region “need your help so that all the people of the Nineveh Plain (can) remain in their homes, and those who have been displaced outside the region can return to it.” 

The Nineveh Plain is region in northern Iraq. 

Although ISIS was defeated, the need for assistance of all forms is still great, wrote Sako. Particularly, there is a “vital need” for healthcare services of all kind, he said.

“I strongly urge all actors to work specifically to restore life to the Nineveh Plain, for instance. By encouraging projects in agriculture, livestock, trade, etc.,” he said, suggesting that some more cooperation among bishops in the area could help achieve these goals.

The cardinal also asked Christians to “pray for Iraq, and in particular for the people of the Nineveh Plain,” as a special Advent devotion. 

Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need, said that the biggest problem facing people living in the Nineveh Plains is a lack of infrastructure. 

"They don't have have regular resources, as they should, because of the many years of war and now, sporadic help from the government as far as roads, security, things like that,” Clancy told CNA in a phone interview. 

Clancy added that Americans should work to become aware of the problems facing Christians in the Middle East. Without awareness, the entire Christian community there is facing extinction. 

“Awareness is a very big portion of it,” said Clancy. “Another thing is that people in the Christian world, the Christian community, tend not to self-promote. You don't hear a lot of, you know, ‘this is happening to Christians.’ There seems to be a lot more interest in helping others, which is a great thing, but at the same time we have to understand that there's Christians in great need in the Middle East."

On the local level, Clancy said that parishes should work to provide “some sort of aid” to their brethren in the Middle East, either financial or spiritual. Without this aid, Christians will continue to flee their homelands or be at risk of terrorism. 

“We have to, as a Church, get the message out better, understand better that there are Christians there and then do something about it," he said.  

"We should be shocked by the fact that over 90% of the Christians of Iraq have left, perhaps for good,” said Clancy. “And that means that it's going to take a concerted effort of the global Church to help Christianity remain in places like Iraq and the Middle East.”