News Analysis

World news

Washington, DC

Trump speaks out against late-term abortion

President Trump spoke out strongly against late-term abortion in his State of the Union speech last week. “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children – born and unborn – are made in the holy image of God,” he said. “To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.” He was referring to recent changes in abortion law in New York City and Virginia, allowing late abortion if babies are “abnormal” or there is “an absence of foetal viability”.

Washington, DC

Supreme Court blocks attempted pro-life legislation

Pro-lifers have expressed their dismay after the Supreme Court blocked an attempt to restrict abortion in Louisiana. The 5-4 decision was taken on technical grounds and is only temporary: the Court may consider the law again at a later date.

The law would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In practice, this could have hugely reduced the number of abortion providers in the state. The court’s 5-4 vote suggests that five judges have doubts over the constitutionality of the proposed law. Those five included John Roberts – seen as a swing vote on abortion issues. Brett Kavanaugh, the new judge and something of an unknown quantity, voted against a block, but on a technicality. “Grounds for pro-life optimism are fading yet again,” wrote David French at National Review.

Bay City, Michigan

Priest removed after liturgical changes

A priest has been removed from his parish after making changes to the liturgy. Fr Edwin Dwyer was introducing “bells and smells” – Gregorian chant and the Latin versions of the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus – though he stressed that he was not planning to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form. “I do not know how to offer it, and I do not see a pastoral advantage to learning it at the moment,” he wrote on Facebook.

Bishop Walter Hurley, diocesan administrator for Saginaw, said in a statement: “He brought in a style of worship that many people found very difficult. So there’s a great deal of turmoil in the parish. So the issue is not so much F r Dwyer; it’s more about the issue of the division in the parish.”

Covington, Kentucky

Dioceses receive letter from boy’s lawyers

Lawyers for the Covington Catholic High School student at the centre of recent media controversy have written to media outlets and five Catholic dioceses and archdioceses, urging them not to destroy any documents relating to the incident, prior to possible legal action.

Images of student Nick Sandmann went viral online in mid-January. He was standing still, smiling at Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, who was chanting and beating a drum. Sandmann’s school and Baltimore archdiocese initially joined in with media condemnations of Sandmann’s actions, but after a fuller picture emerged of the events, they retracted their comments.

Mission, Texas

Government can survey Church land for Mexican wall

A judge has ruled against a diocese in a dispute with the federal government. The diocese had objected to the government surveying land next to a historic church on the border with Mexico, to build a border wall. The wall would put the La Lomita Chapel in Mission, Texas, built in 1865, on the southern side, preventing access to the chapel from the north. Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville has said he does not want a border wall to be constructed on diocesan property. The diocese’s lawyer said the wall would violate the religious rights of the chapel’s worshippers.

Merida, Venezuela

Cardinal rejects Vatican mediation call

Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras, the Archbishop of Merida, has rejected President Nicolás Maduro’s request for Vatican mediation in the Venezuelan crisis. Maduro was sworn in for a second term in January, after an election whose legitimacy has been hotly disputed. Under his rule the oil-rich country has descended into rampant inflation and poverty. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has declared himself interim president. The cardinal said that Maduro was trying to “buy time” with a letter to Pope Francis, and that Maduro is just looking for “a cosmetic way out”, rendering Vatican mediation “non-viable”.

Twickenham, London

Council bans pro-life vigils

Richmond council has voted to ban pro-life campaigners from holding vigils outside an abortion clinic in Twickenham, south-west London. The campaigners pray, display placards, hand out leaflets and offer counsel and practical help to pregnant women. The council last week approved a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) banning any interaction with staff or visitors to the centre. The council held a consultation on the ban, in which a clear majority of respondents said that pro-lifers should be banned.

Alina Dulgheriu, a campaigner whose baby’s life was saved after she received help from a pro-life vigil, said she was “devastated” and asked: “What kind of society criminalises help and limits the choices available to vulnerable women?”

Nîmes, France

Church attacks show a ‘sick civilisation’

Cardinal Robert Sarah (pictured) has said the vandalism of churches is “the sad reflection of a sick civilisation that gets carried away in the nets of evil”. He tweeted the message after a series of attacks last week on French churches. The first took place in Notre-Dame-des-Enfants in Nîmes, where the tabernacle was broken open and the Blessed Sacrament desecrated. A Dijon church, also named after Our Lady, suffered a similar attack. In Lavaur and Houilles, statues were attacked.

Abu Dhabi

Pope’s trip praised

Religious leaders have applauded Pope Francis’s visit to the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan’s Cardinal Joseph Coutts said he was “very impressed” with Francis meeting the grand imam. Canon Andrew Thompson, the senior Anglican chaplain in Abu Dhabi, spoke of “ex-traordinary scenes”.

Bangui, Central African Republic

Peace deal signed with 14 rebel groups

The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has signed a peace deal with 14 armed rebel groups. CAR has been wracked with violence for more than five years, with attacks and retaliation by both Muslim groups and Christian groups. Thousands have died, and around a million have been displaced. All previous attempts at peace deals have failed.

A spokesman for the bishops’ conference, which has helped to mediate between the sides, told the Catholic News Service: “Everything now depends on the attitude of the main signatories. If they merely ignore the accord in practice and continue killing, it will have achieved little.”

Zaria, Nigeria

Buhari campaigns as bishops call for peace

Nigeria’s bishops have called for a peaceful general election in the troubled country this weekend. Bishop George Dodo of Zaria encouraged people “to vote for any candidate of your choice whom you think has good qualities and capacity to defend, improve or add value to your lives and dignity”. Catholic bishops have been critical of President Muhammadu Buhari (pictured), who was elected in 2015 with the promise of change, for not fulfilling his promises. They have urged him to respect the rule of law and not to influence the work of the electoral commission.