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Cardinal Sako: Pope's presence in Iraq broke 'barrier of fear' for local Christians

Iraqi Cardinal Sako meets the Middle East Council of Churches to discuss the outcome of the Pope’s Apostolic Visit to Iraq.

Notre-Dame Cathedral on path to pre-fire glory, two years on

Two years after a devastating fire blazed through the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, specialists are still working hard on its restoration. Bishop Éric Aumonier describes the work done so far on the centuries-old church.

House Republicans seek to defund UN agency over abortion concerns

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), alleging its complicity in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for the United Nations Population Fund Act” on Tuesday to permanently strip the UNFPA of federal funding. The UNFPA partners with China, and Roy alleged that the organization is complicit in China’s population control program where women have reportedly endured forced abortions and sterilizations. 

More than three dozen members are co-sponsoring Roy’s legislation. 

The Trump administration stopped funding the UNFPA in 2017, citing the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government where “family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices.”

Last week, President Biden included funding for the UNFPA in his discretionary budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, “including for the repayment of arrears, where applicable.” In January, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the agency would work to make $32.5 million available for the fund in 2021.

Roy on Wednesday said that federal funds should not be subsidizing abortion, directly or indirectly.

“American tax dollars should never directly or indirectly support taking of innocent human life through abortion or the dehumanizing act of involuntary sterilization, and they certainly shouldn’t be used to support the oppressive, America-hating Chinese Communist Party in any way whatsoever,” Roy said. 

“Former President Trump was right to stop funding the UN Population Fund due to their open partnership with the oppressive Chinese regime and their support for China’s atrocious human rights violations. This legislation will continue that policy,” he added.

The UN Population Fund describes itself as the “sexual and reproductive health agency” of the United Nations. 

“Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled,” the UNFPA website states.

When the Trump administration defunded the UNFPA, it redirected the funding to the US Agency for International Development for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City Policy. That policy required U.S. family planning and global health assistance to not fund groups promoting or performing abortions. 

Biden revoked the pro-life Mexico City Policy as one of his first acts in office. Previous Democratic presidents have repealed the policy at the outset of their presidencies. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other pro-life organizations support Roy’s bill. 

“The current Administration plans to restart funding UNFPA despite the organization’s consistent support for China’s brutal child policy and the lack of evidence that UNFPA has changed course,” said Thomas McClusky, president of March for Life Action. 

“The United States should support human rights, not fund international groups complicit in their violation.”

House Republicans seek to defund UN agency over abortion concerns

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), alleging its complicity in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for the United Nations Population Fund Act” on Tuesday to permanently strip the UNFPA of federal funding. The UNFPA partners with China, and Roy alleged that the organization is complicit in China’s population control program where women have reportedly endured forced abortions and sterilizations. 

More than three dozen members are co-sponsoring Roy’s legislation. 

The Trump administration stopped funding the UNFPA in 2017, citing the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government where “family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices.”

Last week, President Biden included funding for the UNFPA in his discretionary budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, “including for the repayment of arrears, where applicable.” In January, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the agency would work to make $32.5 million available for the fund in 2021.

Roy on Wednesday said that federal funds should not be subsidizing abortion, directly or indirectly.

“American tax dollars should never directly or indirectly support taking of innocent human life through abortion or the dehumanizing act of involuntary sterilization, and they certainly shouldn’t be used to support the oppressive, America-hating Chinese Communist Party in any way whatsoever,” Roy said. 

“Former President Trump was right to stop funding the UN Population Fund due to their open partnership with the oppressive Chinese regime and their support for China’s atrocious human rights violations. This legislation will continue that policy,” he added.

The UN Population Fund describes itself as the “sexual and reproductive health agency” of the United Nations. 

“Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled,” the UNFPA website states.

When the Trump administration defunded the UNFPA, it redirected the funding to the US Agency for International Development for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City Policy. That policy required U.S. family planning and global health assistance to not fund groups promoting or performing abortions. 

Biden revoked the pro-life Mexico City Policy as one of his first acts in office. Previous Democratic presidents have repealed the policy at the outset of their presidencies. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other pro-life organizations support Roy’s bill. 

“The current Administration plans to restart funding UNFPA despite the organization’s consistent support for China’s brutal child policy and the lack of evidence that UNFPA has changed course,” said Thomas McClusky, president of March for Life Action. 

“The United States should support human rights, not fund international groups complicit in their violation.”

Haitian archbishop demands release of abducted Catholics

A tent camp in Haiti. / arindambanarjee/Shutterstock.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Apr 14, 2021 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince has called for the release of 10 people who were kidnapped in Haiti on Sunday and are being held for ransom.

“We demand security and peace for all missionaries and all people,”Archbishop Max Mesidor said. “We demand the immediate and unconditional release of our detained brothers and sisters.”

Five priests, two nuns, and three laypeople were abducted at Croix-des-Bouquets, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, April 11. According to local news, they were taken while on the way to attend the installation of a parish priest. 

According to Haitian media, the “400 Mawozo” gang admitted culpability for the kidnapping, and is demanding $1 million in ransom. 

Two of the kidnapped, one priest and one nun, are citizens of France.

Church leaders in Haiti have condemned the kidnappings, and called for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

Fr. Gilbert Peltrop, the secretary general of the Haitian Conference of the Religious, told Reuters that “the nation must stand up to fight these thugs.” 

Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoâne, vice president of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, told AFP that “the Church prays and stands in solidarity with all the victims of this heinous act.” 

“This is too much,” he said. “The time has come for these inhuman acts to stop.” 

The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince warned in a statement that gang violence has reached “unprecedented” levels in the country.

“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” the archdiocese stated, as reported by AFP. “The public authorities who are doing nothing to resolve this crisis are not immune from suspicion,” the statement continued, condemning “complacency and complicity.”

The number of kidnappings for ransom has recently increased in Haiti, and protests have denounced the surge of violence plaguing the country. 

On April 1, four members of the Seventh-day Adventist Gospel Kreyòl Ministry Church in Diquini, Haiti were abducted during a ceremony being broadcast live on Facebook.. Many who were watching the service reportedly thought the kidnapping was an April Fool’s Day prank, before realizing they had witnessed a crime. 

The foursome, including the church’s pastor, pianist, and two technicians, were held as hostages until Easter Sunday, and were released after a ransom was paid.

Haiti has also been affected by other crises, including natural disasters and a lack of health care infrastructure to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2010 earthquake killed 200,000 people and left one million people homeless; one decade later, tens of thousands were still living in tent camps.

In October 2016, more than 1.4 million people were in need of emergency aid after Hurricane Matthew made landfall.

Violent protests have also occurred in Haiti since July 2018, with protesters calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.

White House spokeswoman grilled on fungibility of Title X funding

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary. / EWTN News Nightly YouTube

CNA Staff, Apr 14, 2021 / 14:18 pm (CNA).

Earlier today, EWTN’s White House Correspondent Owen Jensen questioned White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the proposed reversal of the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule.

 

 

EWTN News Nightly White House Correspondent, Owen Jensen:

So today, as you well know, the Biden administration and HHS started the reversal of the Trump administration’s ban on abortion referrals at Title 10, family planning clinics. For my first question, why does the Biden administration insist that prolife Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience?

 

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki:

Well, first, that's not an accurate depiction of what happened. And I know we want to be accurate around here. None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. That is written into the Public Health Service Act and it specifically states that.

 

Owen Jensen:

Indirect subsidies, money that is fungible that can't be traced… We know that, come on.

 

Jen Psaki:

That is not how it works. That is the law. So I'm stating what the law is and how it is implemented legally by these organizations. And the reason I though... since you give me the opportunity. The reason why the president took these steps is because he believes that advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality can be helped by these actions. And by focusing on advancing equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. That's how these fundings are used in communities.

 

Owen Jensen:

You talk about equity. If I may interrupt, how is equity, how is it fighting systemic racism when abortion, we well know, disproportionately affects minority children?

 

Jen Psaki:

Again, funding cannot be used from this for abortion, but access to health care. Access to

health care in communities that have been marginalized, underserved, adversely affected by persistent poverty is always going to be something the president fights for.

 

 

 

The proposal from the Biden administration is set to be published April 15. A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will then open.

 

Pro-life advocates have criticized the principle of funding abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, even with prohibitions on the money directly funding abortion. They argue that since money is fungible, the additional funding frees up other funds to go toward abortions.

 

White House spokeswoman grilled on fungibility of Title X funding

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary. / EWTN News Nightly YouTube

CNA Staff, Apr 14, 2021 / 14:18 pm (CNA).

Earlier today, EWTN’s White House Correspondent Owen Jensen questioned White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the proposed reversal of the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule.

 

 

EWTN News Nightly White House Correspondent, Owen Jensen:

So today, as you well know, the Biden administration and HHS started the reversal of the Trump administration’s ban on abortion referrals at Title 10, family planning clinics. For my first question, why does the Biden administration insist that prolife Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience?

 

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki:

Well, first, that's not an accurate depiction of what happened. And I know we want to be accurate around here. None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. That is written into the Public Health Service Act and it specifically states that.

 

Owen Jensen:

Indirect subsidies, money that is fungible that can't be traced… We know that, come on.

 

Jen Psaki:

That is not how it works. That is the law. So I'm stating what the law is and how it is implemented legally by these organizations. And the reason I though... since you give me the opportunity. The reason why the president took these steps is because he believes that advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality can be helped by these actions. And by focusing on advancing equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. That's how these fundings are used in communities.

 

Owen Jensen:

You talk about equity. If I may interrupt, how is equity, how is it fighting systemic racism when abortion, we well know, disproportionately affects minority children?

 

Jen Psaki:

Again, funding cannot be used from this for abortion, but access to health care. Access to

health care in communities that have been marginalized, underserved, adversely affected by persistent poverty is always going to be something the president fights for.

 

 

 

The proposal from the Biden administration is set to be published April 15. A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will then open.

 

Pro-life advocates have criticized the principle of funding abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, even with prohibitions on the money directly funding abortion. They argue that since money is fungible, the additional funding frees up other funds to go toward abortions.

 

Amazon pulls transgender-critical book before relisting it

nito/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

The online retail giant Amazon delisted a book critical of transgender ideology, before apparently relisting it for sale on Wednesday afternoon.

Maria Keffler, author of “Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult,” told CNA that her book is a “guidebook” for parents who don’t want to take an “affirmation-only” approach to matters of gender identity. 

“Right now, out in the culture, that’s all that’s being given to parents,” Keffler said. She is co-founder of the Arlington Parent Coalition & Partners for Ethical Care. 

The book was listed for sale on Amazon on April 7, Keffler said, but the listing was removed less than a week later. 

On Wednesday afternoon, however, the book appeared for sale on Amazon’s online Kindle store. 

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Amazon had told the publisher of Keffler’s book that it violated guidelines for submitting books with “content that is considered offensive.”

In an email obtained by CNA from Amazon’s Kindle Account Review to Partners for Ethical Care - the publisher and copyright holder for Keffler’s book - Amazon stated: “We have temporarily suspended your KDP account because you have repeatedly submitted books through your account that violate our Content Guidelines as they contain content that is considered offensive.”

According to Partners for Ethical Care, “Amazon did not contact the author or publisher before cancelling the book.”

The delisting of Keffler’s book came less than two months after after Amazon pulled the book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by scholar Ryan T. Anderson. 

Anderson, who is currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said his book had been listed for sale on Amazon for three years after it was published in 2018. His book is a critical look at the transgender movement.

Following the removal of Anderson’s book - which is still not listed for sale on Amazon.com - four Republican senators sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos questioning the removal of Anderson’s book. The four senators were Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

In response, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote that the company has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

Keffler argued that proponents of an “affirmation-only approach” to gender identity demonstrate “cult-like” behavior.

She added that her book is well researched, and said, “I would like to know if anyone at Amazon actually read it, and I would like for them to point out what specifically in the book they consider problematic.” 

“I would like to know what is offensive in this book,” she said, adding, “I think it’s a problem Amazon has taken one side on this issue. This is something they need to give better and deeper thought than they have.” 

Both Keffler’s and Anderson’s books remain available for sale by other retailers, including Barnes and Noble. 

Amazon pulls transgender-critical book before relisting it

nito/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

The online retail giant Amazon delisted a book critical of transgender ideology, before apparently relisting it for sale on Wednesday afternoon.

Maria Keffler, author of “Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult,” told CNA that her book is a “guidebook” for parents who don’t want to take an “affirmation-only” approach to matters of gender identity. 

“Right now, out in the culture, that’s all that’s being given to parents,” Keffler said. She is co-founder of the Arlington Parent Coalition & Partners for Ethical Care. 

The book was listed for sale on Amazon on April 7, Keffler said, but the listing was removed less than a week later. 

On Wednesday afternoon, however, the book appeared for sale on Amazon’s online Kindle store. 

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Amazon had told the publisher of Keffler’s book that it violated guidelines for submitting books with “content that is considered offensive.”

In an email obtained by CNA from Amazon’s Kindle Account Review to Partners for Ethical Care - the publisher and copyright holder for Keffler’s book - Amazon stated: “We have temporarily suspended your KDP account because you have repeatedly submitted books through your account that violate our Content Guidelines as they contain content that is considered offensive.”

According to Partners for Ethical Care, “Amazon did not contact the author or publisher before cancelling the book.”

The delisting of Keffler’s book came less than two months after after Amazon pulled the book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by scholar Ryan T. Anderson. 

Anderson, who is currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said his book had been listed for sale on Amazon for three years after it was published in 2018. His book is a critical look at the transgender movement.

Following the removal of Anderson’s book - which is still not listed for sale on Amazon.com - four Republican senators sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos questioning the removal of Anderson’s book. The four senators were Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

In response, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote that the company has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”

Keffler argued that proponents of an “affirmation-only approach” to gender identity demonstrate “cult-like” behavior.

She added that her book is well researched, and said, “I would like to know if anyone at Amazon actually read it, and I would like for them to point out what specifically in the book they consider problematic.” 

“I would like to know what is offensive in this book,” she said, adding, “I think it’s a problem Amazon has taken one side on this issue. This is something they need to give better and deeper thought than they have.” 

Both Keffler’s and Anderson’s books remain available for sale by other retailers, including Barnes and Noble. 

Complaint filed against student and doctor in Mexico for advising on how to abort at home

Abortion pill / Shutterstock

Puebla, Mexico, Apr 14, 2021 / 13:47 pm (CNA).

Pro-life leaders have filed a complaint with the Puebla State Attorney General's Office against a university student and a doctor for advising women how to procure abortion clandestinely at home, in violation of state law which prohibits abortion.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Christer Espino, the first pro-life leader to report the activity, said that they have turned to the justice system "because we are talking about people who are committing a crime."

"The important thing is to set a precedent, that people see that we’re not going to let this group just get away with that," he said. 

In late March, Espino and other pro-life leaders charged on social media that Kiana "N", a medical student at the Benemérita Autonomous University of Puebla, was allegedly part of a network of people who "accompany" women by telling them how they can abort at home.

This network, they charged, was supposedly headed by Dr. María Aissata Si González, founder of the "Medicine for the Right to Decide" association and author of the Facebook page Med Prochoice.

On social media, Kiana “N” introduced herself as a “companion in Med Prochoice.”

Through Med Prochoice, Si González promotes her workshops on “accompaniment for safe abortion at home,” the pro-lifers claimed.

Through her platform, they said, Si González also encourages the decriminalization of abortion in Puebla state and posts messages such as: "women who abort at a young age are less likely to have financial problems and low educational levels at the age of 25.”

The penal code of Puebla designates abortion as a crime, and defines it as killing “the product of conception at any time during pregnancy."

In cases where the woman consents, whoever causes the abortion "will be subject to one to three years in prison," the code states.

Currently, the unicameral Puebla congress is holding an open session in which the public can give input so lawmakers can be informed on the positions of pro-life and abortion advocates with a view to the legislative debate on the decriminalization of abortion.

Espino stressed that by filing the complaint with the prosecutor's office "our aim is that besides the media knowing about it, that justice be done."

"Although it was and is very important to inform people through the media, social media, and wherever we can," he pointed out that the one who must issue the verdict "is a judge."

The pro-life leader pointed out that "women who abort are victims of the same system that tells them that abortion is okay."

“Here what we have to be very clear about is that these women are in a situation of not knowing what to do, a desperate situation, in which that fateful idea of aborting comes to mind a lot and then they turn to these groups that tell them yes, here we can help you with that, instead of making them see the negative side of abortion," he added.

Espino, a law student in Veracruz state, said he was very pleased because in this process with the accusations on social media "many people from the pro-life side have been supportive throughout various countries.”

"The feminists are very angry" that this illegal activity has been exposed, he continued.

"They have been very determined to try to weaken us, to discredit us" and added that "I know that what I am doing is for a great cause."

By filing the complaint, "we hope that it will come to the ultimate consequences."

The pro-life leader said the purpose of the case is "for justice to be done and we will resort to all the means that may be necessary."