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Pope Francis blesses Neocatechumenal Way missionaries

Pope Francis greets Kiko Argüello during a meeting with the Neocatechumenal Way in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, June 27, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2022 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday met and ratified the assignments of families, priests, and seminarians of the Neocatechumenal Way preparing to become missionaries in foreign countries.

“Do not forget the gaze of Jesus, who sent each of you to preach and obey the Church,” Pope Francis said on June 27.

“We have heard Jesus’ mission, ‘Go, bear witness, preach the Gospel,’” he said. “And from that day the Apostles, the disciples, the people all went forth with the same strength as Jesus had given them: it is the strength that comes from the Spirit: ‘Go and preach, baptize.’” 

The pope’s brief remarks were made during the Neocatechumenal Way missionary confirmation and sending, a meeting which included prayer and song, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

The Neocatechumenal Way is an ecclesial movement which draws its inspiration from the practices of the early Church, providing post-baptismal Christian formation in some 40,000 small, parish-based communities.

The movement is present all over the world, and says it has an estimated membership of more than 1 million people. It was founded by Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández in Spain in 1964.

Argüello introduced the gathering and announced that the first stage of the cause of beatification of Hernández, who died in 2016 at the age of 85, will soon be opened.

The 83-year-old movement leader also listed the missionary families’ countries of destination, which spanned Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.

Several students of Neocatechumenal Way seminaries will be doing missionary work in China, Argüello said.

Pope Francis encouraged the new missionaries to let a Christian community grow “in its own ways, in its own culture.”

“This is the story of evangelization,” he continued. “All are equal in terms of faith: I believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Son who became incarnate, died and rose again for us, the Spirit who helps us and makes us grow: the same faith. But all with the mode of their own culture or the culture of the place where the faith was preached.”

He said the multi-cultural richness of the Gospel is the story of the Church: “So many cultures but the same Gospel. So many peoples, the same Jesus Christ.”

The pope thanked the families for their willingness to share the Gospel as missionaries, and encouraged them to be docile to the Holy Spirit and obedient to Christ and his Church through the local bishop.

“This is the spirituality that must accompany us always: to preach Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit in the Church and with the Church,” Francis said.

Historic Catholic church in West Virginia destroyed in suspected arson

The charred remains of St. Colman Catholic Church in Shady Spring, West Virginia, which was destroyed in a suspected arson attack on Sunday, June 26, 2022. / Courtesy of Beaver Volunteer Fire Department

Mansfield, Mass., Jun 27, 2022 / 09:22 am (CNA).

St. Colman Catholic Church, a historic church located in Raleigh County, West Virginia, burned to the ground in an apparent arson attack Sunday, according to the local volunteer fire department.

The small, white building was known as "The Little Catholic Church on Irish Mountain," and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The original structure dates to 1877-1888, according to the register.

“On 6/26/2022 units from Beaver VFD were alerted to a structure fire at the Saint Colman Catholic Church on Irish Mountain Road in Shady Spring, WV,” the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department said in an online post.

Once the department arrived at the scene, the church had already burned to the ground and was “smoldering,” the post says. The post says the fire is considered “suspicious in nature.” The fire is being investigated as arson, the post says.

St. Colman's is located in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. CNA contacted the diocese for more information but no one was immediately available for comment Monday morning. 

St. Colman Catholic Church and Cemetery in Raleigh County, West Virginia, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church is known as "The Little Church on Irish Mountain.". National Register of Historic Places photo
St. Colman Catholic Church and Cemetery in Raleigh County, West Virginia, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church is known as "The Little Church on Irish Mountain.". National Register of Historic Places photo

The fire department is asking anyone with relevant information to contact West Virginia State Police Trooper D. Daniels at (304) 256-6700. Other points of contact are the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline at 1 (800) 233-3473, Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County at 304-255-STOP, or www.crimestopperswv.com.”

This is a developing story.

Supreme Court sides with football coach in prayer case

Joseph Kennedy, the ex-high school football coach at the center of the Supreme Court prayer case Kennedy v. Bremerton School District / First Liberty Institute

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 27, 2022 / 08:43 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Monday in favor of a high school football coach in a First Amendment case concerning his right to pray on the field.

Both sides of the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, argued that the case concerns religious freedom — with the ex-coach, Joseph Kennedy, emphasizing his right to religious freedom and his former employer, Bremerton High School, citing students’ religious freedom.

Kennedy, a Christian, lost his job as a public school football coach in Bremerton, Washington, for refusing to stop praying at the 50-yard line after games.

The court ruled that the school district breached Kennedy’s free exercise and free speech rights.

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment,” the court’s opinion by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch reads. “And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech.”

“The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination,” it continues.

Justices John G. Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Gorsuch in the opinion. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh also joined, except for one part (Part III–B). Thomas and Alito filed concurring, or agreeing, opinions. 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion. She was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. They argued that the other justices placed the religious freedom of the coach above that of his student players.

“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” the dissenting opinion reads. 

Kennedy's case dates back to 2015 when Bremerton High School placed him on administrative leave. The school did not renew his contract for the following season. Kennedy filed suit to vindicate his right “to act in accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs by offering a brief, private prayer of thanksgiving at the conclusion of BHS football games," according to his brief.

The case centered on two questions: “(1) Whether a public-school employee who says a brief, quiet prayer by himself while at school and visible to students is engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection; and (2) whether, assuming that such religious expression is private and protected by the free speech and free exercise clauses, the establishment clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it.”

In oral arguments before the court in April, Richard B. Katskee, a lawyer representing the Bremerton School District, argued that Kennedy’s actions as a coach pressured students to pray.

“No one doubts that public school employees can have quiet prayers by themselves at work even if students can see,” Katskee said. But Kennedy, he said, “insisted on audible prayers at the 50-yard line with students.”

The Bremerton School District’s brief complained that Kennedy prayed “while on duty” and claimed that the practice “could be coercive.” The district maintains that it tried to “accommodate” Kennedy by suggesting, among other things, that he pray in the press box away from the rest of the team. 

Paul D. Clement, Kennedy's attorney, disagreed.

“When Coach Kennedy took a knee at the midfield after games to say a brief prayer of thanks, his expression was entirely his own,” he said during oral arguments. “That private religious expression was doubly protected by the free exercise and free speech clauses.”

Both sides respond to court ruling

The Bremerton School District reacted to the Supreme Court's Monday ruling.

“In light of the court’s decision, we will work with our attorneys to make certain that the Bremerton School District remains a welcoming, inclusive environment for all students, their families and our staff,” it said in a press statement. “We look forward to moving past the distraction of this 7-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible.”

Kennedy likewise responded to the decision Monday.

“This is just so awesome,” he expressed in a press release. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys. I am incredibly grateful to the Supreme Court, my fantastic legal team, and everyone who has supported us. I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”

This is a developing story.

Mexican bishops: The country is spattered in the blood of the dead and disappeared

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven in Mexico City, Mexico / Eduardo Berdejo/CNA

Mexico City Newsroom, Jun 26, 2022 / 15:26 pm (CNA).

"Our Mexico is being spattered in the blood of so many dead and disappeared," the Catholic Church in the country decried, remembering the thousands of victims of organized crime in the country, especially the two recently murdered Jesuit priests.

In a video message posted June 23, Bishop Ramón Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, secretary general of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, referred to Pope Francis’ message of “sorrow and dismay” after learning of the death of the two Jesuit priests gunned down in the Sierra Tarahumara region of Chihuahua state.

“The bishops, as pastors, want to express in the same way all our closeness and the deep sorrow that we carry in our hearts. Now, as never before, the pain of the cross becomes more intense due to so much innocent blood spilled throughout the country,” Bishop Castro said.

Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar were murdered June 20 inside the Catholic church of Cerocahui when they tried to protect an injured man who fled inside the church as he was being pursued by an armed assailant who then shot him and the two priests, killing all three.

The murderer has purportedly already been identified by the authorities, who have offered a reward of up to 5 million pesos (about $250,000) for information leading to his capture.

The crime, which is part of a growing wave of violence in Mexico, has shaken the country.

In just three and a half years of the López Obrador administration, there have already been more than 121,000 recorded homicides in the country, which is on track to exceed the more than 156,000 crimes committed during the six year term of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto.

From January 1 to June 21 of this year, according to official figures, 12,481 homicides have taken place in Mexico.

The secretary general of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference lamented that in Mexico "the rate of violence and its structures of death have overflowed and set themselves up in our communities, disfiguring the human person and destroying the culture of peace, a culture of peace that makes us brothers." 

"Together with our people, we expect a response in keeping with the circumstances by the civil authorities at all levels," he said.

The prelate stressed that "it’s the responsibility of those who govern to seek justice and promote peace and harmony in social coexistence."

The priests who have died at the hands of organized crime identify "with the thousands of victims of our people who have met this end, with the tens of thousands of disappeared persons whose families continue to search for them."

“We would have to add the great deal of extortion and the total impunity prevailing throughout the country. This situation is already unbearable and demands and requires of us that we all bear fruits of peace,” Bishop Castro said.

The prelate said that the bishops also appeal "to those who are the cause of each and every one of the atrocious episodes of death and destruction against their own brothers."

“We remind them that we are part of the same people. We admonish them to stop killing their own brothers and violating social peace " he said.

"Recover the fear of God and let us make His Law prevail, which tells us 'You shall not kill,'" he exhorted.

On behalf of the entire Church in Mexico, Bishop Castro asked the criminals: “in the name of God, be sensitive to the laments of your brothers, who are children of God, whose tears of suffering, helplessness, and restrained rage cry out to heaven.”

“We implore you, we beg you, we demand, in the name of God, enough of so much evil and hatred! We all want peace," he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Two priests killed in Nigeria in separate incidents

Fr. Vitus Borogo, who was killed by armed bandits in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, June 25, 2022. / CBCN

Denver Newsroom, Jun 26, 2022 / 13:49 pm (CNA).

Two priests were killed over the weekend in Nigeria, one in Kaduna state and one in Edo state.

Fr. Vitus Borogo, a priest serving in the Archdiocese of Kaduna, was killed June 25 “at Prison Farm, Kujama, along Kaduna-Kachia Road, after a raid on the farm by Terrorists,” the chancellor of the Kaduna archdiocese said in a statement shared with ACI Africa. 

The priest, who was age 50, was the Catholic chaplain at Kaduna State Polytechnic.

In Edo state, Fr. Christopher Odia was kidnapped from his rectory at St. Michael Catholic Church, Ikabigbo, Uzairue, around 6:30 am June 26. He was killed by his abductors, the Diocese of Auchi has announced.

Fr. Odia was 41, and the administrator of St. Michael’s and principal of St. Philip Catholic Secondary School in Jattu.

The Sun, a Nigerian daily, reported that a Mass server and a local vigilante who followed the abductors were shot and killed during Fr. Odia’s kidnapping.

More Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country worldwide — at least 4,650 in 2021, and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022 alone.

According to the UK-based human rights foundation Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Kaduna state has become "an epicenter of kidnapping and violence by non-state actors, despite being the most garrisoned state in Nigeria.”

Earlier this month gunmen attacked a Catholic church and a Baptist church in Kaduna state, killing three people and reportedly kidnapping more than 30 worshippers, and more than 40 Christians were killed in an attack on a Catholic church in Ondo state on June 5.

Jude Atemanke contributed to this report.

Nun in Haiti gave her life 'even to martyrdom', Pope Francis says

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address in St. Peter's Square, June 12, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Jun 26, 2022 / 08:36 am (CNA).

Following his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis remarked on the killing of Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, an Italian missionary who served in Haiti.

Sister Luisa, a Little Sister of the Gospel of Saint Charles de Foucauld, was killed the day before in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“For twenty years, Sister Luisa lived there, dedicated above all to serving children on the streets,” the pope said June 26 in St. Peter’s Square.

“I entrust her soul to God, and I pray for the Haitian people, especially for the least, so they might have a more serene future, without misery and without violence. Sister Luisa made a gift of her life to others even to martyrdom.”

He added an expression of closeness to Sister Luisa’s family and to the Little Sisters of the Gospel of Saint Charles de Foucauld.

Sister Luisa, who was 64, was born in Lucca, in Italy’s Lombardy region.

She was apparently the victim of an attempted robbery. She died in hospital.

Born in 1957, she  had joined the religious congregation in 1984. Before going to Haiti, she had served in Cameroon and Madagascar.

Port-au-Prince has seen a wave of kidnappings and the rise of criminal gangs in recent years.

Last year, the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince warned that gang violence had reached “unprecedented” levels. In September 2021 70-year-old Father André Sylvestre was shot to death by several gunmen on motorcycles outside of a bank. The gunmen did not take the money he carried.

Haiti has also been affected by other crises, including natural disasters and a lack of health care infrastructure.

Pope Francis: Resisting anger takes 'tremendous interior strength,' so ask God for help

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address on June 26, 2022. / Vatican Media

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 26, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on Christ's "resolute decision" not to be overcome by anger in the face of unwelcoming adversaries, instead modeling the qualities of "calm, patience, longsuffering, not slackening the least bit in doing good."

"It is easy, it is instinctive, to allow ourselves to be overcome by anger when faced with opposition. What is difficult, instead, is to master oneself, doing as Jesus did who, as the Gospel says, 'went on to another village'," the pope said June 26, reflecting on the Gospel reading from the ninth chapter of Luke.

"This means that when we meet with opposition, we must turn toward doing good elsewhere, without recrimination. This way, Jesus helps us to be people who are serene, who are happy with the good accomplished, and who do not seek human approval."

Pope Francis said that sometimes people may think that anger in the face of opposition is "due to a sense of justice for a good cause."

"But in reality, most of the time it is nothing other than pride, united with weakness, sensitivity, and impatience," Francis noted.

"So, let us ask Jesus for the strength of being like him, of following him resolutely down the path of service, not to be vindictive, not to be intolerant when difficulties present themselves, when we spend ourselves in doing good and others do not understand this, or even when they disqualify us."

The 85-year-old pope encouraged those listening to reflect on whether they ask God for strength in the face of opposition, or whether they seek human approval and "applause."

"In the face of opposition, misunderstanding, do we turn to the Lord? Do we ask him for his steadfastness in doing good? Or do we rather seek confirmation through applause, ending up being bitter and resentful when we do not hear it?" the pope asked.

"Many times, consciously or unconsciously, we seek applause, approval from others, and we do things for applause. No, that does not work. We must do good out of service, not seeking applause."

"May the Virgin Mary help us make the resolute decision Jesus did to remain in love to the end," the pontiff concluded.

Following the address, Pope Francis expressed concern for the unrest happening currently in Ecuador, and urged dialogue and "all parties to abandon violence and extreme positions."

He also mentioned Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, a Little Sister of the Gospel of Saint Charles de Foucauld, who was killed yesterday in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

"For twenty years, Sister Luisa lived there, dedicated above all to serving children on the streets. I entrust her soul to God, and I pray for the Haitian people, especially for the least, so they might have a more serene future, without misery and without violence. Sister Luisa made a gift of her life to others even to martyrdom," the pope said.

Sunday marked the conclusion of the 10th World Meeting of Families, which took place in Rome from June 22-26. The gathering was attended by around 2,000 families from around the world.

The Angelus has its roots in a medieval practice of praying the Hail Mary three times in a row, as recommended by St. Anthony of Padua. Today, it takes the form of a papal custom on every Sunday and Marian solemnity, when the pope appears at the window of his library in the Apostolic Palace at noon to lead the faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Angelus in Latin.

FBI investigating suspected arson attack on Colorado pregnancy center

Spray-painted graffiti outside Life Choices, a pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado. / Courtesy of Longmont Public Safety

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 26, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The FBI has joined local police investigating a suspect arson at at pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado.

The center, Life Choices, sustained fire and heavy smoke damage, authorities said. The front of the building also was defaced with pro-abortion slogans, including the words, "If abortions aren't safe neither are you," written in script with black spray paint.

Longmont Public Safety responded to the fire Saturday at 3:17 a.m. MT.

The suspected arson happened in the wake of Friday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark abortion cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Catholic churches, crisis pregnancy centers, and other pro-life groups have been on heightened alert in response to threats of retaliatory attacks by pro-abortion activists.

Courtesy of Longmont Public Safety
Courtesy of Longmont Public Safety

According to its website, “Life Choices is a Christ-centered ministry providing education, support, healing, and limited medical services for sexual life choices.”

In a statement, Life Choices Executive Director Kathy Roberts said the center is “devastated and stunned by this frightening act of vandalism," according to media reports.

“What we hope the perpetrators of this act understand is that an attack on Life Choices is ultimately not an attack on a political party or act of,” Roberts continued. “It is an attack on those who walk through our doors every day in need of diapers, pregnancy tests, limited ultrasounds, clothing, financial and parenting classes, support, and so much more.  It is an attack on a place that is supposed to be safe for women, men, and their families.”

Investigators have asked those living between Collyer and Lashley (West and East) and 15th Avenue and 11th Avenue (North and South) to check their surveillance video for any activity in the area between 2:45 am and 3:30 am. Area residents and businesses can upload a video to Longmont Police Services at: https://LongmontPD.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/225219.

Longmont Public Safety also requests that anyone who can assist in identifying the individual or individuals responsible to please call (303) 774-3700 and reference Longmont Police Report #22-5219.

How bishops around the U.S. have responded to Dobbs

USCCB Fall Meeting 2021 / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 25, 2022 / 18:18 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 decision, bringing an end to nearly a half-century of nationwide legalized abortion in the U.S. 

The June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was welcomed by Catholic bishops across the country. 

Below is a selection of episcopal responses:

A statement signed by Bishops Thomas Olmsted and Eduardo Nevares, the apostolic administrator and auxiliary bishop, respectively, of the Diocese of Phoenix, welcomed the decision, saying that “our country has begun to repair the damage done to our nation by the catastrophes of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey—two Court decisions that led to the destruction of more than 60 million lives and confused our nation’s laws and moral conscience.  It is providential that this decision was released on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

The Diocese of Oakland said that “Bishop Barber joins in giving thanks and celebrating today’s ruling by SCOTUS, and notes there is much more to do.” 

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, a cardinal designate, said: “While we celebrate this decision — the culmination of prayer and decades of legislative advocacy, life-affirming events, committing time and resources to pregnancy centers, and walking with families facing an unplanned pregnancy— in many ways, our work has just begun. We must work to ensure that California law protects the rights of the unborn.  And we must emphasize that being pro-life demands more than opposition to abortion. It demands we do everything we can to support families, to provide access to quality healthcare, affordable housing, good jobs and decent housing. It means making sure parents and families have access to affordable childcare, so that being a parent doesn’t force women and families to drop out of school or leave the job market. It also means reinvigorating our adoption system … support for children and families cannot stop at birth.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago commented that “We welcome this important ruling and the opportunity it creates for a national conversation on protecting human life in the womb and promoting human dignity at all stages of life. This moment should serve as a turning point in our dialogue about the place an unborn child holds in our nation, about our responsibility to listen to women and support them through pregnancies and after the birth of their children, and about the need to refocus our national priorities to support families, particularly those in need.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said the decision lifts “a cloud that has hung over our country for nearly a half century. There is no way to undo the tragedy of tens of millions of innocent lives lost or the decades of division sown by the Roe v. Wade decision. But, for the sake of future generations, we can now move forward with a more honest debate and efforts to advance policies and support programs that protect innocent life and promote stability and security for vulnerable mothers.”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas wrote, “I’m overjoyed that the American people can determine what the public policy on abortion will be . . . I’m glad we’re back to where we were pre-1973. But the battle is not over. This is a significant victory, but now each state will have to determine what will be the public policy on abortion.”

Bishops Joseph Kopacz of Jackson and Louis Kihneman of Biloxi wrote that “Today, Lady Justice has turned her attention to the cry of the unborn child hidden in the refuge of his or her mother’s womb. Today, justice has not abandoned that unborn child and his or her capacity to feel pain, but there is still more work to be done. Together with many throughout our country, we join in prayer that states are now able to protect women and children from the injustice of abortion. The Catholic Church has had a vested interest in this matter – the dignity and sanctity of all human life.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln wrote, “The fact that this decision was released on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is no coincidence. Our Lord has given us a great gift from the love of His most sacred heart. We now have to reach out to women and families who find themselves in difficult situations and love them with the heart of Jesus. We need to accompany them with our love and care, welcome them, walk with them and show them that life is good and they are not alone. Praised be Jesus Christ.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said that the decision “recognizes that even the most helpless and dependent human beings have a right to life and possess inherent dignity and worth … We hope that all Americans can discuss respectfully how best to support women who face crucial decisions while recognizing the dignity of the most vulnerable among us. We agree with the analysis of Pope Francis, who has made it clear that if we fail to protect life, no other rights matter.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup stated: “We have been praying for this wonderful news for a long time, and today our prayers have been answered.  Praise God!”

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said that “The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a defining moment in our lifetime that fixes a legal and moral mistake, which led to decades of emotional distress, tremendous guilt, physical harm and infertility for women, and the unnecessary and cruel deaths of more than 63 million unborn babies who were denied their God-given potential because of poverty, fear or convenience. Women and children deserve better. Mothers who face unexpected or crisis pregnancies need support – financial, spiritual and emotional … We must come together to pray for the grace to deepen our appreciation for the sanctity and value of all human life from conception until natural death.”

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon wrote, “Our goal has never been simply to make abortion illegal. Our goal is to make it unthinkable. Our battle to protect the most fragile and vulnerable of all human life, namely the unborn child, continues on the state level, including here in Oregon.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville called the decision “a welcome step forward toward building a society that truly values and honors human life. Since 1973 the Catholic Church in the United States, together with many other religious and non-religious communities, has publicly expressed its opposition to the Roe v Wade decision. That decision was gravely unjust, and an unprecedented aggression against the life and dignity of the unborn child. It was sweeping in its effects, stripping away all previous legal protections for human life in the womb.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington wrote, “We rejoice in this latest step in our journey, but our work is not done. Locally and nationally, we still have more to do to advance the dignity of human life and to make sure that the full range of life issues are adequately addressed. This includes supporting pregnant women in making life-affirming choices, providing better availability of prenatal and postnatal care for children and their mothers, advocating for affordable child care and safe schools, and advancing policies that support mothers in school and in the workforce. We must also recognize that a life-affirming ethic should also draw attention to a host of other areas that should be of great concern to humanity. This includes revoking the death penalty and caring for the imprisoned; addressing all forms of injustice, including racism; caring for the poor, the sick, elderly, and vulnerable; and advancing a greater recognition of our calling in the entire spectrum of human relationships to be brothers and sisters to one another.”

Why did Chief Justice Roberts disagree with overturning Roe v Wade?

John Roberts testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings to be Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Sept. 13, 2005. / Rob Crandall/Shutterstock.

Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2022 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — a case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 — in a decision Friday that fell largely along justices’ ideological lines. One justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, strayed from the pack, as he frequently does.

A majority of the nine Supreme Court justices overruled Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe in 1992, while deciding June 24 the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. 

The court voted 6-3 to uphold a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. At the same time, justices voted by a narrower margin, 5-4, to overturn Roe.

That’s because of Roberts.

Roberts stands out because justices appointed by Republican presidents — Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — are generally considered more conservative-leaning. Likewise, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, who were nominated by Democratic presidents, tend to lean liberal.

With the Dobbs case, Alito wrote the opinion of the court — or the opinion that a majority of the justices agreed to or joined. Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented from the majority. 

Roberts took a unique position: He filed an opinion concurring in the judgement, meaning he agreed with the majority’s ruling, but not necessarily their rationale or reasoning.

Roberts’ reasoning

In his 12-page opinion in the Dobbs case, Roberts said that he agreed with upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, but he disagreed that Roe and Casey needed to be overturned in the process.

“The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases,” he wrote. “A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case.”

As a case, Dobbs centered on the question, “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Roberts took the position that this question could be answered without overturning Roe. In Roe, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability, which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Then, with Casey, the court said that states could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Roberts said that he agreed with discarding parts of Roe and Casey, particularly the “viability line,” in favor of a new standard. 

“That line never made any sense,” Roberts said. Instead, he said, a woman’s “right” to abortion should “extend far enough to ensure a reasonable opportunity to choose.”

In other words, instead of determining abortion based on when an unborn baby can survive outside the womb, Roberts argued that it should be based on whether a woman has enough time to obtain an abortion after realizing that she is pregnant. 

“The law at issue allows abortions up through fifteen weeks, providing an adequate opportunity to exercise the right Roe protects,” Roberts wrote, adding at another point that “there is nothing inherent in the right to choose that requires it to extend to viability or any other point, so long as a real choice is provided.”

While doing away with the viability standard, the court could have still recognized a woman’s “right” to abortion with Roe, he claimed.

“My point is that Roe adopted two distinct rules of constitutional law: one, that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy; two, that such right may be overridden by the State’s legitimate interests when the fetus is viable outside the womb,” he said.

Roberts described what he called the “clear path” to deciding Dobbs “correctly” without overturning Roe: “recognize that the viability line must be discarded, as the majority rightly does, and leave for another day whether to reject any right to an abortion at all.”

Alito’s majority opinion responded to Roberts’ concurrence, saying it “would do exactly what it criticizes Roe for doing: pulling ‘out of thin air’ a test that ‘[n]o party or amicus asked the Court to adopt’.”

“The concurrence’s most fundamental defect is its failure to offer any principled basis for its approach,” the majority opinion continued. “The concurrence makes no attempt to show that this rule represents a correct interpretation of the Constitution. The concurrence does not claim that the right to a reasonable opportunity to obtain an abortion is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’

“Nor does it propound any other the­ory that could show that the Constitution supports its new rule. And if the Constitution protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, the opinion does not explain why that right should end after the point at which all ‘reasonable’ women will have decided whether to seek an abortion.”

“The concurrence’s quest for a middle way would only put off the day when we would be forced to confront the question we now decide,” the majority opinion responded. “The turmoil wrought by Roe and Casey would be prolonged. It is far better—for this Court and the country—to face up to the real issue without fur­ther delay.”