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At second GOP debate, candidates spar over economy, immigration, crime

Republican presidential candidates (L-R), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence participate in the Fox Business Republican Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 27, 2023, in Simi Valley, California. / Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 23:58 pm (CNA).

Republican presidential hopefuls on Wednesday night sparred for the second time on the debate stage, arguing over the economy, immigration, and other issues key to the looming presidential contest.

The six candidates — former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott — appeared at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. 

The politicians over two hours traded jabs and touted their records as they labored to distinguish themselves in what is still a crowded GOP primary field. 

Absent again was former President Donald Trump, who has skipped both of the Republican debates held so far, claiming his commanding front-runner status gives him little motivation to appear on stage with his rivals. National polls show DeSantis a distant second.

In contrast to the contentious first debate, Wednesday’s discussion at times seemed to wander across topics as moderators from Fox News and Univision struggled to retain control of the conversation.

Notably missing from much of the discourse were questions on abortion, though DeSantis delivered a highlight late in the debate in defense of pro-life politics, telling the California crowd: “We are better off when everyone counts.”   

Most of the evening was given to policy questions. Asked about the ongoing economic turmoil in the U.S. — including high inflation that continues to drive consumer prices upward — the presidential hopefuls repeatedly blamed the Biden administration for those ills. 

“I really believe what’s driving [these crises] is that Bidenomics has failed,” Pence said, criticizing White House subsidies of green energy technologies and projects. 

Burgum echoed those accusations. “We’re subsidizing the automakers, and subsidizing the cars … and particularly we’re subsidizing electrical vehicles,” he said. Electric vehicles, he argued, depend too much on batteries produced by Chinese supply lines, giving the Chinese Communist Party too much economic power over the U.S. 

The candidates were asked about President Joe Biden’s appearance Tuesday on the picket lines of striking auto workers. Biden is the first sitting U.S. president to have appeared on a strike line.

Pivoting briefly to the immigration crisis at the U.S. border, Scott declared: “Joe Biden should not be on the picket line, he should be on our southern border.” 

Ramaswamy, meanwhile, urged strikers to “go picket in front of the White House” due to what he claimed was the Biden administration’s exacerbation of the country’s economic difficulties. 

Illegal immigration, crime

The candidates were pressed on the ongoing border crisis, which has seen record numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. in recent years. 

“Our laws are being broken every day at the southern border,” Christie said, vowing to send the National Guard to help secure the border states. 

Ramaswamy declared his desire to scrap the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment birthright citizenship clause, which grants citizenship to children born in the U.S. even if their parents entered the country illegally.

“I favor ending birthright citizenship for the kids of illegal immigrants in this country,” he said. Claiming to have “actually read the 14th Amendment,” Ravaswamay said that “the kid of an illegal migrant who broke the law to come here” should not qualify as an American. 

“If you come here illegally,” Scott similarly argued, “you are not [under the jurisdiction of the U.S.].”

The moderators pressed candidates on their response to crime surges in many American cities.

“We can’t be successful as a country if people aren’t even safe to live in places like Los Angeles or San Francisco,” DeSantis said. He said he and his wife met three people in California who had recently been mugged in the streets. He urged support for American police. “In Florida, we back the blue,” he said. 

Haley offered similar support for the police. “You take care of those who take care of you. We have to start taking care of law enforcement,” she said. Citing insufficiently strict criminal policies, she argued: “We have to start prosecuting according to the law.”

Healthcare, education

At times the candidates seemed to struggle to stay on-topic, to the apparent exasperation of the debate’s moderators. 

Asked if the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — would remain as federal healthcare policy, Pence briefly pursued a tangent about mass shootings, leading moderator Dana Perino to humorously ask: “So does that mean Obamacare is here to stay?” 

Pence subsequently vowed to return “all Obamacare funding” to U.S. states.

(L-R) Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and former Vice President Mike Pence speak at the same time during the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 27, 2023. (. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
(L-R) Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and former Vice President Mike Pence speak at the same time during the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 27, 2023. (. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

DeSantis, meanwhile, blamed high healthcare costs in part on the overall economic outlook. “Everything has gotten more expensive. We’ve got to address the underlying problem,” he said. 

Haley vowed to radically transform the U.S. healthcare system, promising to “break” the current healthcare paradigm and “make it all transparent.” She also proposed to address current tort law governing medical lawsuits. 

Circling back to his earlier criticism of electric vehicles, Burgum said: “We talk about, ‘Why do we have the most expensive health care in the world?’ It's because the federal government got involved the same way they did with EVs.”

“Every time the federal government gets involved … things get more expensive and less competitive,” he claimed.

On education, Christie was asked about scoring gaps in New Jersey between minority and white students. “You have to address all students,” he said, arguing that charter schools and school choice policies in New Jersey helped close those gaps. “It can be done when you give people choice,” he said.

Ramaswamy, meanwhile, was pressed about whether parents should have the right to know how their children “identify” at school, an apparent reference to transgender-identifying youth. “Parents have the right to know,” he said, calling transgenderism “a mental health disorder.” 

Names of accused in Maryland AG’s sex abuse report on Baltimore Archdiocese are released

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore. / Credit: Kevin Jones/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

The Maryland attorney general’s office on Tuesday released an unredacted report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that names most of the individuals accused. 

The report outlines a four-year investigation that alleges more than 600 children were abused by 156 people, most of whom have died. The allegations span a period beginning in the 1940s through 2002.

The report was originally issued in April but 46 names were redacted, per an order by Baltimore City Circuit Court. Seven names remain redacted, including five “senior members of the archdiocese,” who were among the Church leadership that the report said helped “cover up” the abuse.

Response from the Archdiocese of Baltimore

In a statement to CNA, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said the report is a “sad and deeply painful history tied to the tremendous harm caused to innocent children and young people by some ministers of the Church.”

The statement called for prayers for all survivors of abuse, especially child sexual abuse. The archdiocese has offered its full cooperation and support throughout the entirety of the legal process, the statement said. 

“At the same time, we believed that those named in the report had a right to be heard as a fundamental matter of fairness,” the statement said. 

“In today’s culture where hasty and errant conclusions are sometimes quickly formed, the mere inclusion of one’s name in a report such as this can wrongly and forever equate anyone named, no matter how innocuously, with those who committed the evilest acts,” the statement continued.

Quoting a court opinion that ordered the release of the names in the attorney general’s report, the statement said: “The fact that an individual’s name was redacted was a function of Maryland law regarding grand jury documents; it was in no way a finding by the court that any of these people engaged in any improper conduct.”  

The statement continued that the court also stated: “While the anger and pain of the victims and their families is entirely justified, an undifferentiated fury aimed at the Church and all of the people in the report is not. Some of the people in the report were simply making difficult decisions under difficult circumstances.” 

The archdiocese said it will continue to respect the legal process and the court’s decisions related to the report. Additionally, the statement said the archdiocese didn’t oppose the report’s release, citing its “longstanding policy” of releasing the names of its personnel who were credibly accused of child sex abuse. 

The archdiocese released its own list of priests and brothers accused of child sexual abuse in 2002.

The list was updated in 2019 to include priests or brothers who were accused after their deaths if more than one allegation had been brought to the archdiocese, if the allegation could be corroborated, or if the priest or brother was named publicly elsewhere.

The statement from the archdiocese said that no one with credible allegations of child sexual abuse is in ministry today, adding that Church policy “continues to forever bar from all ministry anyone who would harm a child.”

The court ruled in August that the identities of all but three of those named in the report be released to the public in September. But more than three names remain redacted because of the appeals.

Some names remain redacted because of appeals that were made to the court, the attorney general’s office said on Tuesday. A further unredacted version of the report may be released pending the outcome of the appeals, the office said. 

Statute of limitations to expire

The newly released report comes as Maryland’s statute of limitations ends on Oct. 1, following a bill that Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed in April allowing lawsuits to be filed at any point alleging misconduct.

The previous statute of limitations prevented lawsuits until victims reached the age of 38.

Several dioceses have declared bankruptcy following similar legislation enacted in the states they are located in. 

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said it is prevented from commenting due to court order. 

The 463-page report from the attorney general’s office is not a criminal charging document but a statement of alleged facts for informational purposes.

Those whose names were originally redacted in the report had the chance to appeal the court’s order, which many did during two hearings in July, according to the memorandum opinion and order issued by the court Aug. 16.

“These names are being released because the key to understanding the report is understanding that this did not happen because of anything ‘the archdiocese’ did or did not do. It happened because of the choices made by specific individuals at specific times,” Judge Robert Taylor wrote in the court’s opinion.

“There is a strong public policy interest in bringing these choices and actions into public view. The interest is not in putting anyone in jail, at this point; the events at issue occurred so long ago that this does not seem plausible,” Taylor wrote.

“But there is an interest in exposing what happened, to help ensure that it does not happen again. There is an interest in exposing how it happened, so that the public in general and public policy makers in particular can decide what, if any, actions need to be taken to prevent similar occurrences in the archdiocese and other institutions accustomed to a culture of respect, deference, hierarchy, and the lack of accountability that is often a part of such institutions,” he wrote.

Canadian bishops address protection of minors and vulnerable adults at meeting

The 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is being held Sept. 25-28, 2023, outside of Toronto, Ontario. / Credit: CCCB/CECC

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

On the second day of the 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), a bishops’ committee provided recommendations on diocesan policies that are focused on protecting minors and vulnerable adults to all the bishops in attendance. 

The Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry and the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons has studied the issue of “vulnerable persons” over the past year, looking at how to define vulnerability, how to reduce risks, and what behaviors should be encouraged on the part of those in ministry, according to the CCCB. 

During a Tuesday news conference, Richard Fréchette, who serves on the committee, said “many dioceses already have a code of conduct for priests” but that much of the previous work had been solely focused on protecting minors. He said the committee presented a code of conduct template that incorporated protections on all vulnerable persons, noting the “importance of having that as part of the code of conduct.”

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of the Archdiocese of Gatineau, who also serves on the committee, said the protections for vulnerable persons are meant to prevent people from “using positions of authority to impose themselves and demand various kinds of [sexual] favors … of people who are under their care.” 

The archbishop said the committee was motivated, in part, by the “Me Too” movement, which he said showed this problem in the sports world, the artistic world, the media world, “and unfortunately the Church world, also.” 

Durocher added that all of the Canadian bishops engaged in a study session that looked into three case studies and provided recommendations on how to address these issues if they arise. 

Fréchette noted that the committee discussed a variety of issues related to conduct, such as harassment, violence, sexual conduct, information technology, and financial issues. 

The bishops began their annual four-day meeting on Monday, and it comes to a close on Thursday. They have gathered in King City, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. 

On the first day, the bishops prepared for the Synod on Synodality, which begins in Rome in about a week. Four Canadian bishops and four Canadian non-bishop participants will take part in the global synod. They also discussed humanitarian efforts in Honduras. 

The bishops also plan to address the growing practice of euthanasia in Canada and the recent expansion of eligibility to include those suffering from mental health conditions. They plan to discuss the importance of promoting palliative care rather than euthanasia.

California governor signs bills that would penalize schools that refuse to teach LGBT content

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that would reduce funding to schools that restrict LGBT content from their classrooms.

The bill would centralize state authority over school curricula by fining schools that restrict books that cover homosexuality and gender ideology. Some school boards have done so out of concerns that the content is too sexually explicit for young children.

This is just one of 10 bills focused on homosexuality and transgenderism that Newsom signed this week.

The new law, which took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, grants the state superintendent the authority to reduce a school’s funding if it does not provide “sufficient textbooks or instructional materials” in line with the state’s standards for diversity and inclusion, which includes books available in the school’s library.

Under this law, the state superintendent will also have the authority to purchase textbooks for students within a school district and recoup the costs from the school if it refuses to provide textbooks in line with the state’s diversity and inclusion standards.

The bill was signed amid a feud between the state and the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which rejected a controversial state-approved social studies textbook over its inclusion of pro-homosexual and pro-transgender themes. Newsom criticized the school district when he signed the bill.

“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools,” Newsom said in a statement. “With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond also spoke positively of the new law and indicated his intent to use his new authority.

“This law will serve as a model for the nation that California recognizes and understands the moment we are in — and while some want to roll back the clock on progress, we are doubling down on forward motion,” Thurmond said. “Rather than limiting access to education and flat out banning books like other states, we are embracing and expanding opportunities for knowledge and education, because that’s the California way.”

Other LGBT bills signed by Newsom

Newsom signed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which expresses legislative intent to require teachers and other certificated employees of schools to receive training on meeting the needs of “LGBTQ+ pupils.” It also expresses an intent to specify a timeline for cultural competency training.

The governor also signed legislation to require that K-12 public schools provide all-gender restrooms by 2026. Another bill requires that business license applicants affirm that single-user toilets will be labeled as all-gender restrooms.

Another K-12-focused bill instructs the superintendent of public instruction to convene an “advisory task force to identify the statewide needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and plus (LGBTQ+) pupils and to make recommendations to assist in implementing supportive policies and initiatives to address LGBTQ+ pupil education, education, and well-being.”

Newsom signed another education-focused bill focused on higher education. It will require that public institutions of higher education update records to reflect a person’s self-proclaimed gender identity and name. It requires that campus systems be capable of affirming the person’s preferred name and gender.

Another bill signed by Newsom requires that courts keep information confidential when a person younger than 18 files a petition for a change of gender or sex identifier and limits access to the records.

Explosion kills 68 Armenian refugees as thousands flee Nagorno-Karabakh

Refugees wait next to a line of vehicles near the border town of Kornidzor, Armenia, arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh, on Sept. 26, 2023. / Credit: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

As thousands of ethnic Armenians flee the Nagorno-Karabakh region following a violent takeover by Azerbaijan, a fuel depot exploded Monday night killing at least 68 refugees and injuring hundreds.

Officials representing the people of Nagorno-Karabakh confirmed the casualties in a Facebook statement, adding that the fate of 105 Nagorno-Karabakh refugees is still unknown.

The explosion occurred just off a highway leading away from Stepanakert, where tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians have taken to the road to flee to Armenia proper. 

Local news source the Nagorno Karabakh Observer reported the explosion blew up a 50-ton underground fuel tank. 

Following a short but intense military offensive by Azerbaijan on Sept. 19, ethnic Armenians, who until last week claimed self-sovereignty under the auspices of the Republic of Artsakh, are in a panic to escape Azeri rule. 

The Azeri assault, which they labeled “antiterror measures,” came after a nine-month blockade that cut off all outside food, medicine, and supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Though the Azeri president Ilham Aliyev has said he wishes to integrate the ethnic Armenians, human rights experts have warned he intends to ethnically cleanse the region. Some advocates, such as Eric Hacopian, who has been on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, accused the Azeris of pursuing “genocide” against the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Since last week a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians fleeing their ancestral homeland in Nagorno-Karabakh has begun.

Hacopian said that he expects “95% to 99%” of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh to flee the region.

The Armenian government reported on Tuesday that already 28,120 “forcibly displaced persons” from Nagorno-Karabakh have crossed into Armenia.

Footage published by the Nagorno Karabakh Observer on Tuesday showed what appears to be a miles-long line of cars attempting to escape the region for Armenia.

“The normal travel time of two hours [is] now taking 20 or more,” the Nagorno Karabakh Observer reported Tuesday, adding that “kids [are] the hardest hit, with little food after months of blockade.”

According to the Nagorno Karabakh Observer, “cars are literally halted, as vehicles [are] checked one-by-one by Azeri officials.”

White House responds 

Adrienne Watson, a White House National Security Council spokesperson, responded to the explosion in a Tuesday statement. 

“We are saddened by the news that at least 68 people have been killed and hundreds injured in an explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh and express deep sympathy to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and to all of those suffering,” Watson said. “We urge continued humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh for all those in need.” 

Watson pointed out that Samantha Power, chief administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is currently on the ground in Armenia and announced the U.S. would be sending “additional humanitarian assistance,” including hygiene kits, blankets, and clothing, “to address the needs of those affected or displaced by violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.” 

“Since 2020, we have supported the provision of food, water, emergency medical care, and evacuations, and family reunifications for conflict-affected communities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the region,” Watson went on. “The United States will continue to support those affected by the ongoing crisis as 28,000 people have crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.”

What is going on? 

Both former Soviet territories, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades. With the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan asserted its military dominance over Armenia in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended in November 2020.

Though Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is almost entirely made up of ethnic Armenian Christians.

After the Azeri assault last week, the ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed on Sept. 20 to a cease-fire that resulted in the dismantling of their military and self-governance.

Some experts believe that Armenia itself is in danger of invasion by Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey in the near future. 

Hacopian said he believes an invasion of Armenia is “quite likely.” 

Lone Michigan Democrat holds up ‘extreme’ pro-abortion bill

Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Michigan, speaks at a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 2020. / Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2023 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

A Democratic state representative in Michigan, Karen Whitsett, has said she will not support a slate of pro-abortion bills being pushed by governor and fellow Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, citing her constituents’ wishes and her own support for the state’s 24-hour abortion waiting period. 

Whitsett, who explained to CNA she was a survivor of rape who had an abortion, said she supports the idea of a waiting period for abortions to ensure that women are not being forced to abort their children. 

“I don’t see anything wrong with being asked if you are being coerced into a termination,” she said, explaining why she plans to vote against that provision. 

Since her announcement that she would not support the abortion bills, a coalition of pro-abortion groups have launched a campaign criticizing Whitsett, led by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, a group that characterized Whitsett’s stance a “betrayal.”

Currently in Michigan, abortion is available up until birth, with a waiting period. In November 2022, Michiganders voted to explicitly make abortion a “right” in their state constitution.

A package of 11 bills collectively dubbed the “Reproductive Health Act,” House Bills 4949-59, would put into state law the constitutional language enshrining abortion access and repeal several regulations lawmakers say are in conflict with that access, the Detroit News reported. 

Among the regulations being repealed is the state’s abortion waiting period, a prohibition on partial-birth abortions, a requirement that women seeking an abortion be screened to determine whether they have been coerced to do so, and state requirements to dispose of fetal remains safely and humanely.

Another provision in the bills would repeal Michigan building code regulations that require clinics providing more than 120 surgical abortions a year to be licensed as freestanding surgical outpatient facilities, with mandates related to hallway widths, ceiling heights, and HVAC standards, the Detroit News said. 

The bill package would also require Medicaid to cover abortions for Medicaid recipients. Michigan law currently prohibits the use of Medicaid funding for elective abortions — only covering those related to rape, incest, or the life of the mother — and mandate that private health plans require a rider with an added premium for abortion coverage. 

Whitsett told CNA that although she considers herself pro-choice, she has heard from many of her constituents in Detroit that they do not support the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, and that she intends to continue “voting the way of the people who elected me.” 

Whitsett said the negotiations related to the abortion bills have “gone 100 miles an hour” and reiterated that although she is a supporter of abortion, “What we’re currently voting on, I have a problem with.” The divided nature of the Michigan House means all 56 Democrats are required to vote in lockstep to approve controversial legislation, unless any Republicans cross the aisle.

The Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), which advocates for policy in the state, called Whitsett’s refusal to advance the bills a “[sign] of hope that movement on the RHA is slowing down.” 

“The bills that emerged from committee are likely the most extreme policies passed in the recent history of the Legislature due to their blatant prioritization of the abortion industry over women’s health and safety,” said Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for the MCC, in a recent statement.

“The Reproductive Health Act would advance an unregulated abortion environment in Michigan, prioritizing the financial, political, and business interests of the abortion industry over the health and safety of women in this state.” 

Whitsett said that as of Monday afternoon, her Democratic colleagues in the House have not contacted her seeking her views on the bills.

“To be attacked because I’m not a rubber stamp for the Democratic Party makes zero sense to me,” she told CNA. 

At least 17 other states already allow the use of Medicaid funds to pay for elective abortions, despite a federal policy known as the Hyde Amendment prohibiting the use of federal tax dollars to pay for elective abortions. Hyde does not restrict states’ ability to use state tax dollars to pay for abortion, meaning states that want to pay for abortions through their Medicaid program can do so out of their own coffers and not be reimbursed by the federal government.

An analysis by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency found that the proposed Medicaid provision would increase Michigan’s Medicaid costs by $2 million to $6 million, as “a greater percentage of abortions in this state would be paid for with state funds, rather than nonstate resources.”

Cardinal Dolan says Biden ‘doesn’t take my calls’ on migrant crisis in New York City

Cardinal Timothy Dolan. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2023 / 16:08 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in an interview that President Joe Biden is ignoring his calls about the “tragic, broken” migrant system in the U.S., which has landed tens of thousands of migrants and refugees in New York City, filling shelters to capacity. 

“He doesn’t take my calls or answer my letters,” the cardinal told the New York Post

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said last week that 60,000 migrants who crossed the southern border are in New York City, while 10,000 more are expected to come each month. Adams’ office said in a press release last week that since the beginning of the crisis, more than 116,000 migrants have been housed in the city. 

In an interview on Sunday, Adams said that if the city doesn’t continue to receive support from the federal government, the outcome for New York City could be “extremely devastating.”

The mayor has been voicing his concerns for the city throughout the overwhelming influx of migrants and said in July: “It’s not going to get any better. From this moment on it’s downhill. There is no more room.”

Commenting on the droves of migrants coming to the city, Dolan told the outlet that “New York just can’t handle them all, we know that.”

“It’s very unfair. This is a New York problem, but it’s not just a New York problem. It is an American problem,” he added.

The cardinal said that he has spoken with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, “a number of times” and “haven’t gotten too much consolation.”

Dolan, however, praised Adams for his efforts during the crisis. 

“I give Mayor Adams a lot of credit. He tells us where he needs help,” the cardinal said.

“He’s been very good about rallying religious leaders, asking our help to advocate with the federal government, which has done hardly anything, [and] with the state government, which hasn’t done much,” he added.

In June, the mayor announced a partnership with faith-based organizations to house migrants temporarily.

The Archdiocese of New York has designated 10 facilities for housing migrants, the outlet reported.

In addition to working with asylum-seeking migrant families to address their imminent needs, Catholic Charities has provided resources to help with migrant intake and recordkeeping, Dolan said. 

The archdiocese is also providing legal assistance, schooling, and health to the migrants, he added.

“Every day hundreds come in,” Dolan said. “We look them in the eyes, get their names, and we love them and we say, ‘You’re part of us now. You’re not a number.'” 

He said, however, that the archdiocese is overwhelmed with cases.

“Like everybody else, we’re squashed,” he said. “But we can’t give up.”

Parishes such as St. Teresa Church and the Church of the Ascension are providing food, clothing, and school supplies, the Post reported. 

Dolan said that priests are at those churches ministering to the people, but the current immigration system is “terribly wrecked” and in need of reform.

“The Church has always been very supportive of the right of a nation to have borders and border security … we don’t just want borders where anybody can come in,” he said. 

Dolan said the Church has a “high obligation” to care for migrants coming in.

“For us, it’s not so much about politics and policy … we have to leave that to others,” he said. “Our sacred responsibility is to help them. We hate to see these people suffer.”

Dolan could not be reached for comment by Tuesday. 

Adams has estimated that taking care of migrants could cost the city $12 billion over three fiscal years.

Last week, the Biden administration approved temporary legal status for large groups of Venezuelan and Afghan migrants, which will allow them to begin working in the United States.

Adams thanked the Biden administration for the move but said the status of many migrants within the city remains to be addressed.

“You know, but we want to be clear: We cannot spike the ball, because this is not going to deal with all of the migrants and asylum seekers who are in this city. We have about 60,000 in our care, 10,000 a month, and many of those new arrivals won’t be able to apply for the TPS [temporary protected status] and for the other benefits of this initiative,” Adams said in his Sunday interview on WABC’s “Up Close With Bill Ritter.”

Family who fled Germany to home-school their kids faces deportation from the U.S.

The Romeike family fled from Germany in order to home-school their children and now faces deportation from the U.S. / Credit: The Romeike Family

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2023 / 15:20 pm (CNA).

A German family that has lived in the United States for more than a decade after leaving their home country in order to legally home-school their children faces possible deportation next month, their supporters said.

The Romeikes — father Uwe, mother Hannelore, and their then-five children — fled Germany in 2009 over the country’s severe compulsory education laws, which effectively outlaw home schooling and require all children to attend school outside the home.

The evangelical Christian family has had two more children since arriving in the U.S. and made their home in Tennessee. The couple initially sought asylum from the federal government, claiming religious persecution from German authorities. 

They were eventually granted indefinitely deferred action status by the Obama administration, allowing them to reside in the U.S. for more than a decade. 

The Home School Legal Defense Association — a pro-home schooling nonprofit that has advocated the Romeikes’ case over the years — said in a release last week that during a recent “routine check-in” with immigration officials they were “told … that they had four weeks to secure passports and return to Germany.” 

“The news came without warning, and with no apparent cause or explanation,” HSLDA said. 

Kevin Boden, an attorney with HSLDA and the director of HSLDA International, told CNA that it is unclear what may or may not occur at next month’s meeting. 

“They were basically given four weeks to come back,” Boden said. “They have a report date in October. They don’t know what is going to happen in that meeting. They don’t know if they’re going to be forced to leave. They don’t know if they’re going to be taken into custody.” 

“‘Come back in four weeks and bring your passports,’” Boden added. “That combination is a little bit scary.”

The attorney said HSLDA is continuing to work with the family. The nonprofit group had originally helped litigate the family’s unsuccessful asylum attempt all the way to the Supreme Court; the court ultimately turned down the family’s appeal without hearing it. HSLDA is now pursuing a variety of options to secure the family’s continued status in the U.S. 

“We’re working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through those legal channels,” Boden said. “We’re pursuing a petition to the White House, to the Biden administration.” 

The group is also asking supporters to reach out to their congressional representatives to urge support for a bill from Tennessee Rep. Diana Harshbarger that would allow the family to claim permanent resident status. 

“Those things would provide some impetus for the Romeikes to stay in the country, or at least give them a little bit of time,” he said. 

The Romeikes did not respond to a request for comment. Reached via email, a spokesman for the Biden Department of Justice responded: “We respectfully decline to comment.” ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The two eldest Romeike children have since married U.S. citizens; their eldest daughter, Lydia, has one child with her American husband. The family’s two youngest daughters, meanwhile, are U.S. citizens by birth. 

Once a rare practice controlled heavily by state regulation, home schooling in the U.S. has expanded in recent decades due to the efforts of groups like the HSLDA. 

It is legal in every state, with HSLDA listing the majority of states as having only “low” or “moderate” home school regulation. 

Home schooling in Europe is much more tightly regulated. Many countries there outlaw it entirely, with others allowing it but only under strict guidelines.

New book explores J.R.R. Tolkien’s faith and how it imbued his work

The cover of “Tolkien’s Faith: A Spiritual Biography” by Holly Ordway. / Credit: Word on Fire

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

Most people are likely aware — at least vaguely — that J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” was Catholic. 

Fewer, perhaps, know how seriously he took his faith, in a time and place where being Catholic carried serious negative societal consequences. 

A new book from Word on Fire — “Tolkien’s Faith: A Spiritual Biography” — explores the renowned fantasy author’s Catholic faith and how it influenced his stories, delving primarily into Tolkien’s own writings and interviews as well as the testimonies of those who knew him best. 

Holly Ordway, the book’s author, told CNA that she sought to create a book that is inviting and accessible to non-Catholics. The book itself seeks to explain the Catholic faith that Tolkien had, she said, but in an objective way, not in a way that the reader — who is perhaps a Tolkien fan, but has no understanding of Catholicism — is “hit over the head with a heavy-handed Christian message.”

“I was one of those readers, because I am myself a convert. I first read ‘Lord of the Rings’ as a non-Christian and loved it,” Ordway told CNA. 

“I’ve aimed to help readers understand Tolkien’s faith on his own terms, neither praising or criticizing it.”

Holly Ordway. Credit: Devin Dailey
Holly Ordway. Credit: Devin Dailey

Today, Ordway is the Cardinal Francis George professor of faith and culture at the Word on Fire Institute and visiting professor of apologetics at Houston Christian University. She said she was inspired, in part, to undertake the book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Tolkien’s death on Sept. 2, 2023, but also because she had come to realize that a book solely dedicated to Tolkien’s faith had yet to be written. Humphrey Carpenter’s official biography mentions his faith, she said, but only as relates to the faith of his mother; other biographical media, such as a 2019 biopic, barely mention his faith at all. 

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, born in 1892, was baptized an Anglican in South Africa, where his family lived before he; his mother, Mabel; and his brother, Hillary, moved to Birmingham, England. 

Tolkien’s father died suddenly while still in South Africa, leaving Mabel to raise the two boys alone. During this time, Mabel converted to Catholicism. Tolkien made the choice to follow his mother into her new faith, receiving the sacraments of holy Communion and Confirmation at the age of 12. 

It’s hard to overstate how consequential Mabel and John’s conversions were. Mabel’s family cut off all financial and emotional support permanently, leaving the family destitute. Tolkien later described Mabel, who died in 1904 when she was only 34 and he was 12, as a “martyr.” 

Ordway found that it was far from a foregone conclusion that Tolkien would retain the faith he embraced as a child. The familial and societal challenges that presented themselves were bad enough, not to mention Tolkien’s horrific experiences in the trenches of World War I, which challenged his faith and shaped his worldview immensely.

J.R.R. Tolkien. Public domain
J.R.R. Tolkien. Public domain

Additionally, Ordway said her extensive research for the book included a look at the anti-Catholic climate of the time in order to accurately paint a picture of just how consequential Tolkien’s conversion was.

“Recognizing exactly how anti-Catholic English culture was when he was growing up makes it all the more remarkable that he was incredibly generous-spirited towards other traditions,” she commented. 

Father Francis Morgan, a priest of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in London, would later take on a major role in Tolkien’s life as a substitute father figure. Tolkien wrote proudly of his Catholic faith, including his love for the Eucharist, and was strengthened in his Christian convictions by his friendship with C.S. Lewis, a highly renowned Christian author in his own right.

Tolkien is very clear in his writings that “The Lord of the Rings” is not a Christian allegory, contrasting the “Narnia” books by his friend Lewis. He nevertheless described “The Lord of the Rings” as “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”

Ordway said it is clear that Tolkien’s Catholic worldview is infused in his stories. 

“There are Marian figures, there are Christ-like figures … what he’s imbuing into the story is the fundamentally religious element. I think he chose that word carefully … fundamentally at the fundamentals, at the roots. So things like his understanding of good and evil, and he has a very clearly Catholic understanding of that,” Ordway said. 

“He says, ‘I don’t believe in absolute evil, but I do believe in absolute good.’ So he’s explicitly rejecting a dualistic view of the world and he’s affirming the fundamental Catholic view. God does not have an ontologically equivalent opposite. God is the supreme, and evil is parasitic.”

Tolkien also prizes in his books the virtues of pity and mercy, which are “fundamentally Christian concepts,” Ordway said. “The Lord of the Rings” also strongly proffers the idea that suffering — while real and painful — can also be redemptive. 

“I think that is a message that is profoundly Christian, profoundly Catholic, and profoundly meaningful. It speaks to people even if they don’t know that it has any connection to the Christian faith,” Ordway said.

“Even if you don’t recognize the fact that these elements are Christian, I think people are still responding to the reality of it. They’re still experiencing the beauty of goodness and the sordidness of evil and wanting goodness to prevail. And that’s a big deal in today’s world, to recognize something as fundamental as the reality of goodness,” she continued. 

“By the time someone who’s not a Christian, by the time they get to the end of [my] book, first of all, they will know a lot more about Christianity and Catholicism than they did before … they’ll see that whatever Tolkien believed, it wasn’t simple or trivial or foolish. It was something substantial. It meant a lot to him. And that opens the door for them to say, ‘Maybe I should look into this some more.’”

New Catholic clinic in Detroit to provide women, families with care for the ‘whole person’

Dr. Thomas Meyer will be serving as the OB-GYN for the Heart of Christ Medical Clinic and Dr. Lisa Knysz will be the clinic's director. The clinic hopes to open in Detroit in October 2023. / Credit: Heart of Christ Medical Clinic

CNA Staff, Sep 26, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A new clinic focused on providing women with authentic, Catholic care will soon be opening its doors in Detroit. The Heart of Christ Medical Clinic will serve pregnant mothers, individuals, and families of all socioeconomic backgrounds, insured or uninsured, with high-quality care for the whole person — physical, emotional, and spiritual.

The clinic will be located on the grounds of the historic Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit. Family and women’s health care will be provided, including prenatal and postnatal care. The clinic will include a chapel where patients can pray and receive the sacraments. 

The Christ Medicus Foundation, the Knights of Columbus, the Order of Malta, and other nonprofit, faith-based organizations will be hosting the first annual Heart of Christ Fundraising Gala on Sept. 28 to support the Heart of Christ Medical Clinic. Organizers hope the clinic may begin to open its doors as early as October. 

Dr. Lisa Knysz, who will serve as the clinic’s director, and Monsignor Charles Kosanke, rector of the Basilica of St. Anne de Detroit, spoke with CNA about the new clinic and what they hope it will offer the community.

“When an individual comes in, we’re not just looking at their physical condition or their physical symptoms — yes, we, by all means, are going to address those needs, we’re going to treat those needs — but, we’re looking at them with a spiritual lens, an emotional lens, and a physical lens,” Knysz said.

She added: “That whole essence of the person can be cared for and not just them, but their families, their extended families, their partners, their spouses, their children so that the healing love of Christ can be wrapped around any individual that walks in.”

After conducting a needs assessment, Knysz found that in the geographic region in which the clinic will be located about 40% of the population has Medicaid. Additionally, she explained that Detroit does not have many grocery stores. Many are on food stamps, use food pantries, or WIC, a federally-funded supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.

She said these “social determinants of health” will not matter as each patient who walks in the door will be treated with “dignity and respect.”

Kosanke emphasized the important role the clinic will play in caring for mothers who find themselves in crisis pregnancies and are unsure whether to keep the baby or not. He explained that the clinic has partnered with Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan to provide counseling as well as adoption services.

He added that their goal is to have a Heart of Christ Medical Clinic in each of the seven dioceses in Michigan.

“Michigan became a pro-abortion state, which was disappointing to us, but you can’t let the disappointment paralyze you,” he said. “Instead, you have to respond in a positive way to give women and families the assistance they need to make pro-life choices.”

For Kosanke, one of the most critical tools that help women choose life is the ultrasound machine, which the Knights of Columbus has generously donated to the clinic. 

“Studies have shown it has been very effective because once someone sees a fetus on the screen, it’s no longer an abstract concept or an organ. It’s a life, which is the truth,” he shared. “So, confronted with that truth, most of the time … once a woman realizes what she’s really doing, she does not go through with it.”

Knysz added that abortion pill reversal will also be available at the clinic for those women who may have started the abortion procedure but have changed their minds. 

She emphasized the clinic’s goal to support women physically, emotionally, and spiritually in all stages — whether they are looking to place their baby for adoption, reverse an abortion, or are simply in need of prenatal care — “so that they’re not left thinking we only care about their baby, we don’t care about them.”

Knysz shared that this will be her first time working for a faith-based clinic. While she has always been vocal about her faith, she has spent her career in secular organizations. During her time at her previous workplace, two experiences led her to make the decision to leave.

On the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, she was greeted at her clinic by all of the providers holding poster boards preparing to protest. 

On another occasion, as she walked past an exam room, she heard a patient ask the provider if they would pray with her. The provider responded, “I don’t do that,” and walked out. 

“I was seething,” Knysz said. “I’m thinking, ‘Okay, take a deep breath because this is not going to serve you to be angry at the provider.”

She heard the young woman crying in the exam room so she entered, introduced herself, and asked if there was anything she could do to help.

“I said, ‘I overheard you ask the nurse practitioner to pray with you and if it’s OK with you I would be honored to say a prayer with you if you would still like that,’” she recalled.

The two said a prayer together and after the young woman had checked out, Knysz found out that the patient had been raped and was at the clinic getting tested for HIV, STDs, as well as to get a pregnancy test. 

“Not that it should matter, but when a patient asks you to say a prayer with them — it just literally broke my heart that that was the provider’s response and so that very next day I went to the CEO and I gave my 45-day notice,” she said. 

Knysz considers herself blessed to be a part of the Heart of Christ Medical Clinic, where “we will have the opportunity to build relationships with the individuals that come in to be seen” and “where they’re not a number.”