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Pornography producer sentenced to 20 years for sex trafficking

structuresxx/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

One of the pornographers in the production company GirlsDoPorn was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday for sex trafficking.

Andre Garcia, a producer for the pornography website GirlsDoPorn, was charged with “Sex Trafficing by Force, Fraud and Coercion” in 2019 along with Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe. The three operated the companies “GirlsDoPorn” and “GirlsDoToys,” and produced pornographic films. 

On Monday, Garcia was handed down a 20-year sentence for trafficking by federal district court Judge Janis Lynn Sammartino.

Advocates for sex trafficking survivors applauded the sentencing on Tuesday.

“We commend Judge Sammartino for listening to the GirlsDoPorn survivors who courageously spoke at the sentencing hearing and accordingly sentenced Garcia to twenty years in prison – seven years longer than the prosecutors suggested,” Dani Pinter, senior legal counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told CNA on Tuesday. 

“The entire pornography industry – which is built on abuse, exploitation, and coercion – is hereby put on notice that exploitation will not stand,” Pinter said.

In addition to the trafficking charge for Garcia, Pratt, and Wolfe, the three - together with a woman named Valorie Moser who worked as a bookkeeper for GirlsDoPorn, and a cameraman named Theodore Wilfred Gyi - were all charged with “Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion.” That charge carried a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Pratt was also charged with production of child pornography and sex trafficking of a minor

The group was accused of placing ads for “modeling jobs” that would pay $5,000. In fact, the jobs were for parts in pornographic films. The complaint alleged that Pratt, Wolfe, Garcia, and Moser told the women they could remain anonymous and that their videos would not be shared online. The charges allege that this was not true, and that the videos were made exclusively for the internet. 

The complaint alleges that instead of being given a modeling job, women were “pressured” into signing documents without a chance to read them thoroughly, and were threatened with legal action or “outing” if they did not “perform” in a video. Other alleged victims say they were not allowed to leave the location of a shoot until the filming was complete. They say their families and friends viewed their videos online, which resulted in their harassment and estrangement from their families.

Moser and Gyi both pleaded guilty to conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing. Wolfe is awaiting trial, and Pratt, who is a native of New Zealand, remains a fugitive. The FBI is offering a reward for his capture.

Financial records show that the two websites earned more than $17 million for Pratt and Wolfe. The videos were posted on the website Pornhub and were monetized.

In December 2020, 40 women who were trafficked by GirlsDoPorn sued Pornhub, alleging that the website not only kept their porn videos online but continued promoting them even after it was revealed that they were being abused.

“It’s important to note that Pornhub posted the illicit videos on its ‘verified accounts’ platform, which the company asserts is somehow ‘safer.’ Pornhub’s refusal to pull down the videos despite repeated demands to do so by the women belies  the absurd pretense of safety,” said Benjamin Bull, general counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, in December. 

“Pornhub is a predator that continued to victimize these women even after they had obtained a multi-million dollar judgement against Girls Do Porn for trafficking them. As Pornhub’s actions show, there has been a practical merger between the illicit sex trafficking business and the online pornography industry. They are now virtually inseparable,” said Bull.

Fargo dad follows his son, a priest, to Holy Orders as a deacon

Father Eric Seitz says Mass, with his father, Deacon Ben Seitz, assisting as deacon. Courtesy photo.

Fargo, N.D., Jun 15, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

Eric Seitz was ordained to the priesthood August 8, 2020 for the Diocese of Fargo. Two months later, his father Ben was ordained to the diaconate. 

Father Seitz, now parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist parish in Wahpeton, North Dakota, told CNA that his father had been considering the diaconate for many years before it finally came to fruition. 

Father Eric said although he entered holy orders before his father did, it was his father’s holy example that helped nurture his faith to the point of discerning the priesthood. 

“Just looking at things from my perspective, really his example as a Christian man was what made my faith gave room for my faith to grow, and helped me to learn about how serious [faith] is, in an age when so many people pass it off,” he commented. 

“I would say just his vocation as a Christian man was what helped me to discern my vocation.”

Father Eric serves as parochial vicar to Father Dale Lagodinski in the rural town of Wahpeton. Deacon Ben currently serves at Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church in Fargo, about 50 miles north. 

Growing up in an Air Force family, Father Eric said the family moved around frequently, but the tug he felt toward the priesthood followed him as he attended a Catholic school in each city where the Seitzes settled. 

In seventh grade during a penance service, he said the idea of becoming a priest flitted into his mind as he contemplated what his future might hold. 

“As I was going through the rest of middle school and into high school, I kept on hearing from different people that they thought they could see me as a priest,” he recalled. 

“So by the time I got to the end of my junior year of high school, I realized I had to start making some decisions. I went on a discernment retreat, which was really helpful, and was talking with my pastor and the vocation director and my parents and all of that.”

He decided to go to seminary straight out of high school. He struggled somewhat at first with his own decision, saying that in addition to a call to the priesthood, he also had a desire to get married. 

“And as I was going through seminary, I started noticing within myself that the priesthood wasn't just something that God wanted for me, but it was something that I wanted to do as well. This wasn't being imposed on me; it was my heart's desire to go through with this,” he said. 

Father Eric said he remembers his father Ben talking about wanting to join the diaconate when Eric was only in fourth grade, but he remembers having to wait for “God’s timing” to be right. Ben was unable to join the diaconate until after he had settled down and left the military, since the military archdiocese does not offer a diaconate program, Eric said. Ben ultimately earned a master’s degree in theology, and his final formation took five years. 

Father Eric said his mother, a convert to the faith, is very supportive of her son’s and husband’s vocations, and will sometimes call him to request he pray particular Mass intentions. 

In terms of advice for those still discerning their vocation, Father Eric has simple advice. 

“Stay calm and talk to somebody who is wise that you can trust,” he said.

Meet the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia

Bishop Philippe Jourdan, Apostolic Administrator of Estonia. Credit: Rene Riisalu via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Tallinn, Estonia, Jun 15, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

The only bishop in Estonia is making history.

Bishop Philippe Jourdan leads the Catholic Church in Estonia, which is considered the least religious country in Europe. Nestled between Russia and Latvia, the small country boasts a population of just over 1 million. Of that, an estimated 6,000 citizens – roughly 0.6% of the population – identify as Catholic.

That’s because religion almost disappeared from Estonia while under Soviet rule in the 1940s. Still, Catholic leaders are anticipating change for Estonia – change sparked by Pope Francis’ visit to the country in 2018. Bishop Jourdan, the apostolic administrator of Estonia, emphasized the importance of the papal visit.

Pope Francis has a “special talent to touch the heart also of people who are very far away,” he told EWTN News In Depth on June 11.

“For many people – for the average Estonian – now let's say that the Catholic Church, especially the pope, is something nearer,” he said.

Bishop Jourdan is a part of the country’s change and hope for the Church in Estonia. Born in Dax, France, he expressed interest in both science and the faith growing up. That led him to study civil engineering as a college student. Faith and science, he said, complement one another.

“I was never afraid to confront science with the light of faith or faith with the light of science,” he said. “Science now strengthens, really, our faith because it helps us to discover, to be more amazed in front of the reality.”

But even as he studied science, he encountered a “feeling of having a vocation, a supernatural vocation” and the “internal conviction that God is asking something else from me.”

It was a conviction that he followed. After graduating, he was offered a job at IBM. He turned it down.

“They were very surprised that somebody is saying ‘no,’” he remembered. “After that, I went to Rome to study.”

He was ordained a priest of Opus Dei in 1988, and, in the 1990s he went to Estonia. The apostolic nuncio there requested his help because of his proficiency in both English and Russian.

Before long, he attracted the attention of the Vatican. In 2005 he was appointed apostolic administrator of Estonia, and consecrated a bishop.

“I must say that I'm very lucky because God protected me in many, many ways,” Bishop Jourdan said. He also felt a “sense of responsibility,” expressing that the “Holy Spirit helps you for what you are chosen to do.” 

He was chosen, he said, to build bridges. 

When he celebrated his first Mass after ordination, he remembered his fellow priests telling him, “Philippe, before you were [a] builder of bridges, bridges between earth and earth.” But now, they said, he would be a builder “between earth and heaven.”

Pope Francis: Coronavirus recovery must have true vision for humanity

Pope Francis gives the Angelus address, June 6, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2021 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

Rebuilding after the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to confront the failures of the past, including failures towards God and neighbor, Pope Francis has said in a message to world leaders gathered in Bratislava. 

At the same time, he said, recovery efforts must seek true equality and development for all peoples while rejecting false visions for humanity.

 

“Whoever wants to get up from a fall must confront the circumstances of his own collapse and recognize the elements of responsibility,” the pope said March 16 to the 2021 GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum.

 

A “serious and honest analysis of the past” includes “the recognition of the systemic deficiencies, past mistakes and the lack of responsibility towards the Creator, towards neighbor and towards creation,” the Roman Pontiff said. For Pope Francis, recovery must not only “rebuild what was there” but also “correct what was not working before the advent of the coronavirus and which helped to aggravate the crisis.” 

 

The GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum on Security, European Affairs, Energy, Economy, and Strategic Communications will draw presidents, prime ministers, other leading government officials, and NGO and business leaders. The forum describes itself on its website as “the leading platform in the Central Eastern Europe region” and “one of the top strategic conferences globally.” It meets June 15-17 in the capital of Slovakia, though many speakers and attendees will join the event via internet.

 

The Bratislava Forum said the event “facilitates the free exchange of ideas and provides a meeting place for stakeholders from all sectors of society to actively shape the future we want for ourselves and generations to come.” The theme of this year’s forum, “Rebuilding the World Back Better,” echoes the political rhetoric of many countries in anticipation of an end to the coronavirus epidemic.

 

Pope Francis, delivering a video message to the meeting, invoked the three principles of “Look, Judge, Act.” He said the pandemic “forces us to confront a series of serious socio-economic, ecological and political issues, all interrelated.”

 

Citing his Christmas 2020 address to the Roman Curia, he challenged attendees “to transform the time of trial into a time of choice.” A crisis “forces you to choose, for good or for bad,” and people do not emerge from a crisis the same: “either you come out better or you come out worse. But never the same.”

 

“Let's take advantage of this time to take steps forward. The crisis that has hit everyone reminds us that no one is saved alone,” he said. “The crisis opens the way for us to a future that recognizes the true equality of every human being: not an abstract equality, but a concrete one, which offers to individuals and to peoples fair and real opportunities for development.”

 

The pope said he sees “a world that has been deceived by an illusory sense of security based on the hunger for gain.” There is “a model of economic and social life, characterized by so many inequalities and selfishness, in which a small minority of the world population owns the majority of assets, often not hesitating to exploit people and resources.”

 

He lamented “a lifestyle that doesn't care enough for the environment,” saying that people are used to “consuming and destroying without restraint what belongs to everyone and must be safeguarded with respect.” This creates an “ecological debt” that will be borne “above all by the poor and future generations.”

 

“Those who do not act waste the opportunities offered by the crisis,” he continued. Social injustices and marginalization require a development model that puts at its center “every man and the whole man… as the fundamental pillar to respect and protect.” He emphasized the need to adopt a methodology that includes “the ethics of solidarity” and “political charity.”

 

Action requires an overarching vision of hope, “a vision like that of the biblical prophet Isaiah, who saw swords turning into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks,” said Pope Francis.

 

“To act for the development of all people is to carry out a work of conversion,” he added, praising “decisions that convert death into life, weapons into food.” The pope also called for “an ecological conversion,” since an overarching vision sees creation as a “common home” and “urgently requires action to protect it.”

 

The pope said that he hoped that attendees would be “animated by the hope that comes from God” and that their discussions would “contribute to a model of recovery capable of generating more inclusive and sustainable solutions; a development model based on both peaceful coexistence between peoples and harmony with creation.”

The death toll from COVID-19 stands at 3.8 million worldwide. The U.S. has had the most deaths of any country, passing 600,000 deaths on June 15, National Public Radio reports. Brazil, India and Mexico have some of the worst death tolls worldwide, though increasing vaccine distribution is expected to further limit the spread of the virus.

Bishops must address Biden's policies that contradict Church teaching, theologians say

President Biden reveals his rosary beads during a March 1, 2021 virtual meeting with Mexico’s President López Obrador / The White House/YouTube

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2021 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden has advanced policies contrary to Church teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality – and bishops have a duty to address this contradiction, theologians said this week.

Regarding the legitimacy of political opinions in a democracy, “Catholics are free to have these various opinions – as long as they don’t counter moral law, natural law, and faith,” Monsignor Charles Mangan of the Diocese of Sioux Falls told CNA on Tuesday.

“Authentic freedom,” he added, does not mean that Catholic voters and politicians can hold any opinion they want. Rather, it means “we are free in Christ, and we see the Church’s teaching as not a burden, but as something that frees us to embrace what is true,” he added.

He stressed the need for a well-formed conscience. “Conscience does not fall out of the sky. It has to be informed. It has to be taught. It has to be nurtured and matured,” he said.

Speaking with CNA ahead of the U.S. bishops’ virtual meeting which begins on Wednesday, Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, said the bishops must be clear about where Biden’s administration runs afoul of Church teaching.

“It’s actually not Biden on trial right now, but the bishops,” Pecknold said. He noted that “Biden is almost a perfect pro-abort politician, and yet he claims to be a devout Catholic. The bishops must make a clear statement about precisely that contradiction.”

Biden, who is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history, has pushed for taxpayer-funded abortion while his administration seeks to deregulate the abortion pill regimen and fund international pro-abortion groups.

On the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement supporting Roe and stating their intent to codify it in law.

Days later, Biden on January 28 announced a series of executive actions that enabled funding of international pro-abortion groups and supported abortion as an international right.

Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy, an executive policy that bars U.S. funding of foreign NGOs that provide or promote abortions. His administration withdrew from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a joint statement of the United States and 31 other countries saying there is no international right to abortion.

In domestic abortion policy, Biden moved to allow for federal funding of elective abortions by introducing his budget request for the 2022 fiscal year without the Hyde amendment. That policy, enacted in law since 1976 as a rider to budget bills, prohibited federal funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also deregulated the abortion pill regimen, allowing for it to be prescribed and dispensed remotely during the pandemic instead of in-person, as previously required. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has expressed interest in making that rule-change permanent.

Biden’s administration is also moving to allow funding of domestic abortion providers or pro-abortion groups through the Title X program.

While the program was set up in 1970 with express prohibitions against funding of abortion as a method of family planning, the Clinton administration required recipients to provide abortion referrals and counseling upon request.

That 2000 policy stood in place until the Trump administration in 2019 prohibited recipients from referring for abortions or being co-located with abortion clinics, in an attempt to separate taxpayer funding from abortion-related services altogether. Planned Parenthood in 2019 announced it was withdrawing from the program rather than complying with the new requirements.

The Department of Health and Human Services in April proposed to restore the Clinton-era rules for the program, once again allowing abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood to participate.

Biden’s administration has also lifted a moratorium on federally-funded research using fetal tissue derived from elective abortions. The Trump administration in 2019 halted such research at federal facilities, and required other federally-funded research proposals at non-government facilities to undergo review by a federal ethics advisory board. In April, HHS lifted the moratorium and removed the requirement for review by the ethics advisory board.

Meanwhile, Biden has expressed support for LGBT and transgender issues, and his administration has worked to require accommodation for these causes – despite religious or conscientious objections.

On his first day in office on January 20, Biden issued a sweeping executive order redefining sex discrimination. He stated his administration’s policy to uphold sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law, extending to them the same protections as race in public accommodations.

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” Biden stated. 

Biden’s administration began implementing the order in a number of areas, including housing, education, and health care.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has said that male students identifying as transgender females have a right to compete in women’s athletics based on their gender identity.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has weakened protections for women’s shelters, withdrawing a proposed rule that would have allowed them to accept only women clients instead of biological males identifying as transgender females. A Missouri Christian college also sued the administration over its interpretation of sex discrimination, saying that their policy of sex-specific dormitory housing would be at risk.

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice that legal experts warned would require doctors and hospitals to provide gender-transition procedures.

A coalition of Catholic doctors and hospitals had already sued the government over the Obama administration’s 2016 transgender mandate. While a federal district court granted some plaintiffs permanent injunctive relief from the mandate, the Biden administration fought to appeal that case to a higher court.

In foreign policy, U.S. embassies have also been permitted to display the LGBT Pride flag during “Pride season.”

Biden also supports the Equality Act, sweeping legislation that would require acknowledgment of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that the bill would “punish” objecting religious groups, and could require church halls to host pro-LGBT events, or women’s locker rooms and shelters to accept biological males.

“The big picture is that America seems only capable of electing Gallicans, Catholic presidents who don’t actually believe they should follow the Church’s teaching but should just follow their own national preferences,” Pecknold said.

“And president Biden has proved himself to be someone who not only doesn’t agree with Church teaching,” he said, “but advances and promotes” policies that contradict Church teaching.

“And he does it in an obstinate refusal of any correction from any bishop, including the pope,” he said.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a doctrinal note in 2002 on participation of Catholics in political life. The document stressed the need for Catholics to adhere to Church teaching, especially on grave issues such as abortion and euthanasia.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the CDF, cited the note in his letter to the U.S. bishops in May on the matter of Communion for Catholic public officials who support permissive legislation on grave evils.

Monsignor Mangan quoted from the 2002 document on the importance of Catholics upholding the Church’s teaching on life. The 2002 document had a lot to do with “the participation of the laity in terms of voting,” he said.

Democracy “succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated. “Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle, for otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent.”

“That word ‘coherence’ is used here,” Monsignor Mangan said, alluding to the recent statements by bishops on “Eucharistic coherence.” The term is “speaking about the unity and interior coherence of the faithful,” he said.

Regarding the authority of a local ordinary in his diocese, Mangan emphasized the duty of a bishop “to teach, to proclaim, to sanctify, and to safeguard.”

“Safeguarding has a place. To safeguard the faith, to safeguard the dignity of human life, and the reverence due to the sacraments, I think that has a real definite place,” he said.

Biden administration seeks death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber 

Mother and daughter at an April 21, 2013 candlelight vigil for those injured and killed at the Boston Marathon bombings / Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2021 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The Justice Department recently asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Tsarnaev’s death sentence had been handed down by federal jury a lower court, and the Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate it, the Boston Globe reported Tuesday. The high court is scheduled to consider the death penalty for Tsarnaev in the fall, having granted certiorari to an appeal of a federal court ruling that vacated his death sentence.

While the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have now all pushed for the federal death penalty for Tsarnaev, the Boston archdiocese has instead called for life in prison without parole.

“The pain and suffering caused to the victims of the bombing and to their loved ones is as clear and real today as it was nearly eight years ago,” the archdiocese told CNA in May. “As we have previously stated, Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice.”

As a candidate for president, Biden called for the elimination of the death penalty.  

Tsarnaev was convicted on four murder charges in 2015 for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings, which took place on April 15, 2013. The attack, committed alongside his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed three people and injured hundreds. 

Tsarnaev’s death sentence was overturned last year by the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the district court judge wrongly omitted evidence of Tamerlan committing a triple murder in 2011, and did not properly ensure the jury was free of bias amid near-constant media coverage of the case, the Globe reported. The First Circuit ruling sentenced Tsarnaev to life in prison without parole.

In the brief filed at the Supreme Court, lawyers for the Department of Justice argued Tsarnaev’s role in the attack necessitated the original death sentence he was given, which they said should be reinstated.

The lawyers argued that a jury “carefully considered” each of Tsarnaev’s crimes and found that “capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted,” noting that one of his victims was a child. 

“That determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this Court,” the brief stated. 

Biden, the second baptized Catholic to hold the office of president of the United States, is publicly opposed to the death penalty. His campaign said he would work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and take steps to incentivize states to follow suit. 

A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

The U.S. bishops’ conference opposed the Trump administration’s decision to resume federal executions after a 17-year moratorium. The conference said in an August 2020 statement that “the Church’s opposition to the death penalty is clear.”

“Remembering the Lord’s call for mercy, we renew our plea: stop these executions!” the bishops said at the time. 

In August of last year, after then-President Donald Trump expressed support for executing Tsarnaev, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston told CNA that “Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice.” 

In May, the archdiocese stated that “the incomprehensible suffering of so many caused by this heinous crime should appropriately be met with a sentence of imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole.”

Journalists funded by Planned Parenthood create 'black list' of Argentine pro-lifers

Pro-life demonstrator in Argentina | Photo: @connox.ph - Unidad Provida

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 15, 2021 / 12:50 pm (CNA).

On Sunday a group of journalists from Argentina, financed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, published a "black list” with people, political parties, and organizations that are for the most part pro-life.

The group of journalists posted on its "Conservative Reaction” website the photographs, biographies, and political affiliation of each of the almost 400 names that make up the list, many of whom oppose the new abortion law enacted in Argentina in December 2020, and also gender ideology.

Users of the website could search by activity (officials, young influencer, legislator, religious leader, media outlet, NGO, political party, think tanks, spokesperson); by place (Argentine province); or by name.

Among those included in the “black list” are Agustín Laje, Nicolás Márquez, Lawyers for Life, Doctors for Life, Youth Front, Alliance Defending Freedom, Gabriel Ballerini, the Argentine Bishops’ Conference, Senator Silvia Elías de Pérez , Faro Films, Pro-Life Unity, Congresswoman Dina Rezinovsky, Raúl Magnasco, Ayelen Alancay, Camila Duro, Alejandro Williams Becker, Fr. Leandro Bonnin, and Dr. Maria José Mancino.

The website went live June 13, but was inaccessible as of June 14.

The takedown of the site coincides with the pushback it received on social media and in public opinion. On Twitter, the hashtag #LaGestapoArgentina began to go viral.

The journalists who created the "black list", Ingrid Beck, Flor Alcaraz, Paula Hernández, Paula Rodríguez, Juan Elman, and Soledad Vallejos, restricted access to their profiles and Twitter comments.

The Argentine news outlet DiarioAR, reported that International Planned Parenthood Federation / Western Hemisphere Region “committed to cover the costs for five months, in addition to the programming and development of the website.”

According to DiarioAR, the journalists' work was designed to “see how this conservative movement works together in Argentina in different areas: training cadres of young people, lobbying the legislature, strategic litigation, social media, the influence of evangelicals, the Catholic right - more or less masked in secular organizations and academic circles - to obstruct sexual and reproductive rights or to fight against 'gender ideology' as a common front.”

The compilation of this "black list" was condemned by several Argentine legislators, mostly from Juntos por el Cambio, whose names were included.

Congresswoman Dina Rezinovsky introduced a resolution June 14, signed by more than 20 legislators, to express "their great concern and repudiation for the creation of the reaccionconservadora.net site."

“Among the names that appear on the lists, there are almost all the representatives and senators of Juntos por el Cambio, who voted against the law on the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy. In the profile details, they are accused of being ‘anti-rights’ and of introducing bills that are ‘opposed to the women's rights agenda and gender concepts,” Rezinovsky said.

The congresswoman also decried that the "black list" includes "the names of Twitter users who are between 18 and 20 years old, mostly called influencers because they have a couple of thousand followers … There are also a few pastors and churches, doctors, lawyers, political scientists, church-run schools, news outlets, journalists and political parties.”

Rezinovsky said that Argentina lives "in a democracy and these practices take us back to dark times in our history that we should not allow to be repeated."

Lawmakers Walter Ghione, Nicolás F. Mayoraz, Juan Arganaraz and Natalia Armas Be lavi from Santa Fe province also spoke out, expressing their “strong repudiation and concern regarding the publication of a black list of people and organizations that work for the defense of the dignity of the unborn child, posted on the reaccionconservadora.net website, and financed by the multinational abortion clinics company IPPF-WHR.”

Also criticizing the blacklist were former Minister of Defense and Economy and former presidential candidate Ricardo López Murphy, who "strongly opposed the appearance of a website whose sole objective is to persecute those who think differently.”

Cardinal Cupich: A world without nuclear weapons is ‘not some utopian dream’ 

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2021 / 11:08 am (CNA).

Ahead of important international meetings this week, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago urged President Joe Biden and other world leaders to work for “a world without nuclear weapons” as a “moral necessity.” 

Cardinal Cupich wrote an op-ed published in The Hill on June 11, before Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet on June 16 in Geneva. American and Russian diplomats are expected to begin negotiations on eventually replacing the 2010 New START nuclear arms control treaty, according to Politico. The two nations each control around 6,000 nuclear weapons each - about 90% of the world's total stockpile.

Cupich wrote that at Thursday’s summit between Biden and Putin, “top on the agenda should be establishing a climate in which the Review Conference can succeed in reducing the nuclear threat.” He argued that the moment “could not be more urgent.” 

“Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to all life on Earth,” Cupich wrote. “Working toward a world without nuclear weapons, in which vigorous international monitoring and enforcement mechanisms verify compliance, is not some utopian dream. It is, rather, a practical and moral necessity.”

The United States and Russia, as the two countries controlling most of the world's nuclear weapons, “have unique responsibilities in taking the lead to eliminate the nuclear threat,” he said.  

The New START nuclear arms control treaty was set to expire in February before the Biden administration agreed to extend it for another five years. The United States and Russia are expected to discuss what will replace the treaty in 2026. The 2010 agreement limited the number of strategically-deployed nuclear warheads for each country and allowed 18 annual on-site inspections of nuclear facilities by the other country.

Other bishops - including Pope Francis - have advocated for a world without nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, the Catholic bishops of Hiroshima and Nagasaki applauded the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while expressing regret that more countries - including their own - did not sign it. 

“As Catholic bishops and Japanese citizens of the A-bombed cities, we share Pope Francis’ confidence that a world free of nuclear weapons is possible and necessary ‘to protect all life,’” Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki and Bishop Mitsuru Shirahama of Hiroshima wrote in a joint statement on Jan. 22.

The UN treaty - which went into effect in January - marked the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than twenty years. It was signed by 86 states, including the Holy See. But the world’s main nuclear powers - including the United States - did not ratify the treaty. 

During a 2019 visit to the site of the 1945 atomic bomb detonation over Nagasaki, Pope Francis said, “This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another.”

“Peace and international stability,” Pope Francis said, “are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation.”

Cardinal Tagle chokes up while recalling grandfather’s migration story

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is moved as he recalls his grandfather at a Vatican press conference, June 15, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle choked up Tuesday while sharing the story of his grandfather’s migration journey from China to the Philippines as a child.

Speaking during a Vatican press conference June 15, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said that visiting refugee camps in Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, and Bangladesh, reminded him of his migrant roots.

“In them, I saw my grandfather who was born in China, but was forced to leave his homeland as a young boy with his uncle for the Philippines in search of a better future,” Tagle said, pausing for a short time as he became visibly emotional.

The Filipino cardinal explained in a letter for Easter 2017 that his maternal grandfather was born in China, but his mother sent him to live in the Philippines because of her poverty.

Tagle also spoke about his Chinese roots in a 2017 book.

“I think some Chinese characteristics have passed onto me, even though my grandfather spent most of his life in the Philippines,” he said.

“I remember certain practices he observed, such as honoring his mother by offering her food, putting it in front of her photograph, with a few sticks of incense, or setting off fireworks to welcome the New Year, or offering a lot of food during family meals.”

At his grandfather’s request, Tagle studied the Chinese language for a time in his boyhood, though he said in the book he regretted that he did not stick with it.

The cardinal’s mother, Milagros Gokim, is Chinese Filipino and his father, Manuel Topacio Tagle, is ethnic Tagalog. They are both in their early 90s and still live in the Philippines.

They raised Tagle and his younger brother Manuel Gokim Tagle Jr. in a devoutly Catholic home. Both worked at a bank.

Tagle, who also goes by his nickname of “Chito,” spoke about his personal experience with immigration during a press conference ahead of the June 20 conclusion of “Share the Journey,” a four-year global campaign by Caritas Internationalis.

Through “Share the Journey,” national Caritas agencies organized events and initiatives with the goal of promoting a culture of encounter with migrants and refugees.

Tagle has been president of Caritas Internationalis since 2015.

Before being appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in December 2019, the 63-year-old cardinal was archbishop of Manila for nine years.

During the June 15 presser, Tagle described his emotional meetings with refugees over the last six years.

In reference to his visits to the Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps in Bangladesh in 2018 and 2019, he said: “I remember that I had mixed feelings. A part of me rejoiced that they were being given the attention they deserved as human beings. But at the same time, a part of me continued to be sad because I wondered if this was a permanent state of life for them or temporary.”

He said he could not imagine how parents in that situation respond if their children ask them what the future holds.

“The Share the Journey campaign has been a great moment of encounter, solidarity, and for us, memory, and above all an expression of love. An expression of the love of the Church for people on the move. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, followers of other religions, and those with no religion were received as human persons,” Tagle said.

“At a time when COVID-19 should lead to global solidarity, and at the same time when the States are more concerned with protecting their own citizens, with the risk of intensifying selfishness and the fear of strangers, the end of Caritas Internationalis’ global campaign is a call to continue to share the journey with migrants, especially at this most difficult moment,” he said.

“The campaign formally ends, but the mission continues.”

Burkina Faso names street in honor of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Michael Crotty unveils the new sign of Pope Benedict XVI Street in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. / Fr. Paul Dah.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jun 15, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A cardinal in Burkina Faso said Sunday that the naming of a street after Pope emeritus Benedict XVI “brings hope” to the country, Africa, and the world.

Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo was speaking at a June 13 ceremony unveiling the newly named Rue Pape Benoît XVI (Pope Benedict XVI Street) in the capital, Ouagadougou.

The thoroughfare was previously called street 54.160, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It is the location of the country’s apostolic nunciature.

Ouédraogo described Benedict XVI, who served as pope from 2005 until his retirement in 2013, as a great pastor whose name “brings hope to Burkina Faso, to Africa, and to the world and promotes the spirit of dialogue, reconciliation, justice and peace in the hearts of all people.”

“Let us make this street a place where peace awakens faith,” the archbishop of Ouagadougou added.

Archbishop Michael Crotty, the apostolic nuncio in Burkina Faso and Niger, said that the naming of the street was “a sign of gratitude to the pope, now emeritus, who established the apostolic nunciature in Ouagadougou on June 12, 2007, and on the same day appointed Archbishop Vito Rallo as the first apostolic nuncio resident in the country.”

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa with a population of 20 million people, around 19% of whom are baptized Catholics.

The Irish-born nuncio thanked Ouagadougou city council for the honor bestowed on the pope emeritus, adding that the street was also significant because “the rectorate of the Catholic University of West Africa (UCAO) is also located on Benedict XVI Street.”

“I am personally pleased that from now on the headquarters of UCAO will bear in its address the name of Pope Benedict XVI, known for his intelligence and intellectual strength, as well as for his dedication to the search for truth,” he said.

Archbishop Michael Crotty, Armand Béouindé, and Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo / Fr. Paul Dah.
Archbishop Michael Crotty, Armand Béouindé, and Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo / Fr. Paul Dah.

Archbishop Crotty explained that having a diplomatic mission was both a statement and a commitment “to deepen and strengthen bilateral relations, and there is no better way to do so than to be physically present.”

“Indeed, in the nine months since my arrival here in Burkina Faso, the greatest joy for me in being Pope Francis’ representative is to make him present wherever I go, a presence made possible by Pope Benedict XVI who established this diplomatic mission of the Holy See to Burkina Faso and Niger here in Ouagadougou,” he commented.

“I hope that these links between us will bear fruit in favor of peace and reconciliation for our world,” he said.

Benedict XVI, 94, now lives in retirement in Vatican City. As pope, he visited Burkina Faso’s neighbor, Benin, in 2011, but did not travel to Burkina Faso.

Armand Béouindé, the mayor of Ouagadougou, described Benedict XVI as “a man who has always worked for reconciliation between peoples, for interreligious dialogue, and for faith.”

“The renewal of the identity of this street will further implant in the collective memory of our population the name of an eminent personality that is Pope Benedict XVI,” he said.

Béouindé added that Benedict XVI “not only allowed the establishment of a strong diplomatic relationship between Burkina Faso and the Holy See, but also it is thanks to him that the apostolic nunciature was built in 2007.”

The mayor said that his administration heeded the request of the pope’s representative in the country “to name the street in front of the main gate of the nunciature, which also houses the rectorate of the Catholic university, to be Pope Benedict XVI Street.”

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.