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Pro-life vs. Pro-choice states: If Roe falls, what would the abortion landscape look like?

Screenshot of CNA graphic showing abortion policy by state. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case which observers believe could present a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 decision which legalized abortion nationwide. 

But even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortions will almost certainly continue in the U.S.— at least in certain states. 

While the nation awaits the court’s ruling— which could come at any time until roughly the end of June— numerous states are taking legislative action to codify abortion rights, while other states are doing the opposite, creating a potential patchwork of abortion laws throughout the country.

What are the trends? Which states are moving in a pro-life direction, and which in a pro-choice direction? Check out the map above and see where your home state falls. 

More detailed information on each state, and links to coverage by CNA and other outlets, is listed below. 

Information is up-to-date as of Jan. 19, 2022. 

Alabama

Alabama has a “trigger law” that would ban almost all abortions if Roe v Wade were to be overturned, as well as a total ban passed in 2019, which is currently blocked in court. 

A group of 23 Republican lawmakers have prefiled a bill (HB 23) that would implement a Texas-style heartbeat abortion ban, enforced by private lawsuits.

Alaska

The Alaska State Supreme Court found a "right to abortion" in 1997. Alaska law requires the "informed consent" of a patient before they have an abortion, meaning that their doctor must discuss with them the physical and emotional risks involved in abortion before they obtain one. Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates in Alaska has discussed the possibility of asking voters in Nov. 2022 to call a constitutional convention, which only happens once every 10 years.

Arizona

Arizona has a ban on abortion that predates Roe v Wade and is currently unenforceable. Arizona also has laws that prohibit abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. The state also prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

Arkansas

Trigger law, 20-week ban

California

Abortion rights enshrined in law since 1969. California has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions on the books, but the law is permanently enjoined by court order, meaning minors in California can seek abortions without their parents’ knowledge or permission. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion. 

Senate Bill 245, introduced in 2022 by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), would put an end to out-of-pocket costs paid by those seeking abortions. The state already requires abortions to be covered by health insurance.

Colorado

No gestational limit- voters rejected a proposed 22-week limit in 2020. 

The Reproductive Health Equity Act is set to be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly in 2022. Its sponsors say the act will ensure every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception; every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of Colorado.

Connecticut

Abortion protected under state law.

Delaware

Abortion protected under state law.

Florida

Lawmakers in Florida have introduced a 15-week abortion ban for the state, which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. 

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List praised the effort and urged the bill’s passage. 

 “We urge the Florida Legislature to swiftly pass and send to Governor DeSantis’s desk this groundbreaking pro-life legislation that would finally end brutal late-term abortions in the Sunshine State,” said Sue Liebel, SBA List State Policy Director, on Jan. 11. 

“Abortions after 15 weeks are gruesome and inhumane for unborn children and increasingly dangerous for the mother with every passing week.”

According to SBA, Florida has the third highest number of late term abortions among states that report them. 

Georgia

Heartbeat ban. Pro-life lawmakers in Georgia are preparing to introduce legislation to prevent the abortion pill from being prescribed through telemedicine and prevent it from being delivered by mail.

Hawaii

Abortion protected under state law.

Idaho

Trigger law; heatbeat law. A conservative policy group in the state has said that passing a Texas-style heartbeat ban is part of their 2022 agenda.

Illinois

Right to abortion is enshrined in state law. The state also recently repealed its requirement that parents be notified about abortions.

Indiana

22-week ban, abortion pill reversal notification law (blocked)

Iowa

Heatbeat ban (unenforceable); State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion."

Kansas

Abortion is allowed under a state Supreme Court ruling; in Aug. 2022, Kansans will vote on an amendment to the state's constitution to exclude a "right to abortion" and reserve the right to regulate abortion in the state to the legislature.

Kentucky

Trigger law, heartbeat bill. Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, has plans to file a bill banning the receipt of abortion pills by mail.

Louisiana

Trigger law, State constitution excludes right to abortion, heatbeat ban

Maine

Abortion protected under state law.

Maryland

Abortion protected under state law since 1992. Montgomery County Del. Ariana Kelly (D), a former executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, has said that she will be introducing legislation to expand abortion access in the state.

Massachusetts

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion." A bill currently in the state's Joint Committee on Public Health would force public universities to provide medication abortion services at student health centers.

Michigan

Abortion advocacy groups in Michigan have launched a ballot initiative to override a state abortion ban— which is currently unenforced— by way of a constitutional amendment. The state’s Catholic Conference said the effort shows the power of the abortion industry in influencing state policy. 

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan are two of the organizations sponsoring the ballot drive. Organizers of the ballot initiative need about 425,000 valid voter signatures to put it before the electorate in November, the AP reports. 

Michigan is one of several states with an abortion law on the books which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. A 1931 Michigan state law makes it a felony for anyone to provide an abortion unless "necessary to preserve the life of such woman." 

“More than anything, women considering an abortion deserve support, love, and compassion. For decades, abortion has been touted as the only option, harmless and easy, yet we know this is a lie. Abortion hurts women,” Rebecca Mastee, Policy Advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Jan. 7.

“Today’s news that some are looking to enshrine abortion in the state constitution is a sad commentary on the outsized and harmful role the abortion industry plays in our politics and our society. We look forward to standing with women through a potential statewide ballot campaign to promote a culture of life and good health for both moms and unborn children.”

Minnesota

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion."

Mississippi

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, dilation and evacuation abortion ban, heartbeat law. Mississippi's 15-week ban is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Missouri

Trigger law, Eight-week ban (currently blocked by courts). 

House Bill 1854, introduced Jan. 2022, would defund Planned Parenthood. State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, in 2022 introduced a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Montana

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion." Abortion restricted after viability; other restrictions, such as requirement that only doctors perform abortions, are enjoined by court order. 

Nebraska

Six-week ban currently under consideration. State also has dilation and evacuation abortion ban. Six week abortion ban has been introduced. 

Nevada

Right to abortion enshrined in state law since 1990. 

New Hampshire

New 24-week limit took effect in 2022. For this year, legislation has been introduced to repeal the state's 24-week limit and ultrasound mandate; a bill to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers who object to abortion, sterilization, or artificial contraception; a bill to allow biological father to seek a court injunction to stop a mother having an abortion; and a heartbeat ban.

New Jersey

Bill S49/A6260, which was introduced Jan. 6, codifies a “fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term.” 

A “right to abortion” already existed in New Jersey because of state Supreme Court rulings. Proponents of the bill say the legislation is necessary to protect abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned. 

The bill passed by both houses of the New Jersey state legislature the afternoon of Jan. 10 was vigorously opposed by the state’s Catholic conference. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law Jan. 13. 

New Mexico

1969 abortion ban repealed in 2021.

New York

The 2019 Reproductive Health Act eliminated restrictions on abortion until the moment of birth in cases deemed necessary for the mother’s "life and health."

North Carolina

20-week ban. Heartbeat bill introduced. 

North Dakota

Trigger law, heartbeat bill. Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal has said she wants to pass a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Ohio

Heatbeat ban. Texas-style heartbeat ban introduced in late 2021.

Oklahoma

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, Heartbeat ban. A Republican lawmaker, Oklahoma State Rep. Sean Roberts, has announced plans to introduce a law modeled after the Texas abortion ban.

Oregon

Abortion fully protected under state law.

Pennsylvania

24-week-limit; abortion not explicitly protected under state law.

Rhode Island

Abortion protected under state law. The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act seeks to repeal a law prohibiting insurance coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients seeking abortions.

South Carolina

Heartbeat ban. Introduced in 2022, House Bill 4568 and its counterpart Senate Bill 907 would require “the disclosure of medical information" about abortion pill reversal. Other legislative efforts are underway to make adoption easier and less expensive in the state. 

South Dakota

Trigger law. Governor Kristi Noem said in Jan. 2022 that she will be introducing a heartbeat ban for the state, as well as introducing legislation to ban telemedicine abortions in South Dakota. 

Tennessee

Trigger law, heartbeat ban, State constitution bars protection.

Texas

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, Heartbeat ban (currently enforced through private lawsuits).

Utah

Trigger law as well as numerous other current restrictions on abortion such as a waiting period.

Vermont

Abortion protected under state law. The Vermont House of Representatives is due to begin debate on an amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, which would require voter approval in the fall.

Virginia

Abortion not explicitly protected under state law. Several abortion expansions enacted in 2021, including the allowal of abortion coverage to be included without limits in health plans on the state exchange, meaning that taxpayers would be funding abortions under the law. 

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has suggested he may be open to a 20-week ban.

Washington

Abortion protected under state law.

West Virginia

Pre-Roe ban, dilation and evacuation abortion ban, State constitution bars protection. West Virginia's House Bill 4004 would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

Wisconsin

Pre-Roe ban, but Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has said he will not enforce a ban on abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Wyoming

Restricts abortion after viability - abortion not protected under state law. Some have speculated that Republican lawmakers may introduce a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Washington, DC

Abortion fully protected under law.

Catholic health care system removes race as factor in eligibility for COVID-19 treatments

null / Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 14:17 pm (CNA).

A Catholic health care system in Wisconsin is no longer including race as a factor in determining a patient’s eligibility for COVID-19 treatments.

SSM Health and its affiliates use a risk scoring calculator to determine a patient’s eligibility for COVID-19 treatments including monoclonal antibodies. 

A previous version of the calculator boosted the scores of nonwhite or Hispanic patients, making them more likely to be prioritized for treatments that have become increasingly scarce amid a surge in omicron cases. Monoclonal antibody treatments are in particularly short supply because some versions of the treatment are reportedly ineffective against the omicron variant.  

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty questioned the inclusion of race in the calculator in a Jan. 14 letter to SSM Health’s president and CEO. SSM Health responded that the calculator was updated to no longer include race, though it is unclear when that happened.

“While early versions of risk calculators across the nation appropriately included race and gender criteria based on initial outcomes, SSM Health has continued to evaluate and update our protocols weekly to reflect the most up-to-date clinical evidence available,” SSM Health said in a statement. “As a result, race and gender criteria are no longer utilized.”

Other factors included in the calculator include age, gender, and preexisting health conditions. 

Healthcare providers under the umbrella of the Minnesota Resource Allocation Program were also factoring in race in determining patient eligibility for COVID-19 treatments. The policy was reversed on Jan. 12, the same day a conservative advocacy group threatened to sue Minnesota.

New state policy prioritizes treatment for people who are immunocompromised or pregnant. 

Both healthcare systems were following a directive from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prioritize race in the administration of COVID-19 treatments. 

Some studies suggest racial minorities are at higher risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19. But conservative leaders have argued that it is unjust and illegal to discriminate against patients based on race. 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) decried the practice in a Jan. 11 letter to the Acting Commissioner of the FDA

“While our nation should seek to better understand and address real disparities that exist in health outcomes, that important work is a far cry from the rationing of vital medicines based on race and ethnicity,” Rubio wrote. “Rationing life-saving drug treatments based on race and ethnicity is racist and un-American. There is no other way to put it.”

Rubio suggested appropriate factors include age and preexisting conditions. 

“Medical research has long documented that many of these comorbidities disproportionately impact people of color,” he wrote. “Therefore, by prioritizing an individuals’ medical history, healthcare providers would ensure racial minorities at highest risk of disease, including all other high-risk patients, can receive these life-saving drugs.”

Pope Francis appoints apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in US and Canada

The flag of Eritrea. / Creative Photo Corner/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor on Wednesday for Eritrean Catholics in the United States and Canada.

The pope named Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, chaplain of the Eritrean community of Los Angeles, on Jan. 19 as apostolic visitor of Eritrean Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite in the two countries.

The Vatican announced on the same day that the pope had chosen an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in Europe: Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, protosyncellus of the Archeparchy of Asmara, the metropolitan see of the Eritrean Catholic Church.

The move follows the pope’s decision in January 2020 to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe and name an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year.

In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who perform a short-term mission on behalf of the pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role supervising communities which do not yet have their own ordinary.

The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 168,000 members and is based in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, but also has diaspora communities around the world.

Eritrea is a northeast African country with a population of 6 million that borders Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. In 2019, the government nationalized schools and hospitals run by the Catholic Church.

Eritrea gained independence from its larger neighbor Ethiopia in 1991 following a decades-long war.

The Eritrean Catholic Church traces its roots to apostolic times and uses the ancient Ge’ez language in its liturgies, which are celebrated according to the Alexandrian Rite, associated with St. Mark the Evangelist.

Pope Francis agreed in 2015 to formally separate the Eritrean Catholic Church from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, establishing it as a sui iuris (“of one’s own right”) metropolitan church, with Asmara as its metropolitan see.

City names 2022 the Year of Edith Stein to mark 100 years since her baptism

Edith Stein, pictured as a student in 1913-1914. / Public Domain.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Edith Stein’s baptism in the Catholic Church.

The city where the philosopher turned saint was born has launched a Year of Edith Stein to celebrate the life and legacy of the woman who was martyred at Auschwitz.

Stein was born in 1891 into a Jewish family in what is now Wrocław, southwestern Poland. The city was then known as Breslau and located in the German Empire.

After declaring herself to be an atheist at the age of 20, she went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy.

She decided to convert to Catholicism after spending a night reading the autobiography of the 16th-century Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila while staying at a friend’s house in 1921.

“When I had finished the book,” she later recalled. “I said to myself: This is the truth.”

Stein was baptized on Jan. 1, 1922, at the age of 30. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross when she became a novice Carmelite nun 12 years later.

Wrocław Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Kiciński inaugurated the year on Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the parish church where Stein used to come to pray.

“We look today at St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. One hundred years ago she was baptized and 100 years ago she was immersed in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Kiciński said.

“Coming out of the baptismal waters, she took very strongly to heart the words from today’s Gospel: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’”

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. Public Domain.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. Public Domain.

Ten years after Stein entered the Carmelite convent, she was arrested along with her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic, and the members of her religious community.

She had just finished writing a study of St. John of the Cross entitled “The Science of the Cross.”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on Aug. 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998 and proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe a year later.

To mark the year, the city council of Wrocław has also set up an exhibit in the Edith Stein House, the saint’s family home which is now a conference center and a space for interreligious dialogue.

Synod of Bishops’ resources website links to women’s ordination group

The opening day of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican Synod Hall on Oct. 3, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 10:15 am (CNA).

A website overseen by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican has linked to a group campaigning for women’s ordination.

In a post dated Jan. 15, the Synodresources.org website shared information about the Women’s Ordination Conference organization, based in Washington, D.C.

Thierry Bonaventura, communication manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, told CNA on Jan. 19 that the website was not promoting the group.

“I would rather speak of ‘sharing,’ as the title of the website,” he said.

Bonaventura pointed out that the “About” section of Synodresources.org emphasizes that the website is “a tool for listening and a platform for sharing that does not replace the official website of Synod 2021-2023 (synod.va).”

“Rather than vertical, top-down communication, it aims to be horizontal communication,” it says.

The website was previously at the center of controversy after it linked to an LGBT outreach ministry.

Officials at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops removed the link to New Ways Ministry after they became aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the organization in 2010.

But following an outcry, they restored the link and issued an apology.

Synodresources.org also links to the Latin-American Rainbow Catholic community, part of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which says that it “brings together groups and their members who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and their families.”

The Women’s Ordination Conference, founded in 1975, describes itself as “the oldest and largest organization working to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops.”

In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

During an in-flight press conference in 2016, Pope Francis was asked whether there were likely to be women priests in the Catholic Church in the next few decades.

“As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this holds,” he replied.

The pope has asked two commissions to study the question of a female diaconate in the Catholic Church.

The first, established in 2016, examined the historic issue of the role of deaconesses in the early Church but did not reach a consensus.

He instituted a second commission in 2020, following discussion of the female diaconate during the 2019 Amazon synod.

Pope Francis changed Church law in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, a permanent institution based at the Vatican and dedicated to serving the Synod, is currently overseeing what has been called one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

A vademecum, or handbook, released in September 2021 urged dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.

It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”

A disclaimer on the homepage of Synodresources.org says: “The publication of any contribution should not be understood as an endorsement of its content; nor should anyone interpret such a publication as an act of formal recognition by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops of the group or community submitting the contribution.”

A pop-up window explains that anyone can send material to the site, but not all contributions will be accepted.

It says: “The current synodal process is addressed to the entire People of God, to all the baptized. In chapter 2.1 of the Vademecum, we urged dioceses to involve people at risk of exclusion (women, migrants, the elderly or Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith).”

“At the same time, in order to participate fully in the act of discernment, it is important for the baptized to listen to the voices of other people in their local context, including those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, people from other faith traditions, people who have no religious beliefs at all.”

“Therefore, anyone is entitled to send material. At the same time, because we firmly believe that the experience of faith is and must be communitarian, we will only accept contributions that express the views of a group clearly identified. We regret that individual submissions will not be considered.”

The Vatican announced in May 2021 that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October that year.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

New committee aims to build up political candidates who support religious liberty for all

American flag and Church. / Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 09:52 am (CNA).

The Religious Freedom Institute on Tuesday launched a committee to support political candidates who defend the free exercise of religion for all.

The National Committee for Religious Freedom describes itself as a non-partisan organization that will support “any candidate from any political party who supports religious freedom, and oppose any candidate of any political party who does not.”

As part of the Jan. 19 launch, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on religious freedom, hailed the committee’s creation, while lamenting the fact that the “first freedom” of religious liberty is “surely one of the last freedoms to get a committee to safeguard it.”

Dolan recently spoke out against attacks on houses of worship and religious art, saying such attacks are akin to attacking the community who prays there.

Sam Brownback, a Catholic and a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, said the founders of the group are “increasingly concerned with declining religious freedom here at home” and the “exponential” effect that has overseas. He said the committee plans to run educational campaigns and assess candidates’ positions on religious freedom; create voter guides; and ask candidates to sign a pledge to support religious freedom.

Though the founders of the committee— who represent a wide range of religions— don’t agree on all points of theology, Brownback praised the fact that the group was able to come together to support the right of all Americans to “peacefully practice their faith, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Robert George, a Catholic intellectual and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom , spoke during during the launch and noted that the committee stands ready to defend the religious freedom of all people, not just Christians.

“What we don’t want is religious freedom for me, but not for thee,” he noted.

A legal group known for representing religious believers in court said late last year that support for religious freedom in America has reached a three year high.

Pope Francis offers prayers for the people of Tonga after volcanic eruption and tsunami

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 19, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 08:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of Tonga on Wednesday as its islands recover from tsunami damage caused by a massive underwater volcanic eruption.

“My thoughts go out to the people of the islands of Tonga, who have been affected in recent days by the eruption of the underwater volcano, which has caused enormous material damage,” Pope Francis said at the end of his general audience on Jan. 19.

“I am spiritually close to all the afflicted people, imploring God for relief for their suffering. I invite everyone to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters.”

Seen in satellite images from space, scientists have called the volcanic blast in the South Pacific on Jan. 15 the largest eruption in the world in three decades.

Some of the archipelago’s outlying islands were hit by 49-foot-high waves which destroyed homes, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 19.

Communications from Tonga were cut off after the eruption. Reuters has reported at least three known deaths from the tsunami waves.

Caritas Australia, a Catholic charity, is working to contact its partners in Tonga to assess the situation on the ground.

“The volcanic ash is hampering emergency flights into the country and the damage to telecommunications infrastructure has made it difficult to get in contact with affected communities,” the charity wrote on its website.

“There are fears that the volcanic ash and saltwater inundation from the tsunami waves may contaminate drinking water and threaten the health and safety of vulnerable communities.”

The Polynesian country has a Catholic cardinal. Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 60, was born in Tonga’s largest island and currently lives in its capital city, Nukuʻalofa.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane wrote on social media that he had sent a message of prayerful solidarity to Cardinal Mafi on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

“Our congregations will be praying for Tonga today,” Coleridge said on Jan. 16.

Emmanuel Macron calls for abortion to be added to EU rights charter

Emmanuel Macron. / Frederic Legrand COMEO/Shutterstock.

Strasbourg, France, Jan 19, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Jan. 19, Macron said that the rights charter, ratified in the year 2000, needed to be revised.

“Twenty years after the proclamation of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, which notably enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union, I hope that we can update this charter, notably to be more explicit on environmental protection or the recognition of the right to abortion,” he said.

He added: “Let us open this debate freely with our fellow citizens of great European conscience to give new life to our set of rights that forges this Europe strong in its values, the only future of our common political project.”

The French news channel BFM TV reported that Macron’s reference to abortion was applauded by lawmakers.

His appeal came the day after the European Union’s law-making body elected the pro-life Maltese politician Roberta Metsola as its new president.

Metsola succeeds David Sassoli, who died on Jan. 11 at the age of 65. Her election was welcomed by both EU bishops and Maltese Church leaders.

But Metsola — at 43, the youngest-ever president of the European Parliament — told Euronews after her election that she would respect the assembly’s majority view in favor of abortion during her renewable term of two and a half years.

“The position of the parliament is unambiguous and unequivocal, and that is also my position,” she said on Jan. 18.

“That is exactly what I will do throughout my mandate as president on this issue.”

The EU charter recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

The European Parliament voted in June 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

Members of the assembly voted by 378 votes in favor, 255 against, and 42 abstentions to adopt the text, known as the Matić Report, at a plenary session in Brussels, Belgium.

The report also declared that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”

Most of the EU’s 27 member states permit abortion on demand or broad social grounds, except Malta and Poland, which have strong pro-life laws.

On Jan. 1, France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which negotiates and adopts EU laws with the European Parliament.

Macron, who is expected to run for re-election in April, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in November 2021.

Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of our sins’

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 19, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has encouraged people to encounter God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with a reminder that the tender forgiveness of God is greater than the “ugliest” sin.

“God is not afraid of our sins, he is greater than our sins,” the pope said in his general audience on Jan. 19.

“God always forgives: put this in your head and heart. God always forgives. We are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness. But he always forgives, even the ugliest things,” he said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Speaking about God’s tenderness and mercy, Pope Francis said that the “things of God always reach us through the mediation of human experiences.”

“Tenderness is the best way to touch what is fragile in us. Look how nurses touch the wounds of the sick: with tenderness, so as not to hurt them more. And so the Lord touches our wounds with the same tenderness,” he said.

“This is why it is important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in personal prayer with God, having an experience of truth and tenderness.”

The pope said that God’s tenderness is “greater than the logic of the world” and can be “an unexpected way of doing justice.”

“Without this ‘revolution of tenderness’ … we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to get up easily and that confuses redemption with punishment,” he said.

At the end of his live-streamed audience, the pope’s thoughts turned to those who are in prison today.

“For this reason, today I want to remember in a special way our brothers and sisters who are in prison,” he said.

“It is right that those who have made a mistake pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have made a mistake can redeem themselves from their mistake.”

“There can be no condemnations without windows of hope. … Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and we think of God’s tenderness for them and we pray for them, so that they may find in that window of hope a way out towards a better life.”

This was Pope Francis’ eighth audience in a cycle of catechesis on St. Joseph that he launched in November 2021.

The pope dedicated this week’s general audience to a reflection on the saint as “a father of tenderness.”

As a part of this theme, he reflected on a Bible verse from the Book of Hosea (11:3-4): “He taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him.”

“It’s beautiful, this description from the Bible that shows God’s relationship with the people of Israel. And it is the same relationship we believe St. Joseph had with Jesus,” he said.

Pope Francis offered the following prayer to St. Joseph at the end of the audience:

St Joseph, father in tenderness,
teach us to accept that we are loved precisely in that which is weakest in us.
Grant that we may place no obstacle
between our poverty and the greatness of God's love.
Stir in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
that we may be forgiven and also made capable of loving tenderly
our brothers and sisters in their poverty.
Be close to those who have done wrong and are paying the price for it;
Help them to find not only justice but also tenderness so that they can start again.
And teach them that the first way to begin again
is to sincerely ask for forgiveness, to feel the Father’s caress.
Amen.

The Order of Malta’s new statutes could dilute its sovereignty forever

The flag of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. / AM113 via Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2022 / 04:20 am (CNA).

Fra’ Marco Luzzago, the Lieutenant of the Order of Malta, delivered his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the order on Jan. 11, five years into a reform process launched by Pope Francis.

Standing at a podium at the Magistral Villa in Rome, he hinted at some issues regarding the sovereign status of the body known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Fra’ Marco Luzzago. .  Order of Malta.
Fra’ Marco Luzzago. . Order of Malta.

Recalling at length the works of mercy performed by the order’s members in the past year, he stressed towards the end of his speech that “what you have heard so far has been possible above all thanks to the sovereignty of the order, a founding element of our constitution.”

Luzzago, whose official title is Lieutenant of the Grand Master, added that “this sovereignty has enabled the Order of Malta to build up its vast network of international relations through its diplomacy committed to the constant support of its centuries-old humanitarian mission.”

He concluded: “The work on the reform of our constitutional charter has continued over the past year and is at an advanced stage. Further meetings are planned in the coming weeks to analyze further and examine the outstanding issues.”

“An extraordinary general chapter will be convened to approve the reform when as much consensus as possible has been reached on all the main issues.”

This final passage is crucial to understanding the present situation. In November 2020, Pope Francis named Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi as his special delegate to the order. In October 2021, the pope gave Tomasi sweeping new powers to carry forward reform of the 1,000-year-old institution.

But a draft of the order’s revised constitution is proving controversial among some Knights of Malta, since it would make the order “subject to the Holy See.” This means that the body would lose its independence and hence its diplomatic status.

The final stage of the reform is coming after a long and often bitter debate, which broke out in 2017 after the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing as Grand Master of the order. (Festing died in November at the age of 71.)

To grasp the current crisis, it is important to understand the order’s unique identity and distinctive structure.

The order has diplomatic relations with more than 100 states and permanent observer status at the United Nations. Although it possesses no real territory, it has the hallmarks of sovereignty, such as its own official currency, postage stamps, and vehicle registration plates.

The order’s members belong to one of three classes.

The First Class consists of the Knights of Justice or Professed Knights, as well as Professed Conventual Chaplains, who take the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are defined as religious but not required to live in community.

The Second Class is composed of Knights and Dames in Obedience, who promise to strive for Christian perfection in the spirit of the order.

The Third Class comprises lay members who make neither vows nor promises, but are committed to living a fully Catholic life according to the order’s principles.

Only First Class knights who descend from a family of four quarters of nobility are eligible to be elected as the Grand Master, the order’s religious superior and sovereign.

The Grand Master oversees the order with the help of a body called the Sovereign Council, whose members are elected for five-year terms by the order’s General Chapter.

Members of the Sovereign Council include the Grand Chancellor, who oversees the order’s 133 diplomatic missions, and the Grand Hospitaller, responsible for the order’s humanitarian initiatives.

The order has three different types of national institutions spread around the world: six grand priories, six sub-priories, and 48 associations.

Now let’s look at how the tensions within the order exploded into a public crisis.

Albrecht von Boeselager. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Albrecht von Boeselager. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Clashes within the order

In 2014, the Chapter of the Order of Malta decided not to re-elect Jean-Pierre Mazery as the order’s Grand Chancellor. Instead, Albrecht von Boeselager, previously the order’s Grand Hospitaller, was elected to the position. There was also a significant shift in that election, as none of the Italian members previously in critical positions were re-elected.

This shift had notable consequences. In 2016, Fra’ Matthew Festing, the then Grand Master, asked Boeselager to resign in the presence of Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s cardinal patron (the pope’s representative to the order). The request was tied to reports about the alleged distribution of condoms in Burma by Malteser International, the order’s relief agency.

Fra’ John Edward Critien was appointed interim Grand Chancellor. But several knights appealed against the decision, arguing that the situation in Burma had been resolved and Boeselager was not even Grand Hospitaller at the time.

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, addresses the diplomatic corps in January 2015. British Association of the Order of Malta.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, addresses the diplomatic corps in January 2015. British Association of the Order of Malta.

The pope decided to establish a commission to clarify the situation. The members of the commission were the then Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Lebanese leader Marwan Sehnaoui, canon law expert Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former Grand Chancellor Jacques de Liedekerke, and Marc Odendall, a Swiss-German banker who at the time also sat on the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority’s board.

Recalling that time, Odendall told CNA via email: “We got all the high charges, plus all the important presidents, that represented the associations doing the 90% of the works of the order with 10% of members. We also received hundreds of support letters.”

“We finalized our report and recommended the consensus views among those, inter alia, to ask Fra’ Festing to go, not as a head of state, where the pope should not intervene, but as a head of the religious, since he had asked Boeselager to resign under his promise of obedience and had dismissed him for refusal.”

“He had not followed the course before the Sovereign Council because he would not have had a majority. So, Festing had to resign because he had broken his religious obligations.”

Festing resigned on Jan. 28, 2017. Odendall said that “the pope did not sanction a political decision, which Festing would have taken as the head of the sovereign order.” But the pope firmly took over the religious reform at the Order of Malta.

Pope Francis appointed a delegate to keep tabs on the reform process: Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then an archbishop and serving as the “sostituto” of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Pope Francis with Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, at the Vatican, June 22, 2018. .  Vatican Media.
Pope Francis with Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, at the Vatican, June 22, 2018. . Vatican Media.

The order elected the Italian Fra’ Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto as Lieutenant in 2017 and Grand Master in 2018. Dalla Torre promoted workshops and a comprehensive consultation among the knights to collect proposals for reforming the order’s constitution.

But on April 29, 2020, Dalla Torre died, at the age of 75. The order was led briefly by an interim head, before Luzzago was elected Lieutenant of the Grand Master on Nov. 8, 2020. The lieutenancy lasts for a year, and then there must be a new election, which can either confirm the lieutenancy or elect the Grand Master.

In the meantime, Pope Francis replaced the demoted Becciu with Tomasi as his delegate to the order. In a letter sent to the delegate last October, the pope himself confirmed Luzzago as Lieutenant until the election of a Grand Master and granted Tomasi the right to reform the entire constitution — not only the religious part.

Pope Francis meets with the Order of Malta's Fra' Marco Luzzago on June 25, 2021. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with the Order of Malta's Fra' Marco Luzzago on June 25, 2021. Vatican Media

In particular, the pope gave the delegate the power to summon an Extraordinary General Chapter and co-chair it; outline an ad hoc regulation for the composition and procedures of the Chapter; approve the order’s constitutional charter and code; carry on a renewal of the Sovereign Council according to the new regulations; and summon the Council Complete of State to elect a new Grand Master.

In the end, the pope intervened not only in the religious part of the order, but also granted powers for a general reform of the order, which necessarily affects its sovereignty and government.

Currently, a working group is overseeing the reform. It is composed of Tomasi, Father Ghirlanda, Msgr. Brian Ferme (secretary of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy), Maurizio Tagliaferri, Federico Marti, and Gualtiero Ventura.

On Jan. 25, this group will be enlarged with the addition of a few senior members of the order and at least one Professed Knight. They are supposed to reach an agreement by Jan. 26, so that the delegate can distribute the draft reform: a challenging task, no doubt.

.  Giorgio Minguzzi via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).
. Giorgio Minguzzi via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The fundamental issues

Why is reform of the Order of Malta necessary? Odendall suggested two main reasons.

“The first: the religious life of the professed needs to be reformed. Most of them have a dispensation for not honoring the vow of poverty. The second: if the Grand Master needs to be a religious, which we all agree on, we would like to be able to elect all of the pool of 55 professed and drop the nobility requirements, as only a handful of very old professed qualify today,” he said.

But the discussion within the working group is also about the nature of the office of Grand Master. Odendall shares an opinion that arose during the various debates.

“Unlike others,” he affirmed, “we believe that the Grand Master should be a non-governing head of state, elected for a fixed period and not an absolute monarch for life.”

“He should be completely devoted to the order’s religious role and let the 14,000 Catholic members, of the three classes, together continue to develop the order spiritually and professionally at the service of the poor and the sick.”

He added that a “$2 billion turnover, 45,000 employees, 100,000 volunteers in the world cannot be managed by 19 professed who are under 70 and have no professional qualifications.”

In the end, Odendall believes that “national associations cannot accept their success and future developments being compromised by the notion that only full religious members should be decision-makers.”

But, he noted, “if the sovereignty disappears, then national associations do not need to stay in a subsidiary of the Holy See managed by the professed, and they will likely quit and stay a Catholic organization with their chaplains and no interference against the mission to the poor and the sick.”

The Magistral Villa of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome. Lalupa via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The Magistral Villa of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome. Lalupa via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The state of the reform process

The draft of the constitutional charter has not been released publicly. But CNA has learned of its general outlines.

First, the order would become a lay institute, subject to the Holy See, ruled by canon law. This reform might jeopardize the diplomatic ties of the Order of Malta — which is a sovereign entity in international law.

The reform would also allow the Holy See to intervene in the works of the associations beyond what is spelled out in the constitutional charter and code.

National associations have until now been distinct from the order’s priories: they were not governed by canon law and the Holy See played no role in them.

According to the draft, power within the associations will reside with the professed and members in obedience. Moreover, the top offices will only be elected for six-year terms.

This provision reflects Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, as the pope has made known that top positions will be held for no more than two consecutive five-year terms.

But observers note that these measures can limit the effectiveness of senior officials’ work, according to a principle considered valid both for the Order of Malta and the Roman Curia.

Another notable change would be that the order’s focus would increasingly be on offering relief amid conflicts and disasters, which might imply that Malteser International will be transferred to the Grand Magistry in Rome.

Also, the Grand Magistry can dismiss members of all high offices of the association. The Grand Master alone can initiate disciplinary measures against the lay president of an association, and the Grand Hospitalier supervises the works of the association.

Further, the Grand Magistry would be able to stipulate unilaterally the financial contributions it receives from the associations (currently this applies only to priories). The Grand Magistry also would be able to give rules for the conduct of the associations’ daily business.

Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi. Martin Micallef/Maltese Association Order of Malta via Flickr.
Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi. Martin Micallef/Maltese Association Order of Malta via Flickr.

The high stakes of reform

If tailored this way, the reform will touch the very nature of the Order of Malta, on the one hand, enhancing the powers of the Grand Magistry and, on the other, threatening the sovereignty of the order in a combination of religious and secular issues.

But Tomasi has written in the past days to the order’s regional leadership, stressing that the draft is “provisional” and that it can be changed. Thus, Tomasi addressed the heated debate that has arisen within the order.

To clarify things, Odendall suggested it was necessary to “leave the present working group to focus on religious matters and add another commission with senior members of the government and members of the Secretariat of State, experts in international law, to evaluate how to protect the sovereignty and independence of the order as a distinctively internationally recognized body while we achieve a real religious reform of the First Class.”

Odendall added that “the delegate should also chair this institutional commission and the result of this combined work would help the order, the Church and, more than everything else, the poor and the sick, migrants and the abandoned, to be helped on an even bigger scale in the future.”

In the end, reform needs to pass. But the kind of reform currently considered, Odendall noted, “could probably result in the secession of the biggest associations, leaving a few professed and non-active associations having a purely worldly representation. This cannot be the objective of Pope Francis as we know him.”