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Do your tax dollars pay for abortion? It depends on where you live

Planned Parenthood hosts a rally for funding abortion for Medicaid recipients on the state capitol's steps in January. / YouTube/Uprise RI

Washington D.C., May 26, 2023 / 09:10 am (CNA).

Last Thursday Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee signed a bill extending abortion coverage to Medicaid and health insurance plans used by state workers.

Rhode Island joins 16 other states funding abortion through Medicaid, despite a federal policy known as the Hyde Amendment prohibiting the use of tax dollars to pay for abortion.

Because Medicaid is jointly funded by the state and federal government, tax dollar funding for abortion through Medicaid is severely restricted in most states.

So, how can Rhode Island and these 16 other states get away with having their taxpayers subsidize abortion?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Hyde Amendment? 

First passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment — named for Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, who introduced it — is a budget policy that restricts federal tax dollars from being used for abortions.

For years the amendment enjoyed bipartisan support, with Democratic senators such as Joe Biden advocating its usage in the Senate.

Because the amendment has never been made permanent law, Congress chooses whether to include Hyde each year when passing the annual budget package.

This makes Hyde particularly vulnerable to Democratic efforts in Congress and the White House to simply drop it out of the budget. Despite this Hyde has successfully passed and been attached to every annual federal budget package since 1976.

As at least half of Medicaid funding comes from the federal government, according to a Medicaid overview recently published by the Congressional Research Service; most states do not cover abortion in their Medicaid plans.

So, how can states use tax dollars to pay for abortion? 

Robert Destro, former assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, told CNA that “the short answer is that Hyde does not govern what states do with their own money.” 

According to Destro, it’s essentially a question of state vs. federal tax dollars. 

Since 1976 Hyde restrictions have kept federal tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions.

Hyde does not, however, restrict states’ ability to use state tax dollars to pay for abortion. So, while federal funding cannot be used for abortion, state funding can.

Rhode Island’s new bill amended state law to include abortion in its Medicaid provisions. The state claims it will only use state funds to pay for abortion, thus not violating the Hyde Amendment.

“California and New York have been doing this for a long time,” Destro explained, adding that “what Rhode Island is doing is nothing new.” 

Though it may appear that states are using a legal loophole to work around Hyde, Michael New, senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that “there is no loophole.”

Normally, the federal government reimburses states for a percentage of their Medicaid expenditures at a rate called the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.

States that want to pay for abortions through their Medicaid program could do so out of their own coffers and simply just not be reimbursed by the federal government.

While clarifying that “the federal government does not provide reimbursements or matching funds for elective abortions paid for by state Medicaid programs,” New explained that “states have always been free to use their own tax dollars to cover abortions through their own respective Medicaid programs.” 

According to a list compiled by the abortion research organization the Guttmacher Institute in March, other states covering abortion in their Medicaid plans are California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii.

This means that if you live in any of these states your tax dollars are being used to pay for abortion.

Though New said that there has been some litigation in some states to challenge the constitutionality or legality of covering abortion in a state Medicaid program, he is not aware of any current efforts challenging the practice.

“In 2017 Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois signed legislation requiring the state Medicaid program to cover elective abortion. The Thomas More Society, a pro-life nonprofit, subsequently sued, arguing that legislation failed to go through the proper budget process. The lawsuit was unsuccessful,” New said. 

Impact of including abortion in Medicaid

Proponents of Medicaid funding for abortion have argued that it is a necessary step to ensure abortion access for impoverished communities.

Rhode Island’s new law claims that “restrictions on abortion coverage have a disproportionate impact on low-income residents, immigrants, people of color, and young people who are already disadvantaged in their access to the resources, information, and services necessary to prevent an unintended pregnancy or to carry a healthy pregnancy to term.”

The bill concludes that “the purpose of this legislation is to promote equity in access to reproductive health care.”

Yet, pro-lifers like Dr. Ingrid Skop, an OB-GYN and vice president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, argue that Medicaid funding for abortion amounts to “eugenic action.”

“Rather than provide the emotional, relationship, material, and financial support that women in crisis need to allow them to give birth to their children,” Skop said, “apparently, many states would prefer to rid themselves of the children of impoverished women before birth.” 

Illinois clergy sex abuse report: How bishops protected accused priests

Father Frederick Lenczycki (left) admitted to abusing more than 30 children in three states; Bishop Joseph Imesch of the Diocese of Joliet had recommended him for a transfer without disclosing allegations against the priest. / Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections; Diocese of Joliet

Washington D.C., May 26, 2023 / 07:50 am (CNA).

The Illinois attorney general’s “Report on Catholic Clergy Child Sex Abuse in Illinois,” released Tuesday, found nearly 2,000 substantiated claims of child sex abuse from 541 Catholic clerics over 70 years and alleged numerous examples of intentional cover-ups and inadequate responses from bishops. 

“Decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. 

The report showed examples of bishops and archbishops transferring accused child abusers to other parishes or other dioceses while failing to make the public aware of allegations against them. 

It also shows examples of accused priests being disciplined and put back into ministry only to be accused of repeating their actions elsewhere. 

What follows are just a few examples of the many such cases revealed in the report.

A bishop who transferred abusers

Bishop Joseph Imesch of the Diocese of Joliet is named in the report for having “engaged in a pattern of keeping cleric abusers in circulation in the diocese without restriction.” 

Imesch, who served as bishop of Joliet from 1979 to 2006, testified in 2005 that he kept priests in ministry even though he knew they had credible allegations made against them. He died in 2015 at the age of 84.

Father Frederick Lenczycki is one of the priests Imesch is accused of covering for. Ordained in 1972, Lenczycki was accused of molesting at least nine altar boys in the 1980s.

The priest then sent letters to Imesch, in which he admitted to “sexually act[ing] out” and “abuse [of] people.” 

The bishop sent him to a Church-run treatment facility in California and then recommended him for an assignment in San Francisco without disclosing the sex abuse. He then moved to a parish in Missouri.

Lenczycki eventually admitted to abusing 30 children in all three states. He was not removed from ministry until 2002. In 2004 he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three children in Illinois, and in 2019 he pleaded guilty to two counts of sodomy on children in Missouri. 

An abusive priest protected by three bishops

In the Diocese of Belleville, Father Raymond Kownacki was transferred between dioceses after he was accused of sexually abusing minors and forcing a girl to have an abortion. 

The girl, named Gina, met the priest when she was 16 years old and alleges that he raped her and then convinced her parents to let her live with him as a housekeeper. During this time, the report states she became pregnant and he forced her to have an abortion against her wishes. The report also says he admitted to her that he abused other minors.

The report notes that Gina informed Bishop Albert Zuroweste of the abuse in 1973 but that the bishop transferred Kownacki to another parish in April of the same year. The bishop praised the priest’s “knowledge, piety, prudence, experience, and general character” while recommending him for the transfer. 

After Kownacki faced credible accusations at his new parish, the newly ordained Bishop John Wurm transferred him to yet another parish, where he was accused of abusing more children. 

In August 1984, Kownacki was placed on sick leave after facing allegations of sexually abusing minors. Less than a year later, the newly ordained Bishop James Keleher transferred him to a new parish where he was again accused of sexually abusing minors. This was the third bishop to transfer him after sexual abuse allegations. He was eventually removed from ministry in 1995 under Bishop Wilton Gregory’s leadership but was never convicted of any crimes.

Eight parish assignments in 15 years

Another example in the Diocese of Springfield shows that one priest, Father Walter Weerts, had eight parish assignments in fewer than 15 years under the leadership of Bishop William O’Connor. 

In 1962, during his second assignment, the parents of a young boy alleged the priest had wrestled with their son nude. Eight other families made similar allegations about the priest’s interactions with their children by the end of the following week. The bishop did not take any action and the priest allegedly abused at least 22 boys. 

Chicago’s ‘treat and return to ministry’ policy

The report also scrutinized the Archdiocese of Chicago’s official policy on handling these cases from 1960 until 1992. The policy, known as the therapeutic model, required priests to undergo psychiatric evaluation and treatment if necessary. Then, it would return them to ministry if the diocese believed they had been properly treated. 

According to the report, at least 32 priests were accused of sexually abusing children during this period. Despite the treatment efforts, at least 19 of them were accused of sexually abusing more children afterward. This is a recidivism rate of nearly 60%. 

These are only a few of the many accounts provided in the report. 

‘All too common’ 

Melanie Sakoda, survivor support coordinator at Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told CNA that the abuse and cover-ups described in the report are “all too familiar” and “all too common.” 

“They’re going all around to different parts of the country,” Sakoda said. “That’s what’s disturbing.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, which adopted a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse and ordered systematic changes. 

Dioceses named in the attorney general’s report released statements to express sadness, apologize for past actions, and highlight reforms that have taken place in recent years.

“The changes our diocese enacted have proven to be effective as we are not aware of a single incident of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy alleged to have occurred in this diocese in nearly 20 years,” Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield said in a statement. 

Similarly, Bishop Ronal Hicks of Joliet said: “Currently, no cleric with a substantiated allegation against him is in active ministry in our diocese.”

Sakoda told CNA that there needs to be “personal consequences” for bishops who cover up sex abuse and some “should be criminally prosecuted.” At this stage, she said she believes the problem is “still persisting.” 

“People who are in the pews need to be aware of this,” Sakoda added. 

Sakoda encouraged people who are victims of abuse or know of abuse to “go straight to law enforcement.” She said reports should go to the attorney general’s office, the district attorney, or the police. 

Some victims are afraid to report sexual abuse, but “there are people who will believe you and support you,” she said.

“If you’re a survivor and haven’t come forward, don’t suffer alone and in silence,” Sakoda said. 

Pope Francis has a fever, Vatican spokesman confirms

Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on May 24, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2023 / 07:07 am (CNA).

Pope Francis canceled meetings on Friday morning due to a fever, a Vatican spokesman confirmed.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, told CNA that “due to a feverish condition, Pope Francis did not receive [anyone] in audience this morning.”

Later in the day, journalists spoke to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who spoke briefly about the pope's condition.

"The pope was tired. He had a very, very busy day yesterday," Parolin said, according to the French-language media outlet La Presse. "They were telling me last night that he met with a lot of people, and in the context of this meeting with Scholas Occurrentes, he wanted to greet them all, and probably at some point the stamina fails."

As of Friday afternoon, the pope does not have any public appointments scheduled for May 27, according to the Vatican calendar. He is currently scheduled to say Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the solemnity of Pentecost on May 28, followed by the recitation of the Regina Caeli antiphon.

Pope Francis, 86, was hospitalized for four days at the end of March for a lung infection.

During his return flight from a three-day trip to Budapest, Hungary, a month later the pope said his “body responded well to the treatment. Thank God.”

This week Pope Francis had both public and closed-door meetings with Italian bishops for their 77th general assembly. He also led his weekly Wednesday morning audience with the public.

On Thursday, May 25, Francis met with a group of religious sisters, with bishops and lay delegates of the synodal journey in Italy, and with participants in a congress hosted by Scholas Occurentes.

Also on May 25, Pope Francis gave an exclusive interview in Spanish to Telemundo News.

St. Philip Neri, the ‘Apostle of Rome,’ is an example of Christian charity and zeal

St. Philip Neri in levitation, fresco by unknown (1600 ca.) from Vallicella rooms of the saint, Chiesa Nuova, Rome. / Credit: Francesco Cantone/Shutterstock

Rome, Italy, May 26, 2023 / 01:00 am (CNA).

On the via Appia Antica, beyond the Aurelian walls, sits the ancient basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura. It is one of the most important churches in Rome, not only because it is one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome, but also because it is where the remains of Sts. Peter and Paul were taken (it was known as “Basilica Apostolorum” before it was dedicated to St. Sebastian) during the Christian persecution. 

It is also here, deep in the catacombs that lie beneath the extant basilica, where St. Philip Neri had his spiritual epiphany on the eve of Pentecost in 1544. It is here where the beloved Second Apostle of Rome committed himself to a life of charity.

Early life, arrival in Rome, and the catacombs

Born in 1515 to a wealthy Florentine family, the young Filippo Neri was brought up with a classical education by the Dominicans of the Monastery of San Marco. While displaying great promise, intelligence, and business acumen he ultimately rejected his familial inheritance to follow a spiritual vocation of service. After a brief sojourn in San Germano, he arrived in Rome in 1534, which unknown to him at the time would be his final destination.

Upon his arrival, he witnessed an ecclesiastical climate that was characterized by corruption, vice, and decadence. However, it was in the Catacombs of San Sebastiano (St. Sebastian) where Neri spent hours in quiet contemplation and intense prayer. 

There was perhaps no better place. After all, the silence of the catacombs (the burial site of Christians who died for their faith, among them once the remains of Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as St. Sebastian) provided a stark contrast to the squalor and vice of the streets above.

The catacombs, in a sense, were representative of the evolution of the Church’s life in Rome — persecution and dominance, faith and apostasy, splendor and squalor. Neri’s spiritual exercises stood at the intersection between the ancient and the old — a return to the earliest traditions of the paleo-Christian age, for it was this martyr’s unwavering faith, persistence, and death that paved the way for a Christian Rome.

It is fitting, then, that his spiritual epiphany happened there at Pentecost. Asking God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, it came down as a great ball of fire, entering through his mouth and settling into his heart (this experience was so intense it caused an enlarged heart and lifelong palpitations when engaging in his spiritual exercises). It is (just as it was for the Lord’s disciples in the upper room) representative of spiritual zeal — the burning fire of God’s love that animated both the apostles and, later, Neri, to go out and evangelize.

The founding of the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Trinity

In 1540, Neri, while he was still a layman — it wasn’t until 1551, at the age of 36, that he was ordained a priest — established the Confraternita della Santissima Trinità (the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity), given canonical status by Pope Paul III.

It was in the jubilee of 1550 that Neri invoked what is now an archconfraternity to care for the many pilgrims who traveled from afar, especially those who were the most needy. 

The archconfraternity is still active today in the Church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini (built in 1614 over the site of an older church dedicated to St. Benedict), a personal parish of the Fraternity of St. Peter (an Ecclesia Dei community dedicated to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass). Through their numerous activities for Rome’s poor, they continue to embody Neri’s example by providing a living example of faith and charity.

A model of contemporary Christian life

This year St. Philip Neri’s feast day (May 26) falls on the Friday before Pentecost. He holds a special place in the city of Rome’s heritage and made an indelible mark upon the spiritual life of the city and the universal Church through his founding of the Congregation of Oratorians, his popularization of the 40-hour devotion, and the Roman pilgrimage of the Seven Churches. Underscoring all of his deeds was love and charity.

In 2015, the Church celebrated the fifth centenary of Neri’s birth. On this occasion Pope Francis remarked: “St. Philip Neri also remains a luminous model of the Church’s ongoing mission in the world. The perspective of his approach to neighbor in witnessing to all to the love and mercy of the Lord can serve as a valuable example to bishops, priests, consecrated people, and lay faithful.”

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