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NY AG asks Google to remove pregnancy centers from ‘abortion’ search results

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks to the media on May 26, 2022, in New York City. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 1, 2022 / 12:58 pm (CNA).

New York’s attorney general office sent Google a letter Tuesday requesting that the company remove pro-life pregnancy centers from search results for abortion services.

“A search through Google Maps seeking ‘abortion’ and a location will provide a local listing of both those health care providers who offer abortion services and organizations that do not provide abortion care,” wrote Darsana Srinivasan, chief of the health care bureau in the attorney general's office.

Nearly 3,000 U.S. pregnancy centers provide “​​essential medical, education and support services” to millions every year at little to no cost, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of SBA Pro-Life America. Thousands of licensed medical workers serve these centers, according to CLI.

But in her letter, Srinivasan maintained that crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are not health care providers and will not help women with abortion.

“CPCs exist solely to intercept and dissuade pregnant people from making fully informed decisions about their healthcare such as the choice to obtain an abortion,” she claimed. “Including these organizations in a list for an individual seeking abortion services is dangerous and misleading.” 

Abortion activists have targeted many of these centers in anticipation of and following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Srinivasan complained that a Google Maps search for “abortion Binghamton, NY” lists pregnancy centers such as Life Choices Center and Women’s Life Services “along with legitimate health care providers who offer abortion and abortion counseling.” 

She concluded: “With the expectation that New York will be seeing an increasing number of pregnant people from out of state seeking abortion services in our state—often traveling here at great financial cost and inconvenience — it is imperative that pregnant people are receiving accurate information.”

New York’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, added to the letter in a Wednesday release.

“New Yorkers, and others traveling to the state, should trust that Google Maps will provide accurate information and direct them to real and safe care,” she said. “My office will do whatever is necessary to work with Google to make these changes and ensure that people can locate the reproductive health care facilities that they need.”

Google, Life Choices Center, and Women’s Life Services did not respond to requests for comment by time of publication.

Nashville pregnancy center attacked, FBI joins investigation

null / Carl Ballou / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 1, 2022 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The FBI and Metropolitan Nashville Police are investigating an attempted arson of a pro-life pregnancy center in Nashville, Tennessee, that was attacked and had the words “Janes Revenge” written on the side at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning. 

Nashville Police said that Midtown Hills Precinct officers discovered a smashed window with “an unignited Molotov cocktail-type device” inside the building when they arrived at the scene at Hope Clinic for Women around 1:40 a.m. The device is being analyzed in a lab, police said.

Police said the attack on the center is the first vandalism in Nashville related to the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Police said they are working with the clinic to heighten security measures.

Kailey Cornett, executive director and CEO of Hope Clinic for Women, told CNA Friday that the window has been replaced and the graffiti cleaned off. 

“We’re all back in shape,” she said. 

Cornett said her team is resilient and very grateful for an influx of prayers and support after the news of the vandalism. 

“We are here to do what we’re called to do and that's to serve women,” she said. “We were able to rally around each other and support each other yesterday but I think that we're ready to get back to providing care today."

The incident is part of a surge of attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and Catholic churches reported since the court’s decision returned abortion regulation to the states. CNA is tracking the incidents using the interactive map below.

The FBI said in June that it is investigating the series of attacks and threats against pro-life pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations across the nation.

Graffiti spelling out “Jane's Revenge” is commonly used in these vandalism incidents. It remains unclear if Jane’s Revenge is an organized group or merely a slogan. 

FBI probe could help prosecute Louisiana priests accused of inter-state sex abuse

St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. / travelview/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 1, 2022 / 12:04 pm (CNA).

Federal authorities are investigating alleged sex abuse of minors by New Orleans-area Catholic clergy, sometimes going back decades, on the grounds that the accused men could have violated a federal anti-sex trafficking law by crossing state lines. The investigation could provide another means for abuse victims to make their case against their abusers, and possibly file sex abuse lawsuits against Catholic dioceses and other organizations.

The FBI is probing whether accused priests can be prosecuted under various charges including the Mann Act, which bars taking anyone across state lines for illicit sex. Though some criminal claims may date back to the 1970s, the Mann Act has no statute of limitations. The Louisiana State Police is aiding the inquiry.

Federal prosecutors have used the Mann Act to help convict Ghislaine Maxwell, a leading figure in the Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse ring, and music star R. Kelly. In 2013, a Baptist pastor was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for taking a 16-year-old girl across state lines for illicit purposes.

Federal authorities have interviewed more than a dozen alleged victims this year, the Associated Press reports. Some of the victims allege they were abused by a New Orleans-based priest on trips to Mississippi camps or Texas and Florida amusement parks. 

A former altar boy told the AP his abuse began in the 1970s when his accuser allegedly sexually abused him on trips to Colorado and Florida. 

The probe also involves allegations against former New Orleans priest Lawrence Hecker, now 90. Hecker was removed from ministry in 2002 after alleged abuse ranging in nature from fondling to rape. He allegedly abused children decades ago on out-of-state trips. He was dismissed from the clerical state in 2018. 

Richard Trahant, an attorney for Hecker’s alleged victims, in a court filing alleged that the records under the confidentiality order will reveal that the last four archbishops of New Orleans knew Hecker was a serial sexual abuser of children. 

The archdiocese list, however, said it first received an allegation against Hecker in 1996. Though attorneys have claimed that Archbishop Philip Hannan was aware of Hecker’s abuse, Hannan left office in 1988, NOLA.com reported in 2020.

The federal probe could pave the way for further revelations and further lawsuits against the New Orleans archdiocese.

In May 2020, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced that it was filing for bankruptcy. Survivors who filed claims against the archdiocese in bankruptcy courts by the March 1, 2021 deadline would not be able to sue in state courts. The archdiocese faced about 400 sex abuse claims in bankruptcy court and these were a major motive for the bankruptcy effort. 

Victims could still sue their alleged abusers who operated in religious orders or lay ministries, the New Orleans Advocate reported.

Bankruptcy proceedings have sealed Church documents that were produced by lawsuits with a confidentiality order. Critics say the records document years of abuse claims, interviews with clergy accused of abuse, and a pattern of Church leaders reassigning accused clergy without reporting their alleged crimes to law enforcement.

The archdiocese in 2018 published a list naming 57 “credibly accused” clergy. Six more names were later added to the list. An Associated Press analysis faulted the initial list, arguing that it undercounted by at least 20.

Peter G. Strasser, a former U.S. attorney in New Orleans, declined to bring charges. He told the Associated Press he had “naively” thought federal charges could be possible but faced many obstacles, including the complexities of “putting the church on trial” for conspiracy and other charges.

“The issue has always been determining what is the federal crime,” he said.

Revelations of the extent of clergy sex abuse began in 2002, causing much scandal and pain but also efforts to strengthen support for victims, child protection programs, abuse reporting methods, and disciplinary action against abusive clergy and their superiors.

The U.S. bishops’ annual report on Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, released in November 2021, said there were fewer than 24 new allegations of recent abuse by clergy.

However, over 4,200 new allegations of historic abuse were reported in the report’s one-year coverage period. 

Statistical graphs of the dates of reported abuse incidents continue to show that the numbers of alleged clergy abuse incidents peaked in the 1970s. Lawsuits from historic abuse have cost the Catholic Church in the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2021, the Louisiana legislature passed a law creating a three-year “lookback” window for survivors of child sex abuse to file lawsuits against their alleged abuser, even when the statute of limitations would normally impede such lawsuits.

At the time, the victim’s 28th birthday was the deadline for child sex abuse lawsuits

The archdiocese told CNA in October 2020 that it had been seeking to dismiss from the clerical state priests who had been removed from ministry over accusations of child sex abuse, in the wake of the 2018 report. Under canon law, dioceses are obligated to provide for the needs of priests removed from ministry, such as for housing and health care. They are not obliged to provide for the needs of priests who have been dismissed from the clerical state.

Pope Francis: 'I believe it is time to rethink the concept of a just war'

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, June 25, 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2022 / 10:26 am (CNA).

In an interview published Friday, Pope Francis said that he believes it is time to rethink the concept of “just war.”

“I believe it is time to rethink the concept of a ‘just war.’ A war may be just, there is the right to defend oneself. But we need to rethink the way that the concept is used nowadays,” Pope Francis said.

“I have said that the use and possession of nuclear weapons are immoral. Resolving conflicts through war is saying no to verbal reasoning, to being constructive. … War is essentially a lack of dialogue.”

The pope spoke in an interview that was conducted on June 20 by Télam, Argentina’s national news agency. A 1-hour video of the interview was published on July 1. 

In response to a question about how the lack of dialogue is an aggravating factor in the current state of world affairs, the pope said that there is “an entire infrastructure of arms sales” that supports war today.

“A person who knew about statistics told me, I don't remember the numbers well, that if weapons were not manufactured for a year, there would be no hunger in the world,” he said.

Pope Francis described how he cried during visits to war cemeteries in Europe, including the Redipuglia World War I memorial and Anzio World War II cemetery in Italy.

“And when the anniversary of the landing in Normandy was commemorated, I thought of the 30,000 boys who were left dead on the beach. They opened the boats and said, ‘get off, get off,’ they were ordered while the Nazis waited for them. Is that justified? Visiting military cemeteries in Europe helps one realize this,” he said.

The pope also said that the situation in Europe today shows that the United Nations “has no power” to stop a war.

“After World War II, trust was placed in the United Nations. It is not my intention to offend anybody, I know there are very good people working there, but at this point, the UN has no power to assert,” he said.

“It does help to avoid wars — and I am thinking of Cyprus, where there are Argentine troops. But to stop a war, to solve a conflict situation like the one we are living today in Europe, or like the ones lived in other parts of the world, it has no power.”

Church teaching on the morality of war is based on a theory expounded by St. Augustine in the 4th century known as just war theory and recognizes a potentially just reason to engage in war under certain conditions.

Theologians told CNA in 2019 that applying this theory to modern warfare, which often involves missile and air strikes rather than pitched battles between troops, is more complicated, yet normative.

The papal interview touched on a number of themes, including the Covid-19 pandemic, intergenerational dialogue, and climate change.

“You can rest assured that God always forgives, and we, men, forgive every now and then. But nature never forgives. It pays us back. If we use nature for our profit, it will bear down on us. A warmed-up world prevents the construction of a fraternal and just society,” the pope said.

When asked about the Catholic Church in Latin America, the pope said that it has a long history of being “close to the people.”

Pope Francis said: “In a way, this is the experience of the Latin American Church, although there have been attempts of ideologization, such as the use of Marxist concepts in the analysis of reality by Liberation Theology. That was an ideological exploitation …”

“There is a difference between the people and populisms,” he added.

Vatican confirms sale of London property at heart of finance trial

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, pictured in 2016. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2022 / 09:49 am (CNA).

The Vatican has confirmed the sale of the luxury London property at the center of a financial corruption trial.

A July 1 statement from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) reported that the Vatican sold the building on 60 Sloane Avenue in London to Bain Capital for £186 million ($223.6 million).

“The losses incurred with respect to what was spent on the purchase of the property were conferred to the reserve of the Secretariat of State, without in any way in this circumstance touching Peter’s Pence or the donations of the faithful,” it said.

The Secretariat of State began to purchase the building eight years ago as an investment property intended for development into luxury apartments. The Vatican spent about 350 million euros ($364 million) on the investment for a building that its previous owner had purchased for £129 million ($155 million), according to the Associated Press.

The circumstances surrounding the property’s purchase are the focus of an ongoing trial in the Vatican courts with accusations of fraud and embezzlement against 10 people.

Pope Francis ordered the removal of responsibility for financial funds and real estate assets, including the London building, from the Secretariat of State in November 2020.

In an August 2020 letter, the pope asked for “particular attention” to be paid to two specific financial matters: “investments made in London” and the Centurion Global investment fund. Pope Francis requested that the Vatican “exit as soon as possible” from the investments, or “at least dispose of them in such a way as to eliminate all reputational risks.”

Control of the secretariat’s real estate assets and investment funds was given to APSA. APSA received 16 initial offers to purchase the London property in September 2021.

In its most recent statement, APSA said that it worked with the real estate broker Savills in the sale “to ensure the transparency and the independence of the evaluation process” and that the Secretariat for the Economy followed every step of the process.

Nigerian archbishop cries at gravesite of slain priest as Catholics protest violence

Priests protest at the funeral of Father Vitus Borogo in the archdiocese of Kaduna on June 30, 2022. / Photos courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna

Rome Newsroom, Jul 1, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Hundreds of Catholics protested violence against Christians in Nigeria at a funeral for a slain priest on Thursday.

“We have buried a number of priests back to back. People are tired, people are frustrated, people are depressed,” Father Daniel Kyom, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, told CNA on July 1.

“People are tired of the killing. A lot of people have died as a result of this terrorism, and a good part of those who have died are priests,” he said.

Kyom said that shortly before the funeral Mass on June 30 some priests decided to print out signs to carry in protest of the violence against Christians in northern Nigeria, where two churches were attacked last week.

More than 700 people, including about 100 priests, were present at the funeral where the priests protested, according to the archdiocese.

“It is because we feel helpless that we reacted the way that we did yesterday. We wanted the world to know. We wanted to cry to the world for help,” Kyom said.

“People are suffering, especially Christians are suffering in the northern part of Nigeria, particularly Kaduna state.”

Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna broke into tears as he buried Father Vitus Borogo, a 50-year-old priest of the diocese who was killed along Kaduna-Kachia Road on June 25.

“Yesterday, the emotion got to a boiling point,” Kyom said.

“The bishop was so moved with emotion that he cried at the gravesite of the priest. This is something that I have never seen before. … It was such an overwhelming emotion yesterday for everybody.”

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

Nigeria’s Kaduna state, in particular, has been described as “an epicenter of kidnapping and violence by non-state actors” in Nigeria by the UK-based human rights foundation Christian Solidarity Worldwide. A 2022 report by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom cites six attacks against churches in Kaduna State in 2021.

Kyom, who formerly served as the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, said Christians are frustrated by the local government’s lack of response to the violence.

“The persecution is so much that we feel the government is complicit,” he said.

“If we had a governor that is a Christian in Kaduna state, I’m very sure that the reaction to the killings would have been different. I don’t think that a Christian governor would sit back and allow these terrorists to kill people.”

“A lot of communities that have been destroyed are Christian communities and the people destroying them are Muslims,” he added.

The European Union Agency for Asylum reports that the main violent actors in Kaduna state are Fulani ethnic militias and unidentified armed groups. It notes that Boko Haram has also reportedly conducted attacks in the region and that farmer-herder conflicts have intensified during the COVID-19 lockdown period in the North-West of Nigeria.

The Nigerian priest noted that it would mean a lot to Christians in Nigeria to hear more from Pope Francis on the issue.

“I think that the attention of the hierarchy should be drawn to Nigeria, to Kaduna state in particular … [because] Kaduna state is strategic to peace in Nigeria,” he said.

Kyom said that sometimes it feels like the international community does not believe that people are really dying in Nigeria.

“But this is the reality for some of us who are here … We need help in whatever way, shape, or form. That’s the reality,” he said. “Now the government does not seem to have any solution, any deliberate measures to tackle the situation. There is nothing visible for us to see to be hopeful in this situation.”

Guatemalan president demands commission desist from abortion activism

President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, in protocolary session of the Permanent Council of the OAS. / Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

In a June 28 protocol session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei demanded that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “respect the sovereignty and freedom of each state” and stop being an “activist” for abortion.

Giammattei criticized the 2021 annual report of the IACHR, which calls out Guatemala in Chapter IV.b. 

The commission noted that Guatemala joined “the ‘Geneva Consensus to Promote Women’s Health and the Promotion of the Family,’” which “expressly excludes abortion as an integral part of women’s right to sexual and reproductive health” and affirms “there is no international obligation of the states to guarantee or facilitate its access.”

In addition, the IACHR criticized Guatemala for “absolutely” prohibiting abortion “except when there is danger to the life of the woman.”

The IACHR demanded that Guatemala adopt “the legislative measures, public policies, and any other measure that may be necessary … to guarantee women’s access to sexual and reproductive health goods and services without any discrimination, including access to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in cases of danger to life or health, as well as in cases of rape and incest.”

According to its website, the IACHR presents itself as “a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.” 

For the president of Guatemala, the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights shows a “methodological error that makes evident an agenda in favor of abortion that exceeds its powers, because the IACHR should not be an activist on these issues, but rather respect the sovereignty and freedom of each state to decide on these issues.”

As an example, Giammattei pointed to “the recent ruling that we saw here in the United States regarding this,” referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which declared there is no constitutional “right” to abortion. 

The president of Guatemala noted that his country “has complied with its human rights commitments at all times and has provided the commission with all the information it has requested.”

In addition, he stressed that “it’s necessary that we work together to strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights System, because the illegality and disrespect for [the country’s] regulations that are perpetrated today against Guatemala may tomorrow occur against any other country that is a member of the organization.”

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

Bishop walks on his knees to bid farewell to Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos in Mexico

A procession of the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos in Mexico. / Credit: Courtesy of the Historical Archive of the Cathedral of San Juan de los Lagos

Mexico City Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

In a farewell gesture to Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos and his now former diocese, Bishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe on June 28 walked on his knees from the back of the diocesan basilica to the altar where her miraculous image is kept.

Cavazos headed the diocese of San Juan de los Lagos for six years and was recently appointed Archbishop of San Luis Potosí, succeeding Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrero Romero, who last year turned 75, the age at which all bishops must submit their resignation to the Holy Father.

Cavazos will be installed as the Archbishop of San Luis Potosí July 1. 

The miraculous image of the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos is kept in the cathedral basilica of San Juan de los Lagos, the second most visited Marian shrine in Mexico.

According to local accounts, Our Lady, as represented by the image, has worked several miracles over the centuries. 

The first miracle occurred in 1623 when the statue was brought out from the sacristy, where it had been stored away for 80 years due to its poor condition, and placed on the chest of a young girl who had been killed during an acrobatic performance. The girl came back to life, unharmed.

The YouTube channel Médico Historiador (Doctor Historian) by Dr. Everardo López Padilla, who is in charge of the cathedral’s Historical Archive, said Cavazos, “when bidding farewell to Our Blessed Mother of San Juan, wanted to do it like the pilgrims: on his knees.”

“He entered at the cathedral’s front [doors], and covered almost 60 meters (195 feet) on his knees with his eyes fixed on the beloved Virgin of San Juan, ‘la Cihualpilli,’” meaning “the Great Lady” in the local language.

When visiting San Juan de los Lagos on May 8, 1990, Pope John Paul II called the image the “one who was brought back to life (from oblivion in the sacristy) and who brought back life,” (“la resucitada y resucitadora” or “the resurrected and resurrecting”).

Among other important decisions he made during his tenure as bishop in San Juan de los Lagos, Cavazos determined that the Day for the Respect, Promotion, and Care of Life be celebrated on the 25th of each month.

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

Attacks on churches, pro-life pregnancy centers continue 

Grafitti on a sign for All Saints Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon, June 25, 2022. / All Saints Catholic Church

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision on Friday, attacks on Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers have been reported in West Virginia, Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, Colorado, California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Indiana. 

Below are the latest recorded attacks since the decision.

St. Patrick Catholic Church in Philadelphia was defaced with pro-abortion spray paint June 25.

Father Hyacinth Cordell, O.P., pastor of the church, told CNA that the graffiti, which said "Abort the church," was on a corner on the outside of the church. It is cleaned off, he said.

Vandalism at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Philadelphia, June 25, 2022. Fr. Hyacinth Cordell, OP
Vandalism at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Philadelphia, June 25, 2022. Fr. Hyacinth Cordell, OP

A pro-life sign at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, about 50 miles northwest of Wichita, was vandalized over the weekend.

The sign which shows a mother holding a baby says “Vote Yes August 2nd” and “ValueThemBoth.com” below. The sign is encouraging people to vote yes on an amendment to the state constitution that would allow regulations on abortion. 

Matt Vainer, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Wichita, said that the perpetrator was followed by a witness who called the police. The perpetrator was arrested, he said. 

The pastor of St. Teresa of Avila, Fr. Aaron Spexarth, placed the sign underneath a crucifix in the church, as he believed it was most appropriate to place it at Christ’s feet, Vainer confirmed to CNA.

All Saints Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon had its sign defaced with pro-abortion graffiti June 25.

A photo of the vandalism shows the words “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you! -XOXO Jane.” The FBI is investigating, Barbara Custer, a parish secretary at the church, told CNA.

A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, California was vandalized June 27.

The clinic had one of its windows smashed by what seems to be one perpetrator according to video footage, the clinic’s executive director Kristen Bird told CNA. 

Video shows the perpetrator throwing three rocks at the window until it broke. Repairs will cost anywhere between $700 and $900. The FBI is investigating, Bird said. 

A window was smashed with a rock at A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, California, June 27, 2022. A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic
A window was smashed with a rock at A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Yuba City, California, June 27, 2022. A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic

The mobile clinic of Options Health, a pregnancy center in Concord, California, was vandalized June 25, Blayne Wittig, the clinic’s Executive Director told CNA.

The Pregnancy Resource Center of Salt Lake City was vandalized June 24, within hours of the release of the Dobbs decision.

A receptionist at the clinic told CNA June 30 that a sign was taped to the front door that read “If abortions aren’t safe neither are you,” and on the backside, “Women are fragile, not like a flower, but more like a bomb.”

Stickers were left on the building, one of which that said “Jesus loves abortion” with a heart shape replacing the word “love.” Stickers were placed around that one which said “abortion forever” and “abortion is healthcare.”

Catholic Charities San Antonio aiding survivors and their families after Texas migrant deaths

Antonio Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities San Antonio, aids a migrant following the death of dozens of people abandoned in a truck. / Tara Ford

Denver Newsroom, Jun 30, 2022 / 17:11 pm (CNA).

Following the discovery of the bodies of more than 50 migrants who died in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, the local Catholic Charities organization is offering support to the 12 surviving migrants and their families. 

Antonio Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities San Antonio, told CNA that they are requesting prayers as they offer shelter and basic necessities to the families of the deceased and surviving migrants. Many of the survivors remain hospitalized and “their health is very weak,” Fernandez said. 

The June 27 incident is thought to be the largest en masse death of migrants from the southern border in modern history, but the manner of their deaths is not without precedent. In 2017, San Antonio was the site of a similar incident in which 10 migrants died in a tractor trailer baking in a hot Wal-Mart parking lot. 

“We deal with immigrants every day, thousands of people every week. This is the fourth truck incident where people have lost their lives,” Fernandez lamented.

The migrants were found dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer baking in extreme heat in San Antonio, Texas on the evening of June 27. The official death toll has risen to 53, NPR reported, and the dead include 22 Mexicans, 7 Guatemalans, and 2 Hondurans, with the others not yet having been publicly identified.

Fernandez said Catholic Charities has been in touch with the consulates in the countries of origin of the deceased migrants, and hopes to be able to pay for travel expenses for the surviving migrants and for their families. 

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, and Auxiliary Bishops Michael Boulette and Gary Janak will preside at a memorial Mass for the migrants June 30, the archdiocese told CNA, at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of San Fernando. The liturgy will include a procession from the cathedral’s Main Plaza, a special cross, and candles and flags representing the countries of the deceased as well as the survivors, spokesman Jordan McMorrough said. 

According to experts cited by NPR, it is likely that the people who were in the trailer had crossed the border on foot, before gathering in Laredo to be loaded into a truck. The truck driver as well as three other people involved in smuggling the migrants are reportedly detained. 

Rebecca Solloa, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Laredo, told CNA that the border crossing at Laredo sees the most traffic when other nearby border crossings are overcrowded. She said the migrant shelter that they operate in Laredo has seen increases in the number of migrants needing assistance in the past week, up from around 50 to now as many as 150 a day. 

Solloa said they provide basic necessities to prepare the migrants for travel to their families in other areas of the U.S. interior. Migrants will stay usually between 8-24 hours at their shelter, and the most of the migrants they are serving currently are from Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Venezuela. 

She said their biggest priorities currently are ensuring they have enough food and clothing to give to the migrants, as well as having enough water to provide for them in the sweltering heat. 

Solloa, too, urged prayers for the deceased migrants, many of whom likely had families depending on them in their home countries. She said in her view, the incident is indicative that Title 42 — which during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many migrants being turned away — has caused desperation among migrants, leading them to attempt riskier crossings. 

Although Title 42 remains in place, the Supreme Court ruled June 30 that the Biden administration can end the Trump-era policy known as Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico” policy, which since its 2019 implementation has required asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico as their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) had filed an amicus curiae brief in Biden v. Texas, supporting the administration’s decision to terminate the program. Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, welcomed the ruling in a statement Thursday. 

“Today’s decision recognizes and preserves the executive branch’s ability to reverse untenable, illegal, and immoral policies, regardless of who is in office. The implementation of [Migrant Protection Protocols] has obstructed due process and subjected people to the very dangers that forced them to seek refuge in the United States in the first place. With this ruling, we welcome the end of MPP,” Dorsonville wrote. 

 

“Ours is both a nation of laws and a beacon of hope for many throughout the world. This should inspire us to work toward just and humane responses to forced migration, not embrace failed policies of the past. As Pope Francis has warned, we cannot limit ourselves to building ‘walls of fear’ and supporting ‘vetoes dictated by nationalist interests’ if we are to achieve meaningful progress in addressing these challenges.”

 

“While this ruling helps pave the way forward, it does not resolve the ongoing challenges at our country’s southwest border. We remain committed to supporting immigration policies that produce more sustainable solutions, respect the God-given dignity of migrants, and better reflect Christ’s call to welcome the stranger.”