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Papal agency raises funds to help Christians remain in the Middle East

Ottawa, Canada, May 25, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Canada is launching a fundraising campaign to help Christians in the Middle East remain in their homelands.

The fundraising campaign launched May 16 is known as “Christians Can't Survive Without You”.

“This campaign’s very important purpose is to tell Canadian Catholics that they should care about the presence of Christians in the Middle East, because they are the leaven of peace in the Middle East,” Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada's executive director, told The Catholic Register.

“If we turn our backs on what’s happening in the Middle East, particularly to the Christians of the Middle East, then we’re turning our back on ourselves as Christians,” he added.

Since the Iraq War which began in 2003, the number of Christians in the Middle East has plummeted. In addition to conflict in Iraq, the Syrian Civil War has also pushed many Christians out, as have economic pressure, discrimination, and persecution.

CNEWA noted that “Over the past 15 years, over 2.5 million Middle East Christians have been forced out of their homes. They desperately need your help.”

“We are one body in Christ united with Christians in the Middle East. Their struggles are our struggles and it is our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters there to keep our faith alive,” the agency stated.

In recent years, CNEWA has worked to set up schools, nurseries, and medical clinics in Iraq to serve Christians who were displaced by the Islamic State. It also supports St. Peter Patriarchal Seminary in Erbil.

CNEWA was founded in 1926 to give pastoral and humanitarian support to the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe. An agency of the Vatican, the group supports the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, board president of CNEWA Canada, said that an attack on Middle East Christians “is an attack on the values Christians promote worldwide. To lose Christianity in the region would be a devastating loss.”

Maronite Patriarch of Antioch Bechara Boutros Rai said last year at the In Defense of Christians summit that “The conflicts that have beset the Middle East have driven out millions of busy citizens, including so many Christians, and with their exodus, our region becomes more extreme, more dangerous to the outside world.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch John X Yazigi said, “We as Christians in the Middle East: we are going to remain and stay there. We are not strangers in that part of the world: we are people of light and of truth.”

Catholic priest in DRC quarantined as Ebola outbreak continues

Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, May 25, 2018 / 01:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic priest has contracted the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid a continuing outbreak that began in the nation earlier this month.

The priest, whose name was not released, serves in the eastern diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, which has around 1 million residents. Medical sources told AFP that the priest who tested positive for Ebola has been quarantined.

The Catholic priest joins more than 50 other individuals in the nation infected with Ebola, according to new statistics released by the Congolese Health Ministry on May 25. The new figures reflect recent lab tests on bodies and show a lower death toll than originally reported, confirming 22 deaths from Ebola instead of 27.

Extremely contagious and highly deadly, Ebola gained major international attention during the 2014-2016 epidemic in West Africa that left more than 11,000 people dead.

In the latest outbreak in DRC, the first case of Ebola was reported on May 8 in the rural Equateur province near Bikoro, and later spread to Mbandaka. The World Health Organization has said that the chances of Ebola spreading to other parts of the nation are “very high.”

Efforts to contain the fatal disease were set in motion by the nation’s health ministry last week, as officials administered Ebola vaccines to more than 600 people on May 21. Most of the doses were given to medical staff and those in close contact with Ebola patients.

President Joseph Kabila also approved an increase in Ebola emergency funds to $4 million, while various aid organizations such as Catholic Relief Services have been working to educate locals on the best protocols to prevent and fight Ebola.

The World Health Organization is also responding by sending health workers and medical supplies to the affected areas, while UNICEF has installed hand-washing stations in more than 50 schools.

Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, a pioneer in the field of Ebola from its first identification in 1976 in DRC, believes that previous experience will be of use to containing the disease.

“I am confident because I think we have very good experience of this disease and we’ll stop this outbreak as soon as possible,” Muyembe told the BBC.

“We have some experience of managing this kind of an outbreak in a city. I don’t think we’ll have the kind of situation witnessed in West Africa in 2014,” he continued, adding that he was “positively surprised” by most of the affected areas that he visited.

However, containment of the virus heavily relies on quarantine and isolation. On Monday, three Ebola patients were removed from their treatment centers by their families and taken to church for a prayer service. This was considered a major breech in the medical protocol for Ebola treatment and prevention.

“Patient adherence is paramount,” read a statement from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the medical agency running the treatment centers. The agency said that “forced hospitalization is not the solution to this epidemic,” although it is making efforts to convince patients to remain in their isolation units.

Ebola, which has no known cure, has proven fatal in as high as 90 percent of cases, depending on the strand of the virus. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding. It is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids.

 

Pope makes surprise visit to school named after book-loving child

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2018 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his most recent “mercy Friday” outing, Pope Francis visited a school recently named after a little girl who passed away, but who left her mark on the institute when a international library was created in her honor.

Established in the 1950s, the school – originally named the Comprehensive Institute of Via Rocca Camastra – is a state school that expanded to four other locations in the 1970s, and just this year received permission to be renamed as the Comprehensive Institute of Elisa Scala.

Elisa Scala is the name of a little girl who attended the school, but who died in 2015 at the age of 11 from a form of fulminant leukemia. After her death, Scala's parents launched a project in the school aimed at sharing Elisa's passion for books and libraries.

With their help, a small space called “Elisa's Library” was established, and a project called “Give a Book for Elisa” was launched in order to fill the space with books.

Donations came in the thousands. Some 20,000 books in different languages from all over Italy, Europe and even Australia now line the shelves of the library, which is included on the list of public libraries in Rome.

According to a Vatican communique on the pope's surprise May 25 visit to the school, Francis arrived around 4 p.m. local time and was greeted by Scala's parents, Giorgio and Maria, as well as the director of the school, Claudia Gentili, and hundreds of children who attend the institute.

Pope Francis gave Scala's parents several books to put in the library, all of which were dedicated to Elisa.

The children then sang for the pope, and he greeted the dean, staff, parents and students present before heading back to the Vatican.

Pope Francis' visit to the school is a continuation of his “Mercy Friday” custom, which he began in 2016 during the Jubilee of Mercy.

Originally planned once per month for the duration of the jubilee, the pope has continued the tradition after the end of the jubilee as a means of practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He has met with refugees, children, women freed from sex trafficking, and the terminally ill, among others.

 

American seminarians to battle for the title in Rome soccer tournament

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2018 / 10:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time in five years, seminarians and student priests from the North American College in Rome will hit the soccer field to battle it out for the winning title in the city’s holiest tournament – the Clericus Cup.

An annual soccer tournament among the priests and seminarians of Rome’s pontifical universities, the Clericus Cup started in 2007. In 11 years, the North American College has been in the semi-finals six times, even snagging first place back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.

But since then, the North American Martyrs have fallen short of the final four. Until now, when they have the opportunity for redemption May 26 in a face-off against the reigning champs, the Pontifical Urban University.

It has been long enough since 2013 that none of the team’s 25 or so players, even the most senior, have witnessed a tournament win for the Martyrs.

Making it to the final “is exciting,” said Fr. Timothy Wratkowski, a fifth-year student from the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. A defensive player, he said it is great to see “the last five years come together. We view it as a really fun opportunity.”

Team coach, Deacon Drew Olson from the Diocese of Madison, said the key difference this year is a talented crop of new players from this year’s first-year students. Starter Paul Floersch, who is studying for the Archdiocese of Omaha, was identified as one of the team’s most valuable players.

But Wratkowski said that in general they have all grown as soccer players in the last year, increasing communication and mutual support among each other.

Another “tweak” the Martyrs made this year was adding a short spiritual reflection before the start of practices to connect “the spiritual life to what we’re doing as a team,” said Will Nyce, a third-year seminarian and team captain.

“But you have to back that up with nature,” he continued, laughing, “so we ran more this year too. I think we’re more in shape.”

Earlier in the season, the North American Martyrs lost 2-1 in a match against the Urbaniana, so Saturday’s game is likely to be close. Hailing largely from African countries, the other team fields very fast, very technically skilled attackers, so the game will be a challenge for the Martyr’s defense, Olson said.

They will also have to be careful not to “lose the mental game” if referee calls do not go their way.

The Martyr’s pre-game rituals this year have included Morning Prayer together at the college and “American pump-up music” on the way to the field. As one of the few teams with players all from the same country, Clericus Cup organizers also let them play the American national anthem before the match.

As team captain, Nyce, who studies for the Diocese of Arlington, was part of a group of Clericus Cup representatives who met Pope Francis after the General Audience May 23. He said he told the pope the American seminarians and priests “on the hill” were praying for him. “[The pope] seemed really happy to see us,” he said.

Overall, the past few months of games and practices have been “a wonderful joy, a way to share leisure time together, a way to share something in common and then to get to know guys in the house that we might not know well otherwise,” Nyce said.

Though not a part of formal seminary formation, playing sports can benefit men studying for the priesthood because sports “are a major part of people’s lives,” Wratkowski noted. “In the parish a lot of kids participate in sports… We can be present to them in that [showing them] what it means to be a Christian who plays sports.”

Being on the field can bring out a different side of a person, with all different emotions, from joy to disagreement, he continued. Playing soccer with their brothers in the seminary is a good training ground “to learn how to play in a truly Christian way.”

Nyce said that playing sports is also a way to learn to “enjoy the good things that God gives you in a healthy way. Fraternity, good exercise, health – it is good for our all-around well-being.”

He also pointed out St. Paul’s use of running as a metaphor for the moral life. Sports require “discipline, teamwork and giving of yourself for a goal that’s greater than yourself,” he said, something priests “are called to do for our brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis sends poor, needy to major Roman sporting event

Vatican City, May 25, 2018 / 05:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Next week the poor, homeless, refugees, migrants and needy around Rome will be offered free tickets to the city's Golden Gala, an international track and field event that happens annually in the Eternal City.

Set to take place in Rome's Olympic stadium May 31, the gala will begin at 2p.m., with the last event starting at 10:25p.m. Events slated for the gala include a discus throw, relay races, pole vault jumps, hurdles and Paralympic courses for both men and women.

The gala was established in 1980 by Italian sports official and then-president of the Italian Athletics Federation (FIDAL) Primo Nebiolo as a way to gather athletes and individuals from the United States and NATO countries who boycotted the Moscow Olympics in wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Francis' guests will enter the event free of charge thanks to FIDAL, and they will be accompanied by volunteers from the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Cooperativa Auxilium – an Italian co-op that offers welfare services to the disadvantaged – and Athletica Vaticana, the running association for employees of the Holy See.

The goal of the event, according to the papal almoner's office, is to offer the poor “an evening of celebration and friendship through the beauty of [sports]” and to place greater emphasis on the importance of hospitality and solidarity.
 
In addition to their free entry, those who come with the papal almoner will be offered a sack dinner.

Such initiatives on the part of the pope are not uncommon. He frequently invites the poor, homeless, migrants and refugees to special events such as concerts, tours of the Vatican Museums and days at the beach. Showers and haircuts are also available inside St. Peter's Square courtesy of the papal almoner.

The man who heads the papal charity office, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, was recent tapped by Francis to become a cardinal. He will get his red hat from the pope during a June 29 consistory, showing the importance Pope Francis places on service to the poor.

After punishing Christian cake baker, Colo. civil rights board revised

Denver, Colo., May 25, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new law will revise the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, after the commission gained attention when its decision in a free speech case involving a Christian cake baker was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the Colorado law was changed, the governor was allowed to appoint all seven commission members, with no more than four being from the governor’s own party.

The new law, signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper May 22, now limits the governor to appointing three Democrats, three Republicans and one unaffiliated as commissioners. Four members must be from classes protected by law, three members must be considered workers, and three members must be serving as business owners.

The commission will now be subject to legislative audit as well. The new law says that if a commissioner has been rejected by the state senate, the governor cannot re-appoint him or her to the commission for a period of two years, the Denver Post reports.

The changes come following a February vote by Republicans on the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee to withhold funding from the commission until legislative changes were made. The commission reviews allegations of discrimination and makes policy recommendations.

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission was involved in a case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case involves baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakes in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

In 2012, Phillips was sued by a same-sex couple after he declined to make a wedding cake for them on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. Phillips had offered to create a different cake for the couple. The couple was able to obtain a rainbow-themed cake from a bakery near Phillips’ cake shop.

Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.

The couple took the case before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled that by declining to make the cake, the baker had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law categorizing sexual orientation as a protected class.

In the commission’s unanimous vote against the baker, then-Commissioner Diane Rice said: “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we ... can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—…to use their religion to hurt others.”

The lawsuit was decided in favor of the plaintiffs in 2013, and a Colorado judge ordered Phillips to receive anti-discrimination training and to serve same-sex weddings or stop serving weddings altogether.

He chose to stop serving weddings through his bakery, which he had opened in 1993.

Phillips lost appeals at the state level, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, known as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Attorneys for the baker have argued that forcing Phillips to advance a message about marriage that is contrary to his faith violates the Constitution’s protections for free speech.

In oral arguments in December 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had asked whether the commission decision could stand if at least one member based his or her decision “in significant part” on grounds of “hostility to religion.”

Kennedy appeared critical of the commission, saying, “Tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual… It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

At the same time, the justice had wondered whether a victory for the plaintiff’s argument would enable discrimination.

“It means that there’s basically an ability to boycott gay marriages,” said Kennedy, who is considered a swing vote in the case.

“If you prevail, could the bakery put a sign in its window, ‘We do not make cakes for gay weddings’?” Kennedy asked Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco. “And you would not posit that an affront to the gay community?”

Francisco, who backed Phillips’ case, suggested that the baker could say he does not make “custom-made wedding cakes for gay weddings, but most cakes would not cross that threshold.” While there are dignity interests at stake, Francisco said, and he would not minimize the same-sex couple’s dignity interests, “there are dignity interests on the other side here too.”

Phillips declines to bake other kinds of cakes that promote ideas at odds with his beliefs, such as cakes that portray anti-American, atheist, or racist messages or disparage members of the LGBT community, his attorneys said. Phillips also declines to create custom cakes for other events he is uncomfortable supporting, such as Halloween and bachelor parties.

Since the litigation started, Phillips has said that he has lost more than 40 percent of his business due to his inability to serve any weddings. As a result, he has lost nearly half of his employees, and now struggles to keep in business.

He has also received death threats and has voiced concern for the safety of family members.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Phillips.

Bishops urge Nicaraguan president to investigate violence against protestors

Managua, Nicaragua, May 24, 2018 / 05:10 pm (ACI Prensa).- Nicaragua's bishops urged president Daniel Ortega Tuesday to comply with a recommendation that he investigate April's violence in order to facilitate talks between the opposition and his government.

The Nicaraguan bishops' conference's May 22 letter encouraged Ortega to create “a mechanism of international investigation of the acts of violence which occurred, with guarantees of autonomy and independence to ensure the right to the truth and duly identify those responsible.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Nicaragua May 17-21 to document human rights violations in four cities and to issue recommendations.

The commission found that since protests began April 18, there were at least 76 deaths and 868 injured, the vast majority “in the context of the protests.” Five of those injured “remain in the hospital in critical condition.” In addition, “438 people were arrested, including students, civilians, men and women human rights advocates and journalists.”

A priest of the Diocese of Matagalpa was wounded by shrapnel May 15 while trying to separate protestors and security forces, the AP reported.

In their letter the bishops stated that “only by fulfilling this recommendation of the IACHR” will the stakeholders be able “to continue making progress toward a good outcome to the national dialogue.”

They also stressed that agreeing to this “becomes imperative for the well being of the nation” and so that the talks produce “fruitful results of truth, justice, freedom and true and lasting peace for all Nicaraguans.”

Finally, the bishops offered their disposition "to collaborate in the path to peace, with justice.”  

“We respectfully greet you, imploring the light of the Holy Spirit for you and the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that you can make the best decisions,” they concluded.

On the same day, May 22, the bishop's conference charged in a statement that bishops and priests are being discredited by attacks orchestrated by the government and that they have been receiving death threats through “anonymous social media” posts.

The bishops stated that Nicaragua is currently  going through “one of the worst crises in its history after the blatant crackdown by the government, which is trying to evade its responsibility as the main actor in the various attacks.”

Talks to overcome several weeks of anti-government protests and riots in Nicaragua which have been met harshly by security forces began May 16 under the mediation of the Catholic Church.

Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests have only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces.

Demonstrators have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office. The Church in the country was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Be missionary disciples, Archbishop Naumann encourages Catholic prayer breakfast

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States is in need of another great awakening and religious revival, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas told the crowd at Thursday morning’s 14th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

In his keynote address May 24, Naumann bemoaned the state of culture in the United States, and said it is necessary to re-embrace truth, as well as the living Christ.

Additional speakers at the event in Washington, D.C., included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Naumann expressed concern over the “large number of Millennials” who either do not believe in God at all, or who instead consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious.” The archbishop said this new mentality of a non-religious spiritualism is akin to “a new paganism,” where the God of revelation has been transformed into a god or gods who are created to re-inforce individual desires.

“Our culture is indeed experiencing a crisis of faith that leads to a denial of truth,” said Naumann. “Once the relationship between man and God is severed, man becomes just a highly developed organism.”

Without this relationship with God, humans are simply objects with a value determined only by how useful they can be to others, explained Naumann, who is the incoming chairman of the US bishops' pro-life committee.

A lack of relationship with God leads to hedonism, with “the pursuit of pleasure becoming the highest goal,” with people seeking to avoid suffering and death at all costs, he said. This further leads to a mentality that it is “acceptable to eliminate the one suffering,” whether it be someone who is elderly, unborn, or otherwise sick and unable to be cured effectively.

It is necessary to have a personal encounter with Christ in order to be able to live a virtuous life as Catholics, said Naumann.

“Without this personal encounter, our dogma and doctrine makes no sense,” he said.

The world has been plagued with sin since the Garden of Eden, but “God’s response to humanity’s rebellion is mercy,” and Christ rescued humanity when he became “one with us in all things but sin.”

“Like a special operations soldier dropped behind enemy lines, Jesus entered fully into our humanity, enduring unspeakable suffering because of our sin.”

Naumann ended his keynote with a call for the crowd of well over 1,000 people present to be “missionary disciples” who spread the word of the Risen Christ to everyone, particularly people on the peripheries of society.

“We are called to renew our nation, not primarily by enacting laws, but by announcing the joy and hope of the Gospel of Jesus to individuals in desperate need of its good news. It is our task to reclaim our culture one mind, one heart, one soul at a time.”

In his remarks at the prayer breakfast, Ryan emphasized the importance of Catholic social teaching, while Brownback discussed religious freedom as a “God-given right.”

Appeals court denies stay of ruling against California assisted suicide law

San Bernardino, Calif., May 24, 2018 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A state appellate court on Wednesday denied a request for an immediate stay of a ruling which said California's assisted suicide law was wrongly passed in a special legislative session.

The May 23 decision by California's 4th District Court of Appeal did give the state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, more time to provide arguments as to why the lower court's ruling should be overruled.

Judge Daniel Ottolia of the Riverside County Superior Court had ruled May 15 that lawmakers had unconstitutionally passed the law in a 2015 special session of the legislature dedicated to health care funding.

Ottolia's ruling was welcomed by the California Catholic Conference, whose executive director, Ned Dolejsi, said May 18 that “Our opposition to assisted suicide is no secret, but this legislation was also opposed by a broad coalition of doctors, nurses, seniors and the disabled community, who fought this bill for many, many reasons.”

“Health care professionals … questioned why the state was embracing doctor-assisted suicide as the standard of care for people who needed respect and support,” he said. “Others were offended at the way Medi-Cal patients - often refused coverage for palliative care – were offered coverage for lethal prescriptions instead.”

Dolejsi also noted that “At an oversight hearing in January to review the implementation of the End-of-Life Option Act, even though presented with clear evidence of poor data collection and other implementation uncertainties, legislators openly discussed ways that physician-assisted suicide could be expanded – especially to poor and minority communities.”

Under the law, lethal prescriptions may be given to adults who are able to make medical decisions if their attending physician and a consulting physician have diagnosed a terminal disease expected to end in death within six months.

The initial legislative effort to pass an assisted suicide bill failed in committee during the 2015 regular season. It was subsequently passed during a special legislative session later the same year which was called to address state health care funding shortages.

Opponents of the law have charged that it was rushed through the special session and lacks safeguards against abuse, such as an adequate definition of terminal illness.

In the first six months after the law took effect, 111 people in California committed assisted suicide under its provisions. Assisted suicide has also been legally sanctioned in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

Pro-life medical clinic demands removal from 'libelous' video

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A video that frames a Colorado women’s clinic as a bogus, sub-par healthcare provider is libelous, said the clinic’s directors and lawyer, who are demanding that it be corrected.

Last week, Attorney Michael J. Norton issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of Marisol Health, a network of women’s health care clinics created by Catholic Charities of Denver.

The letter demands the removal of the clinic’s image and name from a video that suggests it is among crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide medically trained staff or accurate medical information.

“Marisol Health is justifiably proud of the services it provides to women and families and is thus disturbed by the false representations about Marisol Health in a ProgressNow video entitled ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’...with the description ‘Crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as medical facilities,’” Norton wrote in the letter.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Norton said that “Having reviewed the video and having significant knowledge about Marisol and the comprehensive, quality, professional healthcare services that Marisol Health provides, we found...great offense with that video, and we found it to be extremely defamatory, misleading and misrepresentative [of Marisol].”

The video, created about a year ago by progressive advocacy group ProgressNow, has been posted to the group’s facebook page, viewed more than 130,000 times, and republished by numerous affiliates of the organization.  

The video tells the story of 40-year-old Aubrey, an art teacher who recalls her unexpected pregnancy in college. At high risk because of a seizure disorder, Aubrey says in the video that she was referred to an unspecified crisis pregnancy center that lacked any trained medical professionals besides an ultrasound tech.

“I felt like they were really playing on my emotions and as I was walking out they handed me a bible,” Aubrey said in the video.

“The fact that they sent me to some crisis pregnancy center where there was no medical staff, that really bothers me, it really concerns me,” she added. “You had a political motivation or maybe a religious one that you felt was more important than my health.”

Footage in the video shows four different pregnancy centers around Colorado, including the building and name of Marisol Health, which was founded in 2016 - years after Aubrey’s pregnancy. It also includes text that states that crisis pregnancy center staff “rarely have any medical training” and that they “often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

At the press conference, Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, said it was “outrageous” and “deceptive” to include Marisol in the video and to imply that it does not provide comprehensive health care with licensed medical professionals.

“Marisol Health is a network of clinics that are fully equipped to provide women with comprehensive health care and help them make informed decisions about their reproductive health,” she said. “With Marisol’s special partnership with Bella [Natural Women’s Care], we have fully licensed medical professionals who assist women in need with life-affirming medical care.”

Marisol Health. Credit: Marisol Health.

Among the services provided at Marisol are comprehensive OB/GYN and prenatal care, fertility awareness and infertility care, STD testing, counseling, ultrasounds, and mental health services.

Care is provided regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, McIntosh noted. According to Marisol, 45 percent of their patients have no income or an income of less than $15,000 a year, while 76 percent are on Medicaid or are without insurance.

“We want to take back the true meaning of reproductive care for women,” McIntosh added. “Marisol Health has what women deserve, a clinic that is staffed by licensed medical professionals and offers compassionate care.”

Dede Chism is the co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol Health.

She said that both Bella and Marisol “exist to fill the need for dignified, life-affirming healthcare, providing a broad scope of comprehensive obstetric and gynecological health care.”

The need for this kind of care is great among women of all religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, Chism said, citing the 5,000-plus patients that have come to Bella in the past three and half years since they opened their doors.

“Across the lifespan of women from early adolescence through menopause, as a staff of board-certified and board-eligible physicians, midwives, nurse practitioners, certified ultrasonographers, registered nurses, we focus on the highest standards, cutting edge research that actually takes place within our facilities, and scientific methods that are both natural and cooperate with a woman’s body,” she said.

Chism invited anyone with doubts about Marisol or Bella’s quality of care to visit the clinics and see for themselves and “experience what is health care is all about.”

Norton said as of May 23 he had not received a response from ProgressNow regarding his May 17 cease and desist letter, and added that he is prepared to continue to prosecute ProgressNow in order to repair any damage caused to Marisol and Bella by the video.

Earlier this month, Marisol also responded to billboards in Denver that warned against crisis pregnancy centers, calling them “Fake Health Centers.” The billboards, in English and Spanish, were sponsored by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), a group also associated with the creation of the ProgressNow video, which it has embedded on its website.

A representative from COLOR told Fox News in Denver that they considered the crisis pregnancy clinics fake because they do not offer “abortion care” in their facilities and often lack trained medical professionals.  

The video from ProgressNow also comes at a time when the Supreme Court is deciding a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which will decide whether a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.


Correction: A previous version of this story identified the creator of Marisol as Catholic Charities of Colorado, instead of Catholic Charities of Denver. It has since been updated.