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How the ‘satanic’ New York City courthouse statue is all about abortion

The golden-horned female statue titled “NOW” was made by Pakistani-born artist Shahzia Sikander. / Credit: Ben Shapiro/YouTube

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

An unusual new 8-foot-tall golden statue standing on top of a New York City courthouse has sparked controversy, with many across the country reacting to its unveiling with shock and disgust. One media outlet even called it a “satanic golden medusa.” 

According to the artist who created the statue, it’s a symbol of women’s empowerment and an expression of support for abortion. The “satanic” imagery so many have pointed out closely resembles that employed by a pro-abortion group dedicated to banning religion from the public square. 

What does the artist say?

The golden-horned female statue titled “NOW” was made by Pakistani-born artist Shahzia Sikander.

Sikander, 53, has been an influential New York City artist for years, serving on the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers in New York in 2017. A self-described “citizen of the world,” Sikander says her work is meant to take classical and Indo-Persian styles and imbue them with modern feminist inflections.

According to the artist, the statue was commissioned as part of “cultural reckoning” to better represent “21st-century social mores” in public spaces, the New York Times reported.

She described her statue as a “fierce woman” and a “form of resistance.”

The title “NOW” is meant to call attention to Sikander’s belief that fierce female resistance is needed now, after the death of the first female Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and since the national right to abortion was eliminated with the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The goat-like horns

Atop the head of the courthouse statue are large braids that curl in on themselves to form goat-like horns. According to Sikander, the horns signify “sovereignty” and “autonomy.”

On Fox News, commentator Tucker Carlson decried the statue as “demonic.” 

The horned statue does bear a resemblance to the image of the goat-like “Baphomet,” used by The Satanic Temple (TST), a self-described “non-theistic” religious organization that frequently engages in political protests of expressions of religion in the public square. 

The Satanic Temple, while employing satanic imagery, states in a FAQ on their website that they do not believe in Satan.

In recent years, TST has sued states with significant abortion restrictions, saying these laws violate the group’s “religious right” to practice its “abortion ritual.” The organization has also protested prayer in school and Christian-themed imagery displayed on public space.

The lace collar

The statue wears a lace collar around its neck, which Sikander has explained is meant to resemble the collar worn by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg, who died in 2020 and sat on the Supreme Court for 27 years, has come to be seen by many abortion activists, such as the group “Ruth Sent Us,” as a symbol of female empowerment and even abortion itself.

The “Ruth Sent Us” website states its mission is to fight what it calls “a racist and misogynistic theocracy” Supreme Court. The group has organized protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes and inside Catholic churches during Mass.

An ‘anti-monument’ monument

Since 1900, the New York City courthouse has displayed a collection of statues of men significant to the development of law, including Moses, Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and Confucius. The New York Times ran a glowing feature of the new statue, titled “Move Over Moses and Zoroaster: Manhattan Has a New Female Lawgiver.”

By depicting a naked, horned female image, Sikander said she meant to break from tradition.

“I have always had an affinity for the anti-monument in my practice,” Sikander explained in an artistic statement released on Madison Square Park Conservancy’s website.

Explaining the figure’s nakedness, Sikander said “the body is a powerful tool that carries its social construction. It can also function as a site of resistance.”

The statue rises atop a lotus flower, which Sikander described as “alluding to perception as illusion” and signifying “a deeper truth beyond its form.”

The sister statue ‘Witness’

The courthouse statue is one piece of a pair, with its sister statue “Witness” displayed in nearby Madison Square Park. The park statue is identical to its partner save for a hooped skirt, which is meant to resemble the dome of the New York City courthouse.

Along the figure’s hoop skirt are mosaic swirls that spell the word “Havah.” A Hebrew, Arabic, and Urdu word, translations for “Havah” vary.

To Sikander, translations of “Havah” as “to breathe,” “to be,” and the name “Eve” all fit her intention.

To her, “Havah” means “to breathe, to add air, to change a narrative.” The Art Newspaper reported that Sikander said she hopes her statues will be icons of resistance, saying, “Eve is also the first law-breaker, right?”

The two statues will remain in New York until June, when they will be placed on exhibit in Houston.

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Reading 1 Heb 11:1-2, 8-19

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said,
Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Responsorial Psalm Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75

R. (see 68) Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
R. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old.
that he would save us from our sins
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
R. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the bonds of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
R. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.

Alleluia Jn 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
"Let us cross to the other side."
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!"
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?"
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
"Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Mark Houck trial: Jury deadlocked, will resume deliberations Jan. 30

Mark Houck gives a speech at the Men's March in Boston on Oct. 15, 2022. / Credit: Screenshot of Facebook Livestream "My Mother Mary"

Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 27, 2023 / 17:48 pm (CNA).

The jury deciding the fate of pro-life activist Mark Houck could not come to a decision Friday on whether the Catholic father of seven broke a federal law in a shoving incident outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic in 2021.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert entered the courtroom around 5 p.m., almost two and a half hours after he sent the jury out for deliberation, and said that he received a note from the foreman that said, “Your honor at this point we are deadlocked. How long should we continue to deliberate?”

Pappert called the jury in and asked the foreman if he thought, with more time, the jury could come to a decision. 

The foreman said no, but Pappert sent the jury home with instructions to return to court and resume their deliberations Monday morning.

Houck, 48, is charged with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, better known as the FACE Act.

The allegations in the case relate to two incidents that occurred at a Philadelphia abortion clinic on Oct. 13, 2021. The federal indictment alleges that Houck twice shoved an abortion clinic escort, Bruce Love, once when Love was attempting to escort clients and again during a verbal altercation with Love in front of the clinic.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

The charges are being fought by Houck, who pleaded not guilty to the federal charges several months ago, in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The trial began on Tuesday. However, opening statements and witnesses were not called until Wednesday and Thursday. Since then, both sides have had the opportunity to make their case with witnesses, evidence, and closing arguments.

On Friday in court, the jury got to hear from Mark Houck — sometimes referred to as Mark Sr. — and his son, Mark Houck Jr.

On the stand, the elder Houck said he told Love to “Stay away from my son” and “Don’t come near us,” as Love approached them on the sidewalk after the first incident already occurred that day, and Love was again approaching them.

The facts of the first incident are disputed by both sides. Both sides agree that Houck was sidewalk counseling two women crossing the street who left Planned Parenthood. Both sides agree that Love followed them. 

But that’s where the accounts diverge. The prosecution says that Houck elbowed Love because he was a clinic escort. Houck says that Love startled him, and even made contact with him, causing him to say “What are you doing?” and hip-check him out of reflex.

Following the first incident, Houck said Love left the clinic, placed himself next to Houck’s son, and was jeering at Houck Sr.: “You’re hurting women. You don’t care about women.”

Houck then said that the same things were said about him to his son. 

Houck’s son, who took the witness stand first and was 12 at the time of the incident, made the same claims about Love’s words.

The younger Houck said Love came and stood next to him about an arm’s length away on the wall of the clinic near the corner where they were praying and sidewalk counseling.

“I moved away… because I was scared,” he said.

The younger Houck testified that Love said to him “Your dad’s a bad person. Your dad’s harassing women.”

The boy said it was “unusual” that Love went “that far from the clinic” to escort the women, referring to the site of the first incident, when his father was counseling two women crossing the street.

Houck’s attorney, Brian McMonagle, asked the younger Houck if he prepared his testimony with his father’s lawyers. When the boy said he had, McMonagle asked him what the lawyers told him to tell the jury. 

“The truth,” he said.

A ‘hate crime’ at Montana Catholic churches? Some think so

Statues of Joseph and Mary were stolen from a Nativity scene at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings, Montana, after vandals destroyed the statues the night of Jan. 16, 2023. The statues were found Jan. 26, 2023. / Credit: Montana Television Network News/Screenshot

CNA Newsroom, Jan 27, 2023 / 15:56 pm (CNA).

Wise men were decapitated, animals scattered, and Mary, Jesus, and Joseph were missing from a Nativity scene at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings, Montana, after vandals destroyed the statues the night of Jan. 16.

The incident was similar to another that occurred at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Church on the city’s south side that same night. Three statues and some paintings were stolen there, artwork of Our Lady of Guadalupe was damaged, and graffiti such as “Mary is the whore of Babylon” was written on the walls.

Two other non-Catholic churches were also vandalized the same week. It is not clear if the crimes are connected, but the pastor of one of the churches, Central Christian Church, said he doesn’t think they’re related, KTVQ/Q2 News reported.

Police estimated the stolen items at Our Lady Queen of Peace were worth about $8,300. Damage done to the front door of the church and by the graffiti was estimated at $4,000, according to KTVQ/Q2 News.

Father Jose Marquez, parochial administrator of Our Lady Queen of Peace, called the perpetrators “mentally, emotionally sick.”

A parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Peace set up a GoFundMe page Jan. 18 to “help us repair, replace our sacred items and purchase a much needed alarm system.”

“We have come to the conclusion that this was a hate crime,” a Jan. 21 update to the page reads. “Please help us restore our faith community.”

According to the GoFundMe page, damage at the church “is so severe that we are unable to worship until the space is repaired and reconsecrated by the bishop. All of our statues, holy books, and sacred icons are gone. The painting of Our Lady was defaced and marked with vulgarity.”

Almost $14,000 had been raised as of Friday afternoon.

CNA reached out to Marquez for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.

“Having heard the next day about what had happened down at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, [also called] Little Flower Church, I was starting to think maybe it could be some sort of a hate crime,” the pastor of St. Patrick’s, Father Leo McDowell, told KTVQ News. “To hear about it happening down there kind of just raised a question: Was it something that we were targeted, or was it something that somebody just lost it when they went by and was mad and did the anger thing?”

Nine days after McDowell filed a police report, he said he was still waiting for someone to investigate the case, according to the news outlet.

“I’m a little frustrated. It makes me question whether they’re taking it seriously,” McDowell said.

Montana Television Network News said it reached out to Billings Police Department about the incident on Jan. 25. Soon after, the department responded and sent out officers to complete the investigation, the network reported. Lt. Matt Lennick of the department took the blame for the delay in responding to the case, citing an error in how the paperwork was filed.

“As far as this case being connected to the other church burglaries and vandalisms in the last couple weeks, it still (is) to be determined,” Lennick told MTN News. “Much of the vandalism is similar in nature, so it could be connected, but each case has received a fair amount of social media attention as well. So there is always the possibility for copycat incidents.”

On Jan. 26, after seeing news coverage of the vandalism at St. Patrick’s, a “Good Samaritan” found the missing statues of Mary and Joseph in her apartment building’s fire escape and contacted MTN News, the outlet reported.

“Hello! I have some good news; I have Mary and Joseph!” the anonymous woman wrote in an email to the station. Joseph’s head was decapitated, but the woman said she tried gluing it back on. Despite her efforts, McDowell said the statues will all most likely have to be replaced.

He also expressed hope that the baby Jesus statue, which is still missing, will be found.

“I am hopeful that someone will run across it maybe hearing the story tonight,” he told MTN News Jan. 26.

“We don’t have widespread cameras [on the church property right now], but that might be changing before too long,” he added.

New Iowa ‘school choice’ program a boon for Catholic schools, bishop says

A summer day with a row of school buses stands out in the green farmlands. / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Jan 27, 2023 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

Students who attend Iowa Catholic schools will soon get a financial boost of nearly $7,600 per year after the Iowa governor signed into law “school choice” legislation that allows parents to receive state funds to help pay for private schools.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the Students First Act into law on Jan. 24.

“It’s a great day for education in Iowa, both for private and public schools,” Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City said Tuesday.

“We look forward to serving more families in the Diocese of Sioux City who want to enroll their child in a Catholic school,” he added. “We are also pleased that the Students First Act will also help parents keep their child in the Catholic school of their choice and assist us in enhancing quality education.”

The Republican governor had made the legislation a priority. 

“Public schools are the foundation of our education system and for most families they will continue to be the option of choice, but they aren’t the only choice,” Reynolds said in a statement. “For some families, a different path may be better for their children. With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of zip code or income, will have access to the school best suited for them.”

The legislation, House File 68, passed largely along party lines in the Republican-controlled legislature. The vote in the House of Representatives was 55- 45, with nine Republicans opposed. The vote in the Senate was 31-18 with three Republicans opposed.

The Students First Act creates an Education Savings Account program. Through this program, parents or guardians who enroll eligible children in an accredited private school will receive the same amount of per-pupil funds that the state gives to public school districts. 

The funds go into an education savings account that may be used for tuition, fees, and other qualified expenses. The funds for the 2023-2024 school year are estimated to be $7,598 per pupil. If the funds are not depleted for the school year they may remain in the account for qualified expenses in future years.

Patty Lansink, superintendent of the Diocese of Sioux City Catholic Schools, said her office and administrators are “overjoyed” with the signing of the bill.

“After many years of sharing our story of Catholic schools and the importance of school choice for our parents, we are so happy that parents of all income levels can send their child to the school of their choice,” she said. “We thank all the supporters of Catholic schools and nonpublic schools who reached out to their legislators to make education savings accounts a reality for Iowa families.”

The program’s application period will begin once the system is implemented and close on June 30 for the upcoming school year.

“For students currently attending a Catholic school, the plan will be phased in over the next two and a half years, focusing first on the families with the lowest income levels,” the Iowa Catholic Conference said on its website.

After three years, an education savings account will be available for every student.

In 2023, current Catholic school students will qualify for an account if their family income is at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, $83,250 for a family of four. In 2024, the eligibility will expand to families whose income is at or below 400% of the federal poverty level, $111,000 for a family of four.

The program is expected to cost $345 million per year when it is fully implemented. Public schools will receive a small financial benefit for each student who participates in the program. Each student with an education savings account will mean an additional $1,205 for the public school district in which he or she resides.

Critics said the legislation harms public schools and will worsen equality in education by diverting funds. They objected that the program funds private schools that lack accountability and that can choose which students to accept, The Des Moines Register reported. They said there is no help for public school students’ expenses like tutors, advanced placement tests, and college exam fees.

“Spending public money with no accountability is reckless. Our public schools and students deserve better,” State Sen. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, said Monday. “Until we are willing to provide adequate funding for the vast majority of our public school students, we should not be creating a private, exclusive school entitlement program with unknown costs and unlimited funding — a blank check.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency predicts 14,000 students will enroll in the program in its first year, with an estimated 4,800 transferring from a public to a private school. By fiscal year 2027, it predicts almost 41,700 students in the program, with a public school enrollment drop from about 486,400 to 475,207. The agency expects a net decrease of $46 million in funding due to enrollment changes, The Des Moines Register reported.

The agency said the cost to administer the program is unknown. The state of Iowa has not yet chosen a vendor to manage and distribute the funds. It has requested proposals from businesses with experience managing education savings account programs.

Iowa public schools serve more than 498,000 students. According to the Iowa Catholic Conference, the state’s Catholic schools serve about 30,000 students. There are more than 45,800 students in 237 private schools in Iowa, the Private School Review reported. The average private school tuition is $4,800 for elementary schools and $9,200 for high schools.

At the start of 2023, eight other states had passed education savings accounts legislation, the school choice advocacy group EdChoice said. Iowa and Utah have now joined their number. Similar legislation is under consideration in 19 other states, according to the educational freedom institute.  

Virginia Democrats block three bills restricting abortion 

null / Shutterstock.

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2023 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

A Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate committee voted down three bills that would have put more restrictions on abortion in the commonwealth, but similar bills are still being considered in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.  

The three bills would have taken very different approaches because each of them added abortion restrictions at different stages of pregnancy. Senate Bill 1284 would have banned nearly all abortions, Senate Bill 1385 would have banned abortions after the 15th gestational week, and Senate Bill 1483 would have banned abortions by the time of viability. 

Virginia has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the country. Currently, a woman can get an abortion through her second trimester, which is at 25 weeks. According to the Mayo Clinic, a preborn child begins to hear at week 15, move his eyes around week 16, suck his thumb around week 21, and respond to someone’s voice at about week 25. 

Senate Bill 1284, which was sponsored by Sen. T. Travis Hackworth, would have imposed the heaviest restrictions. It would have prohibited nearly all abortions and only provided exceptions for the life of the mother, rape, and incest. An abortion would have only been granted in the case of rape or incest if the probable gestational period was 20 weeks or less and an official police report was filed regarding the alleged offense.  

The legislation would have made a violation of this law a Class 4 felony, which carries a punishment of between two and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The mother who receives the abortion would not have been subject to any civil or criminal penalties. 

Senate Bill 1385, which was sponsored by Sen. Steve Newman and had the support of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, would have banned nearly all abortions after the 15th gestational week. It included exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Similarly, a violation of the law would have been subject to a Class 4 felony.  

Both bills were defeated in 10-5 votes in the Education and Health Committee, which were nearly along party lines. All nine Democrats opposed the bills, as did one Republican, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant. The remaining five Republicans supported the bills.  

Youngkin has supported the 15-week ban because of research that indicates the preborn child can feel pain at that point. When CNA reached out to the governor’s office for comment, a spokeswoman referred to comments the governor made to WDVM.

“Over 80% of Virginians have expressed a view that Republicans and Democrats should find consensus on this issue,” Youngkin said. “And consensus on this issue is when a child can feel pain at 15 weeks and to protect life then. I believe they’re way out of touch and there’s still a path forward in the House. I sure hope they start listening to the folks that elected them to come represent them.” 

The third bill, which would have limited abortions, was sponsored by Dunnavant. Her bill, Senate Bill 1483, would have banned abortions at the point of viability, which could be anywhere between 22 and 24 weeks. This would prohibit abortion at 24 weeks and would prohibit abortion at 22 weeks if viability is determined by a physician and two consulting physicians. This bill was defeated on a 9-6 vote. Dunnavant voted against the other two proposals. 

Several pro-life bills are still alive in the Virginia House of Delegates. However, even if they pass the House, they would need to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate committees, which failed to approve any pro-life bills. Last year, a bill that would have required doctors to perform life-saving treatments on any child born as the result of a botched abortion could also not get through the Senate committee process.

House leadership could not be reached for comment.  

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, several states have imposed stricter abortion rules. In a handful of states, abortion is almost entirely banned and some other states have lowered the cutoff limit for abortions. Some of these laws are currently being challenged in court.  

Japanese government to investigate forced sterilization of intellectually disabled people

null / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 27, 2023 / 11:10 am (CNA).

Japan’s health minister announced Jan. 20 that the government is launching an investigation into reports that a Japanese social service agency has been recommending sterilization to disabled people for years.

According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, at least eight couples have undergone sterilization at the behest of Asunaro Social Welfare Service Corp., which runs a group care facility on the island of Hokkaido for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Local authorities uncovered this week that the social welfare corporation had been recommending that couples living on its premises who hoped to live together or marry get sterilized by way of therapies such as vasectomies for men and birth control rings for women. 

The corporation had been doing so for over two decades, the authorities found; the corporation has insisted that it only recommended the sterilizations and never forced them on any of the residents. 

Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s minister of health, labor, and welfare, issued a notice last week asking local authorities to immediately notify the ministry if they learn of an organization making sterilization a condition for people with disabilities to use its services. The notice was made public Jan. 23. 

Kato also announced that his ministry is planning to conduct research, starting in fiscal year 2023, into the marriages, pregnancies, childbirths, and child-rearing of people with disabilities to understand their realities better, Asahi Shimbun reported. 

“It is extremely important to implement appropriate support based on the wishes of persons with disabilities, including marriage, childbirth, and child-rearing,” Kato said.

According to UCA News, a Catholic news site focusing on Asia, Japan’s care homes for disabled people do not have provisions for child care and are designed for couples only, and do not address the needs of people under 18 years old.

Japan, for nearly half a century, had eugenics laws on the books that led to thousands of people with disabilities being sterilized. The laws took effect in 1948 and were not repealed until the 1990s. A Japanese district court just this week ordered settlements to be paid to a man and a woman who were both sterilized decades ago under the laws. 

In July 2016, an attacker entered a care home in Japan for persons with mental disabilities in Sagamihara, some 20 miles northwest of Yokohama, and stabbed 19 people to death. The dead ranged in age from 19 to 70, and another 25 people were wounded. 

Shortly after that attack, 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee of the care center, turned himself in to local police and was arrested. Uematsu had written a letter to Japan’s Parliament in February advocating for euthanasia of persons with disabilities, saying it would be better if they were euthanized and “disappeared.”

Woman arrested at Fargo cathedral for smashing ‘Christ in Death’ statue

The statue, called “Christ in Death,” portrays Jesus’ corpse laying on a burial shroud with a crown of thorns laid alongside his lower legs. / Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo

Denver, Colo., Jan 27, 2023 / 08:08 am (CNA).

A woman was arrested after allegedly causing serious damage to a statue of Jesus at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota, on Monday evening, possibly while she was under the influence of drugs.

“We were saddened to see the damage done to a very old statue at our cathedral, and we hope the person responsible gets the help they need,” Paul Braun, communications director for the Diocese of Fargo, told CNA Jan. 26. “We are praying for that person as well.”

The statue, called “Christ in Death,” portrays Jesus’ corpse laying on a burial shroud with a crown of thorns laid alongside his lower legs. Photos provided to CNA show damage to the statue’s head and feet and damage to one hand, as well as damage to the crown of thorns and the base of the statue.

A woman was arrested for allegedly causing serious damage to a statue of Jesus at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota, on Jan. 23, 2023. Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo
A woman was arrested for allegedly causing serious damage to a statue of Jesus at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota, on Jan. 23, 2023. Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo

Fargo police officers said they saw 35-year-old Brittany Marie Reynolds leaving the cathedral at about 6:24 p.m. They detained her after she allegedly attempted to flee. She was not wearing a shirt, a bra, or shoes. She was unable to answer basic questions and appeared to be under the influence of drugs, the Fargo newspaper The Forum reported, citing court documents.

Police entered the cathedral and found that a large statue of Jesus had been smashed on the floor. Church surveillance footage reportedly shows the half-dressed Reynolds in the church. She flipped over a potted plant before destroying the statue.

Reynolds was arrested and served a warrant for allegedly acting aggressively toward hospital staff.

A woman was arrested after allegedly damaging a statue of Jesus inside St. Mary's Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota, on Jan. 23, 2023. Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo
A woman was arrested after allegedly damaging a statue of Jesus inside St. Mary's Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota, on Jan. 23, 2023. Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo

Monsignor Joseph Goering told police he did not know the monetary value of the statue. Officers said a similar statue they found online was appraised at $11,500.

“We were saddened to see the damage done to a very old statue at our cathedral, and we hope the person responsible gets the help they need,” Paul Braun, communications director for the Diocese of Fargo, told CNA Jan. 26, 2023. Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo
“We were saddened to see the damage done to a very old statue at our cathedral, and we hope the person responsible gets the help they need,” Paul Braun, communications director for the Diocese of Fargo, told CNA Jan. 26, 2023. Paul Braun/Diocese of Fargo

Braun told CNA an expert in art restoration is examining the damaged statue to determine whether it should be repaired or replaced.

Reynolds faces a felony charge of criminal mischief, which could result in a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, The Forum reported.

There have been previous incidents of vandalism at the cathedral and other area churches. In April 2021, a statue of Jesus in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo was defaced with black paint on its face. An unknown person removed the paint several days later. In 2018, a statue of the Virgin Mary was decapitated at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in south Fargo.

Religious Freedom Institute honors Tom Farr, champion of those persecuted for their faith

The Religious Freedom Institute honored outgoing president Tom Farr, who will be succeeded by Eric Patterson, on Jan. 24, 2023. / Religious Freedom Institute

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), one of the world’s leading religious liberty organizations, announced on Tuesday the retirement of Tom Farr as president and the appointment of his successor, Eric Patterson.

As one of RFI’s founding members, Farr has served as president since 2016. Patterson has served as RFI’s executive vice president since 2019. 

Other leaders in the religious freedom world responded to the announcement with praise for Farr’s work and enthusiasm for Patterson’s appointment. 

“The work of RFI is so critical right now, maybe more than ever. Tom Farr’s leadership and vision have been exemplary, and I can’t think of anyone better to lead it into this next chapter than Eric Patterson,” said John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. 

RFI fights for freedom of religion in what Farr has called a world “experiencing a growing global crisis of religious freedom.”

RFI’s work ranges from fighting oppressive blasphemy laws that target Christians in majority-Muslim countries such as Pakistan to advising government agencies in the U.S. and abroad to educating students, professors, and administrators about the importance of freedom of religion.

As president, Farr called attention to this crisis, saying in 2019 that “violent religious persecution, severe government restrictions, and rising social hostilities challenge religious freedom in every region of the world.”

As president of RFI, Farr has spearheaded the organization’s research, education, and activism so that it has become a global leader in advocating for religious liberty.

The organization’s research has been used by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and beyond to help shape policies that promote greater freedom of religion.

Based in Washington, D.C., RFI leadership, including Farr, testify regularly before Congress on behalf of policies to increase religious freedom across the globe.

“I’ve written two religious freedom laws in the last couple of years, and in both of those bills, who did I turn to? RFI leadership. It was that expertise that they bring that is unparalleled,” said New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith.

“There has been no greater friend to those persecuted for their faith around the globe than Tom Farr,” Smith said. “Tom has testified numerous times before Congress and always came prepared with timely and actionable suggestions, which soon found their way into legislation.”

Now Patterson, who has worked with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Military, will lead the organization’s efforts as president. 

“(I) congratulate Eric Patterson as the incoming president,” wrote U.K. member of Parliament Rehman Chishti. “I know his knowledge, commitment, and excellent leadership skills will continue the outstanding work of RFI and address the many challenges people face around the world in being able to practice their faith.”

Though retiring as president, Farr will continue his work promoting religious freedom with RFI in the capacity of president emeritus. 

Here’s what American Catholics in the pews have done to help relief efforts in Ukraine

Archbishop Broglio blesses Sashko Lenevych, a lieutenant in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. / Ukraine Catholic University

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

This year’s Ash Wednesday collection, which will be taken at Masses across the U.S. on Feb. 22, will send aid to the Church in war-torn Ukraine and Eastern Europe, where they have helped support Catholics since the fall of communism.

In 2022, the bishops found themselves in the unusual position of having to minister to a Church heavily impacted by a major war in Ukraine.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe (CCEE), told CNA that the generosity of American Catholics in response to the war was “unprecedented.”

“When the first bombs struck Ukraine nearly a year ago, aid was already coming in from Catholics in the United States through the U.S. bishops’ Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe,” a Tuesday press release by the USCCB and CCEE said.

Where the money went in 2022

Though the USCCB has not yet issued a full report for 2022, Jennifer Healy, director of the CCEE, told CNA that $8.5 million was allocated for the Church in central and eastern Europe in 2022.

This enabled the bishops to send over $3 million (36% of the money allocated) to fund projects in Ukraine and the surrounding nations to care for refugees impacted by the violence.

According to the Tuesday press release, in the first few months of the war, the bishops expedited nearly 50 emergency grants to churches and Catholic groups in Eastern Europe to help relieve the suffering Ukrainian people. 

As Russian tanks rolled through the Ukrainian countryside and bombs leveled whole city blocks at a time, funds from the CCEE were providing vital humanitarian relief in the form of food, clothing, shelters, medical, and other basic needs, such as generators, heat pumps, and vehicles to transport aid and refugees. 

One grant funded by the collection even provided the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church satellite communications so it could coordinate efforts to give shelter, first aid, food, and spiritual ministry to Ukrainians caught in the conflict. 

American Catholic support of Ukraine 

Monforton, who has been able to travel to Eastern Europe to meet and minister to Ukrainian refugees, said that they were filled with gratitude for the support of the American faithful. 

“You can see the fear and the anxiety in the eyes of all those who are refugees,” Monforton said. “At the same time they took a moment of their time to thank us … what is evident in their lives is the solidarity of others, including us here in the United States.” 

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the USCCB, personally visited Ukraine at the end of December 2022 in an official visit to Church leaders ministering to Ukraine’s soldiers and suffering civilians. 

Taras Dobko, senior vice rector at the Ukrainian Catholic University, told CNA that Broglio’s visit to the war-torn country was perceived as a show of solidarity “on behalf of all American Catholics.” 

“We, Ukrainians, felt embraced through this visit with hope that the good will prevail and the suffering of our nation will not be in vain,” Dobko said. 

“Whenever peace reigns again — God willing, soon — and the time for rebuilding arrives,” Healy said, “the USCCB fund will continue to support the Church and be a strong partner in that massive effort.” 

U.S. Catholics have been helping for decades

The Ash Wednesday collection has sent more than $200 million to the Church in 28 nations in central and eastern Europe since 1991, according to Healy.

Bishop Monforton told CNA that the collection funds projects to restore the Catholic faith in the nations that suffered anti-Catholic subjugation under the former Soviet Union.

Under communism, Monforton said, religion was actively persecuted, and atheism was propagated as the law of the land. 

In Albania, one of the nations the collection supports, Monforton explained that anyone who so much as expressed belief in Christianity would be killed. 

The collection funds the rebuilding of churches, schools, and ministries to help the faithful in nations from Estonia to Albania, where decades of suppression under communist rule continue to negatively impact the culture and Church. 

Where the money went in 2021

The most recent full CCEE report available is from 2021. The 2021 report issued by the USCCB said that the Eastern European fund raised nearly $6.5 million. 

The largest portion of those funds (31.27%) was used to rebuild 79 places for Catholics to worship, teach, and carry out social ministry. 

The next largest portion (14.5%) supported 74 evangelization efforts in eastern and central Europe. 

The remaining portions of the fund were used for scholarships, Catholic education, support for seminaries, social aid, and some was used for administrative costs.