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Washington Roundup: Bishop slams Biden on abortion; feds fund church security; overdosing’s orphans

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., is pictured in a July 11, 2018, photo. (OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese Springfield)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, said in a recent column that President Joe Biden made “a mockery of our Catholic faith” by making the sign of the cross while advocating for abortion access during a campaign stop.

In Washington, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., defeated an effort to remove him from the role, while also backing former President Donald Trump’s position that abortion legislation should be left to the states. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced a $400 million increase in federal funding for security in houses of worship. Biden marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a speech condemning antisemitism. A new federal study found that more than 321,000 U.S. children lost a parent to drug overdose from 2011 to 2021.

Paprocki: Biden’s sign of the cross at pro-abortion speech mocks Catholic faith

Biden reiterated his administration’s commitment to restoring Roe v. Wade as he campaigned in Florida April 23. During a campaign stop, as Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried criticized Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for enacting gestational limits on abortion as he prepared to run for president, Biden appeared to make the sign of the cross. However, it was unclear if Biden was making that gesture in reference to the abortion limits or DeSantis’ failed bid for his party’s nomination.

In his May 6 column, accompanied by a video message, Bishop Paprocki said, “Biden compounded his support for the sin of abortion by making the sign of the cross during an abortion rally in Tampa, Fla.”

“Making the sign of the cross is one of the most profound gestures a Catholic can make in showing reverence for Christ’s death on the cross and belief in the Holy Trinity as we sign ourselves in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he wrote. “To misuse this sacred gesture is to make a mockery of our Catholic faith.”

Bishop Paprocki’s comments echo his opposition to permitting Catholic elected officials who advocate for abortion to receive Communion.

Johnson survives leadership challenge, backs Trump on abortion strategy

Johnson survived an attempt by fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to remove him from the role as House speaker when Democrats joined a majority of Republicans to oppose her effort.

The move spares House Republicans from having another ousted speaker this second session of Congress, just months after its former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who has since resigned from Congress, was ousted.

Trump, while praising Greene, signaled his opposition to removing Johnson from his role, casting it as problematic in the months leading up to the election. However, he stopped short of giving Johnson his full endorsement, a sign that the speaker’s position is still precarious in a fractured Republican conference.

“I hope we can put this behind us and move forward,” Johnson said of the episode in an interview with Politico published May 10.

Elsewhere in that same interview, Johnson was asked, “If there is Republican control of both chambers of Congress and the White House next year, do you anticipate passing any sort of nationwide abortion ban?”

“No, I don’t,” he replied. “President Trump said this is in the states’ purview now. After the Dobbs decision, I think that’s where it is. Look, I am a lifelong pro-lifer. I’m a product of a teen pregnancy. And so I believe in the sanctity of human life. It’s also an important article of faith for me. But I have 434 colleagues here. All of us have our own, philosophical principles that we live by, but you have to have a political consensus.”

Trump issued a video statement April 8 arguing abortion should be left to individual states to legislate and declining to back federal restrictions sought by pro-life activists, and has since attacked pro-life critics who sought a commitment from him to support a federal 15-week ban.

Schumer announces $400 million increase in federal funds to secure houses of worship

Schumer announced the increase in funding to the existing federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program in comments made in New York City May 5, according to The Associated Press, adding that the funds could be used by places such as synagogues and mosques on security personnel or equipment. The move comes amid a spike in threats to both Jewish and Muslim communities during Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We’re going to keep funding so that no synagogue or other religious institution is going to have to live in the fear that they now live with,” Schumer said.
The New York City Police Department told the AP that three area synagogues received emailed threats just the day prior to Schumer’s announcement.

Houses of worship must apply for the first round of funds by May 21.

Biden condemns antisemitism in Holocaust Remembrance Day speech

Biden on May 7 condemned a “ferocious surge of antisemitism” in the U.S. following Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack against Israel and stressed that the deadliest attack against Jews since the Holocaust must not be forgotten.

In remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance held in the U.S. Capitol, Biden said the day is intended to “honor the memory of victims, the pain of survivors, the bravery of heroes who stood up to Hitler’s unspeakable evil.”

“And we recommit to heading and heeding the lessons that (of) one of the darkest chapters in human history, to revitalize and realize the responsibility of ‘never again,'” he said.

Biden added that “never again, simply translated for me, means ‘never forget.'”

“Never forget,” he said. “Never forgetting means we must keep telling the story. We must keep teaching the truth. We must keep teaching our children and our grandchildren. And the truth is we are at risk of people not knowing the truth.”

Biden said the same “ancient hatred of Jews” behind the Holocaust “didn’t end with the Holocaust.”

“This hatred continues to lie deep in the hearts of too many people in the world, and it requires our continued vigilance and outspokenness,” Biden said. “That hatred was brought to life on Oct. 7, 2023. On a sacred Jewish holiday, the terrorist group Hamas unleashed the deadliest day of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

Biden also reiterated his previous condemnation of unrest on some college campuses across the country amid protests of the war in Gaza, arguing that a First Amendment right to free speech does not extend to violent protest.

“I understand people have strong beliefs and deep convictions about the world,” he said. “In America, we respect and protect the fundamental right to free speech, to debate and disagree, to protest peacefully and make our voices heard.”

“But there is no place on any campus in America — any place in America — for antisemitism or hate speech or threats of violence of any kind whether against Jews or anyone else,” he said. “Violent attacks, destroying property is not peaceful protest. It’s against the law. And we are not a lawless country. We’re a civil society. We uphold the rule of law.”

Biden has faced backlash from within his own party over his handling of Israel’s military actions in response to the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas that has led to catastrophic civilian casualties and famine in Gaza, and from Republicans who argued he had not sufficiently condemned the campus unrest.

More than 320,000 U.S. children lost a parent to drug overdose over a decade

More than 321,000 U.S. children lost a parent to drug overdose in the decade between 2011 and 2021, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry May 8.

The study — a collaborative effort led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — found that 649,599 people ages 18 to 64 died from a drug overdose in the U.S. in that timeframe. Researchers, using data from sources such as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, estimated that 321,566 American children lost a parent as a result.

“It is devastating to see that almost half of the people who died of a drug overdose had a child. No family should lose their loved one to an overdose, and each of these deaths represents a tragic loss that could have been prevented,” Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA director, said in a statement.

“These findings emphasize the need to better support parents in accessing prevention, treatment, and recovery services. In addition, any child who loses a parent to overdose must receive the care and support they need to navigate this painful and traumatic experience,” Volkow said.

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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