15,000 babies saved since 40 Days for Life began

Moira Cullings

A few years ago at a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in Madison, Wisconsin, Steve Karlen met a man passing by the abortion clinic who stopped when he noticed the group praying outside of it.

Curiously enough, the man began taking photos of families at the vigil. Karlen came to realize the man’s daughter was pregnant with a boy who had Down Syndrome, and she and her husband planned to abort the baby.

The man was taking photos of families who offered to adopt the child. He showed the photos to his daughter, and she and her husband ultimately chose life for their son.

The man who happened to pass by has now put in more than 200 hours praying at that same vigil.

“To me, that’s about as good as it gets,” said Karlen. “We talk about saving babies and, by the Grace of God, that’s exactly what we do.”

Karlen is the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, a campaign that encourages people to fast and pray for an end to abortion.

This fall, the campaign ran from Sept. 26 until Nov. 4 in 415 cities throughout the world. The success stories that came out of it were abundant.

“We’ve got former abortion workers who have reported that when there’s people out there praying in front of an abortion facility, the no-show rates for those abortion appointments can go up to as high as 75 percent,” said Karlen.

“Any given hour, you might not see anything happen, but the Lord tells us, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen but believed.’ When they hear some of those numbers from the abortion industry itself, it’s a great encouragement,” he said.

Karlen believes that along with the signs held by those who participate in vigils, prayer is a major force in the success of the 40 Days campaign.

“I think prayer is the engine that drives everything,” he said. “It gives energy and it gives life and it gives momentum to all of the other stuff — the community outreach, the signs, the witness, all of those things.”

Here in Denver, more than 350 people kicked off 40 Days with a Eucharistic procession, and hundreds of others have participated in Mass and prayer vigils in the parking lot across from Denver’s Planned Parenthood.

The Respect Life Office reports that they know of at least three babies saved during this campaign.

For Lynn Grandon, Program Director for the Respect Life Office, 40 Days brings great hope for the future of these babies and those they will encounter as they grow up.

“Each of us has gifts and talents given to us by our ancestors that God uses at precise moments in the time he chooses to place us here,” she said.

“Some day, in some way, these children will be surprised to learn that they were slated to die in 2018 but were spared. Just that knowledge alone can be a tremendous impetus to find their life purpose and make a difference with their lives.”

Grandon is grateful for the faithful in Colorado who participated in 40 Days for Life despite the angry retorts from counter-protesters.

“We love seeing the fervency of those who are praying and participating in the power of the Holy Masses that are offered right at the entrance of such a place of loss,” she said.

Karlen explained that a reason why many women who show up for an abortion appointment but decide to leave is because they are not fully convinced what they’re doing is the right choice.

“They know there’s something not quite right about it,” he said. “They’re not there because they’re pro-choice. The feel that they have no choice and they’re looking for some way out, and they’re praying for God to give them a sign.

“And they show up, and they meet somebody there praying for them, smiling, holding a sign, being there in their hour of need,” he continued. “And that’s the sign they were looking for.”

Karlen is grateful for those here in Colorado who participated in 40 Days vigils and offered prayers for women considering abortion.

“It’s heroic,” he said. “We just learned of the 15,000th saved baby through the prayers of 40 Days for Life volunteers. Those are just the ones that we can count.”

The campaign knows of nearly 200 abortion workers who have quit their jobs and become pro-life, and 99 abortion facilities have closed and gone out of business following a 40 Days campaign.

“It goes to show the power of prayer,” said Karlen, “which is the primary form of activism.”

COMING UP: Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

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Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

Initiatives include independent investigation and independent reparations program

Mark Haas

With a desire to “shine the bright light of transparency” on the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has announced that the three Colorado dioceses have voluntarily partnered with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children.

In a joint news conference on February 19 at the attorney general’s office, it was also announced that the three dioceses will voluntarily fund an independent reparations program for survivors of such abuse.

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” said Archbishop Aquila. “While this process will certainly include painful moments and cannot ever fully restore what was lost, we pray that it will at least begin the healing process.”

It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Discussions for these two initiatives began last year with former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and then finalized recently with Weiser. Both Coffman and Weiser praised the dioceses’ willingness to address this issue.

“It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Coffman added: “Childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution or to the Catholic Church. The spotlight is on the Catholic Church, but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on what has happened.

“[The dioceses] demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”

The independent file review will be handled by Robert Toyer, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. His final report is expected to be released in the fall of 2019 and will include a list of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, along with a review of the dioceses’ handling of the allegations. The report will also include an evaluation of the dioceses’ current policies and procedures, something that was not included in other states’ reviews, such as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

“We in Colorado have found our own way in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report,” said Weiser. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, alongside Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, speaks during a press conference announcing a comprehensive joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on February 19, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

“This is not a criminal investigation. This is an independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church,” said Weiser.

Since 1991, the Archdiocese of Denver has had a policy of mandatory reporting of all allegations to local authorities. The procedures were further strengthened by the 2002 Dallas Charter to include comprehensive background checks, zero-tolerance policies, safe environment training, and training for children as well.

“This independent file review presents an opportunity for an honest and fair evaluation of the Church in Colorado’s historical handling of the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” said Archbishop Aquila.  “We are confident in the steps we have taken to address this issue and that there are no priests in active ministry currently under investigation.”

We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.”

The independent reparations program will be run by two nationally recognized claims administration experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who will review individual cases and make financial awards to victims who elect to participate. The victims are free to accept or reject the award, but the Colorado dioceses are bound by what the administrators decide.

The program will have oversight provided by an independent committee chaired by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown. More details will be announced in the coming months, and the program will officially open closer to the release of the final report.

This is similar to a program instituted by former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2006. Archbishop Aquila said it is important for local Catholics to know the program will be funded by archdiocesan reserves, with no money being taken from ministries or charities at parishes, annual diocesan appeals, or Catholic Charities.

“With humility and repentance, we hope the programs announced today offer a path to healing for survivors and their families,” Archbishop Aquila said.

And acknowledging how painful this has been for everyone in the Church, Archbishop Aquila said he hopes this is step towards restoring confidence among the faithful.

“Helping people to restore their trust, to live their faith, that is essential,” said Archbishop Aquila. “And to help them have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, so that is my goal in all of this. I know that healing is possible in Jesus Christ.”

For a copy of the full agreement and a detailed FAQ, visit archden.org/promise.