Next stop for life, the Supreme Court

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Deacon Geoff Bennett is Vice President of Parish and Community Relations at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the Respect Life Office.

It is inspiring to see states across the country significantly restrict abortion this year, primarily by banning the destruction of life within the womb once a fetal heartbeat is detected. These laws are also a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that nationalized the question of abortion and legalized the subsequent killing of tens of millions of babies.

Advocates of abortion and defenders of life are on a collision course at the Supreme Court. The only morally acceptable outcome to this issue is to outlaw abortion and to embrace the gift of life. The battle is rapidly intensifying. Any advocates for life standing on the sidelines need to join the fight with their voices and their votes. There is no room for complacency.

And while some would like to paint this as a purely partisan issue, consider that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, recently signed a fetal heartbeat abortion ban in that state.

Meanwhile, consider how emboldened abortion activists have become in recent years. Have you ever seen someone on a power trip? I know I have, and they are people who think they are the smartest ones in the room. If they were half as smart as they thought, they would be dangerous. Unfortunately for children about to come into this world, they are dangerous. I’m talking about those people who  have taken it upon themselves to decide if a child should live or die.

Ever since Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen people debate where to draw the line on killing a child in the womb. Should the life of the child be terminated prior to detecting a heartbeat, before the child can survive outside the womb, or maybe just prior to being born? The bottom line is that we are talking about killing a human being out of convenience. But even being born may not protect a child from a mother’s choice of life or death.

Science has proven what those in the pro-life movement have always known: The child in the womb is a unique human being, never to be duplicated. Some abortion supporters have now crossed the line into advocating for infanticide. They argue that it is a woman’s choice — even after birth. So, what we have now is the mother being given the role of judge and jury, with a doctor enrolled as executioner.

Explaining his support of a proposal to loosen abortion restrictions, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was asked in January about a woman going into labor who desires a third-trimester abortion. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said, “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” according to a video.

That discussion would be about whether mom wants the baby to live or die.

As of this writing, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused at least 50 times to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

And just when you think that our elected officials (those who think they are the smartest ones in the room) can’t say anything more foolish, we have Alabama state Rep. John Rogers. During debate over the abortion ban in that state, he said, “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later. You bring them into the world, unwanted, unloved. Then you send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now or kill them later,” according to a video.

Who is qualified to make the decision that anyone is “unwanted” and should be killed? I challenge even those who support abortion to stand up and condemn these misguided and callous politicians. When is this kind of rhetoric going to have consequences? Are these the type of people we want representing us?

COMING UP: A last chance for Australian justice

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My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

Thus in 2020 the highest judicial authority in Australia will review the Pell case, which gives the High Court the opportunity to reverse a gross injustice and acquit the cardinal of a hideous crime: a “crime” that Pell insists never happened; a “crime” for which not a shred of corroborating evidence has yet been produced; a “crime” that simply could not have happened in the circumstances and under the conditions it was alleged to have been committed.

Since Cardinal Pell’s original appeal was denied in August by two of three judges on an appellate panel in the State of Victoria, the majority decision to uphold Pell’s conviction has come under withering criticism for relying primarily on the credibility of the alleged victim. As the judge who voted to sustain the cardinal’s appeal pointed out (in a dissent that one distinguished Australian attorney described as the most important legal document in that country’s history), witness credibility – a thoroughly subjective judgment-call – is a very shaky standard by which to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It has also been noted by fair-minded people that the dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, is the most respected criminal jurist in Australia, while his two colleagues on the appellate panel had little or no criminal law experience. Weinberg’s lengthy and devastating critique of his two colleagues’ shallow arguments seemed intended to signal the High Court that something was seriously awry here and that the reputation of Australian justice – as well as the fate of an innocent man – was at stake.

Other recent straws in the wind Down Under have given hope to the cardinal’s supporters that justice may yet be done in his case.

Andrew Bolt, a television journalist with a nationwide audience, walked himself through the alleged series of events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, within the timeframe in which they were supposed to have occurred, and concluded that the prosecution’s case, and the decisions by both the convicting jury and the majority of the appeal panel, simply made no sense. What was supposed to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did.

Australians willing to ignore the vicious anti-Pell polemics that have fouled their country’s public life for years also heard from two former workers at the cathedral, who stated categorically that what was alleged to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did, because they were a few yards away from Cardinal Pell at the precise time he was alleged to have abused two choirboys.

Then there was Anthony Charles Smith, a veteran criminal attorney (and not a Catholic), who wrote in Annals Australasia that the Pell verdict and the denial of his appeal “curdles my stomach.” How, he asked, could a guilty verdict be rendered on “evidence….so weak and bordering on the preposterous?” The only plausible answer, he suggested, was that Pell’s “guilt” was assumed by many, thanks to “an avalanche of adverse publicity” ginned up by “a mob baying for Pell’s blood” and influencing “a media [that] should always be skeptical.”

Even more strikingly, the left-leaning Saturday Paper, no friend of Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, published an article in which Russell Marks – a one-time research assistant on an anti-Pell book – argued that the two judges on the appellate panel who voted to uphold the cardinal’s conviction “effectively allowed no possible defense for Pell: there was nothing his lawyers could have said or done, because the judges appeared to argue it was enough to simply believe the complainant on the basis of his performance under cross examination.”

The Australian criminal justice system has stumbled or failed at every stage of this case. The High Court of Australia can break that losing streak, free an innocent man, and restore the reputation of Australian justice in the world. Whatever the subsequent fallout from the rabid Pell-haters, friends of justice must hope that that is what happens when the High Court hears the cardinal’s case – Australia’s Dreyfus Case – next year.

Photo: CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images