Abortion demonstrators in Washington are seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court May 3, 2022, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year. (CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Supreme Court appears set to overturn its Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion for nearly 50 years, according to a leaked initial draft of a court opinion obtained by Politico and published online the evening of May 2.

Just minutes after the leak was published, reactions were fast and furious on social media, and barricades were erected around the Supreme Court. Many people gathered at the court in protest and some, including students from The Catholic University of America, were there to pray the rosary.

The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, said Roe “was egregiously wrong from the start” and that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.” Casey v. Planned Parenthood is the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe.

Alito’s opinion said the court’s 1973 Roe decision had exceptionally weak reasoning “and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” he wrote.

He also said abortion policies should be determined on the state level.

Politico’s report says Alito’s opinion is supported by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and that Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were working on dissents. It was not clear how Chief Justice John Roberts planned to vote.

The 98-page draft, which includes a 31-page appendix of historical state abortion laws, is an opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – a case about Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with the potential to also overturn Roe.

The fact that the opinion was leaked also caused significant reaction, because this is unprecedented in the court’s recent history, especially with such a big case.

A May 3 statement by the Supreme Court verified that the draft opinion reported on “is authentic” but that it “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

Roberts, in his own statement, emphasized the significance of the leaked document, which he said was a “singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”

He also said that if this action was “intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.” He said he has directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.

Politico acknowledged that “deliberations on controversial cases have in the past been fluid. Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled.”

“The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months,” it added.

But that does not stop the firestorm of speculation and discussion.

A tweet from scotusblog, which reports on the Supreme Court, said: “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.”

Pro-life groups praised the court’s potential decision but some also questioned the motivation behind the leak and wondered if the court was being manipulated by this action.

A May 2 tweet by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said her organization would “not be providing comment on an official decision of #scotus possible leak until a decision is officially announced.”

“We also believe that given the leak the court should issue a ruling as soon as possible. This leak was meant to corrupt the process. It is heartbreaking that some abortion advocates will stoop to any level to intimidate the court no matter what the consequences,” she added.

“This leak is an act of desperation from rabid abortion supporters,” said Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life, in an email to Catholic News Service. She noted that although she didn’t know if rumors about ending Roe were accurate she stressed that “ending Roe is the right decision.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, also expressed some skepticism but also praise for the potential decision.

“If the draft opinion made public tonight is the final opinion of the court, we wholeheartedly applaud the decision,” she said in a statement adding: “If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature.”

Those on the other side of the issue were similarly taken aback by the leak but also by the potential impact of the decision if it ultimately echoes the draft opinion.

American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: “If the Supreme Court does indeed issue a majority opinion along the lines of the leaked draft authored by Justice Alito, the shift in the tectonic plates of abortion rights will be as significant as any opinion the Court has ever issued.”

And Planned Parenthood said in a May 2 tweet: “Let’s be clear: This is a draft opinion. It’s outrageous, it’s unprecedented, but it is not final.”

During oral arguments in this case last December, a majority of the justices indicate that they would uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which was struck down by a federal District Court in Mississippi in 2018 and upheld a year later by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

A 15-week ban is not a “dramatic departure from viability,” Roberts said.

The point of viability — when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own — was key to the discussion because the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before 24 weeks or when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own.

In the draft opinion, Alito said Roe’s viability distinction “makes no sense.”

If this draft is adopted by the court, it means a ruling in favor of the Mississippi abortion ban. If it goes further to overturn Roe, there would be stricter limits to abortion in parts of the U.S., particularly the South and Midwest, with several states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans.

Four ordinands kneel as priests lay hands on them during their ordination to the priesthood June 5, 2021, at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The annual report of new priests commissioned by the U.S. bishops shows that among those who responded, a shrinking number are white, a sign of the “little-C” catholic nature of the Catholic Church.

Among ordinands — the term used for seminarians slated for ordination this year –  the percentage who are white is 63%. Last year, the percentage who were white was 65%, and in 2020, 67% of ordinands were white. In religious orders, new white priests are at a plurality of 49%.

This was just one of the findings of the study “The Class of 2022: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” conducted for the bishops by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, released May 2.

As calls come from many corners for the U.S. government to cut student debt, the survey revealed that 58% completed an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree before entering the seminary. But they also brought significant student debt with them as they entered the seminary. That debt, on average, was $29,550, CARA said.

“Between entering seminary and ordination, the average amount of debt carried by responding ordinands in religious institutes decreased by 53% and the average amount of debt carried by responding diocesan ordinands decreased by 4% since entering the seminary,” CARA reported.

“Those who had educational debt were not delayed entrance by that debt with the exception of four respondents who were delayed between one and two years.”

The ordinands pursued a wide variety of academic disciplines before responding to the call to priesthood. Seven fields got at least 10% of respondents’ answers, with none getting more than 17%. In descending order of choice, they were philosophy, liberal arts, theology, business, science or math, education and engineering.

There was a strong tendency to work in education before joining the seminary, constituting 16% among all ordinands; the next highest profession was at 9%.

Distinct minorities, both among entering diocesan and religious priesthood, went to Catholic schools at any level: elementary, high school or and college. Even smaller were the numbers for those not born in the United States. But majorities went to their parish’s religious education program, by close to a 2-to-1 margin.

In their parishes, 74% served as altar servers before entering the seminary, and 51% served as lectors, the only ministries that garnered affirmative replies by more than half of the respondents.

Three-eighths of the respondents served as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or catechists. Three in ten served in campus or youth ministry. And a quarter had served as confirmation sponsors or godfathers, or as a cantor or in music ministry.

The largest percentage of diocesan ordinands had gone to seminaries in the Midwest, while the greatest number of religious seminarians had done their seminary studies in the South.

Older vocations are fairly scarce. CARA said only 14% were ages 41 or older when they were ordained. Men ages 25-70 were set to be ordained this year, and the average age was 33.

The survey was administered Jan. 10-March 18. An invitation was sent by email to 419 identified ordinands. Follow-up emails were regularly sent to the ordinands who delayed their response. In all, 317 ordinands completed the survey, a 76% response rate. The respondents included 238 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, a 75% response rate, and 79 ordinands to the religious priesthood, a 25% response rate.

Three in five responding ordinands are white, while 22% were Hispanic, 11% is Asian/Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian. Only 4% were Black. Foreign-born ordinands made up 26% of the respondents, consistent with surveys dating back to 1999, when 28% of respondents were foreign-born.

Pope Francis greets young people after celebrating Mass Nov. 30, 2017, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon, Myanmar. In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network May 3, 2022, Pope Francis offered his prayer intention for the month of May, which he dedicated to young people. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis encouraged young men and women to look to Mary as a model of courage in listening and fulfilling God’s will.

“She was courageous and determined to say ‘yes’ to the Lord. You young people, who want to build something new, a better world, follow her example, take risks,” the pope said.

In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network May 3, the pope offered his prayer intention for the month of May, which he dedicated to young people. At the start of each month, the network posts a short video of the pope offering his specific prayer intention.

In his video message, the pope said Mary was the model “with whom young people can identify with” because of her “courage, the way she knew how to listen and her dedication to service.”

He also reminded young people that in order to follow Mary, they must discern what “Jesus wants from you, not what you might think you can do.”

For this reason, when discerning God’s will in their lives, young men and women can find help in listening “to the words of their grandparents,” the pope said.

“In those words of grandparents, you will find a wisdom that will take you beyond the issues of the moment. They will provide an overview of your concerns,” he said.

Concluding his prayer intention, Pope Francis called on Christians to pray “so that all young people, called to live life to the fullest, may discover in Mary’s life the way to listen, the depth of discernment, the courage of faith, and dedication to service.”

Pope Francis greets family members during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Elderly Christians are called to be consistent in their faith, otherwise they risk becoming a sign of hypocrisy for future generations, Pope Francis said.

Addressing elderly men and women present at his weekly general audience May 4, the pope urged them to “please be attentive to young people, they are watching us.”

“Young people are watching us. And our consistency can open a beautiful path of life for them,” he said. On the other hand, “hypocrisy can do so much damage.”

The pope, who suffers from a torn ligament in his knee, remained seated in his popemobile while greeting pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published May 3, the pope said he is receiving therapeutic injections to alleviate the pain in his right knee.

Before concluding the audience, Pope Francis apologized for being unable to greet newlyweds personally and said he hoped the problem with his knee would “pass soon and I can go to you in future audiences.”

The pope continued his series of talks dedicated to the meaning and value of “old age” and reflected on the biblical figure of Eleazar, an elderly Maccabean who was killed for refusing to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

His example, the pope said, gives witness to “the special relationship that exists between the fidelity of old age and the honor of faith.”

“The honor of faith periodically comes under pressure, even violent pressure, from the culture of the rulers, who seek to debase it by treating it as an archaeological find, an old superstition, an anachronistic obsession,” he said.

Even when asked to “pretend to eat the meat without actually doing so,” he added, Eleazar refused to dishonor his faith and risk scandalizing younger generations in exchange for “a handful of days.”

“An old man who has lived in the coherence of his faith for a whole lifetime, and who now adapts himself to feigning repudiation of it, condemns the new generation to thinking that the whole faith has been a sham, an outer covering that can be abandoned, imagining that it can be preserved interiorly,” the pope said.

Older people who accept “that the practice of faith is irrelevant” also risk teaching young people to give in to gnosticism, he said, by making them believe that faith “can be faked or concealed because it is not particularly important for life.”

The gnostic interpretation of faith, he added, “nullifies the realism of Christian faith.”

“Christian faith is not just about reciting the creed, it means thinking about the creed, it means feeling the creed and doing the creed,” the pope explained.

“Instead, this gnostic proposal says, ‘Just pretend; the important thing is that you have spirituality within you and then you can do whatever you want.’ And this is not Christian. It is the first heresy of the gnostics, which is very fashionable these days in so many spirituality centers and such,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged older Christians to give witness to the faith in a way that “shows the concrete signs of God in the life of the community and resists the perversions of the mind through the gestures of the body.”

“Perhaps it is up to us older people – and there are some present here – to give faith back its honor,” the pope said. “The practice of faith is not the symbol of our weakness, but rather the sign of its strength.”

“Faith deserves respect and honor,” he added. “We will show, in all humility and firmness, precisely in our old age, that believing is not something ‘for old people.’ And the Holy Spirit, who makes all things new, will gladly help us.”