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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 13 min 16 sec ago

Marco Rubio calls for an ‘economics of the common good’ 

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Senator Marco Rubio has called for “common good economics” ahead of a speech Tuesday on Catholic social teaching and the dignity of work, noting the need for a new economic vision to respond to contemporary economic realities.

Speaking to CNA in an interview November 4, Senator Rubio (R-FL) said that there needs to be a renewed focus on the human orientation and ends of economic policy and growth, after decades of changes in both national and global market conditions.

“The economy should be at the service of the common good,” Rubio said. “It should work for us, not people for the economy.”

On Nov. 5, Rubio will give a speech titled “Catholic Social Doctrine and the Dignity of Work” at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 

Speaking ahead of the event, the senator told CNA that established ways of thinking about market forces and public policy have failed to keep up with decades of change. But, Rubio said, his outlook remains rooted in a shared tradition with his party’s past leaders.

“Reagan economics was very much centered on dignified work,” Rubio told CNA, “but when Ronald Reagan was president, the architecture of our economy was very different.”

“We didn’t have the massive displacements of whole industries that we see now, or public policies that encouraged it. People criticized Regan economics as ‘trickle-down’ but it used to trickle very differently than it does today.”

The current economy is, Rubio said, asymmetrical, with “enormous pockets of prosperity” in which people with the right degrees, in the right industries, in the right places, are better remunerated than ever before.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Rubio said. “The problem is that at the same time you have millions of people left behind and told to do things which are neither reasonable or good.”

Rubio said the concept of dignified work is central to an economics that puts social health and human flourishing at its center. In his recent writings on the subject, Rubio has become perhaps the first US Senator to cite Pope Leo XIII as an inspiration for his economic vision, highlighting especially the 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum.

“It was an interesting encyclical because he wrote it in reaction to the disruptions the world was facing after industrialization – there were some of the same fears then, machines replacing people, mass economic displacement. He wrote about that balance of obligations between the worker and the employer and I think this is a good time to revisit that balance in the light of the post-industrial disruptions we now face.”

Rubio, himself a Catholic, told CNA that Catholic social teaching influences his own concept of dignity and work “more than it used to.”

“The more you dig into it, you realize that there is an extraordinary wisdom. For example, St. John Paul II wrote about the obligation of a worker to work - which is something that people on the political right, myself included, have talked about – but it is built upon the assumption that such work has dignity. It’s something you can only insist upon if the economy we’ve put in place fosters the creation of those jobs.”

“I think dignified work is something that allows you to get up in the morning or the evening and go do something rewarding and productive,” Rubio told CNA. “You should be able to feel useful and productive, and that those hours matter.”

But, Rubio said, “there’s no doubt” that there is a shortage of dignified work in the American economy.

“This is driven almost entirely by the idea that our economics is about the right of businesses to make a profit – which is true, but with that right comes a responsibility to act in the common good, it is a balance and mutually beneficial arrangement at its best.”

“Today our focus is on ‘How fast is GDP growing?’ irrespective of how that growth is distributed and whether short term profit takes precedence over what is in the long-term interest of the country or the interest of the whole nation today.”

“Industries that provided dignified work for decades have vanished. The people who once had those jobs have not been the ones who have been able to achieve the new jobs created by the ‘new economy.’”

“People are being told, at 45 years of age, to go back to school, learn to code, leave behind your family, your church, your community, the place you’ve always lived – your entire support network – and move half-way across the country for a job you’re probably not going to get anyway because they think you’re too old for it.”

In answer to this situation, Rubio said that both the political left and right are offering a “false choice” between a “purist” pursuit of profit divorced from community investment, and promises of a socialist mandate to enforce better outcomes.

Public policy, he said, can and should be part of realigning the economy towards the public good, but it cannot deliver it by government fiat.

“A government that provides you with healthcare will decide who your doctor is and what healthcare you get, a government that provides all your education will ultimately decide not just what you’re taught, but what you can study and where.”

“Common good economics trusts that if our public policies reflect the rights of a worker to benefit from their work as well as their obligation to work, and the rights of a business to make a profit as well as their obligation to do so in a way that’s beneficial to the country, then private individuals and business in balance can do a better job of providing those necessities and the kind of life we all want than government ever could.”

But what is the role of government in a common good economy?

“If we are going to have preferences in our public policy, the preference needs to go to things which contribute towards our common good,” Rubio said, highlighting policies that incentivize immediate reinvestment of returns to grow jobs and sustain local communities.

“The second thing that government needs to do, especially in the 21st century, is to recognize that there are certain industries that are critical to our long-term interests. From a pure market analysis, it may be more efficient moving this or that manufacturing or other function to another country, but from a national interest standpoint, there are certain things we have to be able to do even if it’s not purely justified by market conditions – we have to be able to make things, to feed ourselves.”

“I think there are great benefits to a globalized economy… but I do think we have to recognize that policies that worked very well in an economy that wasn’t globalized need to be readjusted to that new reality.”

“Before, you could expect GDP growth to match investment back into our economy, that’s not the case anymore.”

But, he said, the real dignity of work was to be found as much in the home as in the office or on the shop floor, and it is not about simply amassing wealth.

“Most people aren’t interested in becoming rich, but in being rewarded in a way which allows you to provide for your family, and allows you the time you need to be the husband, wife, father, mother, and member of the community that you want to be.”

“Our policies should be driven by what is for the common good for our country, and one of the most important parts of that common good is the creation of dignified work – that gives people the time, money and support they need to raise strong families and make a difference in their community,” Rubio said.

“And by the way, it also benefits the people they work for and allows them to make a profit. It’s mutually beneficial.”

Catholic community in Albany mourns priest killed in flash flood

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 19:02

Albany, N.Y., Nov 4, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Diocese of Albany is grieving the death of a local priest who was killed when his car was swept up in a flash flood on Halloween night.

“We are so saddened to learn of Father Thomas Connery’s tragic death, but we know that he died as he lived - serving the people of God without fear or concern for himself,” said Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany in a recent statement.

“Connery was a devoted priest who served faithfully for 56 years and just weeks ago had accepted a new assignment as sacramental minister for Sts. Anthony and Joseph Church in Herkimer as well as St. John the Baptist in Newport.”

The 82-year-old priest had been driving through Norway in central New York at around 10 p.m. on Thursday when he was caught up in a flash flood amid a large regional storm. He has been on his way to celebrate Mass in Herkimer and Newport.

According to ABC News, a witness told police that Connery’s car had struggled against the high waters and, after the road collapsed, it became stuck. When the priest tried to exit the car, he was swept away. His body was found downstream about a quarter-mile away.

“Due to the dangerously high and strong current, the witness was unable to help Mr. Connery,” the police statement read, according to ABC News.

Mary DeTurris Poust, communications director for the Diocese of Albany, said the priest was beloved by many in the diocese.

“He really did die as he lived, which was serving the people he loved,” said Poust, according to News10 ABC.

“He really was a kind, and gentle, and really sweet spirit … as well as a magnificent priest,” she added.

Father James Ebert, vicar for the clergy of the Diocese of Albany, had known Connery for 30 years.

“I just started crying,” Father Ebert told News10 ABC of his reaction to hearing the news. “It was a shock because he sent me a letter about a month ago thanking me for everything that I do. That’s the kind of guy he was - very thoughtful.”

Bishop Scharfenberger said Connery was a faithful priest and active evangelist.

“Father Tom lived and died amidst the storm waters of life across which he led countless souls. His priestly life was itself a bridge to Eternity for many, firmly grounded in his Faith in Jesus,” the bishop said.

“He met his death in the fury of the natural elements and, we pray with confidence, met the face of our loving Savior to whose Name he witnessed tirelessly and without fear. A lifelong martyr who died as he lived, with his boots on.”

Connery was born and raised in New York. He was ordained a priest in Albany in 1963 and served as the pastor of several Catholic churches in the area, including St. Joseph’s in Albany, St. Mary’s in Little Falls, and the Immaculate Conception in Glenville.

According to The Evangelist, the diocesan newspaper of Albany, the priest also served in several parishes in Alaska in the 1960s and ‘70s. While serving at St. Mary’s Parish on Kodiak Island, the priest became a commercial fisherman, seeking to connect with parishioners and provide extra money to the financially struggling parish.

Connery’s funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The reception of the body will begin at 3 p.m. and Mass will start at 7 p.m.

“May he rest in peace, and may his family be comforted by the faith that served as Father Connery’s strength and foundation throughout his life of ministry,” said Bishop Scharfenberger.

Bishop Bransfield disinvited from US bishops' meeting

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 18:25

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2019 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has canceled their invitation for Bishop Michael Bransfield, former head of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, to attend their upcoming annual fall meeting due to allegations of sexual abuse and financial misconduct.

Chieko Noguchi, the director of public affairs for the USCCB, confirmed that Bransfield had been disinvited from the meeting, per a new protocol that was approved by the bishop’s conference in June.

According to the new Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops: “The President of the USCCB, in consultation with the Administrative Committee, can instruct the General Secretary that a bishop emeritus who resigned or was removed from his office due to sexual abuse of minors, sexual misconduct with adults, or grave negligence in office, or who subsequent to his resignation was found to have so acted or failed to act, is not to be invited to attend the Plenary Assembly or to serve on any USCCB body.”

“In this case, Bishop (Robert) Brennan, the current ordinary for Wheeling-Charleston initiated this process by reaching out to USCCB president Cardinal DiNardo, who in consultation with the Administrative Committee, moved this forward,” Noguchi told CNA.

The USCCB’s General Assembly meeting is scheduled to take place November 11-14 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Pope Francis accepted Bransfield’s resignation as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in September last year, just after Bransfield had turned 75. Pope Francis then ordered Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to conduct an investigation into allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adult males and misused diocesan finances during his time in West Virginia.

Bransfield is reported to have sexually harassed, assaulted, and coerced seminarians, priests, and other adults during his time as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. He was also found to have given large cash gifts to high-ranking Church leaders, using diocesan funds.

Lori banned Bransfield from public ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Archdiocese of Baltimore in March, and in July the Vatican imposed additional sanctions, including banning Bransfield from living in his former diocese and ordering him to make “personal amends” for his actions, as determined by Brennan.

In October, another allegation surfaced that Bransfield had inappropriately touched a nine-year-old girl during a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in 2012. A police investigation is underway, and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said in October that they are cooperating with the authorities.

Trump administration finalizes refugee cap at lowest level ever

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The White House on Sunday finalized its quota of refugee admissions for the 2020 fiscal year, cutting the cap on U.S. refugee admissions to its lowest recorded level.

The White House said the fiscal year 2020 refugee cap of 18,000 “is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.”

The Trump administration had originally announced the proposed refugee cap in September, saying that the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services would subsequently consult Congress.

The cap of 18,000 refugees is 40% lower than the quota of 30,000 refugees for FY 2019, which was a 33% drop from the FY 2018 limit of 45,000 refugees.

For the fiscal year 2017, the Obama administration set the ceiling at accepting 110,000 refugees, but the Trump administration halted the resettlement program for security concerns, ultimately admitting only 53,716 refugees for that fiscal year.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has criticized the proposed cuts to refugee admissions, saying that the U.S. can and should resettle more refugees at a time when 70 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes, according to the UN.

“We are currently in the midst of the world’s greatest forced displacement crisis on record, and for our nation, which leads by example, to lower the number of refugee admissions for those who are in need is unacceptable,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the USCCB migration committee, stated on Sept. 27 after the proposed cap was announced.

Bishop Vasquez had previously called for a return to resettlement quotas of 95,000 refugees.

For 2020, the administration has also announced other changes to refugee admissions, and will accept quotas of refugees by category instead of by world region.

The U.S. will accept up to 5,000 refugees with a “well-founded fear” of religious persecution or who are eligible for resettlement under the Lautenberg and Specter Amendments, in FY 2020. Those amendments provided for resettlement of individuals from the former Soviet Union, Indochina, and Iran with a well-founded fear of persecution, though not necessarily on an individual basis, and who required less proof of persecution.

In 2020, the U.S. will accept up to 4,000 “Iraqi P2s,” Iraqi nationals who have helped the United States.

The administration will accept up to 1,500 nationals or “habitual residents” from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, the “Northern Triangle” of countries in Central America which have some of the highest murder rates in the world, and from whence come many of the unaccompanied minors who have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border. The 1,500 will not include those otherwise eligible for asylum claims.

Other categories of refugees include referrals from U.S. embassies, cases of family reunification, and up to 7,500 who were in “ready for departure” status in the refugee resettlement program as of September 30.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited concerns over a backlog of asylum cases on the U.S.-Mexico border that relate to more than one million individuals.

“America’s support for refugees and other displaced people extends well beyond our immigration system,” he said. “Addressing the core problems that drive refugees away from their homes helps more people more rapidly than resettling them in the United States.”

In the fiscal year 2016, the Obama administration accepted around 85,000 refugees and planned to accept 110,000 refugees in 2017. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the annual cap on refugee admissions had been set at, or slightly higher than, 70,000, before the Obama administration increased the cap for FY 2016 and 2017.

Lafayette diocese donates $50k to Baptist churches destroyed by arson

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 16:30

Lafayette, La., Nov 4, 2019 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana raised more than $50,000 for three black Baptist churches that were the targets of arson attacks that have been characterized as hate crimes.

Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette presented the funds to the pastors of the affected Baptist churches on Thursday at the site of one of the former churches.

Pastor Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Pastor Gerald Toussaint of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, and Pastor Kyle Sylvester of St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, accepted the donations on behalf of their congregations.

Between March 26 and April 4, each of these predominantly black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana was destroyed by arson. KTA 5 News in Louisiana reported at the time that pastors of other local Baptist parishes began sleeping in their churches in order to fend off other possible attacks.

Police arrested 21-year-old Holden Matthews as a suspect in the fires, and he faces three felony arson charges and three federal hate crime charges, CBS News reported in June.

On Thursday, each affected church received a check for just more than $16,800 from the Diocese of Lafayette to go toward their rebuilding efforts. The funds add to the $2 million raised through an April GoFundMe account for the churches, The Acadiana Advocate reported.

“Evil brings opportunities for good, and this is a good way to do that," Deshotel said.

Rev. Harry Richard said he is looking forward to rebuilding the church for his congregation, which is now using a temporary space for worship.

“When that was taken away from us, not only did it create a fire in our building, but it created a fire in our lives. That fire seems to be burning until we get back to our home,” Richard said, according to The Advocate.

 “But the love that Bishop Deshotel and the rest of the community has shown has been a river of loving water that is helping put out the fire in our lives.”

 

Citing St. Gianna Molla’s loving example, University of Mary names health sciences school

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 15:40

Bismarck, N.D., Nov 4, 2019 / 01:40 pm (CNA).- The University of Mary’s School of Health Sciences will be named for St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a pediatrician and a mother who died after declining cancer treatment that could have harmed her unborn daughter.

“How fitting it will be to have St. Gianna the namesake of our School of Health Sciences, a saint who lived out this value in her medical practice and personal life,” Jodi Roller, dean of the North Dakota-based university’s School of Health Sciences, said Nov. 1.

The announcement came at the University of Mary’s main campus near Bismarck during the 2019 Candlelight Gala on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. The gala launched a fundraising effort for the health sciences school.

“Calling upon what her Catholic faith taught her, Molla believed every human life was a gift from God, something sacred to be respected and protected from conception to natural death,” the University of Mary said in a statement.

St. Gianna’s youngest daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla, is now a medical doctor herself. She attended the gala on behalf of her family and gave her personal approval of naming the school in honor of her mother.

Others at the announcement were University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea, as well as School of Health Sciences faculty.

The University of Mary was founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. It now has over 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students.

Its four doctoral programs include physical therapy, nursing practice, and occupational therapy. It offers 15 master’s degree programs and close to 60 undergraduate majors.

Molla, born in 1922, was an Italian doctor who gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor.

Early in her pregnancy with her fourth child, Gianna Beretta Molla discovered she had a tumor in her womb. Despite the risks to her life, she rejected most cancer treatment because it would have endangered her child.

She died in 1962 at the age of 39, one week after giving birth to a healthy baby girl, who would be named Gianna.

Gianna Molla was the first married woman to be canonized as a saint in modern times.

She was beatified in 1994, and St. John Paul II canonized her in 2004. She is strongly associated with the mission of the family, and has been declared the patron of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

Dr. Glenda Reemts, chair of the university’s department of nursing, welcomed the name change.

“The naming of our school after St. Gianna beautifully emulates the sanctity of human life. The importance of the dignity of the human person runs deep within our school and within the hearts of our students,” Reemts said.

Lauren Emmel, assistant professor of physical therapy at the university, praised St. Gianna’s example.

“If we can hold our students to the legacy and vocation of St. Gianna as a loving example in her life and in her death, that is something real and life-giving—we give our students something to hope for in their pursuit of studies at the University of Mary,” she said.

The university said its faculty and students will continue to follow the counsel of St. Gianna, citing the saint’s words: “Our task is to make the truth visible and lovable, offering ourselves as an attractive, and, if possible, heroic example.”

The University of Mary’s main campus is near Bismarck, N.D., with a separate downtown Bismarck campus and other locations in both Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D. It offers online education and education at locations in Montana, Kansas, Arizona, Rome, Italy and Arequipa, Peru.

 

Buttigieg's comments on restricting religious freedom prompt calls for clarification

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 14:13

Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2019 / 12:13 pm (CNA).- Democratic primary candidate Pete Buttigieg has said that religious freedom must be curbed if it is used to “harm,” prompting calls for clarification about what the presidential hopeful considers grounds for restricting religious practice.

Adam Wren, a reporter for Indianapolis Monthly, tweeted on Sunday that he asked Buttigieg “how he would approach religious freedom broadly.”

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, responded that “[t]he touchstone has to be the idea that religious freedom like any other freedom is constrained when it becomes a rationale for doing harm.”

“You know the original doctrines and federal legislative law go back to, I think, substances in rituals among Native Americans says about freedom to undertake a religious practice,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg continued that when religious freedom is invoked to practice “hiring discrimination,” that would make the issue “tough, and sticky.”

The matter of “constraining” religious freedom when it is invoked to do harm “would move us further than we’ve moved so far,” Buttigieg said.

“In terms of enforcing for example anti-discrimination expectations, even on private organizations, and I think that bar goes even higher when we’re talking about anybody seeking federal funds,” he said.

Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket, a law firm that defends religious freedom, said that Buttigieg’s comments were “vague” and demanded clarification on just what situations he would see as justifying limitations on religious freedom.

“I still see it as it’s a vague and popular talking point right now,” Goodrich said of the concept of religious freedom being invoked to do harm. He added that “the devil really is in the details, and the candidates need to clarify precisely what kinds of harm they would seek to punish.”

The Supreme Court has already ruled that religious organizations “can hire people who agree with their core religious practices even when it ‘harms’ people who don’t get hired,” Goodrich noted, referring to Supreme Court decisions in 2012 and 1987 in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC and Corp. of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, respectively.

In Hosanna Tabor, the Court ruled unanimously that the federal government cannot intervene in the hiring or firing of religious ministers. In Amos, the Court ruled that religious organizations could make hiring decisions for non-religious positions based on religious beliefs.

In response to a request for comment, the Buttigieg campaign said his words “speak for themselves.”

The concept of religious freedom being invoked to “do harm,” which Buttigieg referenced, is behind the Do No Harm Act, a bill introduced in Congress in 2017 and again in 2019 to limit the application of current federal religious freedom law.

The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—which passed the House unanimously and the Senate by a vote of 97 to 3, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton—created a test for when a federal law infringes upon a person’s free exercise of religion.

The law was enacted in response to a 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, where two Native Americans who lost their jobs due to a failed employment drug test said they had used the drug peyote as part of a Native American religious ritual. The Court ruled against the two Native Americans and sided with the government in the case.

Under RFRA, the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it provides proof of a “compelling interest” and that its action is the least-restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.

The proposed Do No Harm Act lists whole areas of law where RFRA would no longer apply, including provision of health care items or services and government contracts.

The recent comments from Buttigieg are the latest in a series of statements calling for the restriction of religious freedom, particularly in matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to a June 13 report by Wren in Indianapolis Monthly, Buttigieg praised the bipartisan outcry over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, calling the act “social extremism.” The law originally signed by then-Governor Mike Pence mirrored the federal RFRA, but a coalition of politicians, celebrities, and businesses rallied against it.

In response, the state legislature passed, and Gov. Pence signed, a “fix” to the law that mostly exempted sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination protections from the law’s application. Religious freedom advocate Ryan Anderson called the change a “wholesale repeal” of the original law.

“And the business Republicans revolted right alongside us progressives,” Buttigieg said of the backlash against the original law. “So that shows me that there is a belief in just decency that really does stand against that kind of social extremism.”

Buttigieg did oppose the idea of stripping churches of their tax exempt status for not supporting same-sex marriage, in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Oct. 13, but he added that schools and other non-profit organizations should be held accountable for their views on marriage.

“So if we want to talk about anti-discrimination law for a school or an organization, absolutely,” he said. “They should not be able to discriminate.”

Buttigieg supports the Equality Act, a bill passed by the House that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in federal anti-discrimination law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposed the bill for conflating a person’s actions with their identity and human dignity. The bill would threaten religious free speech, conscience, and the exercise of religion, the bishops said.

Buttigieg’s website also says he would “give the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships a mandate to work with faith and community leaders who support LGBTQ+ people.”

The candidate says he would also “examine existing religious exemption policies” in the federal government, including “offices that were put in place to enable discrimination.”

In recent years, the Trump administration created a new conscience and religious freedom division at the Department of Health and Human Services, to support conscience rights of health care professionals in matters such as opting out of performing or assisting with abortions or gender transition surgeries.
 

'Safe injection site' denounced as false solution to Philadelphia drug problem

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 18:44

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 3, 2019 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- A proposal to create a supervised injection site in Philadelphia has drawn criticism from the local archbishop and others who say resources to fight addiction should focus on full and authentic healing.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called the supervised injection site proposal “saddening – but not surprising.”

“The proposed facility is simply the latest dose of despair offered by a confused and suffering culture; a culture that refuses to understand the true nature of both addiction and those who are enslaved by it,” the archbishop wrote in his weekly column for Catholic Philly Oct. 25.

He argued that the premise of such injection sites is built on “misguided compassion” and “an erroneous concept of human nature.”

Chaput’s column responded to a plan to open a supervised drug injection site in Philadelphia. The site would be run by a non-profit and would provide syringes and other tools for drug use, although users would have to bring the illicit drugs themselves.

Staff members would monitor users and be available to respond to potential overdoses with medical attention and naloxone, the antidote to fentanyl and heroine, two drugs driving the opioid epidemic. Recovery counseling would also be available, as well as referrals for housing and public benefits.

The plan has the support of city officials. Proponents of the site say it aims to respond to the opioid crisis in one of America’s hardest hit cities. Philadelphia sees more than 1,000 overdose deaths per year.

The U.S. Justice Department maintains that such a facility would violate federal drugs laws and has sued the City of Philadelphia to block the injection site from moving forward.

Early in October, however, a federal judge ruled in favor of the city, saying its purpose in creating the injection site does not violate the law’s intent.

The Philadelphia injection site would be the first of its kind in the U.S., although other cities have voiced interest in the possibility.

From a moral perspective, Archbishop Chaput said, it is clear that the use of illicit drugs, and the provision of them, are violations of divine law.

But there are also serious practical problems with the injection site proposal, the archbishop said. “The science itself doesn’t support the sites.”

Modern neurological science indicates that the environmental stimuli accompanying substance abuse can trigger cravings, he noted.

“That’s why 12-step recovery groups urge members to avoid the people, places and things that led to their substance abuse, not unlike Christ’s command in Matthew 5:29-30 to tear out one’s right eye and cut off one’s right hand to avoid sin. By enhancing these environmental stimuli, safe injection sites keep individuals locked in addiction.”

‘Doing harm, not good’

Supporters of the injection site point to a similar facility in downtown Vancouver. Known as Insite, the facility opened in 2003. Since then, staff members have supervised more than 3.5 million injections and responded to more than 6,000 overdoses. No one has died at the facility, a statistic which proponents tout as evidence that it has been successful as a harm reduction strategy.

However, Chaput argued that the data from Insite “can hardly be called convincing.”

“Since its opening in 2003, some 3.6 million clients have self-injected at the Vancouver-based site, yet only 48,798 (or 1.35 percent) have received any kind of addiction treatment,” he said, adding that of those who have sought treatment, the type and duration of treatment are not clear.

He cited researchers who argue that politicization of evidence and flaws in data collection raise serious questions about the purported success of safe injection sites.

Steven Bozza, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Life and Family and a bioethics professor at Catholic Distance University, argued in an Oct. 17 article for Catholic Philly that the proposed injection site violates fundamental principles of medical ethics.

“Making it easier to engage in life-threatening behavior and codifying it into law — while sending the bill to taxpayers — is doing harm, not good,” he said.

Bozza warned that injection sites encourage individuals to feed their addictions, moving them down a path of increasingly diminished autonomy.

He also argued that “safe injection sites divert badly needed funds away from resources that have already proven effective in offering real hope of recovery from addiction for thousands.”

“The money and resources sought to fund safe injection sites can and should be invested in what has already been proven to work: rehab centers, healthcare benefits that cover relapse treatment, counseling and social support services, vocational and life skills training.”

Pointing the harm that illicit drugs do not only to those who use them, but also to the millions exploited globally by drug cartels, Chaput stressed that while drug addiction is a serious wound for individuals, families, and communities, supervised injection sites are not the solution.

Instead, he pointed to proven recovery options including “medical treatment, abstinence, counseling, support groups and above all the love of Christ.”

“Ultimately, healing from addiction is found not in a clean needle or Narcan, but in a heart renewed by its creator,” the archbishop said.

A holistic approach

Renee Hudson-Small is the assistant director of Housing and Homeless Services for Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia. She said the agency has found that a broad approach focused on the whole person offers the greatest likelihood of successfully helping people recover from addiction.

“Definitely the holistic approach is, from where we sit, very effective in helping those individuals try to cope with something that is very difficult to overcome, but can be overcome,” Hudson-Small told CNA in an interview earlier this year.

This holistic approach includes connecting individuals struggling with addiction – and their families – with resources offered by Catholic Social Services and throughout the City of Philadelphia and surrounding counties.

One way in which Catholic Social Services does this is through a recovery facility that it runs for single women and women with children. Shelter and support services are combined with case managers to help the women get back on their feet.

“They reside in our facility while they’re in recovery, and we assist them with case management services, as well as support services,” Hudson-Small said. This support includes “making sure they obtain the necessary life skills and a plan for housing, getting basic needs met – identification, maybe birth certificate, things that they may have lost while they were in their addiction.”

Counseling and mental health care are included in case management support services. Catholic Social Services helps connect patients with mental health professionals if they need resources. They also help ensure that they are following through with appointments, working to resolve transportation issues or other obstacles.

“Every individual is different and is going to receive things differently, at different points or stages in their life,” Hudson-Small said. “So one of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we know that at times, there may be individuals that fall back into addiction. We’re there to be a support for them, at whatever stage, when they can get back to the point where they’re ready to take on services. We’re there to be available to them.”

Providing support for families is also an important factor in helping individuals overcome addiction, she stressed.

“When someone is in an addiction, it’s not just that person that is affected, but the entire family that is affected,” she explained. “It touches everyone’s lives - family and friends - because they are part of that person’s network. So you want to provide services to that individual, but you also want to be a support to that family, so they can be prepared to address some of the concerns that they have about their loved one.”

Part of this support for families is teaching them how to best help their loved ones with addictions, and how to be patient, especially “when the family is just so tired, which sometimes is the case, and understandably so.”

“It may take several times for people to get to the point where they’re able to maintain their sobriety,” Hudson-Small said. It can be very difficult, she acknowledged, “for a family member who may have watched that person fall more than two, three, four, five times, and just get really frustrated and not know what to do next.”

In these cases, she said, it is crucial for family members to “just be really patient and not to give up hope on them, because if you just stay in there, get them connected to those services that can continue to bring hope to them, eventually it will stick and they will reach that sobriety and hopefully maintain it.”

In Minnesota, ambitious pro-abortion lawsuit seeks to strike down 13 laws

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 05:10

St. Paul, Minn., Nov 3, 2019 / 03:10 am (CNA).- Minnesota’s restrictions on abortion are too important for pro-abortion groups to eliminate through a single lawsuit, pro-life defenders of the 13 challenged laws have said.

Paul Stark, communications director with Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, said the state’s current laws are “reasonable and very modest protections for pregnant women and their unborn children.”

“Women have a right to informed consent. Parents should be notified when their minor children are undergoing abortion. The public should know about how abortion is practiced in our state,” he told CNA Nov. 1. “All of these things would go away if the lawsuit is successful.”

The lawsuit, filed in May in Ramsey County District Court, was the subject of an Oct. 30 hearing. The suit argued that a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision Doe v. Gomez, which ruled the state constitution includes a right to legal abortion, means many state laws passed before and after the decision are unconstitutional.

“We think that claim has no merit and should be dismissed. But it could be many months before the case reaches its resolution,” Stark told CNA.

With the U.S. Supreme Court believed to be at a tipping point against precedents which mandate permissive abortion laws nationwide, advocates of legal abortion have sought to strengthen their legal position at the state level. State laws and judicial decisions would govern abortion if pro-abortion precedents are overturned in federal courts.

In neighboring Iowa, state legislation to restrict abortion has been overturned by a 2018 state Supreme Court decision which declared the right to choose abortion “a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” Such rulings are unlikely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has little jurisdiction over issues affecting state constitutions.

Judge Thomas Gilligan heard arguments about the lawsuit’s merits on Wednesday. He indicated he would take time before he rules on whether to dismiss the case, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, two unnamed women and the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, argued that the lawsuit should move forward.

“The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis has a long history of supporting reproductive health rights and justice,” said Rev. Kelli Clement, social justice minister for the society, Minnesota Public Radio reported in May.

The lawsuit names as defendants Attorney General Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz, both members of the Democratic-Famer-Labor Party, and several state agencies. While Ellison backs legal abortion, he has also said he is legally required to defend the state’s laws.

Pro-life groups were not represented at the hearing and have sought to have their own attorney intervene in the case. This effort will delay a ruling until at least December.

While pro-life advocates did not speak in court, they did speak against the lawsuit.

Jason Adkins, executive director with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, characterized the laws as “common-sense regulations are consistent with the state’s interest in promoting informed consent and the health and safety of women who undergo abortions.”

“Ultimately, this lawsuit, challenging common-sense laws that do not prevent anyone from actually procuring an abortion, demonstrates the desire to suppress conscience and the truth,” Adkins told CNA Nov. 1. “Abortion proponents want to keep information about the reality of abortion out of sight from patients and the public lest its harms be exposed and both choose differently.“

The coalition backing the lawsuit, called Unrestrict Minnesota, includes several self-described feminist and women’s health advocacy groups, ACLU Minnesota, the labor union affiliate AFSCME Council 5, the Asian American Organizing Project, and the National Council of Jewish Women Minnesota.

“Minnesota’s abortion restrictions are medically unnecessary and legally untenable,” said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, another member of the coalition. She said the 1995 state Supreme Court decision upheld “basic rights to privacy and personal decision-making.”

Solicitor General Liz Kramer made procedural objections to the lawsuit, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

“One of the things that makes this case different than every other abortion case cited by the parties is how long these statutes have been on the books. The plaintiffs have challenged 13 different statutes,” she said.

These laws have been in effect from 11 years to 111 years.

Kramer argued that plaintiffs failed to show concrete harm as a result of the defendants’ action.

The Unrestrict Minnesota website claims that state lawmakers have been “quietly passing laws that restrict abortion access, intimidate providers and patients, and increase costs.”

Among other rules, the lawsuit targets a number of Minnesota’s requirements for obtaining an abortion, including “Woman’s Right to Know,” which ensures informed consent prior to an abortion; its two-parent notification requirement for patients under 18; its prohibition of non-physicians performing abortions; and the requirement of hospital settings for abortions performed after 16 weeks.

The laws require that doctors who provide abortions talk about the risks of abortion, alternatives to abortion, the possibility of pain to an unborn child during an abortion, the availability of medical assistance to women and a man’s obligation to provide child support.

The lawsuit also seeks to end data collection on abortions and requirements for fetal remains be buried or cremated instead of being treated as medical waste.

Data collection questions can “feel intrusive and stigmatizing and are an invasion of privacy,” Unrestrict Minnesota argued. The coalition website particularly objects to Minnesota Department of Health reporting on a patient’s race, marital status and county of residence.

Adkins, the Minnesota Catholic Conference executive director, further explained his opposition to the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit is an unfortunate, saddening attack on solid, bipartisan legislation that protects women and children, ensures that people make the decision with informed consent, and makes sure that human remains aren’t put in the trash,” he said.

“This lawsuit is meritless, and should be thrown out consistent with the normal course of judicial decision making,” said Adkins. “But with abortion, the normal rules of adjudication don’t apply—a phenomenon known as the ‘abortion distortion.’ We should not assume that they will be upheld, and the attorney general’s office has a duty to provide zealous advocacy on their behalf.”

“We have a tradition in Minnesota of judicial elections being about temperament and experience, and not issues,” he added. “I don’t think there is a big desire among most in the judiciary to politicize our courts. This case will be a barometer of whether that culture still holds.”

Little Sisters of the Poor to close Richmond community

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 17:34

Richmond, Va., Nov 2, 2019 / 03:34 pm (CNA).- The Little Sisters of the Poor will withdraw their community from Richmond, Virginia, after 145 years of serving the elderly in the area, they announced Wednesday.

The decision was made due to declining numbers in the religious community, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond said in a statement that the sisters will be missed.

“I am deeply saddened to see them leave our region as their departure will leave a profound void within our community that is irreplaceable,” he said. “Yet, I am immensely grateful for the decades of humble service, selfless work, great love and devotion they have provided to the most vulnerable in our community.”

He thanked the sisters for more than a century of being “faithful servants and true examples of Christ’s loving care and unwavering, tender devotion for the poor, sick, elderly and dying within our diocese.”

Founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan, the Little Sisters of the Poor serve the elderly and dying poor in more than 30 countries across the globe.

The sisters have had a presence in the Richmond area since 1874. In 1976, they moved to their current location, where the congregation runs St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged - a 96-bed nursing home.

All of the residents in St. Joseph’s Home are being given the opportunity to transfer to a different home run by the Little Sisters in another state. They have also offered to help residents find a different local home.

The 11 sisters currently at the Richmond community will transfer to one of their other homes. The Little Sisters run 27 homes for the elderly across the U.S.

In the past six years, the order has closed seven communities in the United States due to declining numbers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

“As part of a strategic plan aimed at strengthening our ministry and the quality of our religious and community life, we Little Sisters have recognized the need to withdraw from a certain number of Homes in the United States, while at the same time dedicating our resources to much needed upgrades and reconstruction projects in others,” said Mother Loraine Marie Clare in a statement.

Sister Jeanne Mary, one of the sisters who works at St. Joseph’s home, voiced her gratitude for the support and love the sisters have received from the community.

“It’s not because we don’t love them [the residents],” she said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It’s very sad to see such a mission which is so needed today is diminishing because there are very few to follow us.”

Congress must end grisly treatment of aborted babies’ remains, US bishops say

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 06:00

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The disrespectful treatment of aborted babies’ human remains by abortion doctors, demands federal action, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said in the wake of news reports about abortion doctors’ “disturbing” practices.
 
“Whether you support or oppose legalized abortion, I hope you will agree that these human bodies should not be wantonly discarded as medical waste or preserved at the whim of the abortion doctor,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas said in an Oct. 31 letter to members of Congress.
 
Naumann chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. He wrote Congress in support of the Dignity for Aborted Children Act.
 
The legislation would require abortion providers to dispose of aborted children’s remains just as any other human being. Failure to do so could result in a fine and up to five years in prison, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana), a co-sponsor of the bill. The legislation also would require a consent form to allow the mother to choose whether to retain possession of her unborn child’s remains or to allow the provider to cremate or inter the remains of the unborn child. Failure to do so could result in civil penalty.
 
The archbishop’s letter briefly recounted the “disturbing reality of abortion doctors keeping fetal remains.”
 
He cited the discovery of over 2,400 bodies in the home of Illinois Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who performed abortions in Indiana. Naumann quoted Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who said: “The grisly discovery of these fetal remains at the Illinois home of a deceased abortion doctor shocks the conscience.”
 
Klopfer had performed obstetrics, gynecological services, and surgical and medical abortions at clinics in Fort Wayne, Gary, and South Bend, Indiana. He was estimated to have aborted more than 30,000 children over a span of four decades. His medical license was suspended by the state of Indiana in 2015 and indefinitely in 2016, after numerous complaints were issued against him.
 
Several days after Klopfer died on Sept. 3, his family alerted Will County, Illinois authorities about the discovery of fetal remains at his Illinois residence.
 
The discovery prompted renewed focus on abortion clinics and the treatment of the remains. Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered to have the fetal remains buried at a Catholic cemetery in his diocese.
 
Naumann’s letter cited problems in other parts of the country.
 
Employees of Texas abortionist Dr. Douglas Karpen testified that he regularly disposed of body parts in a clinic toilet. Michigan abortionist Michael Roth “kept body parts in jars in his car,” said the archbishop. Other clinics have kept biohazard bags full of body parts in closets or have thrown them into the garbage.
 
Such mistreatment shows the need for laws requiring change, the archbishop said.
 
“Such basic courtesy is in keeping with society’s treatment of all other deceased persons including cadavers, donated organs and tissues, remains that are recovered after traumatic incidents, and so on,” he wrote. “As a nation, we can at least come together to ensure all human remains are treated with basic human dignity.”
 
The disrespectful treatment of human remains make people on all sides of the abortion debate “uncomfortable, sad, and angry,” Naumann said, adding that every culture and religious tradition, including Catholic Christianity, has customs about how to care for the dead.
 
“For Catholics, the Church has long taught that ‘the human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”,’ that our bodies are a reminder of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and of that resurrection, which we too will experience after death, and burying the dead is taught as one of the seven corporal works of mercy,” he explained.
 
“Other faiths and belief systems likewise promote dignified treatment of the deceased and respectful disposal of their remains,” he said, also citing health regulations and ethical guidance for medicine and science that indicates the social need to dispose of the human body in a respectful manner.
 
The Dignity for Aborted Children Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun(R-Indiana). It is co-sponsored by his fellow Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young and several other senators.
 
The bill is endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List, the March for Life, the Family Research Council, National Right to Life and Concerned Women for America.

Mother of ‘brain dead’ Michigan teen: 'Allow for him to fight'

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 18:56

Detroit, Mich., Nov 1, 2019 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- The mother of a Michigan teenager who was recently declared brain dead is asking for prayers and support, after a judge ordered a hospital to continue life support until a Nov. 7 court hearing on her son’s health status.

"We feel that human life doesn't have an estimable value, and it's invested with the highest dignity by God...To me, it's very important that we allow for him to continue fighting," LaShauna Lowery told CNA in a Nov. 1 interview.

Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan declared Titus Jermaine Cromer Jr., 16, to be brain dead, after two doctors determined that he had suffered “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.”

The hospital had made plans to remove his life support systems on Oct. 28, and Cromer’s family challenged the decision, asking for additional medical opinions on whether he is actually brain dead.

Cromer is a junior at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, a Catholic high school in Detroit, Michigan. He was rushed to the hospital Oct. 17 after suffering cardiac arrest. Upon arrival at the hospital he could not breathe independently or regulate his own blood pressure.

After Cromer received hydration, nutrition, and body temperature regulation, his family’s lawyer says he is showing signs of improvement and can now breathe independently and regulate his own blood pressure.

“There are strong indicia that he is getting better everyday,” the family’s lawyer, Jim Rasor, told The Detroit News.

“He is currently able to breathe for short periods on his own. ...That’s a dramatic improvement from when he came into the hospital.”

Lowery, who is a Baptist went to a Catholic school when she was young told CNA the family's Christian faith is in important part of the whole situation.

"We're Christian, right? What I would say is, in our faith, we believe that when the soul leaves the body is when we're gone. So I think that we need to allow Titus, to allow for his brain to heal."

Lowery said the family has received independent guidance that has suggested that for a brain injury like Titus', it could take between two months and two years for the brain to really see healing.

"Seven days, nine days, right, is not enough time," she said. "So we really want to be able to give a chance for him to allow for his brain to heal, and to allow for him to fight."

She cited 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body."

While also asking for prayers for Titus' recovery, she encouraged any other family that is going through a similar situation to reach out to her with offer support and information.

"I didn't know I had options. I didn't know I had rights. I didn't find out about the patients' rights until it was too late,” she said.

“And so when you're going through a situation like this, you're so overwhelmed by all the information that's being put at you, sometimes it's hard to digest. So I would say any family that's going through this— learn your rights, know you have options, and don't give up."

Michael Vacca, an attorney and head of bioethics for the Catholic healthcare nonprofit Christ Medicus Foundation, urged Beaumont Hospital to defer to the rights of the parents.

“Despite being declared brain dead, a designation that is imprecise and inconsistent, these physical signs in Titus are objective indications of life,” Vacca said Oct. 30.

Louis Brown, Executive Director of the CMF, called for another medical facility to take Titus on as a patient.

“It is unjust that medical institutions are seeking to end life support so quickly against the wishes of the patient’s family and when patients are showing signs of life,” he said Oct. 30.

The family will go to court Nov. 7, when both sides will present their case so Oakland County Circuit Judge Hala Jarbou can decide what will happen going forward.

In the interim, Lowrey said, the family is looking for facilities that will take Titus and offer him care, both in the Detroit metro area and further afield.

Cromer’s case is similar to that of 14-year-old Bobby Reyes, who was rushed to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Michigan last month following a severe asthma attack. Repeat tests in the following days indicated that there was no blood flow or electrical activity in the boy’s brain.

The hospital declared Reyes brain dead and made plans to remove him from life support. Reyes’ family fought the decision but ultimately failed to receive relief from a court, due to a jurisdiction dispute. Reyes was removed from life support on Oct. 15.

The hospital said in a statement, “Continuing medical interventions was inappropriate after Bobby had suffered brain death and violates the professional integrity of Michigan Medicine’s clinicians.” Michigan law recognizes an individual as dead if they have undergone “irreversible cessation of all function of the entire brain, including the brain stem.”

The two Michigan cases have drawn renewed attention to the diagnosis of brain death and sparked concerns over parental rights in cases where family members question a diagnosis.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) maintains that cases of improvement over the course of months or years generally indicate an incorrect diagnosis of brain death in the first place.

“Stories of people continuing on a ventilator for months or years after being declared brain dead typically indicate a failure to apply the tests and criteria for determination of brain death with proper attentiveness and rigor,” said Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education for the center, in a 2005 information sheet.

“In other words, somebody is likely to have cut some corners in carrying out the testing and diagnosis.”

In Cromer’s case, the family believes their teenage son has been misdiagnosed. Their lawyer cited his improvements in independent breathing and blood pressure regulation as “very strong indicia that he has not suffered brain death,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

Medical criteria for diagnosing brain death, while controversial in some circles, have been accepted by most Catholic bioethicists, provided that diagnostic tests are carried out thoroughly and carefully.

In an Aug. 29, 2000 address to the international congress of the transplantation society, St. John Paul II stated that using as a criterion for death “the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity (in the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem) … if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology.”

The NCBC has also stated repeatedly that “Health care workers can use these neurological criteria as the basis for arriving at ‘moral certainty’ that an individual has died.”

The NCBC noted that determining death by these neurological criteria typically involves bedside testing to assess absence of response or reflexes, apnea testing to assess the absence of the ability to breath, and “possible confirmatory tests to further assess the absence of brain activity (for example, an EEG) or the absence of blood flow to the brain.”

Similarly, the U.S. bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services indicate that “the determination of death should be made by the physician or competent medical authority in accordance with responsible and commonly accepted scientific criteria.”

And in 2008, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences stated that “brain death … 'is' death,” and that “something essential distinguishes brain death from all other types of severe brain dysfunction that encompass alterations of consciousness (for example, coma, vegetative state, and minimally conscious state).”

“If the criteria for brain death are not met, the barrier between life and death is not crossed, no matter how severe and irreversible a brain injury may be,” the academy added.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences said that after brain death, “the ventilator and not the individual, artificially maintains the appearance of vitality of the body. Thus, in a condition of brain death, the so-called life of the parts of the body is ‘artificial life’ and not natural life. In essence, an artificial instrument has become the principal cause of such a non-natural ‘life’. In this way, death is camouflaged or masked by the use of the artificial instrument.”

Still, some pro-life advocates question the medical criteria used for diagnosing brain death and argue that taking organs from individuals diagnosed as brain dead amounts to homicide.

The NCBC rejects that stance as “irresponsible” and “in tension with Catholic teaching,” countering that while a body may appear to be alive due to oxygenated blood being mechanically pumped through the body, thorough and rigorous testing can confirm that an individual is truly dead.

Dr. Alan Shwemon, former chief of the neurology department at Olive View-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, is an outspoken critic of the criteria used to diagnose brain death.

Shewmon had diagnosed some 200 patients as being brain dead throughout this career, according to the New Yorker. But he began to have doubts about the condition, which were intensified when he saw the case of a 13-year-old girl in Oakland who had been declared brain dead but began to show signs of improvement after being given tube feeding and hormone replacement.

Over the next four years, the girl was able to respond to simple motor commands and underwent puberty-related physical developments before dying of unrelated conditions, Shewmon said. His analysis of the situation led him to believe that the girl had not been brain dead, but was instead in a “minimally conscious state,” with brain flow in the brain too low to be detected by imaging technology, yet sufficient to prevent the death of brain cells – a condition known as global ischemic penumbra.

“Her case challenges the claimed infallibility of diagnostic criteria for brain death and supports the hypothesis that global ischemic penumbra can mimic both clinical brain death as well as absent blood flow on radionuclide scans,” Shewmon asserted in a December 2018 article.
 

Georgia bill would make 'transgender treatment' for minors a felony

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 18:00

Atlanta, Ga., Nov 1, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A state representative in Georgia has proposed a law that would make it a felony for medical professionals to assist in changing a minor’s gender either through surgery or medication. 

Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) announced on Wednesday in a press release that she intends to introduce “The Vulnerable Child Protection Act” in the 2020 legislative section.

If passed, the act would make it a felony for doctors to perform certain medical procedures on children, such as “sterilization, mastectomy, vasectomy, castration and other forms of genital mutilation.” It would also make it a felony to prescribe “puberty-blocking drugs,” and “cross-sex hormone therapy.”

“Cross-sex hormone therapy” is when a biological female is given synthetic testosterone, or when a biological male is given synthetic estrogen in an attempt to make the body resemble a different sex. 

Speaking to CNA, Ehrhart said that she has been working on the bill for nearly two years, and that it was “not a knee-jerk reaction to anything that’s currently in the media,” but that she considers it “timely.” 

Ehrhart said the aim of the bill was to curb the “dangerous tide” of the increasing number of minor children identifying as transgender and being placed on drugs that delay puberty and on cross-sex hormones. 

Studies have found that without puberty-blocking drugs, which delay the production of certain hormones and effectively halt a person’s sexual development, as many as 90% of children who identify as transgender eventually resume identifying as their natal sex. A study in the Netherlands from 2010 found that when a child is given hormone blockers, they almost never revert to identifying as their biological gender.  

Risks of puberty blockers include reduced bone density, infertility, and disruptions to brain development. Their use for the treatment of gender dysphoria is considered to be “off-label” and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Ehrhart said that the number of children who are seeking to change gender is an “epidemic” that is “really sweeping the country right now.” While solid data concerning the number transgender children in the United States is not available, the number of gender clinics in the country that treat pediatric patients has increased from zero in 2006 to more than 40 in 2018. 

In the United Kingdom, where there is one gender clinic for pediatrics, Tavistock GIDS, the number of patients has grown exponentially over the last decade. In 2009-2010, there were 32 girls and 40 boys treated at the clinic. In 2018-2019, that figure had grown to 624 boys and 1,740 girls. A full 20% of these patients were under the age of 12, with a total of 52 aged six or below.

Ehrhart told CNA that she has received support from people of both political parties, as well as from members of the transgender community who are opposed to children receiving hormonal treatments or surgeries. She also insists that her bill is not anti-trans or anti-LGBT, but rather against children receiving irrversable surgical procedures they may come to regret. 

"This bill does not speak at all, nor does it address or attempt to address the decision of any individual that is of legal adult age, the age of consent, to make these decisions for themselves,” said Ehrhart. 

“It is also not an indictment of the LGBT community, it is specifically and narrowly defined. The bill is about child abuse. Period.”

Four Detroit area Catholic high schools closed Friday over shooting threats

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 17:05

Detroit, Mich., Nov 1, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- Four Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit closed Friday after serious threats were made against the schools, officials have reported.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the threats against at least three of the schools included warnings about a “shooting rampage” at school Mass on November 1, the feast of All Saints Day.

It is yet unclear if or how the reported threats may be connected to each other.

On Thursday, staff at the all-boys high school Warren De La Salle Collegiate sent an email to parents, warning them that a “serious threat” had been made against the school and that classes would be canceled Friday.

“The Warren Police Department was alerted, and school officials are collaborating with them to investigate this threat,” the school said in a statement posted to its website.

In a reportedly separate incident, De La Salle was on lockdown for part of Thursday, Oct. 31 after a student reportedly brought a knife to school. Detroit Free Press reported that the school was searched by police who arrested a 17-year-old. There were no reported injuries and classes eventually were resumed.
Regina High School, the sister school of De La Salle located just two miles away, also closed its doors on Friday due to a threat against the school.

"We were made aware of a serious threat against Regina High School to allegedly occur on Friday ... Due to this situation, school is canceled," a message to Regina parents said, according to Detroit Free Press.

Detroit Catholic Central High School, located roughly 30 miles to the west of DeLasalle, was also closed on Friday due to threats, police told Detroit Free Press.

A fourth school, University Of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy, announced it was canceling school on Friday for similar threats.

"Due to an implied threat, we are joining other Catholic Schools in the area over an abundance of caution to cancel school while we investigate," Principle Anthony R. Trudel said in a statement obtained by Detroit Free Press. "Further information will be provided before Monday."

A note on University’s website stated that most evening activities were continuing as planned, and that school would resume Monday.

Regina’s message to parents encouraged them to report any new or related information they might have.

"We know it is extremely important if you hear or see something to say something," the message said, according to Detroit Free Press.  "Please pray for peace in our schools and our world."

De La Salle’s statement posted on their website ensured parents that everything was being done to keep their students safe.

“We are grateful for the safe learning environment provided by our staff, together with the ongoing support of, and close relationship with, the Warren Police Department,” De La Salle Principal Nathan Maus said in the statement. “We continue our commitment to work together with parents and guardians to ensure an environment that is both safe and conducive to learning for our students.”

 

HHS changes rules to protect religious adoption agencies

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration has announced a change to federal rules to preserve federal funding of faith-based adoption agencies, regardless of their views on same-sex marriage.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Nov. 1 that it would change its enforcement of previous regulations and propose a new rule, allowing faith-based adoption agencies to continue receiving federal funding while not having to match children with same-sex couples against their religious mission.

HHS said it would revise a 2016 rule that conditioned federal funding of child welfare agencies upon their matching children with same-sex couples.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) praised the change in a statement released on Friday.

“To restrict faith-based organizations’ work by infringing on religious freedom – as the 2016 rule threatened to do - is unfair and serves no one, especially the children in need of these services,” said a joint statement by Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the USCCB Domestic Justice and Human Development committee, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, chair of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty.

The previous regulation “threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers, namely adoption and foster care agencies that respect a child’s right to a mother and a father,” the bishops said.

The announcement comes in the middle of a “foster care crisis” in which faith-based adoption agencies will play a critical role in placing children with families, religious freedom advocates said.

“It is just as important today to continue fighting so that vulnerable children will have all hands on deck in the midst of a nationwide foster care crisis,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“Every child deserves a chance to be raised in a loving home,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt said, noting that there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system and 100,000 eligible for adoption. HHS’s action “offers hope for children, more options for birth mothers, support for families, and increased flexibility for states seeking to alleviate real human need,” he said.

However, the administration’s proposed rule “would only fix part of the problem,” Windham tweeted, as faith-based agencies also face hostility from state and local governments and thus “still need help from SCOTUS.”

Becket represents several entities affected by the Obama administration regulation and similar state and local efforts to push child welfare agencies to place children with same-sex couples.

In a press release on Friday morning, HHS said it would stop enforcing certain regulatory provisions for administering grants, due to a problematic interpretation of them by the Obama administration.

The federal agency also issued a proposed rule revising part of a 2016 Obama-era regulation, to better protect faith-based adoption agencies.

The rule, HHS said, would ensure respect for civil rights while protecting religious freedom and “eliminating regulatory burden” on “the free exercise of religion”; it would do so by requiring grant recipients to comply with existing anti-discrimination laws passed and religious freedom laws that have been passed by Congress, while also requiring HHS to comply with relevant Supreme Court decisions.

Faith-based adoption agencies have had to contend with efforts at the federal, state, and local levels that conditioned public funding on the agencies placing children with same-sex couples in violation of their religious mission.

In Michigan, Catholic Charities West Michigan—represented by ADF—brought a federal lawsuit against the state for withholding funding from faith-based adoption agencies over their stances on marriage. A federal court recently blocked the Obama-era regulation from going into effect in a case involving St. Vincent Catholic Charities and a family looking to adopt, represented by Becket.

“Both the federal government and a federal court have now recognized that discrimination against faith-based agencies seeking to serve those most in need should not be tolerated. We hope that state and local governments will follow suit,” Windham said.

There are several federal laws which are relevant to nondiscrimination in the adoption and foster care system.

These include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs of child welfare agencies and state courts. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 forbids sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs; other laws prohibit discrimination for age and disability.

The Obama administration interpreted existing law to forbid discrimination in the child welfare system not only on basis of sex, but sexual orientation. Thus, it began taking action against adoption agencies that did not place children with same-sex couples, on the grounds that they were discriminating against an individual’s sexual orientation.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) introduced an amendment in a 2018 funding bill to withhold some HHS funding of states that would not allow faith-based organizations to carry out their religious mission in child welfare. The amendment was removed from the legislation before a final House vote.

Adoption agencies have also been facing adverse action from states which have anti-discrimination laws.

In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese stopped its adoption services in 2006 after the state legalized same-sex marriage. Catholic Charities in California and Illinois also stopped their adoption services in 2006 and 2011, respectively.

In Illinois, the bishops had said that the state “made it financially impossible for our agencies to continue to provide these services,” after the state legalized same-sex marriage and required adoption agencies to pair children with same-sex couples.

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia stopped placing adoptive children with Catholic Social Services, only days after calling for 300 new families to adopt foster children.

The city faces a lawsuit by several foster mothers for its decision to stop working with Catholic Social Services, and on Nov. 15, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to grant review in Fulton v. Philadelphia.

Kentucky shirtmaker wins discrimination case over LGBT festival

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 09:30

Frankfort, Ky., Nov 1, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The Kentucky state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of a Christian business owner who declined to serve an LGBT pride festival, and who was punished by a local government for discrimination.

“Today’s decision makes clear that this case never should have happened,” said Jim Campbell, senior counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case of print shop owner Blaine Adamson before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

“The First Amendment protects Blaine’s right to continue serving all people while declining to print messages that violate his faith,” Campbell said.

The case of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals dates back to 2012, the print shop Hands On Originals--owned by Blaine Adamson—was asked by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization to print shirts promoting the Lexington, Kentucky, Pride Festival.

Adamson declined, saying that to print shirts promoting such a festival would violate his Christian beliefs. He referred the organization to other vendors who could serve them.

“I will work with any person, no matter who they are, and no matter what their belief systems are,” Adamson told reporters after oral arguments in his case before the Kentucky Supreme Court, on Aug. 23. “But when I’m presented with a message that conflicts with my faith, that’s just something I cannot print.”

In 2014, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ruled that Adamson had violated the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. The commission required him to receive diversity training.

Adamson challenged the decision and won in a Kentucky court in 2017. The case was appealed to the state supreme court, which ruled in Adamson’s favor on Thursday.

The city’s human rights commission “lacked statutory standing” to make a discrimination claim against Hands On Originals, the court’s opinion by Justice Laurance VanMeter stated, as the complaint was brought by an organization and not an individual.

While Adamson had inquired about the nature of the festival he was requested to print shirts for, he did not ask about the sexual orientation of the organization’s representatives, the court found.

Furthermore, when the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization then filed a complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission, “the record is clear that no individual claimed Hands On had discriminated,” the court’s opinion said.

The city ordinance in question bars discrimination against individuals, the court said, yet “in this case, because an ‘individual’ did not file the claim, but rather an organization did, we would have to determine whether the organization is a member of the protected class, which we find impossible to ascertain.”

A concurring opinion by Justice David Buckingham, however went further in saying that the city’s human rights commission actively tried to “compel” Hands On Originals “to engage in expression with which it disagreed.”

“Hands On was in good faith objecting to the message it was being asked to disseminate,” Buckingham wrote. Citing the Supreme Court’s decision Janus v. AFSCME, he wrote that “[w]hen speech is compelled…, individuals are coerced into betraying their convictions. Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning.”

Adamson’s case is one of a number of religious freedom cases where business owners have been sued for refusing to violate their religious beliefs and provide a service they deem objectionable.

Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman has appealed to the Supreme Court after she was sued for declining to serve a same-sex wedding, and lost her case at the state’s supreme court. Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips has once again been sued for conscientiously declining to make a cake; in the most recent case, he was asked to make a cake celebrating a gender transition.

As fires sweep through California, Catholics offer prayers and support

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 19:02

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 31, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- In the face of ongoing fires throughout California, Catholic organizations have responded with prayers, shelter, and food.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the U.S. bishops' committee on domestic justice and human development, offered prayers for the victims of numerous fires in California.

“I join in the heartfelt prayers offered by the bishops in the state of California in response to the terrible wildfires that have affected approximately thirty counties in that state,” he said Oct. 30.

The most destructive fire is currently the Kincade fire, which began in Marin County Oct. 23 and has so far burned over 75,000 acres. Although the fire is about 60% contained, it has damaged 47 structures and destroyed 266 more. The fire has also injured four people.

The Easy Fire initiated Oct. 30 near Simi Valley. It has claimed over 1,700 acres and destroyed 2 structures. It is five percent contained. The Getty Fire began Oct. 28 near Los Angeles, scorching 745 acres, destroying 12 homes, and damaging five more. This fire is 39 percent contained.

The Hillside Fire began in San Bernardino in the early hours of Oct. 31. It has claimed over 200 acres and forced more than 1,300 residents to evacuate. The fire is 80 percent contained.

A couple of hours after Hillside began, the 46 Fire started in Jurupa Valley. The fire is the result of a car crash involving a police chase and a stolen vehicle, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The fire is five percent contained.

According to CBS News about 206,000 homes throughout California are still facing a power outage. The power had been cut to prevent fires from spreading.

Dewane encouraged Catholics to pray for the victims and provide monetary support for people seeking to recover.

“It is in solidarity with our brother bishops in California, who have voiced their desire for prompt relief, that I encourage all appropriate public parties and the faithful to be generous in their financial support of these recovery efforts. Let us all pray for the safety of those affected and their property,” he said.

“The faithful of our nation are urged to support, through their petitions and concern, the efforts at extinguishment and recovery taking place throughout California in response to these fires.”

Among other Catholic efforts, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco is using the church as an emergency shelter. It has so provided shelter for 39 evacuees, which includes about a dozen children, according to KCBS Radio.

Saint Vincent de Paul Society in Marin County has continued to provide basic necessities to those in need, even when it lost power on Saturday evening. Christine Paquette, executive director for the organization, told CNA that SVDP had trained for natural disasters like these. She said programs, like Free Dining Room, saw a drastic increase in beneficiaries.

“We did stay open even though we had no power. We cooked with gas and served about 700 meals a day so about 50% more than the usual [amount],” she said.

“We have drilled to be able to prepare for that number of meals without power or without water. So we had all the materials that we needed and we had our staff trained so we weren’t guessing our way through it, nobody panicked,” she further added.

During the past three years, California has witnessed its two worst fires on record. Paquette said these natural disasters are a new normal and there must be safety measures in place. She said victims of fires are already anxious and need to be given an organized and safe location.

“[During] these fires and evacuations, people are absolutely at their most vulnerable. They are afraid, they don’t have their things with them, whether it’s their car or their clothes. People are really only fleeing with just themselves and hopefully their loved ones.”

“It’s really important to have an instant, compassionate, organized response. I think, in the past, when things aren’t as organized, it’s really hard on the victims because they are already very anxious and it makes a big difference to have a calming community response.”

Cardinal Dolan on Biden communion denial: 'I wouldn't do it'

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 18:58

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2019 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York has responded to questions about the denial of Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden last Sunday.

On an Oct. 31 interview with Fox News, Dolan said that he thought the incident was a good teaching moment about the Eucharist and the seriousness of denying Church teaching, but that he would not himself deny anyone reception of the Eucharist.

“So whether that prudential judgment was wise, I don’t want to judge him either,” Dolan said of Fr. Robert Morey, who denied Holy Communion to Biden. “I wouldn’t do it.”

“Sometimes a public figure will come and talk to me about it. And I would advise them, and I think that priest (Morey) had a good point, you are publicly at odds with an issue of substance, critical substance, we’re talking about life and death and the Church,” Dolan said.

Receiving the Eucharist “implies that you’re in union with all the Church believes and stands for. If you know you’re not, well, integrity would say, ‘uh oh, I better not approach Holy Communion.’ That’s always preferable than to make a split-second decision and denying somebody,” Dolan added.

Last Sunday, Morey denied Eucharistic communion to 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden at Mass at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina, because of the politician’s public support of abortion.

“Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Morey, who is the pastor of St. Anthony’s, explained in a statement sent to CNA.

“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that,” Morey added. “Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

In denying Biden communion, Morey was following a diocesan policy set forth in a 2004 decree signed jointly by the bishops of Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte. The decree states that supporting pro-abortion legislation is “gravely sinful” and that public figures who do so must be denied communion until they repent.

Joseph Zwilling, director of communications in the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that the archdiocese does not have such a policy.

Dolan told Fox & Friends he agreed with what Morey said, though he would not personally deny a public figure the Eucharist.

“I think what he said was very to the point, I thought that was a good teaching moment,” Dolan said.

The cardinal said the issue has never come up for him personally - he has never seen a public figure in his Communion line who he knew was publicly advocating for policies that violate Church teaching.

“I’ve never had what you might call the opportunity, or I’ve never said ‘Uh oh, should I give him or her Holy Communion’, it’s never come up. Sure could,” Dolan said.

Dolan faced heavy criticism in January from Catholics who felt that he should have explicitly barred from communion New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had signed into law an expansive abortion bill.

On his radio show Jan. 29, Dolan said that sacramental disciplinary measures against the governor “would be completely counterproductive, right?”  

“Especially if you have a governor who enjoys this and wants to represent himself as a kind of martyr to the cause, doing what is right. He is proud to dissent from the essentials of the faith. He’s proud with these positions."

"For me to punish him for it? He would just say, ‘Look at the suffering this prophet has to undergo,' the cardinal added.

Dolan said Oct. 31 that he frequently sees public figures at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and that he “admires” them when they do not approach the Eucharist out of their own awareness of their sin and separation from the Church.

“They seem to know - ‘I shouldn’t do that. That could be hypocritical at this moment,’” Dolan said.

“On the other hand, we also remember Pope Francis. We...I personally can never judge the state of a person’s soul. So it’s difficult, that’s what I’m saying. I’m not up there as a tribunal, as a judge, distributing Holy Communion, I’m there as a pastor, as a doctor of souls,” Dolan said.

“So it’s difficult to make a judgment on the state of a person’s soul. My job is to help people make, with clear Church teaching, make a decision on the state of their soul and the repercussions of that.” 

When asked if priests could refusing other people communion because of their sins, Dolan said that communion is intended for sinners.

“If only saints could receive Holy Communion, we wouldn’t have anybody at Mass, including myself, alright?” Dolan said.

“So sinners are who Holy Communion is for, it’s medicine for the soul, it’s an act of mercy, so it’s intended for sinners...but sinners who want to, who are sorry and want to repent. Then anybody’s welcome, come on up,” he added.

Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Edward Peters, who teaches canon law at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit wrote in The Hill this week that “however the decision to withhold holy communion from Biden made headlines, it was unquestionably the pastor's decision to make and he made it, in my view, correctly.”

“While there are relatively few examples of pastors withholding holy communion from Catholic politicians who support abortion, the refusal that Biden experienced should not have come as a surprise. He had been warned about approaching for holy communion in 2008 by Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, who told Biden that, because of his support for abortion, he would be refused holy communion if he approached that prelate, and by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (then of Denver, now of Philadelphia), who implied likewise,” Peters wrote.

While not addressing Dolan's remarks Peters addressed a point Dolan made during his interview, which Peters called the “reddest herring” in defense of Biden. 

Specifically, he criticized the argument “which implies that withholding holy communion requires a minister to peer into the soul of a would-be recipient and judge it unworthy. Nonsense. To confuse the private examination of one's conscience as envisioned by Canon 916 with the recognition that some public acts warrant public consequences under Canon 915 is to show either ignorance of or indifference to well-established Catholic pastoral and sacramental practice.”

In a memorandum to the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2004, explaining the application of Canon Law 915, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said “the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin.”

The case of a “Catholic politician” who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” would constitute “formal cooperation” in grave sin that is “manifest,” the letter added.

Biden has declined to comment on the communion incident telling reporters that it was “just my personal life.”

“I’m a practicing Catholic. I practice my faith, but I’ve never let my religious beliefs...to impose that view on other people,” Biden said this week.

While Biden served in the Senate, he largely supported the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that found a legal right to abortion, Roe v. Wade. He called his position “middle-of-the-road,” in that he supported Roe but opposed late-term abortions and federal funding of abortions.

Since then, he has supported taxpayer funding of abortions via the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City Policy in his 2020 platform and has called for the codification of Roe v. Wade as federal law. Biden also favors reinstating taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

 

Missouri abortion clinic hearing wraps up; decision expected in February

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 17:27

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 31, 2019 / 03:27 pm (CNA).- Regulators in Missouri are in the process of determining whether the state’s last remaining abortion clinic can keep its license to perform abortions, after a hearing wrapped up Thursday.

The hearing before the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission began on Monday to determine the clinic’s fate. In June, the state refused to grant the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region clinic a license, saying concerns at the facility must first be addressed.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that after four days of testimony, attorneys in the case will now begin trading paperwork and issuing briefs. Hearing commissioner Sreenivasa Dandamudi is expected to issue a ruling sometime after Feb. 7, 2020.

Missouri’s health department had submitted a “Statement of Deficiencies” of the clinic to a court, which cited an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the clinic, as well as its “failure to meet basic standards of patient care.”

The statement also identified four instances of failed abortion procedures at the clinic. Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Public Health, reportedly used a spreadsheet to track the menstrual periods of Planned Parenthood patients in order to determine which patients had to come back for multiple procedures to complete their abortion.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Planned Parenthood’s attorneys argued that the state “cherry-picked” a “handful of difficult cases” out of an estimated 3,000 abortions performed at the facility.

According to the health department, Planned Parenthood went back on its agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement,” the state said, several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the health department, and the clinic would not have been prepared for a case of “severe hemorrhaging” of a woman that occurred at a hospital.

Kawanna Shannon, director of surgical services at the clinic, testified that the clinic had initially complied with with the pelvic exam requirement, but soon stopped performing them.

The clinic had submitted a “Plan of Correction” as requested by the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, but it had not properly addressed all the stated deficiencies, the health department said.

Planned Parenthood responded by saying that the health department “weaponized a regulatory process” and required pelvic exams that it admitted were “medically unnecessary” amidst “public outcry and the medical community coming out strongly against” the required exams.

After the state’s refusal to grant a license, a judge and the Administration Hearing Commission both granted a temporary stay of the health department’s decision, allowing the clinic to remain open while the case was reviewed.

Jacinta Florence, Missouri and Arkansas Regional Coordinator for Students for Life, told CNA she did not think the doctors who tesitifed at the hearing this week showed any empathy towards the women who had botched abortions.

“I was also annoyed with [Planned Parenthood’s] use of words,” she said.

“Instead of saying fetal parts when describing a procedure, they used ‘products of conception.’ While a baby is a product of conception, lets call a spade a spade.”

Missouri also enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Governor Mike Parson (R) signed into law in May. The legislation was supported by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.

The law was crafted to be able to survive in the courts, but a federal judge in August struck down all of the bans related to the stage in pregnancy, leaving intact the disability, race and sex-selective abortion bans for the time being.

Meanwhile, as the fate of the St. Louis clinic is being determined, Planned Parenthood has opened a “mega” abortion clinic just 13 miles away across the Mississippi River in Fairview Heights, Illinois that will have the ability to see 11,000 patients annually.

The new clinic replaced a smaller Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights that offered medication abortions but not surgical abortions.

In a controversial move, the organization used a shell company under which the facility was purportedly being constructed, and tried to shield from public view the fact that the building under construction was an abortion clinic.

Senate bill could blacklist pro-life groups for aid funding

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 15:30

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A pro-life group is warning Senators that a proposed government funding bill could “blacklist” pro-life groups while funding promoters of abortion.

In an Oct. 30 letter to senators, March for Life Action warned that language in a mini omnibus (minibus) funding bill, H.R. 2740, “would prop up the abortion industry and overseas promoting of abortion with federal funds” and would set up a “vehicle to harass pro-life recipients” of U.S. foreign assistance.

The bill is under consideration in the Senate as Congress has until Nov. 21 to pass appropriations bills funding government agencies for the 2020 fiscal year. The bill was pulled from a vote on Thursday, but may be reintroduced in the coming weeks.

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said in an interview with CNA, that the bill contains language targeting pro-life groups and benefitting organizations that support abortion.

An amendment that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) successfully inserted into the bill would increase family planning funding that could go to abortion promoters, would reinstate funding of the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA), and would provide a mechanism to enforce an Obama-era non-discrimination rule that could essentially “blacklist” pro-life groups from being eligible for U.S. foreign assistance.

Shaheen had previously tried to overturn the Mexico City Policy in an appropriations bill in September, but was unsuccessful.

The Mexico City Policy bars U.S. funding of foreign NGOs that promote or perform abortions as a method of family planning. The Trump administration reinstated this policy and expanded upon it, applying the funding prohibition not just to family planning funding, but to $8.8 billion of global health assistance.

While not outright repealing the policy, Shaheen was still able to secure passage of an amendment out of the Senate Appropriations Committee that could undercut it. Her proposed increase in family planning funding could also benefit certain domestic groups which promote abortion.

Pro-abortion groups including Pathfinder International, Population Council, Engender Health, and PATH already receive family planning funding. As they are domestic groups, they are not bound by the Mexico City Policy prohibitions, and thus can still promote abortions, March for Life Action says.

Shaheen’s amendment would also set up an enforcement mechanism of the 2016 Obama administration “Non-Discrimination Against End-Users of Supplies or Services” rule. This rule essentially required contractors with USAID not to “discriminate” against aid beneficiaries on the basis of sex, “including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.” 

The enforcement mechanism for the rule targets pro-life and Christian groups in that it would limit review of USAID contract awards “only to the current administration,” March for Life Action’s letter said, thus revealing the “real target”: it would review the contract awards given to pro-life groups.

Thus, certain religious and pro-life organizations could have to clarify their positions on life, marriage, or gender issues in order to receive U.S. foreign assistance, McClusky said.

 “Pro-lifers do not have a ton of friends” at USAID and the State Department, McClusky said, and those agencies would be deciding which organizations would receive U.S. foreign assistance.

As the November 21 deadline nears to pass funding bills, the status quo—a short-term extension of funding, or a “CR”—would be the best-case scenario for pro-lifers, McClusky said, in that no new problems could be added to the legislation.

The larger and more complex the funding bill, the greater the chance pro-abortion language could be passed without popular knowledge, he said.

“If I think everything were to be a CR, I think that would be a good thing, because once you start getting into these minibuses and omnibuses, you don’t always know what’s inside them until it’s too late,” McClusky said.

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