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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: 1 hour 25 min ago

Maryland county issues second order to stop Catholic schools opening

1 hour 52 min ago

Washington D.C., Aug 6, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A Maryland county has issued a second order preventing non-public schools from reopening for in-person instruction, despite a previous effort being immediately overridden by Gov. Larry Hogan. 

“Reemphasizing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today issued a new Health Officer Directive and Order that continued to direct nonpublic schools in Montgomery County to remain closed for in-person instruction until at least Oct. 1, 2020,” said a release from Montgomery County published on August 5.

Montgomery county is the state’s most populous county and borders Washington, D.C. A previous Health Officer Directive and Order was published on the evening of Friday, July 31, and countermanded by the governor on Monday, August 3. 

On Monday, Hogan called the initial attempt to prevent all non-public schools from opening “overly broad and inconsistent with the powers delegated to the county health officer.”

Unlike the first order, Wednesday’s new order does not include a penalty of a $5,000 or a year in jail for violators and “explicitly excludes programs licensed or regulated by the Maryland Office of Childcare from the definition of nonpublic schools.” This means that private preschools and daycares, where children may engage in education-related activities, are permitted to operate in person while K-12 schools are not.

The order states that “there continues to be widespread community transmission of COVID-19 and increases in the daily caseload volumes within Montgomery County, the State of Maryland as a whole, and the surrounding jurisdictions,” meaning that non-public schools need to remain closed. 

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland will have a preliminary injunction hearing on August 14 to potentially block the order and allow schools to open. 

A federal lawsuit, known as Beahn v. Gayles, was filed by four Catholic school families and two Jewish day school families from Montgomery County challenging the original order. Two Catholic schools are also listed as parties in the suit. One of the families in the suit transferred to a Catholic school in response to the announcement that Montgomery County Public Schools would have an online-only first semester. 

Montgomery County has a positivity rate of 2.52%, which has been decreasing since the middle of May. The statewide positivity rate is 4.03%. Epidemiologists, including Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, gave a benchmark of 5% positivity rate for mandating distance learning. 

“Based on CDC best practices for the reopening of schools, County health officials will continue to monitor the epidemiological surveillance data and that will guide the decision as to when it is safe to reopen nonpublic and public schools,” says the release from the county. 

The Centers for Disease Control stated that schools should move to reopen as children are unlikely to be severely impacted by the coronavirus, and that there are significant detrimental effects associated with ongoing social isolation. 

Until the middle of July, Montgomery County Public Schools were set to re-open with a hybrid model of distance and in-person learning. That plan was scrapped after teachers unions in Maryland argued that it would not be safe for teachers to teach in-person. 

Montgomery County Public Schools announced in late July that the entire fall semester would be online-only. Starting February 1, in-person classes will resume. No governmental order was ever given to the county’s public schools forbidding in-person school.

Many non-public schools in Montgomery County had elected on their own to use a virtual or hybrid model in the fall. Others had begun to implement new safety measures for in-person learning. 

In Monday’s statement nullifying the original order closing non-public schools, Gov. Hogan reiterated that “Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics,” and that any school who is capable of following the state and CDC’s safety guidelines should be permitted to reopen. 

The governor’s intervention followed claims on social media by Montgomery County residents that the decision to force non-public schools to close may have been linked to a large drop in the number of new students who enrolled in Montgomery County’s public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The county expected approximately 2,500 new students enrolled in grades K-12 for the fall; instead, only 300 new students enrolled. 

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes Montgomery County, told CNA on Thursday that the archdiocese is reviewing the latest announcements by the county.

Responding to the initial order last week, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory said in a statement Sunday that the archdiocese “continues to have the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and parents uppermost in mind and heart as we make our decisions regarding the reopening of our Catholic schools.” 

“We will continue to strive to be both good citizens as well as to be faithful to our religious principles, pastoral mission and our obligations to our families,” Gregory said. 

Knights of Columbus to report on Christian persecution in Nigeria

2 hours 22 min ago

CNA Staff, Aug 6, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus announced a new initiative Thursday to report on Christian persecution in Nigeria, where at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades.

Since 2014, the Catholic fraternal and charitable organization has spent more than $25 million on behalf of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities targeted for elimination in the Middle East, the organization says, which includes the rebuilding of the majority-Christian town of Karemlesh on the Nineveh Plain.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and the demographics overall are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

Nigeria’s Christians, especially in the northern part of the country, have for the past several decades been subjected to brutal property destruction, killings, and kidnappings, often at the hands of Islamic extremist groups.

“The effort is similar to what we have done in Iraq and is based in the hope that greater attention by American diplomacy and humanitarian aid can make a difference there,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in an Aug. 6 announcement of the new initiative.

Multiple Nigerian Catholics have told CNA in recent days that attacks on Christians by Fulani Muslim herders, as well as by the militant group Boko Haram, have not slowed in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The worst of the persecution, in the north, comes at the hands of Muslim terrorists against the majority-Christian population, CNA has been told.

Such incidents include attacks in late July on four Christian villages in Southern Kaduna, in which more than 62 Christians were killed by Islamic terrorists. Last month, an Islamic extremist group boasted of killing five international aid workers, three of whom were known employees of Christian aid agencies.

In other areas, many Christians, especially clergy, suffer kidnappings at the hands of terrorists seeking ransom. In many cases, for kidnapped priests, their parishioners band together to raise the ransom money.

In a high-profile case from earlier this year, gunmen abducted four seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna, holding them for random. The kidnappers eventually released three of the seminarians, but killed 18-year-old Michael Nnadi after he refused to renounce his faith.

Fr. Charles Uganwa, communications director of the south-central Issele-Uku diocese, said six priests of the diocese have been kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen in the past two years. The most recent priest kidnapping took place in June.

“He was released after about four days in captivity. He was so injured. He was beaten with clubs and with stones, with the butt of their gun. He was seriously injured. He had to be in the hospital for many weeks,” Uganwa told CNA.

Father Joseph Fidelis, a priest of the northeastern diocese of Maidugui, told CNA this week that he estimates that since 2009, Boko Haram has driven out half of the 300,000 Catholics who used to live in the diocese. Though Catholics there still celebrate Mass openly, they have to take stringent security measures against suicide bombers.

“Boko Haram is still very active, not in the city so much [as] in the outskirts...They still do the kidnapping, they still do the bombing. They still set mines on the road,” Fidelis said.

The problem of internally displaced people (IDP), mostly Christians who have been driven from their homes, is especially acute in the north, where thousands of the destitute live in refugee camps.

“Around here, around Maiduguri, over 1.2 million are displaced. About 1.4 million, and the number keeps rising on a daily basis. [In] the entire country, you have over 2.4 million people internally displaced. Now that's quite huge,” Fidelis said.

Part of the problem, Nigerian Christians have told CNA, is that the Muslim-controlled government has largely responded slowly, inadequately, or not at all to the problem of Christian persecution.

“The most important issue is that unfortunately, the government in Nigeria does not show enough will, either in speech or in action, to help to curb the violence and the bloodshed that we see, either from the terrorists or from bandits or from a headsman, because we have so many sorts of groups running riots all over the Northeast of Nigeria,” Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of the southern diocese of Oyo told CNA.

Bishop Badejo said although his diocese is more peaceful than some in the north, with Muslims and Christians largely co-existing peacefully, there are some means of persecution that are more systemic and subtle, with government appointments and written laws seeming to favor Islam over Christianity.

“It's no secret that in Nigeria, especially with the [President Muhammadu] Buhari government, there are all written laws that have not favored Christians at all, that have favored, in other words, the Muslims,” Badejo said.

“The Christian Churches have protested, Christian leaders have protested, but the federal government has not said any word in order to show any desire to protect the Christian religion.”

The Knights hope to raise greater awareness of Nigerian Christians’ plight by means of their new initiative.

In addition to financial aid, the Knights of Columbus have in the past advocated for persecuted Christians before the U.S. government, sending researchers to Iraq in 2016 to compile a 300-page report on the crimes of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) against Christians in the country.

Anderson has also testified multiple times before Congress, urging action to protect the Middle East’s Christians from potential extinction.

Later that year, both houses of Congress unanimously passed resolutions declaring ISIS’ targeting of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East to be a genocide.

Christianity had been present in the Nineveh plain in Iraq – between the city of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, and Iraqi Kurdistan– since the first century. ISIS’ brutal invasion six years ago displaced at least 125,000 Christians from the area, and to date only about 40,000 have been able to return.

The Knights have worked closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to ensure funds reach persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

The Knights are in the midst of their 138th annual convention, which this year is being held virtually for the first time, due to restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded in New Haven in 1882, the Knights of Columbus was originally intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. It has grown into a worldwide Catholic fraternal order, with more than 2 million members carrying out works of charity and evangelization across the globe. The Knights also offer life insurance policies to their members.

The convention comes a few months after the Vatican announced that Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be beatified following Pope Francis’ approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession.

 

US government considers ethics of aborted tissue research

3 hours 22 min ago

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A new federal ethics advisory board for fetal tissue research has convened to consider future federally-funded research proposals that involve tissue from aborted babies.

The Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) met for the first time on July 31, to advise the Health Secretary on the ethics of research proposals involving fetal tissue of aborted babies.

The board was first announced in June of 2019, when the Trump administration decided to halt new research with aborted fetal tissue at NIH facilities, and limited funding of such research conducted outside the NIH.

For the research conducted outside the NIH, or “extramural” research, the administration announced that an ethics advisory board would be appointed to consider such funding and advise the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the proposals.

Some researchers have called for the administration to end its moratorium, saying that research with aborted fetal tissue could be vital to developing treatments and a cure for the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

In February, the HHS announced that it would begin accepting nominations to the board, and during that time period, some researchers at an NIH research laboratory told the Washington Post that the administration’s moratorium on fetal tissue research was hindering possible advances in research on treatments for the coronavirus.

Dr. David Prentice, now a member of the NIH Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board, told CNA in March that the timing of the comments was peculiar as it could have been related to the consideration of appointments to the board.

Several leading coronavirus vaccine candidates are using cell lines from aborted babies, including some funded by the U.S.; other candidates have been determined to be “ethically uncontroversial” by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.

One candidate in particular—being developed by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—is not using fetal cell lines directly in production, but is based on research that involved aborted fetal cell lines. As Moderna was not involved in that research, CLI said that the vaccine candidate is “ethically uncontroversial.”

The NIH ethics board members are appointed for a duration that lasts as long as the board is convened; the board’s charter says that “[t]he estimated annual person-years of staff support required is 0.7.” Appointments to the board are made by the HHS secretary.

Heading the advisory board is Paige Cunningham, interim president of Taylor University, an evangelical Christian university in Indiana.

Several Catholic bioethicists are on the board, including Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. The co-chair of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) ethics committee, Greg Burke, is a member, along with CMA member Dr. Ashley Fernandes of the Ohio State University medical school.

The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) is also represented on the board, with CLI vice president Dr. David Prentice and associate scholars Ingrid Skop and Maureen Condic as members.

Some board members, such as Dr. Lawrence Goldstein of the University of California San Diego, support fetal tissue research; he called cell lines from fetal tissue “critical in vaccine development,” along with stem cell research and the use of “humanized mice” to develop “immune cell-forming tissues.”

Two members testified in 2016 before the House select investigative panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a hearing on “bioethics and fetal tissue.”

Cunningham said at the hearing that “[t]he fetus is a human subject entitled to the protections that both traditional and modern codes of medical ethics provide to human subjects.”

Kevin Donovan, MD, director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center, also testified, noting the current “moral ambiguity” in the nation’s discourse on abortion.

“We have decided that we can legally abort the same fetus that might otherwise be a candidate for fetal surgery, even using the same indications as justification for acts that are diametrically opposed,” he said. “We call it the fetus if it is to be aborted and its tissues and organs transferred to a scientific lab. We call it a baby, even at the same stage of gestation, when someone plans to keep it and bring it into their home.”

“If we cannot act with moral certainty regarding the appropriate respect and dignity of the fetus, we cannot morally justify its destruction,” he said.

During the public portion of the July 31 meeting, board members were introduced and then heard from several researchers who were either in support of or in opposition to research using fetal tissue from elective abortions.

The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis Personae addressed the topic of aborted fetal tissue research, saying that “there is a duty to refuse to use such ‘biological material’ even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place.”

“This duty springs from the necessity to remove oneself, within the area of one’s own research, from a gravely unjust legal situation and to affirm with clarity the value of human life,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document stated.

Congressman writes to DOJ after attacks on Catholic churches

6 hours 22 min ago

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A Catholic congressman is asking the U.S. Attorney General to respond to a spate of acts of vandalism against churches around the country.

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) urged the Justice Department “to protect religious freedom and combat religious discrimination in the United States.”

Fleischmann cited “nearly a dozen” acts of vandalism at Catholic churches in the U.S. as the impetus for his letter.

“There is something to be said about how the rise in vandalism happening in places of worship could correspond with a rise of hostility towards religion,” the congressman told CNA in a statement on Wednesday. “We must be vocal in condemning any act of vandalism to any house of worship, for any religion.”

“These are sacred places, which is why I asked the DOJ to continue to protect religious freedom and combat these instances of religious discrimination,” the congressman said.

“Since June, there have been nearly a dozen reported attacks on Catholic churches around the nation. These disturbing attacks range from arson to the beheading of a statue of the Virgin Mary,” said Fleischman in his letter.

“I find these attacks to be a disturbing trend, happening in multiple areas across the nation, including within my own congressional district.”

“In times of uncertainty we naturally turn to religion for comfort and peace,” the congressman wrote, “something many Americans are seeking as we combat COVID-19, but these attacks add another level of distress for many across our nation.

Quoting a speech by Barr at the University of Notre Dame last year, Fleischmann agreed with the attorney general that “We must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.”

There has been a series of attacks on Catholic churches and statues this summer.

Most recently, local police have been investigating two fires at Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts that occurred over the weekend, as arson. In July, Queen of Peace church in Ocala, Florida was set on fire and a man has been charged with arson. In Los Angeles, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel church suffered a fire in the predawn hours of July 11.

Other Catholic statues and memorials have been vandalized, including a monument to unborn children at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bloomingburg, New York, a crucifix at St. Bernadette Parish in Rockford, Illinois, a statue of Christ at a Montana ski resort, and a statue of Mary in Gary, Indiana.

Demonstrators also pulled a statue of St. Junipero Serra in Sacramento, California, and beat it with sledgehammers on July 3; in San Francisco, protesters pulled down another statue of St. Junipero Serra.

As state and local governments have imposed various restrictions on businesses, assemblies, and churches during the pandemic, officials at the Justice Department have repeatedly stated that churches and religious gatherings cannot be singled out for greater restrictions than those imposed on similar institutions.

Attorney General Barr, in an April 14 statement, said that the constitution allows for a temporary suspension of freedoms during an extraordinary circumstance when the public safety requires it, but that freedom of religion cannot be treated more severely than other freedoms of assembly.

In cases “when the community as a whole faces an impending harm of this magnitude, and where the measures are tailored to meeting the imminent danger, the constitution does allow some temporary restriction on our liberties that would not be tolerated in normal circumstances,” Barr said.

He added that “government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity. For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings.”

Later in the summer, when New York City allowed mass protests against racism in spite of its restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings, Justice Department officials wrote Mayor Bill de Blasio reminding him that he could not enforce a double standard for churches and protests.

Fleischmann, in his August 5 letter to Barr, said that religion is a source of “comfort and peace” during troubled times, “but these attacks add another level of distress for many across our nation.”

What does it mean to 'actively participate' in Mass?

7 hours 22 min ago

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- In 1903, Pope St. Pius X wrote that it was the liturgy where the laity acquire the Christian spirit “from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.” 

But what does that mean? How can a layperson “participate” in Mass? Must a person have some sort of role in the liturgy, such as that of a Eucharistic minister, choir singer, or altar server, to “actively participate” in Mass? 

With the public celebration of Mass still limited in many parts of the country, and with widespread dispensations from the requirement to physically attend Mass still in place across dioceses, many Catholic have been watching a livestream or recording of Mass. But what does it mean to participant in the liturgy? 

CNA talked to two experts about what “active participation” means, and how it is still possible to be a participant in Mass during a pandemic.

According to Fr. Thomas Petri, dean and acting president of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, a layperson still participates in Mass even if they are not lectoring, altar serving, or distributing Holy Communion.

“In short, Pope St. Pius X thought active participation was the assimilation of the divine mysteries, particularly the Blessed Sacrament itself, so that the faithful could be more and more configured to Jesus Christ in their lives outside of Mass,” Petri told CNA. 

Pius’ ideas were expanded upon and developed during the Second Vatican Council, Petri explained. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the council’s constitution on the sacred liturgy, “emphasized that participation should increase the vigor of the Christian life, and was more than just either external or internal participation,” he said. 

“Participation must be both because we are both body and soul,” Petri said. The constitution gave examples of participation, including songs, responses, gestures, and, interestingly enough, “sacred silence.” 

“The Mass is meant to cultivate silence during the celebration so that the very mysteries we celebrate can be pondered and prayed,” said Petri. 

Petri told CNA that participation, while being manifested in the exterior sense, should “flow from an interior disposition to be attentive to the sacred mysteries that are celebrated and to receive the graces that God wills to impart.” 

Fr. James Bradley, assistant professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America, told CNA that by virtue of baptism, participation in Mass is “the first place objective” for Catholics.  

“It is rooted in our baptism and in our continued life in Christ. Of course when we separate ourselves from Christ and the Church through serious sin, it is by means of sacramental Confession that we resume that participation,” said Bradley. 

Bradley told CNA that “an authentic understanding of this concept of active participation” is something not explained well enough to Catholics, and it is neither just external acts nor “something so spiritual that our presence at Mass becomes unimportant.” 

“In the first place we should reclaim that essential link between baptismal identity and participation in the liturgy,” said Bradley. 

But people cannot always receive the Eucharist, either because Mass is unavailable, or they have not had access to Confession. What must they do then? 

“We first of all participate in the liturgy by our attendance at the Mass. This is why the Sunday obligation is about attendance, not about receiving Holy Communion,” said Bradley. Although the reception of Communion is “essential” for a person’s spiritual life. He encouraged those who cannot receive to make an Act of Spiritual Communion, but to strive for actual reception if at all possible. 

Many parishes have taken the step of offering live-streams or recordings of Masses for people while the Sunday obligation to attend has been dispensed. Both Bradley and Petri agreed that while the live-streams are good, in that they maintain a connection between a parishioner and their parish and encourage prayers, they cannot be viewed as a substitute for regular Mass attendance in non-pandemic times. 

Live-streaming “is not a waste of time--it can offer a chance to unite ourselves in some way to the action going on--but it is not the same as attending Mass and can never replace it,” Bradley told CNA. 

Petri concurred, saying that there is “no substitute for attending and participating in Mass physically,” and that sacramental graces can only be conferred in person. 

“While graces are certainly to be had by quieting oneself to watch Mass online, they are not, properly speaking, the sacramental graces that one receives by participating in Mass in person,” said Petri. He suggested that as an alternative to watching a live-stream of Mass--which is not required, as there is no obligation to do so--those who are unable to attend Mass in person should “treat Sundays differently” than the other days, read scripture, and meditate on the day’s Mass readings. 

“I suspect families with children would have an easier time with a Sunday routine like this rather than insisting that children passively watch Mass on the television,” he said. 

And what about those of who get distracted during Mass, either by daydreaming or because they are watching children? Does it “count” as participation even when other things are happening?

Fr. Petri says yes, but with a caveat. 

“Distractions during Mass, or during any prayer, are as old as original sin itself,” he said. Remaining focused is “a battle that I’m afraid we will all be fighting until that day, when, God-willing, we see Him face-to-face.” 

Petri differentiated between “willful distraction,” which would be letting one’s mind wander, and distractions that come from other sources, such as children. 

“If I’m willfully distracting myself, then I don’t think I can claim I’m participating interiorly as I should, even if exteriorly I’m going through the motions,” he said. “Of course, the Lord meets us where we are and so there’s still graces to be gained by even this minimal participation in the liturgy--but we know we should try to do better.” 

As for those who may be distracted at Mass by say, a toddler or other child, Petri says that these occurrences are part of what comes with having a family. 

“It seems the vocation of parenthood means that a person will necessarily be giving less attention and participation to the holy mysteries at liturgy for a significant amount of time in their lives,” he said. “But they, too, are receiving graces not only because of the participation they can muster, but because of the sacrifice they make in acclimating their children to the worship of God.”

Flannery O'Connor should be studied, not cancelled, scholar tells Loyola leaders

9 hours 22 min ago

Denver Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Professor Angela Alaimo O’Donnell has studied Flannery O’Connor, an American Catholic author from the South, rather extensively. She wrote a book on O’Connor’s treatment of racial issues specifically, entitled “Radical Ambivalence: Race in Flannery O’Connor.”

So when the Fordham professor heard that Flannery O’Connor’s name would be removed from a residence hall at Loyola University Maryland, due to concerns over apparently racist remarks in some of her personal correspondence, O’Donnell decided to act by petitioning the university to reconsider. Her petition has been signed by more than 200 people, including O’Connor scholars, theologians, and writers of color.

So far, O’Donnell has not received a response.

“I was hoping to get a note from Father Linnane (president of Loyola University) just acknowledging the letter, but I haven't heard anything from him. He probably is besieged by a lot of letters. I'm hoping that he will eventually respond, but so far I haven't heard anything,” O’Donnell told CNA.

“I thought it was a great teachable moment for Loyola to have an opportunity to talk with students and take their time. I really don't understand the rush,” she said. O’Donnell’s advocacy for O’Connor is not so much about a building, she said, and it’s not to deny O’Connor’s racist comments.

Rather, it’s about the swift erasure - the canceling, if you will - of O’Connor without the campus community considering a fuller picture of her person and what her work has to say to the current generation.

“I know Father Linnane says people can still teach Flannery O'Connor, that she's not being removed from campus,” O’Donnell said. “But I don't think Father Linnane realizes that, effectively, she's not going to be on campus anymore, unless the faculty member (teaching her works) is tenured and also is very brave, and wants to have these conversations about race.” 

O'Connor was a short story writer, novelist, and essayist as well as a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass. She lived most of her life in Georgia and became renowned for her biting Southern Gothic style of fiction. She died of lupus in 1964, at the age of 39.

Attention was drawn to apparent racism in O’Connor’s personal writings by “How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?”, a piece that appeared in the New Yorker in June. There, Paul Elie wrote that “letters and postcards she sent home from the North in 1943 were made available to scholars only in 2014, and they show O’Connor as a bigoted young woman.” Some of the passages quoted by Elie had been published for the first time in O’Donnell’s book.

O’Donnell said professors should not ignore O’Connors comments about race in her correspondence. Rather, she said, they should be seen as just one piece of the full picture of who Flannery O’Connor was, and be compared to the way she treats racism in her works of fiction.

“It's got to be a conversation about race. I welcome that,” O’Donnell said, adding that the purpose of her book in the first place was to genuinely pose the question of how Flannery can still be taught in classrooms given some of her problematic racist comments in her personal letters.

“How do you teach Flannery O'Connor in the classroom? What can you do? Because I think it's worth us considering it from the angle of pedagogy and culture, how you encounter every writer. Every writer needs to be reevaluated with each new generation, and then we decide what it is that he or she has to offer, and whether or not it's helpful. And so this is a really good moment to reevaluate O'Connor in a thoughtful way,” she said, “and not the way that Elie does, and not the way that Loyola has done.”

In many ways, O’Donnell noted, O’Connor is the perfect author for this moment in history especially because of how she treats racism in her work, which faces its ugliness head-on and views it as a sin.

“Her stories are powerful, iconic stories, and very realistic gritty depictions of what it was like to be alive in a culture, the very, very racist culture of the American south during the Civil Rights Movement, during a time of enormous change,” O’Donnell said.

And O’Connor’s favorite description of her job as a fiction writer was to live “hotly in pursuit of the real," O’Donnell said, so her stories “do not look away from very difficult and challenging situations.”

In her stories, O’Connor portrays “a complex sort of dance that black Americans and white Americans had to negotiate in order to live together in a segregated culture. And it always reflects badly on white people, because they were - most white people are - ignorant of their racism. And the few who do know it oftentimes are proud of it and think it's a badge of honor. And she just mercilessly exposes those people,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said there are “all sorts of ways” in which Americans today experience the same or similar kinds of racism, whether personally or systemically. “And the fact that we have this writer who exposes it so knowingly, and exposes it to censure, it's a powerful way of seeing how far we have not come,” she said.

As a devout Catholic, O’Connor also “thought about this in theological terms. She thought that racism was a sin. A sin against God, a sin against human beings, a sin against grace. And so in a number of her stories the people who are the most egregious racists really get their comeuppance in the course of the story,” she added.

Alice Walker, an African American writer and feminist who grew up in the same area of Georgia as the O’Connors, was one of the signatories of the petition sent to Loyola University Maryland. The letter opens with a statement from Walker, who said: “We must honor Flannery for growing. Hide nothing of what she was, and use that to teach.”

Walker herself is an admirer of O’Connor’s work. In an essay that appeared in the Dec. 1994/Jan. 1995 edition of Sojourners magazine, Walker wrote that it was O’Connor’s biting portrayal of Southern white people that initially captured her attention.

“It was for her description of Southern white women that I appreciated her work at first, because when she set her pen to them not a whiff of magnolia hovered in the air (and the tree itself might never have been planted), and yes, I could say, yes, these white folks without the magnolia (who are indifferent to the tree's existence), and these black folks without melons and superior racial patience, these are like Southerners that I know,” Walker wrote.

O’Donnell added that Walker has also, in her past critiques of O’Connor, “really admired the fact that O'Connor did not pretend to be able to get inside the minds of her black characters.”

O’Connor admitted at one point that she did not write from the perspective of African Americans because she did not understand them.

“And so Walker saw this as a kind of a respectful distance that O'Connor kept, allowing black characters to have their own privacy, so she never pretends to know what they're thinking.”

“I think what Walker valued was that she could see in O'Connor, this development, this struggle, and was wrestling with the problem of race. And...it's foolish and shortsighted not to honor that and acknowledge that as being human.”

Something else that people today can learn from O’Connor is how to face and challenge the racism that exists even within themselves, O’Donnell said.

“All of us who are born and raised in this white privileged culture, we imbibe this from the time that we're born into the world, and it's impossible for us to escape it. It's just impossible,” she said.

“The best that we can do is be knowledgeable about the fact, be knowledgeable of our blindnesses, and try to work against them and do what we call now anti-racist work. And one of the forms that anti-racist work took for O'Connor was: ‘Okay, I know I have this problem. I know all the people I live with and love have this problem, including my mother and including my aunt and my friends. And so I’m going to write stories that expose this problem.’”

For those who want to read some of O’Connor’s most poignant fiction that treats racism, O’Donnell recommended four stories. The first, “Revelation,” was one of O’Connor’s “last stories and one of her most powerful stories. It is a portrait of a racist who has a wake-up call and understands very clearly what she's guilty of by the end of the story. And in some ways that person, that main character, is a portrait of O'Connor.”

Another story by O’Connor about race that O’Donnell recommended is “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” in which one of the characters seeks to atone for the racism of his mother, and must confront his own hypocrisy. 

Another story, “The Geranium,” is one of the first that O’Connor ever published.

“It's about an old white man who goes to live in New York with his daughter, and is horrified when he moves next door to black people. And he has a wake-up call,” O’Donnell said.

“And the last story that Flannery worked on on her death bed was a rewriting of that same story, it's called 'Judgment Day.' So, O'Connor's work - she only wrote 31 stories- is book-ended by these two stories and that story she rewrote four times in the course of her life.”

“And with each new version, her depiction of the relationship between the races gets more and more complex as she goes along. That is a sign of somebody who, throughout the course of her professional life as a writer, is growing and changing and developing,” O’Donnell said.

“She’s at war with herself in many ways and trying to figure out what she thinks. But the victory is you can see in the stories where she's going and what she thinks,” she added. 

O’Donnell said that going forward, she hopes that Flannery O’Connor gets a fairer and more honest consideration than a cursory glance at some of her racist remarks in her personal letters.

At Loyola University Maryland, Flannery O’Connor’s name could be used on a more appropriate building, such as a literary arts building or theater, she noted.

“I would really just encourage people to read the stories and decide for themselves what O'Connor is doing,” O’Donnell said. “And also to understand that the things that she says in her letters are problematic. Absolutely, no question about it. Nobody is going to side step that.”

“But we don't remember Flannery O'Connor for her letters. We remember her for her stories. That's where we go when we have to decide whether that work is worth it. It's a decision we have to make.”

Prayers answered: Diocese of Providence sees decades-high number of new seminarians  

12 hours 18 min ago

Denver Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 03:04 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, is welcoming eight new seminarians this year - the highest number of incoming seminarians in nearly four decades.

“Some great news to share: The Providence Diocese is welcoming 8 *new seminarians* this year, the most new seminarians in almost 40 years,” said Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI on Twitter last week.

“Pray for our seminarians, including the new students. God said, ‘I will give you shepherds,’ and indeed He is!” the bishop added.

Father Brian Morris, vocations director for Our Lady of Providence Seminary in the diocese, attributed the recent increase in seminarians to the community’s dedicated prayer efforts. He told CNA the seminary has held adoration every Thursday for an increase in vocations, and parishes have hosted similar efforts.

“It’s the result of a lot of prayer. People throughout our diocese have been praying diligently for more vocations, more young men who consider the call to the priesthood,” he said.

“Why God chose this year? I don't know, that's up to him, but I think some of it is to deal us some good news. [We are] in a time right now [of] negativity and so much going on. This is wonderful news for our diocese, and I think God is showing us a little light in the dark.”

Like many areas in the U.S., the Diocese of Providence has faced a clergy shortage as older priests retire, including some who had been responsible for multiple parishes. These parishes are often then faced with practical challenges, such as limited sacramental ministry.

In addition, some parishes have closed in recent years as church attendance drops.

Father Chris Murphy, the rector of the seminary, told CNA that the increase in seminarians is encouraging. However, he stressed that quantity alone is not the goal.

“We want to pray for good priests, not just many priests … The Church is not desperate for many priests. The Church is desperate for good and Holy priests,” he said.

“We have to remember to trust in the Lord that he's going to provide the shepherds for the Church that the Church needs at the current time.”

The diocese has also taken serious steps to enhance its vocation efforts, Murphy said. Events such as Hiking with the Saints offer opportunities to interact with priests. Additionally, the diocese reintroduced Quo Vadis retreats - which allow high school boys to deepen their faith and learn more about vocations - after a several year hiatus.

While these events and retreats are helpful, Murphy said, the greatest fruits have been borne from building personal relationships with young men over the years. These relationships have included one-on-one meetings or phone conversations while the men are away at college.

“I would say even more important than [events] is the example of the witness of the priests in these men's lives - their pastors, their chaplains, their theology teachers at the high schools for the Catholic high school students,” he said.

The priest said that he tries to provide opportunities for fraternity, but added, “truth be told, I think that a lot of the work is done at the local level through the parishes.”

Father Morris said the increase in seminarians is a sign of hope for the local Church and community.

“I just think it's a wonderful, hopeful image to see these young men, who come from very diverse backgrounds and [have] different personalities, to show that there is not like a cookie-cutter image of a priest, to show that young men are still looking at something greater than what the world is offering them,” he said.

“It’s encouraging people that it's okay to give your life to Christ, to give your life to God and not be afraid of what you're missing out in this world because there's something greater.”

 

 

Ban on D&E abortions advances in Nebraska legislature

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 20:01

CNA Staff, Aug 5, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Nebraska lawmakers on Wednesday, in a contentious vote, gave first-round approval to a ban on dilation and evacuation abortions, which pro-life lawmakers are hoping to pass before the end of legislative session.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference, which has supported the ban since its introduction, hailed the Aug. 5 vote and thanked all those that had prayed and fasted for the success of the bill.

D&E abortions, commonly known as dismemberment abortions, are typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and result in the dismemberment of an unborn child.

“No human being should be torn apart limb by limb,” the conference said.

Senator Suzanne Geist (District 25-Lincoln) introduced LB814 in January, which was co-sponsored by 21 state senators upon introduction, with another four joining later. The measure passed its first vote 34-9.

Multiple senators attempted to filibuster the bill, but the bill earned the 33 votes necessary to break the filibuster as Geist moved to invoke cloture.

Two more votes are required in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature before the bill goes to the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports the ban. Only four days remain in Nebraska’s legislative session.

The bill explicitly prohibits abortionists to use “clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or similar instruments that...slice, crush, or grasp a portion of the unborn child's body to cut or rip it off.”

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, to date 11 states have passed bans on dilation and evacuation abortions, though because of courts blocking the measures, the bans in just two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, are currently in effect.

Most recently, a federal judge during July 2019 blocked Indiana’s D&E ban from taking effect.

In 2010, Nebraska became the first state to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, citing evidence that unborn children feel pain.

Coronavirus 'baby bust' could be worse than expected

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 19:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Amid steady forecasts of demographic decline, one economics professor told CNA that a COVID-related “baby bust” could be worse than people predicted.

A Brookings Institution report published in June said that the economic shock caused by the coronavirus, combined with the social effects of the pandemic itself, could trigger a sharp decline in births.

Those predictions should not be dismissed, Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, a professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, told CNA, noting that economic uncertainty can have a direct correlation with the birthrate.

“The money and the numbers tend to correlate with all the things we think matter for human flourishing,” she said, such as the “ability to grow and form families.”

In the Brookings report, authors Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine warned that the coronavirus pandemic might cause a “baby bust” rather than the “baby boom” some assumed could follow months of lockdowns.

They said that two events—the surge in deaths and anxiety brought on by the pandemic, and the economic decline resulting from lockdown measures—would both cause a drop in the birthrate from “300,000 to 500,000 fewer births next year.”

“The circumstances in which we now find ourselves are likely to be long-lasting and will lead to a permanent loss of income for many people,” Kearney and Levine wrote.

“We expect that many of these births will not just be delayed – but will never happen. There will be a COVID-19 baby bust.”

The study pointed to two major historical events for evidence for their prediction, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and the Great Recession of a decade ago.

“The Great Recession led to a large decline in birth rates, after a period of relative stability,” the authors said, noting a fall in the birthrate from 69.1 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age in 2007 to 63 births per 1,000 women in 2012.

Furthermore, the authors estimated a 15% decline in annual births due to the 1918 epidemic, which could predict a second major effect on the current birthrate given “the public health crisis and the uncertainty and anxiety it creates.”

Pakaluk praised the Brookings study as “totally reliable,” and said that the decline in births next year “could be on the extreme end of the numbers they predicted.”

“Birthrates have been falling anyway,” she said, noting a years-long trend which has continued even after the U.S. economy recovered from the Great Recession, which many assumed would bring a spike in the birthrate.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the birthrate for 2019 was the lowest since the figure was first recorded in 1909, with only 58.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44.

There was also a 1% drop in the number of overall births from the previous year, with 3.75 million children born in 2019. While a growth in fertility rates requires a “replacement level” rate of 2.1 children for population replacement, the U.S. fertility rate sits at 1.7.

Then in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic entered the U.S. and spread rapidly. As coronavirus infection rates and deaths soared, states began instituting strict lockdowns or closures of non-essential businesses, the unemployment rate spiked to 14% and currently stands at more than 11%.

According to the Brookings report, the Federal Reserve has predicted that unemployment will hover near 10% by the end of the year.

The twin “catastrophic shocks” of the coronavirus and massive job losses will have a deep impact on an already-falling birthrate, Pakaluk said. Further complicating the matter could be a rise in political instability in a contentious presidential election year, which could further dissuade couples from choosing to have children.

The Brookings report also predicts that a longer economic malaise could further drive down the birthrate in the long-term. “Additional reductions in births may be seen if the labor market remains weak beyond 2020,” the study concluded.

What might some of the long-term societal effects be of an extended drop in birthrates?

A smaller youth demographic could lead to a shrinking tax base, posing threats to the solvency of local governments.

“We’re seeing, right this minute” COVID-related state budget cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars, Pakaluk said, to meet pension obligations and pay for schools. According to data from the State and Local Finance Initiative and reported by NPR, 34 states saw a revenue drop of 20% or more between March and May of 2020.

The present crisis could also force a national conversation about how to pay for programs such as Medicare, Pakaluk said.

On the individual family level, many might experience “the fertility gap,” feelings of regret, incompleteness, or missed opportunities related to not having an extra child. Childless couples could be faced with finding a caregiver when they grow older, or children might feel the lack of an absent sibling.

“We have reason to think that religious people, religious communities, are more resilient to these kinds of ups and downs,” Pakaluk said of the current social anxiety and economic instability.

However, she noted, “we are in the throes of a fairly-unprecedented secularization.”

Knights of Columbus creating Fr. Michael McGivney pilgrimage center

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 18:37

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus announced plans to create a new pilgrimage center for visitors to encounter the spirituality of the order’s founder, Fr. Michael McGivney, who is set to be beatified in October.

The Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center will be created at the current Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said the center will offer pilgrims the opportunity to learn more about the group’s founder.

“While the museum will continue to recount the Knights' history, it will also broaden its mission by focusing more on the spirituality and charitable vision of our founder and his legacy. A visit to the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center will enhance the formative experience of a pilgrimage to Father McGivney's tomb at St. Mary’s,” he said.

Anderson made the announcement of the new pilgrimage center on Tuesday, during the Knights of Columbus' 138th annual Supreme Convention. It is the first annual convention to be held completely virtually, as ongoing limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic have restricted in-person gatherings.

McGivney's beatification Mass will take place on October 31 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession in May. The miracle involved an unborn child in the United States who was healed in-utero of a life-threatening condition in 2015 after his family prayed to McGivney.

“For members of the Knights of Columbus and many others, the news of the beatification is a time of great joy and celebration. Father McGivney ministered to those on the margins of society in the 19th century, and his example has inspired millions of Knights to follow his example in their own parishes and communities,” said Anderson.

McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. Today it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, with nearly two million members in more than a dozen countries.

Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney was ordained a priest in 1877. He served a largely Irish-American and immigrant community in New Haven.

Amid an anti-Catholic climate, he established the Knights to provide spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help for families that had lost their breadwinner.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared McGivney a Venerable Servant of God. He said McGivney was an “exemplary American priest” whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.

In a recent letter to the Knights, Pope Francis commended McGivney’s contributions to the world and Church. He said the priest’s service to the poor and vulnerable calls the Knights “to deepen their commitment to live as missionary disciples in charity, unity and fraternity.”

“His Holiness is grateful for these and for the many other countless ways in which the Knights of Columbus continue to bear prophetic witness to God's dream for a more fraternal, just and equitable world in which all are recognized as neighbors and no one is left behind,” the pope said.

Following his beatification, McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.

 

Missouri voters approve Medicaid expansion, after push from bishops

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 17:13

CNA Staff, Aug 5, 2020 / 03:13 pm (CNA).- Voters in Missouri approved Tuesday an expansion of Medicaid to more than 230,000 low-income people in the state, a move which drew praise from the state’s four Catholic bishops.

“The vote to expand the Medicaid program will provide greater access to health insurance coverage for the working poor. We are hopeful that the expansion of this important program will improve health outcomes for those with unmet healthcare needs as well as help Missouri’s hospitals keep their doors open, especially in rural parts of the state,” the bishops of Missouri said in an Aug. 5 statement.

The Aug. 4 decision will mean adults between the ages of 19 and 65 whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level will be covered by the federally subsidized health program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The federal government will pay for 90% of the cost of the expansion, with 10% coming from the state.

An analysis of the expansion by Washington University in St. Louis found that although the move would cost the state an additional $118 million a year, that cost would be offset by savings elsewhere and an increase in tax revenue because of a boost in spending on health care services, leading to an estimated $39 million a year in net savings.

Missouri joins 36 other states and the District of Columbia in expanding Medicaid, a right given to states under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is known by different names in different states; in Missouri it is known as MO Healthnet.

The Missouri Catholic Conference had during October 2019 thrown its support behind Amendment 2, the ballot measure to approve the expansion. The measure ended up passing with 53% approval.

The bishops cited paragraph 2288 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that concern for the health of its citizens requires society to “help in the attainment of living conditions that help citizens grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.”

The bishops praised the MO HealthNet program for its health coverage to Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, and children. Nearly 10% of Missouri’s population, or about half a million people, were uninsured in 2018.

“In our Catholic ministries throughout the state, however, we find that there are still many Missouri citizens who lack access to affordable healthcare coverage that is so necessary for human flourishing. We, therefore, support expanding the program to cover low-income workers, since doing so will help lead to better health outcomes for them and enhance their ability to continue working to support themselves and their families.”

The bishops acknowledged that some pro-life voters in the state had expressed concern about the expansion of Medicaid because of the possibility of federal funds being used to fund abortions if the Hyde Amendment— the federal prohibition on Medicaid funds for abortions— is overturned.

The risk that the Hyde Amendment will be overturned is small, the bishops have said, even though presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has signaled that he no longer supports Hyde Amendments.

Still, the bishops pledged to continue to advocate that the Hyde Amendment remain a part of federal law.

“We want to make it clear that our support for human life at all stages is unwavering. Indeed, helping those in need obtain health care is part of being pro-life and part of our call from Christ to see Him in the face of those less fortunate,” the bishops said.

“We believe providing low-income working mothers with health insurance coverage that remains in place after they deliver will reduce the demand for abortions.”

The Medicaid expansion vote in Missouri was starkly split between urban and rural areas, with the metro areas of Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, and Columbia largely voting yes and the rest of the state, which is heavily rural, largely voting no.

Studies have found that expansions in other states, such as Washington, have resulted in reductions in uncompensated care costs for hospitals and clinics, which has helped stabilized struggling, rural hospitals, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

New York rolls back nursing home immunity over non-COVID care

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 15:10

CNA Staff, Aug 5, 2020 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed a bill Tuesday partially reversing immunity protections given to facilities like nursing homes against lawsuits during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The new law keeps in place immunity for healthcare staff and facilities in cases directly related to COVID-19 care, but removes the legal protections for preventative COVID-19 care and the arrangement of health care services for patients.

In May, Cuomo had signed into law a provision granting broad legal immunity for health care providers during the coronavirus pandemic, including in cases not related to COVID, unless the harm done to patients was due to criminal negligence or recklessness. The provision was included as a part of a larger budget bill. 

Cuomo’s office told the New York Times in May that the provision was to enable hospitals, nursing homes, and staff to respond to the pandemic without having to fear a flood of lawsuits. 

On Tuesday, Cuomo signed bill S8835, which curbed the previously broad grant of immunity, limiting it “to health care professionals that are providing diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 directly to confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients.” It also removed legal protection against lawsuits for any care that is part of “prevention” of COVID or of “arranging for” health care services. 

New York’s COVID case count and death count has dropped significantly since its peak in mid-April, when 1,003 new deaths were reported on April 14, and 11,755 new cases were reported on April 15, according to data from the New York Times. On August 4, only 746 new cases and nine new deaths were reported in the state.

Some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. have occurred in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which have accounted for a significant portion of the coronavirus deaths nationwide.

The New York Times reported on July 30 that nursing homes and long-term care facilities had accounted for just 8% of COVID cases in the U.S., but more than 40% of COVID deaths nationwide.

At a single health care center in Queens, New York, there have been 82 reported COVID deaths, although that number has not increased since May, according to data from the state’s health department.

Confirmed COVID deaths at nursing homes number 459 in Queens and 556 in Suffolk County, a slight increase from May numbers of 432 deaths in Queens and 489 in Suffolk.

Early in the pandemic, New York was one of several states that ordered nursing homes to accept COVID patients who had the virus but were discharged from hospitals as stable. The policy was issued amid widespread concern that hospital bed capacities would not be able to keep up with the number of patients with severe cases of the virus.

In May, the state rescinded the policy, which was criticized by some advocates for fueling the high rate of COVID deaths in New York nursing homes. Dr. Charles Camosy, a professor of ethics at Fordham University, said that the policy helped to “create an uncontrollable wildfire of infection and death” at nursing homes.

Cuomo had granted immunity from lawsuits for health care facilities as part of the state’s budget bill he signed into law in May.

According to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), there have been more than 40,000 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, with more than 150,000 confirmed cases and more than 96,000 suspected cases.

Nursing homes in northeastern states have been hit particularly hard, with Massachusetts seeing the highest rate of more than 120 COVID deaths per 1,000 residents. New Jersey has the second-highest rate with more than 116 deaths, with Connecticut at just more than 100. New York has a rate of 46.8 COVID deaths per 1,000 residents.

Lebanon needs US Catholic help now, bishops say

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 14:00

CNA Staff, Aug 5, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Maronite eparchs of the United States are pleading for prayers and aid for the people of Lebanon in the wake of the large explosion in Beirut on Tuesday, August 4, as Lebanon’s bishops call for a day of fasting and prayer this weekend. 

Dozens are feared dead and thousands were injured by the blast, the cause of which is still unknown. Harrowing images from Beirut show buildings reduced to rubble, and an estimated hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless by the explosion. 

In the statement, Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, and Bishop Elias Zeidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles described Beirut as an “apocalyptic city.” 

“Hospitals, schools, businesses, and much more is destroyed, leaving people feeling hopeless and helpless,” said the bishops. 

The explosion knocked out electricity for most of the city of Beirut. Seismic waves were felt hundreds of miles away from the blast. 

The eparchs further lamented the declining civil state of Lebanon, which St. John Paul II once praised as a place where Muslims and Christians lived peacefully together, as the country faces continued widespread societal breakdown.

“This country is at the verge of a failed state and total collapse,” they said. “We pray for Lebanon, and we ask for your support for our brothers and sisters at this difficult time and in response to the catastrophe.” 

The bishops requested that people “stand in solidarity with the Lebanese,” and that they are praying for an increased stability and “path of recovery toward peace and justice for all.” 

The vast majority of Catholics, who make up 27% of Lebanon’s population, are Maronites. 

Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rai, the patriarch of the Maronite church, said on Wednesday that Saturday, August 8, was to be a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut. 

Cardinal Rai said that the Church “which has set up a relief network throughout Lebanese territory, today finds itself faced with a new great duty which it is unable to assume on its own,” and appealed for global aid.

"Beirut is a devastated city, Beirut, the bride of the East and the beacon of the West is wounded, it is a scene of war without war,” said Rai in his letter, titled “An Appeal to All States of the World.” 

Rai also requested that the United Nations set up a special fund to assist with the reconstruction of Beirut and called on charities around the world to help Lebanese families “heal their wounds and restore their homes.”

Several Catholic and secular organizations are already on the ground assisting with the relief efforts in Beirut, including Caritas Lebanon, the Catholic Near-East Welfare AssociationLebanese Red Cross, and Beit el Baraka

Pope Francis appealed for prayers for the Lebanese people in his Wednesday audience on August 5. 

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing,” he said via livestream from the Vatican.

Loyola quiet on Flannery O’Connor residence hall controversy

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 04:55

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 02:55 am (CNA).- After controversy surrounding the removal of American Catholic author Flannery O’Connor’s name from a residence hall, Loyola University Maryland has not said whether it will reconsider its decision.

A petition asking the university to reverse the decision came in the form of a letter, written by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a former Loyola professor and a Flannery O’Connor scholar who is the associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University.

Signed by O’Donnell, as well as more than 80 other authors, scholars and leaders, the letter defended O’Connor’s work and asked the university to reconsider its decision. Among the signatories are Alice Walker, a Black author who grew up down the road from the O’Connor farm, and Bishop Robert Barron.

The letter was presented to Fr. Brian Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, on July 31.

“O’Connor believes in the Imago Dei, the fact that every human being is beloved of God and made in God’s image. Her stories champion the despised, the outcast, and the other, demonstrating their humanity, and call to account people who try to deny their God-given sacred nature,” the letter states. “Among the despised in her stories are African Americans, and the primary objects of her satire are most often racist whites.”

“It is no small thing to remove Flannery O’Connor from the pantheon of Catholic writers and intellectuals honored on your campus. We urge you to reconsider this decision,” the letter states.

According to Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic Review, Loyola “is undergoing a larger review of all the names of its buildings and a university committee advised [Linnane] on the renaming proposal” that called for the removal of O’Connor’s name.

When asked, a Loyola University Maryland spokesperson did not say whether the petition was being considered, or whether a different building on campus would be named for O’Connor in the future.

“Our president has received the petition. The residence hall has already been renamed for Sister Thea Bowman. I do not know what work will come out of the presidential renaming committee,” Rita Buettner, director of university communications for Loyola University Maryland, told CNA Aug. 4.

Attention was drawn to apparent racism in O’Connor’s personal writings by “How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?”, a piece that appeared in the New Yorker in June. There, Paul Elie wrote that “letters and postcards she sent home from the North in 1943 were made available to scholars only in 2014, and they show O’Connor as a bigoted young woman.”

O'Connor was a short story writer, novelist, and essayist, as well as a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass. She died of lupus in 1964, at the age of 39.

The residence hall that had borne the name of Flannery O’Connor for more than 10 years was renamed Thea Bowman Hall, after Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American religious sister and civil rights activist whose cause for canonization is being considered.

Linnane told the Catholic Review that the decision was made in light of student concerns over some of racist comments written by O’Connor in her personal correspondence.

“A residence hall is supposed to be the students’ home,” Linnane said. “If some of the students who live in that building find it to be unwelcoming and unsettling, that has to be taken seriously.”

Linnane added that this did not mean that the school had banned the study of O’Connor’s work, and that the study of her works would still be assigned by professors if they so choose.

 

 

 

Catholic University of America offers coronavirus tuition adjustments

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 19:19

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- As the coronavirus pandemic limits class schedules and sizes, the Catholic University of America announced its plan to return to some students a portion of their tuition for the upcoming semester.

John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., noted the adjustments for the fall 2020 semester.

“Last May, we committed to fully reopening our campus at the earliest possible opportunity. Since that time we have been carefully gauging the trajectory of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said July 31.

“I am very sorry to report that developments in public health conditions over the past few weeks have forced us to conclude that it is simply too early to bring everyone back to campus.”

When classes begin in August, the number of students who may reside on campus will be limited to freshman and transfers students with fewer than 30 college credits. As required by the District of Columbia, students arriving on campus from one of the 27 states designated as “high risk” will be required to quarantine for 14 days. The university’s orientation and the first two weeks of classes will then be held online to comply with the requirements.

A majority of sophomore, junior, and senior students are not permitted to live on campus but will instead conduct all of their classes online. Exceptions will be made for some international students, residents assistants, and students who are unable to pursue studies at their permanent address.

“I understand this is disappointing news, because it is disappointing to us. But the large and sustained increase in infections nationwide poses a serious risk that we will be unable to provide the care necessary for a full complement of our student population,” said Garvey.

“We remain confident that we can attend properly to a smaller cohort, while providing our freshmen with the best possible transition to college.”

The CUA president issued a statement Aug. 3 outlining the refunds and tuition decreases that will be provided to those students who will not attend the university as they expected.

Students will receive a 10% refund for this semester’s tuition costs if they planned to attend at least some of their classes in-person and are now forced to attend these classes online. There is no tuition reduction for classes that are traditionally taken online.

Also, those students who planned to stay on campus but are no longer eligible will receive a full refund for on-campus room and board. The students off-campus who purchased a meal plan will have that plan honored and additional dining plans will be available for these students.

The refunds will be processed around the time that the semester begins, Aug. 17. Students who wish to roll over their credit balance for the spring semester should notify Enrollment Services.

Garvey also encouraged students struggling financially under the pandemic to reach out to the school to see about other financial opportunities.

“Finally, undergraduate students who have suffered economic distress specifically related to the pandemic are encouraged to appeal for additional financial assistance. Through the generosity of University benefactors, the Office of Student Financial Assistance continues to make one-time emergency tuition grants to students directly impacted by the pandemic.”

Garvey said the university will continue to monitor the situation of coronavirus at the school and determine when more in-person courses and other activities may begin. He said the university will continue to follow CDC and D.C. guidelines, and applauded the efforts the school has taken to keep everyone safe.

“Let me offer my thanks to each of our students, our faculty and staff, and our community of parents and alumni. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have worked together to deal with this crisis,” he said.

“It’s worth repeating that this is a disappointment for all of us. But it is only a temporary one. We will continue moving forward through this pandemic together.”

Transcript of EWTN News Nightly interview with President Donald Trump

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 18:15

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- EWTN News Nightly’s lead anchor Tracy Sabol conducted a White House interview with President Donald Trump Aug. 4. Below is a transcript of that interview provided by EWTN News Nightly.

EWTN News Nightly said it has also reached out for an interview to Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN News.

 



Tracy Sabol: Thank you so much, Mr. President, for speaking with us today. We appreciate it.

President Trump: Thank you.

Tracy Sabol: We have a lot to get to. But I first want to talk about the economy. Where we are right now, of course, we're starting with another round of stimulus. Can you talk about that and what's needed for Republicans and Democrats to meet in the middle?

President Trump: So we had the greatest economy in the history of the world, not only in our country, in every country. We were beating China, beating everybody. They were having the worst economy they've had in over 67 years. So we were doing with the tariffs and all the things that I was doing. And then we had to close it up. It came from China. They should have stopped it. They could have stopped it, but they didn't. They stopped it from going into their country, but they didn't stop it from here, Europe, or the rest of the world. And we had to close it up and we did that. And now we're coming back and we're doing stimulus. We've already done it, as you know, very successfully. And we'll probably have something worked out. We'll see what happens. The problem with the Democrats, as you know, they want bailout money for their states and cities that have done so poorly under Democrat leadership. And I'm not happy with that. It's not appropriate. This is having to do with the corona, I call it the "China-virus." And so I think we're doing very well. We had the best job numbers we've ever had, percentage-wise. You take a look at what happened, [indiscernible] close to seven million jobs over the last two months. New numbers are going to be coming out very soon. We're back. We're doing very well. I think next year is going to be one of the best years we've ever had. And it looks very, very strong.

Tracy Sabol: Looking forward to the third quarter: How do you anticipate that looking?

President Trump: I think the third quarter is going to be good. I think it's going to be good. I think the fourth quarter is going to be very, very good. But we're just coming out of something that we had no choice. We saved millions of lives by closing. If we didn't close it up, you would have lost millions of lives. And by closing it, I mean, we've done a really good job. The ban on China was very important. We banned people coming in, highly infected, and we banned people from coming in from China and then from Europe. We did the ban on Europe, very important. It really, I think, is going to be, I think we're going to have a very special economy in about...for next year. But I think third quarter actually is going to be very good.

Tracy Sabol: A lot of things shut down, including churches. Let's talk about that and the importance of reopening churches. I know you've talked about that.

President Trump: I think they should open the churches. It's up to the governors. But, I think, and I’m recommending it, you open the churches. They'll spread, they'll be socially spread, they'll have masks and they'll do what they have to do, you know, the hygiene and everything else that we know. It's a very simple list, but I think it's very unfair that they have-- I saw Jim Jordan the other day talking about it very well, that they have 50,000 people protesting and they're standing on top of each other practically, and yet you're not allowed to go to church. You don't go to schools. We want to open our churches. We want to open our schools. And everybody wants to be safe. They know what to do. They'll stay away. And, you know, we'll be the same way. Maybe you'll have an extra service or two or three. But they have to let the churches open. They want to put, the Democrats want to put them out of business. They want to put the churches out of business. And it's very unfair. So they don't complain about the protests, which are horrible in many cases. You look at Portland, it's a disaster, but they don't want the churches open, they don't want the schools open, they don't want offices open. So it's a very, very unfair situation to a lot of people.

Tracy Sabol: Mr. President, is there a way to deem churches as essential businesses? How can we do that?

President Trump: I am looking at that because I think it's enough already. You have some states, I think they never want them open. They don't want churches open. Look, the Democrats, frankly, if you look at the radical left, Democrats, which are radical left now, they've gone radical left. Whether you're talking about life or whether you're talking about almost anything, they're not liking it. They're not liking it.

Tracy Sabol: I know that you've heard about the vandalism, the horrific vandalism. Many, many churches have been vandalized over the past recent weeks. When you heard about that, what did you think?

President Trump: I think it's a disgrace. And I think it's partially because they're not allowed to function, they're not allowed to really function. And I think it's disgraceful that it can happen. And, you know, they want to defund the police. They want to stop the police. They want to have them at least to a minimum. And we're just the opposite. I just got endorsed by Texas law enforcement, by Florida, all of the sheriffs and the law enforcement. I think, I can't imagine them ever, I can't imagine law enforcement ever endorsing Biden. He's got a hard time in a lot of ways, let's face it, but I can't imagine that ever happening. So we just about have everybody endorsing us in terms of law enforcement. And, you know, with the churches, you need some law enforcement to help you out also. But it's the fact that they're closed and they you know, bad things happen when they're closed. It's a very terrible situation, what they're doing to churches and these are governors that are radical left or Democrat, it's almost becoming the same thing. And I don't think they want churches open.

Tracy Sabol: What can be done to stop this vandalism? What do you think?

President Trump: Well, what you need is you need the law enforcement. It's areas usually run by radical left Democrats. I mean, where you have Republican leadership, where you have Republican governors and mayors, you don't have this problem. You have this problem where you have radical left Democrats in virtually every instance. So what you have to do is elect Republicans. And if you had a Republican, as an example, if Biden got in, you'd have Portland all over our country. It would be like Portland. These people are agitators. They're anarchists. You'd have that all over our country. You know, we stopped it, we stepped in and a lot of people said we were early. Well, let us let us be early. Better early than late. But we did a good job there. We did a great job in Seattle that would have been burned to the ground, frankly. But with Portland, and we didn't do our big job, we did a much smaller job. We had to protect our building, and our buildings, actually, a number of buildings. But the courthouse would have been burned down. The courthouse would have been destroyed if we didn't step in. People said, "Oh, we went early." Well, if we didn't go then, the courthouse would have been destroyed because Seattle was not protecting it. So you would have that situation all over the United States. And that's unacceptable.

Tracy Sabol: And, Mr. President, on top of mind for a lot of parents, including myself: the reopening of schools. I know you just tweeted about that. Can you talk about that?

President Trump: I want the schools open. First of all, children are unbelievably strong, right? Their immune system. Something's going on because out of thousands of deaths in New Jersey, thousands, because I just saw the statistics, many thousands of people died, one person under the age of 18. And that was a person I believe had diabetes on top of everything. So children just are, I guess I heard one doctor say, virtually they're immune from it. They have a strong, they have a very strong something, and they are not affected. And we have to open our schools. You know, there's a big danger to keeping people locked in. And they're also finding it's wonderful to use computers, but it's not a great way of learning. They now know that it's much better to be with a teacher on campus or in a school, that's much better than looking at a computer all day long. So we have to get our schools open. We have to get them open soon.

Tracy Sabol: And if there was one message you wanted to say to our viewers, what would it be right now?

President Trump: Well, I think anybody having to do with, frankly, religion, but certainly the Catholic Church, you have to be with President Trump when it comes to pro-life, when it comes to all of the things, these people are going to take all of your rights away, including Second Amendment, because, you know, Catholics like their Second Amendment. So I saved the Second Amendment. If I wasn't here, you wouldn't have a Second Amendment. And pro-life is your big thing and you won't be on that side of the issue, I guarantee, if the radical left, because they're going to take over, they're going to push him around like he was nothing.

Tracy Sabol: Well, thank you so much, Mr. President, for the time today.

 

Boston archdiocese pushes back after Trump says Boston bomber ‘deserves death’

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 16:35

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 02:35 pm (CNA).-  

After President Donald Trump said Sunday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, perpetrator of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, should be put to death, the Archdiocese of Boston said justice calls for life in prison, not the death penalty.

 “Catholic teaching does not support the taking of life as a means of achieving justice,” in Tsarnaev’s case, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said.

“The incomprehensible suffering of so many caused by this heinous crime should appropriately be met with a sentence of imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole,” Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, told CNA Tuesday.

Donilon also acknowledged that the ongoing Tsarnaev appeal “has brought considerable further pain to the families and loved ones of those lost in the Marathon bombing and all the victims of that deliberate attack on innocent people.”

Remarks from the archdiocese came after Trump on Sunday tweeted that “rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”

“The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand.” the president added.

 

....and ruined. The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand. Also, it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2020 Tsarnaev, 27, was in April 2015 convicted of using pressure cooker bombs to kill three people and injure nearly 300 more during the 2013 Boston marathon. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, perpetrated the bombing along with him, but was killed by police during the ensuing manhunt.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated by a federal appeals court July 30, because of concerns about juror impartiality. A new sentencing phase, with a new jury, has been ordered.

In his Aug. 2 tweets, the president noted that the court had said the Boston bombing was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the September 11, 2001 bombings, and said “it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!”

During Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial, the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, including Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, opposed the possibility of Tsarnaev’s execution.

“The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, believe that society can do better than the death penalty,” the bishops said in a statement.

“The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’ The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God. As Pope Francis has recently stated, ‘[The death penalty] is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of oppression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized – they are already deprived of their liberty.’”

In a June interview, Trump said that he is “totally in favor of the death penalty for heinous crimes, ok? That’s the way it is.”

Earlier this summer, the federal government resumed the execution of prisoners condemned to death, after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.

On July 7, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, all joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” the faith leaders said.

On Tuesday, the Boston archdiocese told CNA it would pursue peace after the violence of the Boston bombings.

“We will continue to honor the memory of Martin Richard, Krystle Marie Campbell, Lü Lingzi, Sean A. Collier and Dennis Simmonds and the hundreds who suffered devastating injuries by a renewed commitment to root out violence and evil in our society by way of solidarity with Jesus’ call to love one another.”

 

Knights of Columbus prepare for first-ever virtual annual convention

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 14:11

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:11 pm (CNA).- The 138th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus begins today— the first in the  organization’s history to not be held in-person.

The New Haven, Connecticut-based fraternal and charitable organization is encouraging its members to tune in to the convention online. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the gathering is being held virtually. Last year’s convention took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The convention comes a few months after the Vatican announced that Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be beatified following Pope Francis’ approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Founded in New Haven in 1882, the Knights of Columbus was originally intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. It has grown into a worldwide Catholic fraternal order, with more than 2 million members carrying out works of charity and evangelization across the globe. The Knights also offer life insurance policies to their members.

Fr. McGivney, the Knights’ founder, will be beatified on October 31, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced in late July.

During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities, including millions of dollars for persecuted Christians around the world, the organization says.

The 2020 convention will begin with an opening Mass at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, celebrated by Archbishop Leonard Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford. This will be followed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s annual report, highlighting the group’s achievements and announcing new initiatives, at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The Mass is set to feature a message from Pope Francis, which the Vatican Secretariat of State delivered to the Knights in mid-July.

"His Holiness is grateful for these and for the many other countless ways in which the Knights of Columbus continue to bear prophetic witness to God's dream for a more fraternal, just and equitable world in which all are recognized as neighbors and no one is left behind,” the letter reads in part.

An annual memorial Mass will be offered for all deceased Knights of Columbus and their families on August 5 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Among the Knights who died in the past year was former Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant, who passed away on Feb. 15, 2020, and was the Order's longest-serving supreme knight, holding office from 1977 to 2000, the organization said.

After the memorial Mass, the Knights will hold an awards ceremony to honor the members’ service. This will take place at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on August 5.

 

Researchers reverse: Gender surgery offers 'no advantage' to mental health

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 14:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The authors of a 2019 study which claimed so-called gender-transition surgery may improve the long-term mental health of recipients have issued a correction, nearly a year after publication. The authors now say they found “no advantage” to the mental health of those who received gender-transition surgery.

In October of 2019, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a report on the rates of mental health treatment among recipients of gender-transition surgery and hormone therapy. The report was entitled “Reduction in Mental Health Treatment Utilization Among Transgender Individuals After Gender-Affirming Surgeries.”

On Saturday, the authors of the study—Richard Bränström, Ph.D., and John E. Pachankis, Ph.D., issued a correction, saying that “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”

The 2019 AJP report had originally claimed that, among persons who had received gender-transition surgery, the number of mental health treatment visits declined over time. Persons diagnosed with gender incongruence are at higher risk of mental health disorders, the report said; around six times more likely to seek treatment for a “mood and anxiety disorder” than members of the general population, and “more than six times as likely to have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt.”

However, the study had claimed that among those who had received gender-transition surgery, the “increased time since last gender-affirming surgery was associated with reduced mental health treatment.”

This, the 2019 report concluded, “lends support to the decision to provide gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals who seek them.”

That conclusion has now been reversed. 

Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, wrote on Monday that the correction was needed.

“So, the bottom line: The largest dataset on sex-reassignment procedures—both hormonal and surgical—reveals that such procedures do not bring the promised mental health benefits,” he said.

Additionally, Anderson pointed out, the authors’ correction revealed that recipients of gender-transition surgery were actually more likely to seek treatment for anxiety disorders:

“Individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had received gender-affirming surgery were more likely to be treated for anxiety disorders compared with individuals diagnosed with gender incongruence who had not received gender-affirming surgery.”

After the study was first published in the fall of 2019, some claimed that the study’s sample size was too small to make any conclusions.

Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas critiqued the report’s findings, writing in the journal Public Discourse that the sample size of people who had experienced the long-term effects of gender-transition surgery was too small, as most of the cases of surgery were relatively recent.

He noted that the study was based on a survey of nearly 10 million Swedes, 2,679 of those surveyed had reported experiencing gender incongruence, and 1,018 had undergone gender-transition surgery.

However, of this population, only 19 people reported their last surgery as having occurred 10 or more years prior. So, Regnerus concluded, the report’s claim that the rate of people undergoing gender-transition surgery and subsequently seeking mental health treatment had declined over time was based on a sample of 19 people in a survey of nearly 10 million.

Regnerus wrote that “if a mere three additional cases among these 19 had sought mental health treatment in 2015, there would appear to be no discernible overall effect of surgery on subsequent mental health.”

The data in the study revealed the limitations of finding the long-term effects of gender-transition surgery, he told CNA, as its use is a recent phenomenon.

“There is a declining number with each passing year, meaning simply that the practice of such surgery is far more common recently than it was several years ago,” Regnerus said in a written statement to CNA in November, noting that the small sample size was not the fault of the authors, but simply reflected the “reality” of what remain historically untested procedures.

“It’s important to keep some perspective here—how national debates and discourses are being driven by quite small shares of the population,” Regnerus told CNA.

Catholic Charities give $400 million in aid, double PPP loans received

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Catholic Charities affiliates across the country have distributed more than double the amount of money they received from Payroll Protection Program loans in emergency assistance, to help those impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The generosity of corporate donors, foundations, and individuals has been overwhelming,” said Sr. Donna Markham, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, in a release Monday. 

Over the last four months, Catholic Charities distributed nearly $400 million in relief aid in the form of food, rental assistance, personal protective equipment, baby supplies, and quarantine housing. Catholic Charities affiliates are located in most dioceses throughout the country, and, including areas of the country hardest-hit during the pandemic, many have opened pop-up food pantries to assist those in need. 

In Washington, DC, Catholic Charities distributed bags of groceries and hot meals to residents of one of the communities hardest-hit by coronavirus.

A July reported from the Associated Press criticized the fact that Catholic parishes, dioceses, and other organizations had received approximately $1.4 billion in Payroll Protection Program loans. The Payroll Protection Program was designed to help employers pay the salaries of employees amidst the economic downturn and the forced closing of businesses. 

Catholic Charities affiliates received an estimated $100-$200 million in PPP loans, enabling the organizations to keep staff on payroll and continue distributing aid. 

Sr. Donna expressed her gratitude at the workers who stayed on to help out, even when doing so is potentially dangerous. 

“I remain edified by so many Catholic Charities staff and volunteers who work tirelessly on the front lines--often at great personal risk--to maintain the distribution of critical supplies,” she said. She referred to these workers as being “truly the embodiment of the Good Samaritan.”

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