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A bowl of soup, and a chance for compassion

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 06:25

Elmira, NY, Sep 14, 2019 / 04:25 am (CNA).- For nearly 15 years, a Catholic charity in south-central New York has sold ceramic bowls to raise both money for a local food pantry and awareness about the problem of homelessness in the region.

Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler Counties is preparing for its 14th annual Empty Bowls Luncheon on Oct. 15, where donors will eat soup and hear the stories of homelessness.

Lindsay Baker, director of development for Catholic Charities in the area told CNA that the project informs people on poverty statistics and provides them with a souvenir bowl as a reminder of all the “empty bowls in the community.”

The project is a major event for the region. Local artists, including high-schoolers and students and faculty from nearby Elmira College, handcraft commemorative bowls for the luncheon.

“[We have partnered] with our local potters. They create commemorative bowls for each participant to take home with them. It’s meant to be a reminder of hunger in the community,” Baker said.

Most of the bowls are made by professional artisans, like Gene Carr, a local artist who helps each year with the pottery. Bowls are also made by two Elmira professors - Doug Holtgrewe, a former teacher of ceramic, and Chris Longwell, a professor of art. So far, they have made more than 200 bowls for the event.

Participants choose a custom-created bowl when they enter the luncheon, and are served soup from a local deli. Baker said last year the soup was chicken noodle and pumpkin squash.

“The idea is that you are satisfied but you are not stuffed. It’s a hunger awareness event so you may not leave extremely full, but people leaving the soup kitchen don’t always leave full too,” she told CNA.

During the event, those who have been homeless, or whose family members have been homeless, tell their stories.

“Last year, we had a woman share her story. Her son had been in a homeless shelter and he’s a heroin addict. She talked about the struggle she went through and how Catholic Charities met him where he is at and how is on a much better path,” Baker said.

She said the testimonies are a cause for personal reflection, but they’re also fun.

During lunch this year, Baker will read three testimonies from community members who have struggled with poverty. After the three people gather on stage, the crowd will guess which story belongs to whom.

She said the testimonies emphasize the work of Catholic Charities and the success of people who have overcome homelessness. She said stories help contextualize the reality of poverty because the testimonies are from ordinary people in the local community.

“I think this is one of the few events that highlight that it can happen to anybody. We have community members, we have volunteers, we have donors who will share their story. It’s not just somebody else’s problem. It’s actual human beings you can see.”

Proceeds will go to the Samaritan Center, an emergency shelter and a food pantry for homeless families and individuals. According to Catholic Charities, $40, the cost of a single ticket, will allow the organization to feed a family for a week, and $320, the cost for a table of eight, will cover the cost to temporarily shelter 15 people.

Baker said the event is a force for good in the region. She said the project is not only a fundraiser for the Samaritan Center, but it also promotes mental healthcare and awakens people to a reality which is often neglected.

“I think people are kind of numb to the reality of what life is like for some people,” she said. “[This event], in a nice way, slaps them in the face and tells them what life is like. People really leave moved. They have a better appreciation for what is going on behind the scenes.”

Missouri AG refers 12 former clerics for prosecution

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 19:01

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 13, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt released Friday a report on his investigation into sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics in the state, and referred 12 former clerics for potential criminal prosecution.

“Since I took office, one of my top priorities has been conducting a thorough, exhaustive review of allegations of abuse by clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church. Today, as a result of that review, we are announcing that we will refer 12 cases of alleged abuse to local prosecutors for further investigation and possible prosecution – more referrals than any other state attorney general,” Schmitt, who is a Republican and a Catholic, said Sept. 13.

He added that his office will assist any local prosecutors who want to pursue charges.

“Additionally, we’ve provided concrete recommendations to the Catholic Church moving forward,” he added. He noted that his “suggestions for reform” are “aggressive and substantive.”

The attorney general's office made five recommendations in its report, the first of which was that “the Church should assume greater responsibility and oversight over all religious order priests and priests visiting or relating from other dioceses to subject them to the same procedures and oversight with regard to youth protection and clergy abuse as if they were diocesan priests.”

The report said that dioceses have less oversight over religious priests than their secular counterparts, and stated: “this arrangement has prevented the AGO from conducting a complete review of religious order priests working in Missouri. The AGO has had to rely on the scant diocesan records provided to it regarding these priests, along with information gathered from victims presenting evidence relating thereto.”

“Before granting faculties to a religious order priest or a priest from another diocese, the IRB should complete a meaningful and thorough review of the prospective priest’s records, rather than simply accepting a simple attestation from another bishop or provincial,” the office said.

It also recommended that each diocese ensure its “Independent Review Board is composed entirely of lay people and its determinations of credibility and sanctions will be given authoritative weight with respect to the ability of an offending priest to minister in its diocese.”

The third recommendation was that dioceses review all claims of abuse from before the 2002 adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, subjecting them to the Charter's standards.

The office said that when the review boards have found credible allegations against priests, this “should be publicly disclosed without delay.” It stated that an offending priest's age and health should not be considered a reason to forgo dismissal from the clerical state, and that dioceses “should advocate for reforms of the laicization process so that it may be completed within one year after the IRB makes its decision,” or that “discussions of reform within the church should include proposals for expediting the process of laicizing priests after the completion of a diocesan review of misconduct and the establishment of a complete corroborating factual record.”

Finally, the attorney general's office recommended that “a robust program on notification and supervision of priests removed from public ministry or from the clerical state should be undertaken.”

The report said it recommendations would “strengthen oversight and protect victims from future abuse.”

The Archdiocese of St. Louis said that it is “taking the Attorney General’s recommendations to the Catholic Church into careful consideration and will continue to evaluate and enhance our safe environment programs for the safety of all of our families.”

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City commented that “it is my sincere hope the report assists the Catholic Church in Missouri in achieving our goals of accountability and transparency, while respecting the legal standards for privacy of all affected by the report.”

“I will take into consideration the recommendations from the report on how we can improve our efforts to keep our children safe and in healthy environments,” he added.

Schmitt's investigation was begun last year by his predecessor, Josh Hawley.

His office reviewed the personnel records of priests serving in the state's four dioceses dating back to 1945, and spoke to abuse victims or their families who contacted the office.

The investigation found credible allegations of 163 instances of sexual abuse or misconduct by diocesan clerics against minors. The offenses range from boundary violations, such as inappropriate discussion or correspondence, to forcible rape.

Of the credibly accused, 83 are dead. Of the remaining 80, 46 are past the statue of limitations for prosecution, 16 have already been referred for prosecution, 12 will be referred for prosecution, five have been or are being investigated by prosecutors, and one is still under investigation by the Church.

The instances of misconduct “overwhelmingly” occurred before 2002, the report notes, and since that year the dioceses in Missouri “have implemented a series of reforms that have improved their response to, and reporting of, abuse.”

It added, however, “that since 2002, the church has, on occasion, failed to meet even its own internal procedures on abuse reporting andreporting to law enforcement,” citing Bishop Robert Finn's failure for five months to report possession of child pornography by one of his priests. Finn resigned from office in 2015.

The report said that since 2002 “the church has generally taken a much more pastoral approach to engaging with victims and has, in most instances, promptly reported suspected abuse.”

The attorney general's office identified what it called “certain internal and systematic failures of the dioceses,” saying first that “there is no independent oversight of a bishop’s day-to-day implementation of church protocols. Bishops report to no one below the Pope in the hierarchy of the church and, while uncoordinated and sometimes overlapping networks of associations and working groups exist throughout the states, regions and country, there is simply no single source of outside oversight over each bishop and no means by which best practices are effectively implemented.”

It asserted that “the lack of independent oversight of the bishops’ implementation of protocols, as well as the lack of independent review of allegations against bishops themselves, remain significant impediments to reform and improved protections.”

Judgment reached in Knights of Columbus contract lawsuit

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 18:00

Denver, Colo., Sep 13, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A federal jury concluded Thursday that the Knights of Columbus breached a verbal contract with a technology company that hoped to become a “designated vendor” for local councils and other organizations connected to the Catholic fraternal organization. The jury awarded plaintiff UKnight Interactive $500,000, far less than the $100 million its lawsuit petitioned for.

In a statement released Sept. 12, the Knights of Columbus said they were pleased that the jury saw the lawsuit as a “garden variety contract case,” and not the complex case of conspiracy or fraud alleged by the plaintiff.

In the course of litigation, the plaintiff alleged that the Knights of Columbus pad membership numbers, a charge the Knights of Columbus called “baseless.”

“As testimony and evidence during the trial revealed, the plaintiffs sought in this contract case to concoct a narrative about the manner and intent behind the way the Knights track its membership numbers. We defended ourselves vigorously against these false claims because we believe we owe it to the men who volunteer their time as members of this organization and to the many people who give generously to our charities to remove any doubt about the honesty, character and integrity of our organization,” the Knights of Columbus said.

UKnight Interactive first filed suit against the Knights of Columbus in 2017, claiming a verbal contract worth $100 million to UKnight had been broken, and that the fraternal organization used the company’s proprietary website design elements to seek contracts with other technology companies.

The Knights of Columbus denied that claim.

The Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882, are a Catholic fraternal and service organization, offering life insurance and other financial products to members. The organization began, in part, to provide insurance to Catholic immigrant laborers and their families. The Knights of Columbus claim nearly two million members worldwide, and announced in August that the organization gave $185.7 million in charity in 2018.


Bishop Bransfield's life of luxury

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:00

Wheeling, W.V., Sep 13, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- New details have emerged about the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield. Bransfield spent nearly one million dollars on private jets and over $660,000 on airfare and hotels during his 13 years as bishop of his former diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

A new investigation by the Washington Post, published Sept. 12, reported that during his last year in active ministry, Bransfield took at least 19 trips in what was described as a chartered luxury jet. Those trips cost the diocese more than $142,000. 

In accord with canon law, Bransfield submitted his resignation as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston was to Pope Francis last September following his 75th birthday. It was accepted immediately.

Following his resignation, Pope Francis ordered Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore to conduct an investigation into allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adult males and misused diocesan finances during his time in West Viginia. 

Following that investigation, Lori banned Bransfield from public ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Archdiocese of Baltimore in March, and the Vatican announced a series of sanctions in July. 

In addition to restrictions on publicly celebrating Mass within the diocese, Bransfield was also prohibited from living in his former diocese ordered to “make personal amends for some of the harm he caused.” These “personal amends” are to be determined by Bransfield’s successor, Bishop Mark Brennan, who took office on September 3, 2019. 

Other examples of financially irresponsible conduct highlighted by the report included a diocesean pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC,  which is just under a five-hour drive from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Wheeling. Pilgrims who opted to spend the night in DC paid $190 each for bus, hotel, and breakfast, while others paid $30 for a day-trip ticket. 

Bransfield did not take the bus with the other pilgrims. Instead, he chartered a private plane for the 33-minute trip between Wheeling and Dulles International Airport, taking a limousine to and from the airport. Bransfield’s travel costs of nearly $7,000 were paid by the diocese. 

The Post also found that Bransfield had a pattern of travelling first-class when flying on commercial airlines and stays in luxury hotel suites - including a weeklong stay in The Colony Hotel’s “Presidential Penthouse” in January 2018 that cost the diocese $9,336. 

Bishop Bransfield told the Post that he was not the one who made the reservations at luxury hotels, and instead placed the blame on his staff. He declined to say who was responsible for making reservations. 

On trips to Europe, both for work and personal vacation, Bransfield stayed in luxury accommodation, and often travelling with young priests in their 20s. Bransfield was accused of sexual harassment by at least one of his travel companions. 

Some of the bishop’s travel was connected to his work with the Papal Foundation, the board of which he led until his retirement last year. 

Bransfield also spent thousands of dollars on jewelry and other clothing, including spending more than $60,000 of diocesean money at a boutique jeweler in Washington, DC during his time in office. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, Bransfield said that West Virginia was unable to provide “the lifestyle [he] lived in Washington.” 

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston met the costs for Bransfield’s travels to visit his family, and much of his month-long stays on the Jersey Shore. The diocese paid for a $276 purchase at a liquor store, as well as a month-long car rental for $2,975. 

He also chartered a jet to and from the Jersey Shore to Washington, DC, for a meeting following the announcement that he was being investigated for financial improprieties. 

During Bransfield’s time as bishop, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston either shut down or ceased funding more than 20 parishes and parochial schools.

Bishops say reducing refugee numbers 'wholly counter to our values'

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Sep 13, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- As the Trump administration reportedly considers further cuts to U.S. refugee admissions, the leader of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee has stated his opposition to any such plan.

Any “further reductions in the number of refugees” accepted into the U.S. “would be wholly counter to our values as a nation of immigrants,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration stated on Friday.

Bishop Vasquez was responding to reports by the New York Times that the White House is considering further reductions to U.S. refugee admissions from the current cap of 30,000, which is already the lowest cap on record for the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

Some of the reported considerations range from accepting zero refugees altogether, unless in case of emergency, to reducing the admissions cap to a range of 10-15,000. In July, POLITICO also reported that administration security officials had suggested in a meeting of lowering the cap on refugee admissions to 10-15,000, or even zero.

The administration’s previous ceiling for refugee admissions for FY 2018 was 45,000; in FY 2017, the Obama administration set the ceiling at 110,000 but the Trump administration instituted a freeze of the resettlement program, and ultimately admitted 53,716 refugees.

The current cap on refugee acceptance for the 2019 fiscal year is 30,000; as of August 31, the U.S. had accepted 28,062 refugees for FY 2019, according to State Department data.

“America welcomes refugees; that is who we are, that is what we do. Such reductions would undermine America’s leadership role as a global champion and protector of religious freedom and human rights,” Bishop Vasquez said.

He cited the Catholic Church’s history of helping resettle refuges in the U.S., “beginning with European refugees in the aftermath of World War I.”

“The 3.4 million refugees that America has welcomed since 1975 have paid billions of dollars in taxes, founded companies, earned citizenship, and bought homes at notably high rates,” Bishop Vasquez said.

“As the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 29th, we are reminded of Pope Francis urging us all to work for a ‘globalization of solidarity’ with refugees, not a globalization of ‘indifference’,” he said.

Catholic bishops, leaders lament U.S. decision to deny Bahamian immigrants TPS

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 11:15

Miami, Fla., Sep 13, 2019 / 09:15 am (CNA).- U.S. officials announced Wednesday that a protective immigration status will not be extended to Bahamian migrants, despite the small country’s ongoing recovery from a destructive storm this month. Catholic leaders have condemned the decision, and two Florida bishops say that Bahamians need help from U.S. Catholics.
Jose Magaña-Salgado, TPS Campaign Coordinator for CLINIC, said the move lacks compassion, especially while thousands of Bahamians are still missing as a result of the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.

“There is not even a sense of [the range] of destruction here or the chaos that these individuals are all facing, and to dismiss TPS out-of-hand so prematurely is just a very cruel and unnecessary action,” Magaña-Salgado  told CNA.

Established in 1990, “Temporary Protective Status” (TPS) allows immigrants from an unsafe country to reside in the United States for up to 18 months. Immigrants from a TPS-designated nation would not face deportation and would have permission to work. If the country’s problems continue after the initial period, TPS-designates can apply to extend their stay.

“Temporary Protective Status is an immigration humanitarian protection that was created by Congress for situations where it was unsafe to return nationals back to their home country because of extraordinary and temporary positions, like an armed conflict [or] environmental disaster,” said Magaña-Salgado.

“We are strongly urging the administration to use Temporary Protective Status to protect, at least, the 4,000 Bahamians who have already arrived in the United States,”  he added.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice also expressed concern over the government’s decision for Bahamian immigrants. He said, as a Florida resident, he has witnessed hurricanes and has sympathy for all those affected by this natural disaster.

“The United States has a long history of granting some kind of status to refugees who might come to us because of natural disasters,” he said.

“I think it would have been appropriate, and there was every ability of the government to grant TPS. However, they’ve chosen not to,” Dewane told CNA.

“Florida has the greatest number of Bahamians outside of the Bahamas themselves, so for us, it would have been a natural way in. I think the population of Florida has always been helpful” for people in similar situations, he said.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the northwestern Bahamas on Sept. 1 and it churned atop some of the country’s islands for two days. In the Bahamas, the storm’s death toll is officially 50, but that number is expected to climb. 2,500 people are still missing after the storm.

Catholic Relief Services said the hurricane struck the country with winds between 185 mph and 220 mph. More 76,000 people have been displaced or severely impacted; there is not yet power or clean water in the northwestern islands of the country.

According to a recent statistic from The Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 33,000 Bahamian immigrants are living in the United States, a majority of whom are in Florida. Since the storm hit, an additional 4,000 Bahamians have arrived in the U.S.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami told CNA that about 80 percent of the Bahamas is unaffected by the hurricane. However, he said the islands like Abaco and Grand Bahama are devastated.

He said people are displaced from their homes seeking shelter in the southern regions of the country, like the capital Nassau. He said these places are running out of space.

“The Bahamians need assistance with rebuilding after the hurricane,” he said. “A lot of people are concerned. I talked to the [Archbishop of Nassau] twice already and he’s lost a couple of schools on the islands there and he’s lost a church.

“I have taken up a collection in all my parishes. I gave the pastors the option to do either last week or this week.”

The archbishop said he is not surprised that the current administration denied TPS to Bahamians, noting that Venezuelans who face a dangerous dictatorial regime were also denied the temporary status earlier this year.

While TPS has allowed more than 300,000 people to reside in the U.S., the Trump administration has discouraged the use of TPS and tried to remove six countries from the TPS list, USA Today reported. These countries make-up 98 percent of the TPS immigrant population.

Wenski said, in the Parable of the Last Judgment, Christ encourages people to care for the vulnerable. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ compares the services rendered to those in need as a charity done towards himself. Wenski said, likewise, Christ is reflected in the immigrant.

“We remember that Jesus was the immigrant … not only because he was a refugee in Egypt, but, since God became man, you could say that Jesus immigrated from Heaven to come live among us,” he said.

“So being welcoming to the immigrant is in the DNA of our Catholic faith.”

ND judge nixes law requiring doctors to inform women on abortion pill reversal

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 20:01

Bismarck, N.D., Sep 12, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- After a North Dakota judge nixed part of a new law requiring doctors to inform their patients about abortion pill reversal, pro-life advocates say they hope the decision will be overturned.

“While this is a disservice to women, who have a right to this information, we're hopeful that Attorney General Stenehjem will appeal and defend this common-sense law. Women have a right to know,” Medora Nagle, Executive Director of North Dakota Right to Life, told CNA.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland granted a preliminary injunction Sept. 10 against part of a North Dakota law which would have required physicians to tell their patients that a medically-induced abortion could be reversed if the patient acted quickly.

The injunction was sought by the American Medical Association, Access Independent Health Services, Inc., Dr. Kathryn L. Eggleston, and Red River Women's Clinic, which is the only clinic providing abortions in the state.

"Legislation which forces physicians to tell their patients, as part of informed consent, that 'it may be possible' to reverse or cure an ailment, disease, illness, surgical procedure, or the effects of any medication—in the absence of any medical or scientific evidence to support such a message—is unsound, misplaced, and would not survive a constitutional challenge under any level of scrutiny," Hovland said in his decision.

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

Several pro-life clinics throughout the country provide abortion pill reversals, a protocol that involves giving pregnant women who regret their decision to take the first drug doses of progesterone to counteract the progesterone-blocking effects of the mifepristone.

Teresa Kenney is a women's health nurse practitioner with the Sancta Familia (Holy Family) Medical Apostolate in Omaha, Nebraska. Kenney told CNA that because progesterone is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, and the benefit of reversing a medical abortion is so great, the procedure “makes complete sense” from a scientific standpoint.

“If I give a medicine that decreases or blocks progesterone to stop a pregnancy, then it makes perfect logical medical sense to give progesterone to help reverse that,” Kenney told CNA.

“The benefit is overwhelmingly positive,” she added, “and in this situation...I would argue that two lives are actually saved when it works, because not only do you save the life of the baby, and that's a human life being saved...but you also save the life of the mother in the sense that when she has made a choice that she deeply regrets, and we have now given her the opportunity to emotionally and physically change that choice, and it succeeds, we've saved her life too.”

Kenney said that progesterone has been scientifically proven to be safe for women and their babies in early pregnancy to prevent natural miscarriages from occurring.

“Just because there hasn't been a randomized controlled double-blind study on abortion pill reversal doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense to implement it in medicine, because there is already scientific support for progesterone in early pregnancy in the prevention and miscarriage,” she said.

“Do we need more research? Absolutely. But to withhold treatment when, again, we know that it does no harm...we know that it medically makes sense, it scientifically makes sense, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive, why wouldn't we do it?” she said.

Kenney said that she finds it “frustrating” that there has been a lot of research and effort in the medical community to prevent pregnancy, but not as much to support it.

“We do live in a contraceptive society,” she said. “We have a culture against life. And so all of the studies are geared towards preventing pregnancy.”

Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said Sept. 10 that “North Dakota legislators rightly believed that women should know about the procedure before starting the abortion process.”

He stated, “the abortion lobby co-opted the American Medical Association and used legal technicalities and medical complexities to deny women the right to know. We applaud the legislators who overwhelming supported HB 1336, Governor Burgum for signing the measure, the physicians who submitted testimony to the court in support of the law, and the Attorney General for defending women’s rights.”

One pro-life clinic that offers abortion pill reversal is Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado.

Dede Chism, a nurse practitioner and co-founder and executive director of Bella, told CNA in 2018 that because progesterone is known to be safe for pregnant women and unborn babies, the progesterone abortion pill reversal procedure is “common sense.”

A recent study, published in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals, and showed that the reversal success rates were 68 percent with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64 percent with an injected progesterone protocol.

Both procedures significantly improved the 25 percent fetal survival rate if no treatment is offered and a woman simply declines the second pill of a medical abortion. The case study also showed that the progesterone treatments caused no increased risk of birth defects or preterm births.

The study was authored by Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009. Delgado also sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a group that supports the abortion pill procedure reversal.

Nagle said that women should be empowered by the law, and that they should be given “all of the information before making a decision of this magnitude.”

According to Nagle, seven other states have similar laws on the books requiring doctors to tell their patients about the abortion pill reversal procedure, which she said has saved more than 750 babies so far.

“We won't be discouraged,” she said. “We will continue to fight for women's rights to be given all of the information.”

Florida parents who refused chemo for child denied custody

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 19:20

Tampa, Florida, Sep 12, 2019 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A judge in Florida has denied a couple custody of their four-year-old son, who has leukemia, because there is “imminent risk of neglect” if he stays with his parents, who skipped a chemotherapy session for the child in order to leave the state to seek alternative treatments.

A judge ruled Sept. 9 that the Tampa Bay-area parents, Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball, will be required to undergo a psychological evaluation with a parenting index after which point they may be able to be reunified with their son Noah, who is currently with his grandparents, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Kevin Miller, assistant professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, stressed that the Catholic Church takes parental rights very seriously, but these rights should not be misused.

“When it is not fairly clear that parental rights are being abused, it seems to me, the state should generally be deferential to parents,” Miller told CNA.

But this case, he said, raises serious questions about whether the parents are misusing their authority and rights.

Florida law allows the state to provide medical treatment to children even if the parents object, CBS News reports.

“There was no alternative with a remote chance of success...They were choosing between life and death for their child,” Judge Palermo said as quoted by Fox13.

If the parents do not comply with the evaluation, the out-of-home placement could become permanent. They have 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision, the Times reports.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg diagnosed Noah with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2019.

After two rounds of treatment, on April 22, 2019, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office issued a Missing Endangered Child alert after the parents did not show up for Noah’s third treatment, stating that “the parents failed to bring in the child to a medically necessary hospital procedure.”

McAdams, Bland-Ball, and Noah were located in Kentucky a week later; they had fled to Ohio to seek alternative treatments. Authorities placed Noah in the custody of his maternal grandparents in early May 2019.

The child’s mother argues that rather than denying him lifesaving treatment, she and her husband were simply seeking a second opinion, believing that chemotherapy had harmful side effects. On a GoFundMe page, Bland-Ball says that they were unhappy with the treatment they received at the hospital in St. Petersburg, and also that Noah’s condition has not improved.

Bland-Ball had sought to use “rosemary, Vitamin B Complex, including B17, completely alkaline diet, Rosemary, a liver/kidney/gallbladder/blood herbal extract, daily colloidal silver, high dose vitamin c, collagen, Reishi mushroom tea and grapefruit peel and breastmilk” as alternative treatments for Noah’s leukemia.

She has also posted on Facebook seeking cannabis treatments for Noah, and her attorney has confirmed that Noah also has received CBD and THC oil treatments. Medical marijuana is legal in Florida.

Bland-Ball also moved Noah’s PICC line, which she had no formal training on how to do other than watching instructional YouTube videos, the judge said.

Among the reasons the judge cited for his decision were evidence the parents dumped a car and cell phones while fleeing Florida, and the judge stated that he was convinced that the parents would flee Florida again if given the chance.

The judge also cited McAdams’ “proclivity for aggression” towards family members. McAdams in August 2016 was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery by Brooksville police, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

McAdams reportedly threw a plastic toy bucket at Bland-Ball but accidentally hit Noah, cutting his face. McAdams then shoved Bland-Ball into a wall "multiple times," causing a head contusion, the Times reported.

He spent three days in jail, records show, and the case was dropped in March 2017; McAdams later attended counseling. The Times reports that Bland-Ball also filed for a protective injunction against McAdams, according to court records, but it was later dismissed.

‘Appropriate social measures’

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.”

According to Miller, those rights include the right of parents to make decisions about how to promote the welfare— physical, psychological, intellectual, spiritual— of their children.

He also emphasized that “the family is a community of love in a way that no other community is capable of being,” and thus respect for family rights serves the good of both family members and of society more broadly.

The Catechism also teaches: “The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life.”

But, Miller told CNA, some actions that parents might claim to be exercises of parental rights might actually be abuses of those rights. In case of gross abuses, he said, putting children in serious danger, it can be appropriate for the state, as part of its natural purpose of looking after the common good of its members, to step in and stop those abuses; this is obviously the case when, for example, parents subject their children to certain kinds of violence.

Parents overruled

Of course, Miller said, it is possible for the state to overstep its authority.

International cases such as that of 11-month-old Charlie Gard in 2017 and toddler Alfie Evans last year have highlighted situations of the state determining treatment for a patient against the parent’s wishes. In both cases, which took place in the UK, the state determined that the patients be removed from life support, despite the protest of the parents.

These cases are different from the Florida case, Miller said, because in both UK cases, the state was choosing death for the children in question, and in the Florida case, the state is prioritizing a treatment aimed at saving child’s life.

“I think one clear difference is that in those [UK] cases, it was the state that— I don't think it's hyperbole to say— wanted them to die,” Miller commented.

He noted that in the Gard case, the parents attempted to transfer to transfer the child to the United States to undergo an experimental treatment for his condition.

"In the one case, it was experimental treatment, but it was experimental treatment offered as part of a bone fide study by a bone fide doctor at a bone fide hospital here in the US. So in that case they were pursuing an approach that you could certainly call extraordinary rather than ordinary means of treatment, but there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's within the rights of the parents to decide whether to pursue that kind of a treatment or not."

He noted that in both of the UK cases, the question was not whether or not to pursue an alternate form of treatment, but rather whether or not to continue basic life-saving measures.

Miller said the only similarity he sees between the UK cases and the Florida case is the fact that the state overruled the wishes of the parents.

“This [Florida] case, in multiple respects, is almost like the opposite of what was going on in the Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans cases,” Miller said.

“In terms of what the parents are trying to do, and in terms of what the state is trying to do...there's absolutely no inconsistency in siding with what the state is doing in this present case and siding with the parents in those earlier cases.”

‘An abuse of parental rights’

“I suspect that the parents are genuinely sincere in claiming that what they want to do is in their son’s best interest – although the fact that the father, on one occasion, attempted an act of violence against the mother that ended up injuring their son is cause for concern,” Miller said.

“Nevertheless – and putting aside that point about the father’s history – it seems to me that what they want to do constitutes an abuse of parental rights.”

According to Fox13, the judge said the particular type of chemotherapy being given to Noah has a 70-year track record with 90-95% success rate.

“Proper treatment, based on evidence established by a tremendous amount of research, is, sadly, very difficult for the child, his parents, and other family members. It takes several years. There are side effects, including serious ones, during this period. There is the possibility of other side effects appearing years later. The fact remains that in the vast majority of cases, treatment is lifesaving, and so confers benefits that far outweigh the burdens,” Miller noted.

“In contrast, there is absolutely no evidence to support the parents’ view that stopping standard treatment very early, and switching to the approach that they favor, will confer any benefit. Rather, it is certain that – barring a miracle – the child will come out of remission and die of leukemia.”

Miller also pointed out a fact that has been circulated in news reports about the case: that at least one of the alternative treatments that Bland-Ball mentions, known commonly as Vitamin B17, has been found by the National Center for Biomedical Information to not only be likely ineffective for curing cancer, but also bringing with it the potential for cyanide poisoning.

“Again: We ought to be vigilant about the problem of abuse of state authority. This does happen – including in the area of health-care decision making. The phenomenon of ‘medical kidnapping’ is not purely fictitious,” Miller cautioned.

“But in the case at hand, it is clear to me that it is the parents – not the state – who are abusing their rights.”

‘Measure of last resort’

Father Tad Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that removal of a child from parental custody ought to be a measure of “last resort,” to be used only after a “shared understanding” between the parents and healthcare professionals cannot be achieved.

“Sometimes parents may be attracted to ‘alternative’ treatments they came across on the internet that have not [been] tested or verified, and it may be important to spend a great deal of time and energy explaining to such parents the clear preferability of using standard treatments that have been tested and verified as efficacious for many patients,” Pacholczyk said.

Pacholczyk said parents should generally be permitted to make medical judgements on behalf of minor children, especially when weighing the burdens of particular treatments such as chemotherapy— or, as in the Charlie Gard case, whether to discontinue treatment altogether.

“The decision to discontinue such interventions ultimately lies with the patient — or in this case with the parents as the child’s proxy,” he said.

In making such judgements, he noted, parents need to be in close communication with healthcare professionals, and avail themselves of their medical expertise, prior to reaching any conclusions regarding the proposed treatment.

“In situations where there is a standard treatment available, one that works in a high percentage of may indeed be unreasonable, and even wrong, for parents to decline such a treatment if the burdens to their child associated with its use are fairly low,” he said.

“In such cases, however, the first line of attack should be not to take away the custody of their child, but to work assiduously to convince the parents to use the most effective approach.”

Echoing Miller, Pacholczyk said that the family is, broadly speaking, the best place for a child, and “custody should be taken away only in clear situations of manifest danger to the child or in other evident situations of abuse or gross neglect.”

Judge Palermo in the Florida case emphasized that in his view, the state had “met its burden and found clear and convincing evidence for neglect.”

“Being raised through substitute arrangements set up by the state is many times more detrimental to the well-being of children than remaining within their native family setting,” he said.

“State and governmental agencies are almost invariably worse at caring for the needs of children than the child's own parents, even when those parents may not exercise perfect judgment or may lack ideal parenting skills.”

Ahead of fiscal deadline, senators use budget process to attack Mexico City Policy

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 19:01

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- US Senate Democrats sought to repeal the Mexico City Policy this week in an appropriations bill, raising concern that some pro-life policies could be endangered during budget negotiations as the end of the fiscal year approaches.

Democrats on the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee attempted to insert an amendment that repealed the Mexico City Policy into a State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill, resulting in the bill being pulled from consideration for advancement out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week.

With just weeks to go before the Sept. 30 end of the 2019 fiscal year, budget appropriations for federal agencies need to be determined for FY 2020—but congressional leaders are admitting that might not be possible before the deadline.

The attempted repeal of the Mexico City Policy was coupled with a proposed amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Sept. 10 for another appropriations bill, this one to repeal the administration’s Title X “Protect Life Policy.”

That policy went into effect in August, and required any recipient of Title X family planning funds to not refer for abortions and not be “collocated” with an abortion clinic. Murray’s proposed amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill resulted in its being pulled from consideration for markup as well.

“Senate GOP pulled an approps bill before a markup today to avoid voting on my amendment to get rid of the #TitleX gag rule,” Murray tweeted Sept. 10. “If they are more willing to listen to President Trump than patients in their own states, they should own up to it & let their votes show it. #SaveTitleX”.

In a Sept. 10 press conference Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed Republican attempts to insert $12 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border into appropriations for holding up the process.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at a markup hearing Sept. 12 that the planned advancement of the two appropriations bills had to be scuttled because of the “threat of poison pill amendments” which “would have prevented Senate passage and drawn the President’s veto.”

“I am hopeful we can resolve these matters and move forward on both measures soon,” Shelby said in his remarks at the beginning of the hearing, adding that the proposed amendments violated the budget agreement between President Trump and Congressional leaders.

The budget agreement—reached in July by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)—called for no attempts to insert “poison pills” into spending legislation in the next two years, including any attempts to undo pro-life policies of the administration, without the consensus of all involved in the agreement.

“Poison pills” refers to attempts to insert amendments or riders into legislation that would be deemed troublesome or controversial; opponents would supposedly be forced to scuttle the legislation or keep the controversial amendments.

Senate Pro-Life Caucus chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) had called for Trump to stand strong against any attempts to use the appropriations process to repeal his administration’s pro-life policies.

However, the July budget agreement was flawed because it amounted to nothing more than a “handshake deal,” March for Life Action president Tom McClusky told CNA, and is “not worth the paper it was written on.”

There would reportedly have not been enough votes in the appropriations committee to prevent the “poison pills” from staying in the legislation anyhow. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are two Republicans on the committee who might have supported the proposals; they have a 70 percent rating and a 65 percent rating, respectively, for 2019 from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

With just weeks to go before the end of the fiscal year, McClusky warned that a Continuing Resolution—a short-term temporary extension of budget authority for federal agencies—would be better than alternative scenarios.

“The best thing for pro-lifers right now is a CR,” McClusky told CNA, explaining that the status quo would be better than other alternatives where senators might have to vote on “poison pill” amendments to fund the government.

The Mexico City Policy is generally one of the first policies implemented—or repealed—by an incoming presidential administration. Started by President Ronald Reagan, the policy bars foreign non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions from U.S. family planning assistance.

In 2017, the Trump administration reinstituted the Mexico City Policy and vastly expanded its protections against taxpayer funding of abortions internationally, through the new “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in May that the administration would also not fund any groups that give financial assistance to other groups in the abortion industry, and would not fund any lobbying for abortion.

Senators from both parties emphasized the importance of passing appropriations bills before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“As appropriators, we should all want to extend that bipartisan success, not relapse into the partisan bickering that left us lurching from crisis to crisis,” Shelby said on Thursday. “The time for haggling over the terms of the budget agreement has passed. The time to get our work done is upon us, and it is running short.”

“I know both the chairman and I wish we could have begun the process sooner, but I hope we can work very well over the next few weeks,” the committee’s vice chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) stated at the Sept. 12 hearing.

“The reason our subcommittee has been successful in passing bipartisan bills in the past is because we avoided controversial issues,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the committee, said in a written statement to CNA.
“What Democrats appear to be proposing in terms of stopping the president’s Title X regulations is clearly a violation of the budget agreement. I would hope to see our Democrat colleagues keep their word so we can get to work on this bill, which funds a variety of critical health care programs,” he said.

Minnesota House committee hears testimony on assisted suicide

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 18:01

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 12, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- More than 200 people attended an informational hearing of a Minnesota House committee Wednesday that listened to testimony regarding an assisted suicide bill, which is unlikely to advance in the Republican-led Senate.

Among those testifying against the End-of-Life Options Act was Kathy Ware, who cares for her 21-year-old son Kylen, who has multiple disabilities.

“My son is not undignified because I have to help him use the bathroom,” Ware said Sept. 11, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “This bill makes a public statement by law that death is better than living with a disability like Kylen.”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Mike Freiberg of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. It would allow a mentally capable adult with a terminal illness who has six months or fewer to live to be prescribed life-ending medication. A second doctor would have to confirm the terminally ill adult's situation.

The manner of death of those who commit assisted suicide would be “listed as the underlying terminal illness and not as a suicide or homicide.”

The bill says that “a person who has custody or control of medical aid-in-dying medication … that remains unused after the terminally ill adult's death shall dispose of the unused medical aid-in-dying medication by lawful means according to state and federal guidelines including: (1) returning the unused medical aid-in-dying medication to a federally approved medication take-back program or mail-back program; or (2) returning the unused medical aid-in-dying medication to the local or state police departments who shall dispose of the medication by lawful means.”

In Oregon, where assisted suicide was legalized in 1997, doctors have written 2,217 prescriptions for lethal medication, and about two-thirds of those who were prescribed them, 1,459, have died from the drugs.

The Minnesota bill would allow health care providers to choose not to provide assisted suicide, but requires the provider to “make reasonable efforts to accommodate the terminally ill adult's request including transferring care of the terminally ill adult to a new health care provider.”

Health care facilities would be able to bar their employees from providing assisted suicide only if the terminally ill person intends to take the medication “on the facility's premises.”

The bill also declares that what it terms “aid-in-dying” does not constitute suicide or assisted suicide.

Marianne Turnbull, a St. Paul resident who has cancer and supports the bill, said at the hearing of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee that “when the time comes, I want a good death. I want to die at home surrounded by people who love me.”

Stephanie Packer travelled from California to testify against the bill, the Star Tribune reported. Packer has pulmonary fibrosis, and said her insurer stopped covering several of her medications after assisted suicide was legalized in her home state, and she was told her copay for assisted suicide medication would be only $1.20.

“If there are other options out there to save them money, they are good businesspeople, and they are going to do it,” she said of insurance companies.

A Nevada physician, Dr. T. Brian Callister, warned that with legal assisted suicide, “what we are going to see is a movement towards the cheapest treatment” by insurers. “The cheapest treatment is the medicine that is going to kill you.”

Senator John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, told the AP that insurers could pressure the elderly and disabled to use assisted suicide medication, and said, “I think people with disabilities should be pretty concerned.”

Rep. Anne Neu questioned at the hearing how many people would choose assisted suicide “in fear of being a burden on their families.”

The state's bishops are among the religious leaders opposed to the bill.

At the hearing, Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota noted his opposition to the bill, while Harlan Limpert, a Unitarian Universalist minister, indicated his support.

Senator Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who chairs the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said shortly after the House committee's hearing that “physician-assisted suicide is a dangerous policy and we will not hear it in the Senate.”

“Many of those opposed to state-sanctioned suicide are in the mental health and disability community because when people are vulnerable, they are at the greatest risk of outside influence clouding their personal judgement,” she noted. “When people are facing difficult decisions or even desperation, the state should not be telling them ending their life is a way out.”

Benson suggested palliative care as a “life-affirming” alternative, and said: “In fact, we proposed a palliative care commission to discuss policy options that would support palliative care, but House Democrats opposed the bill.”

“Senate Republicans have increased funding and expanded health care access to those with mental health issues in recent years. It frightens me to consider someone who may be having suicidal ideation could be told that suicide is a positive choice for their life. Let’s be clear: it is not. Whether it’s done by a medical professional or an individual’s tragic decision, suicide hurts those left behind,” she stated.

“Finally, if physician-assisted suicide becomes law, it may be easier for some to remind those with a high level of care that it is cheaper for them to die than to keep them alive. The cost of care is not how we determine the value of someone’s life.”

The state legislature will not reconvene until February 2020.

In the US, assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and in Montana by a court ruling. A law allowing it in Maine will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and a law legalizing it in New Jersey is on hold while it is being challenged in court.

In Colorado, a Colorado man who has cancer and his doctor have filed a suit against a Catholic health system alleging that its policy barring doctors from participating in assisted suicide violates state law.

Florist appeals to Supreme Court for second time over same-sex wedding case

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A florist in Washington state sued for declining to serve a same-sex wedding is once again appealing her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a statement issued Sept. 11, lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom said that Barronelle Stutzman’s case must be considered by the court for a second time.

Stutzman’s appeal comes after the Washington state Supreme Court ruled against her for the second time earlier this year, saying that “the adjudicatory bodies that considered this case did not act with religious animus” in ruling against Stutzman.

“Regardless of what one believes about marriage, no creative professional should be forced to create art or participate in a ceremony that violates their core convictions. That’s why we have taken Barronelle’s case back to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. Legal Division of ADF and attorney for Stutzman, said on Wednesday.

In 2013, the 74 year-old florist declined to make flower arrangements for the same-sex wedding of long-time customer and friend Rob Ingersoll, saying that she believed marriage to be a sign of relationship between Christ and His Church and she could not make a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. Stutzman referred Ingersoll to several nearby florists. 

Although Ingersoll did not file a complaint with the state, Stutzman was later sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the attorney general of Washington state for discrimination.

“The Attor­ney General concocted a one-of-a-kind lawsuit, prompt­ing others to threaten and harass her,” ADF’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court states.  

In 2017, the Washington state Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling against Stutzman. In June of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the ruling and sent the case back to the state supreme court, ruling that Stutzman’s case should be reconsidered in light of the Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.

In that decision, the Court decided that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed a constitutionally unacceptable hostility toward religion in ruling that Masterpiece Cake Shop baker Jack Phillips violated anti-discrimination law.

In June of 2019, the Washington supreme court again ruled against Stutzman saying the lower courts had not acted with impermissible hostility towards her religious beliefs.

“Although settled law compelled us to reject Arlene's Flowers and Barronelle Stutzman's claims the first time around, we recognized Stutzman's ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ and ‘analyze[d] each of [her] constitutional defenses carefully,’” the court’s decision stated. “And on remand, we have painstakingly reviewed the record for any sign of intolerance on behalf of this court or the Benton County Superior Court, the two adjudicatory bodies to consider this case.”

“After this review, we are confident that the two courts gave full and fair consideration to this dispute and avoided animus toward religion,” the ruling stated. “We therefore find no reason to change our original decision in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop.”

According to ADF, the state supreme court issued largely the same decision that it had previously, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s order to reconsider the case in light of a new decision.

The Washington court said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission applied only to “adjudicatory bodies” and not executive officials like the state’s Attorney General, who brought the case against Stutzman. 

“In any event, we decline to expansively read Masterpiece Cakeshop to encompass the ‘very different context’ of executive branch discretion,” the Washington state supreme court’s decision stated.

In the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ADF argues that the state court effectively excused religious hostility by a state executive official, and that the Supreme Court “should reaffirm that the Free Exercise Clause binds all state actors, not only adjudicators,” and citing four federal circuit court rulings that applied rules barring religious hostility to executive officials.

Stutzman says she stands to lose almost everything that she owns if she loses her case.

“This case is an ideal opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm that the First Amendment protects people who continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” ADF vice president of appellate advocacy John Bursch stated.

“Particularly at a time when society is becoming more confrontational and less civil, it is critical that the courts honor the rights of citizens to speak and act freely, including those who strive to live consistently with their faith,” Bursch said.

US bishops mark 9/11 with prayers

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- On the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Catholic leaders in the United States has spoken in honor of those who lost their lives, and praised the country’s resolve and unity.

“This is my eleventh 9/11 as Archbishop of New York,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a video released Wednesday morning. 

“And when I first came, I went down to Barkly Street, to St. Peter’s Parish, which was one of the sites where people were tended to, and where the bodies and the wounded were brought. And the pastor there said to me, ‘We’re going to rise up. We’re going to see that love conquers hate, and that good conquers evil.’ And boy that spirit of resilience, that spirit of rebuilding and restoration and renewal--that now, I think, characterizes our 9/11.” 

The Archdiocese of New York released a statement via Twitter, offering prayers for the souls and families of those lost eighteen years ago. 

“Today we join our hearts in prayer for all those lives lost and forever altered by the events on September 11th, 2001.” 

The Diocese of Brooklyn offered similar sentiment, saying, “We join together in prayer to never forget, to remember the lives we lost that day and the lives that were changed forever. For everyone who was touched by this day--you are in our prayers and hearts forever.”

In the Vatican, Pope Francis met with an interreligious committee, where they offered prayers for the victims of the attack. 

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, where the Pentagon is located, offered prayers for both the victims and for the country. 

“On the anniversary of this tragic day in our nation’s history, we pray for all those who died and for ongoing strength and consolation for their loved ones,” said Burbdige. “Pray that God will protect us and our country and fill all the world with the peace that only he can give.”

A total of 2,977 people were killed in the attacks in New York, Arlington, VA and in a thwarted attack that ended with a plane crash in Shanksville, PA. The first certified victim of the attack was Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar who was chaplain of the New York Fire Department. Judge was struck by debris and killed while ministering to firefighters at the World Trade Center.

The two planes that struck the Twin Towers originated from Boston’s Logan International Airport. At the time of the attack, the now-Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine, was a pastor at a parish across the harbor from the airport. He shared his memories of the day. 

“I opened up the church and began the rosary,” tweeted Deeley. “Within a short time, the church was full, and it continued for the whole day as we understood little by little what had happened.” 

He said the knowledge that two of the planes had taken off from Logan cast “a darker light” on what had once been a welcoming place. 

Deeley acknowledged that his present city of Portland, Maine also played a role in the attacks--some of the hijackers spent several days in the city prior to the attack and “began their heinous journeys at the (Portland International) Jetport.” 

The attacks, Deeley said, “left us all feeling hopeless,” yet also served as “a moment of hope.” 

“What happened on 9/11 reminded us that we are well-served by those who protect us and serve us. We need to pause to give them thanks. We do not need to wait until a disaster strikes to be grateful for the dedication of all of those whose life [sic] work is the protection of the public,” he said.

“May we continue to reach out in compassion to all who were affected by the violence of 9/11, promote justice for all peoples, and be architects and ambassadors for world peace.”

Senate Democrats move to block all Title X funding

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 12:15

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Senate Democrats acted Tuesday to block funding of the Federal Title X family planning program, drawing condemnation from Republicans and pro-life leaders as a violation of a previous budget agreement between President Trump and congressional leaders.

Senate Democrats inserted an amendment to block funding of the Title X program for the 2020 fiscal year into an appropriations bill Sept. 10; the bill would fund the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, Labor, and other agencies.

In July, Trump and congressional leaders agreed that no “poison pill” riders would be inserted into spending bills for the next two years, including any amendments trying to undo the administration’s existing pro-life policies.

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee responded to Tuesday’s action by canceling a scheduled vote on the bill, prompting questions about the likely passage of the appropriations legislation just weeks before the end of the fiscal year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday called the effort to block Title X funding a “disturbing development” and a violation of the budget agreement.

McConnell said that the budget agreement between President Trump, himself, Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made clear “what a poison pill was. A poison pill was anything that was not in existing law. Anything that was not in existing law. If there was to be any change all five of us would have to sign off on it.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed Republican attempts to insert $12 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as the reason for the breakdown in budget negotiations.

“Their proposal, which didn’t work out the 302(b)s with Democrats or the orders puts $12 billion more for the wall. That’s not going to happen. We know that. That’s what’s causing all their problems,” he said. “They know darn well that $12 billion additional monies for the wall is not going to fly, with Senate Democrats or with the House.”

A markup hearing scheduled on Thursday for the Labor-HHS appropriations bill—required to move it towards the Senate Floor for a vote—has now been postponed, CNA was told by congressional staff, until both sides can agree on how the budget agreement will be applied to the appropriations process.

The effort to block Title X funding comes one month after new administration regulations went into effect for the Title X family planning program. The new rules clarify that abortion cannot be funded under the program as a method of family planning and that recipients cannot make abortion referrals or “collocate” with abortion clinics.

Other requirements include more reporting on subrecipients and referral agencies; mandatory protocols for clinics to protect survivors of sexual assault, as well as mandatory reporting requirements for such cases. The rules also encourage communication between minors and their parents on family planning matters.

Planned Parenthood announced Aug. 19 that it would leave the Title X program, foregoing as much as $60 million per year in Title X grants, rather than comply with the new rule. A statement issued by a senior official at the abortion provider on Tuesday thanked Democrats for fighting to “protect” Title X.

Planned Parenthood vice president of government relations and public policy, Jacqueline Ayers, called the Republicans’ cancellation of the vote on the Labor-HHS appropriations bill “shocking and disgusting” in a statement.

"We thank Senator Murray for making it clear that Democrats and Republicans should stand together and insist that Title X be protected in any spending bill moving through Congress,” Ayers stated, thanking Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In a released a statement on Tuesday, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a leading pro-life advocacy group, called the attempt to block Title X funding “unacceptable” and in opposition to the budget agreement.

“With the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement last month, Democratic Leaders Pelosi and Schumer agreed to keep anti-life poison pills out of subsequent appropriations bills,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“By excluding new riders and poison pills, the agreement safeguarded President Trump’s Protect Life Rule so that Title X tax dollars will no longer be funneled to abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood. It is unacceptable for Senate Democrats to renege on their end of the deal,” Dannenfelser stated.

“Now, on day one of subcommittee markups, Senate Democrats are threatening to derail the entire process with an amendment to force taxpayers to fund the abortion industry against their clearly expressed will.”

Following state, federal funding cuts, two abortion clinics close in Cincinnati

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 02:21

Cincinnati, Ohio, Sep 11, 2019 / 12:21 am (CNA).- In response to new federal and state regulations restricting funding of abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood announced Monday that two of its clinics in Ohio will close this month.

Planned Parenthood currently operates 26 clinics in Ohio. Two will be closing down in the Cincinnati area. Their last day of business will be Sept. 20.

In March, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a state law that bans state funds from going to medical providers that perform abortions, cutting about $600,000 from Ohio Planned Parenthood, the Hill reported. The law passed in 2016, but it was immediately challenged in court.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who authored the majority opinion, said that Ohio had no constitutional requirement to provide funds to any private organization.

“The state may choose to not subsidize constitutionally protected activities,” wrote Sutton. “Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech,” the state has “no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion.”

In addition to the state funding cuts, Planned Parenthood has also seen a decline in federal taxpayer money, after the Trump administration's Protect Life Rule went into effect earlier this summer.

The Protect Life Rule makes changes to the Title X family planning program, barring Title X fund recipients from performing or referring women for abortions. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion can still receive funds.

The rule also prevents participating groups from co-locating with abortion clinics and requires financial separation between recipients of Title X funds and facilities that perform abortions.

Rather than comply with the new rules, Planned Parenthood announced that it was withdrawing from the Title X program. Nationwide, this decision means the organization is forgoing about $60 million in federal funding, of 15% of its annual federal funding. This money will be transferred to other organizations that adhere to the new regulations, so that the total amount of Title X funding distributed will not decrease.

Abortion advocates lamented the funding cuts.

“Cincinnati is the last place politicians should be forcing health centers to close,” said Kersha Deibel, president of Planned Parenthood of southwest Ohio.

She argued that pro-life advocates want to see world “where women lose access to birth control, where information about how to access abortion is held hostage, and where, if you don’t have money, it’s almost impossible to access an STI test or a cancer screening,” she said, according to the Hill.

However, Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, told CNA after the March ruling that the court was correct in ruling that there is no constitutional right to taxpayer-funded abortion.

She rejected Planned Parenthood’s claims “to represent the best interests of women when it advocates for unlimited abortion, as if that were either a health-based or justice-minded approach to the gift of human life.”

Lawsuit over access to online abortion pills is 'ludicrous,' pro-life activists say

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 20:06

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2019 / 06:06 pm (CNA).- Pro-life groups are decrying an effort by a European doctor to sue the United States Food and Drug Administration in order to continue selling medical abortion pills online.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts is a licensed physician in Austria and the founder of Aid Access, a European company that prescribes and mails misoprostol and mifepristone, the drugs required for a medical abortion, to women in the United States.

In March, the FDA issued a cease-and-desist to Aid Access, ordering the group to stop prescribing and mailing the drugs to patients in the United States because they were unregulated.

On Monday, Gomperts, through attorney Richard Hearn, filed a civil action lawsuit in federal court in Idaho against the FDA, seeking the protection of the women who have received the prescriptions, and the protection of her group to continue selling the abortion drugs online.

In the suit, Gomperts claims that the FDA has seized up to 10 doses of the abortion drugs sent through the mail by Aid Access, and blocked some payments from patients made to Aid Access, since March.

Dr. Tara Sander Lee, a senior fellow and the director of life sciences with pro-life research group Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement that it was “ludicrous” of Gomperts to sue the FDA, “a government agency charged with protecting the public health of women by assuring the safety and efficacy of any drug.”

“Far from being safe and effective, abortion pills from Aid Access have been shown to be damaged and contaminated, and these tainted drugs have caused serious—and sometimes even fatal—bacterial infections and excessive bleeding in women,” Lee said.

“It is fully within the FDA's jurisdiction to protect women from harm and prevent these dangerous abortion pills from getting into the hands of any more women. That Aid Access is attempting to stop the FDA from doing their job proves they have no intention of ensuring the health and safety of women in the U.S.,” Lee added.

FDA-approved versions of the medical abortion drugs have been available to US consumers since 2000, but may only be prescribed by a certified health care provider in a hospital, clinic, or medical office setting. They may not be sold online or in a retail pharmacy.

The health care provider must inform patients about the serious risks associated with use of the medications, and sign a waiver certifying the patient has access to emergency care or a surgical abortion in the case of complication.

These requirements are part of an FDA risk mitigation program called REMS, which is used for all higher-risk medications. The March letter to Aid Access stated that the FDA-approved version of mifepristone, called "Mifeprex," is under the REMS program because “the drug carries a risk of serious or even life-threatening adverse effects, including serious and sometimes fatal infections and prolonged heavy bleeding, which may be a sign of incomplete abortion or other complications.”

“The sale of misbranded and unapproved new drugs poses an inherent risk to consumers who purchase those products,” the FDA stated in the letter. “Unapproved new drugs do not have the same assurance of safety and effectiveness as those drugs subject to FDA oversight. Drugs that have circumvented regulatory safeguards may be contaminated; counterfeit, contain varying amounts of active ingredients, or contain different ingredients altogether.”

Hearn told NPR that Gomperts is operating out of a desire to provide abortions to women in remote parts of the U.S. who may not have easy access to a clinical abortion.

“Some women in the United States can exercise that right just by going down the street if those women happen to live in New York or San Francisco or other major metropolitan areas on either one of the coasts,” Hearn told NPR. “But women in Idaho and other rural states, especially conservative states...cannot exercise that right.”

Women who request medical abortions through Aid Access are seen by Gomperts in an online consultation, and if they are approved for the drugs, they are instructed on how to request them from a pharmacy in India.

According to the suit, between March 30, 2018 and August 27, 2019, Aid Access received thousands of requests for chemical abortions from women in the U.S. Gomperts claims that of these women, 7,131 have been prescribed misoprostol and mifepristone through Aid Access.

In its March letter, the FDA said that “by facilitating the sale of unapproved mifepristone and misoprostol to consumers in the U.S., causes the introduction of unapproved new drugs into U.S. commerce in violation of the FD&C Act.”

Gomperts told NPR that Aid Access briefly stopped prescribing the drugs after the FDA letter, but resumed the practice in May.

“The FDA is a huge institution. It's very powerful, and it's a form of intimidation that is quite severe,” Gomperts told NPR. “I would say a form of bullying. And so I think it's very important to stand up against it.”

Aid Access is the sister organization of Women on Web, which sends medical abortion drugs to women seeking abortion in countries in which the practice is illegal, and Women on Waves, a boat that performs abortions in international waters in order to circumvent legal issues women may face.

The lawsuit comes just after Planned Parenthood announced an expansion of its telemedical services through its app, through which users can request birth control delivery, UTI treatment prescriptions, and appointments at Planned Parenthood.

According to its website, Planned Parenthood has also used telemedicine to prescribe mifepristone and misoprostol, the two drugs used in medical abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 18 states require that a licensed physician be physically present during medical abortions, effectively banning abortions prescribed via telemedicine in those states.

Kristan Hawkins, president of pro-life organization Students for Life of America, recently testified to the dangers of RU-486, or medical abortions, in California. In her testimony, she noted that the FDA had previously updated its notes on the dangers of medical abortions.

“As of December 31, 2018, there were reports of 24 deaths of women associated with RU-486 since the product was approved in September 2000, including two cases of ectopic pregnancy resulting in death; and several cases of severe systemic infection (sepsis), including some that were fatal,” the updated FDA note states.

“To date, the report documents nearly 4,200 reported adverse effects, including hospitalization and other serious complications,” Hawkins said at the time.

Hawkins said in a Sept. 9 statement that Aid Access appears to want to prioritize profits over the safety of women.

“Protecting women from the known dangers of abortion-inducing drugs is good and safe policy,” Hawkins said.

“Risking women's lives so that an international sales team for abortion pills can more easily operate is not in the interests of American women. It's easy to understand why a profit-driven industry for chemical abortion pills wants fewer health and safety standards but protecting women from the known dangers of the pills is the right public policy.”


Cheyenne diocese finds credible three abuse allegations against emeritus bishop

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 19:01

Cheyenne, Wyo., Sep 10, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Cheyenne announced Tuesday it has found credible and substantiated three allegations of child sexual abuse against Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart, which it had received since July and August 2018.

The alleged incidents newly found credible occurred in the 1970s and '80s.

“The results of the investigation were given to the Diocesan Review Board, which found the three allegations credible and substantiated,” the diocese stated Sept. 10.

It added that its results were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “for its action”, as well as to the apostolic nuncio; Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver (the metropolitan); and Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph (where Hart served as a prior to his episcopal consecration).

In the statement, Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne said that “I applaud the victims who have come forward to report sexual abuse to the police or the Church. Your courageous action helps us to address these terrible crimes, and your example encourages other victims to find their voice. As the Church, we promise to protect the most vulnerable and to accompany those who have been harmed on a journey of healing.”

In July 2018 the Cheyenne diocese announced that Bishop Hart had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting two boys after he became Bishop of Cheyenne in 1976, following an investigation of charges ordered by Bishop Biegler.

In 2002, a Wyoming man accused the bishop of sexually abusing him as a boy, both during sacramental confession and on outings. The alleged abuse took place after Hart had become a bishop.

The Natrona County district attorney in 2002 had put forward a report saying there was no evidence to support the allegations that originated in Wyoming.

The Cheyenne diocese said in July 2018 that it “now questions that conclusion.”

According to the diocese, Bishop Steven Biegler had ordered a “fresh, thorough investigation” because the claims against Hart had not been resolved.

In December 2017, Bishop Biegler retained an outside investigator who obtained “substantial new evidence” and who concluded the district attorney’s 2002 investigation was flawed. The investigator concluded that Bishop Hart had sexually abused two boys in Wyoming.

The diocesan review board, after reviewing the report, concurred with the investigator, finding the allegations “credible and substantiated.” The diocese reported the alleged abuse to the Cheyenne district attorney in March 2018, and Cheyenne police opened an investigation.

In August 2018, the diocese announced it had found credible a third allegation of child sexual abuse committed by Bishop Hart.

“A third individual reported that he, too, was sexually abused by Bishop Hart in 1980,” the diocese said. This third person reported the abuse after the diocese's announcement there was “credible and substantiated” evidence that Bishop Hart had abused two Wyoming boys.

Police in Cheyenne recommended last month that two  clerics accused of sexually abusing male juveniles in the 1970s and '80s be charged. The clerics were unnamed in the police's release, though the investigation stams from a case initiated in 2002 that was reopened in 2018.

Also last month, four new sex abuse allegations were raised against Bishop Hart, spanning his time both as a priest in Missouri and a bishop in Wyoming. Each of these alleged victims were Missouri residents.

In its Sept. 10 statement, the Cheyenne diocese noted that while new norms authorize the metropolitan archbishop to oversee investigations of allegations against bishops, Bishop Biegler “was directed to complete the investigation … upon consultation with the Holy See,” as his diocese had already begun an investigation.

The local Church added that its investigations “included asking Bishop Hart for an interview to respond to the accusation,” but that he “declined to be interviewed.”

Bishop Hart has denied accusations of abusing minors.

His first accusers came forward in 1989, when he was alleged to have abused boys while serving as a priest in Kansas City. Ten individuals named Hart in lawsuits related to child sexual abuse claims dating from the 1970s. These accusations were part of settlements the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached in 2008 and 2014, though Bishop Hart denied the accusations, the Missouri diocese has said.

Bishop Hart was ordained a priest for the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in 1956, where he served until he was named an auxiliary bishop in Cheyenne in 1976, and appointed to lead the diocese two years later. He served as Bishop of Cheyenne until his resignation in 2001 at the age of 70.

In June the Cheyenne diocese released a list of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable adults. The release listed allegations against 11 clerics who had served in the diocese.

Vatican authorizes ‘Vos estis’ investigation into Minnesota bishop Hoeppner

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 18:40

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Bishop Michael Hoeppner is the first sitting U.S. bishop to be investigated under new misconduct protocols introduced by Pope Francis earlier this year.

Hoeppner, Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, will be investigated by Minneapolis’ Archbishop Bernard Hebda, on charges that Hoeppner thwarted a police or canonical investigation of clerical sexual misconduct in his diocese.

“I have been authorized by the Congregation for Bishops to commence an investigation into allegations that the Most Reverend Michael Hoeppner, the Bishop of Crookston, carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston,” Hebda told CNA Sept. 10.

“Law enforcement has been notified of the allegations. The allegations were reported to me under the procedures set out in Pope Francis’ recent legislation addressing bishop accountability, the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.”

Hebda did not state directly what charges he will investigate. However, Hoeppner has been accused of pressuring Ron Vasek, a former diaconal candidate in the diocese, to recant the allegation that he was molested in 1971 by a Crookston priest.

In 2015, Vasek signed a letter withdrawing the allegation. He told CNA last year that Hoeppner coerced him into signing that letter.

Hoeppner has denied the charge.

In July, the Crookston diocese announced that a $5 million settlement had been reached in 15 sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it. As a condition of the settlement, the diocese is required to release the transcripts of depositions from Hoeppner and other diocesan officials.

Hebda told CNA he has “appointed qualified lay persons to assist me in carrying out this investigation, to provide an independent review of its contents, and assist in its examination and analysis. All involved in this investigation have been encouraged to respond to the investigators’ requests and provide accurate information so that the truth in this matter may become clear.”

Hoeppner will not yet step away from his post, and is unlikely to do so at least until Hebda has sent the initial results of his investigation to Vatican officials.

“This investigation is a preliminary one and not a full canonical process. As such, a limited time period has been established by the Holy See to gather information that may substantiate (or not) the truthfulness of the allegations. The gathered information will be forwarded promptly to the Apostolic Nuncio, who is the Pope’s representative in the United States, and to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome for a determination whether a subsequent process is warranted,” the archbishop explained.

“Those who filed the reports have no obligation to keep silent and the accused is presumed innocent,” Hebda added.

Other U.S. bishops face charges of misconduct in office, including Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, or of sexual abuse, including retired Wyoming bishop Joseph Hart. However, the investigation into Hoeppner is, to date, the first U.S. investigation of a diocesan bishop under the procedure Pope Francis introduced in response to the 2018 Theodore McCarrick scandal.

The Diocese of Crookston referred questions to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Born Alive bill still stalled as Congress returns to session

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Five months after first attempting to force a vote on legislation to protect babies who survive botched abortions, pro-life Members in the House are still at a standstill.

“This is not even a pro-life or a pro-choice issue. This is an issue of someone’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) told CNA on Tuesday. “This is equal protection under the law.”

“The human rights of children are being violated,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who leads the House pro-life caucus, at a congressional hearing on Tuesday on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, yet “very little is being done.”

Wagner introduced the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 962) in February.  The legislation would require that any baby surviving a botched abortion attempt receive the same standard of medical care that any other child would if born at the same gestational age.

Health care providers who fail to do so could be fined and face up to five years in jail, though no mother could be prosecuted in any such case under the bills provisions. The mothers could, however, take civil action to obtain relief in the event a provider does not provide the care to the child.

“To carry this piece of legislation is a joy, an absolute joy. A struggle, but all things that are hard and important are,” Wagner told CNA on Tuesday.

Days prior to the bill’s introduction in the House, controversial comments by Virginia State Delegate Kathy Tran (D), and later by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), catapulted the issue into the national spotlight.

Tran, speaking about her legislation at a hearing, told a legislative committee hearing that her bill would allow for abortions throughout the third trimester, including while a woman was in active labor, so long as one doctor determined that the abortion was necessary for the woman’s physical or mental health.

Northam, asked about the legislation later, said that the legislation referred to cases where a pregnancy was “nonviable” with an unborn child that had “severe fetal abnormalities.”

“If a mother is in labor,” he told WTOP, “the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s that what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

“We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions,” he said.

Comments from Democratic presidential candidates have suggested support for legal abortion up until birth, at least in some cases.

Former congressman Robert Francis O’Rourke recently said at a campaign stop that such decisions should be left up to the mother, even if she were seeking an abortion one day before birth. Peter Buttigieg has said the decision about when a child’s life begins is ultimately the mother’s.

With Democratic presidential candidates talking about access to late-term abortion, and pro-life members of Congress trying to force a vote on protecting abortion survivors, the issue is growing to become a key part of the 2020 elections.

Wagner’s bill has 190 cosponsors but has not been considered for a vote. It hasn’t been for lack of effort, especially at the procedural level. House Democratic leaders have refused requests for unanimous consent to have a vote on the legislation, more than 80 times.

On April 2, House Minority WHIP Steve Scalise (R-La.) filed a Motion to Discharge a Committee from the Consideration of a Resolution, or a “discharge petition.” If the petition gained the signature of a majority of the House—218 Members—it would move the bill to the House Floor for a full vote.

The petition garnered 193 signatures immediately and subsequently received eight more, but since June 4 there have been no additions.

Only three Democrats have signed on: Reps. Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), and Ben McAdams (Utah), and pro-life leaders have taken note.

“It is unconscionable that Democrats have not allowed a vote on this bill requiring the most basic care,” March for Life president Jeanne Mancini stated.

“Once again, we urge House Democrats from Republican-leaning districts to listen to their constituents and sign Whip Scalise’s discharge petition to hold a vote on this lifesaving bill,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser stated.

Over the August recess, pro-life groups were reportedly working at the grassroots level to get more Democrats onto the petition, Wagner said.

“We hope that they’ve heard from their constituents and will come back. The board is open as of today, they can sign the petition, and just allow this to come to a vote,” she told CNA. “And so I believe that they’re going to be held to account, I hope, by the voters.”

Catholic immigration group sues Trump administration over asylum policy

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 14:08

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2019 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- A Catholic group is suing the Trump administration over the restriction of protections granted to asylum seekers in the U.S.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Democracy Forward, and Proskauer Rose LLP filed a lawsuit Sept. 6 arguing that the Trump administration’s new policies violate the statutory rights of asylum seekers and were issued without notice.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for D.C., also argues that the new policies were issued invalidly by Ken Cuccinnelli, who the groups claim was appointed unlawfully as head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). U.S. President Donald Trump appointed Cuccinnelli as “acting director” of USCIS after it became clear that the Senate was unlikely to confirm him as permanent director.

Cuccinnelli recently announced new measures cutting in half the amount of time granted to asylum seekers as they prepare for their interviews. Previously, those seeking asylum were granted 48 hours to meet with a lawyer and collect evidence to make their argument that they have a credible fear of persecution if they return to their homeland, a key step in their application for asylum. Now, they will have 24 hours to prepare for the interview.

In addition, continuances will largely be eliminated for those with language barriers or other claims to need more time to prepare.

These new policies deny asylum seekers reasonable access to counsel, says the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of seven asylum seekers and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit legal services group for immigrants in Texas.

Manoj Govindaiah, director of legal strategy and training for RAICES, argued that the policy changes are intentional as part of an effort to reduce the number of people seeking protection from persecution in the United States.

“These unlawful changes to longstanding policy were undertaken to ensure that asylum seekers have no true opportunity to seek refuge in the United States,” Govindaiah said.

“These directives erode the last vestiges of due process for people who have already suffered greatly and seek protection in our country,” said Anna Gallagher, CLINIC’s executive director.

She argued that the new policies violate both immigration laws and the Constitution.

“Recognizing the human dignity of all people includes honoring their right to apply for asylum,” she said. “The American people expect that when the government makes a life-or-death decision, the person affected will get their day in court.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has objected strongly to several changes in U.S. immigration policy in recent months.

After the Trump administration announced a rule limiting asylum eligibility to those who had already applied and been rejected for asylum in any third-party country passed through on their way to the U.S, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, voiced “grave concerns.”

He said the rule “jeopardizes the safety of vulnerable individuals and families fleeing persecution and threatens family unity” and that it “undermines our nation’s tradition of being a global leader providing and being a catalyst for others to provide humanitarian protection to those in need.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, said in a separate statement that the regulation “adds further barriers to asylum-seekers’ ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection.”

Last month, the administration announced its intent to deny green cards and a path to citizenship to immigrants in the country legally who use public benefits.

A statement from U.S. bishops’ conference leaders on domestic justice and migration criticized the announcement as being “in tension with the dignity of the person and the common good that all of us are called to support.”

Tulsi Gabbard supports late-term abortion ban

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:05

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2019 / 10:05 am (CNA).- Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has publicly opposed third trimester abortions, in a break with the rest of the Democratic field who all appear to support abortion access until birth.

In the Sept. 8 interview, Gabbard acknowledged that she used to be pro-life but now supports “a more libertarian position on this issue that government really shouldn’t be in that place of dictating to a woman the choice that she should make.”

When asked by interviewer Dave Rubin what the “cutoff” point for her was in protecting a woman’s “right to choose” abortion, Gabbard answered, “I think the third trimester, unless the woman’s life or severe health consequences is at risk.”

Gabbard’s statement appears to signal a break with her own legislative record. In the House of Representatives, she voted against a 20-week abortion ban in 2017. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, would have criminalized abortions when the “probable post-fertilization age” of the baby is 20 weeks or older, except in cases of rape and incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake.

Gabbard has also not signed a discharge petition to force a vote on legislation protecting babies who survive abortions. The petition currently has the support of 201 members of Congress calling for a vote on the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” H.R. 962, which would require that babies surviving abortion attempts receive the same appropriate and necessary health care from the attending doctor as any other baby would receive. A vote on the bill is currently being blocked by Democratic House leadership; 218 signatures are required to force the vote.

Gabbard’s statement of opposition to third trimester abortions stands in contrast to recent comments by other Democratic presidential candidates that suggest that women should have legal access to abortion until birth.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), when asked by an audience member at a campaign stop if he would support a woman’s access to an abortion one day before birthing her child, answered that the decision should be left up to the woman and that government should not interfere.

Peter Buttigieg has argued that women should be the ones deciding what the limits are for abortions within pregnancies, and said in a Sept. 6 interview that “there’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath,” but added that “no matter what you think about the cosmic question of how life begins,” “the woman making the decision” should be the one making that determination for her unborn child.

Other leading Democratic candidates have recently promoted abortion, including overseas.

Bernie Sanders said during a CNN “Climate Crisis Town Hall” on Sept. 4 that women “have a right to control their own bodies and make reproductive decisions,” and said that the Mexico City Policy was “totally absurd.”

The Mexico City Policy has been implemented by the administrations of Presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Trump, and bars foreign non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions from receiving federal funding.

Sanders added that “I very, very strongly support” access to birth control “especially” in poor or developing countries “where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a campaign platform that calls for enacting federal statutory rights that parallel the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

It also calls for the passage of federal laws to stop state laws that could eliminate abortion access through legal regulations that drive out abortion providers—referred to by abortion supporters as “Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws.”

In the Tuesday interview, Gabbard was asked about national polarization in the abortion debate and said that no one on either side should demonize the other.

“I disagree with Hillary Clinton on a ton of things, but when she came out and she said abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, that’s something that I agree with,” Gabbard said.

She added that the government should not be interfering in abortion—either to prohibit abortions or to mandate that women have abortions.

“A woman is the one who’s got to live with whatever decision that she makes,” Gabbard said. “And that’s where I draw the line and say that the government should not be in the position of telling that woman what choice she must make.”