CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

Amid continued controversy, Netflix edits suicide scene in 13 Reasons Why

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 15:23

Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2019 / 01:23 pm (CNA).- Shortly before launching the third season of 13 Reasons Why, Netflix has announced that it is removing a scene depicting a graphic teen suicide from the show’s first season.

“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help - often for the first time,” Netflix said in a July 16 statement.

“As we prepare to launch Season 3 later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers of 13 Reasons Why to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1.”

The move comes more than two years after the release of the show’s first season, which concludes with a controversial explicit scene showing the suicide of the main character. While the suicide still takes places in the show’s final episode, it is no longer shown.

Mental health experts had warned when the show initially launched that the graphic suicide depiction could result in suicide contagion, or “copycat” suicides.

According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there was a 28.9% increase in suicide rates in U.S. males ages 10-17 in the month (April 2017) following the debut of the show, although it was not possible to determine to what extent, if any, the increase was due to the show.

“The number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by the researchers,” the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported. Increases in suicide rates among youth were also found in the month leading up to the shows release, and through December 2017, nine months after its release.

“The findings highlight the necessity of using best practices when portraying suicide in popular entertainment and in the media,” NIMH stated in a press release on the study.

John Ackerman, PhD, a member of the American Association of Suicidology’s communications committee, praised Netflix for its decision to edit the controversial scene.

“Partnering with the media to help them portray suicide accurately and in a way that provides hope and resources for those impacted by experiences related to suicide can make a positive difference,” he said in a July 16 statement.

“There is more work to be done throughout the entertainment industry, but it is an encouraging step to see a high profile show making changes for the safety of viewers. We hope even more research and more media collaboration results from this decision.”

Released on Netflix in 2017, 13 Reasons Why became an instant hit. Based on the 2007 young adult novel by the same name, the show follows the story of Hannah Baker, a troubled 17-year-old who takes her own life.

Instead of leaving the typical note, Hannah leaves 13 cassette tapes, explaining the 13 reasons why she took her life - and each of these “reasons” is a person, who either did something to Hannah, or didn’t do enough, according to her.

The show quickly drew a mixed response - praise for opening up discussions on subjects like bullying, sexual assault, and suicide, as well as criticism for its failure to explicitly address mental illness and its role in suicide.

Creators of the show insisted that it was intended to be helpful in starting important discussions and helping teen viewers realize the silent suffering that their friends and acquaintances may be undergoing, as well as portraying the devastating impact of suicide on those around them.

But mental health experts warned when the show launched that the graphic depiction of Hannah’s suicide violated several of the “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide,” a list of guidelines for media outlets developed by suicide prevention experts and journalists.

Dr. Jim Langley, a Catholic psychologist with St. Raphael Counseling in Denver, warned that Hannah’s suicide in the show is romanticized in a way that could leave the wrong impression on vulnerable teens.

At the same time, he cautioned, the story fails to adequately address the impact mental health played in Hannah’s decision to end her life.

“To some degree we all have responsibility to other people, but in some ways the show goes too far, and makes it sound like we have responsibility for the other person. We’re responsible to the people in our lives, to treat them well. But the people who hurt (Hannah) were not responsible for her choosing to commit suicide,” Langley told CNA shortly after the first season of 13 Reasons Why aired.

“Most people who commit suicide - almost everyone has a severe mental health problem. And the show does not portray this girl as having severe mental health problems in the way that somebody who is contemplating suicide almost always has,” he said.

Critics also noted that the adults in the show are mostly portrayed as responding to Hannah’s struggles in an inadequate and unhelpful manner. Hannah’s parents, while loving, are largely absent and unaware of their daughter’s suffering and negative experiences at school. The school counselor does not effectively respond to Hannah’s thoughts of suicide.

These depictions could prevent young people from approaching adults with their concerns, believing that they will only be ignored, experts warned.

The second season of 13 Reasons Why, released last year, met with a less enthusiastic response by viewers. It follows the students at Hannah’s school in the aftermath of her suicide, exploring issues including sexual assault, teen violence, and drug use. The third season of 13 Reasons Why is due out this summer.

Catholic psychologists and youth ministers have urged caution in watching the show, particularly for vulnerable teens or those who may not be well-formed.

If you think you or a friend are struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours everyday). For Catholic counseling, contact your local priest, diocese or your local branch of Catholic Charities.
 

Bishops condemn new asylum policy for U.S.-Mexico border

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 15:05

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The president of U.S. bishops’ conference issued a statement on Tuesday condemning a newly-announced rule on asylum eligibility at the southern border, suggesting that countries like Mexico are not a safe final destination for asylum seekers, and encouraging the Trump administration to change the policy. 

“The rule 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,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, in a statement released July 16. 

Cardinal DiNardo also said that “initial analysis raises serious questions” about the new rule’s legal soundness. 

The new policy establishes that claimants are ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States if they failed to first apply for asylum in any third country they passed through after departing their country of origin. 

Practically, the new rule requires that asylum seekers traveling through Mexico from Central or South American countries must first apply for asylum in Mexico before being eligible to claim asylum in the U.S. The rule contains a number of exceptions.

Those who arrive at an American port of entry having passed through a country that has not signed up to certain refugee agreements are exempt, as are survivors of human trafficking.  Those who apply for asylum in a pass-through country and are denied there my still claim asylum in the United States. 

Similar asylum policies are already in force along the northern border of the United States, as well as in the European Union. 

The Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, requires a person to claim asylum in either the U.S. or Canada, depending on which country they arrived in first. The Dublin Regulation in the European Union requires asylum seekers to register their claim in the first European country in which they arrive. 

Speaking to CNA about the new rule, Bill Canny, the executive director for the USCCB’s Migration Relief Services, told CNA that he does not believe that Mexico, or other Central American countries, can safely care for migrants or asylees.  

“We do not have an agreement with Mexico in the same capacity in which we do with Canada, and while some of the countries that Central American migrants are traveling through may have some protections, we do not believe they are adequate enough to provide the type of protection that is necessary to assure their safety,” Canny told CNA. “It would be immoral for us to keep those who seek asylum in harm’s way.”

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted. 

DiNardo also used his statement, issued through the USCCB, to denounce the “climate of fear” created by ICE enforcement raids which began over the weekend. The raids were announced by the administration as targeting more than 2,000 people who had exhausted all legal options to remain in the country. 

“Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities,” said DiNardo.

“I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country. I recently wrote the President asking him to reconsider this action.”

Bring down 'Iron curtain' of persecution, Religious Freedom Ministerial told

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 11:15

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 09:15 am (CNA).- U.S. leaders called for a worldwide “grassroots” movement to fight religious persecution at a global religious freedom gathering on Tuesday.

The “iron curtain” of religious persecution must “come down now,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback stated on Tuesday at the opening of the State Department’s Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. “Let this be the beginning of a global grassroots movement for religious freedom,” he said.

The Ministerial, held in Washington, D.C. from July 15-19. features over 1,000 religious and civil society leaders from around the world, along with over 100 foreign delegations and leaders of non-governmental organizations.

Over 20 survivors of religious persecution are also in attendance at the Ministerial, which will feature discussions of global religious persecution and on forming policies and partnerships to advance and promote religious freedom around the world. 

Eighty percent of the world’s population lives in an area with religious restrictions, the State Department estimates. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday emphasized that freedom of religion is a fundamental, and public, right.

“All people must be permitted to practice their faith openly” whether at home, in public, or at a house of worship, Pompeo stated in his remarks opening the Ministerial.

The right to practice and live out one’s own religion is fundamental and is already found in a “common foundation,” Brownback said, in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and “also in the constitutions of most countries.”

He called on those in attendance to begin forming “religious freedom roundtables” in their own communities and hosting discussions between religious leaders on ways to protect freedom of religion for everyone.

“We need your activism. We need your passion. We need you to boldly fight for religious freedom,” Brownback urged those in attendance. “As united we do stand, divided we fall - and often we fall in catastrophic, and sometimes even genocidal, ways.”

Tuesday morning’s panel began a multi-day session at the State Department. Additionally, several organizations in Washington, D.C. are hosting dozens of side events, highlighting religious persecution or promoting freedom of religion, including events at the U.S. Capitol with members of Congress.

The very fact that the U.S. is hosting such a comprehensive religious freedom event speaks volumes about how the issue has grown in importance at the State Department in U.S. foreign policy, Dr. Tom Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute, told CNA on Monday.

“If this is just the effort of one office in the huge bureaucracy of the Department of State—which, by and large, it has been up until now—then its ripples are very narrow,” Farr said.

There is still a long way to go to build a broad “consensus” in the U.S. around the importance of religious freedom, Farr acknowledged. While some have prioritized the promotion of other human rights or have introduced new ones based on “personal liberation,” others—including the current administration—have overlooked religious freedom when dealing with bad actors.

“It doesn’t mean that we have to act as if there’s nothing else going on in North Korea that we’re interested in. Or China. Or Saudi Arabia,” Farr said.

“It doesn’t mean that we cannot cooperate with these governments, because we have other fundamental interests,” he said, “but simply to pretend that these terrible abuses are not taking place is a huge mistake from our strategic point of view.

Promoting religious freedom can help victims of religious persecution, but “we can’t make that case if we don’t believe in it ourselves,” he said. “And right now, we don’t.”

Pro-life women deliver semi-truck full of supplies, $72,000 to the border

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 05:34

Brownsville, Texas, Jul 16, 2019 / 03:34 am (CNA).- The heat index in McAllen, Texas was 125 degrees on Saturday, but that did not stop members of the pro-life movement from delivering a semi-truck full of supplies and thousands of dollars in aid to respite centers at the border of the United States and Mexico.

The #BottlestotheBorder campaign, launched by New Wave Feminists in partnership with And Then There Were None (ATTWN), collected more than $120,000 worth of supplies and donated more than $70,000 in aid funding to multiple respite centers, where migrants who are legally in the U.S. are temporarily housed and cared for while they connect with family members and figure out their next steps.

“We were unloading what feels like a million cases of water, and it’s heavy and it’s hot and it’s exhausting, but you look at these families, and especially the children in this center, and you just realize that it’s worth it,” Johnson told CNA, “and you can’t even complain about how hot it is or how tired you are or how sore your arms are going to be, because these children, they need this food, they need these diapers, they need these wipes.”

According to numbers from New Wave Feminists, led by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the groups were able to deliver 121,072 diapers, 30,700 pairs of shoelaces, 13,230 bottles of water, 6,660 pull-ups, 3,100 backpacks, 16,172 ounces of formula, 9,720 maxi pads, 750 rosaries, and $72,000 of funds to respite centers in Texas over the weekend.

Johnson said that the material items were donated to Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, which has a warehouse large enough to store the donated items. The monetary donations went to other respite centers in the area that are in need but do not have the storage space to handle large amounts of items at one time.

A fellow church-goer of one of ATTWN staff members had heard about the initiative and, as the owner of a trucking company, offered to drive an 18-wheeler to the border for the group, Johnson said. The catch: the truck had to be full.

“We did the first registry and filled that up in a couple of days, like in 48 hours it was full,” Johnson said. The first registry filled about half of the truck, so New Wave Feminists and ATTWN launched another registry.

“By the end it was completely packed full of supplies,” Johnson said.

While Johnson could not complain about the hard work that it took to unload thousands of boxes of supplies in the searing Texas heat, there was one frustrating part of the day, before the unloading even got started, she added. A press conference of about a dozen members of Congress had closed down the streets around the center, delaying the unloading of supplies.

“And it was really infuriating for me because here we are with no cameras, we weren’t like, ‘Hey media, come watch us unload this truck,’ because it wasn’t about us. It was about getting these supplies to these people,” Johnson said.

Johnson “busted up” the press conference and invited the members of Congress to help unload the truck instead of just doing a photo-op at the center.

“I said, ‘You know we’ve got an 18-wheeler full of supplies that will be here in 20 minutes, and if you really want to help these migrants and their families, you’ll stick around and help us unload this truck.’”

“And they smirked at me and rolled their eyes and said, ‘Well we only have 10 minutes, we can only give you 10 minutes, because we have another press opportunity that we need to get to.”

“So you just see how these people (migrants) are being used by our government, by these Congress people,” Johnson said.

The politics behind the border crisis are frustrating to Johnson, she said, because they often dehumanize migrants and distract people from doing something concrete to help the situation.

She said people have asked her if her efforts to bring supplies to migrants means that she supports an open-border policy. She doesn’t.

“No I don’t support lawlessness, I don’t support an open border, I support legal immigration, doing it the right way, but the bottom line is I don’t have the answer, I don’t know the answer,” she said, “but I can deliver these wipes so that babies’ butts are clean and they’re not getting infections. And I know how to make sure that a baby can get fed, and that’s really what this is about. And that’s what it is to be the Church, to meet the needs that are right in front of us.”

Johnson converted to Catholicism several years after leaving the abortion industry in 2009.

Another frustrating aspect of the weekend was that on the same day that Johnson, Herndon-De La Rosa and their team were unloading their supplies, TruthOut.org published an opinion piece entitled: “The ‘Pro-Life’ Movement Is Silent About Children Dying at the Border.”

“It came out the same day that we were in McAllen, and I was like really? Pro-life people don’t care about people at the border? Tell me more about that, you know, as I’m sweating and disgusting and hot and gross,” Johnson said.

The author has since reached out to Johnson and Herndon-De La Rosa for follow-up interviews, and admitted on Twitter that she had not heard of the #Bottles2TheBorder campaign when she wrote the piece.

But Johnson said that the pro-life movement, at least in some circles, still has a problem with the way they speak about the issue of immigration. She said that sometimes on social media, she will get comments from people in ultra-conservative groups who use “dehumanizing language” when discussing migrants.

“I don’t know if they identify strongly as pro-life, but they are conservative, and they’re coming on my page saying, ‘Well we need to help Americans first, and Americans need to take priority,’” she recalled.

“And I’m thinking, well why can’t we just work to help everybody? Why do we have to pick and choose? Because when God creates all of us, he doesn’t create Americans with more dignity and worth than he does Mexicans,” she said. “We’re all created in the likeness of Christ, we’re all created with that same inherent dignity and worth at the moment of conception.”

Johnson said the border crisis presents an opportunity to the pro-life movement to step up and prove that they are supportive of life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

“This is an opportunity to make that known and to show it, and to actually be that pro-life. There are respite centers all along the border that are providing respite to immigrants who have come through a port of entry legally, and they need support, they need rest, they need a shower, they need clean diapers, they need food, and this is an opportunity for us to provide that,” she said.

While the current #Bottles2TheBorder campaign has ended, the campaign’s website includes a link to a list of respite centers along the border to which people can donate directly.

 

Appeals court upholds injunction against contraception mandate exemption

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 02:23

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 16, 2019 / 12:23 am (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously blocked Department of Health and Human Services rules that would have exempted employers who want to opt out of coverage for artificial contraception for moral or religious reasons.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld a district court’s January decision to block the planned rules, which the Trump administration first announced in October 2017.

“The State’s financial injury outweighs any purported injury to religious exercise...A nationwide injunction is necessary to provide the States complete relief,” Circuit Judge Patty Schwartz wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for Northern California had issued a preliminary injunction January 13 that affects 13 states plus the District of Columbia in the case State of California v. HHS.

However, Gillam declined to issue the nationwide injunction requested by the plaintiffs, the attorneys general of several states led by California.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone then issued a nationwide injunction blocking the same rule in her decision for the case Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump.

HHS is expected to appeal Friday’s decision to the Supreme Court.

The original contraception mandate, introduced during the Obama administration, had drawn lawsuits from hundreds of plaintiffs who argued that it failed to allow for their free exercise of religion. In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government must allow exceptions to the mandate in some cases. Last year, hundreds of employers won an injunction against the mandate.

In a separate effort by HHS, the “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule”, announced May 2 and published May 21 in the Federal Register, is intended to strengthen a series of laws intended to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses.

The Department of Health and Human Services had announced earlier this month that the rule’s implementation would be delayed until November, due to the amount of litigation surrounding the rule.

The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified for compliance with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights.

The court estimated that between 70,500 and 124,400 women nationwide would lose access to contraception under the new rules, and that it could lead to higher expenditures at the state level.

Under existing law, medical providers may opt out of direct participation, as well as having to refer patients to other providers who will perform procedures to which they object, such as abortion and sterilization.

New York had led a suit against the rule unveiled in May, with co-plaintiffs Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, Chicago, New York City, and Cook County, Ill.

California filed a separate lawsuit May 21 against the rule, saying it “impedes access to basic care” and “encourages discrimination against vulnerable patients.” Planned Parenthood has also filed a lawsuit.

The plaintiffs had argued that the rule would force some healthcare facilities to hire more staff in case there are too many conscientious objectors to provide requested procedures.

HHS had responded to concerned comments that the new rule would prevent some patients from being treated in an emergency, replying in the Federal Register that federal law mandating that “certain hospitals treat and stabilize patients who present in an emergency does not conflict with Federal conscience and anti-discrimination laws.”

In addition, HHS contended that religiously affiliated hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, “play a major role in the delivery of health care to residents of the United States, including to underserved or underprivileged communities in particular, and are motivated by their beliefs to serve such communities.”

“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life. Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law,” Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said May 2.

HHS brings Protect Life Rule into effect

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 19:56

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Monday evening that parts of the Protect Life Rule, which prohibits recipients of Title X family planning funds to refer or provide abortion services, will go into effect immediately. 

As of July 15, the Department of Health and Human Services informed Title X fund recipients that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortion services, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions. 

As of March next year, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X moneys. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds. 

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The Protect Life Rule will strip about $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics both refer for abortion services and are co-located with abortion facilities. Planned Parenthood presently receives about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed and serves about 40 percent of all clients who benefit from Title X. 

Previously, abortion providers were ineligable to receive Title X funds, and the Supreme Court upheld this restriction in 1991. When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, his administration changed the program to include abortion providers. 

No money has been cut from Title X as a result of this change, and funds will still be available for eligible clinics. 

The Protect Life Rule was formally announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2018. Immediately after it was announced, the administration was sued by several states opposed to the changes. On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a stay that would have blocked the rule from going into effect. 

Planned Parenthood described the court’s decision as “devastating” and “crushing news,” though the organization remains eligible to receive $500 million in federal funding.

Last week, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, described the Protect Life Rule coming into force as “greatly encouraging.”

“Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund.” 

Orange diocese to dedicate Christ Cathedral

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 19:01

Orange, Calif., Jul 15, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Orange will dedicate its Christ Cathedral July 17 after a seven-year, $77-million renovation process.

“I would pray and hope that it (the Christ Cathedral) will build on the heritage we have and help bring new life and commitment and joy in the age we live and that through here the diocese will have a focal point of unity where God will be known and loved,” Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange told CNA.

Christ Cathedral was formerly named the Crystal Cathedral. The property was purchased by the Orange diocese in February 2012 for $57.5 million from the Protestant community which founded it. The building with its campus was sold after the community, founded by Robert Schuller, filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment.

The architectural landmark is made from over 10,000 panes of glass, and its interior had to be renovated to make it suitable for Catholic worship. CNA reported in September 2014 that the cathedral's dedication was scheduled for 2017.

The Christ Cathedral campus consists of seven buildings on 34 acres.

EWTN opened a studio on the campus in May 2015. CNA was acquired by EWTN in 2014.

An architect who was in the office of the Crystal Cathedral’s original designer told CNA in 2013 that Schuller “wanted a building that was both a building and not a building, so that in a sense he could be in an enclosure, but it would be as if he were out of doors, which is where he began his ministry: so this building was an entire shell of glass.”

Under the purchase agreement, the diocese agreed to maintain the exterior of all the buildings, including the then-Crystal Cathedral.

But Tony Jennison, Vice President of Philanthropy for the Diocese of Orange, said the interior of the cathedral is now completely different.

“We took what was basically a used cathedral, that wasn’t a Catholic cathedral...it was really a television studio for his [Schuller’s] Hour of Power...and we turned it into a Catholic cathedral,” Jennison said. “It’s completely different other than the outside facade.”

Bishop Vann inherited the renovation of the Crystal Cathedral when he was appointed Bishop of Orange in September 2012.

The bishop remembers the first time he stepped foot inside the church.

“I guess I thought, ‘How are we going to do this? How are we going to make it a Catholic space?” he told CNA.

Now, seven years later, Bishop Vann believes they’ve succeeded.

“We’ve actually made a Catholic space out of all this, with a lot of good will, a lot of study, a lot of prayer, a lot of work, a lot of discussions, a lot of meetings.”

Weekly meetings, to be exact. And Bishop Vann attended each of them.

“The bottom line was, I have to sign off on all these things,” he said. “It’s my responsibility before God to make sure we’re good stewards of what God has given us for the people of the diocese. So I really had to be vigilant and to really be involved in it.”

One of the most noticeable changes is the addition of an altar, crafted from stone and marble Bishop Vann selected in Italy.

Bishop Vann and the architects wanted the altar to be the major focal point of the space. Previously, the focal point was a massive, brown, wooden organ.

“We painted it (the organ) white so it would blend in,” Jennison said. “Your attention is drawn to the altar, which as Catholics that’s where it’s supposed to be.”



Underneath the altar is a bronze reliquary, designed by Brother William Woeger of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Bishop Vann will install relics of St. John Paul II and St. Junipero Serra, along with several Mexican, North American, Vietnamese, and Korean martyrs.

The relics will be available for veneration the evening before the cathedral’s dedication.

Another noticeable change is the addition of 11,000 “quatrefoils” to the glass panes that make up the walls and ceiling of the cathedral. Each quatrefoil is made of four triangles, situated at various angles to deflect UV rays and heat, help with acoustics, and disperse better the light from outside.

“From the inside, it filters the light. From the outside, it makes the structure look like a box of stars at night,” Jennison said.

The quatrefoils are a favorite feature of Christ Cathedral’s rector, Fr. Christopher Smith.

“I really think it’s kind of ethereal, I think it’s comforting, I think it’s peaceful, I think it lends itself to worship,” Fr. Smith said.

The quatrefoils cost the diocese about $6 million to install.

The diocese also permanently sealed two 90-foot glass doors Shuller would open to preach to people outside the church, and installed air conditioning.

Bishop Vann and the architects removed a fountain that ran down the middle of the original space, and installed a baptismal font in a baptistry connected to the main space, and near the campus’ nearly 1-acre ecumenical cemetery.

A 24-hour Adoration chapel sits on the opposite side of the baptistry. At the center of the round chapel is a tabernacle designed by the 20th-century German enamelist Egino Weinert and positioned on a pedestal of bronze that depicts images from the Gospels.

The interior of the Christ Cathedral is largely monochromatic, save for two pieces of artwork: a tapestry of the Pantocrator, and a mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The mosaic includes a crown that is removable for May crowning or other Marian celebrations.

There are also Stations of the Cross, designed by Bolivian-born sculptor Pablo Eduardo. The sculptor is currently working on artistic renditions of the manifestations of Christ’s divinity, which will be installed at a later date.

Also in the works is a shrine to Our Lady of La Vang, a Marian devotion from Vietnam. The shrine is located in the campus’ two-acre Marian Court, which will also include a rosary arden and space for other Marian shrines.

“It’s really a pilgrimage destination for all to come and really worship [sic] her [Mary],” said Michelle Dao, a major gift officer with the Orange Catholic Foundation.

The diocese added festal doors, which will open only on special occasions, including the July 17 dedication of the cathedral. The doors are made of blackened steel, and a bronze band depicting the creation spreads across the middle of the doors.

The narthex also has a bronze bar depicting the end of time, and portraits of saints.



When the property was purchased, a local parish and school, located eight blocks from the campus, were relocated.

“What that meant was that a parish community that had been there for 50 years, that had built the current parish church, was now going to have to leave...and not even have a real church for some years,” said Fr. Smith, who has served as pastor of St. Callistus on the Christ Cathedral campus.

The parish gathered for Mass in the Arboretum while the Christ Cathedral was under renovation.

They had 12 Masses in four languages, serving nearly 12,000 local Catholics, Fr. Smith said.

“We’ll literally see people from all over the world coming here,” he said. “They already do, but they’re really going to be coming here when the cathedral opens.”

Fr. Smith told CNA he’s excited for the dedication of the cathedral, because he’ll once again be able to focus on being a pastor.

He said he hopes the cathedral will help unite the diverse diocese.

“We want to build unity,” Fr. Smith said. “That’s a challenge, but it’s also beautiful when that unity takes place.”

“Cathedrals traditionally are like the downtown of the community,” he said. “Somebody once said Christ Cathedral is like the ‘downtown’ of the Diocese of Orange.”

“So if we can be a place like that, that not only offers worship, but also offers a place where the poor are cared for, where the arts are celebrated, where people are invited to pray together...I hope we can provide all that.”

Christ Cathedral will be open to the public every Sunday following the dedication. It will be open daily by early 2020.

In-text photos credit: Kate Veik / CNA.

Trump administration issues new asylum rules for southern border

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced a new rule on Monday, changing the asylum application process along the U.S.-Mexco border.

The interim rule, which will be published in the Federal Register July 16, will require that anyone seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border must have first applied and been rejected for asylum in any third country they have travelled through. The rule is set to go into effect on Tuesday.

The change in policy means that a person fleeing - for example - Guatemala, who traveled through Mexico before presenting themselves at a legal port of entry into the United States, would first have to claim and be rejected for asylum in Mexico in order to be eligible to claim asylum in the United States. 

The new rule brings asylum policy along the southern border in line with current policy along the northern border with Canada. Under the Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, a person must make a claim for asylum in either the United States or Canada, depending on where they arrive first. A similar policy, the Dublin Regulation, exists in the European Union. 

“Pursuant to statutory authority, the Departments are amending their respective regulations to provide that, with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum,” reads the new rule. 

The rule will apply to people who apply for asylum or enter the United States after July 16. 

In addition to those who have already been rejected for aylum in a third country, “limited exceptions” to the new rule apply to survivors of human trafficking, and those who traveled through a country that has not signed an international treaty regarding refugee management. These people would still be eligible to apply immediately for asylum at the U.S. border.

Currently, a person may apply for asylum at the United States’ southern border, regardless of the number of other countries through which they travelled to arrive there. 

Under the new rule, the failure to seek asylum in a third country traveled through on the way to the U.S. border will also be considered under the “credible fear” screening, which is the first step in the asylum process. A person seeking asylum must prove that they have a credible fear for their lives in their country of origin, due to their race, ethnicity, or other factors. 

Although the rule “does not change the credible-fear standard for asylum claims,” the person doing the interview must consider whether or not the person seeking asylum has traveled through a third country without seeking asylum there. 

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted. 

The announcement follows a weekend in which immigration enforcement officers began carrying out a series of pre-announced raids aimed at removing approximately 2,000 people in cities across the country. The enforcement action is targeting individuals whose removal has ordered by the courts.

Several bishops in the United States issued statements opposing the enforcement action. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark issued a statement ahead of the raids, which began Sunday, in which he said that they “will not provide a solution to our broken immigration system.”

“Instead,” the cardinal wrote, “they will cause more suffering to immigrant families, many of whom have been subject to detention, family separation, and violence.”

"Particularly disturbing is that these raids will be carried out as other families are attending Mass or services in churches, synagogues, or mosques,” Tobin said. “These enforcement actions should not be pursued on or around church property, as our brothers and sisters should not be afraid to worship God. It would show disrespect to all who worship and to God our Creator, who created us in His image.”

Despite no details being made available, President Trump praised the raids, claiming they were widespread and thousands were deported.

“The ICE raids were very successful — people came into our country illegally, illegally,” said Trump to reporters at the White House. “Many, many were taken out on Sunday, you just didn't know about it.”

San Francisco auxiliary bishop, seminary rector, dies age 70

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 12:32

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 15, 2019 / 10:32 am (CNA).- Bishop Robert Christian, O.P., an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and rector of St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, died in his sleep Thursday at his residence at the seminary.

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of his passing. The Archdiocese was greatly blessed to have his wisdom and leadership even if for so brief a time as auxiliary bishop and even briefer time as rector of the Seminary,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said July 11.

“We join with the Dominican community in praying for the repose of his soul and for peace and comfort for his wonderful family in their time of mourning.”

Born in San Francisco in 1948, Christian he graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in literature in 1970.

He entered the Dominican novitiate in Oakland the same year, studying at Saint Albert College and the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

He made his solemn vows in 1974 and began attending courses at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas in Rome. He was ordained a Dominican priest in 1976, and began his teaching career at Dominican College in San Rafael.

After later receiving his doctorate in theology from the Angelicum, Christian began what would be a long teaching career at the university, lasting from 1985-1997.

In California, he served as vicar and administrator of the Western Dominican Province, university professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and as a member of the Clergy Education Board for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Christian then held the role of deputy dean of the Angelicum from 1999-2014. After a sabbatical, he became master of students for the Western Dominican Province at St. Albert Priory in 2015.

He was a peritus at the Synod of Bishops on Priestly Formation in 1990, and was a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

Christian was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the San Francisco archdiocese in 2018, and was consecrated June 5 of that year.

He was appointed rector of St. Patrick's Seminary Jan. 14.

A visitation and vigil will be held for Christian July 22 at St. Dominic parish in San Francisco, and his funeral Mass will be said the following day at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption.

His body will be buried at St. Dominic Cemetery in Benicia, about 60 miles southwest of Sacramento, July 24.

The Western Dominican Province said that “Bishop Christian has tirelessly served the Church and faithful for nearly 50 years. We are deeply saddened to hear of his death and entrust his soul to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. We ask for your prayers for the repose of his soul, as well as for his grieving family, friends and Dominican brothers around the world.”

Teens encounter Christ by serving homeless persons in DC

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- It is an overcast day with threatening rain clouds overhead, but the mood in the basement of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Northeast Washington is downright sunny. Here, a group of Catholic teens are hard at work helping to prepare the “Holy Foods Market” food pantry for one of its monthly openings, and then later in the day they would make and distribute bagged lunches to some of DC’s homeless population.

The teens, under the supervision of adult volunteers, were participating in Encounter the Gospel of Life’s Service Camp, a weeklong program that place groups of teenagers with nonprofits in the Washington, D.C. area, where they serve during the day. At night, there are keynote speeches, concerts, prayers, and community building.

The Holy Foods Pantry was one of the nonprofit work sites, and a group of mostly high schoolers was stationed there for the week. CNA spoke to some of the participants to learn more about what would entice a teenager to give up a week of their summer vacation to serve on the streets of DC.

Frances Noory is a 15-year-old sophomore at a Catholic high school in northern Virginia. She told CNA that she “just really loves helping people,” and that she believes her service with Encounter is “God’s work and what He wants us to do.”

At Holy Foods Pantry, Noory said she had been working to organize the pantry, and assist clients with the “shopping” process.

“And then, we also make lunches and go out on to the streets--we hand them out to people who are in need, and we pray with them and talk with them and just give them support,” she said.

As a young, faithful Catholic, she said that living her faith “can be difficult sometimes,” but experiences like Encounter are “very encouraging and exciting.”

With programs like this, Catholic teens are given the opportunity to meet and fellowship with each other. Encounter participants are mainly from the Washington area, but the camp is open to groups from around the country.

Ryanne Thereault, 16, agreed with Noory. This is Thereault’s second time doing Encounter, but her first at the Holy Foods Pantry site. She told CNA that she loved “the atmosphere that the camp creates,” and that “everyone is just there for each other, and we all have a great time serving.”

Thereault also appreciated the opportunity to serve the less fortunate.

“I loved interacting with people on the streets,” said Thereault. “They all have really good hearts, and they were so happy to see us. They were really thankful for us.”

Many of the people CNA spoke to had been to Encounter in the past. For Matt Lawry, a 17-year-old who attends Archbishop Curley High School, this was his third summer, but his first working with the homeless. In previous summers, his service sites were primarily working with children.

“This site is more eye-opening, ‘cause you go out and interact with the homeless. It’s a completely different experience,” he said. In particular, he was struck by his encounter with a man named Orlando.

“He was in jail for like, 25 years,” said Lawry. “He was just telling us about how he did like every drug in the book, and that he promised his parents he would make it out, and he’d keep doing good things.”

Overall, Lawry said that he had enjoyed his time serving on the streets, and that “working with the homeless is like working to get closer to God.”

Young adults who have graduated from high school are also able to participate in Encounter’s service camp. Unlike the youth participants, young adults are able to pick their service site. Christine Johnson, an 18-year-old who attends the University of Maryland, chose Holy Foods Pantry.

This is Johnson’s fourth time doing Encounter. "It's been probably the best four weeks of my life, every year. I've just met so many amazing people," she said. Holy Foods was her favorite site “by far,” even though she had no idea what to expect when she first arrived.

She said she’s watched her group mates mature over the week, and they were able to overcome their initial apprehension about talking to homeless people.

Inner-city DC is very different from where Johnson grew up, and she said she has very much grown from her week serving on the streets.

"Despite the fact that we're bringing them lunches and we're talking to them, every time I interact with someone I just feel like I've gotten so much more from them than I'm able to give them,” she said.

Johnson told CNA that she has encountered Christ through her service work.

"We do this thing at the end of the day where we go around in a circle and we all say our 'God sighting' for the day,” she said. “I feel like I have so many every day from this site, just because every person I meet says something and I am like, 'That was Jesus speaking through you.'"

Encounter has given Johnson much hope for the future of the Church in the United States, and it makes her happy to see hundreds of young people gathered together to serve the Lord.

"When someone is up on stage playing music, and everyone in the crowd is like swaying together and screaming the words together--you can see in their faces they know what it means, and they're so happy to be here,” she said.

“It's the future of the Church, and it looks pretty bright to me."

This Roman basilica is dedicated to 20th century martyrs

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 18:08

Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- On an island in Rome’s Tiber River, there is a basilica devoted to the Christian martyrs of the 20th century, the bloodiest century in the history of the Catholic Church.

Flanked on either side by relics of Christians martyred under Communism and Nazism respectively, the main altar of the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island connects the tradition of Rome’s apostolic martyrs to the persecution of Christians today.

The church was first commissioned in 998 by German Emperor Otto III to receive the remains of St. Bartholomew, who was flayed alive for his faith, and St. Adalbert, bishop of Prague who was martyred in 997 during the evangelization of Poland.

Today the basilica houses relics of the apostle and medieval evangelist alongside those of St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyred in Auschwitz, and Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, a missionary nurse in Somalia in the height of the country’s civil war. Her last words as she was murdered in 2006 were: “I forgive them, I forgive, I forgive.”

Father Angelo Romano, rector of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island, told CNA that the basilica has received more than 120 relics from the persecuted Christian communities of modern martyrs from around the world. Many of the objects are second-class relics, which are items, or fractions of an item, that a saint personally owned.

The basilica is currently working on a crypt museum to display the entire collection because the basilica’s side chapels, which preserve the memory of recent martyrs from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, cannot fit them all.

“The stories of the martyrs are attractive. People want to know about them because they are very close to Jesus, and when you are close to Jesus, people love you,” Fr. Romano said.

“These people, they forgave their own persecutors, like Jesus on the cross. This is the strength of love,” he said.

As a priest, Fr. Romano said that he is challenged daily by the memory of the martyrs preserved in the basilica. “The martyrs are questioning us as to the level of our coherence, the level of our commitment, the level of our spirituality,” he said.

“It is quite a challenge because first of all I knew one of them personally,” he explained. Romano was friends with Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi, a parish priest in Palermo, who was murdered for speaking out against the mafia in 1993. His beatification “was a turning point in Sicily, for the whole society,” Romano said.

Recently, the basilica acquired the breviary of Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was killed in 2016 by ISIS terrorists in France while celebrating Mass.

“It is a story which continues,” Romano said.

On July 15, the basilica will host the launch of an independent review into the global persecution of Christians by the UK government, hosted by the UK Embassy to the Holy See.

At the event, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church and representatives from Pakistan and Nigeria will speak of the persecution their communities have endured in recent years.

“As John Paul II said, freedom of religion is the basic freedom. Without it, there is no freedom at all. If you deny freedom of religion, you deny all the other freedoms,” Fr. Romano said.

The story of the basilica’s dedication to the “new martyrs” began with St. John Paul II, Romano explained.

“John Paul II was a friend of many martyrs ... he lived through the persecution of the Second World War by the Nazi regime and then the Communist persecution,” he said.

In 1998, Pope John Paul II established the Commission for the New Martyrs of the Great Jubilee, giving them the task “not only to document Catholic martyrs, but also protestant and Orthodox, saying in the blood of the martyrs, the Church is already united. There was this vision of the ecumenicism of the blood.”

The Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island continues the ecumenical focus today by honoring the Anglican martyrs of Solomon Island, a brotherhood working for reconciliation among the ethnic groups who were killed in 1992-93, and Russian Orthodox Father Alexander Men, who was assassinated in Moscow in 1990.

There is a large icon on the altar of the “New Martyrs and Witnesses to the Faith of the 20th and 21st centuries,” which was blessed by both an Orthodox patriarch and the cardinal vicar of Rome.

Pope Francis also gave the basilica a little wooden bird from the Orthodox Church of the Holy Mother of God in Syria, a church that burned during the bombing of Aleppo in the Syrian civil war. The bird was brought back to Rome with the humanitarian corridors of the Catholic Community of St. Egidio, a lay movement dedicated to works of charity, who have been entrusted with the spiritual care of the basilica of St. Bartholomew.

“When Christians are truly leaven, light, and salt to the earth, they are, like Jesus, subject to persecution; like Him they are ‘signs of contradiction,’” Pope Benedict XVI said on his visit to the basilica in 2006.

 

For pregnant women facing poverty, pro-life groups offer resources for success

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 05:26

New York City, N.Y., Jul 14, 2019 / 03:26 am (CNA).- Poor women are the most likely population to obtain an abortion.

While it may seem logical that a woman who is already struggling financially is one of the most likely candidates for an abortion, the trend is relatively recent, reports the New York Times.

According to a July 9 article, data from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, shows that 50% of women who obtained an abortion in 2014 were considered low-income, compared to 1994, when only one-fourth of women who got an abortion that year were living in poverty.

The reasons for this are many, according to the New York Times. More people overall live at or below the poverty line now than did 25 years ago. There are many financial resources available for poor women who are seeking abortions, and hotlines to help them access these resources.

The article ended with the story of a poor woman who, finding herself unexpectedly pregnant, decided to get an abortion in order to get through college.

But there are also abundant resources available for poor, pregnant women who want to carry their pregnancies to term and parent their children, and they should be included in stories such as these, pro-life advocates told CNA.

“The New York Times is so disingenuous to pretend that there are no services for women, no help for women, no hope for women, and basically their message is - you might as well have an abortion,” Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America (SFLA), told CNA.

“It’s a defeatist message and it’s an anti-feminist message, because we should be about empowering women. We should be about protecting their rights against pregnancy discrimination. We should be about making sure that if you want an education, you can get one,” she added. “So I find it fascinating that these so-called champions of women aren’t willing to champion pregnant women.”

SFLA is a pro-life group that works specifically with pregnant and parenting students on campus to ensure that their rights are protected and that they have access to the resources they need.

“It’s really part of the work we’re doing every day, letting women know that there is help for them, there is support for them, and that defeatist messages from the abortion industry - that’s a marketing pitch, but that’s not the truth,” Hamrick said.

One of the main things that SFLA’s “Pregnant on Campus” initiative does is work with schools to ensure that the rights of pregnant women are protected, and that the campus is creating a welcoming environment for them.

For example, Hamrick said, SFLA works with students to ensure that their Title IX protections aren’t violated. Title IX protects pregnant students from being discriminated against based on accommodations needed for their pregnancies, making it illegal to take away scholarships, housing or placement in schools for pregnant students.

Hamrick recalled one case in which a pregnant woman missed finals because she was giving birth, and her school threatened to pull her financial aid and her place at the school.

“So SFLA got involved, we got her financial package reinstated, and frankly communicated with the school that you can’t do that. That is discrimination against women,” she said. The student was allowed to continue at the school, and her financial aid was reinstated.

Besides working to fight pregnancy discrimination, the group also works with schools to create welcoming environments for pregnant and parenting students by adding things such as short-term handicapped parking, nursing stations, and access to daycare programs on campuses.

Hamrick sent CNA an internal document used by SFLA of a list of more than 20 resources available to pregnant women in need, which includes resources such as counseling, food stamps, shelter, church groups, abortion pill reversals, adoption programs and more.

When it comes to scholarships, Hamrick said they work locally with women to determine what they are eligible for in their region and from their school. The website scholarshipsforwomen.com also lists more than 19 scholarships and grants available to pregnant women of various qualifications.

Marisol Health, a service of Catholic Charities in Denver, is another pro-life service that exists to help pregnant women in need.

In 2017, Marisol Health provided care to 821 clients, 70% of whom had incomes under $30,000; 45% had no income or incomes less than $15,000 a year. Of patients that year, 45 percent had Medicaid and 32 percent were uninsured.

“You are unique, capable and strong. You deserve to be listened to and cared for in a way that's confidential and empowering,” Marisol’s website states on its homepage.

Senite Sahlezghi, the program director of Marisol Health in Lafayette, Colorado, told CNA that they seek to serve the whole person in their services.

“The whole person... is not only a physical body, but we all have a multilayered context to our lives as well and so I think it's just been really beautiful that Marisol Health is this comprehensive OB/GYN clinic with wraparound supportive services to meet the urgent and ongoing needs of women and families,” Sahlezghi said.

Sahlezghi said the first thing Marisol does when a woman in need seeks their help is to listen to them fully.

“A lot of our families and women that come to us are in crisis situations,” she said, “which means that they're coming through our doors with a lot of circumstances that are overwhelming to them.”

The first step is to welcome these women and families in, offer them a cup of tea or a glass of water, and listen to their story and how they are doing, in order to better understand what help they most need, Sahlezghi said.

Through a partnership with Bella Natural Women’s Care, Marisol is able to offer women free pregnancy testing, free ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment, counseling, fertility awareness education, and other OB/GYN services.

But beyond services, they also provide women with accompaniment throughout their pregnancy and afterward, Sahlezghi said.

“When you're in an unexpected pregnancy or crisis situation, it is unbelievable how profound the feeling of loneliness can be and what decisions and consequences come from it,” she said. “Our main goal is to really be their village and to let them know that they're not alone.”

Besides OB/GYN services, Marisol Health is able to connect women with a variety of services, including housing, food and financial assistance through Catholic Charities. Marisol Homes provides housing for both pregnant women and homeless women with children. Through a partnership with Gabriel services, Marisol also connects women with parenting classes, education classes and other support.

Marisol also offers support groups for postpartum women, mentoring programs for fathers, and counseling and support for post-abortive women. They provide these services to women in need without discrimination, including to women who are undocumented and may have difficulty finding care elsewhere, Sahlezghi added.

“That doesn't even begin to describe the scope of the continuum of care that Catholic Charities offers,” Sahlezghi added. “Mother Theresa said, ‘Find them, love them,’ and I think that the continuum of care really allows us to try and strive after that idiom well.”

Although it has only been open for three years, Marisol Health has already helped more than 1,330 women through unexpected pregnancies.

“We want to make sure that women know that this is available to them and that their life isn't over because they're pregnant,” Sahlezghi said.

Conn. bishops call for 'complete overhaul' of immigration policies

Sat, 07/13/2019 - 08:01

Hartford, Conn., Jul 13, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The bishops of Connecticut have joined a number of bishops’ voices in calling for “a complete overhaul of existing immigration policies” in the face of escalating tensions at the southern border of the United States.

In a July 10 letter released through the Connecticut Cathoic Conference, the bishops expressed their concern over the border crisis, citing the June 23 deaths of Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned as they tried to cross the Rio Grande from Matamoros.

Martinez and his daughter, as well as his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, intended to apply for asylum in the US, but the international bridge from Matamoros was closed until June 24, so they chose to swim across the Rio Grande.

The bishops said Martinez and his daughter “were fleeing the dangers of El Salvador for the safety of the United States.”

According to the New York Times, the family had left their home in El Salvador for economic reasons, and not to escape gang violence.

“Other immigrants,” the bishops commented, “have crossed the border with their lives, but have been captured and are now detained in overcrowded conditions as a result of political gridlock in our nation’s capital.”

“Those responsible in government need to undertake an examination of conscience as to what they have done and failed to do when it comes to respect for human persons and the enactment of fair and balanced legislation.”

The bishops noted that an average of 357 migrants have died annually on the southern border in the last 20 years, according to the U.S. border patrol.

“The governments of other nations also need to be encouraged and aided where necessary to remedy the conditions that force people to flee their homeland,” they said.

“We urge everyone to work and pray for a better way forward in addressing this humanitarian crisis,” the bishops concluded.

The letter was signed by Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, and his auxiliary, Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt; Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport; Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich; and Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford.

Pope Francis expressed his "immense sadness" June 26 upon seeing the image of the drowned migrants. He has spoken frequently about the need to respect the human dignity of migrants.

“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said July 8. “‘This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops echoed the pope’s grief and said the image of the drowned father and daughter demand action.

“This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin.

The number of migrants journeying to the U.S.-Mexico border climbed sharply in recent months. A July 2 report by the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security found that the number of apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley Sector alone rose by 124 % in the 2019 fiscal year against the same eight-month period the previous year.

The IG report warned of “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley” and urged DHS to “take immediate steps” to address the problem.

Witnesses testified before Congress this week, speaking of crowded conditions for children and adults in several Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in Texas.

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso stated June 27 before he crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico over the Lerdo International Bridge: “A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juarez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city.”

Apprehensions of migrants by authorities on the southern border, especially of migrant families, rose sharply in the past year. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of “unaccompanied alien children” has risen by nearly 75% from May 2018 to May 2019. The rise in apprehensions is led by El Paso, which has seen a 323% rise in that period period.

Despite this, Fernando Ceniceros, communications specialist for the Diocese of El Paso, told CNA last week that changes in border patrol policy have likely led to a recent decrease in migrants entering the United States at El Paso, but the humanitarian crisis is no less severe— the difference is that many would-be migrants in need of aid are required to remain in Mexico, rather than crossing the border.

DHS announced new Migrant Protection Protocols in January, providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation “may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”

In a recent development, planned raids to detain and deport thousands of undocumented immigrants will go ahead after a postponement of several weeks, the Trump administration announced this week.

Pro-Life leaders tell White House summit of online censorship

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders were invited to a White House social media summit Thursday, amid claims of online censorship by search engines and social media sites.  

“We are the tip of the spear as far as social media persecution goes,” Cary Solomon, co-writer, director and producer of the pro-life film “Unplanned” told CNA on Friday. “We are an example of a business that was directly, monetarily hurt” by online censorship.

President Trump has previously met with the heads of tech and social media corporations, but “Unplanned” co-director Chuck Konzelman said, yet “what struck a chord” at the July 11 summit “was that idea that I think he’s finally recognized this is all in bad faith.”

Several pro-life leaders were among the 200 digital and social media experts invited to the White House summit. Among those also invited were several members of Congress including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).

Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, addressed President Trump and the summit briefly on Thursday, sharing how Live Action has had to deal with obstacles to online advertising.

Live Action has been prevented from advertising on Twitter for four years, Rose said, having been told by the social media giant that the group would need to stop calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and sharing its pro-life content.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider still advertises on the site, she noted. Meanwhile, the site YouTube “buried our pro-life videos and boosted abortion videos,” Rose said.

Live Action says it was also permanently suspended from Pinterest in June, over allegations of promoting “conspiracy theories,” despite abortion clinics and pro-abortion groups posting freely.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, was also present at Thursday’s summit. She said that Pinterest has left up posts on its site explaining how to do at-home abortions. “That threatens the health and safety of women,” she said.

Informing voters of pro-life issues ahead of the 2018 elections was “critical” to the mission of Susan B. Anthony List, Quigley said. But their videos—including TV ads featuring children born prematurely at 20 weeks to illustrate that babies are viable by that age—faced censorship online.

Facebook took down one such campaign ad in Tennessee, but reinstated it with an apology. But a similar ad in Montana disappeared just hours later, Quigley said, a process of “starting and stopping” online ads for seemingly “arbitrary reasons.”

“And that really impedes our ability to reach voters,” she said.

Search engines like Google and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube “have set themselves up as a platform where all voices are supposed to be welcomed,” Quigley said, yet “there’s been just demonstrable bias against pro-life organizations,” she said, “and we haven’t heard of the same thing happening on the other side of this debate.”

On its opening weekend—critical to any film, but especially to a smaller-budget film — “Unplanned” had its Twitter page taken down and lost the vast majority of its followers, Konzelman said. Pro-Life activist Abby Johnson, who’s conversion from a Planned Parenthood clinic manager is the premise of the film, could not access her own Twitter account during the same period.

In addition, in its Google searches for movie times, the film was labeled “Drama/Propaganda,” he said, “and ‘propaganda’ is not something an algorithm would assign. That’s the work of a human being.”

In addition, Konzelman said YouTube pulled their behind-the-scenes documentary off the website, posted to promote interest in the film, citing several pieces of copyrighted music in the video, even though “Unplanned” had rights to the music. At the same time, the site allowed a serious copyright infringement to take place as the entire copy of the movie stayed on the site and was not taken down after it was released in theaters.

All four attendees were grateful that the White House was giving the subject attention.

“This double-standard and bias is a growing problem in big tech, even though they say that they are politically neutral and that they don’t discriminate,” Rose said on Thursday at the summit. “So thank you so much to the administration and to you, Mr. President, for holding this very important summit.”

Quigley said Trump’s invitation had “put the spotlight on such an important pro-life leader, and an issue that they have faced in a very particular way, and that the entire movement is facing.” 

“It is very moving and encouraging.”

No answers from Washington archdiocese about McCarrick’s money 

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- More than one year after the announcement of allegations of sexual abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archdiocese of Washington has continued to refuse questions about McCarrick’s use of a personal charitable fund. 

McCarrick funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars through what was known as the Archbishop’s Fund, and reportedly made gifts to senior Vatican officials, even while the fund remained under the charitable auspices of the archdiocese.

Senior sources close to the Archdiocese of Washington have confirmed that archdiocesan records include the names of individuals, including senior Vatican figures, to whom McCarrick made payments from the fund.

But the Archdiocese of Washington has declined to disclose sources, sums, and uses of money, though it has acknowledged that the fund exists.

The archdiocese has also declined to comment on whether Archbishop Wilton Gregory will address accusations of financial misconduct by McCarrick, or publish the names of bishops who personally received gifts from the disgraced former archbishop. 

The former cardinal’s reputation for gift-giving and participation in so-called “envelope culture” has come under renewed scrutiny following recent revelations concerning former Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael Bransfield. 

Like Bransfield, McCarrick has faced a string of allegations of sexual misconduct, dating back years, and his ability to offer large financial gifts to other bishops has come under scrutiny as a possible reason he was able to operate unchecked for so long.

Several sources, among them cardinals, officials of the Roman curia, and McCarrick’s former staff members, have told CNA about McCarrick’s habit of visiting Rome and distributing cash or personal checks to senior officials. 

In light of the Bransfield report, CNA asked the Archdiocese of Washington if it would publish the names of bishops and other Church figures who had personally received gifts or donations from McCarrick’s Archbishop’s Fund. 

On July 10 the archdiocese declined to comment in response.

CNA also asked if the archdiocese could confirm whether information relating to the Archbishop’s Fund, including the names of beneficiaries, had been included in a report submitted to Rome as part of a Vatican investigation into McCarrick.

The archdiocese declined to comment.

CNA also asked if the archdiocese would be willing to comment, even in a general way, on the outstanding questions of financial propriety around McCarrick and Archbishop Gregory’s willingness or ability to offer a clear account of what has happened.

The archdiocese again declined to comment.

In August 2018 the Washington archdiocese told CNA that the fund was designated for McCarrick’s “personal works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses” and audited annually, along with all other archdiocesan accounts - although not included in any published financial reports or materials - and that “no irregularities were ever noticed.” 

If personal payments to Church officials in Rome were offered with money from the Archbishop’s Fund, it is unclear what “charitable purpose” or “miscellaneous expenses” they would have been for, or how such expenditures would have been recorded. 

Sources close to McCarrick and familiar with archdiocesan records have told CNA he made multiple “donations” to individuals with fund resources, and sources close to the archdiocesan chancery previously have told CNA that annual expenditures may have been examined only to ensure either a “broadly charitable” purpose or a “reasonable” miscellaneous expense.

The archdiocese declined to comment on the auditing process and standards used to evaluate McCarrick’s use of the Archbishop’s Fund over the years. 

In February the archdiocese told CNA that although the account was held under the umbrella of the archdiocese, the funds were considered to be McCarrick’s own to use as he wished, but a former financial advisor to the archdiocese told CNA on July 11 that the fund was, for accounting purposes, archdiocesan money.

Kathy McKinless served as a financial consultant to the archdiocese between 2003 - 2018, throughout much of McCarrick’s tenure in Washington, and as acting chief financial officer from July 2015 to January 2016.

She told CNA that while McCarrick was responsible for raising and allocating the money in the Archbishop’s Fund, “it was on the general ledger of the archdiocese, so gifts that were made to the account were considered gifts to the archdiocese and the checks written out were considered checks of the archdiocese, because he still had standing as our archbishop emeritus.”

McKinless told CNA that while McCarrick had the freedom to give as he saw fit, there was some oversight by the archdiocese, while stressing that she did not herself have a direct role in scrutinizing the account. 

“It was definitely treated as being under the umbrella of the archdiocese because I know that the reconciliations were done at the pastoral center.” 

“It was only handled as an account that was reconciled [annually] at the pastoral center, it had inflows which were gifts to him and outflows which were checks from him but they were seen by somebody at the pastoral center,” she told CNA.

McKinless said it would have been possible for McCarrick to write checks to individuals, such as bishops or cardinals either in Rome or elsewhere, without raising suspicion, though she added that “I just was not in a position that I would have seen it.”

McKinless stressed to CNA that while there was potential for abuse, the rationale behind the fund’s existence should not be considered insidious: “I actually think that it is a worthy system, even if [McCarrick] abused it. There are lots of legitimate reasons you might want a retired bishop from your diocese to continue to do good works.”

McKinless told CNA that bishops from Asian or African dioceses and other parts of the world would often come through Washington and leave with financial support for different projects from McCarrick. Similar accounts of his legitimate generosity were given by former staff close to McCarrick, both in Washington and Newark.

A former priest-secretary who served under McCarrick told CNA that he would often make large donations to Church projects or institutions.

“A bishop from India or Africa would come through town and cry over dinner that he couldn’t feed his seminarians and McCarrick would make sure he left with a $10,000 check; he was good like that, very open-handed.”

McKinless suggested that structures and oversight could be tightened in the light of possible abuses. 

“Instead of an active checking account, it could be rearranged so that the retired bishop can make check requests, like one of our auxiliary bishops would have to do when they want to make a substantial donation.”

“In McCarrick’s case, I think allowing him to have direct access to the account rather than budget authority to make check requests would primarily have been about accounting convenience. But it’s easy enough to change it and make it about control, giving them a budget line item system to make donations instead of direct access to the account.”

“I guess the problem with McCarrick is he could [just] write a check.” 

Despite archdiocesan refusal to comment, CNA has learned that McCarrick established the Archbishop’s Fund during his time in Newark, using money received through personal financial gifts he obtained in the course of his ministry, through private fundraising initiatives, and from grantmaking foundations for which he served as a board member. 

According to former chancery officials in Newark and Washington, when McCarrick moved between the archdioceses in 2001, he arranged for the money to be transferred from his fund in Newark to a newly created Archbishop’s Fund in Washington.

Several sources familiar with the transaction told CNA that the transfer took the form of a check sent to Washington by the Archdiocese of Newark. Multiple sources told CNA that the check’s amount was well in excess of $100,000.

Later, as a cardinal, McCarrick used his position as a board member on various grant-making foundations to assign regular five-figure grants to his own foundation, with two such foundations alone registering donations to the Archbishop’s Fund totaling $500,000.

McCarrick reportedly cultivated a network of very wealthy individuals who would donate tens of thousands of dollars to his discretionary fund. 

“People would give him money all the time, in parishes when he’d visit as archbishop, but also privately – he was a natural fundraiser,” one former priest-secretary told CNA.

Another former chancery official told CNA that even during his time in Newark, McCarrick attracted considerable personal support from friends and benefactors. 

“We are easily talking about six-figure sums every year,” he said. 

USCCB official: NEA abortion support 'appalling'

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 16:10

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- The lay head of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic education secretariat has decried the decision of nation’s largest teachers union to recognize abortion as a fundamental right.

“It’s an appalling development,” Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA, Thursday. “Here you have the largest union of educators in the country, basically affirming the destruction of those they claim to serve.”

The National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly last weekend adopted agenda items recognizing the “fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade” and supporting the controversial Equality Act, at the NEA’s annual meeting in Houston from July 4-7.

“The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade,” stated New Business Item 56, adopted by the Representative Assembly at the NEA Annual Meeting in Houston, attended by more than 6,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members and others.

Composed of around 8,000 delegates in total, the NEA’s Representative Assembly calls itself “the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world, which at the Annual Meeting determines NEA yearly policy priorities and a strategic plan, among other items.”

The statement in support of abortion was included in a business item honoring survivors of abuse in the #MeToo movement. The NEA did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but according to the NEA website, the rationale given for the item was that “the most misogynistic forces, under Trump, want to abolish the gains of the women's right movement [sic].”

While the Assembly adopted the abortion resolution, it defeated a business item declaring that the NEA “will re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning” by making it the “lens through which we will assess every NEA program and initiative.”

“That tells me that the child is not truly the focus of NEA,” Donoghue said to CNA, noting that the move to support abortion is a mirror for society, “that we no longer have an understanding of the human person that begins with the Creator.”

“When God is separated out from the human person, then this is where these types of ideologies really take root and develop and grow,” she said.

However, Donoghue drew a distinction between the NEA’s Annual Meeting of several thousand delegates and the millions of public school teachers in the U.S. who were not present at the meeting, and may not be members of the NEA.

“We can’t look at this as reflective of the way that the average public school teacher would approach his or her job,” she said, noting that many teachers have “the desire to serve and to help and support children.”

The NEA Representative Assembly also voted to adopt a business item saying the NEA would “organize and mobilize” in support of the Equality Act as a “top legislative priority.”

The Equality Act establishes anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including education, housing, employment, jury duty, and credit. The 2019 legislation was introduced in Congress as H.R. 5 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and as S. 788 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

While U.S. bishops supported the goal of ending unjust discrimination against persons, they have signaled their opposition to the bill because it would “impose sweeping regulations” that would promote redefinitions of the human person, using state coercion to threaten freedoms of thought and religion.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Bishop Frank Dewayne of Venice, Florida wrote a letter to U.S. Senators in March outlining the problematic aspects of the legislation.

The bishops pointed out that it would “remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” mandate “uniform assent to new beliefs about human identity that are contrary to those held by many,” and be exempt from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, thus bypassing fundamental protections for religious freedom that were enacted by a broad bipartisan majority.

New commission will give 'critical attention' to human rights, experts say

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 12:00

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- International human rights experts have praised the creation of a State Department advisory body on human rights, calling it a very much needed contribution to global affairs.

“It’s been a long time since anybody in any official capacity gave critical attention to what it means to claim that something is a human right,” Dr. Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, told CNA.

The new human rights commission will seek better to clarify fundamental human rights amidst an increase in the number of rights claims—claims that compete against each other, he said. 

“Today, the dominant discourse is the human rights discourse,” George said. “There’s certainly been an inflation of rights claims, an inflation of rights language. Now anybody who advocates anything advocates it in the name of human rights. So how do we sort through those claims?”

At a July 8 press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of the Commission on Unalienable Human Rights, consisting of up to 15 human rights experts of various religious, philosophical, and cultural backgrounds. 

The purpose of the commission, Pompeo said, would be to advise him on human rights matters “grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 

That landmark document, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948, recognized fundamental human rights including the rights to life, religious freedom, equal protection under the law, and rights against torture and slavery.

In addition, Pompeo said he hoped the commission’s work would prove to be “one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration.” 

The commission is anticipated to meet once a month with a periodic review by the State Department, and members must have “distinguished” backgrounds in diplomacy, law, and human rights, and each can serve up to one year at the decision of the Secretary.

Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, was chosen by Secretary Pompeo to lead the commission. Other members include Russell Berman, Peter Berkowitz, Paolo Carozza, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Jacqueline Rivers, Meir Soloveichik, Katrina Lantos Swett, Christopher Tollefsen, and David Tse-Chien Pan.

“There’s a spectrum of traditions that are represented here,” George said of the panel, noting that the commission members are steeped in knowledge of human rights and have “engaged more broadly” with a variety of traditions. 

“If there are people making the claim that this commission isn’t diverse enough, maybe they could show me a gender studies department or a university faculty that’s got greater diversity,” he said. 

George praised the appointment of Glendon, whom he called “the leading human rights scholar of our time” who “literally wrote the book on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.” Glendon is the author of “A World Made New,” on the creation of the Universal Declaration and the discussions that shaped the document. 

The commission’s creation appears to be the fruition of a long-term policy priority in the State Department.

In May, Pompeo spoke on foreign policy at the Claremont Institute’s 40th Anniversary Gala, stating that “respect for God-authored rights and liberties” is part of “the distinctive mark of Western Civilization.” He added that the U.S. should uphold human rights by working “to cooperate with like-minded democracies,” while making sure to “guard against those who don’t.”

“You could see this commission as an outgrowth of that speech,” a senior administration official explained to CNA on Monday. 

Speaking separately to CNA, an administration official and human rights experts both emphasized two main reasons for the creation of the commission: countering the abuse of rights language by terrorists and bad actors on the international stage; and addressing the “proliferation” of international human rights claims. 

Today, “some of the worst human rights abusers in the world being represented and even chairing international human rights commissions. That’s just outrageous,” George said. 

Emilie Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told CNA that abusive regimes hide behind the expanded language of rights.

“What often happens is governments which are the worst abusers will say” that “we’ve protected economic and social rights” as a means to “deflect criticism away from their failure to protect unalienable human rights” like freedom of religion and association.

The commission could assist the State Department in putting fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom, at the heart of its diplomacy with other countries, Kao said. But she warned it would not be easy.

Religious freedom has fallen by the wayside in attempts to redefine or introduce new international human rights which have led to “a devaluation of the unalienable human rights,” she told CNA. Nearly 80% of the global population lives in countries with significant restrictions on religious freedom.

Kao also said that the “proliferation” of rights claims could be seen in efforts at the international level to recognize rights that the 1948 Universal Declaration did not, citing the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution on the right to compete in sports based on one’s “gender identity.” 

The senior administration official explained to CNA that the commission’s work will consider the difference between “unalienable” and other kinds of rights—whether the “right not to be tortured” is on the same level as “the right to clean water,” or if the “right to liberty” is akin to the “right to social welfare payments.” 

“Those are the kinds of questions that they’ll ask,” they said.

Some advocacy groups have issued sharp criticisms of the commission. 

Amnesty International called the commission’s creation a “politicization of human rights” that would “further hateful policies aimed at women and LGBTQ people” and ignored an already-existing “global framework” to secure human rights.

Speaking to CNA, a senior administration official said this critique lacked a clear basis. 

“First of all, what global framework?” the official asked. “Has it all worked after 70 years? Have multilateral institutions done the job? Why not step back from it and have a serious genuine debate?”

Kao agreed, noting that groups like Amnesty International have worked to change the existing global framework on rights. She pointed to the Yogyakarta Principles, adopted by various rights groups in 2006, calling it a “manifesto” of the LGBT movement to add sexual orientation and gender identity categories into existing international human rights law and treaties. 

“That’s not what the member states of the UN, the governments, intended for those treaties to mean,” Kao said. 

The State department official also noted that “unalienable” rights are those that apply to everyone, and that the commission was not founded to discover new rights or take existing rights away, and that this should be weighed against more narrow concerns of LGBT rights in a Western political context.

“You have nations where gays are thrown off of roofs,” the administration official said. “Don’t you want government focusing on that?”

“It is really important to go back to the foundations,” Kao said of the effort to better understand human rights, noting that “cultural relativism” also plays a part in the current debate that “devalues” human rights. 

“Unalienable” human rights are universal, she said, they “transcend the civil and political rights” of a particular location.

Where hospices are at their worst, Christians have a mission

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 05:09

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 03:09 am (CNA).- In the wake of terrible conditions of negligence and abuse reported at some U.S. hospice facilities, several Catholic doctors are emphasizing the need for Christians to embrace a ministry of aiding hospice patients and their families.

“How can anyone be other than shocked and saddened by the cases reported?” Dr. Barbara Golder, M.D., J.D. told CNA July 10. “It breaks my heart, and I suspect anyone who has a loved one in hospice or extended residential or skilled nursing care worries about these things. This report makes it clear such worries are not unreasonable.”

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services on July 9 released two reports on U.S. hospice care, CNN reports. These reports said that more than 80% of end-of-life facilities had at least one deficiency.

Over 300 facilities, about 18%, had serious problems that jeopardized patients’ health and safety, the reports said.

Golder, the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Medical Association’s official journal, the Linacre Quarterly, told CNA that such reports are designed to highlight problems which must be fixed immediately.

“It’s also important to remember that there are excellent hospices that provide splendid care for their patients,” she said.

The worst cases of negligence and abuse in the new reports included a dying man whose feeding tubes had maggots growing around it, and a case in which caregivers failed to treat a patient with Alzheimer’s disease to such an extent that his leg had to be amputated. In yet another case, those responsible for a hospice patient failed to recognize signs on her body of sexual assault.

One woman in hospice care was repeatedly abused by her daughter, who was also her caregiver. The hospice’s social worker was notified of the signs of abuse, but he did not visit for several weeks and then did not assess the patient’s safety.

Another patient’s neighbor repeatedly entered his apartment “naked, high and drunk” and stole medications including opioids and anti-anxiety pills. Several hospice employees were aware of the situation but the hospice planned no further action to notify law enforcement or to ensure patient safety.

Hospice care in the U.S. received $17 billion in Medicare funds in 2017, serving over 1.5 million patients.

End-of-life care in the U.S. is increasingly discussed in the context of debates over legal assisted suicide, and Golder suggested reports about poor hospice care show the need to address the fundamental fears and concerns of people vulnerable to suicide.

“People who opt for assisted suicide often do so because they fear losing their dignity and value as people, rather than because they are in intractable pain or near the end of life,” she told CNA. “Reports of care like this – which clearly fails to respect the person – only feed that fear. It isn’t hard to imagine a patient deciding to end his life rather than risk hospice care if he fears that he will be treated as patients were in the most egregious cases outlined in the report.”

Golder encouraged parishes to take account of local people who are in hospice care and ask whether there is a way for the community to be aware of problems and to respond as communities and as individuals.

“Who are the patients in local facilities who have no one to visit and are thus more likely to be abused?” she asked. “Are we stepping up? Are we encouraging each other to do so?”

“Part of our call as Christians is to be present in the lives of the suffering long before it comes down to that choice, and both share in that suffering, and accompany the suffering patient so that the fear of worthlessness – as well as the risk of bad care – can be alleviated.”

The Christian faith in Jesus Christ can also be an explicit part of end-of-life care, Deacon Alan Rastrelli, M.D., told CNA. The Archdiocese of Denver deacon is a member of both the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the Catholic Medical Association.

“It is never too late, and that is where I concentrate my efforts to help those in doubt and despair know that Jesus, the Divine Physician, is always there with His hand reaching out,” Rastrelli said. “With this kind of care, that is the antidote to defuse the cry for assisted suicide and euthanasia – so patients and families can be assured of dignified care during the rest of their natural life, and avoiding aborting life at the end.”

Rastrelli told CNA he moved from anesthesiology into hospice and palliative medicine in order to address deficiencies in normal medical care at the end of life.

“End-of-life care requires addressing not just the somatic or physical symptoms, such as pain, but also the emotional, psychological, financial, and importantly spiritual component to a patient’s suffering,” he said.

Golder emphasized the Christian view that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and this means “every patient is to be treated well and with dignity.”

“It’s particularly important to treat the vulnerable and dependent with love and care, as they cannot fend for themselves and are so often abandoned,” she said, citing Mother Teresa’s words that such people can be “Jesus in His most distressing disguise.”

“Sick patients are the face of Jesus, and if we take the great judgment scene in [the Gospel of Matthew] at all seriously, how we treat the least among us is how we treat Jesus – and it has eternal consequences,” she said.

In the inspector general report, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma wrote that the cases of negligent care and abuse in hospices are “very serious” but not representative.

“We want to reassure beneficiaries considering hospice care that these cases are not indicative of the type of care the majority of hospice beneficiaries receive,” she said.

A CMS spokesperson told CNN the agency has “zero tolerance for abuse and mistreatment of any patient.” It requires every Medicare-certified hospice to “meet basic federal health and safety standards to keep patients safe.”

CMS said it has issued new guidance for hospice surveyors and inspectors “to help them more quickly identify and address the most grave patient safety situations.” Surveyors must now follow a standardized process when they identify “immediate jeopardy situations.”

The inspector general also found that the facilities with serious problems did not face “serious consequences” and recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services secure stronger legal authority to penalize hospices, comparable to its present authority to penalize nursing facilities. At present authorities cannot impose penalties, short of terminating hospices.

The reports also indicated missing areas of regulation. Hospices are not currently obliged by Medicare reporting requirements to report alleged abuse or exploitation.

Congressional action is needed to add remedies for poorly performing hospices and to add enforcement tools to protect patients are needed, the inspector general said.

According to Golder, though, punitive responses are not necessarily fixes on their own, as these can incentivize ignoring or hiding problems.

“We also need a way for institutions, and caregivers on the front lines, to recognize these problems early, and address them effectively, without fearing to ask for help because of overreaching fines and sanctions,” she said.

Golder stressed that hospice caregiving can be very difficult for caregivers and hospice staff. In her view, this is because “we tend to fear the dependency and debility we see in others, especially when it’s something we know to be the natural course of life.”

“We’d rather not face it – and that’s one source of neglect,” she said.

“One thing I think we often forget is that the caregivers in these facilities work hard at difficult and emotionally as well as physically demanding jobs, often for relatively low pay. That complicates these situations though it certainly does not excuse them,” Golder added, saying that abuses are not always simply rooted in malice.

“Staffing, lack of training, lack of understanding of what the law requires, and burnout can all contribute and no solution will be adequate if it fails to address contributing causes.”

Patients and loved ones can also respond to problem situations in hospice care.

Golder told CNA that in critical cases a call to 911 emergency services, adult protective services, or domestic violence hotlines may be in order. A local bar association can make referrals to attorneys specializing in elder law who may be in a position to assist and will meet with prospective clients for a minimal fee.

In less urgent situations, some institutions have staffers like ombudsmen to respond to patient care concerns.

“If the situation is less than life threatening, I think it is worth making one attempt – only one – to resolve the issue in-house by talking to someone from administration and asking for immediate clear steps, a firm timeline, and a responsible contact personally accountable to resolve the issue,” Golder advised.

 

Teacher fired for abortion rights social media posts sues Catholic school in SC

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 20:01

Charleston, S.C., Jul 11, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A teacher at a Catholic school in South Carolina whose contract was not renewed because of her posts on Facebook in support of abortion rights is now suing the school, claiming that her First Amendment rights have been violated.

According to the July 8 lawsuit, Elizabeth Cox taught at Bishop England High School in Charleston for 16 years before being informed at the end of the last school year, June 7, that her contract would not be renewed.

Cox had shared on Facebook several posts and links expressing pro-choice views, while at the same time listing the Catholic school publicly as her employer.

According to ABC News 4, included among Cox's social media posts were a quotation from feminist activist Gloria Steinem asserting gun purchasers should be subjected to rigorous screenings similar to those of women seeking abortions, and an unattributed quotation casting suspicion on pro-life claims of people who do not also support gun bans, free healthcare, and other political causes ostensibly meant to protect and improve quality of life.

Another post includes a link to a Washington Post news story, without comment from the teacher, with the headline “Leslie Jones leads the charge against Alabama’s abortion ban in the SNL season finale,” the Charlotte Observer reports.

The Catholic Church has consistently condemned direct abortion, the intentional taking of an innocent human life, as a grave moral evil, and has upheld the sanctity of the life of the unborn child.

Teachers accepting jobs at Bishop England sign contracts agreeing to speak publicly and to act in accordance with Catholic beliefs, regardless of whether they are Catholic, to aid in the “intellectual and spiritual development of students according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.” A copy of the contract is included in the lawsuit.

“When we confronted you with the post, you admitted to it and, moreover, reacted in a manner leading us to conclude you would not do so differently in the future,” Bishop England principal Patrick Finneran is quoted as saying in Cox’s termination letter.

“Parents send their children to [Bishop England] expressly because they want a Catholic teaching and upbringing. Your public expression of disagreement with Catholic values undermines that."

The Diocese of Charleston is not named in the suit, but the school, Principal Finneran, and four additional people Cox believes to be involved in her firing are, ABC 4News reports.

In her lawsuit, Cox contends that her firing "violates political rights and privileges of free speech guaranteed by the United States Constitution and/or the Constitution of the State of South Carolina." She also argues that her firing violates South Carolina law prohibiting the firing of employees for expressing political opinions.

Cox is seeking a monetary award as well as reinstatement as a teacher at Bishop England. The school has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

“Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Charleston and Bishop England High School have received notice of the complaint that was filed on July 8. We will review and file a response to the lawsuit with the court in due time,” diocesan spokesperson Maria Aselage said in a statement to CNA.

Several other cases of teachers being fired for failing publicly to uphold Catholic teaching are ongoing in the US.

This week, a teacher at a Catholic school in Indianapolis whose contract was terminated due to his same-sex marriage announced he is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, one day after reaching a settlement with the school.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC that government cannot interfere with religious institutions’ hiring and firing decisions regarding employees whom they consider to be ministers.

Ariz. Catholic agency hopes to house asylum seekers in unused detention center

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 19:17

Tucson, Ariz., Jul 11, 2019 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- A Catholic agency in Tucson, Arizona is hoping to transform an unused portion of a juvenile detention center into housing facilities for immigrants seeking asylum.

Since January, Catholic Community Services in Arizona has housed asylum seekers in the local Benedictine Monastery, the third largest shelter for migrants in the United States, according to the Sahuarita Sun. Due to monastery renovations, they must relocate later this month.

Arizona Public Media reported this week that a $100 one-year renewable lease is currently being drawn up for the organization to use a portion of the Pima County's Juvenile Justice Complex.

The county board of supervisors must approve the move during the next board meeting in August.

The justice complex can hold 350 people, but currently houses less than 50. Catholic Community Services is hoping to use the additional 300 beds, plus an attached kitchen and laundry room, in a portion of the facility that is separate from the area still used as a juvenile detention center.

Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson said the justice complex will provide a safer and healthier environment to shelter the migrants, who typically stay no longer than a few days.

“Even though the monastery was a lovely environment, it was not setup in its infrastructure for our needs. The plumbing system especially was a real challenge,” he said, according to Arizona Public Media.

The county would pay for operating costs, and would then request reimbursement from the federal government, which is responsible for the immigrants seeking asylum, the Sahuarita Sun reports.

Some renovations will be necessary, to make the space more comfortable and inviting. Jan Lesher, chief deputy county administrator, stressed that the asylum seekers are not being imprisoned, and the building will be altered to reflect that.

“What we hope to do is make it as seamless as possible for those who live in the community and those asylum seekers passing through,” she told Arizona Public Media.

 

Pages