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Pope Francis makes mission founded by St. Junipero Serra a minor basilica

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 14:30

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis has elevated a California mission church founded by St. Junipero Serra to the rank of minor basilica. The San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura was granted the title by the pope in an announcement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Wednesday, the feast of St. Bonaventure.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced the mission’s new status on July 15, before celebrating daily Mass at the mission garden, together with Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop Bobert Barron, and the mission’s pastor. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mass was celebrated outdoors and livestreamed.

“When the Pope designates a basilica, it means this is holy ground,” Gomez said.

“Something beautiful and important in the history of salvation happened here. A basilica is a place where the mercy of God has been proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ. It is a place where sinners have been saved and saints have been made, and the Kingdom of God has moved forward.”

The designation is granted to churches around the world in recognition of their special pastoral and liturgical significance in Catholic life, and their closeness to the pope. The San Buenaventura Mission remains an active parish of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, serving approximately 1,400 families. It is the 88th U.S. church to receive the title, and the first in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The request for minor basilica status was presented to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments in 2014 by the mission’s pastor, Fr. Thomas Elewaut.

Elwaut welcomed the announcement on Wednesday, calling it “a joyous occasion” for local Catholics.

“Archbishop Gomez notified me on the eve of St. Junípero Serra’s feast day, July 1, that Mission San Buenaventura is elevated to a Minor Basilica. On behalf of our parishioners, I am most grateful to His Holiness, Pope Francis for this recognition and to Archbishop Gomez for his unwavering support for this petition which began in 2014,” said Fr. Elewaut.

“This is truly a joyous occasion for our parish – an honor that stretches beyond the Mission even beyond the Archdiocese – as well as our city and county and a worthy way to celebrate the feast day of St. Bonaventure today.”

The mission was founded by St. Serra on Easter Sunday 1782, the ninth and last mission established by the Franciscan saint. Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s largest cities— including as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

An advocate for native people and a champion of human rights, Serra was often at odds with Spanish authorities over the treatment of native people, from whom there was an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

Serra was canonized by Pope Francis during a visit to the United States in 2015.

Bishop Barron said he was “absolutely delighted” by the news.

“This is a tribute to our great Archdiocese of Los Angeles and an acknowledgement of the splendid evangelical work that has taken place at the mission for over two hundred years. May God be praised!”

The announcement of the elevation of the San Buenaventura Mission comes days after a fire devastated another local mission founded by St. Serra. Early Saturday morning, a four-alarm fire destroyed the roof and interior of the 249-year-old San Gabriel Mission church, founded in 1771.

Despite Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, statues of the saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past.

Rioters pulled down a statue of St. Serra in the state capital of Sacramento on July 4. On June 19, statues of the saint were torn down in San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

In June, the San Juan Capistrano Mission and its neighboring church removed statues of Serra from their outside displays to preserve them from being targeted.

On June 29, Gomez wrote that while “those attacking St. Junípero’s good name and vandalizing his memorials do not know his true character or the actual historical record,” increased security precautions meant that some California churches would “probably have to relocate some statues to our beloved saint or risk their desecration.”

On July 14, the University of San Diego, a Catholic university, announced that it would take down its statue of the saint, in response to Gomez’s letter.

Cardinal Dolan blesses the remains of immigrants who died from coronavirus

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan blessed July 11 the remains of over 200 Mexican immigrants who died from coronavirus complications in New York.

The Archbishop of New York led the liturgy on Saturday at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. There were the cremated remains of 220 people, which are now being transported to Mexico for burial.

 

Today I prayed for and blessed the ashes of more than 230 Mexicans who died of the coronavirus. The Consul General, Jorge Islas Lopez, was here and the remains are being taken back to Mexico for burial. pic.twitter.com/otNgqP9U7X

— Cardinal Dolan (@CardinalDolan) July 11, 2020  

"I send them our love and our sympathy and our prayer. These good people have become a part of our home and family but they never forget you back in Mexico. They love you very much," said Dolan, according to ABC 7.

According to the New York Times, the state has more than 430,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, over half of which occurred in New York City. As of Tuesday, coronavirus complications have caused 32,092 deaths across the state and 22,808 of those deaths occurred in the city.

The cardinal prayed over the immigrant’s remains and blessed them with holy water. Organizers noted that burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy.

The private service only included a small number of attendees as many of the deceased individuals did not have family here in the U.S.

Jorge Islas Lopez, the Consul General of Mexico, helped organize and attended the event. He will escort the ashes back to Mexico, where they will be reunited with the families. 

"Many of them died alone because they didn't have family here. We planned with their families in Mexico and will lay them to rest with the dignity and respect they deserve," Lopez said, according to ABC 7.

"These families suffered because they weren't able to be with their loved ones at the time of death," said Dolan. "And now to know that they've had God's blessing here at the cathedral and that they're going to be accompanied to their home in Mexico, with the hope of their eternal home in heaven and that we've sought the intercession of their madre, Our Lady of Guadalupe, it means a lot to me."

 

Texas pro-life Democrat wins run-off primary election

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 13:00

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A pro-life Texas state senator won his Democratic primary race on Tuesday, after being the target of aggressive negative campaigning - including ethnic slurs from pro-abortion groups.

Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) of Texas’ 27th district won his primary runoff against Sara Stapleton-Barrera on Tuesday, receiving 53.6% of the vote to Barrera’s 46.4%.

Lucio, of Mexican descent, has served in the Texas state senate since 1991. He has voted for legislation to ban dismemberment abortions, to bar taxpayer funding of abortion, and to improve Texas abortion reporting.

During his 2020 campaign, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes PAC and the pro-abortion Texas Freedom Network referred to him as “Sucio Lucio” in direct mail campaigns and online, literally meaning “dirty Lucio.” The term “sucio” has historically been used as an anti-Mexican slur.

Some critics of Lucio said the term was used in reference to his political tactics, but Lucio, along with his son who is a state representative, said it is offensive in the region of his South Texas district.

Rep. Eddie Lucio III in a press release condemned the “derogatory and racial slurs” against his father.

“These big special-interests groups from outside our border community should comprehend the deeper connotations behind the word 'sucio' ('dirty Mexican') and the association with a person of Hispanic descent,” he said.

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville also issued a statement saying that the reference was “derogatory,” noting that “‘Sucio’ is an unacceptable word when associated with a Mexican American family name.”

Lucio advances to the general election, where he will face off with Republican nominee Vanessa Tijerina who was arrested in June and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and a DWI.

In an interview with CNA last week, Lucio said his pro-life views were informed by his upbringing in a Catholic family of ten who attended St. Joseph parish in West Brownsville.

He told CNA that he was attacked for his pro-life views, but that he wouldn’t be deterred. “I don’t make any excuses for that, and I don’t apologize for that,” Lucio said.

He added that his pro-life views “from conception until natural death” bring him in opposition at times to both political parties, as Democrats “will support a woman’s right to an abortion” while Republicans may vote against expanding Medicaid or in support of the death penalty.

Susan B. Anthony List, which contributed mail and digital ads in Lucio’s favor, said they were “thrilled” over his victory, especially since Barrera supported abortion until birth.

Lucio, said the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser, “is a Democrat who has bucked his party’s abortion extremism” and who “will continue to faithfully represent the interests of pro-life Texans who believe in commonsense limits on abortion that protect unborn babies and their moms.”

Statue of Virgin Mary beheaded at Tennessee parish

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 12:40

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2020 / 10:40 am (CNA).- A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was attacked this weekend at a parish in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the third reported incident against a statue of Mary occuring in the same weekend. 

“What a strange time [we live in],” Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville tweeted on July 13. “Over the weekend, an outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother was beheaded at St. Stephen Parish in Chattanooga.” 

On the morning of Saturday, July 11, Fr. Manuel Perez, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Chattanooga, was walking the church grounds and preparing for Mass when he noticed that the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been knocked over. Upon further inspection, he noticed the head of the statue was nowhere to be found, although the body and pedestal of the statue remained. 

“Fr. Perez said that he looked around the church grounds to see if he could find a missing head and he couldn't locate it,” Jim Wogan, director of communications for the Diocese of Knoxville, told CNA. 

The statue is about five feet tall and estimated to be worth about $2,000. There was no other damage to the church, and Wogan said that the statute was partly shielded by shrubbery. 

Wogan said he could not think of any reason why St. Stephen Catholic church would be targeted by vandals. 

“Anytime something like this happens, it's disappointing and it's concerning,” said Wogan. 

He added that there no local controversy around the church and there was no known motivation for the attack, “and that can be almost more troubling than knowing, sometimes.” 

The decapitation of the Blessed Mother statue at St. Stephen occurred on the same weekend as several other high-profile acts of vandalism at Catholic churches across the country, including the desecration of statues of the Virgin Mary. In Boston, a statue of Mary was set on fire, and in Brooklyn, a statue was tagged with the word “IDOL” in black spray paint. 

Wogan described the national atmosphere as a “very chaotic time in our history,” and said that “anger seems to be sort of a default setting for people right now.” 

“And I think our bishop and our pastors would hope that people would remember the sort of example that is set in the Gospels--that, we're to treat each other as we'd want to be treated,” he said.

Police investigation into the act, and the possibility that it was a hate crime, is ongoing.

In the same weekend, a parish in Ocala, Florida and a Calfornia mission founded by St. Junipero Serra were burned in fires. A man has been charged with arson in the Florida fire, and the California fire is being investigated as a case of arson. In recent weeks, Catholic religious statues in California, Missouri, and other places have been toppled or vandalized by protestors.

Federal judge places hold on Tennessee heartbeat-based abortion ban

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 06:00

CNA Staff, Jul 15, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Citing the need to protect the unborn, the Tennessee governor has signed strong heartbeat-based abortion restrictions into law. However, a federal judge quickly placed a temporary injunction on the law.

“We all have the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” Governor Bill Lee said in a signing ceremony broadcast on Facebook Live July 14. “The most vulnerable in Tennessee includes the unborn.”

With the signing of the bill, he said, Tennessee becomes “one of the most pro-life states in America”.

Lee had previously made the bill a priority for the legislative session on the grounds that “every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it.”

The Tennessee Senate passed a ban on abortion June 19 by a 23-5 party line vote. A lawsuit was filed against the law soon after it passed the senate.

Plaintiffs opposing the law include the American Civil Liberties Union, its Tennessee affiliate, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The legislation bars abortion after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Backers of the bill claim to have designed its provisions to withstand court challenge.

If the courts strike down Tennessee’s heartbeat-based abortion ban, about six weeks into pregnancy, the legislation would automatically enact a ban on abortion at ten different gradations: eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks into pregnancy.

It bars abortion if a woman is known to be seeking an abortion because of the unborn child’s sex or race, or because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The law bars abortions for juveniles in the custody of the state’s Department of Children’s Services, and removes the ability to petition a judge for permission for an abortion.

The law would allow abortion if a woman’s life is in danger but not if the unborn child is conceived in rape or incest.

Pro-abortion rights critics were vocally opposed.

“Banning abortion is blatantly unconstitutional, and the lawmakers who passed this law are well aware,” Jessica Sklarsky, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said July 14. “It is unconscionable that — in the middle of a public health crisis and a national reckoning on systemic racism — lawmakers are focused on trying to eliminate access to abortion.”

“Abortion is an essential health service, and this law clearly violates the constitutional rights of patients and disproportionately harms communities of color,” she said, according to the television station Fox 17 Nashville.


The ACLU of Tennessee attempted to counter bans on abortion "motivated by sex, race or disability diagnosis of the unborn child." These “reason bans,” the group contended, are “peddling stigma around abortions and stereotypes of Black and Brown communities, Asian Americans, and people with disabilities.”

Last month State Rep. Susan Lynn, a sponsor of the bill, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that Tennessee lawmakers anticipated a legal challenge to the bill, so they used a "ladder approach," of multiple limits, so if the court strikes down the heartbeat ban portion, the remaining bans will remain in place.

“There’s a successive order of dates where the court can reach that level where they feel comfortable,” Lynn said.

Lynn said she hoped the bill’s heartbeat ban stands because "a heartbeat is an indicator of life.”

“So it only makes sense that when there is a heartbeat, there cannot be an abortion," she said.

Under the law, a doctor must determine the gestational age of the unborn child and inform the mother, allow the woman to hear the fetal heartbeat and explain the location of the unborn child in her uterus, conduct an ultrasound and display the images to the mother. The abortionist must provide an explanation of the unborn child’s size and explain which external body parts and internal organs are present and visible.
 
A heartbeat-based abortion ban passed the Tennessee House last year but Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally did not support it in the Senate.
 
Similar laws in Mississippi, Ohio, and other states have been struck down in court.

If the law takes effect, a doctor who performs an illegal abortion would face a Class C felony.

The bill drew support from pro-life advocates.

“This law recognizes the humanity of the unborn child by stopping abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, protecting them from lethal discrimination in the womb, and ending late-term abortions after five months, when unborn babies can feel excruciating pain, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said June 19.

She characterized the bill as a rejection of “abortion extremism” in states such as New York and Virginia, where legislators have “pushed to expand abortion on demand through birth and even infanticide.”

The law requires abortion clinics to post a sign saying that it is possible to reverse a chemical abortion, or face a $10,000 fine.
 
Similar Arizona legislation, passed in 2015, was repealed in 2016 after legal challenges. Arizona had to pay Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers more than $600,000 in attorney fees and other costs spent fighting the law, the Associated Press reported.

Due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, the bill was thought to be shelved. It appeared to have revived in last-minute negotiations between the House and Senate, The Tennessean reports. The Senate rules were suspended when the bill was passed and no members of the public were present.

The manner in which the bill was passed also drew criticism from its foes.

Expert on abortion and mental health says Turnaway Study is 'flawed'

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 21:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 14, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).-  

A developmental psychologist told CNA that a study claiming most women do not regret their abortions is flawed, and does not accurately represent how women experience abortion.

The study, known as the Turnaway Study, is the subject of a new book titled “The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion,” by Diana Greene Foster, PhD. The book was published on June 2, 2020.

The Turnaway Study originated from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), which is based at the University of California, San Francisco. ANSIRH conducts scientific research domestically and abroad on topics related to reproductive health.

The study describes itself as “the first study to rigorously examine the effects of receiving versus being denied a wanted abortion on women and their children,” and studied women from 30 abortion clinics nationwide who either were denied an abortion because they were past the gestational limit; were initially denied an abortion as they were past the gestational limit but later received one; and those who received a first-trimester abortion.

In January 2020, the authors of the study reported that approximately 95% of women who had abortions did not regret their decision five years after the fact, even if they did initially experience regret.

“Even if they had difficulty making the decision initially, or if they felt their community would not approve, our research shows that the overwhelming majority of women who obtain abortions continue to believe it was the right decision,” said Corinne Rocca, PhD, MPH, an associate professor at the USCF’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. Rocca is the first author of the Turnaway Study.

“This debunks the idea that most women suffer emotionally from having an abortion,” Rocca claimed.But Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University disagrees with the study’s conclusion and methodology. She told CNA she believes the methodology of the study is “highly problematic.”
 
“In any other field, you wouldn't be able to publish this stuff,” Coleman told CNA. She said the “politically correct” conclusions found by the Turnaway Study are why it has received widespread acceptance. 

Coleman has testified as an expert on abortion and mental health in state and civil cases involving abortion, in state legislative hearings on abortion, before a U.S. Congressional committee, and to legislatures in the United Kingdom and Australia.

According to Coleman, the composition of the sample studied is one of the biggest flaws associated with the data.

“Initially, only 37.5% of the women who were invited to participate agreed to participate,” said Coleman. “And then, across the study period, 42% dropped out. So the final results are based on 22% of eligible women.”

Coleman was also critical of other research methods used by the authors of the Turnaway Study. As the legal limit to terminate a pregnancy varies from state-to-state, the study may have put two women who had abortions at considerably different points in their pregnancies together in the same research group. She said that many of these delineations were not made clear by the study’s authors, which further complicates their conclusions.

The sociologist also believes that the conclusions drawn by the Turnaway Study do not mesh up with other academic research on the topic.

“Most of the literature--the peer-reviewed scientific articles--indicate that a significant percentage of women are at risk for regretting their abortions,” she told CNA.

“Not every woman's going to regret her abortion or have mental health problems, but there's an increased risk. And so that's something women have a right to know about prior to undergoing the procedure.”

Coleman explained that while the Turnaway Study has produced many academic articles about its results, they do not show the full picture of the risks of abortion, and that women deserve to know more about the risks that accompany the procedure.

Women “have a right to know what the broader scientific literature indicates,” said Coleman.

“There are hundreds of studies and if (women seeking abortions) are only given the results of the Turnaway Study, they're not being informed, they're being misled. And that's problematic in my view.”

 

Criticism of Cardinal Dolan letter 'silly,' Weigel publisher says

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 20:30

Denver Newsroom, Jul 14, 2020 / 06:30 pm (CNA).-  

The publisher of a new book by papal biographer George Weigel said Tuesday that it sent Weigel’s latest text to Catholic cardinals as a matter of course, and that it often sends newly published books to Catholic leaders.

“It’s not uncommon for Catholic publishers to send books to Catholic leaders, including cardinals and bishops. It certainly isn’t uncommon for us. But even if it were uncommon, there is nothing scandalous about it,” Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, told CNA, after a July 14 report from the National Catholic Reporter said that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan had sent the book, entitled “The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission,” to cardinals.

Dolan, who is known to be a longtime friend of Weigel's, wrote a one-line cover letter when the publisher mailed the book to cardinals, Brumley told CNA. The letter said “I am grateful to Ignatius Press for making this important reflection on the future of the Church available to the College of Cardinals.”

While the National Catholic Reporter said the letter was “an apparent break with the longstanding practice that the Catholic Church's highest prelates refrain from publicly lobbying for possible candidates for the papacy,” Brumley disagreed.

“It is scandalous for someone, with knowledge of the content of Cardinal Dolan’s letter, to assert or imply that Cardinal Dolan was politicking for a candidate for the next conclave. Or that the book is politicking for a candidate for the next conclave,” Brumley told CNA.

“It’s silly to assert this, if someone bothers to read the letter—which is really just a short note from Cardinal Dolan expressing gratitude to Ignatius Press for sending the book to the college—and if someone bothers to read the book, which says nothing about candidates or the next conclave or anything like that.”

Weigel told CNA that the book, while titled “The Next Pope,” does not actually discuss the next papal conclave. Instead, he said it attempts to reflect on how the Church, and the papacy, can continue the mission of the New Evangelization in the decades to come.

“There are no candidates discussed at all, and there is absolutely no discussion of conclave politics. Suggestions to the contrary are either ignorant (meaning someone hasn't read the book) or malicious (meaning someone has an agenda),” Weigel said July 14.

“‘The Next Pope’ suggests an agenda for the Catholic future, viewed through the prism of the Office of Peter. The book takes up Pope Francis's invitation in Evangelii Gaudium to think about what it would mean for the Church to be ‘permanently in mission,’ and the book suggests how the Bishop of Rome can empower others (including bishops, priests, religious, and laity) to be the missionary disciples they were baptized to be,” the author added.

“I also intended the book to raise the discussion of the Catholic future above the usual Twitter polemics and the all-too-abundant conspiracy theories in circulation. It's a shame that some people are evidently content to leave the discussion at that level.”

The book “draws lessons from the papacies of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, each of whom I have known personally and with each of whom I have been in serious conversation,” Weigel said.

The National Catholic Reporter’s report said that the 1996 policy on the election of a pope promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II in Universi Dominici Gregis, “expressly forbids cardinals from discussing possible papal successors.”

Those norms do forbid cardinal electors of a pope to promise votes or otherwise make agreements regarding who they will vote for before a papal conclave, but they do not forbid the discussion of candidates for the papacy, or the needs of the Church.

“The cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons,” the document states.

”It is not my intention however to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote in the document's same section.

Of his book, Weigel said “I hope it helps facilitate just that kind of reasoned, prudent discussion,” even while its focus is set of broad reflections on the life and mission of the papacy, and the Church.

Weigel also rejected the suggestion, made by some critics, that it is inappropriate to discuss the future of the papacy, or consider possible courses of papal action to address the Church’s needs, while a pope is in office.

“It’s ridiculous. I don't recall anyone making such a silly criticism when Peter Hebblethwaite and Luigi Accattoli wrote books about the future of the papacy during the pontificate of John Paul II.”

“And I don't recall John Paul II, Benedict XVI, or Francis, during our personal conversations, ever suggesting that it was presumptuous for a layman to offer them counsel; which only makes sense, as they had asked me to tell them the truth as I understood it,” Weigel added.

Accattoli was a long-time Vatican journalist, retired in 2008, who wrote several books on the state and needs of the Church during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Hebblethwaite was a laicized priest and journalist who, in 1995, wrote a book entitled “The Next Pope: An Enquiry,” that offered a sharp criticism of the papacy of John Paul II, and suggested what his successor might do.

Hebblethwaite was a Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. In 2004, writer Paul Elie characterized his book as “a polemic against what Hebblethwaite....saw as the interminable misrule of John Paul II.”

In fact, those book are not the only contribution to the genre of Church analysis, to which Weigel's book belongs, or of papal prognistication, to which Weigel's book does not.

In 2002, noted Vatican journalist John Allen published “Conclave,” which looked at how cardinal electors might weigh the factors that go into choosing a papal candidate, and that offered a list of 20 likely candidates for the office. The National Catholic Register's Ed Pentin also will publish a book this summer entitled “The Next Pope.” That book, like Allen's, but unlike Weigel's, mentions specific possible candidates for the papal office.

Cardinal Dolan could not be reached for comment before publication.

In his remarks to CNA, Weigel questioned a description in the National Catholic Reporter of cardinals, who were not named in the report, left “speechless” that they had been sent the book.

“A ‘speechless’ cardinal may be something of an ontological impossibility, and in any event these ‘speechless’ cardinals seemed to find their voices when they wanted to. As I indicated previously, Cardinal Dolan didn't send them my book; Ignatius Press sent them my book and the cardinal kindly provided a cover letter thanking Ignatius Press for making the book available to the College of Cardinals. So if anyone was struck ‘speechless’ by Cardinal Dolan ‘sending’ them a book, they ought to look again at his letter and read it accurately this time.”

“The College of Cardinals has not met as a group since February 2014. That unhappy fact is going to make the next interregnum and conclave difficult, as the members of the College really don't know each other. If ‘The Next Pope’ helps create networks of conversation among the cardinals  in which they can think together about the future of the Church, I'll be well satisfied,” Weigel added.

Indoor events, public Masses again suspended by California governor’s order 

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 19:41

CNA Staff, Jul 14, 2020 / 05:41 pm (CNA).- With coronavirus cases spiking in California, the governor has issued new orders banning indoor events including public Masses in much of the state.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom suspended all indoor activities at restaurants, entertainment venues, museums, and zoos throughout the entire state. In 30 counties seeing the bulk of new cases, houses of worship, gyms, and hairdressers will also be forced to halt indoor operations.

These counties, which house 80% of California’s population, also cover several Catholic dioceses.

A July 13 letter from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to local parishes called the development “discouraging.” It instructed priests to discontinue indoor Masses, but noted that outdoor Masses and other prayers services, such as adoration, will be permitted.

“Parishes may continue to celebrate Confessions, First Communions, Confirmations, Funerals, and Weddings outdoors on the parish grounds. Parishioners must wear face coverings and practice social distancing, even outdoors,” the letter says.

The governor’s directive will also close parish offices to the public, but it will permit a small number of essential staff to continue employment in the office as long as social distancing requirements are followed.

The Los Angeles archdiocese has encouraged parish offices to communicate with parishioners, answer questions via phone, and “reassure individuals and families that our parishes are still there for them in prayer and to help with any needs they may have.”

Other dioceses in the state issued similar statements.

“I know this feels very discouraging for many of the faithful and I share in that pain,” said Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino. “Please be assured of my prayers and my solidarity with the people at this moment.”

“Let us continue to turn to God to console us in this time of uncertainty and testing. He is always with us and our faith in Him will guide us through this pandemic.”

California is one of a number of states that has begun seeing a rise in coronavirus cases after easing pandemic prevention measures in May.

Since the pandemic began, California has seen over 330,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 7,000 related deaths. There has been a 48% increase in cases in the past two weeks.

On Monday, California reported a 26% increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and a 19% increase in ICU patients during the last two weeks. The report stated that 72% of ventilators and 35% of ICU beds are still available.

Governor Newsom said Monday that the recent data is a cause for “caution and concern.” He said it is important that restriction decisions be based on local data and conditions.

“We're moving back into a modification mode of our original stay-at-home order, but doing so utilizing what is commonly referred to as a 'dimmer switch,' not an 'on and off switch,'” he said, according to NPR.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has also emphasized the dangers of the virus, encouraging parishioners to pray and take efforts to remain healthy.

“This is also a good time to remind all of our parishioners that the risk of coronavirus is real, and it is dangerous. While these Orders are discouraging and disappointing, this is the time to pray for one another, trust in Jesus, and focus on the care and love he has for each one of us,” the statement reads.

“May Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Angels, continue to bless our parishes and loved ones with good health, joy, and peace.”

 

 

Man arrested on assault charges after incident at St. Louis statue

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 19:36

CNA Staff, Jul 14, 2020 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- A man in St. Louis has been charged with four counts of fourth-degree assault after police say he threw punches at people praying and defending a statue of St. Louis during a recent protest.

Terrence Page, 34, admitted to News 4 that he threw the punches, saying, “Real change doesn’t happen unless you take those risks.”
 
He said he thought there were KKK members defending the statue, and argued that “their presence alone is terrorism, because they instill fear.”

The incident took place June 27 near the Apotheosis of St. Louis statue, which sits in the city’s Forest Park in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum. It was erected in 1906 and depicts Louis IX of France, for whom the city is named.

In recent weeks, some protestors have called for the removal of the statue, as well as the renaming of the city. On June 27, some 200 people surrounded the statue in protest. One organizer said the statue “represents hate” and “is not a symbol of our city in 2020.”

Catholics defending the statue at the protest prayed the rosary and sang, and several police officers separated them from the protesters.

Videos posted online appear to show Page confronting counter-protestors, growing agitated, and punching at least person in the head repeatedly. Police say there were four victims of the assault. One of the individuals was later diagnosed with a concussion, according to local media.

Page defended his actions, telling News 4, “Maybe you can slap some sense into somebody sometimes. And they'll think differently.”

St. Louis was King of France from 1226-70, and he partook in the Seventh and Eighth Crusades. He restricted usury and established hospitals, and personally cared for the poor and for lepers. He was canonized in 1297.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis released a June 29 statement defending the city’s namesake.

“For Catholics, St. Louis is an example of an imperfect man who strived to live a life modeled after the life of Jesus Christ. For St. Louisans, he is a model for how we should care for our fellow citizen, and a namesake with whom we should be proud to identify,”  the archdiocese said.

It highlighted St. Louis’ care and concern for his subjects, especially the poor— pointing to reforms that he implemented in French government, which focused on impartial justice, protecting the rights of his subjects, steep penalties for royal officials abusing power, and a series of initiatives to help the poor.

 

Court denies Catholic priest's motion asking for delay of prisoner's execution

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 18:01

CNA Staff, Jul 14, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The chief judge of a federal district court in Indiana denied Tuesday a motion to delay the execution of Dustin Honken, which is scheduled to take place Friday, until a treatment or vaccine for coronavirus is widely available.

Fr. Mark O'Keefe, OSB, filed the motion for an injunction, asking that the execution be delayed so he could fulfill his “sacred religious duty to minister Mr. Honken at his execution” while not risking his own “life and health.”

Jane Magnus-Stinson, chief judge of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, denied the motion July 14, saying it was unlikely that O'Keefe could successfully argue that the execution would violate his religious freedom rights, as well as procedural rights.

Edward Wallace, an attorney for Fr. O'Keefe, responded that “The First Amendment bars the federal government from burdening an individual’s exercise of his religion unless there is a compelling government interest. Today’s ruling ignores the fact that there is no legitimate government interest in forcing a priest to choose between fulfilling his sacred duties and protecting his own and others’ lives and health.”

Wallace added that the executions of Honken and another inmate, Wesley Purkey, should not be carried out “in the midst of a global pandemic and a burgeoning outbreak in the federal prison population.”

Honken was convicted of the murder of five people, including a single mother and her two daughters aged ten and six years old, in 2004. His execution is scheduled July 17.

The motion to delay the executions were filed by Fr. O'Keefe and by Dale Hartkemeyer, who is the Buddhist minister to Purkey. They asserted that the scheduled executions put them at “serious personal risk due to potential exposure to the coronavirus,” and thus violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Department of Justice argued that while the ministers' “sincerely held religious beliefs require them to attend to the spiritual needs” of the inmates as they face execution, it “has imposed no substantial burden on the plaintiffs' free exercise of those beliefs because the plaintiffs are 'not themselves the subject of government regulation.'” It added that the supposed impediment to the scheduled execution, the pandemic, “is not one of the Government's making.”

Magnus-Stinson wrote that “to show a government-created substantial burden” under RFRA, “a plaintiff must identify some government action with a ‘tendency to coerce individuals into acting contrary to their religious beliefs.’ The mere scheduling of an execution imposes no obligation or restriction on the religious advisor whom the condemned prisoner has selected to attend. And the plaintiffs' claims as stated in their complaint rest entirely on the setting of Mr. Purkey's and Mr. Honken's execution dates during the pandemic. Accordingly, the plaintiffs have not shown more than a negligible likelihood of demonstrating a substantial burden on their religious beliefs, as required to prevail on their RFRA claims.”

The schedule executions of Honken and Purkey are pursuant to the Justice Department’s 2019 announcement that the federal bureau of prisons would resume executions for the first time since 2003.

Five executions were scheduled between July 13 and Aug. 28. The first was carried out July 14. Challenges against the other three executions have failed, but the fifth inmate, Wesley Ira Purkey, had his execution temporarily halted July 2 by the Seventh Circuit appeals court.

Fr. O’Keefe, 64, is a Benedictine monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey and professor of moral theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. He also ministers to the incarcerated and to cloistered nuns.

He has ministered to Honken for a decade, and has been approved to administer him last rites shortly before his execution.

Earlier this month Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark had asked President Donald Trump to commute Honken’s death sentence. The cardinal had frequently visited Honken while he was Archbishop of Indianapolis, and he testified that Fr. O’Keefe “confirms that the spiritual growth in faith and compassion, which I had witnessed in our meetings some years ago, continues to this day.”

While acknowledging Honken’s crimes as “heinous”, Cardinal Tobin asserted that his execution “will do nothing to restore justice or heal those still burdened by these crimes.”

“His execution will reduce the government of the United States to the level of a murderer and serve to perpetuate a climate of violence which brutalizes our society in so many ways,” Tobin claimed, noting that the use of the death penalty makes the United States an “outlier” in the world.

While the Church teaches that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice in the West.

Regarding the execution of criminals, the Catechism of the Council of Trent taught that by its “legal and judicious exercise”, civil authorities “punish the guilty and protect the innocent.”

St. John Paul II called on Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”

And Benedict XVI exhorted world leaders to make “every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and told Catholics that ending capital punishment was an essential part of “conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

In August 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a new draft of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph regarding capital punishment.

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the new paragraph states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Reasons for that teaching, the paragraph says, include: the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person, and leaving open the possibility of conversion.

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., a moral theologian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA at the time that he thinks this change “further absolutizes the pastoral conclusion made by John Paul II.”

“Nothing in the new wording of paragraph 2267 suggests the death penalty is intrinsically evil. Indeed, nothing could suggest that because it would contradict the firm teaching of the Church,” Fr. Petri continued.

'Scrambling' Catholic schools push for 'equitable' coronavirus relief funding

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 16:50

Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2020 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- Though federal rule makers have clarified that coronavirus relief funds must help non-public schools, including Catholic schools, Catholic school advocates and other backers of private schools are working to rally support to ensure aid is distributed in a way that benefits all students.

Elias Moo, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic schools, said CARES Act funds could be critical to school operations. Schools need masks, funds for more cleaning services, and access to technology for school needs including remote learning.

“Our Catholic schools have been really hard-hit, as have families impacted by the pandemic,” Moo said. A drop in tuition payments has harmed school revenue, and schools linked to parishes have been hurt by declines in donations to the parish offertory.

Moo said that federal coronavirus school assistance should aid students in both private and public schools, and that some parish schools are depending on the help.

“We want to open our facilities in a safe and healthy manner but we also know that there are financial challenges. Without this funding, it will be a real challenge for some schools to be able to open effectively and safely,” he told CNA.

“Private schools have been impacted by COVID-19 at the same rate as public schools have, and in some cases more heavily,” Ross Izard, national director of public policy with the private school scholarship fundraiser and school choice advocate ACE Scholarships, told CNA July 10.

“These schools are hurting. They’re in need of help. They’re in need of aid,” said Izard. His Colorado-based ACE Scholarships works to provide partial tuition scholarships to K-12 private schools for low-income families. It also advocates for school choice. The organization is active in eight states and served 7,000 children in 800 schools in 2019.

The interim rule’s goal, according to Izard, is equity, the need to ensure “the same treatment for private school students as public school students.”

ACE Scholarships has asked its supporters, its families, partner schools and partner advocacy groups to circulate a letter and submit comment to the federal government in support of private school support.

“COVID-19 has devastated all sectors of education, and private schools have not been spared,” the letter says. “These schools, many of which are small and lack the resources of larger school districts, are struggling to safely and effectively serve their families as a result of the pandemic.”

“For many private schools, CARES Act equitable services will provide the emergency assistance needed to ensure that students can return this fall for a safe, successful school year. These schools should be entitled to a full, fair share of CARES aid in accordance with the law and previous U.S. Department of Education Guidance.”

The rule is open for a 30-day comment period, ending July 31. Izard said that people “have an opportunity to make their voices heard.”

“We are anticipating that the folks who are opposed to private schools generally, or to school choice, are going to participate at a very high level in that public comment campaign,” he said. “We want to make sure the U.S. Department of Education is hearing from the schools and the families in the private sector about how important that aid is to them.”

The Department of Education rule was previously non-binding guidance. Since funds are distributed through state and local education agencies, education officials in several states had ruled that private schools would receive fewer funds than many schools deemed sufficient.

In early June, before the new federal rule was announced, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference asked the U.S. Department of Education to reverse state decisions that gave insufficient coronavirus relief funds to Catholic and other private schools

Before the guidance became a mandatory rule, the Colorado Catholic Conference had circulated an action alert objecting to Colorado officials’ decisions. Education officials had disregarded federal guidance in a way that withheld relief funds for Catholic schools, the conference said.

“Without a fair share of relief funding for our Catholic schools, our already financially stretched Catholic schools will be faced with an additional hardship in trying to absorb the expenses needed to ensure schools can reopen safely and continue to provide a quality education to students in the midst of a pandemic,” said the action alert.

Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, explained the motivation behind continued advocacy for relief aid to Catholic schools.

“We’re talking about being treated equitably and fairly based upon a pandemic that has impacted everybody,” she told CNA. “We want to make sure that relief funding gets to our schools and to our students.”

“All families have been impacted by the coronavirus, we are all in this together,” she said. Any state or local education agency that tries to block funding to non-public schools, she said, is being “discriminatory” against families that have chosen these schools as “the best education option for their child.”

Relief funds in the large east Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado are distributed through the Aurora School District, one of the largest districts in the state. But the school district decided to postpone a decision until December.

In Aurora, the postponement meant a loss of “significant funding” Catholic schools were expecting, said Moo, who worried other districts in the state might delay the provision of resources.

“Now we’re scrambling to figure out how to pay for certain things that are needed from the first day of school, when students are back,” said Moo, adding that the Catholic archdiocesan schools are considering how to fund raise for some of the costs.

Corey Christiansen, public information officer for Aurora Public Schools, told CNA that the Colorado Department of Education has set December as the deadline for the allocation of these funds.

“Guidance on COVID-19 related federal funds has been limited in general and has changed several times since the original allocations were made,” he said. “We intend to apply and hope that additional clarification from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education or (Colorado Department of Education) helps clarify guidance prior to the December deadline.”

Jeremy Meyer, director of communications for the Colorado Department of Education, told CNA that in the department's view, the CARES Act requires that local education agencies “must provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools, not direct funding.” Control of the federal funds must remain with the local agency. Calculations for these services have been “in flux” due to differences between the act’s language and the federal guidance.

“The reality of education is that it’s an ecosystem,” Izard told CNA, who added both public and private schools serve the same neighborhoods and the same people.

“What happens to one sector is going to impact the other sector,” he added. “If private schools don’t get what they need in the form of emergency aid, and they’re not able to effectively serve their students, those students have to go somewhere.”

“That can result in really significant costs on taxpayers and on the public system.”

Moo echoed Izard’s description of schools as an ecosystem.

“We really see ourselves as collaborators with public forms of education in the overall educational efforts in our state,” Moo told CNA. “In this educational educational ecosystem, here in Colorado in particular, we would say there is a symbiotic relationship between public and non-public education.”

“Our mutual strength ultimately ensures that children in Colorado are properly educated,” he said.

Under the new federal rule, two options are provided for local authorities. The first option requires that if a local education agency uses CARES Act funds for students in all its public schools, it must calculate funds for private schools based on all students enrolled in private schools in the district.

Under the second option, a local agency may choose to use funds only for students in both public and private schools with a high concentration of low income students, a program known as Title I.

According to Vessely, 17 states have decided to distribute funds proportionate to all private school students, while 21 states will follow the option to distribute funds proportionate to Title I beneficiaries in public and private schools.

Five states, California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, claiming that the federal rule unlawfully interprets the CARES Act in a way that diverts relief funds from public schools to private schools.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said July 7 the lawsuit is “about stopping the Trump administration’s latest effort to steal from working families to give it to the very privileged”

Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito said that “this pandemic affected all students, and the CARES Act requires that funding should be used to help all students.”

In Vessely’s view, the states’ lawsuit is unlikely to succeed.

“The majority of this country is not going the lawsuit route,” she said. There’s not a lot of precedent for them to win something like that.”

Vessely said that Catholic schools in Colorado serve a large number of low-income students.

Moo noted the high number of schools providing federal nutrition programs... and some schools serve a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs.

“This idea that our schools are for the wealthy or the affluent is not entirely rooted in the reality we live everyday.” he said, pointing to Catholic school success in helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds to close gaps in achievement with public school peers.

Moo said Catholic education is “an education rooted in cultivating the virtues.”

“That’s for everyone, not just the affluent,” he added.

The National Catholic Education Association has said Catholic schools should be included in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, known as the HEROES Act, which is now before Congress.

Ten percent of any new Covid-19 education funding should go to emergency grants to low- and middle-income private school families, the organization said. Both private and public schools have been hard hit by the epidemic and its economic effects, and any children who are forced to enroll in public school would further burden the public school system.

The NCEA is also advocating a “comprehensive” federal tax credit to ensure long-term funds for education.

 

State Department: ‘Threats’ from China won’t stop US fight for Uyghur human rights

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 14:45

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2020 / 12:45 pm (CNA).- The State Department on Monday said that Chinese sanctions of U.S. officials will not stop the U.S. from holding China accountable for abuses of Uyghurs.

“These threats will not deter us from taking concrete action to hold CCP officials accountable for their ongoing campaign of human rights abuses against members of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang,” a state department spokesperson told CNA July 13.

Earlier on Monday, China’s foreign ministry announced sanctions on U.S. officials for speaking out about the mass detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

“It must be stressed that Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs. The US has no right and no cause to interfere in them,” Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said on Monday.

China sanctioned U.S. religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback, along with the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). China did not specify the details and scope of the sanctions, although Rep. Smith said in a press release that his sanctions denial of an entry visa into the country.

According to observers, anywhere from 900,000 to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been imprisoned in Xinjiang, China’s far northwest province. The government has set up more than 1,300 detention camps where survivors have reported experiencing indoctrination, torture, beatings, and forced labor.

The AP reported on June 29 that many Uyghurs had also reported being forced by authorities to implant IUDs and take other forms of birth control, as well as being forced to undergo abortions and sterilizations in order to enforce China’s family planning policies. One expert told the AP that the campaign is “genocide, full stop.”

In addition, authorities have set up a system of mass surveillance in the region to track the movements of people, one that includes DNA sampling and facial recognition technology, as well as predictive policing platforms.

The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China—listed for sanctions by China—warned in its most recent annual report that authorities in Xinjiang “may be committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people and other Turkic Muslims.”

Rubio and Smith were among the members of Congress sanctioned by China on Monday, and they each authored versions of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act which imposed sanctions on Chinese officials complicit in the abuses committed against Uyghurs.

Rubio’s version of the legislation was eventually signed into law by President Trump on June 17, but the administration did not immediately impose the sanctions on culpable officials.

On July 9, the U.S. issued visa sanctions against Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, and two other party officials of the region, Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan, as well as their immediate family members.

The Treasury Department also issued financial sanctions against Chen, Zhu, Wang, and Huo Liujun, a former police official in Xinjiang, blocking their assets and entities in the U.S. and forbidding U.S. persons from doing business with them.

On Monday, China imposed sanctions on U.S. officials in response. The State Department said that the retaliatory measures “further demonstrates the CCP’s refusal to take responsibility for its actions.”

“There is no moral equivalency between these PRC sanctions and actions taken by countries holding accountable CCP officials for their human rights abuses,” the State Department said on Monday.
 
Smith said that in remarks on the House floor, he had accused Chinese president Xi Jinping of direct culpability in “the genocide against the Muslims” in Xinjiang.
 
“The U.S. sanctions Chinese officials for egregiously abusing human rights and Beijing responds by sanctioning Members of Congress for defending human rights,” he stated on Monday.

 

California Catholic university puts St. Junipero Serra statue in storage

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 13:30

Denver Newsroom, Jul 14, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- A California Catholic university has placed a statue of St. Junipero Serra in storage after at least three statues of the saint have been toppled by protestors in the state.

“In response to a statement from Archbishop Gomez, an outdoor statue of St. Junipero Serra on the University of San Diego campus was moved to temporary storage after several outdoor statues of the saint have been damaged in California,” a spokesman for the University of San Diego told CNA July 14.

The university referenced a June 29 letter from Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who wrote that while “those attacking St. Junípero’s good name and vandalizing his memorials do not know his true character or the actual historical record,” increased security precautions meant that some California churches would “probably have to relocate some statues to our beloved saint or risk their desecration.”

Public statues of the saint were in June toppled in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and on July 4, a statue of Serra on the grounds of California’s state capitol in Sacramento was torn down, burned, and beaten with sledgehammers.

“The sad truth is that, beginning decades ago, activists started ‘revising’ history to make St. Junípero the focus of all the abuses committed against California’s indigenous peoples,” Gomez wrote in his June 29 letter.

“But the crimes and abuses that our saint is blamed for — slanders that are spread widely today over the internet and sometimes repeated by public figures — actually happened long after his death.”

For its part, the University of San Diego told CNA that although he “has become a touchstone for past cruelties to the indigenous peoples of California...St. Serra, America’s first Hispanic saint and missionary who brought Christianity to these lands, worked tirelessly to eliminate oppression that was clearly a part of the mission era.”

Serra was also a founder of the city of San Diego itself. In 1769, the Mission San Diego de Alcalá was founded by Franciscan missionaries led by Serra; the city grew up around that mission.

The university told CNA that it had in the last year “addressed some of the issues surrounding the recognition of injustice to Native Americans and in the mission era.” In April, the university renamed a campus building - Serra Hall - as “Saints Kateri Tekawitha and Junipero Serra Hall.” St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a convert to Catholicism who died at 24 in 1680, is the first Native American to be canonized a saint.

In an April 17 letter, the university’s president wrote that “it is hoped that by placing these two Catholic saints together, we will recognize that indigenous peoples preceded the Catholic missionaries who settled here. It is also meant to encourage continued dialogue on the important topics of colonialization, the spread of the Catholic faith and the impact both had on Native American populations.”

A university spokesman told CNA the college had commissioned and hung tapestries of Saints Serra and Tekawitha, and hung them in the newly renamed hall.

Also in April, the university announced that it would rename a campus building to Mata'yuum, a word which means “gathering place” in the language of the Kumeyaay people native to Southern California. At the same time, the university said it would name campus plazas for St. Teresa of Calcutta and Venerable Francis Cardinal Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận, both of whom had visited the University of San Diego, and would work to strengthen its relationship with Missionaries of Charity working in nearby Tijuana, Mexico.

The University of San Diego was founded in 1949 by then San Diego Bishop Charles Buddy and Mother Rosalie Hill, RSCJ, of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A Catholic university, it is now administered by a lay board on which San Diego’s bishop sits.

News that the university’s Serra statue was moved comes days after California’s San Gabriel Mission, founded by the saint, caught fire and burned Saturday night. Federal and local authorities are investigating the possibility of arson.

First federal execution in 17 years lamented as 'unnecessary and avoidable'

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 11:50

CNA Staff, Jul 14, 2020 / 09:50 am (CNA).- The federal government executed its first federal inmate in 17 years on Tuesday, following numerous delays and requests for clemency from the family of the victims.

Daniel Lewis Lee was executed on Tuesday morning and pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. He was executed at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. An eyewitness told the Indianapolis Star that it took approximately two to three minutes for Lee to die after the lethal injection drugs were administered.

The execution was permitted by the Supreme Court one day after a lower court blocked it due to overwhelming evidence that the drug protocol the government wanted to use causes “extreme pain and needless suffering,” including feelings of panic and the sensation of drowning as fluid accumulates in the lungs.

A Catholic organization opposed to the death penalty condemned the execution as “unnecessary and avoidable.”

“The federal government relentlessly plotted its course to execute Daniel Lee despite a historic decline in public support for the death penalty, clear opposition by the victims’ family, unwavering Catholic opposition to the restart of federal executions, and an unyielding global pandemic which has already taken more than 135,000 American lives,” said a statement from Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network.

Lee was sentenced to death in the 1996 murders of a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl. He insisted upon his innocence, and his final words were, “I didn't do it. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life but I'm not a murderer. You’re killing an innocent man.”

Lee, a onetime white supremacist, along with a man named Chevie Kehoe, was found guilty of robbing William Mueller, a gun dealer in Tilly, Arkansas, of cash, ammunition, and firearms before killing him, his wife Nancy, and stepdaughter Sarah. Kehoe and Lee were part of the Aryan People’s Republic, a white supremacist group which Kehoe reportedly founded. The two reportedly planned to use the stolen goods to establish a whites-only nation.

Kehoe was sentenced to life in prison. Family members of the Muellers had requested that Lee also receive a life sentence.

In June, Nancy Mueller’s mother Earlene Peterson stated that she did not wish to see Lee executed.

“As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the scheduled execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and would bring my family more pain,” said Peterson.

Family members of the victims were also concerned about the safety of doing an execution during the coronavirus pandemic, as they were nervous about traveling to a prison and being in a confined room to view the execution. Prisons have been the sites of widespread coronavirus outbreaks.

The last federal execution took place in 2003. In 2014, President Barack Obama ordered a Department of Justice (DOJ) review of the federal death penalty after several botched executions by lethal injection in states including Oklahoma and Ohio.

Last summer, Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to resume execution of federal prisoners on death row.

Two more federal inmates are set to be executed this week.

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

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

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2267 on the death penalty was updated in 2018 with a statement from Pope Francis, calling the death penalty “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

Pro-life Texas Democrat says racial slurs won't stop his pro-life advocacy

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 10:25

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 14, 2020 / 08:25 am (CNA).-  

A pro-life Texas state senator running for re-election says he won’t be deterred by racial slurs directed against him by pro-abortion groups.

State senator Eddie Lucio, representing Texas’ 27th district in the southern tip of the state, is a Catholic pro-life Democrat from a Mexican-American family. As one of ten children who grew up attending St. Joseph Catholic church in West Brownsville, he told CNA that his upbringing “taught us family values and also to respect the sanctity of life.”

“I don’t make any excuses for that, and I don’t apologize for that,” he said of his advocacy on life issues.

Senator Lucio has been a member of the state senate since 1991, having previously served two terms in the state house. His 2020 Democratic primary race extended into a runoff in May, when he received just under 50% of the vote in a three-way race to advance to the general election.

Lucio is vying with candidate Sara Stapleton Barrera for the party’s nomination for the November general election in the July 14 runoff election; Barrera has received the endorsement of pro-LGBT and pro-abortion groups.

Pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood Texas Votes PAC and the Texas Freedom Network have repeatedly referred to Lucio as “Sucio Lucio” in direct mailing campaigns and online, calling him “dirty” in an apparent reference to his politics; the term, he and others have said, is offensive to Hispanics.

“It’s been used in the past to describe a ‘dirty Mexican,’” Lucio told CNA. “I take it hard for someone to use an adjective that speaks badly of my surname that I’m very proud of. My dad was a very decent, hard-working man who contributed so much to his fellow man.” Lucio said his father was a disabled American veteran who fought in World War II in North Africa and Italy.

The groups “appropriated this offensive term, without consideration of its racist undertones, and it’s wrong to use the term to describe any person of color,” Lucio said. The opposition, he said, is “wanting to defeat me because I am pro-life.”

In a press release, Lucio’s son—a state representative—condemned the “derogatory and racial slurs.”

On July 3, the Mexican American Legislative Council said that political campaigns should “steer clear of political name calling that plays on racial, sexist, homophobic, ableist, and every form of discrimination when our country is working for social justice.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville also spoke out against the use of the term in a July 3 statement.

“While not surprised that Planned Parenthood would attack State Senator Eddie Lucio’s pro-life record, I am deeply discouraged that Texas Freedom Network and others would join in this malicious kind of attack, using such derogatory language to disparage him and his family,” Bishop Flores said.

Lucio appreciated Bishop Flores’ statement, noting that he voted in lock-step with the policy prescriptions of the Texas Catholic Conference last term.

“I’m very grateful to him [Flores], and I hope that we can continue to echo the sentiments of the conference of bishops because I truly believe that they represent what’s right for our society,” he said.

Lucio says that growing up in Texas, he experienced racial discrimination first-hand.

When he arrived at a South Texas university in the 1960s, Lucio said he sat at the front of the classroom in his first-period class. The professor told him “very abruptly, and in kind of a loud voice” to stand to the side.

“What he said after that, I’ll never forget,” Lucio said. The professor instructed Mexican students to sit at the back of the classroom, while telling “black athletes” to sit in the middle, and white students to sit in the front of the classroom.

In another instance in southeast Texas, Lucio said he was told by a motel there was no vacancy despite an empty parking lot outside. “So I figured it out, that it was because of me that we weren’t going to get any rooms there,” he said.

This experience, he said, has prompted him to fight against discrimination of anyone. And this also entails learning to respect areas of genuine disagreement on policy, without resorting to name-calling as Planned Parenthood did.

“I don’t want anyone, regardless of color, regardless of religious preference, regardless of our differences—we’re human beings and we certainly deserve to be treated equally,” he said. “But,” he continued, “we also have to respect religious freedom, we have to respect things that sometimes, people don’t want to.”

Lucio says that the “biggest issue,” for him, is the issue of protecting human life— at all stages. “I support life from conception until natural death,” he said, which puts him at odds with both political parties.

“Democrats will support a woman’s right to an abortion,” he lamented, “but if the baby’s born, will throw themselves in the fire to see that they get education, health care, everything else that goes with it,” he said. “And then they’re against the death penalty, most of them,” Lucio said.

“Republicans,” he said, “are pro-life, which I’m very happy about, but sometimes there are some Republicans that we find are so hard, and so far to the right, that they don’t want to vote to expand Medicaid or to add more dollars to education or health care when it’s needed in our state.”

“And they’re for the death penalty,” the senator lamented.

Speaking of his efforts to put faith before party, Lucio said: “I try to be different, and I am different in a sense,” he said.

 

Catholics in US called to solidarity with Japan ahead of atomic bomb anniversary

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 21:19

CNA Staff, Jul 13, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- For the upcoming anniversary of the detonation of two atomic bombs on Japan, the US bishops have encouraged Catholics to pray for peace alongside the Church in Japan.

Issued by the USCCB’s Committee for International Justice and Peace, a statement was released July 13, a few weeks ahead of the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“August 6 and 9 mark the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first, and one hopes the last, times that atomic weapons are employed in war,” the bishops said.

“The 21st century continues to witness geopolitical conflicts with state and non-state actors, increasingly sophisticated weapons, and the erosion of international arms control frameworks. The bishops of the United States steadfastly renew the urgent call to make progress on the disarmament of nuclear weapons.”

Since St. John Paul II visited Japan in 1981, the Catholic Church in Japan has observed Ten Days of Prayer for Peace beginning Aug. 6. For the 75th anniversary, the USCCB has encouraged Catholics in the United States to join Japan in prayer by offering intentions of peace at Mass Aug. 9.

“The Church in the U.S. proclaims her clarion call and humble prayer for peace in our world which is God’s gift through the salvific sacrifice of Christ Jesus,” they said.

The only wartime use of nuclear weapons took place in 1945's Aug. 6 attack on Hiroshima and Aug. 9 attack on Nagasaki by the United States.

The Hiroshima attack killed around 80,000 people instantly and may have caused about 130,000 deaths, mostly civilians. The attack on Nagasaki instantly killed about 40,000, and destroyed a third of the city.

Pope Francis visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima in November 2019. There, he spoke against nuclear arms and promoted international harmony, noting that peace will not be ensured by a threat of nuclear war.

“A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere,” he said. “Our response to the threat of nuclear weapons must be joint and concerted, inspired by the arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust and thus surmount the current climate of distrust.”

In February, Pope Francis once again spoke against nuclear arms and the Committee of International Justice and Peace reemphasized the Pope’s position. They said fear is not a stable enough platform to sustain peace.

“Recently, we, the bishops of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace re-affirmed the Holy Father’s call to ‘renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity.’”

“Fear, distrust, and conflict must be supplanted by our joint commitment, by faith and in prayer, that peace and justice reign now and forever.”

 

Georgia abortion heartbeat law banned by federal court

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 19:07

CNA Staff, Jul 13, 2020 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- A federal court on Monday said a Georgia state law that prohibits abortion anytime after the detection of a fetal heartbeat is unconstitutional.

The ruling came in a lawsuit against the 2019 law filed by state abortion providers and abortion advocacy group.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones wrote that “The Supreme Court has repeatedly and unequivocally held that under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability.”

Of the Georgia law, “The Court is left with no other choice but to declare it unconstitutional,” Jones wrote.

The ruling is not surprising. Pro life advocates have expected that the Georgia law was passed in part with the intention of challenging the constitutionality of Supreme Court judgments that find or support a constitutional right to abortion, especially 1973’s Roe vs. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.

Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp said Monday the state would appeal the court’s ruling, which could lead to a Supreme Court hearing of the case.

“Georgia values life and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” Kemp said in a July 13 statement.

In May 2019, Kemp said upon signing the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act that it is “a declaration that all life has value, that all life matters, that all life is worthy of protection.”

The law was blocked by a judge through a temporary order before it took effect. Abortion is currently legal in Georgia until the 20th week of a pregnancy.

The Catholic bishops of Georgia supported the legislation and thanked the governor for signing it into law.

Actress Alyssa Milano had called for a widespread entertainment industry boycott of the state of Georgia in response to the law’s passage. However, the boycott failed to materialize.

The court’s decision also touched upon a provision of the Georgia law that declared unborn babies at all stages of development the protections extended to “persons” in state law. Jones called the provision “unconstitutionally vague,”

“The State Defendants have been unable to articulate what this will mean for Plaintiffs and Georgians more generally,” Jones wrote.

Also in federal court on Monday, a DC judge suspended a requirement that women to must visit a physician in order to obtain abortion-causing drugs.  The judge said that during the pandemic, the requirement causes a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking abortions and must therefore be overturned.

"Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm," U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang wrote in his July 13 decision.

The decision does not allow mifepristone, an abortifacient, to be purchased over the counter. Rather, it allows medical providers to have the drug mailed or delivered to patients for as long as the federally declared public health emergency lasts, according to the Associated Press. FDA rules ordinarily require a patient to pick up a tablet of mifepristone at a medical office, and to be given information about risks associated with the medication.

Chuang’s decision came in a lawsuit filed in May by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups, the Associated Press reported. The judge’s argument noted that other medications which must typically be taken in a doctor’s office can be taken at home during the pandemic.

 

 

Judge strikes down HHS rule on ‘abortion surcharge’ in health plan exchanges

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 19:02

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2020 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- A federal judge has struck down a rule from the Trump administration requiring greater transparency for health insurance plans within the Affordable Care Act marketplaces that cover elective abortions.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake ruled against a regulation introduced by the Department of Health and Human Services to require insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act to issue a separate bill and collect a separate payment for coverage of elective abortion.

Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act mandates that if a qualified health plan covers elective abortions, it must do so by collecting a payment separate from the standard premium, and depositing that payment into a separate account. The regulation was included as a compromise in the law to ensure it received the support necessary for its passage.

Critics, however, argued that Obama-era enforcement regulations were so permissive as to render the rules meaningless, allowing health insurers to collect an abortion surcharge without separately identifying it on monthly invoices or collecting it separately.

A Government Accountability Office report in 2014 found that many insurers were ignoring Section 1303’s requirements.

Pro-life advocates have called for greater transparency in order to prevent a “hidden abortion surcharge” which many enrollees may be unaware of when choosing a plan.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule that would require insurance to issue a separate bill and collect a separate payment for the abortion coverage.

Planned Parenthood of Maryland sued over the new regulation, saying it caused confusion and could lead insurance companies to stop covering elective abortions in order to avoid increases in cost and complications.

Judge Blake said the Affordable Care Act did not specify how to ensure abortion coverage payments would be separate. She said the Department of Health and Human Services failed to explain why its process was a more fitting solution than the previous regulations.

HHS did not comment on the ruling, but said it is reviewing the decision, the Washington Post reported.

 

After a devastating fire, Mission San Gabriel community vows to rebuild

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 18:37

Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 13, 2020 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- Reprinted with permission from Angelus News.

The fire that ravaged Mission San Gabriel Arcángel church in the predawn hours of Saturday, July 11, left behind a haunting scene.

In a matter of minutes, the mission’s 230-year-old roof was nearly gone. The sunlight pouring down through the holes revealed the charred planks that had crashed down on the church’s pews. The altar, along with the mission’s bell tower and museum were spared, but the thick adobe walls were blackened.

As bad as the damage is, it could have been worse. Because the church had been undergoing renovations, much of the artwork in the sanctuary, including historic paintings and other devotional artifacts, had been removed prior to the fire.

But for Anthony Morales, tribal chief of the San Gabrielino Mission Indians and a parishioner of San Gabriel, the damage was more than material.

“These are my roots,” said Morales, holding back tears as he surveyed the scene just hours after the fire had been contained. “This is my church. All my ancestors are buried in the cemetery next door. Six thousand of my ancestors are buried on these grounds, and this is the church that they built. It’s just very devastating.”

The devastation was just the latest blow to be suffered this year by Los Angeles’ oldest Catholic outpost.

As 2020 started, preparations were underway to celebrate a “Jubilee Year” leading to the 250th anniversary of St. Junípero Serra’s founding of the mission Sept. 8, 1771.

But that was before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the shutdown of California churches and a lockdown of the economy. Just several weeks before the fire, mission officials had decided reluctantly to postpone the jubilee plans for a year, while continuing work on much-needed renovations and improvements to the church.

As the church reopened for public Masses, along with others in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, waves of anti-racism protests had broken out across the country, protests that included attacks on public monuments and statues to controversial figures in U.S. history, including statues of St. Junípero, like those found on the mission’s campus.

Last month, statues to the California missionary were toppled in San Francisco and in Los Angeles, and the weekend before the fire, a long-standing St. Junípero statue outside the state Capitol building in Sacramento was felled.

That same weekend before the fire, San Gabriel staff had quietly removed one of St. Junípero’s statues from public view to keep it safe from possible vandalism.

The July 11 blaze at San Gabriel was part of a weekend that saw churches vandalized in other parts of the country. Statues to the Virgin Mary were damaged in Queens, New York, and in Boston; in Ocala, Florida, a man drove a minivan into a Catholic church before pouring gasoline in the foyer and setting fire to the building.

While there was no immediate word on the cause of the fire, investigators from a regional task force and from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent Saturday afternoon in the front of the mission, where the fire is believed to have started, City News Service reported July 12.

Local Catholics who showed up at the mission the next day to pray were suspicious. The timing of the fire, and the broader attacks on St. Junípero statues and other church properties, was too much of a coincidence for them.

“We don’t know how it happened, but it seems like the Church is under attack. There’s a lot of resentment and a lot of anger,” said Miguel Sanchez, president of the local “Knights of Bikes” chapter.

Sanchez and his fellow motorcycle-riding Knights of Columbus members were among the dozens who gathered outside the damaged church Sunday morning despite nearly triple digit temperatures to pray the rosary. Some came from as far as Orange and San Diego counties after word about the gathering spread through social media.

One of those was Barbara Quigley, a teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Downey. She said the lessons of her fourth-grade California history class were worth keeping in mind.
 
“I’m not a stranger to teaching my students that a lot of the missions have gone through earthquakes and fires, and they’ve been able to rebuild,” said Quigley, who drove from Anaheim to join the prayer group on Sunday morning.

“So I have full faith and confidence that our church will be able to restore the mission. It won't be the same, but [the mission] will still stay and we’ll be resilient.”

Resilience was the theme that morning inside the mission’s Chapel of the Annunciation, where the mission’s pastor, Father John Molyneux, CMF, made a bold pledge to Archbishop José Gomez.

“You will be back to celebrate our 250th anniversary in a rebuilt church,” Father Molyneux promised the archbishop at the start of Mass.

Archbishop Gomez had visited the mission just after the fire was contained and came back the next day to celebrate the Sunday Mass and to show solidarity with grieving parishioners.

In his homily, he sounded a hopeful tone.

“This fire changes nothing,” the archbishop said. “Mission San Gabriel will always be the spiritual heart of the Church in Los Angeles, the place from which the Gospel still goes forth.”

Archbishop Gomez invoked the intercession and example of the mission’s founder, St. Junípero, a Spanish missionary who advocated for the rights of California’s native peoples, including the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe, who built San Gabriel.

“St. Junípero and the first Franciscan missionaries answered the Lord’s call and sacrificed everything to bring his word to this land,” he said. “Now it is our turn to make sure his word is proclaimed to the next generation.”

After the Mass, Kathleen and Elizabeth Chelling said they were encouraged by the archbishop’s message.

“I think that for a lot of years, there has been this kind of complacency in a lot of Catholic circles,” said Kathleen, who drove up from Orange County with her sister to participate in the rosary and stayed for Mass.

“I hope that these difficult times can serve as a wake-up call,” she added. “If you look at a lot of the saints’ lives, a lot of them came from time periods of difficulty. Instead of turning into despair or bitterness or walking away, they used it as motivation to go deeper.”

A tragedy like the fire, she added, “is a reminder of how deeply Jesus is needed.”

In a time of pandemic and economic recession, the task of rebuilding the historic church in time for the anniversary on Sept. 8 of next year will be daunting. But by the end of the Mass, the archbishop seemed ready to take Father Molyneux at his word.

“We are going to celebrate the 250th anniversary next year — for sure,”

Archbishop Gomez told parishioners, who responded with cheers. “And this is the beginning of the next 250 years.”

 

Congressmen want 'disturbing' death of Michael Hickson investigated

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 18:00

CNA Staff, Jul 13, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Two members of Congress are calling for an investigation into the death of Michael Hickson, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a doctor informed his wife that he did not have a quality of life due to his brain injury and quadriplegia.

Mr. Hickson’s wife, Melissa, recorded a doctor at St. David’s South Austin Hospital in Austin, Texas, explaining that he would not be pursuing aggressive treatment of Hickson’s coronavirus due to his assessment of Hickson’s quality of life. Other patients who received the treatment, the doctor explained, were able to walk and talk, unlike Hickson. 

Hickson died on June 11, after being denied food, water, and medical treatments for five days. He died of complications related to coronavirus. He had contracted the coronavirus in the nursing home where he lived. 

On Saturday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), called for an investigation into Hickson’s death.

“My office is looking into this highly troubling story, where doctors appear to have denied potential life-saving treatment while saying aggressive treatment wouldn’t ‘help him improve’ & ‘right now, his quality of life . . . he doesn’t have much of one,’” Roy said on Twitter on July 11. 

On June 29, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) also tweeted that he found the audio recorded by Mrs. Hickson to be “very disturbing.”

“The circumstances surrounding Mr. Hickson’s death at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center should be immediately investigated,” he added. 

CNA requested comment from both congressional offices on either Hickson’s case or the calls for an investigation into St. David’s South Austin Hospital, neither responded by time of press. Castro and Roy’s districts are located near Austin, where Mr. Hickson died. 

A statement from St. David’s South Austin posted on their website in June offered condolences to the Hickson family, and assigned responsibility for decisions about Mr. Hickson’s care with his court-appointed guardian, Family Eldercare. 

"The loss of life is tragic under any circumstances. In Mr. Hickson’s situation, his court-appointed guardian (who was granted decision-making authority in place of his spouse) made the decision in collaboration with the medical team to discontinue invasive care,” said the statement.  

“This is always a difficult decision for all involved. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Hickson’s family and loved ones and to all who are grieving his loss.”

As of July 13, the statement from the hospital was no longer on their website. 

An updated statement emailed to CNA on July 2 from DeVry Anderson, M.D., the chief medical officer of St. David’s South Austin, claimed that Mr. Hickson was not treated differently due to his disability. 

“This was not a matter of hospital capacity. It had nothing to do with Mr. Hickson’s abilities or the color of his skin. We treat ALL patients equally. This was a man who was very, very ill and in multi-system organ failure. His legal guardian and his doctors worked together, consulting pulmonary and critical care specialists, to determine a care plan that was best for him,” said Anderson. 

Anderson described Mr. Hickson as “very, very ill” upon his arrival at the hospital, and in addition to COVID-19, he also had pneumonia in both lungs, a urinary tract infection, and sepsis. 

“Despite aggressive treatment and one-to-one care, Mr. Hickson went into multi-system organ failure,” said Anderson. He also developed “a number of complications,” including aspiration of the contents of his feeding tube.

“Aspiration has the potential to be fatal, especially for a patient in a weakened physical state, like Mr. Hickson, and this was the reason his tube feedings were discontinued,” he added.

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