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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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How should healthcare be distributed when hospitals are overwhelmed?

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 14:01

New York City, N.Y., Mar 16, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).-   As there are concerns over the ability of the healthcare system to manage the coronavirus pandemic, discussions are being had over what criteria should be used if healthcare must be rationed.



Globally, there are 153,517 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 5,735 deaths.

In Italy, where the virus has hit particularly hard, some doctors have said they have had to overlook older patients to focus on younger ones who are more likely to survive.

And in the UK some doctors have said they may have to prioritize care for those patients with better chances of surviving.

As these conversations are being had, CNA spoke via email with Charlie Camosy, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University, about what principles should be used as doctors might face such choices.

Among Camosy's research interests are bioethics and distributive justice. Among his works are Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy and the Neonatal ICU and Resisting Throwaway Culture: How a Consisten Life Ethic Can Unite a Fractured People.

 

 

What principles should be used in deciding how to distribute limited treatment for coronavirus?

The first thing to say is that there are virtually no universally agreed-upon principles to do this--excepting, perhaps, the idea that health care providers, first-responders, law enforcement, and others primarily responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the polity should get priority.

Beyond that, there is tremendous disagreement – at least in the culture at large. What one believes about this largely come from their first principles related to what they believe in their hearts and souls about the good, true, and beautiful.

Catholics, of course, have these principles...and they differ especially from the utilitarian mindset that dominates so much of secular ethics and medicine today. We serve the most vulnerable first. Those people are Christ to us in a special way and we will be judged according to how we treat them. We don't think about, say, how long they might stay on a ventilator vs. how long someone we might encounter next week might stay on a ventilator. We also don't think about how long they might have to live if the treatment is successful vs. how long other someone we might encounter next week might live if their treatment is successful.

It makes sense, especially in a triage situation, to treat those first who are most likely to benefit from the treatment. And there many be a disproportionate number of younger people in the former category. But that is not the same as deciding that we ought to prefer to the young to the old because they have longer to live. Some of the ways very public figures have downplayed the threat by talking about it it mostly affecting the old have been disturbing. As soon as a Catholic hears that we should be outraged and leap to the defense of this already marginalized population which bears the faith of Christ in a special way.

You said in a recent Twitter thread that many providers are 'uncritically utilitarian' in rationing. How exactly? By using the Quality-Adjusted Life Year model?

Well, I think the QALY model reinforces something that was already there. Scientists and medics, in addition to being disproportionately secular, have absorbed a utilitarian mindset in which probably ultimately come down to solving an equation. While that might feel better than living in the uncertainty and messiness of Christian ethics, the decision about how to handle what is coming our way are too complex to think about this way.

Do you believe that "help those who can likely benefit from treatment first" is a good principle?

I do.

Could you address what Catholics should do in their daily lives amid coronavirus to practice the Church's social teaching?

The Church has been at its finest in plagues and pandemics. We need to live our our principles now more than ever.

US reporting mechanism for episcopal abuse cases launched

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 12:33

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2020 / 10:33 am (CNA).- A national third-party reporting system for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct against bishops in the US has launched.

The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service is operated by Convercent Inc., “an independent, third-party entity that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics such as sexual harassment through a secure, confidential and professional platform” according to a March 16 statement from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

The system gathers and routes reports of abuse to the appropriate ecclesial authorities, so that the reports can then be investigated.

The reporting system does not replace reporting abuse to civil authorities, but some reports, such as those of sexual abuse of a minor, will be conveyed also to civil authorities.

The system is meant only for allegations involving bishops.

It allows for reports of a US bishop who has forced someone to perform or to submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority; performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person; produced, exhibited, possessed or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions; or a bishop or administrator of a local Church who has “intentionally interfered with a civil or Church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious.”

In Nocember 2019, the general counsel for the US bishops' conference said that a process would be in place promptly to filter out irrelevant claims and ensure that allegations pertain to bishops and to those acts of misconduct for which the system is meant.

When a report is received through the system, it will be forwarded to the metropolitan archbishop “and a designated lay staff member who will assess the report.” If the report regards the metropolitan or the metropolitan see is vacant, it will go instead to the senior suffragan bishop, and to a member of the bishop's staff.

After review by the metropolitan and a layman, the report will be sent to the apostolic nuncio with an initial assessment; he will in turn send the report and assessment to the Holy See, which will determine if a formal investigation is warranted. If so, it will authorize a bishop to oversee it. The investigators will include lay persons, and should normally be completed within 90 days of the Holy See's determination.

The system is paid for the by dioceses and eparchies of the US.

In September 2018, the US bishops’ executive committee had initially proposed a third-party reporting mechanism to handle accusations made against bishops. The decision followed new claims of sex abuse that had been made against Theodore McCarrick in the summer of 2018; in August, McCarrick was removed from the College of Cardinals and assigned a life of prayer and penance.

At their November 2018 meeting, however, the U.S. bishops did not take substantive action on the abuse crisis following instructions from the Vatican that they not act until a clergy sex abuse summit in Rome would be convened in February 2019.

After that February summit, Pope Francis issued his apostolic letter Vos estis lux mundi, which outlined a canonical process of handling accusations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops.

To handle such accusations, the U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly at their June 2019 to authorize a third-party reporting mechanism to receive accusations made online or by phone.

Biden pledges support for abortion legislation and funding

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 11:35

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2020 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Former vice president Joe Biden reaffirmed his support for taxpayer funded abortion during Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Midway through the debate, after Biden announced that he would select a woman as his vice presidential candidate, Sanders proceeded to attack Biden for his past support of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortion, and was, until June 2019, supported by Biden. 

“Right now, a woman’s right to control her own body is under massive assault, unprecedented assault,” said Sanders, a statement with which Biden signaled his agreement. 

“Joe, you have in the past on more than one occasion, voted for the Hyde Amendment, which says that a woman, low-income woman, could not use Medicaid funding for an abortion. Is that still your view or have you modified it?” 

Biden, a Catholic who made his faith the center of a recent campaign video, replied that this was “not my view,” and that “by the way, everybody who’s been in the Congress voted for the Hyde Amendment at one point or another, because it was locked in other bills.” 

He said the reason his view on the Hyde Amendment had reversed in recent years is because  “if we’re going to have public funding for all healthcare along the line, there is no way you could allow for there to be a requirement that you have Hyde Amendment.”

Sanders replied that he was “glad” Biden had changed his view on the Hyde Amendment.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform, which was adopted at the Democratic National Convention that year, was the first in the party’s history to call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. 

On Sunday, Biden also promised, if elected president, to cement abortion rights in fedral law to ptoect them against future decisions by the Supreme Court. The 77-year-old candidate said he would “send immediately to the desk of the United States Congress (...), a codification of Roe v Wade amended by Casey. Because I think it is a woman’s right to choose. I think it’s a woman’s opportunity to be able to make that decision.” 

Biden then boasted about his 100% voter-rating from NARAL, an abortion-rights organization. 

Sanders described his views on abortion as “consistent,” and that “I’ve always believed in that and you have not.” 

Despite Biden’s suggestion that his past votes for the Hyde Amendment were only to ensure the passage of omnibus spending bills, during his 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president, he has reversed himself a number of times on the issue of abortion. 

While he largely supported the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that found a legal right to abortion, Roe v. Wade, Biden said in 1974 he believed the decision “went too far.”

In 1984, then-Senator Biden supported the Mexico City Policy, which bars taxpayer funding of foreign NGOs that promote or perform abortion as a method of family planning. He was also for years a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions in the U.S.  

In 1981, he voted for a constitutional amendment allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade; but the next year he voted against such an amendment.

In the 2008 vice presidential debate, he bragged about spearheading “the fight against Judge Bork,” a Supreme Court judicial nominee in 1987, warning that Bork would have changed Roe v. Wade if he were confirmed to the Court.

In a 2008 interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Biden said Roe is “as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours” in that it left decisions on life to the mother in the first trimester of pregnancy, allowed the states some intervention in the second trimester, and that “the weight of the government’s input” in the third trimester is that the pregnancy is carried to term.

In a 2012 vice presidential debate, Biden warned that the opposing ticket would appoint judges who would outlaw abortion, and promised that a Democratic administration would not do that.

Biden’s 2020 campaign platform calls for the codification of Roe v. Wade as federal law. It also would ensure, as part of a health care “public option,” coverage of “a woman’s constitutional right to choose.”

The topic of gay marriage was also discussed during the debate. Sanders criticized Biden for his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2013. Sanders voted against the bill. 

Biden, who has officiated at least one same-sex wedding, proceeded to credit himself for helping to change society’s view on gay marriage.

“And by the way, I might add, I’m the first person to go on national television in any administration and say, I supported gay marriage,” said Biden. “I supported gay marriage when asked. It started a ripple effect for gay marriage on national television.”

The debate, which was moved from Arizona to Washington, DC, due to fears of COVID-19, was held without a studio audience. There are three candidates remaining in the Democratic primary. In addition to Biden and Sanders, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) remains in the race.

Washington Catholic priest is first in US known to be diagnosed with coronavirus

Sun, 03/15/2020 - 15:45

Yakima, Wash., Mar 15, 2020 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- A priest in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington, is the first U.S. priest known to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the coronavirus that has become a global pandemic.

Fr. Alejandro Trejo, pastor of Our Lady of the Desert parish in Mattawa, was struck with a high fever March 1, and began on that date to self-quarantine. On March 7 he was admitted to a hospital with the symptoms of pneumonia. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 this weekend.

“Father Alex continues to recover well and we are appreciative of the prayers of many, many parishioners, and the excellent care of the hospital staff,” Bishop Joseph Tyson said in a diocesan statement March 15.

“We also are very thankful for the work of the Grant County Health District,” he said. The diocese has worked closely with the district to identify those with whom the priest has been in close contact for the past month. Two tests earlier this week were inconclusive. A third test requested by the district was positive, the Diocese learned late last night,” he added.

In February, the priest made an eight-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, returning Feb. 18 to the U.S. Those who were on the pilgrimage have been contacted by public health officials.

Before Trejo was diagnosed, the Diocese of Yakima took precautionary measures, initiating a deep cleaning of the parish church, classrooms, and rectory, and working with Grant County Health District officials to identify those who might have come into close contact with the priest.

Trejo, 48, has been kept in an isolation unit. Bishop Tyson has visited the priest twice, wearing protective medical gear to avoid infection. The bishop plans to visit him again Sunday. Trejo is expected to be released within the week to continue his recovery in a private residence.

In the Diocese of Yakima, Trejo has served as pastor to several parishes, and assisted with the formation of permanent deacons and with RCIA in the diocese.

Trejo has been pastor of Our Lady of the Desert since 2016; Mattawa is a small central Washington community along the east side of the Columbia River. The area has sizable populations of migrant farm laborers.

“Mattawa is a close-knit community, and the parish is the center of many people’s lives,” Tyson said.

“The parish church is small and usually filled to overflowing, especially at the Spanish Masses,” the bishop noted.

Tyson met with parish leaders Saturday to discuss the possibility of a positive coronavirus diagnosis.

Trejo, ordained in 2003, is a native of Mexico City, and became a U.S. citizen eight years ago.

After Washington’s governor prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people in the state, public Masses were suspended across the Diocese of Yakima this weekend; that suspension is expected to continue indefinitely.

The state of Washington has been the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.; the first known U.S. case of the virus was announced Jan. 21 in the state. Since that time, more than 600 people in the state have been diagnosed with the virus, and at least 40 have died. Most of those infections have been documented in the Seattle metropolitan area; roughly 150 miles from Mattawa.

At least one priest in Italy has died of coronavirus, and local media reports that six others may also have died. Earlier this month, a French priest was hospitalized with coronavirus, and last week a priest in Peru was among the first patients to be hospitalized for coronavirus in that country.

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