Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

'Roe' abortion decision could still be overturned at SCOTUS, law professor says

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-  

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court's overturned a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, one law professor says that longstanding abortion precedents could still be overturned, even if the makeup of the court does not change.

“Given the right case, a strong enough factual record developed by state legislatures and supported at trial, I believe that the current majority on the Supreme Court could overturn Roe and Casey, and return the question of abortion to the states to resolve through the usual political processes,” University of Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead told CNA July 7.

On June 29 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law holding abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers.

Its 5-4 decision in the case June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo ruled that the state’s law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital posed substantial obstacles to a woman’s access to abortion, without significant benefits to the safety of women.

The decision was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Chief Justice Roberts filing a concurring opinion. In his concurrence, Roberts said that Louisiana’s law imposed restrictions “just as severe” as those of a Texas law struck down by the court in 2016. Thus, according to the “legal doctrine of stare decisis,” he said, Louisiana’s law “cannot stand” because of the court’s previous ruling in 2016.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case about Texas safety regulations for clinics in the 2016 ruling Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Roberts, long considered a skeptic of pro-abortion rights jurisprudence, had dissented from that 2016 ruling against the Texas law. He joined the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas which criticized “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’”

For Snead, the latest decision was disappointing, but also a “road map” for continued efforts.

He lamented that Roberts failed to join four other justices in “affirming the constitutionality of a modest health and safety law for women seeking abortions, namely, the requirement that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges within thirty miles of where the abortion is performed.”

“Nothing in the Constitution forbids Louisiana from enacting such a law. But Chief Justice Roberts felt bound to strike it down under the prudential doctrine of stare decisis because it was so factually similar to a Texas law invalidated four years ago in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (in which Chief Justice Roberts dissented).”

Snead thought the four justices who dissented in the Louisiana case were right that stare decisis did not require rejecting the law.

However, even with the Supreme Court's apparent dedication to a recent precedent, Snead was hopeful that pro-abortion rights decisions like 1973's Roe v. Wade and 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey could be overturned.

“No one in June Medical Services asked for Roe or Casey to be overturned, and Chief Justice Roberts applied Planned Parenthood v. Casey without affirming or endorsing it,” said Snead.

“He made it explicitly clear that he does not believe the Court can or should balance a woman's self-determination against a state's interest in the life of an unborn child. But this is the very calculus from whence the right to abortion came in Roe and Casey. So it's clear that Chief Justice Roberts believes that Roe and Casey are conceptually unsustainable.”

“That leaves the issue of stare decisis as the final obstacle to convincing him to undo the injustice of Roe and Casey. It is clear from his concurrence that pro life litigants need to explain why principles of stare decisis do not require Casey and Roe to be sustained,” he said.

In a July 4 essay for the First Things website, “The Way Forward After June Medical,” Snead argued that Roberts' concurrence is “the controlling opinion for purposes of precedent” and “leaves pro-life litigants on a better jurisprudential footing than before.”

“Most important, June is a road map for tailoring arguments to the new swing vote on abortion, Chief Justice Roberts,” Snead said. “It is certainly tempting to give up because there is still so far to go. But in the face of setbacks in the struggle for the equal protection of the law for every member of the human family, born and unborn, we must remind ourselves that none of it matters. We must find a way to win.”

Roberts' concurrence acknowledged that the 2016 law was wrongly decided. For Snead, a case can be “readily made” to address Roberts' concerns about precedent because of the unstable place of abortion in constitutional law. He wrote “it is built on outdated and dubious factual predicates.”

Snead told CNA that American jurisprudence on abortion “has never offered a stable, coherent, or predictable legal framework; it has been re-theorized multiple times, thus reducing its precedential standing; and there is no evidence that women have structured their lives around access to abortion, nor evidence that their personal or social flourishing depends on it.”

He said Roberts' concurrence puts forward a “new standard.” If a state's abortion restrictions face legal challenge, the state needs only “to demonstrate that it is pursuing a legitimate purpose via rational means.”

Then the state needs only rebut the plaintiff's claims that the law at issue imposes a "substantial obstacle" to obtaining a pre-viability abortion. It remains to be seen how this standard will be applied, but Chief Justice Roberts noted that it is a more permissive test than "strict scrutiny," as prescribed by Roe, Snead added.

“This is a very low standard that states can almost always meet,” said Snead, saying this standard allows states “far more latitude to restrict and regulate abortion than before.”

“Indeed, the Supreme Court just vacated and remanded for reconsideration two cases where lower courts had previously struck down a parental notice law and a law requiring an ultrasound 18 hours prior to an abortion,” Snead told CNA.

“States should continue to pass laws that respect and protect the intrinsic equal dignity of all human beings, born and unborn, and extend the basic protections of the law to unborn children and their mothers,” Snead said. He advised a combination of abortion restrictions and laws that strengthen “the social safety net” for pregnant mothers and families.

States should make it easier for men and women to care for their babies or, where not possible, to make an adoption plan, he suggested.

“And in our own lives, we all have the duty to extend to all our brothers and sisters, born and unborn, love, respect, and radical hospitality,” he said.

 

Catholic military archbishop laments US Navy ban on 'off-base indoor religious services'

Denver Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- The US Navy is reportedly loosening some restrictions on some sailors attending “off-base indoor religious services,” which it had promulgated in late June and which the archbishop for the military service had called “particularly odious to Catholics.”

The Navy had issued an order June 24 stating that "service members are prohibited from visiting, patronizing, or engaging in...indoor religious services,” according to First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom advocacy group.

Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services USA, had on Sunday lamented the Navy’s policy, noting that the orders also add that “civilian personnel, including families, are discouraged from” indoor church services.

Broglio said upon learning about the order, he had immediately contacted the Navy Chief of Chaplains’ Office, which he said was not able to offer any relief from the Navy’s provisions. His attempt to contact the Chief of Naval Operations had not been acknowledged as of July 5.

“Certainly, the Navy personnel who fall under this restriction are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, because no one can be required to do what is impossible,” Broglio said.

“However, given the great lengths to which Catholic churches...have gone in order to ensure social distancing in seating, receiving Holy Communion, and even adjust the liturgy to avoid any contagion, I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

The Navy’s director of Fleet Public Affairs told Fox News July 6 that if “conditions are met locally”— which the director did not specify— "Sailors are not prohibited from attending off-base indoor religious services.”

The Navy had on June 25 established a surveillance testing program, called Sentinel Surveillance Testing, to test asymptomatic service members for COVID-19.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics.  It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

“I want to assure the Navy Catholic faithful of my prayerful solidarity, invite them to continue to participate in Masses that are broadcast or live-streamed, and to be fervent in their faith.  This situation will pass and, as Pope Francis reminded us, Christ is in the boat with us.”

CNA was unable to reach the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA for further comment today.

Mississippi bishops denounce racism in 4th of July letter

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Mississippi’s two Catholic dioceses called on their priests to preach about racism and highlighted the Church’s anti-racism teachings in a letter to the state’s Catholics on July 4. 

Bishop Louis Kihnemann of Biloxi and Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson issued an unequivocal call for all Catholics to reject racism in society in their joint Independence Day letter.

“We join our voices to vehemently denounce racism, a plague among us. It is an evil and a force of destruction that eats away at the soul of our nation. Ultimately, it is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy—a transformation of the human heart—and compels us to act,” said the letter. 

The bishops offered a list of “practical suggestions and goals” for the two dioceses in Mississippi on how to work to end racism. These include, on the parish level, a reading of the USCCB’s “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism”; homilies speaking against racism and promoting “personal responsibility to eradicate it and encourage dialog”; prayers to end racism and injustice at Mass; listening seminars for members of the parish and wider community; and invitations for chaplains and police departments “to join seminars and discussions on racism.”

Individually, the bishops suggested that Catholics read Open Wide Our Hearts and other texts concerning Catholic Social Teaching; to learn more about history and causes of racism; vote; to “not take part in racial or discriminatory humor”; work on strengthening family life; and to “speak out whenever you see injustice, racism or discrimination.” 

The bishops’ letter comes at a time when many monuments and artifacts of the Confederacy are being removed around the country, including Mississippi. Last month, lawmakers in Mississippi voted to change the state flag, which included an emblem of the Confederate battle flag. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed the bill altering the flag into law on June 30. 

The flag had flown in its previous form since 1894. 

The bishops said that an honest appraisal of history is necessary to “recognize our participation in the chains of racism,” and to acknowledge that “significant numbers of African Americans are born into economic and social disparity.” 

“Generations of African Americans were disadvantaged by slavery, wage theft, ‘Jim Crow’ laws, and the systematic denial of access to numerous wealth-building opportunities reserved for others,” they added. These effects, when added up, have led to “social structures of injustice and violence,” they said. 

Pointing to the recent widespread protests and rallies “against the tyranny of racism” in response to the “heartless killing of George Floyd,” the bishops stated that a “critical mass” has been reached that has “exploded across our nation and beyond.” 

In their Independence Day letter, the bishops acknowledged that “for many of our fellow citizens, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even danger,” but that they also “reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes our law enforcement personnel as a whole,” as well as violence and riots. 

At the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in November 2018, the bishops endorsed the Cause for Canonization of Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American religious sister from Mississippi who often spoke out in favor of racial justice. In their July 4 letter, the bishops repeatedly cited Bowman’s work, and agreed with her declaration that low self-esteem due to repeated criticisms from “racist society” was “one of the great problems of the black community.” 

“The enduring call to love is the heart of the matter and the antidote to this toxin,” said the bishops.  

“Love is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. For many in Mississippi who strive to live by the Word of God, we cannot ignore the prophets,” they added.

The bishops vowed to “recommit ourselves to continue to liberate the Church from the evil of racism,” which “severely compromises our mission to make disciples of all nations in the name of Jesus Christ.” 

“With the ordained priests and deacons, religious and laity in our diocese we pledge ourselves to strengthen our Catholic tradition to educate, to serve, and to empower all who are on the margins in our communities, especially those who are oppressed by the yoke of racism,” they said. 

“We are not powerless, and the witness of Sister Thea’s life is an icon of hope that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

‘Life after ISIS’: Christians are leaving Iraq due to ongoing security concerns

Rome Newsroom, Jul 7, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- More Christian families left the Nineveh Plains than returned to their hometowns last year amid ongoing security concerns in northern Iraq, according to a recently published report by Aid to the Church in Need. 

The report, “Life after ISIS: New challenges to Christianity in Iraq,” documents how Iraqi Christians’ worries over Iran-backed militias operating in their region drive emigration and economic insecurity. 

“Christians who have returned to their homes still feel unsafe, and substantially more insecure than other groups in the region mostly because of the violent activity of local militias,” Fr. Andrzej Halemba, the leader of ACN’s Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, wrote in the report’s foreword.

“Although economic concerns, especially employment, are paramount in some areas, it is impossible to decouple these from security considerations. These key factors need to be addressed to tackle the physical and economic insecurity that forces populations to move. If the tendency to emigrate is not stemmed, it will place, in turn, even greater pressure on Christians remaining in Iraq by reducing their critical mass and thus creating a less hospitable environment,” he said.

The ACN report found that 57% of Iraqi Christians surveyed said that they had considered emigration. Among them, 55% responded that they expect to leave Iraq by 2024.

The number of Christians living in areas formerly occupied by the Islamic State has already declined from 102,000 to 36,000 people since 2014. The report stated that some displaced Christians who returned to the Nineveh Plains as their homes were rebuilt are now choosing to leave. 

“In the summer of 2019, the Christian population of this region reached an inflection point, with more families leaving their hometown than returning. In Baghdeda alone, 3,000 Syriac Catholics left over the course of just three months in 2019 – a drop of 12% in the number of Syriac Catholics in the town,” it said.

With continued migration, the future of the Western Neo-Aramaic language known as Surith, and sometimes called “Syriac,” is also threatened if the children of immigrants do not retain the language. One Christian in Bartella told ACN: “Learning Syriac is important because it’s the language of Jesus.”

The report named Australia as one of the primary locations where Iraqi Christians emigrate, with at least 139,000 moving there since 2007.

This is in part made possible by Iraqi Christians’ family connections abroad. The study found that most Christians had at least one family member living abroad, which provides an added incentive and knowledge of how to leave Iraq. 

However, the majority of the Iraqi respondents to the ACN survey cited security concerns over family reasons as the primary reason for wanting to emigrate. 

In particular, living under an Iran-backed militia was directly correlated with feelings of insecurity. These Shia militia groups operate with the permission of the Iraqi government, but they have previously refused to comply with the prime minister's instructions to integrate into the Iraqi army. 

The ACN report detailed Christians’ complaints of theft, threats of violence, and injury perpetrated by these militia groups, which have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for human rights abuses.

Additionally, many Iraqi Christians live with the fear that the Islamic State or a similar group will return. The survey conducted by ACN found that 87% of these Christians felt unsafe or absolutely unsafe, and 67% believed that “it is likely or very likely that ISIS or a similar group will return in the next five years.”

“Disputes between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over certain Christian-majority areas have also hindered infrastructure reconstruction provoking further insecurity,” Halemba said.

The priest underlined that reconstruction efforts in the Nineveh Plains needed to continue, adding that the number of families in the immediate region that would still like to return is estimated to be more than 2,000. 

The report, published in June, is based on a stratified sampling survey conducted between August and November 2019 of 793 Christians living in areas formerly occupied by the Islamic State in the Nineveh Plains. The report was written by Halemba and Xavier Bisits, a management consultant for Bain & Company and ACN project support officer.

The authors said that the survey’s results indicated that NGOs, churches, and governments should focus on the causes that drive Iraqi Christians to emigrate and advocate for the restoration of security in the Nineveh Plains in partnership with local Church leaders.

“The findings of ‘Life after ISIS’ make clear that restoring the stability of the Christian community in this post-conflict region is only possible with a concerted effort focusing on security, education, long-term economic opportunities, and reconstruction,” Halemba said.

Catholic bishops join 1,000 faith leaders to oppose federal executions

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 10:10 am (CNA).- Several U.S. bishops, along with clergy and religious brothers and sisters from around the country, have signed a statement opposing federal executions that are scheduled to resume this month.

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 faith leaders from a diverse range of traditions, we call on President Trump and Attorney General Barr to stop the scheduled federal executions,” the statement read.

Catholic priests and religious, deacons, and lay leaders signed on to the statement, as well as members of Christian denominations, Reform Judaism and Conservative Jewish congregations, and Buddhist leaders, among others.

“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.

Bishop Pates issued his own statement in addition to the joint letter, saying that “[t]he Church believes that just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

Last summer, Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to resume execution of federal prisoners on death row for the first time since 2003.

The inmates scheduled for execution are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, and Alfred Bourgeois, convicted of the murders of children and adults and, in some cases, torture.

Four of the inmates—Lee, Purkey, Honken, and Bourgeois—challenged the execution protocol, and in November a federal judge granted them an injunction so they could appeal to the Supreme Court.

The BOP had not conducted an execution since 2003, after the Obama administration decided to review the old three-drug execution protocol for lethal injection. Although Barr proposed a one-drug execution method of pentobarbital, the inmates challenged the new protocol.

The D.C. Circuit Court ruled against the inmates and vacated the injunction in April, and the Supreme Court on June 29 declined to hear their appeal, allowing for the executions to continue. The first of four executions has been scheduled for July 13, and the last on August 28.

The executions are scheduled to occur in Terre Haute, Indiana, within the archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis opposed the executions on June 18, noting his jurisdiction with regard to the location of Terre Haute federal prison and stating that “the supreme law of the Church, the salvation of souls, demands that I speak out on this very grave matter at hand.”

“Since the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, it has been the Catholic position that today’s prison system is quite adequate to protect society from inmates escaping or being unlawfully set free,” he said. While the crimes of the federal inmates cannot be ignored, he said, “humanity cannot allow the violent act of an individual to cause other members of humanity to react in violence.”

“While the Church is certainly concerned with the soul of every person, including those on death row, I make this plea against the death penalty out of ultimate concern for the eternal soul of humanity,” he said.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, has also called for the government to stop the executions.

He noted that Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty, and that the U.S. bishops’ overwhelmingly voted in favor of Pope Francis’ new language in the Catechism calling the death penalty “inadmissible.”

Vatican cardinal: peace is threatened as health and economic crises continue

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2020 / 07:40 am (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal has said that the world is facing a “tsunami” of humanitarian crises caused by the coronavirus emergency, conflict, and decreased security around the globe.

Echoing Pope Francis, Cardinal Peter Turkson called July 7 for a global ceasefire during the pandemic so that assistance can safely be provided to those in need, especially in countries with ongoing conflict such as Yemen and Venezuela.

Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, also noted a critical need for disarmament, proposing that money used to finance arms be redirected toward supporting healthcare systems instead.

The global health emergency, economic recession, and ongoing climate crisis mean “diminishing access to water, diminishing access to food, increasing social unrest, violence, breakdown of law and order, and unfortunately, the normalization of insecurity, distrust, and uncertainty,” the cardinal said.

“The confluence of all of these crises has engendered a veritable tsunami of humanitarian crises,” he continued, “which has spread and spared no human life [or] institution from its disruptive consequences especially its impact on harmony and peace.”

Turkson spoke during a press conference about the Vatican’s COVID-19 Commission, which he leads. In particular, the cardinal addressed the focus of the commission’s second working group, which is security.

On the subject of a global ceasefire, he said that he supported appeals made by Pope Francis and by the UN Secretary General António Guterres. There are countries already suffering from conflict now with additional grave needs due to the coronavirus crisis, he said, but “intervention itself is rendered difficult by the violence.”

Turkson said that strategies the commission is using to appeal for a ceasefire include the advocacy of local peace and justice commissions, along with calls for reconciliation and global solidarity, and creating a “redefinition of peace,” following the example of St. Pope John XXIII in the 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris, framing peace in terms such as “food security,” “solidarity,” and an “inclusive public health system.”

Other steps he said the commission was taking include working with on-the-ground groups such as Caritas Internationalis and Sant’Egidio to help find peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

Sister Alessandra Smerilli, a member of the COVID-19 commission and an economics professor, noted in her presentation Pope Francis’ request “to prepare the future and not only be prepared for the future.”

The global economic recession is expected to displace billions of jobs, she said, noting that “the pandemic knows no borders. Then, we need solutions without borders.”

She said that the economic taskforce of the commission had been meeting weekly to think about and discuss different economic issues connected to the pandemic.

The religious sister added that she was not a fan of the word “recovery” in reference to the economy, but preferred to say “regenerate the economy,” because of its focus on doing something new.

Alessio Pecorario, another commission member, called the security taskforce, which he coordinates, the “network of the network.”

Pecorario said that members were working to bring together different experts and Catholic non-violence groups to bring together concrete proposals on the issue of peace and security.

Pro-life MP hails ‘clear victory’ over abortion amendments

CNA Staff, Jul 7, 2020 / 06:15 am (CNA).- A leading pro-life MP welcomed the defeat Monday of attempts to strip away protections for unborn children in the U.K.

Fiona Bruce, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, told CNA July 7 that the result was a “clear victory” for the pro-life movement.

A group of MPs sought to introduce two amendments July 6 removing restrictions on abortion to a bill aimed at combating domestic abuse.

The first, New Clause 28, would have permitted women in abusive relationships to undergo both medical and surgical abortions in any location. 

The second, New Clause 29, would have introduced abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks. 

The first clause was withdrawn after it became clear that it would not be backed by a majority of MPs.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that the second clause would not be selected for debate, deeming it “out of scope” of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Bruce said: “I and other MPs, Members of the Pro-Life All Party Parliamentary Group, are delighted at this clear victory.”

“Thank you to everyone who wrote to their MP -- and prayed -- about the concerning amendments proposed to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which would have brought in the most significant -- and disturbing -- changes to our abortion laws in 50 years, none of which were passed by the House of Commons last night.”

“Indeed one of them, New Clause 29, was not even allowed to be debated by the Speaker: he deemed it ‘out of scope’ before the debate even began.”

Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton, continued: “I was very pleased that the proposer of the other -- New Clause 28 -- proposing an extension of the temporary emergency provisions for the provision of ‘at-home abortion pills’ during the current coronavirus crisis, withdrew it.” 

“As the debate went on, with many strong contributions from pro-life MPs against New Clause 28, it became clear to MPs in the chamber of the House of Commons that if New Clause 28 was put to a vote the proposers of this dangerous clause risked a serious defeat.”

Bruce noted that pro-life MPs also won a commitment from the Government to review temporary measures on at-home medical abortions before it takes further action.

“It is to be hoped, and we need to ensure, that this review -- consultation -- will properly and fairly highlight safety concerns around the taking of ‘at-home abortion pills’ which have been highlighted in recent press reports,” she said.

The government announced in March that women would be allowed to perform medical abortions at home until the coronavirus crisis ends. In May, it was reported that police were investigating a case in which a mother took home abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant, four weeks past the legal abortion time limit.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which oversees the “pills by post” service, reportedly confirmed that it was looking into the case, along with eight others in which women were beyond the 10-week limit for medical ­abortions at home.

Dr Helen Watt, senior research fellow at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, told CNA July 6 that it was “a huge relief” that neither of the two amendments were incorporated into the Domestic Abuse Bill.

She said: “For years, the abortion lobby has been pushing for home abortions, and COVID-19 provided the pretext to introduce them. Already, this temporary permission has led to on-the-ground use of abortion pills far beyond the ‘right’ gestation: in a harrowing recent case, one baby killed by home abortion was stillborn at 28 weeks.” 

“It would be unconscionable to entrench permanently home abortions for genuine abuse cases, not least as abusive environments are precisely those in which coercion to abort is most likely, while such coercion is clearly harder to detect remotely.” 

Watt added that women who were not being abused might be tempted to claim that they were in order to gain access to the pills. 

“Checking the facts here is no easier than checking for coercion, gestational age or possible ectopic pregnancy,” she said.

“Home abortions are not only lethal to the baby but carry real harms and risks for the mother: women with crisis pregnancies need swift in-person help, not remote, abortion-focused consultations.”

Ahead of Monday’s House of Commons debate, an English bishop urged Catholics to contact their MPs to express their concern about the amendments. Bishop John Sherrington said that the proposals would “leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe.”

He said: “This is being presented as decriminalizing abortion but it would, if carried, do far more than that. It would result in the introduction of abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks.”

“It would leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe, where in nearly all countries the time limit for abortion is 12 weeks. The majority of our fellow citizens would like to see the current 24-week limit reduced, not increased.”

Last month official figures revealed that a record number of abortions took place in England and Wales in 2019.

The government said June 11 that a total of 209,519 abortions took place last year, more than in any other year since the practice was legalized by the Abortion Act 1967. 

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for the charitable organization Right to Life UK, said: “This is a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies. These amendments would have left the unborn child with considerably worse protections and removed many of the current safeguards which protect women facing unplanned pregnancies.”

“Thank you to the thousands of people that rallied over the last week to get friends and family to email their MPs. MPs received more emails ahead of this vote than they have ever received ahead of an abortion vote.”

“Thank you to the amazing group of pro-life MPs in Parliament who have worked so hard to ensure that these extreme amendments were defeated.”

Spokane bishop responds to Catholic Charities racism video

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 04:58 pm (CNA).-  

Both the Bishop of Spokane and the leader of a Washington state Catholic Charities organization have spoken out about a controversial video in which the charity leader said that he, his organization, and the Catholic Church are racist, and that the Catholic Church is premised on the idea that Jesus Christ was white.

“I am a racist. That’s the hard truth. I am a racist. How could I not be? As a white person living in America, where every institution is geared to advantage people who look like me, it’s seemingly impossible for me to be anything other than a racist,” Rob McCann, CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, said in a video posted to YouTube June 19.



“My Catholic Church, and my Catholic Charities organization, is racist. How could they not be? Our Catholic faith tradition is built on the premise that a baby, born in a manger, in the Middle East, was a white baby. So how can we be surprised to know that we must still fight against racism,” McCann added in the video.

Jesus Christ was a Jewish man, born to Jewish parents in the Middle East, centuries before contemporary categories of racial identification emerged amid European colonization in various parts of the world. The Catholic Church teaches that the Jewish and Israelite identity of Jesus are central aspects to his role in salvation.

McCann's video also said that “the Catholic Church in America has its own long, terrible history of owning slaves, staying silent about others who did the same, and being part of the institutionalization of racism.”

The CEO said that Catholic Charities has been “unknowingly part of the institutionalization of racism,” because its board and staff is primarily composed of white people, while those it serves are “disproportionately people of color.”

The video garnered national attention after its release. McCann is also vice chair of Catholic Charities USA, the umbrella organization for Catholic Charities organizations in dioceses across the country.

On July 5, McCann posted a set of “clarifications” on the website of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington.

In his clarifications, McCann wrote that in his video, “instead of engaging in a discussion about race, I spoke in a way that some heard as a critical rant against the Church. For that, I am deeply and truly sorry.”

He noted that by identifying himself as a racist, he meant: “I realize that due to my upbringing and my membership in the majority race in this country, I certainly have areas of both known and unknown bias in my heart that I need to work on, and that in my lifetime I have struggled with those biases in ways that are so subtle I may not have fully realized them.”

“As an individual with white privilege, I certainly have had moments where I could and should have done more to be actively anti-racist.  I am not saying that all white people are racists or that all Catholics are racist.  I am acknowledging that I need to deeply evaluate my own sin in this area every single day and that I hope others will do the same.”

On his charge that the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington are racist organizations, “what I intended to convey is that my experience of my own flawed faith life and my experience inside human organizations, lead me to know that there are areas of both known and unknown bias, as well as areas of historical mis-steps that should be acknowledged in order to be a positive force for change.”

McCann’s clarifications also addressed his charge that Catholicism is premised on the notion that Jesus Christ was white.

“My description of our Catholic faith tradition being built on the premise that a baby born in a manger in the Middle East was a white baby has also caused pain, and here I must admit I misspoke and was wrong to say it that way,” McCann wrote.

McCann said that after the video's released, his pastor had reminded him “that in other parts of the world, and in some places in the U.S., artistic and pictorial representations of Jesus are in the images and likenesses of the local culture. Jesus, and the entire Holy Family, are consistently, artistically, beautifully represented as members of every race and culture around the globe where there are Catholic churches,” he wrote.

The letter came after a meeting between McCann and Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly.

In a July 5 statement, Daly said of that meeting that “our conversation was candid and frank – and hopefully productive.”

In response to the controversy, in the Diocese of Spokane “the Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Collection will either be replaced by or taken in conjunction with the Black and Indian Missions Collection,” Daly said, adding that Catholic Charities will be asked “to sponsor a series of speakers, approved by me, to address the subject of Church and Race.”

The organization will also “address the issue of abortion and its detrimental effects on the Black community. In places such as New York City, more Black babies are aborted each day than are born. As Catholics, we believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death,” the bishop added.

While McCann’s “letter answers some of my concerns, others remain. His support of the Black Lives Matter organization (BLM), albeit now modified, puzzles me. BLM is in conflict with Church teaching regarding marriage, family and the sanctity of life. Moreover, it is disturbing that BLM has not vocally condemned the recent violence that has torn apart so many cities. Its silence has not gone unheard. One need not stand with BLM to stand for Black lives. I will address this and other issues with Dr. McCann in future meetings,” Daly said.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” has become the rallying cry for a broad social movement. But there are also specific organizations which take the slogan into their name, the largest and best-funded of which is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation aims to “foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” the group’s website says.

Some Black Catholic Leaders in recent weeks have told CNA they support the Black Lives Matter social movement, even while they do not support the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation or other particular groups.

In his statement of clarification, McCann wrote that “Our support of the important non-violent racial justice advocacy elements of Black Lives Matter is specifically support for human dignity, which has a clear connection with Catholic Social Teaching. To be clear, we support the concept of Black Lives Matter, but that does not mean we support any elements of that movement that promote violence or violate Church teachings.”

“We affirm the life and dignity of every human person from conception to natural death. We stand firmly against abortion, poverty, violence, and the death penalty. Racial justice and equality are values inherent to life and dignity, and Catholic Charities is not only dedicated to upholding those values, we stand willing to work in strength and in peace to see those values realized in our world.”

McCann was appointed executive director of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington in 2005, after serving as the organization’s associate director, and as an employee of Catholic Relief Services. He has a doctorate in the field of “leadership studies” from Gonzaga University.

In 2006, he told The Fig Tree newspaper that his understaning of the “the core values of the Catholic tradition, values shared by most other traditions—Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths, as well as other Christian,” namely “respect, compassion, collaboration and justice,” animate his approach to Catholic charity.

Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington is a distinct entity from the Diocese of Spokane. Bishop Daly sits on the board, but is not the chairperson. In 2018, the latest year for which date is available, the organization ran a budget deficit of $614,836.

Daly concluded his letter with prayer “that Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, will heal any divisions that yet might persist among us.”

 

 

 

Catholic parish rallies for young girl hit by truck

Minneapolis, Minn., Jul 6, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Last week, 8 year old Rosie Sajevic was riding her bike a couple blocks from her house in Hibbing, Minnesota, when a FedEx truck hit her, severely damaging her legs.

“I was riding my bike and I saw the FedEx truck and then it went black out, and then I woke up on the ground,” Rosie told CNA.

Rosie’s mom, Teresa Sajevic, heard sirens and wondered what they were responding to. She soon received a call from the police, dropped the laundry she had been folding, and ran to the scene of the accident.

“Her legs were totally mangled,” Teresa told CNA. “Her femurs were totally broken. I couldn't see her moving and I was just really afraid that she was dead.”

But when she got closer to her daughter, she realized that the girl was praying the Hail Mary.

The Catholic faith is very important to the Sajevics, and homeschooling allows the faith to be built into Rosie’s curriculum. Teresa said that Rosie recently did a consecration to the Virgin Mary, and now thinks of Mary as her heavenly mother.

“She likes to read stories of the saints in comic book style, she is your average kid. But she knows that this world has more,” said Teresa.

Rosie credits Christ, her guardian angel, and the intercession of her five deceased siblings with her life.

“Mom, they must have all come around me like a bubble with my guardian angel,” Theresa recalled Rosie telling her after the accident. Rosie told her mom that her guardian angel must be “really tired.”

Christ “has been with me so much. He could have let me get run over but He didn’t, which is really helpful to me, and I’m so thankful,” Rosie told CNA.

The Catholic community of Hibbing and the neighboring town of Virginia, Minnesota, immediately reached out to the Sajevics with help and prayers.

When Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Virginia, heard about Rosie’s accident, he quickly rallied his parishioners to offer aid.

“It took a couple days but I realized they were going to need some kind of ramp to get into their house,” said Moravitz. 24-hours later, it was built, in part due to the contributions of local Catholic-owned small businesses such as Pohaki Lumber.

“I couldn't believe it,” said Teresa. “We’re united in the Eucharist as brothers and sisters, but we’re not their parishioners. Just that they reached out like that, it’s so overwhelming.”

The ramp will allow Rosie, who just returned home from the hospital, to go outside during Minnesota’s summer months. The parish will also install a door that will allow her to go outside on her own.

“If we didn't have that ramp, I don’t know how she would handle being home, you know, being locked up inside,” said Teresa. It was a financial burden that she and her husband would never have dreamed of making a reality.

Helping those in need is nothing new for Holy Spirit parish.

Last year, Holy Spirit rented and furnished an apartment for a single mother whose house burnt down. They also bought a car for a young woman with cancer.

“(The parishioners) are just big hearts and want to help people in need, and they really rise to the occasion every time that I tend to ask. And it has done some really life changing things for families in our area,” said Moravitz.

The Catholic small business owners in his parish have been especially generous.

“I think, like all economic situations in our country right now, people are struggling,” said Moravitz. “I think they witness Catholic small businesses in such a beautiful way. They’ve got a heart for the Lord, and they’re using their businesses to build up the kingdom of God.”

Moravitz said that although we often think that “we’re going to be the hands and feet of the Lord,” we rarely actually put our prayer into action.

“I hope this might be an example to other parishes, other priests, other lay people, not just to talk about doing it but actually stepping out and doing it. Because there are people in every community across this country that are in need of the light of Christ and the light of the faith and we can bring that to anybody through the gift of service,” said Moravitz.

Teresa is acutely aware of how much these parishioners sacrificed to build the ramp, in resources and time.

“They gave up a Saturday in Minnesota, and we don’t have a lot of nice summer (days). They could have been fishing, but they came together to work for my baby. And that means so much,” Teresa said.

Over the course of her accident and hospitalization, Rosie herself has thought of others first.

Teresa said that Rosie’s first concern was if the driver was okay.

“Mom, they have to feel so much worse than you did,” Teresa recalled Rosie saying after the incident. They have been keeping the driver in their prayers.

And although Rosie was excited to use the new ramp, her first thoughts were for her three brothers, who she said would have fun sledding and riding their bikes down the slope.

Rosie, who sometimes tells her mom to “trust more,” is confident in the future. She is excited to be able to walk on crutches in a few months, and is even more excited to meet her new baby brother or sister around Thanksgiving.

When asked what she would tell any kid who complains about his or her life, Rosie said, “I’d be like, you’re alive!”

Teresa also trusts that God has a plan for Rosie’s future. Rosie will turn 9 years old this month.

“Even though there are so many bad things that happened, and she has such a long road ahead, God is already there. He's already in the future, he has already got it,” said Teresa.

Coronavirus comes to a migrant tent city at US border

CNA Staff, Jul 6, 2020 / 02:07 pm (CNA).-  

More than 1,500 people live in a tent city without running water or adequate sanitation at the border of Texas and Mexico, while they apply for asylum in the U.S. Coronavirus has arrived in the camp, a religious sister has said, which should call attention to the condition in which asylum seekers are living.

“These families are living in donated tents at the mercy of extreme weather. Here, the temperatures can rise above 100 degrees, and when it rains, the downpours knock down their only refuge and leave them in mud pits,”Sr. Norma Pimentel wrote in a July 5 op-ed for the Washington Post.

“Imagine living in such uncertainty, where even such basics as running water and a place to shower are nonexistent; where you have to depend on outside organizations for food, which you have to cook over a campfire. Like the prisons and nursing homes that have been breeding grounds for the virus in the United States, the camp is crowded with people who for now are not going anywhere.”

Pimentel, a sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, is director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, in Texas.

“Do not ignore the suffering occurring here,” she urged, explaining that the migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, has more than 1,500 men, women, and children, in a make-shift tent city, as they wait for their applications for admittance to the United States to be processed.

The camp has been in existence since last summer, after the federal government initiated the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which allow U.S. officials to return undocumented migrants to Mexico pending adjudication of their claims for asylum.

Addressing the situation is more, not less urgent because of the coronavirus pandemic, she said, noting that the camp recorded its first positive case last week.

That the camp has remained free of coronavirus for so long was, she said, was “remarkable” and a testament to the dedication of volunteers working to serve the people enduring emotional and practical hardship.

While the one patient in the camp, a woman from the interior of Mexico, was quickly isolated and removed to a nearby medical center run by Doctors Without Borders, Pimentel said that the conditions make the camp a potential outbreak waiting to happen, and that because of the pandemic, the camp has become less safe.

Because of the pandemic, volunteer activity in the camp is limited to a small number, who are able to provide assistance with nourishment and some health care needs, Pimentel wrote.

“All this makes it even harder to keep the camps safe from the cartels and gangsters who continue to prey on these largely defenseless asylum seekers.”

The camp’s existence, said Pimentel, was the unnecessary consequence of the government’s asylum protocols, which itself fail to “address people with dignity.”

“We should not have people forced to wait for asylum — trying to find safety for themselves and their families — while camped outside in the elements for months at a time. It is contrary to our laws and the dictates of humanity.”
 
Pimentel said that “the story of these asylum seekers has faded from the front pages of U.S. newspapers and from television screens but the cruel and unfair situation continues.”

“It is time that we put an end to it, and to end the MPP policy. Until that happens, we will continue to help those who are defenseless, whose only real ‘crime’ is trying to seek protection for themselves and their families.”

The Trump administration has made several changes to asylum and immigration policy over the past 18 months, all of which have come under sustained criticism from the bishops of the United States.

In September 2019, after the Trump administration announced a rule limiting asylum eligibility to those who had already applied and been rejected for asylum in those countries passed through on their way to the U.S, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, issued a strong critique of the change.

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

In November 2019, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the bishops’ international relief agency signed a joint statement on the Trump administration’s changes to asylum policy.

Administration policy “undermines U.S. moral leadership in protecting vulnerable populations and risks further destabilizing the region,” they said.

“To preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, we cannot turn our back on families and individuals in desperate need of help.”

“In light of the Gospel, let us always remember we are invited to embrace the foreigner and to take care of this human person.”