Browsing News Entries

New York assisted suicide bill draws fire from disability rights group

New York City, N.Y., Apr 24, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Disability rights activists are speaking out in opposition to a proposal in New York that would legalize physician assisted suicide.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act, or bill A.2383-A, would amend the current public health law to legalize assisted suicide for mentally competent, terminally ill patients in the state of New York. The bill was heard in the New York Assembly Health Committee on Monday, where a number of opposing groups testified against it.

“The mere suggestion that disability acquired as the result of illness is cause enough to end one’s life is a devaluation of disabled peoples’ lives, and it’s offensive,” said Kathryn Carroll, an attorney and policy analyst with the Center for Disability Rights, who was invited to testify at Monday’s hearing.

“Our focus should be on expanding access to services and supports that allow people to live with dignity, rather than assisting their suicide,” Carroll continued.

She warned of the danger posed by economic incentives for insurance companies and caregivers to push assisted suicide on the terminally ill as the cheaper option, instead of longer term end-of-life care.

“As long as these external influences exist, the promise of a choice to end one’s life is a lie,” Carroll said.

Carroll was joined by other disability advocates, including Mel Tanzman, the executive director of Westchester Disabled on the Move and the chair of the health committee at the New York Association on Independent Living.

Tanzman gave his testimony on Monday on behalf of over 40 organizations who serve individuals with disabilities in the state of New York.

“Fears of becoming disabled and facing functional loss, whether the cause is injury or illness, are often reported by doctors as reasons patients request assisted suicide in states where it is legal,” Tanzman said.

“The disability community strongly opposes the belief that requiring the assistance of another individual for activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and toileting, is undignified or a legitimate reason for New York State to legalize physician assisted suicide,” he continued.

Tanzman additionally pointed to the possibility of “coercion and abuse” in such legislation, noting reports that similar assisted suicide measures in other states have experienced “ineffectual safeguards” against abuses for the terminally ill or disabled.

The bill’s New York City hearing is scheduled to take place on May 3, where Not Dead Yet, a disability rights activist group, will be testifying.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act is not the first attempt to legalize physician assisted suicide within New York. Last fall, an appeals court in the state ruled against a lawsuit which stated that citizens have a right to choose doctor-assisted suicide.

The lawsuit claimed that the state’s law against helping another individual commit suicide does not apply to doctor-assisted death, arguing that the ban on physician assisted suicide is unconstitutional because it denies patients the right to self-determination.

However, seven judges of the New York Court of Appeals unanimously shut down the case, saying the current law against assisting with suicide did not make exceptions for doctors. The judges also said the measure would induce undue pressure on terminal patients to end their lives.

Physician assisted suicide is now legal in a handful of states, including California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Pope's abuse prevention commission prioritizes survivors, education

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis' commission for the protection of minors met in Rome last week to listen to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and to discuss abuse prevention education and policy, and ways the Church might work more closely with abuse survivors.

According to an April 22 communique from the commission, the first day of their plenary was dedicated to hearing thoughts and testimonies from survivors of clerical sexual abuse, many of them members of the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales.

Those who attended voiced appreciation for being listened to, and described the encounter as “empowering.”

One of the survivors, according to the communique, voiced hope that their visit would help the commission “develop a wider network of survivors who are willing to advise and support” the commission's work in a similar manner.

The commission expressed gratitude to the SAP group for offering their “expertise and experiences” during the plenary, saying their contribution will help the commission “to develop effective ways to integrate the voice of survivors into the life and ministry of the Church.”

In comments made in a video statement uploaded by the Center for Child Protection (CCP) April 14, clerical abuse survivor Deborah Kloos, who is not a member of the SAP but met with commission members during the plenary, said the Church needs to pray regularly for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

“It is something very important to me that our Catholic Church prays together for people wounded by abuse, because so many were wounded under the roof of the Church,” she said, asking the pope to lead the Church in praying for those who have been abused.

The wound of abuse, she said, affects survivors “their entire life and it separates them from the Eucharist.”

Kloos, who is originally from Canada, has long lobbied for a day of prayer for the victims of clerical sexual abuse, which Pope Francis has asked bishops' conferences to organize at a local level.

After her abuse more than three decades ago, Kloos left the Catholic Church for a period, but eventually came back, and sings in her parish choir.

“I feel very connected,” she said in the video, but lamented that “the only thing missing is that I don't hear the Church praying in the prayers of the faithful for those who have been wounded by abuse.”

“It's very important and I ask everyone to remember, because if we don't remember and we don't bring it out, then there's no way that healing can occur,” Kloos said. “You don't see the people separated from the Church, but there are thousands of people who don't come to Mass anymore because someone was wounded under the roof of this Church.”

During their meeting, the commission also heard presentations on the outcome of the Australian Royal Commission's inquiry into institutional responses to sexual abuse, as well as the role that faith communities play in helping to overcome trauma.

On Saturday, April 21, members met with Pope Francis in a private audience. During the encounter, the pope said he intended to confirm the commission's statutes, which had been approved for an experimental period of three years when the commission was established in 2015.

Commission members also outlined to the pope their priorities moving forward, which they said can clearly be seen through three specific working groups: working with survivors, education and formation, and prevention guidelines and norms.

After meeting Pope Francis on Saturday, the commission closed their plenary Sunday, April 22. No date has yet been announced for their next gathering.

The commission was established by Pope Francis in March 2014, and is headed by Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.

The commission's initial mandate ended in December 2017, and in February of this year the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had reconfirmed some members of the commission, including O'Malley as its president, and that he had also appointed several new members.

New members who joined are Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia; Sr. Arina Gonsalves, RJM from India; Neville Owen from Australia; Sinalelea Fe’ao from Tonga; Myriam Wijlens from the Netherlands; Ernesto Caffo from Italy; Sr. Jane Bertelsen, FMDM from the U.K.; Teresa Kettelkamp from the U.S.; and Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos from Brazil.

The returning commission members are Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco from the Philippines; Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera from Colombia; Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ from Germany; Hannah Suchocka from Poland; Sr. Kayula Lesa, RSC from Zambia; Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS from South Africa; and Mons. Robert Oliver from the U.S.

Survivors of clerical sexual abuse are among commission members, however, the names of the survivors have not been made public, leaving it up to them whether they to disclose their experiences.

 

Second priest murdered in Mexico in less than a week

Guadalajara, Mexico, Apr 23, 2018 / 03:30 pm (ACI Prensa).- The reported murder of a priest in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Friday marks the second killing of a priest in less than a week in the country.

Fr. Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia, 33, was shot to death the afternoon of April 20 inside Saint Pio of Pietrelcina church, in Guadalajara, Jalisco State, authorities reported.

The murder of Fr. Contreras Garcia makes the second murder of a priest in Mexico in less than a week, following the killing of Fr. Rubén Alcántara Díaz, the vicar general of the Diocese of Cuautitlán Izcalli, on April 18.

According to the Catholic Multimedia Center, this makes a total of 23 priests murdered in the country in the last six years.

The Attorney General's Office of Jalisco State reported that Fr. Contreras Garcia was believed to have been attacked by two men from the Hacienda Santa Fe neighborhood in the town of Tlajomulco, in the Guadalajara metropolitan area.

The attorney general's office indicated the killers “entered the sacristy of the parish and straight away attacked the victim, fleeing afterwards in a compact vehicle.”

“The victim was found in the church with several gunshot wounds,” the office said.

In a message released by the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, his auxiliary bishops, the clergy and the faithful expressed “our deepest grief.”

The Archdiocese of Guadalajara urged “the state and municipal authorities to investigate and determine the facts of this deplorable incident.”

In addition, they called on “those that commit these atrocities against people's lives to reconsider the damage they do to society and the climate of anguish they bring upon the citizens, so that their minds and hearts be moved to repent of their actions.”

“We unite in prayer so that this climate of violence that afflicts our state of Jalisco would come to an end.”

The bishops of Mexico also released a statement voicing “sadness and grief over the murder of another priest in just a few days.”

“We make an urgent call to build a culture of peace and reconciliation. These deplorable incidents call all of us to a much deeper and sincere conversion. It is time to look honestly at our culture and society, to ask ourselves why we have lost respect for life and the sacred.”

“We ask the Catholic faithful to accompany their priests with prayer, especially in the pastoral service of the communities that have been entrusted to them.”

The bishops also exhorted “those who despise and take away life for any cause, to let the kindly face up God look upon you to not only lay down your weapons but also hatred, resentment, vengeance and every destructive sentiment.”

“To our competent authorities we strongly request, once again, to exhaustively investigate and determine the facts in order to act in conformity with justice and not allow this crime or the other crimes in our nation to go unpunished.”

The Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice warned that within Mexico, “the increase in violence is undeniable.”

On the council’s most recent annual list of the 50 most violent cities in the world, 12 are in Mexico.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Incoming pro-life chair to keynote National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The keynote speaker at the 2018 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast will be Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, incoming chairman of the US bishops’ pro-life committee.

The breakfast will be held May 24 in Washington, DC.

Naumann became the 11th bishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City on January 15, 2005. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Kansas City in 2004.
 
Last November, he was elected chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and will begin a three-year term in that position in November 2018. He is a member of the USCCB Administrative Committee, the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the USCCB Religious Liberty Committee, the USCCB Communications Committee, and the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The archbishop has drawn attention for bold statements on cultural issues. Naumann has spearheaded efforts to restrict abortion in Kansas, and is well-known for challenging Catholic politicians espousing pro-choice positions.

Last year, he cut ties with the Girl Scouts, saying that the organization was “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.” Parishes were instead encouraged to start troops of American Heritage Girls, an alternative scouting organization.

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast began in 2004, “in response to St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization.” The event is officially nonpartisan and people of all faiths are invited to attend. Past keynote speakers include Cardinal Robert Sarah and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Nigerian priest liberated after four days in captivity

Benin City, Nigeria, Apr 23, 2018 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Edwin Omoregbe, who had been kidnapped last week in Nigeria's Edo state, was released on Sunday.

“With great joy in our heart, we want to inform you all that our priest, Rev. Fr. Edwin Omorogbe has been released from the hands of kidnappers,” read an April 22 statement from the Archdiocese of Benin City, according to the Guardian of Lagos.

“We thank you all for your prayers and pray that God continue to grant all our heart desires,” the statement continued.

Fr. Omorogbe, a parish priest at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Benin City, was abducted April 18 by unidentified gunmen near Egba, on the way from Uromi to Benin City. He was released in the afternoon of April 22. The local Catholic community had been praying for his release.

Babatunde Kokumo, the Edo State commissioner of police, and others led a search and rescue campaign for Omorogbe in the bushes of the Uhumwonde Local Government Area after his kidnapping.

The motive behind the kidnapping and the parties responsible are unknown.

Fr. Omoregbe was ordained a priest in 2003, and has studied in Canada.

Several priests and religious have been abducted in southern Nigeria in recent months.

Six women religious were held for two months before they were released by a police operation in January. They had been taken from Iguoriakhi near Uromi, also in Edo state.

An Italian missionary priest, Fr. Maurizio Pallù, was kidnapped in Edo state for a week in October 2017.

In Imo state, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was kidnapped and killed in September of the same year.

Italy grants Alfie Evans citizenship in hopes of transfer to Rome

London, England, Apr 23, 2018 / 10:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday a hospitalized British child at the center of a heated legal battle was granted Italian citizenship, part of an effort to delay shutting off his life-support, and to transfer him to a Roman hospital for additional treatment and medical evaluation.

Two-year-old Alfie Evans suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition and has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.

On Monday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused to intervene in what has been a highly sensitive and complicated case, paving the way for Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Evans has been receiving care, to shut off the infant's life support.

After receiving the ruling from the ECHR Monday morning, the hospital scheduled Evans to be taken off life support later that day. However, according to Italian daily Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops, Evans' parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, were able to receive a last minute delay in order to clarify an aspect of the sentence.

Crowds of protesters lined the streets in front of the hospital Monday as they waited for the ruling, while Tom sent intermittent Facebook live posts from inside the hospital.

According to the BBC, some 200 protesters attempted to storm the hospital at one point, but were stopped by police, and backed off to the opposite side of the road.

In the meantime, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti granted citizenship to Evans, in hopes that being an Italian citizen will allow the child to be transferred to Italy immediately.

The decision comes less than one week after Alfie's father, Tom, came to the Vatican to make a personal appeal to Pope Francis on his son's behalf. In a private audience with the pope before his Wednesday general audience April 18, Tom Evans plead for asylum in Italy for his family, so that Alfie can be moved to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome to receive treatment.

Pope Francis has made several appeals for Alfie, asking in his April 15 Regina Coeli address for people to pray for Alfie and others “who live, at times for a long period, in a serious state of illness, medically assisted for their basic needs.”

The pope also recently tweeted about Alfie, saying it was his “sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”

Debate surrounding the case flared up when in February the court ruled that Alder Hey Children's Hospital could legally stop treatment for Alfie against his parent’s wishes. The hospital has argued that continuing treatment is not in his best interest.

Despite Tom and Kate's desire to take their son to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, several judges ruled in the hospital's favor. The case has since drawn international attention.

 

Francis shares a sweet treat with Rome's poor for feast of St. George

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- I-scream, you-scream, Pope Francis screamed... 'gelato!' on the feast of his patron saint, George, offering some 3,000 ice creams to homeless individuals served in Caritas soup kitchens and shelters around Rome.

Every year the pope's “onomastico,” or name-day, is celebrated as an official holiday in the Vatican. Under Francis, whose baptismal name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the feast is that of St. George, since Jorge is the Spanish equivalent.

And with temperatures in Rome finally starting to warm up, Francis decided to cool things down for Monday's feast, asking the papal almoner's office to provide the gelato to the poor and needy served by Catholic charitable organization, Caritas.

The papal almoner is Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who can often be seen mingling with the poor around St. Peter's Basilica.

However, the pope himself is also known to be a gelato lover, his favorite flavor being dolce de leche, according to the Vatican cookbook. An Argentine classic, dolce de leche is essentially the Latin American version of caramel, but richer.

In the past, other papal gelato favorites included classic Italian flavor 'cassata Siciliana' for retired pontiff Benedict XVI, which is made with chocolate, strawberry and mango ice cream. John Paul II, on the other hand, reportedly indulged in 'marron glacé' gelato from Rome's Gelateria Giolitti, which is ice cream flavored with candied chestnuts.

In addition to Monday's sweet treat, Pope Francis often makes similar gestures for Rome's poor, homeless, and sick, whether it's a trip to the circus, a tour of the Vatican museums or a pizza party lunch on his birthday.

In the past he has also taken homeless to the beach during the hot summer months, and with temperatures this year expected to exceed the burning weather of 2017, it's possible another outing will take place in the coming months.

Could a California bill ban Christian teaching on homosexuality?

Sacramento, Calif., Apr 22, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed law in California could have a chilling effect on free speech, warn critics who fear that it could ban efforts to explain and promote Christian teaching on sexual morality.

“The broad reach of AB 2942 leaves even simple religious speech on same-sex attraction or activities open to legal action and impinges on the basic human right of freedom of religion,” said the California Catholic Conference in a statement.

Assembly Bill 2943, which passed through the California State Assembly on Thursday, would make any transaction relating to practice to change someone’s sexual orientation unlawful. The bill now will go to the California State Senate.

AB 2943 seeks to amend the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CRLA), a law that protects consumers from sellers who are mischaracterizing their product or service.

The bill would ban advertising or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts. It defines such efforts as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

The inclusion of “efforts to change behaviors” as a banned activity has led some critics to fear that the bill could be used to prohibit the promotion of Christian sexual morality - through books, counseling, or teaching.

The California Catholic Conference (CCC) has voiced opposition to the bill, and released a letter on its website urging Californians to contact their legislators to prevent it from becoming law.

The conference is concerned that the bill’s definitions are too broad, and seek to prevent adults from making decisions for themselves.

“AB 2943 would take something completely intangible - ‘sexual orientation change efforts’ – and add it to the CRLA,” the conference said.

Further, given that conversion therapy is already illegal for people under the age of 18 in the state, the California Catholic Conference questioned, “why would proponents wish to take away the freedom of adults to seek counselling” for issues regarding sexual orientation or behavior.

These concerns were echoed by Bill May of the Marriage Reality Movement, who told CNA that he feels the bill is “absurd” and inhibits the ability of people spreading “the Gospel’s universal call for repentance and changes in behavior.” May believes that if the bill were to become law, it could result in legal issues for preachers who discuss sexuality.

“Passage would lead to more harassment and possible legal challenges against preaching, literature, conferences and organizations that address sexual morality," said May.

 

Pope Francis to new priests: Be like Jesus the Good Shepherd

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood, reminding them to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd in the way they serve the members of their spiritual flock and minister to those who are lost and searching for God.

“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost,” the pope said in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22.

“Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” he continued, “solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.”

The priestly ordination coincided with “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The new priests, who have been studying for the priesthood at different seminaries in the diocese of Rome, come from countries around the world, including Madagascar, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, and San Salvador.

As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own thoughts to the text.

Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance in particular, Francis urged the men about to be ordained to “not get tired of being merciful. Think of your sins, your miseries that Jesus forgives. Be merciful.”

It is “through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect,” he noted, “because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which for your hands, in the name of the whole Church, is offered bloodlessly on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.”

He pointed out to the 16 men that in their priestly ministries they will be participants “in the mission of Christ, the only Master,” and advised them to read and meditate tirelessly on the Word of God “to teach what you have learned in faith, to live what you have taught.”

“[May] your teaching, joy and support to the faithful of Christ be the fragrance of your life,” he continued, “that with word and example you can build the House of God which is the Church.”

Following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional prayer for Easter.

In his message after the prayer, the pope drew attention to the current situation in Nicaragua, where there have been violent clashes between police and people participating in anti-government protests, resulting in at least 25 deaths, according to the Guardian.

“I express my closeness in prayer to that beloved country, and I join the Bishops in asking that all violence cease, [that they] avoid useless bloodshed and [that] open questions be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility,” he said.

Francis also reflected briefly on the day’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” stating that the words of Jesus in this passage cannot be reduced to an emotional suggestion.

They have a concrete effect, he said: “Jesus heals through his being a shepherd who gives life. Jesus says to each one: ‘your life is so valuable to me, that to save it I offer all of myself.’”

Noting that Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” the pope said shows us that Jesus desires a personal relationship with each person, one which reflects “the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father.”

“He is attentive to each of us, knows our heart deeply: he knows our strengths and our faults, the projects we have achieved and the hopes that have been disappointed. But he accepts us as we are, he leads us with love,” he said, and in turn, “we are called to know Jesus.”

Catholics likely to outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland by 2021

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr 22, 2018 / 04:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- What would have been unthinkable 100 years ago in Northern Ireland will likely soon become a reality - Catholics will outnumber Protestants.  

Historically in Ireland, Catholics have desired independence for Ireland, while Protestants, who congregated in Northern Ireland, have wanted to maintain political ties to the United Kingdom.

This is still generally the case, though not without some significant exceptions on both sides. Still, the fact that Catholics may outnumber Protestants in the country by 2021 - 100 years after the country was founded - is remarkable.

Dr. Paul Nolan, who studies the social trends of Northern Ireland, told BBC News: "Three years from now we will end up, I think, in the ironic situation on the centenary of the state where we actually have a state that has a Catholic majority."

According to the last census in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent. More recent numbers show a Catholic majority in every age group of the population, except for those over 60. Among school-aged children, Catholics outnumber Protestants by a wide margin - 51 percent to 37 percent.

Nolan said that unionism - the political ideology of those in Northern Ireland who wish to maintain their political ties with the U.K. - is still possible, though unionists should be aware of this demographic shift.

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants that lasted from the late ‘60s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Last year, threats against Catholics in Northern Ireland have forced several families to flee their homes.

Mary Lou McDonald is president of the Sinn Féin party, which strongly supports nationalism, or an independent, united Ireland.

McDonald said she welcomed the discussion about what this shift in religious demographics could mean for Ireland.

“Of course unionists have to be at home in a new Ireland,” McDonald told the BBC. “So, yes, let's have the discussion.”