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Bishops talk abuse crisis, same-sex attraction at youth synod

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2018 / 08:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the youth synod wrapped up its third week, the bishops and auditors discussed the sexual abuse crisis in parts of the world and how to respond to young people experiencing same-sex attraction.

At a press briefing Oct. 20, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne said the sexual abuse crisis, the failure of leadership to address abuse appropriately, and the failure of bishops to listen to and believe victims, have come up consistently in synod discussions since day one.

He said he believes one of the key things going forward is the need to apologize for failures, to acknowledge shortcomings, and to start implementing better practices. He noted that in Australia, they have had protocols in place for around 20 years for the accountability of bishops.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said that if someone came forward with an accusation, or there was a charge against him, he would welcome an investigation and would not stand in its way.

What the bishops are hearing from young people, he said, is the need for accountability and transparency – that no one, especially clerics, are exempt from being held accountable for the actions or inactions.

Though the abuse crisis is “not on the front burner in some countries,” Cupich continued, “the bishops are seeing that it needs to be addressed well” and that it should include the laity, with their presence on review boards.

He also pointed out that many of the bishops present for the synod are the president of their local bishops’ conference and will therefore be back in Rome in February 2019 for a summit addressing abuse prevention.

He said he sees these conversations as a springboard for going forward. Though he said Catholics will have to wait and see how the Vatican organizes the February meeting of bishops, he has a lot of confidence in Pope Francis as “a man of action,” who will want concrete things to come out it.

“Yes, there’s a lot of anger out there,” Cupich stated, “but beneath that anger is a lot of sadness, a sadness that the Church should be better and should get this right.”

As part of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 3-28, small language groups presented reports on their discussion of the third part of the working document, called the Instrumentum laboris, for the assembly on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.

In the small group chaired by Cardinal Cupich, and which Comensoli and Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea are a part of, they discussed the issue of young Catholics who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, proposing that there be a separate section for this issue in the final document of the synod.

The main objective of the section should be “pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the report states.

In the press briefing Oct. 20, Cupich said a number of the short speeches of synod participants, and small groups, have said they want the final report to say something inclusive of everyone and to address young people with same-sex attraction.

“I was asked a question: what is the final document going to have to say to people who have same-sex attraction, have this aspect to their life? My answer was I think the whole document has something to say to everybody,” Cupich said.

“We wanted to make sure everyone felt included by what we say. So whatever form that takes, our small group was for it.”

The cardinal also referred people to research presented in the John Jay report, which he said shows that the root of priestly sexual abuse is not homosexuality, but many different causes.  

Cardinal Ribat said they want to communicate that the Church is a home where everyone is welcome and accepted. He said young people have shared their experiences very freely and encouraged bishops to address it, “in the language they are using.”

They say, “call us and address us as this because this is who we are,” Ribat said.

The bishops were asked to clarify what they meant by welcoming and accepting young people with same-sex attraction. Bishop Alain de Raemy, auxiliary of Lausanne, Geneve, and Fribourg, Switzerland, said he is concerned with transmitting the Gospel to those who do not know it, and those who want to be Christian, but do not feel represented by the LGBT question.

Archbishop Comensoli said it is about recognizing that everyone is a sinner, and everyone needs to be found by God and receive his love.

“We are also the sinners who are called to be at the foot of the cross in our lives. So, in the sense of welcoming, of receiving, and of entering into the friendship of Christ, we also take our lives, me included, to the foot of the cross. And that’s every single person,” he said.

So, when he speaks with friends who might be homosexual or struggling with their sexual identity, he said, he speaks to the “with the friendship of Christ, as I ought to. And as a friend, I say, how do we progress together to the foot of the cross.”

Addressing a concern expressed by many people before the start of the synod, that the Instrumentum laboris was too concerned with sociological ideas and terminology, rather than with the language of faith, Comensoli said he has seen a real shift in the last week of discussions, away from sociology and toward an incorporation of the teachings of the Church, theologians, Scripture, and saints.

 

Synod groups on sexuality: Church welcomes all, calls all to conversion

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No one is excluded from the love of God or from being welcomed into the Catholic Church, but God's love and the church's welcome also come with a call to conversion, said the English-language groups at the Synod of Bishops.

Young people need to know "the church's beautiful, yet challenging, vision, teaching and anthropology of the body, sexuality, love and life, marriage and chastity," said the English-A group.

"At the same time, we restate the church's opposition to discrimination against any person or group, and her insistence that God loves every young person, and so does the church," the group said in its report.

The reports, published by the Vatican Oct. 20, were the result of reflections in the small groups -- divided by language -- on the final chapter of the synod working document, which dealt with "pastoral and missionary conversion."

Most of the 14 working groups called for further local and national dialogue with young people on what they need from the Catholic Church and what they can offer the church. Most also called for a greater involvement of women in the life of the church, including in the training of priests, and many acknowledged how the sexual abuse scandal undermines the church's credibility.

None of the synod groups in any language used the term "LGBT," but many of them did refer to a need to help young people who struggle with church teaching on sexuality or, more explicitly, those who experience "same-sex attraction."

The English-B group said that it "discussed the issue of Catholics who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria," which refers to believing one's biological sex does not correspond to his or her true identity.

The group asked that the synod's final document include "a separate section for this issue and that the main objective of this be the pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church." The catechism teaches that homosexual activity is sinful, but that homosexual people must be respected and welcomed.

The English-D group said it, too, "spent a good deal of time reflecting on the motif of the church's stance of welcome and inclusivity. We fully and enthusiastically acknowledge that the church of Jesus Christ reaches out in love to absolutely everyone."

"No one, on account of gender, lifestyle or sexual orientation, should ever be made to feel unloved, uncared for," the group said. "However, as St. Thomas Aquinas specifies, love means 'willing the good of the other.' And this is why authentic love by no means excludes the call to conversion, to change of life."

The group also echoed a sentiment shared by other groups that through the synod, the speeches and the contributions of the young adults present "it became eminently clear that young people crave holiness of life and desire practical training that will help them walk the path of sanctity."

The English-C group, like many others, noted that while the synod can provide general suggestions for listening to young people and involving them in the life of the church, individual parishes and dioceses will need to find specific ways to put those suggestions into practice.

"We suggest that episcopal conferences be strongly invited to take up the results of the synod and engage in a similar process of reflection in their own milieus, even including non-bishops in the deliberations, as this synod has done," the group said.

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Having kids won’t doom your country, says #PostcardsForMacron creator

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- The idea that high fertility rates are a barrier to economic success is a contemporary myth, Catholic University of America economics professor, mother of eight, and viral hashtag creator Dr. Catherine Pakulak told CNA.

Pakulak started the viral “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag on Monday in response to French President Emanuel Macron’s comment at a Gates Foundation event.

Macron suggested that educated women would not choose to have a large number of children if they had a choice. While Pakulak thinks the comment was taken partly out of context, and tried to give Macron the benefit of the doubt, she still thought it was “so ridiculous.”

Pakulak’s academic research area focuses in part on the effects of fertility on economic development.

“High fertility is not the product of ignorance,” Pakulak told CNA. She said Macron’s comments represent an “underlying view” common in contemporary culture.

This attitude prevails both in Africa, and in other places such as the United States, she said. Women like herself who chose to have many children face a “pejorative attitude” from other people about their decisions to have lots of children.

“That's what I pop into, and say 'Hey, look, this is silly. Lots of women do choose this,’” she explained.

And while Pakulak said most college-educated women do not choose to have that many children, “there are some.”

“So that was my main impetus to pick that [line of Macron’s speech] out."

Pakulak was critical of Macron’s take that families with large number of children are holding Africa back developmentally. She described this mentality as “kind of a contemporary myth” that is not backed up with statistics.  

“There is no evidence that says countries cannot grow quickly, or steadily, with high levels of fertility,” she explained. “There are a lot of people, in response to this [...] out there kind of crunching the numbers on African fertility. And some have pointed out 'look, actually African fertility is not especially high relative to its income.'"

Across the continent, the average fertility rate does not climb to seven, eight, or nine, she said. In reality, the total fertility rate (TFR) throughout Africa is closer to the world’s median rate, “in the four range.”

"There simply is not mountains and mountains of evidence to say that if countries get their fertility rates down to the twos and the threes, all of the sudden you're going to just explode [economically]," she said.  

Nigeria, the country in Africa with the highest GDP, has the 12th-highest fertility rate in the world, with a TFR of 5.07. South Africa, which has the second-highest GDP on the continent, has a much lower fertility rate of 2.29.

Pakulak told CNA that she was unhappy that Macron compared forced child marriage, which is “not something Christians could get behind or agree with,” to having large families.

She theorized that Macron’s views were similar to those of the Gates Foundation, which considers population growth to be a barrier to economic growth.

She expressed concern that this viewpoint could be used to force contraception on African women, “regardless of whether they are asking for this.”

“And I think that’s false, because other countries have grown quickly with a TFR in the range that [African countries] are in.”

While most social conservatives do not oppose the availability of contraception, she said, “what they’re against is kind of an aggressive policy” that wastes time and money that could be spent on other developmental programs.

Additionally, Pakulak said that providing contraception to girls who were forced into marriage in their preteens “isn’t going to help” their situations. Instead, she suggested that more efforts be focused on opposing the cultural norms that approve of these situations.

She is also concerned that “an era of cheap and widely-available contraception,” in which it is easy for people to pick the size of their families, people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children.

Pakulak lamented declining fertility rates in other parts of the world, mentioning especially Europe.

While France is home to Europe’s highest TFR at 1.96, it is still below the population replacement-level rate of 2.1. This is cause for concern for Pakulak, who warned that the low birth rates would spell disaster for the continent’s extensive social programs.

She is also concerned that the anti-child mentality is a sign of bigger problems.

"People don't have kids to save their countries from demographic winter,” she said.

“They have kids because of a certain attitude towards meaning and the meaning of life and what it means to live a good human life."

 

Nepal says 'no' to online porn

Kathmandu, Nepal, Oct 19, 2018 / 07:10 pm (CNA).- Nepal has introduced a ban on pornography as part of a government initiative to stem the country’s high rate of sexual assault.  

By Oct. 14, internet providers in Nepal had already blocked more than 25,000 pornographic websites. Unlike the country’s attempt to ban X-rated material in 2010, this ban will instill fines and prison sentences for violators.

According to the Associated Press, internet providers who do not comply with pornography ban could be fined up to $4,200 or lose their licenses. Under the ban, pornography cannot be broadcasted or publicized; violators could face one year in prison.

Nepal has 115 internet service providers, all of which have reportedly been contacted about the law.

Dr. John Foubert, an expert on sexual assault prevention at Oklahoma State University, has written recently that pornography can be a catalyst for sexual violence. The violent content now rampant in pornographic material is influencing the formation of young minds, he says.

“Pornography itself is a recipe for rape that has rewritten the sexual script for the sexual behavior of the millennial generation and is currently rewiring the brains of the generation to follow,” he wrote in a 2017 paper published in Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Violence and Exploitation.

“Research of popular pornography films found that in 88% of the scenes…there was verbal or physical aggression, usually toward a woman. The more interesting finding is that 95% of the time when someone is violent with another person in porn, usually a man toward a woman, the recipient is shown as either liking that violence or having no objection.”

Rape in Nepal has increased dramatically in the last decade. The Nepali Times stated that there were 1,131 reported rapes in 2016-2017, a nearly 300 percent increase from the fewer that 400 accounts of reported rape in 2008. 26.4 million people live in the country.

Access to the internet in Nepal has also risen significantly since the early 2000s. There were almost 5 million people in the country with internet access in 2016, up from 523,876 in 2009.

Critics of the law have noted that there is too much pornography online for it to be blocked completely. According to the New York Times, the managing director of Vianet Communications, Binay Bohra, called it an impossible task, noting there are millions of websites to block.

Alex Hawkins, a spokesperson for xHamster, one of the already blocked sites, told the New York Times that the website’s traffic in the country, which had dropped heavily last week, has already rebounded to its normal use.

Nepal failed to implement its porn laws in 2010 because police forces and internet providers eventually relaxed on its enforcement. However, the anti-porn nonprofit Fight the New Drug, said it is valuable for any country to emphasize the connection between porn and sexual violence.

“Whether you support this recent move by the Nepali government or not, their move gives visibility to the ways that porn and violence are linked.”

 

Are you ready for the March for Life? Organizers announce 2019 theme

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The theme of the 2019 March for Life will be “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini announced at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The theme was chosen as science is inherently pro-life, Mancini explained Oct. 18. Science has continued to “reaffirm the scientific fact, and the truth, that life begins at fertilization/conception.”

“Our DNA is present at the moment of fertilization, and no fingerprint, ever--past, present, future--is like yours. And that’s what it means to be unique from day one,” said Mancini.

She pointed out that “society often ignores or tries to block these facts,” and reminded the crowd that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama refused to provide an answer when asked when he believed life began, saying it was “above his pay grade”

Mancini said that while remarks like these provide “cover” for someone who is in favor of abortion rights, “scientifically, it’s not factual.”

Fetal development, she said, is “astonishing.” She noted that the heart begins to beat just three weeks after fertilization, and that the fetus is capable of movement at eight weeks. At 13 weeks, the fetus has fingerprints, “just like our logo.”

Science, said Mancini, “should always be at the service of life, not the reverse.”  

"Science makes it clear that human life, our uniqueness as individuals, is true from the moment of conception or fertilization,” she said.

This meshes with the mission of the March for Life, she explained, which is to “protect the baby in its earliest stages.”

“So we exist, our very reason for being is to protect and defend life from the moment of fertilization."

Also announced on Thursday were that commentator Ben Shapiro and former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson will be speaking at the upcoming March for Life.

The 2019 March for Life will be held on January 19, in Washington DC. It has been held each year near the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade declared a legal right to abortion in 1973.

Polish priest, martyr and hero: Remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 19, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- When Communist officials kidnapped and killed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, they likely did not intend to help create a Polish hero, martyr and future saint for the Catholic Church.

Although the Communists had been trying to kill Popiełuszko in ways that would seem like an accident, they captured him 34 years ago today, on Oct. 19, 1984. They beat him to death and threw his body into a river. He was 37 years old.

His crimes: encouraging peaceful resistance to Communism via the radio waves of Radio Free Europe, and working as chaplain to the workers of the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement and trade union, which was known for its opposition to Communism.  

Popiełuszko was born on Sept. 14, 1947 to a farming family in Okopy, a village in eastern Poland bordering modern-day Ukraine. While World War II had ended, the regime of the Communist Party had taken place of the Nazis and ruled Poland at the time.

As a young man, Popiełuszko served his required time in the army before completing seminary studies and becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Warsaw. He was ordained on May 28, 1972 at the age of 24.

As a priest in Warsaw, Popiełuszko served in both regular and student parishes. He became known for his steadfast, non-violent resistance to Communism, about which he spoke frequently in his homilies, which were broadcast on Radio Free Europe.

Popiełuszko participated in the Solidarity worker’s strike in Warsaw on March 27, 1981, a four-hour national warning strike that essentially ground Poland to a halt, and was the biggest strike in the history of the Soviet Bloc and in the history of Poland.

After this strikes, the Communist party declared martial law until July 1983 in the country, severely restricting the daily life of Poles in an effort to clamp down on their growing political opposition.

During this time, Popiełuszko celebrated monthly “Masses for the Homeland” on the last Sunday of the month, advocating for human rights and peaceful resistance of Communism, and attracting thousands of attendees. His Warsaw office had also become an official hub for Solidarity activities.

It was also during this time that Communist attacks against the priest escalated. In 1982, Communist authorities attempted to bomb the priest’s home, but he escaped unharmed. In 1983, Popiełuszko was arrested on false charges by the Communist authorities, but was released shortly thereafter following significant pressure from the Polish people and the Catholic Church.

According to a 1990 article in the Washington Post, Cardinal Józef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw at the time, received a secret message from the Polish Pope John Paul II, demanding that Glemp defend Popiełuszko and advocate for his release.

"Defend Father Jerzy - or they'll start finding weapons in the desk of every second bishop," the pope wrote.

But the Communist officials did not relent. According to court testimony, in September 1984 Communist officials had decided that the priest needed to either be pushed from a train, have a “beautiful traffic accident” or be tortured to death.

On October 13, 1984, Popiełuszko managed to avoid a traffic accident set up to kill him. The back-up plan, capture and torture, was carried out by Communist authorities on Oct. 19. They lured the priest to them by pretending that their car had broken down on a road along which the priest was travelling.

The captors reportedly beat the priest with a rock until he died, and then tied his mangled body to rocks and bags of sand and dumped it in a reservoir along the Vistula River.

His body was recovered on Oct. 30, 1984.

His death grieved and enraged Catholics and members of the Solidarity movement, who had hoped to accomplish social change without violence.

“When the news was announced at his parish church, his congregation was silent for a moment and then began shrieking and weeping with grief,” the BBC wrote of the priest’s death.

“The worst has happened. Someone wanted to kill and he killed not only a man, not a Pole, not only a priest. Someone wanted to kill the hope that it is possible to avoid violence in Polish political life,” Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, a friend of Popiełuszko, said at the time.

He also urged mourners to remain calm and peaceful during the priest’s funeral, which drew more than a quarter of a million people.

Again facing pressure from the Church and the Polish people, Poland's president Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski was forced to answer for the priest’s death, and arrested Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala, Waldemar Chmielewski and Colonel Adam Pietruszka as responsible for the murder.

“Our intelligence sources in Poland do not believe it,” the Washington Post reported in 1990, when the case was being revisited.

“Jaruzelski had presided over a far-reaching anti-church campaign. At least two other priests died mysteriously. And Jaruzelski created the climate that allowed the SB (Communist secret service) to persecute and kill Father Jerzy.”

In 2009, Popiełuszko was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the highest civilian or military decoration in Poland. That same year, he was declared a martyr of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI, and on June 6, 2010 he was beatified. A miracle in France through the intercession of Popiełuszko is being investigated in France as the final step in his cause for canonization.

Popiełuszko is one of more than 3,000 priests martyred in Poland under the Nazi and Communist regimes which dominated the country from 1939-1989.

On Friday, Archbishop Stanisław Budzik of Poland and the Polish bishops’ conference released a statement honoring the memory of Father Popiełuszko and all the 20th century priest martyrs of Poland.  

“Today, remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, we remember the unswerving priests who preached the Gospel, served God and people in the most terrible times and had the courage not only to suffer for the faith but to give what is most dear to men: their lives.”

 

How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael

Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.

After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.

Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.

“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”

St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.

He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.

The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.

“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.

“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”

He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.

The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.

“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people are way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”

Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.

“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.

For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul - by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”

Neutrality on assisted suicide is the wrong prescription, Catholic doctors say

New Orleans, La., Oct 19, 2018 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- The American Academy of Family Physicians has taken a neutral position on assisted suicide and will lobby the American Medical Association to do the same, drawing criticism from Catholics but praise from assisted suicide advocates.
 
Leaders of the physicians’ academy gathered for its Congress of Delegates, which met Oct. 8-10 in New Orleans, approved the resolution of “engaged neutrality,” MedPage Today reports.

The organization represents over 130,000 doctors across the U.S. and is the second-largest constituent body within the AMA.

The resolution passed by a two-thirds vote, which is required for votes that differ from AMA ethical policies, the physicians’ academy said.
 
The resolution called on the medical academy to reject use of the phrases “assisted suicide” or “physician-assisted suicide” in its formal communications and directed the academy’s delegation to the AMA to promote similar action in that association’s governing body.
 
Dr. Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said his group took a neutral position so it can advocate on the matter at future meetings of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates. Munger said family physicians are “well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care” and added “we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients.”

The American Medical Association’s code of ethics rejects physician-assisted suicide as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Such a practice would be “difficult or impossible to control” and would “pose serious societal risks.”
 
“Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life,” it adds.
 
Critical of the AAFP’s move was Dr. Barbara Golder, M.D., a board member of the Catholic Medical Association and editor-in-chief of its Linacre Quarterly, who said the move was “very, very disappointing” but should not necessarily be considered a full victory for backers of assisted suicide.
 
“Some people will want to look on this as a great achievement in terms of advancing physician-assisted suicide, and it certainly puts us on a slippery slope, but I think it’s also important to recognize that the AAFP did not endorse it,” Golder told CNA.
 
“That tells me that even within their own organization there’s a great deal of discussion and there’s got to be a fairly significant group of physicians within that group itself that understands the dangers of physician-assisted suicide and how it runs contrary to medicine as practiced.”
 
Backers of assisted suicide, such as the group formerly known as the Hemlock Society, welcomed the change and saw it as grounds for more.
 
“I believe many AMA constituent societies will follow suit, so it is only a matter of time before the AMA does as well,” said Dr. David Grube, national medical director of the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices and a former delegate within the physicians’ academy.
 
In response, Golder facetiously wondered whether Grube has a crystal ball to see the future.
 
“I don’t know that it’s ‘just a matter of time’,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a worrisome idea that medicine would shift from healing to killing. That’s a fundamental change the likes of which medicine has not encountered, at least in our lifetimes.
 
“When we find medicine going away from healing towards killing, we in the past have been very repulsed by it. Now suddenly we are not,” she added, warning that it is potentially a “tremendous slippery slope.”
 
For Golder, assisted suicide is against natural law and “the Catholic notion that life ought to be respected from conception to natural death.”
 
Golder said opponents of assisted suicide should consider joining medical groups and “being vocal.” She suggested doctors can leverage their patients, because they “have a voice in this as well.”
 
“The whole point of associations like this is to serve doctors and their patients,” she said. For Golder, assisted suicide disrupts the doctor-patient relationship because it means “as well as an agent of healing, the doctor can also be an agent of death.”
 
Advocacy and awareness-raising about good palliative care are also needed “so that physician-assisted suicide doesn’t look like an attractive alternative to people who are alone, in great pain, don’t have anybody to care for them,” added Golder.
 
Dr. Peter T. Morrow, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, said the move ran contrary to “the medical communities’ historical and long-standing opposition against physician-assisted suicide.”
 
“It is in direct violation of the ‘do no harm’ Hippocratic Oath,” Morrow said in an Oct. 17 statement. “We at the CMA are dedicated to preserving life from conception to natural death and will continue to remain staunchly opposed to any form of assisted suicide. It goes against natural law.”
 
The Catholic Medical Association has over 2,300 healthcare professionals in 104 local guilds across the U.S. Several of its members had testified against doctor-assisted suicide at AMA’s last House of Delegates meeting in June.

The AMA has about 240,000 members in the U.S., with membership including medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and medical students. Its 2018 interim meeting will be held in National Harbor, Maryland this November.
 
The group’s House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago in June, narrowly voted not to accept a report recommending that they continue their stance of opposing physician assisted suicide. About 56 percent of delegates voted for the report to undergo further review.
 
At the time, Morrow said that decision was “hugely disappointing.”
 
Golder told CNA that the AMA “has so far held the line, saying assisted suicide is not appropriate, and we congratulate them for that.”
 
The seven states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide.
 
Other AAFP resolutions included a failed vote in support of an elective abortion ban from 20 weeks into gestational age. The body passed resolutions opposing “fetal personhood” language. It recommended that medication abortion drug Mifeprex be removed from the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Such restrictions create an unnecessary burden on physicians who want to offer medication abortion, backers of the decision said.
 
The delegates passed a resolution calling on the academy to create educational materials about institutional racism and segregated care within the health care system as a cause of racial disparities in patient outcomes.

Smith dinner's tone lighthearted, but abuse crisis not ignored in remarks

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In the current toxic environment where political rivals describe each other as "evil" and "enemies," it is imperative to remember that in America, "our political opponents are not evil, they are just our opponents," according to Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was the keynote speaker at the 73rd annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Oct. 18 at the New York Hilton.

Haley distinguished the heated rhetoric from the "true evil" she has witnessed in South Sudan, Syria and North Korea since she arrived at the United Nations in 2016.

The Al Smith dinner honors the memory of the former governor of New York, who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States. Proceeds from the $3,000-a-plate event help needy children in the greater New York area. The foundation distributed $3.4 million in grants after last year's dinner.

The event drew 700 guests to the traditionally festive gathering of political, religious and philanthropic New Yorkers. Among those sharing the three-tiered dais were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Jeff Glor, anchor of the "CBS Evening News."

Comedian Jim Gaffigan was the dinner's master of ceremonies. He poked fun at the presumed wealth of the guests, whom he described as a "distinguished diverse group of rich, super-rich and Michael Bloomberg."

Bloomberg, the billionaire former three-term mayor of New York, also was seated on the dais. Gaffigan said wearing a white bow tie and tails and looking at the sea of diners in formal attire made him feel "like I'm in an ugly episode of Downton Abbey."

He introduced Haley as "the next president of the United States," in a nod to widespread speculation that the Oct. 9 announcement she will leave her U.N. post at the end of the year signifies her intention to run for the presidency. Haley, the Republican former governor of South Carolina, has denied that she will challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.

She made light of the unexpected news of her departure. Haley said she asked Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the event's host, if there was anything she could do to boost attendance at the dinner. "He said, "Why don't you resign as U.S. ambassador?'" she said.

Haley joked that as a member of Trump's Cabinet, "it's a thrill to be out to dinner without being harassed."

She said Trump, who spoke at the 2016 dinner with then-opponent Hillary Clinton, offered her advice about her speech. "He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N."

Haley said she learned a lot during her tenure at the U.N. Despite the serious disagreements and differences among the 193 member nations, "at one point, every single one of them was paying Paul Manafort," she laughed.

Haley said her parents emigrated from India "legally, but I keep them at an undisclosed location, just in case." She said when Trump heard she was an Indian American, "he asked if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren."

Despite the lighthearted tone of the event, the clergy sex abuse scandal and its fallout hung in the air and were addressed head-on by the speakers. In his invocation, Cardinal Dolan, the dinner's host, asked God's mercy "on a church we have also blushed at" for its response to the issue.

Haley said sexual abuse is not limited to the Catholic family and the church "recognizes its deep responsibility to address this moral failing."

"It would be tragic to allow the abuse scandal to blind anyone to the amazing good works the Catholic church does every single day," Haley said. "In the last two years, I have been to some very dark places where human suffering is on a level hard for most Americans to imagine."

She described a South American border area where church organizations are the sole providers of food and a refugee camp in central Africa where the church is on the forefront of those seeking change.

"Just about everywhere I've been, I've come across the Catholic Church doing incredible work that lifts up millions of desperate people. It is serving God's will," she said.

Gaffigan said 1928, the year Al Smith ran for president, "was a tough year to be a Catholic," as was 2018. Introducing himself, Gaffigan said, to applause, "Unlike many Catholics in America who were raised Catholic, I am still Catholic and I still go to church every Sunday. Mostly, I'm afraid to tell my wife I don't want to go."

Gaffigan and his wife are both from large Catholic families. "She is one of nine and they do everything together," he said. A movie outing at Christmas included 30 people. "That's not a group, it's a flash mob. People thought we were from a church. To put in in perspective, Jesus only walked around with 12."

The comedian said he and his wife "have recreated the chaos of our childhoods" by raising a young family of five in Manhattan. He said the real reason he accepted Cardinal Dolan's invitation to emcee the dinner was the optimistic hope that the cardinal would "write some recommendations" for his children.

During the dinner, Lowell C. McAdam, chairman and former chief executive officer of Verizon Communications, received the Happy Warrior Award. The distinction recalls the nickname given to Al Smith by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1924 Democratic Convention. The award recognizes someone who epitomizes Gov. Smith's character, grace and leadership by making a positive impact on others.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn offered the benediction.

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Response to sexual abuse crisis tops agenda for USCCB fall assembly

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The firestorm surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis and the way some bishops handled allegations of abuse against priests will be an important part of the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly.

The bishops have had to deal with seemingly endless revelations of allegations of abusive clergy since June, most of which referred to long-past incidents. New reports from media outlets also were expected as the Nov. 12-14 assembly in Baltimore approaches.

Bishops nationwide also are facing new challenges as several state attorneys general have opened investigations into the handling of abuse allegations. The investigations follow the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that linked more than 300 priests and church workers to abuse claims and identified more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period dating from 1947.

The USCCB has not directly addressed the investigations and has not offered any indication that it will advise bishops on how to respond.

Beyond the discussions of clergy sexual abuse and any further actions, the bishops were expected to accept a new pastoral letter on racism, vote on whether to approve a revised national directory for permanent deacons, consider 139 English translations of Latin hymn texts used in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and adopt a budget estimated at more than $23 million.

Security, always tight during the twice-a-year assemblies, is expected to be stricter than usual to prevent access to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel meeting site by protesters upset with the way the bishops have handled reports of abuse by clergy.

In preparing for the fall assembly, the bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

Committee members instructed the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

The Administrative Committee also initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

A USCCB spokesman said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president, was unavailable to discuss specific plans for the assembly because he and other conference leaders were in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment. The synod was to conclude Oct. 28.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, also declined to discuss the issue, saying in an Oct. 16 email to Catholic News Service that board members were continuing to draft recommendations that would be delivered to the bishops during the assembly.

In August, Cesareo told Catholic News Service that the bishops "have to put their trust in lay leadership and allow that lay leadership to develop the processes and oversight when these kinds of allegations occur, particularly holding bishops accountable."

The all-lay National Review Board, established by the bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Communications, told Catholic News Service Oct. 19 that the bishops must "continue to press forward" in explaining how well the charter "is working and continues to work."

"It important that we as a conference have made incredible strides in protecting children to the point that one of the safest places for children to participate is the Catholic community in the United States," he said.

"But that message is not getting out there. Many people still believe that the abuse of children and the cover-up by church authorities is an ongoing issue and that the bishops haven't done enough to address the issue. That's contrary to the evidence in contrast to the number of reported abuses since 2002," Bishop Coyne said.

"We have to continually say the charter is working and doing its job."

Bishop Coyne also told CNS he would recommend that dioceses voluntarily open their clergy personnel files -- including those of bishops -- to investigators.

"We all do it and it's done," he said.

Meanwhile, work on the pastoral letter addressing racism was nearing its conclusion.

Bishop Sheldon J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishop's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, has shepherded the final stages of work on the document since May when he stepped in for Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who resigned to undergo treatment for acute leukemia.

The proposed statement, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," says that "despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation."

"Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," the proposed pastoral letter says.

The document examines the history of racism in the U.S. While acknowledging many other groups in the county have endured racism and discrimination in the past, it focuses on three groups: African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

The revised national directory for permanent deacons, if approved, would cover all U.S. Latin-rite dioceses and would give instruction on the formation, ministry and life of permanent deacons.

The Vatican approval, known as "recognitio," for the directory currently in use was set to expire in 2009. However, the bishops secured a pair of five-year extensions from the Vatican so the directory could be more closely scrutinized.

The proposed second edition of the directory has been approved by the bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and was reviewed by the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance and the Committee on Doctrine.

The 139 English translations of Latin hymn texts are part of a wider effort focusing on a new translation of the breviary agreed to by the bishops in 2012, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, wrote to the Administrative Committee in September.

"That plan directed ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) to prepare English translations of the 291 Latin hymns of the typical edition, some of which have never been put into contemporary English," Archbishop Gregory said.

Should the translations be approved in November, the remaining hymns likely will be presented to the full body in November 2019 or June 2020, he added.

The proposed 2019 budget for the USCCB reflects changes -- cuts more frequently than additions -- largely outside the bishops' control, yet will reflect a surplus.

The budget using the USCCB's unrestricted funds is projected at $23.09 million next year, with a surplus of $245,811. The unrestricted funds are spent on the general secretariat, administrative offices, pastoral ministries, politics and advocacy, communications, and "other funding relationships."

The USCCB's restricted funds -- contributions to national collections, funding for the National Religious Retirement Office and government contracts for the Office of Migration and Refugee Services -- show proposed expenditures of $162.6 million, with a surplus of $178,372.

When cuts come into play, the most telling line item is the MRS budget.

"MRS administration is decreasing $12.1 million due primarily to the reduction in the number of refugee arrivals and that directly impacts pass-through funding to the dioceses for local administration and direct assistance to clients," said a budget overview prepared by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, USCCB treasurer.

Federal awards and contracts are the chief source of MRS funds.

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Contributing to this report was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.