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California expands statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 15, 2019 / 12:02 am (CNA).- California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Sunday a measure extending the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse victims.

The law allows civil claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed by victims until age 40, or five years after discovering the damages from the abuse.

Previously, claims had to be filed by age 26, or within three years of discovering damages from the abuse.

The new law also opens up a three-year window to revive past claims that would have expired under the previous statute of limitations. That window begins Jan. 1, 2020.

Andy Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, responded in an Oct. 14 statement, saying, “Ultimately, our hope is that all victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse in all institutional settings will be able to have their pain and suffering addressed and resolved and so our prayers are that AB 218 will be a step forward in that direction.”

“The Catholic Church has confronted this issue of child sexual abuse for more than two decades now,” Rivas said. “It is a legacy of shame for all of us in the Church, and we are aware that nothing can undo the violence done to victim-survivors or restore the innocence and trust that was taken from them.”

He noted the reforms made by the Church to protect children and that new reports of abuse in the Church in California are rare. He also pointed to efforts by dioceses in the state to devote hundreds of millions of dollars to therapy and pastoral care to abuse victims.

“The Church cooperated with then-Governor Gray Davis and the legislature during the opening of the statute of limitations in 2003. The Church paid more than $1.2 billion to settle claims filed by hundreds of victim-survivors,” he said.

Rivas noted that earlier this year, six of California’s 12 Catholic dioceses established an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.

The programs covers Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno. These six dioceses represent 80% of California’s Catholics, according to an announcement about the compensation program.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who authored the California bill, said in a statement, “The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous.”

“More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now,” she said. “We shouldn’t be telling victims their time is up when in reality we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”

However, critics argue that the law goes too far, opening the door to cases with little evidence and allowing damages to be tripled if cover-up of abuse was involved.

Rivas also noted with disappointment that the law does not cover sexual abuse victims of state employees.

According to the Associated Press, school districts in the state showed heavy opposition to the legislation, arguing that reliable evidence and witnesses are more difficult to collect 40 years after an alleged act of abuse.

Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said the bill “has a very real chance of bankrupting or impoverishing many districts,” the AP reported.

“We don't want to minimize or trivialize the trauma that's associated with inappropriate sexual conduct in schools,” Flint said, but added that the financial impact on school districts in the state could “inhibit our ability to properly serve today's students and students in years to come.”

The Boy Scouts of America - which has faced millions of dollars in damages to child abuse victims, said it is considering “all available options,” including declaring bankruptcy, the AP reported.

In a statement the organization said it cares “deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize(s) to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.” It noted the procedures put in place to avoid individual youth and adult interactions and ensure respect for privacy.

According to the Associated Press, Michael Pfau, an attorney based in Seattle, says his firm has approximately 100 abuse victims who are ready to file suits against California schools, Catholic dioceses, foster homes, the Boy Scouts when the extended window opens.

California is among several states to consider expanding the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.

Earlier this year, New York widened the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil claims, and opened a one-year window for abuse survivors to files suits against their abuser or the institution where the abuse occurred.

More than 400 lawsuits were filed in the state on the first day of the expanded window, including claims against members of the Catholic clergy, the Boy Scouts, and the state’s public schools.

The governor of New Jersey signed a similar law in May. North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania have also considered similar legislation in the last year.

 

Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban remains blocked after court ruling 

Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct 14, 2019 / 06:52 pm (CNA).- A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a block on an Ohio law banning abortions on the grounds of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Former Governor John Kasich signed the law nearly two years ago, but it has not yet been able to come into effect.

The court’s decision comes amid Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which advocacy organizations observe in October.

The law outlawed abortions in cases where there was a positive test result or prenatal diagnosis indicating Down syndrome, the Associated Press reports. Physicians convicted of performing an abortion under such circumstances could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, stripped of their medical license and held liable for legal damages. The pregnant women would not be held liable.

The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has said the state will seek a review by the full 6th Circuit, as Friday’s decision was handed down 2-1 by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel.

Federal Judge Timothy Black first blocked the law from taking effect in March 2018. It was set to go into effect the 23rd of that month.

Supporters of the law have questioned Black’s impartiality. He had served as president of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood in 1988 and as its director from 1986-1989. He recused himself from a case involving Planned Parenthood in 2014.

Former Governor John Kasich first signed the law in December 2017, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood the subsequent February against the Ohio Department of Health, county prosecutors, and members of the state medical board.

Current Ohio Governor Mike Dewine has not yet commented publicly on the law’s most recent blockage, but on Monday tweeted his support for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As attorney general, DeWine had set the state’s appeal against the judge’s decision into motion.

Attorney General says education is 'ground zero' in fight for religious freedom

South Bend, Ind., Oct 14, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Education is “ground zero” in the fight for religious freedom, the U.S. Attorney General told an audience at the Notre Dame Law School on Friday.

While speaking on the threats posed to freedom of religion in the U.S. by aggressive secularism, Attorney General William Barr told law students that nowhere is the threat to religious freedom so great as in education.

Education, he said, should lead students to the truth and teach them to “love the truth” and to develop the “discipline to live by it.” However, he added, “the times are hostile to this.”

Barr addressed law students at Notre Dame on religious freedom Oct. 11, while a crowd of protesters had gathered outside the law school reportedly blowing whistles and holding signs that included asking the Trump administration to end the practice of separations of immigrant families at the border.

The protest of blowing whistles was in reference to a whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump, on an official phone call with the Ukrainian president, had offered Barr’s services to help investigate the son of opposing presidential candidate Joe Biden and his business dealings in the Ukraine.  

A Catholic, Barr was previously the U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. He was confirmed as the 85th attorney general of the U.S. on February 14, after former attorney general Jeff Sessions resigned in November of 2018 at the request of President Trump.

He recently drew criticism for his decision to resume federal executions of some prisoners on death row, after Pope Francis had declared the death penalty “inadmissible” in 2018 and the U.S. bishops had long pushed for its abolition.

In his Friday remarks, Barr warned of a rise in secularism that is intent upon the “organized destruction” of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which he said the U.S. was founded upon.

This secular effort, he said, marshals the resources of academia and the entertainment and communications industries to promote a vision of life and morality that is fundamentally at odds with Christianity; it uses social ostracization, lawsuits, and other threats to push compliance, and even functions as a religion of sorts, he said.

Education, Barr said, is “ground zero” in this fight where secularism seeks to impose itself on the populace even in violation of religious freedom.

Public school curricula are being pushed by states and local boards of education that are “incompatible with Judeo-Christian principles,” he said, with no opt-outs being offered to parents with religious objections. Barr referenced the states of Illinois, California, New Jersey and Colorado which require by law that public schools teach “LGBT history.”

The right of parents to transmit faith to their children is paramount, he said, and “for the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.”

For instance, the New Jersey law was passed without any opt-out for parents when the policy takes effect in middle and high schools in 2020-2021. 

The Orange County Department of Education in California issued a memo in 2018 stating that parents who objected to comprehensive sexual education could not withdraw their children from instruction on gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

These cases are part of an effort of the “state requiring local public schools to insert themselves into contentious social debates without regard to the religious views of their students or parents,” Barr said. “Those families are implicitly told that they should conform or leave.”

In other cases, religious schools are being singled out and marginalized simply because of their religious status when they are being considered for public benefits, he said.

Long-standing laws such as Blaine Amendment statutes—once passed in many states as anti-Catholic measures—are now being used to “starve religious schools of generally available funds” such as tax credits to help underprivileged students attend the school of their choice, Barr said, pointing to a Montana case, currently before the Supreme Court in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

In Indiana, a lawsuit brought by a former teacher at Cathedral Catholic High School is challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Indianapolis to determine the Catholic identity of a school in his archdiocese, Barr said, saying that the situation painted “ a disturbing picture.” 

Barr encouraged Catholics to “do all we can to promote and support authentic Catholic education at all levels,” while promising that the Department of Justice would “fight” for religious freedom, “the most cherished of all American liberties.”

In 2018, a religious liberty task force was created at the Department of Justice to implement a 2017 religious liberty executive order. Barr said that the task force involves the Solicitor General, the Office of Legal Counsel and others to meet regularly and discuss cases where the Establishment Clause is misapplied or abused by states against people of faith, or where the free exercise of religion is being violated.

In his remarks on Friday, Barr blamed the “erosion” of traditional morality for the subsequent rise in secularism that now threatens religious freedom, and represents a break with the founding values which underpin the American constitutional order.

The Constitution, he said, was created for people who could govern themselves and practice “moral discipline,” but in the last several decades there has been a decline in the common understanding and adaptation of Judeo-Christian principles and adherence to the natural law.

“The campaign to destroy the traditional moral order,” he said, “I believe has brought with it immense suffering and misery,” Barr said, while noting that the rise of secularism had come with an attack on organized religion brought with “force, fervor, and comprehensiveness.”

El Paso bishop calls out racism but urges accused shooter's life be spared

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's a pastoral letter that pulls no punches, goes far into the past and continues up to the recent present of racism at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, released a pastoral letter Oct. 13, on the eve of the controversial holiday that Columbus Day has become, pointing to the church's role in racism at the border, particularly among indigenous communities, describes the pain of Latinos in the El Paso area following a mass shooting in August, but also calls on authorities to spare the life of the accused perpetrator.  

Invoking martyrs who include St. Oscar Romero, Blessed Stanley Rother and four Maryknoll women missionaries killed in El Salvador, Bishop Seitz said he wishes that, like them, "I may speak without fear when it is called for and help to give voice to those who have not been heard."

The letter titled "Night Will Be No More" was unveiled at the end of a social justice gathering of Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists in El Paso Oct.11-13. It begins and ends with the specter of the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in the city, a violent and bloody event that authorities believe targeted Latinos.

"Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy," wrote the bishop.

That event led him to write the letter, he explained, "after prayer and speaking with the people of God in the church of El Paso" to "reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives."

Among some of what he has heard: "Latinos now tell me that for the first time in their lives they feel unsafe, even in El Paso. They feel that they have targets on their backs because of their skin color and language. They feel that they are being made to live in their own home as a 'stranger in a foreign land.'"

The killing, he said, was an example of the racism toward Latinos that has reached "a dangerous fever pitch" in the nation.  

"Our highest elected officials have used the word 'invasion' and 'killer' over 500 times to refer to migrants, treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American, and have made wall-building a core political project," he said. "In Pope Francis' words, these 'signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of the other.'

"The same deadly pool of sin that motivates the attack on migrants seeking safety and refuge in our border community motivated the killing of our neighbors on August 3rd," he continued. "Sin unites people around fear and hate. We must name and oppose the racism that has reared its head at the center of our public life and emboldened forces of darkness."

Even as he repudiated the fear and destruction the massacre caused, Bishop Seitz made a plea to authorities to spare the life of accused shooter Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old who is said to have left messages on social media saying he was carrying out the shooting because of the "Hispanic invasion of Texas." Texas prosecutors have said they will ask for the death penalty if he's convicted.

"Justice is certainly required. But the cycle of hate, blood and vengeance on the border must meet its end," he wrote. "While the scales of justice may seem to tilt in favor of the necessity of lethal retribution, God offers us yet another chance to choose life. Choose in a manner worthy of your humanity."

He laid out how racism can make a "home in our hearts, distort our imagination and will, and express itself in individual actions of hatred and discrimination."

"This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to 'white' people than to people of color," he wrote. "This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into 'us' and 'them', 'worthy' and 'unworthy', paving the way to dehumanization."

Dark-skinned people are subject to different standards and treatment and the Catholic Church is not without fault in this, he said, adding that "even some of our seminarians have talked about experiences in seminaries in different parts of the country where it was presumed that their academic preparation was inferior and when they were the butt of jokes suggesting that their families must know something about drug trafficking."

He wrote that the proposed border wall is a symbol of this type of exclusion.

"The wall deepens racially charged perceptions of how we understand the border as well as Mexicans and migrants. It extends racist talk of an 'invasion'. It perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs," he wrote. "The wall is a physical reminder of the failure of two friendly nations to resolve their internal and binational issues in just and peaceful way."

But just as the letter offered criticism, it offered solutions.

"We must work to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person," he wrote.

"This is how we write a new chapter in our history of solidarity and friendship that future generations can remember with pride," he added. "This work of undoing racism and building a just society is holy, for it 'contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.'"

During Mass, pastors can lead people "to a deeper consciousness of the weight of communal and historical sin that we bring to the table of the Lord in the penitential rite," he wrote. "We should ask ourselves carefully who is yet not present, and whose cultures are not yet reflected at the banquet of the Lord that we celebrate at the altar?"

At its end, the letter made a plea to President Donald Trump, Congress and the Supreme Court.

"I beg you to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border," he wrote.

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Editor's Note: The full text of the letter can be found at www.hopeborder.org/nightwillbenomore.

 

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Bishop Byrne: Newman would be surprised to be canonized a saint

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal John Henry Newman would be surprised by his own canonization as a saint, an English bishop said Monday, adding that Newman’s life offers an important witness of holiness for contemporary Catholics.

“I am sure that no one would be more surprised than Newman to find himself a canonized saint. In his own life time it was suggested that he led a saintly life – his response was typical. ‘I have nothing of the saint about me as everyone knows and it is a severe and salutary mortification to be thought next door to one,’” Bishop Robert Byrne said Oct. 14, during a Mass of Thanksgiving for Newman’s canonization, celebrated at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

“Nonetheless the Church thinks otherwise after due deliberation and the approval of two miracles brought about by the intercession of the saint, John Henry Newman, the Londoner born in 1801 and who died a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church in Birmingham in 1890 is now raised to the honours of the altar,” Byrne added.

“He is held up to us as a model of Christian life and virtue and as our intercessor in heaven.” Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Newman’s 1845 conversion to the Catholic faith was controversial in England, and resulted in the loss of many friends, including his own sister, who never spoke to him again.

He became a priest in 1847 and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. He was particularly dedicated to education, founding two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland. His “Idea is a University” became a foundational text on Catholic higher education. He was a prolific author and letter writer. Newman died in Birmingham in 1890 at 89.

Pope Francis declared Newman a saint at Sunday Mass Oct. 13 in St. Peter’s Square. 

Byrne celebrated Mass in thanksgiving for the canonization, invoking the intercession of Newman in his prayers. The Mass was attended by an international congregation of scholars, devotees, and admirers of Newman, concelebrated by priests and bishops who have been influenced by the man.

Among those in attendance at St. John Lateran were members of the Oratorian religious congregation, of which Byrne is a member, and which Newman famously brought to England. Also there were priests and sisters of the Spiritual Family of the Work, an ecclesial movement of priests and religious sisters devoted to the spirituality and intellectual legacy of Newman. Worshipping too were pilgrims who had come to Rome for Newman’s canonization, including some who had found the Catholic Church through the saint.

Byrne said that it was “the saintly Cardinal’s relentless and heroic search for truth and holiness which brings us to this morning’s celebration.”

“The pursuit of holiness and truth were for St John Henry the driving force of his life. We see throughout his long life how he championed the cause of revealed truth and was fearless in proclaiming it not only by his many writings but also by the institutions he established. He did much to promote the Christian cause in bringing the Congregation of the Oratory to England, founding a University in Ireland and a school in Edgbaston. He worked tirelessly as a Parish Priest and had a fatherly care for his Oratorian community. He guided countless people with letters of spiritual direction and counsel.”

“He gave light to those who were searching for the truth and continues to do so through his published works of theology, philosophy, sermons and prayers.”

“Newman speaks to us in different ways as preacher, writer, theologian and pastor. But however he speaks to us we are united in giving thanks that his life and legacy is now a gift to the Universal Church,” the bishop concluded.  

 

 

UK court authorizes forced abortion for disabled woman in new case

London, England, Oct 14, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A court in the United Kingdom ruled last week that it is in the best interest of a pregnant woman with severe learning disabilities that she undergo an abortion. A British court made the same decision in a similar case earlier this year, though that decision was overturned after it was issued. 

The unidentified woman in this case is estimated to be 12 weeks pregnant. She, along with her NHS trust and local council, have not been identified by the court or in media reports, in order to protect her privacy.

The court’s ruling was issued Friday, Oct. 11, after a hearing in the U.K.’s Court of Protection which handles cases brought concerning care and decision making for people judged not to be able to act for themselves. The NHS trust responsible for the woman’s care petitioned the court for permission to carry out an abortion. In its petition, the trust argued that continuing her pregnancy would be harmful to the woman. 

Eloise Power, the lawyer representing the NHS trust, testified that the woman’s doctors and caregivers support ending her pregnancy. 

The woman lives in the north of England and has spent most of her life in foster care. Her caretakers, who are described as “Christians and churchgoers,” support the abortion, according to PA Media, a wire service in the UK. 

An additional 30 medical professionals, including doctors and social workers, who were consulted for this case also agreed that an abortion is in the woman’s best interests, according to PA Media. 

Justice David Basil Williams wrote in his ruling that the abortion would be a “significant interference” in the woman’s bodily autonomy, but also said he agreed it to be in her best interest, and that continuing the pregnancy could harm her mental and physical health. He also authorised medical staff to restrain the woman and administer a general anesthetic during the abortion if necessary

The Court of Protection has jurisdiction over cases involving Britons who are deemed to not possess the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. The pregnant woman is in her 20s, but functions intellectually with a severely diminished capacity, British media has reported. 

Police are investigating whether the woman’s pregnancy was caused by an act of sexual assault. Because her medical caregivers and foster family are in favor of the abortion, no appeal of the decision is expected.

This case is similar to one that made headlines in June, when the Court of Protection ruled that an intellectually disabled woman should undergo an abortion at the 22nd week of pregnancy. That case sparked international outrage, as the woman and her mother were both opposed to abortion on religious grounds. 

The decision in that case was opposed by the woman’s family and social workers and was overturned three days after it was issued.

Amazon Synod bishop: The Gospel brings new concepts to cultures, like forgiveness

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- While the Vatican’s Synod of Bishop on the Amazon discusses the idea of “inculturating” the Gospel’s proclamation with local culture, one bishop shared that the Gospel called one tribe in southern Venezuela to a difficult cultural concept: forgiveness.

“The Gospel helps cultures maintain all the good they have and at the same time brings new things that helps them grow,” José Ángel Divassón Cilveti, former head of the apostolic vicariate of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 14.

Cilventi, a Salesian who served as apostolic vicar of Puerto Ayacucho from 1996-2015, explained how his religious order has carried out missionary work among the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest along the Venezuelan-Brazilian border for more than 60 years.

He said that in the past there was much violence among the Yanomami people. “In the past, if you killed others, you were killed,” he said. “And then started the continuous fights and struggles that made their lives difficult.”

The bishop explained that Salesian missionaries who taught newly converted Yanomami Catholics “Jesus said you have to forgive,” spurred a broad cultural change within their community, while “not taking away from being Yanomami at all.”

“In that culture, forgiveness was difficult, and yet these people as they were learning this ability … realized that having the ability to forgive solved so many problems,” Cilventi said.

Another synod participant, Bishop Carlo Verzeletti of Castanhal, Brazil, spoke of the need for change at the press conference.

In particular, Verzeletti called for is a change in the church’s discipline of priestly celibacy.

“In the synod I support and continue to support the importance of being able to ordain married men for the priesthood, so the Eucharist may become a reality that is closer to people and communities, so that these married men can, in fact, accompany the lives of the peoples, the lives of their communities” Verzeletti said Oct. 14.

“I would already know who I would choose to ordain as priests,” the Bishop of Castanhal added.

The Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region.

The working document for the synod proposed the possibility of ordaining elder married men -- viri probati -- in response to a shortage of priestly vocations in the Amazon region of South America.

Verzeletti, an Italian who served the Brazilian state of Para since 1996, said that because of colonization, the region suffered 400 years in which the values of native people were “destroyed,” and now suffers from the negative aspects of globalization.

He noted that in recent years the region’s Pentecostal churches have grown much more rapidly than the Catholic Church, saying that there are 750 Pentecostal churches and only 50 Catholic churches in his city.

179 synod fathers attended the morning assembly in the Synod Hall Oct. 14 in which the discussion included: protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, environmental protection, how to inculturate the liturgy, and how to respond better to the needs and cultures of the people, according to Fr Giacomo Costa, Secretary of the Information Commission

Calif. governor signs state college campus abortion pill mandate into law

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 14, 2019 / 11:48 am (CNA).- California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday a measure requiring public universities to provide free access to medical abortions for students.

The law will take effect in 2023, and applies to the 34 campuses of the University of California and California State University.

Sen. Connie Levya (D-Chino), the law's author, said Oct. 11 that “abortion is a protected right, and it is important that everyone—including college students—have access to that right, if they so choose. I thank the Governor and my legislative colleagues for upholding the right to choose and affirming the right of college students to access medication abortion on campuses here in California.”

The law will also create a fund to provide a $200,000 grant to each public university student health center to pay for the cost of offering abortion pills, with money coming from nonstate sources such as private sector entities and local and federal government agencies.

The law will only take effect if $10.29 million in private funds are made available by Jan 1, 2020, which funding has already been secured according to an Aug. 12 analysis of the bill by the State Assembly's appropriations committee.

It also requires abortion counseling services to students, but it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement on their website.

Former Governor Jerry Brown, a public supporter of abortion, vetoed a similar bill last September, saying it was was “not necessary,” as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus.

The California Catholic Conference was opposed to the law as it passed through the legislature, and last month the group urged Newsom to veto “this unprecedented and unnecessary legislation because it purposely narrows a young woman’s choices and puts the state’s prestigious academic institutions in a position of actually promoting, facilitating and potentially funding only abortions.”

Currently, a majority of campus health centers offer gynecological services and contraceptives, but they will refer students seeking an abortion to an off-campus abortion clinic.

The California Catholic Conference said the bill overemphasizes abortion as an option for college pregnancies. While the bill invites health centers to include abortion counseling services, the conference said it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling.”

“This bill will promote only abortion-inducing drugs on college campuses,” said Andrew Rivas, executive director of the conference. “No government-funded institution, medical or counseling center, should ever provide only one set of services. If this bill is truly about providing choices for female students, the state should then also require and fund life-affirming services on campus.”

“Offering state-funded abortions as the only alternative to pregnancy undermines the ability of a state academic institution to promote the value of diversity and the empowerment of women,” he added.

Medical abortions involve the taking of two pills - the first, mifepristone, blocks progesterone, which is essential for maintaining the health of the fetus. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 24 hours after mifepristone and works to induce contractions in order to expel the fetus.

Indigenous woman brings message from her elders to pope as church elder

IMAGE: CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anitalia Pijachi, an indigenous woman from the Amazonian town of Leticia, Colombia, came to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon bringing a message from the elders of her people to Pope Francis, an elder of the Catholic Church.

The first Europeans to arrive in the Amazon were "invaders," she said. "They never asked permission of mother nature or of the people who lived there. They imposed the cross and the Bible. That caused a great deal of resentment," and in some cases forced indigenous peoples from their territories.

But when the pope, during his 2018 visit to Peru, asked Amazonian people to tell the church how it should walk with them, "that was a question that asked permission," she told Catholic News Service.

Pijachi, an Ocaina Huitoto woman who is not Catholic, said that when she heard that, she spoke to the elders of her people, who approved of her participation in presynod gatherings as long as the church respected indigenous cultures.

"The elders said that first the Catholic Church and all churches must recognize us as having a right to our own culture and customs, our own spirituality," she added. "They must not impose themselves and change" those beliefs.

For many indigenous peoples, evangelization meant relocation from their territories to church-run communities known as reductions, as well as the loss of their languages and traditions, she said. "The pain is alive and still there."

The culture and spirituality of Amazonian indigenous people remain strong "as long as we have our territory, our rivers, our sacred places, food and our seeds, the elements of our rituals," Pijachi said.

She said she sees the synod as an opportunity to talk with "a great friend, a great elder, (Pope) Francis, who can carry our voice" to places where it otherwise would not be heard.

Environmental destruction by extractive industries such as logging, mining and oil companies has been a recurring theme in the synod.

"The people who come to extract (natural resources) don't live there," Pijachi said. "They live in Europe; they live in mansions in the big cities. All they're interested in is money."

The damage to the environment "is a spiritual death and a cultural death" for indigenous people, she said, adding that some whose actions or policies result in destruction are Catholic.

"The same person who received first Communion, who was married in the church, is the one who is cutting down the forest, who does not understand respect for creation," she said. "The same one who was baptized, who went to confession, who received Communion, who goes to Mass on Sunday is the governor of a state and pays no attention" to how public policies affect people.

"I asked (the bishops), 'Is that important to you?'" she said. Pijachi addressed the synod assembly Oct. 9.

As an indigenous woman, Pijachi said, she also called for church leaders to listen to women.

During the first days of the synod, when she heard bishops refer to the "holy mother church," the words reminded Pijachi of the "maloka," the spacious, round-sided communal building where her people gather for special occasions.

The maloka, she said, "is the woman, the womb that brings her children together, the place of abundance."

Although many synod participants spoke of the important pastoral work done by women, some remained reluctant to give women a larger role, she said. That is partly because some bishops do not understand the reality of ministry in the Amazon, she added.

A priest must administer the sacrament of the sick, for example, but where there is no priest, parents will ask a religious sister to bless a dying child. She has seen sisters telephone a priest to give the blessing by phone.

"I believe it is very important that the synod give women a place in decision-making (and) the autonomy to act," she said.

"I reminded the men that they do not have to be afraid of us," Pijachi said. "The only way a man can be born is if he comes from a woman. Before he saw the light of day, he was born through a woman's vagina."

"So why, after I gave him life, I who am his mother, why does he reject me and send me off to a corner?" she asked.

In her people's creation story, Pijachi said she told the bishops, "God put man and woman together in the world ... to walk together." If the two are not working in harmony, one indigenous elder told her, "it's like walking with only one leg."

 

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What are you willing to die for, Chaput asks students

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- It is important to consider what we are willing to die for, Archbishop Charles Chaput reminded students and faculty in a speech at the University of Notre Dame on Friday.

“It’s a good thing, a vital thing, to consider what we’re willing to die for,” Chaput said in a lecture given to the Constitutional Studies Program at the university on Oct. 11.

“To even ask that question is an act of rebellion against a loveless age. And to answer it with conviction is to become a revolutionary; the kind of loving revolutionary who will survive and resist—and someday redeem a late modern West that can no longer imagine anything worth dying for, and thus, in the long run, anything worth living for.”

Chaput said he was moved to consider the question as he prepares for retirement; he turned 75 last month, and in line with canon law submitted his resignation to Pope Francis.

“When you get to be my age, a topic like ‘things worth dying for’ has some special urgency,” Chaput said, noting that he expected this to be his last speech delivered as a sitting archbishop. He told his audience that to consider that life, death, and meaning are all bound together in love.

Parents, the archbishop said, were the first example of natural love. Offering the example of the parents who shielded their child with their own bodies during the El Paso shooting in August, Chaput said that all parenthood requires a sacrifice of love, and that motherhood itself is an act of mortal risk.

But, he warned, “as religious belief recedes, and communities of faith decline, the individualism at the heart of the American experiment becomes more selfish, more belligerent, and more corrosive. It breaks down family bonds. It tempts parents to treat their children as accomplishments, or as ornaments, or—even worse—as burdens.”

“It also weakens the ties between grown children and their parents, who as they age can often become dependent. It’s a useful experiment for some of you who are here today as students to consider what you’d really be willing to give up for the sake of caring long-term for a mother or father.”

Citing the works of Tolkien, Chaput also pointed out that we are becoming effective strangers to the true understanding of friendship.

“Friendship is generally a milder form of love than family, and the notion of dying for a friend might seem remote. But someone rather famous once said that ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”

History, Chaput said, is built on and by the examples of soldiers who died for their friends, or put themselves in harm’s way to shield others.

“All true friendship requires a readiness to die” the archbishop said, “if not literally, then in the sense of dying to ourselves; dying to our impatience and our reluctance to make sacrifices for others.”

“Pope Francis often talks about accompaniment as a key to Christian discipleship. The willingness to be with our friends when they’re not easily lovable, to accompany them in their neediness or to share in their suffering—this is the test of true friendship.”

The archbishop went on to discuss the love of honor, something often now held to be an anachronism, but which is really the love of personal integrity in the service of higher truths. Drawing a line from classical examples of honor in the Iliad, through to the life and work of St. Paul, to the fight to maintain personal dignity under the Soviet regime in the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Chaput said love of honor provides the essential inspiration for personal, sometimes total sacrifice for the true and the good.

“As St. Paul warns us, the principalities and powers of this world always seek to control our lives. Evil is real, even when it’s masked in pleasant forms and excellent marketing. Therefore, it’s always important to honor our deepest convictions. And doing so can be costly.”

“We’re living in a moment of vigilant, even vindictive, political correctness on matters ranging from sex to the meaning of our national history,” said Chaput. “And our politics often seems gripped with amnesia about the price in human suffering extracted by the bitter social experiments of the last century—always in the name of progress and equality.”

Love and honor and sacrifice in the face of attack, Chaput said, needs to be tempered with prudence, and are not a rationale for self-destruction. Drawing on the examples of the early saints, Chaput said that the martyrs, like Polycarp, did not seek confrontation or death, and avoided both when they could, but without compromise.

“Silence and avoiding situations that force us to state our convictions can sometimes be the prudent course of action,” Chaput said. “The key word in that sentence is ‘sometimes.’ Cowardice is very good at hiding behind a number of virtues. Too often we censor or contort ourselves to fit into what we perceive as approved behavior or thought. We muffle our Christian beliefs to avoid being the targets of contempt. Over time, a legitimate exercise of prudence can very easily become a degrading habit; a habit that soils the soul.”

“Jesus urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The self-love proper for a Christian includes the love of personal honor, the kind that comes from living with integrity in a world that would have us betray our convictions.”

Chaput closed by warning that believers can expect “a rough road in the years ahead” in the coming years.

“There can be no concordat between the Christian understanding of human dignity and sexuality, and the contempt directed at our beliefs by important elements of our culture,” he said.

“This is very likely my last talk as a serving archbishop. But the Church, her mission, and the Christian story go on. And the greatest blessing I can wish, for each of you, is that you take up your part in the tale with all the energy and passion in your heart. Because it’s a life worth living.”