Browsing News Entries

The important legacy of the US' sole Catholic historically black university

New Orleans, La., Sep 22, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- This week the country marked National HBCU Week to recognize the accomplishments of historically black colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Earlier this month, leaders from the country’s 101 HBCUs convened in Washington, D.C. for the annual National HBCU Conference, where they spoke to Congress of the ongoing importance of HBCUs, and where President Donald Trump announced that religiously affiliated HBCUs would now receive full federal funding.

“Previously, federal law restricted more than 40 faith-based HBCUs and seminaries from fully accessing federal support for capital improvement projects. This meant that your faith-based institutions, which have made such extraordinary contributions to America, were unfairly punished for their religious beliefs,” Trump said in his Sept. 10 address to the conference.

"This week, our Department of Justice has published an opinion declaring such discriminatory restrictions as unconstitutional. It was a big step. And from now on, faith-based HBCUs will enjoy equal access to federal support," Trump added.

Among the leaders present was President Reynold Verret of Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic historically black college or university in the United States.

In his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Verret emphasized the “critical role” of HBCUs in education.

Verret told CNA that in his testimony, he emphasized that as the U.S. grows in diversity, “the majority of our talents will be black and brown. And if we fail to cultivate that talent, we will actually do ourselves a great damage,” he said.

Students are not always fortunate enough to attend good schools, he added, and if black talents, such as those of Dr. Ben Carson, are not fostered, they will be lost. Carson was a prominent pediatric neurosurgeon before his run for president in 2016 and his current position as U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary,

Speaking about Xavier in particular, Verret said that the faculty encourages their students to consider the needs of their communities and their country when choosing their majors.

“The education of the student at Xavier or at a school like ourselves, it's not just a benefit to that individual student, but a benefit to the larger community that he is contributing to, and to the nation,” Verret said.

The notion of putting one’s talents at the service of another is a critical part of Xavier University’s Catholic foundation, Verret added.

“It's very much in our legacy at Xavier, that that expectation of contributing to more than just me...and we speak of that to our students,” he said. “That the majors that they engage in, whether it's preparing for medicine, preparing for law, or becoming a major artist, will only have meaning when they put it in service of people. It's not so much about my BMW, or my salary.”

The seeds of Xavier University were planted by then-Mother Katherine Drexel in 1915, when she and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded schools to serve Native American and African American populations throughout the United States, including a Catholic secondary school for African-Americans in Louisiana.

By 1917, she also established a preparatory school for teachers, one of the few career tracks available to Black Americans at the time. A few years later, that school was able to offer other degrees as well, and became a full-fledged university in 1925.

In a sense, Verret said, Mother Katherine “rescued the Church from herself” at the time, because she opened an institution where students of all colors were welcome. Xavier University was also the first Catholic university where men and women studied together, he added.

The spirit of Mother Katherine, now St. Katherine Drexel, and her mission to provide a quality education to those in need is still foundational to the mission of Xavier today, Verret said.

“Mother Katherine, when she came here with her sisters in 1915...she had in her mind those who needed an education,” Verret said. “...and every 15 years, maybe even 25 years, we look at ourselves and say - who else needs our service? If Mother Katherine was beginning today, she would have others on her list as well, because this is our mission.”

When it comes to academic performance, Xavier is a school that “is punching above our weight,” Verret said.

Though the school enrolls only 3,000-some students, Xavier ranks first in the country for the number of black graduates who will go on to complete medical school, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

It is also ranked among the nation's top four colleges of pharmacy in graduating African Americans with Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) degrees, and is number one in the nation in awarding bachelor's degrees to African American students in the biological and biomedical sciences, the physical sciences, and physics, and number three in the nation for the number of African American graduates who go on to earn a Ph.D. in science and engineering fields.

Verret said that Xavier’s achievements show the important role that smaller, specialized colleges, such as HBCUs, or women’s colleges, or other religiously-affiliated colleges, can play in American higher education.

“That diversity of education (options) to satisfy young people’s needs is important to us, and HBCUs are one part of that landscape.”

HBCUs were founded at a time where it was illegal for black students to attend other institutions of higher education, and so they catered to black students out of necessity. Xavier is still predominately black, Verret said, but it always has been and continues to be accepting of students of all ethnicities and creeds, which was something Mother Katherine anticipated.

“We have an important reservoir of experience and knowledge and intuition about what America should become, which came from the children and descendants of former slaves,” Verret said, but students of all races and creeds are able to receive a good education at Xavier.

Among the other ethnicities at Xavier are a large group of Vietnamese students, as well as students from Iraq who came to the United States during the Iraq war, Verret said. More than 71 percent of Xavier students are African American, while just 19 percent are Catholic, in large part because African Americans in the south are primarily from Protestant or Evangelical ecclesial communities, Verret said.
Still, Verret said, it is important to have HBCUs as predominately black institutions, where black students who are still a minority in this country can go and not feel like they stand out.

Speaking from his own experience as a young college student, Verret said that HBCUs offer students a place where their race is “not an issue.”

“I’m not the representative (of blacks or African Americans). I am the editor of the school newspaper. I am one of the members of the chemistry club, I’m not the black member of the chemistry club,” he said. “It’s a certain freedom that many whites in the United States cannot understand because they're not experiencing that.”

As for it’s Catholic identity, Verret said the school has a strong sense of Catholic service and social justice engrained into its mission.

As one example of service, Verret said that every year, student deans and other peer leaders volunteer their time to help move in new students on campus. When asked why they did so, Verret said one of the student leaders told him: “So that they'll know next year, it’s their turn.”

The school’s sense of service can be seen in its mission statement, which notes: “The ultimate purpose of the University is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society.”

Another example of the school’s Catholic mission, Verret said, is in its spirit of camaraderie and solidarity in its successful pre-med program. Often schools will try to scare off medical or pre-medical students by telling them: “Look to your right and look to your left. One of you won’t be here (by the end),” Verret said.

“That notion, that doesn’t exist at Xavier. We gather and pull each other so that we should all go cross that finish line together.”

Enrollment is back up at Xavier after a couple of years of decline following Hurricane Katrina, Verret noted, and the way that the school, as well as other HBCUs, will preserve their legacy is by “telling their stories” and telling of their current successes, Verret said.

“The other HBCUs are of very different sizes and very different complexions. But at the same time, what I can say is the uniting theme is that they continue to educate and graduate students who go on and are at the core of what America needs to be.”

Clandestine medical abortions reportedly on the rise in the US

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- While the number of in-clinic abortions in the United States is reportedly down, the sale of illicitly acquired abortion pills may be up, according to recent data from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.

According to data from Guttmacher, a total of 339,640 medication abortions occurred in 2017, making up about 39% of all abortions. But because of the “black market” abortion pills acquired online or otherwise surreptitiously, it is difficult to track exactly how many abortions are occurring this way. Researchers told the New York Times that they estimate that secret medical abortions are making up a growing and “irreversible” portion of abortions in the United States.

“This is happening,” said Jill E. Adams, executive director of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, told the New York Times. “This is an irreversible part of abortion care here in the United States.”

According to Guttmacher’s data and analysis, in-clinic abortions were down by about 19% in 2017 when compared to data from 2011. Guttmacher estimated that the abortion decline could be related to a decrease in overall birthrates, as well as increased contraceptive use and “increases in the number of individuals relying on self-managed (i.e. medical) abortions outside of a clinical setting.”

Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said he welcomed the decline in overall abortions, but that he was concerned about the rise in clandestine medical abortions.

“There are several reasons for this positive news, including factors that Guttmacher does their best to ignore,” he said. “American mothers are increasingly choosing life for their children, as well as choosing to identify themselves with the pro-life cause and pro-life policies. This includes the broad protections for women and children being enacted at the state level such as strengthened health and safety standards for abortion facilities, limits on public funding of abortion, parental involvement laws, and increased informed consent.”

“The industry’s migration to chemical self-abortion is deeply disturbing as it carries with it the possibility of increasing the overall abortion rate over time and also carries with it a higher rate of injury, about which women are often under-informed or deceived,” he added.

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

Several pro-life clinics throughout the country provide abortion pill reversals, a protocol that involves giving pregnant women additional doses of progesterone to counteract the progesterone-blocking effects of mifepristone, if the woman regrets taking the pill and hopes to reverse the abortion.

Earlier this month, a European doctor filed a lawsuit against the United States Food and Drug Administration in order to continue selling medical abortion pills online. The FDA argued that Dr. Rebecca Gomperts and her group, Aid Access, were in violation of FDA regulations which state that abortion pills cannot be sold online, as part of an FDA risk mitigation program called REMS, which is used for all higher-risk medications.

The news of an increase in medical abortions also comes shortly after a North Dakota judge nixed part of a new law that would have required doctors to inform their patients about abortion pill reversal protocol, as well as after Planned Parenthood announced its plans to expand access to medical abortions through telemedicine.

In response to this increase in medical abortions, a new federal bill has been drafted which aims to preserve restrictions on abortion pills. The Support and Value Expectant Moms and Babies Act (SAVE) was introduced Thursday by pro-life congressional leaders, and was sponsored by Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio).

In a Sept. 18 article in the New York Times, Elizabeth Nash, senior state policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said that while abortions have decreased throughout the U.S., “there’s no clear pattern linking these declines to new restrictions.”

Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, told the New York Times that the data and analysis from Guttmacher were “a patchwork put together to serve an agenda, and I don’t give any of it any credence whatsoever.”

He said that the Guttmacher Institute simply wants to present the message that “abortion is good, abortion should be legal and state laws that try to limit or regulate abortion are ineffective.”

“I’m sure that there are many factors that have contributed to the decline,” Forsythe told the New York Times. “Some state laws do contribute to a reduction in abortion.”

Several states have passed abortion restrictions in the past year, including Alabama, Arkansas, and Utah, which have passed laws that would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio, passed heartbeat bills that would restrict abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs between six and eight weeks of pregnancy. A lengthy clinic licensure debate in Missouri could mean the closure of the last Planned Parenthood in the state. Most of these laws have yet to go into effect.

Medical migrant ordered to leave gets hope of reprieve, highlights similar cases

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- An immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for more than 16 years while receiving life-saving medical treatments is hoping for a reprieve after being given weeks to leave the country. 

Maria Isabel Bueso, a 24 year-old immigrant from Guatemala, has lived in the U.S. without citizenship since 2003 through temporary extensions of “deferred action,” or delays of deportation, so that she can stay and receive treatment for her rare medical condition.

Bueso traveled from Guatemala to the U.S. with her family in 2003 to participate in clinical trials for her rare genetic disorder. After more than 16 years, she was notified in August that she would not be able to renew her status in the U.S. because the administration would stop considering non-military requests for deferred action. She was given 33 days to leave the country.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would resume granting non-military deferred action on a case-by-case basis, 

Bueso was “thrilled” by the news, her nurse, Wendy Bloom, told CNA, but remained only “cautiously optimistic” until she has full certainty of her status and hopes her case will draw attention to the plight of others like her.

“She’s really nervous until she actually gets an official letter that says ‘you are allowed to stay here,’ then she’ll be ready to have a party,” Bloom, a member of the California Nurses Association, told CNA.

Bueso has become an advocate for other patients with rare diseases—some of who needed to travel from outside the U.S. for treatment.

She has Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome (MPS-VI) which is a rare genetic disorder, and was invited to the U.S. at age seven to participate in clinical trials conducted by Dr. Paul Harmatz at Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, California.

Bueso traveled to the U.S. on a B-2 visa with her family, and has since remained in the country for weekly treatments. Bloom says she has known Bueso for 13 years, and that Bueso has been coming to the hospital for almost 17 years.

After she initially participated in clinical trials for her condition, that program helped develop a commercial drug—Naglazyme—that is now used to treat patients with MPS-VI.

In 2009, Bueso applied for and was granted deferred action of deportation, with a renewal every two years.

Several weeks after her notice to leave the U.S., Bueso testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at a hearing held on September 11 on “The Administration’s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children.”

“The medical treatment I need is not available in Guatemala. If I’m sent back, I will die,” she told members of the subcommittee. Bloom explained that the treatment is expensive and requires special skills to administer; Bueso would not be able to receive the necessary treatment in Guatemala.

On Sept. 2, DHS had announced that it would review the change in policy for “deferred action,” but Bueso’s status was still in limbo.

“It was incredibly stressful for the family, incredibly stressful, and for all of us that care for her and love her too, it was really heartbreaking,” Bloom said.

Then on Sept. 19, DHS informed the House Oversight Committee that it would once again consider deferred action on a case-by-case basis for non-military immigrants in the U.S.

In the statement, DHS said that USCIS would resume consideration of “non-military deferred action requests on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, except as otherwise required by an applicable statute, regulation, or court order.”

Oversight Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) stated in response that “it appears that the Trump Administration is reversing its inhumane and disastrous decision to deport critically ill children and their families who are receiving life-saving medical treatment in the United States.”

The decision draws attention to the importance of allowing immigrants like Bueso to come to the U.S. for treatment.

“Medical research needs to be ongoing, and if we can’t have the type of patients enrolling in these studies then we have a problem,” Bloom said.

Catholic hospital in Nova Scotia required to offer assisted suicide, euthanasia

Antigonish, Canada, Sep 20, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic hospital in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia will now be required to offer assisted suicide and euthanasia on site, after an assisted suicide advocacy group threatened legal action in January.

The Canadian Senate legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia in June 2016. Both practices are fully funded in the Canadian healthcare system.

The Candian Press reports that St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish was formerly run by the Sisters of St. Martha, which signed an agreement in 1996 with the provincial health authority when it took control of the facility.

The agreement was meant to ensure the hospital’s Catholic identity and values would be preserved.

However, the Canadian Press reports, the Nova Scotia Health Authority last month “quietly instituted” a policy change to require St. Martha’s to offer assisted suicide.

“This approach respects the 1996 Mission Assurance Agreement with the Sisters of St. Martha that lays out the philosophy, mission and values of St. Martha’s in accordance with its faith-based identity, while also meeting the legislated obligation to ensure that [assisted suicide and euthanasia] is available in the Antigonish area for those who request and meet the criteria to access that service,” said Tim Guest, the health authority’s vice-president of health services, as quoted by the Canadian Press.

Dying With Dignity Canada, a group advocating for assisted suicide and euthanasia, said that many hospitals across Canada ban the practice on the premises, particularly in the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

The group’s leadership has said that they hope the province’s proactive approach will be “used as a model in other jurisdictions across the country.”

Canadian lawmakers have raised concerns about the country’s assisted suicide legislation since its passage, over problems such as conscience protections and whether minors should be able to avail themselves of assisted suicide.

Some of these concerns were raised again in the recent case of a Canadian man, Roger Foley, who suffers from an incurable disease and claims that despite asking for home care, the medical team at an Ontario hospital would only offer him assisted suicide.

The bishops of Canada have recently reiterated their support for palliative care as a distinct form of care that attends to the needs and dignity of the whole person at the natural end of their life.

The bishops’ statement clarified that patients and doctors are not required to do everything possible to avoid death if a life has reached its natural conclusion and medical intervention would not be beneficial.

“So while life is a penultimate good, requiring us to take reasonable care of our lives, we are not morally obligated to seek or undergo burdensome therapies ‘at all costs’ that provide no benefit. Nor at the same time are clinicians morally obligated to ‘do everything possible’ if life has reached its natural conclusion and it is no longer medically appropriate. Such a stance is known as vitalism and is rejected by the Catholic moral tradition,” according to Covenant Health’s definition of palliative care included in the bishops’ statement.

A Catholic approach to palliative care is a “person-centered approach,” the bishops said, “which draws deeply from the scriptural understanding of healing, compassion and love.”

This approach takes account of a patient’s “body, mind and spirit” and tries to relieve human suffering while also attending to “the transcendent needs of the dying person and his/her loved ones, with special solicitude for the poor and disadvantaged.”

There also needs to be more and better information available about palliative care resources for patients and their families in Canada, the bishops said. They advocated for public awareness campaigns about palliative care implemented in the country’s health care systems, including resources that would take into account the needs of different cultures or of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

Msgr. Rossi takes leave of absence from CUA board of trustees

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2019 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Msgr. Walter Rossi has taken a leave of absence from the board of trustees at The Catholic University of America, while the priest is the subject of a canonical investigation for unspecified allegations of misconduct.

“Last month the chairman of the Board of Trustees approved Msgr. Rossi’s request to take a voluntary leave of absence pending the resolution of the investigation launched jointly by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton. During the leave of absence Msgr Rossi will not participate in any board activities,” Karna Lozoya, spokesperson for the university told CUA Sept. 20.

Lozoya told CNA that the university is “in contact with the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Washington, who have jointly launched an investigation. We will cooperate with them as needed. We don’t have any information at this point to warrant our own investigation.”

In August, the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that it had commenced “the process of launching a full forensic investigation into the concerns that have been raised,” about Rossi, who is rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus of The Catholic University of America.

Rossi is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton.

“The Diocese of Scranton and Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation,” the diocese told CNA Aug. 14.

Concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Gregory Aug. 13, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap, held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.

During that session, Gregory called for an independent, forensic investigation of some allegations against Rossi.

Rossi has been accused of directing young men to Fr. Matthew Reidlinger, a priest friend of Rossi’s who is alleged to have sexually harassed them in phone calls and text messages. That accusation was made in 2013.

In August, Gregory said he was unfamiliar with the allegation.
 
“That’s news to me. And I am not doubting it, but I have not heard about [this situation].”
 
“I suspect – I hope – that there is a forensic investigation. But in today’s environment, even a forensic investigation that either proves or disproves, will not satisfy the people. But I would like to see that, I would like to see a forensic investigation of those allegations.”

Rossi “is not an employee of Catholic University, nor does he have regular duties or responsibilities to fulfill on our campus. We do have students who are active either as part-time employees or volunteers at the Shrine. We have not received any complaints from our students regarding Msgr. Rossi,” Lozoya told CNA Friday.

“The safety of our students is our first priority. If we ever have good reason to believe the safety of our students is in danger, we will take the necessary action,” she added.

While Rossi is the subject of a canonical investigation, he has not been removed from his post at the National Shrine, and neither the scope nor the timeline of the investigation have been delineated by the Archdiocese of Washington or the Diocese of Scranton.

“If anyone harms a student at The Catholic University of America, we want to know about it. If any member of our community has experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has first hand knowledge of an incident, please contact our Department of Public Safety, the Metropolitan Police Department, our Dean of Students, or our Title IX coordinator,” Lozoya told CNA.

UK rabbi: secular humanists are 'ever-more combative' against religious groups

Madrid, Spain, Sep 20, 2019 / 03:07 pm (CNA).- A top UK rabbi has criticized secular groups in Britain for their remarks against religious practices and faith-based schools.

Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Great Britain and the Commonwealth, spoke at an international interreligious conference held in Madrid this week, addressing comments from groups such as Humanists UK and the National Secular Society.

Mirvis said that “humanism, with a small ‘h’, sits at the centre of what it means to be a Jew. But there is a different Humanism, with a capital ‘H’, which I fear is becoming ever-more combative in the way in which it regards faith communities.”

“We are finding that, often, Humanism, and other secularist approaches, seek out opportunities to attack faith,” said Mirvis, the Jewish News reported.

According to the website for Humanists UK, he said, there has been a campaign against faith-based schools. The charity, which advocates for the rights of non-religious people, is opposed to state-funded religious schools.

“Do I not have the right to educate my children in accordance with the values that I hold dear?” asked Mirvis.

“Those Humanists who campaign against the existence of faith schools are in effect campaigning against my freedom to raise my children in accordance with the tenets of my faith,” he added.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said Mirvis’ reaction was unfair, the Jewish News reported. He said the organization has worked with numerous faith groups in the past to ensure “liberal social values.” He expressed a desire to have a similar dialogue with the rabbi.

“We are ready to engage likewise with the Rabbi Mirvis at any time to explore what we share and how we can work together towards any shared goals and in the cause of greater mutual understanding,” said Copson.

According to The Jewish Chronicle, Mirvis also criticized the National Secular Society’s remarks on circumcision. In the past, the group has petitioned to end non-consensual religious surgery, claiming it is genital mutilation forced upon infants.

Mirvis said circumcision is an “essential part” of the Jewish faith and a sign of God’s covenant with his people. “An attack against our right to perform circumcision is an attack against a most fundamental element of our belief,” he added.

He was particularly critical of the organization’s Chief Executive Stephen Evans, who claimed that religious liberty movements were often a demand for “the state to turn a blind eye to the violation of other’s rights.” Evans’ comment was in regards to circumcision.

"Religious practices aren’t beyond reproach and religious groups shouldn’t be given a free pass to carry out harmful practices,” Evans later added, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

“Secularists seek to ensure that the right to religious freedom is always balanced against other considerations, including the protection of children.”

According to the Jewish News, Mirvis respectfully encouraged the group to pursue their convictions, but not to obstruct other pursuits of faith. He said an organization should be defined by “what they live for” instead of identifying themselves by their opposition to other belief systems.

“If it is freedom you seek, please do not campaign against our freedom to practice our faith. If you are calling for tolerance, please do not stoop to intolerance of faith communities and religious practice,” he said.

"If you wish to prevent religion from imposing its values on our society, please don’t do just that, by seeking to impose Humanism on our society.”

After Chaput warning, bishops weigh in on Fr. James Martin

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 20, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- After the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution regarding the message Fr. James Martin, SJ, other bishops have weighed in on Martin’s message regarding homosexuality and Catholicism, as Martin and the archbishop have continued to exchange views on the matter.

“Father Martin’s public messages create confusion among the faithful and disrupt the unity of the Church by promoting a false sense that immoral sexual behavior is acceptable under God’s law,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, wrote Sept. 19.

“People with same-sex attraction are indeed created and loved by God and are welcome in the Catholic Church. But the Church’s mission to these brothers and sisters is the same as to all her faithful: to guide, encourage, and support each of us in the Christian struggle for virtue, sanctification, and purity,” the bishop added.

Paprocki’s statement came in response to a Sept. 19 column from Archbishop Charles Chaput, that urged caution about “a pattern of ambiguity” in the writing and teaching of Martin.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

“Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput wrote.

“Archbishop Chaput has provided a helpful caution to Catholics about Father James Martin. On the one hand, Father Martin correctly expresses God’s love for all people, while on the other, he either encourages or fails to correct behavior that separates a person from that very love. This is deeply scandalous in the sense of leading people to believe that wrongful behavior is not sinful,” Paprocki’s statement said.

“This matter is not one of opinion, it is our Lord’s own teaching, as we hear in Luke’s Gospel: ‘Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,’” the bishop added.

Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville also weighed in Chaput’s column.

On Twiter, Stika praised Chaput’s “column on the theological and moral errors of Fr Martin. He praises his outreach but challenges his moral and theological thoughts. He also states clearly that this is a great error. I would add the pain it causes by setting people for pain as morally it can never be accepted by the Church. The Archbishop also adds that the vicious attacks on Father is wrong and sinful. It is one thing to disagree but another to be vicious and hide behind a handle.”
 

Martin himself responded to Chaput’s column in an op-ed at CatholicPhilly, the news portal of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“I think my main response to his column is that it’s difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things about church teaching, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching on matters of sexual morality (or anything, for that matter).”

“One of the reasons that I don’t focus on same-sex relations and same-sex marriage, which I know are both impermissible (and immoral) under church teaching, is that LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church,” Martin wrote.

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest added.

“I remain grateful for the Archbishop’s asking people not to engage in ‘ad hominem’ attacks, and I appreciate the careful tone of his letter and have always appreciated his kind communications with me,” Martin concluded.

Chaput responded Martin’s column.

“I appreciate Father Martin’s typically gracious comments, which are consistent with the man,” Chaput wrote.

“They do not, however, change the need for my column. I’m sure Father Martin would agree that ‘official’ Church teaching (as opposed to some alternative, imagined, unofficial system of belief and practice) is simply what the Church believes based on the Word of God and centuries of experience with the human condition.”

“Moreover, the point is not to ‘not challenge’ what the Church believes about human sexuality, but to preach and teach it with confidence, joy, and zeal. Biblical truth liberates; it is never a cause for embarrassment,” Chaput added.

The archbishop noted that he and Martin agree that “persons with same-sex attraction are children of God and well loved by him. Thus they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The Church must earnestly seek to do that while remaining true to her convictions.”

“But it is clearly not true that the ‘only thing’ Catholics with same-sex attraction hear from their Church is a message of rejection. Or if it is, perhaps the responsibility can lie as much with the listener as it does with the Church. We each have the freedom to choose. Listening, like teaching, is an act of the will.”

 

Novena of thanksgiving to precede Newman's canonization

Birmingham, England, Sep 20, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Oratories of England are organizing a novena next month leading up to the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman, in thanksgiving for his life and holiness and asking his intercession.

“This is a time of special grace for us to join together and form links in a great chain of prayer, where we call upon the soon-to-be-Saint to crown our prayers with his intercession in heaven,” Newman Canonisation said on its website.

“We encourage you to form links in that chain by joining in our Novena with Newman.”

The Oct. 4-12 novena will precede Newman's Oct. 13 canonization.

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, priest, and cardinal. Originally an Anglican priest, he converted to the Catholic Church in 1845. He was ordained a priest in 1847, and was made a cardinal in 1879.

His works are considered among the most important contributions to the thought of the Church in recent centuries. Among his writings are The Idea of a University, Loss and Gain, and a Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.

He founded in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri; the confederation now has three houses in the country, at Birmingham, London, and Oxford.

The novena highlights each day an aspect of Newman's character: an example of humility, child of Mary, priest of God's altar, man of prayer, guardian of conscience, counsellor of converts, educator of the laity, servant of the Church, and model of friendship.

Each day of the novena includes an intention, an extract from his writings, a decade of the rosary, and this prayer: “O God our heavenly Father, we offer you heartfelt thanks for the life and holiness of John Henry Newman. In him you give us an inspiring example of priest and teacher, heroic and humble in his labour for the salvation of souls and the pursuit of holiness. Through his intercession we ask you to lead us by the kindly light of the Holy Spirit, and so grant us peace and joy, in the one fold of the Redeemer. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Father Ignatius Harrison, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, said that “Newman's lifelong success in bringing others to Christ shows us that the apostolate of Christian friendship achieves much more by attracting people to the Lord than by aggressive polemic. Newman's long and incremental spiritual pilgrimage shows us that God leads us to Himself step by step, in ways that He customises to our individual needs, and in His own good time.”

Newman was beatified in Birmingham by Benedict XVI in 2010. At the Mass of beatification, Benedict said that Newman’s “insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.”

The first miracle attributed to Newman’s intercession involved the complete and inexplicable healing of a deacon from a disabling spinal condition.

His second miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman. The woman prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Newman at the time of a life-threatening diagnosis, and her doctors have been unable to explain how or why she was able to suddenly recover.

Scottish Church says Catholics schools don't cause violence

Edinburgh, Scotland, Sep 19, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said Wednesday the suggestion that Catholic schools in the country are a cause for bigotry is “staggeringly intolerant.”

“Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools,” Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote in an op-ed Sept. 18.

“This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society,” he added.

Kearney’s comments came in response to a Sept. 16 column in The Scotsman, a leading newspaper in Scotland. The column, penned by Tom Woods, a former deputy chief constable in Edinburgh’s regional police force, argued that “religiously segregated education” is the source of sectarian demonstrations and violence in the country.

“I have no doubt that the provision for separate Roman Catholic education as enshrined by The Education (Scotland) Act 1918, was a good idea 100 years ago, but is it acceptable that in the 21st century, we emphasise differences by separating five-year-old children based on their parents’ religion?” Woods asked.

“As Scotland moves forward with equality as our watchword, our century-old practice of segregated education is contradictory to say the least,” he wrote, adding that “if we really want to dig out the roots of sectarianism, we must do what’s difficult, and have the courage to tackle the historical anomaly of religious segregation in our schools.”

Kearney wrote that “there is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up” Woods’ claims.

“To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd. Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.”

The disagreement emerged after several political marches and demonstrations have turned violent in Scotland in recent weeks, with clashes between Republican and Loyalist groups leading to a ban on some political marches in the city of Glasgow.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Kearney said that schools are not to blame for the strife, which he attributed partially to anti-Catholicism.

“Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.”

 

UK court clears 80-year-old accused of ‘mercy killing’ her husband 

London, England, Sep 19, 2019 / 06:39 pm (CNA).- Family members of an 80-year-old woman in England are advocating for legalized assisted suicide after the woman was found not guilty by a U.K. court in an apparent “mercy killing” of her husband.

Mavis Eccleston, 80, was accused of killing her husband Dennis, 81, with a lethal dose of prescription medicine.

Prosecutors claimed that Mavis had done so without Dennis’ knowledge or permission.

But, according to the BBC, Mavis told jurors at the Stafford Crown Court that she and her husband had both intended to take their lives with the medication, and that they had decided to do so after Dennis’ diagnosis of terminal cancer.

The couple was found in their apartment by family members on Feb. 19, 2018, after they had taken the drugs. The couple was rushed to the hospital and given an antidote to the medication. Mavis survived; Dennis did not.

After the hearing, Joy Munns, a daughter of Dennis and Mavis, called for the legalization of assisted suicide “so that dying people aren't forced to suffer, make plans in secret or ask loved ones to risk prosecution by helping them,” the BBC reported.

Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal under U.K. law. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, euthanasia could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while physician-assisted suicide carries with it a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

In 2015 the U.K. parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis, by a vote of 330 to 118.

The U.K.’s Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court in 2017 by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

Some disability groups in the U.K. and throughout the world have argued against legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying that such legislation would put vulnerable populations such as the elderly, physically disabled and mentally ill at risk for coercion.

The Catholic Church teaches that assisted suicide and euthanasia are a violation of the dignity of all human life, and therefore morally impermissible.

“Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded,” it adds.

The Catechism similarly states that suicide or the cooperation in suicide is morally unacceptable, though it notes that: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

In the recent U.K. hearing, Mavis told jurors that her husband wanted to end his life after receiving a terminal diagnosis of bowel cancer. He had stopped treatment except for pain management medication, and he had reportedly talked about going to Switzerland to take advantage of legal assisted suicide in the country.

The couple decided to end their lives together with a lethal dose of medication, and reportedly wrote a note to their family explaining their decision.

According to the BBC, Mavis said she handed the medicine to her husband before taking it herself, and that Dennis "knew full well" what he was doing as he gave himself the medicine.

Mavis said after she took the medicine herself, she kissed her husband and covered him before lying down, and remembers nothing else until she woke up in the hospital.

One of the couple’s children said outside of the courthouse that while they were “grateful and relieved” for the court’s ruling of not guilty, they said that if there “had been an assisted dying law here in the UK our dad would have been able to have the choice to end his suffering, with medical support, and with his loved ones around him.”

The case is similar to a 2017 case in which an English chemist was cleared after administering lethal drugs to his 85-year-old father, who had reportedly wanted to die. A judge at the time ruled that the chemist’s actions “were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”