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Several states set to consider pro-life, pro-abortion bills

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- Several state legislatures are considering measures in support of and against abortion. 

 

The South Carolina senate this week is considering a bill that would ban elective abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy. 

 

Although Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has indicated he would sign the “heartbeat” bill if it reached his desk, it would likely face legal challenges from pro-choice groups should it become law. 

 

As reported by SCNOW, abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy accounted for around 55% of the overall number of abortions in South Carolina, according to 2019 state data.

 

Florida lawmakers also recently introduced a version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the state’s house and senate. The bill would prohibit elective abortions after 20 weeks “probable gestational age,” the point at which some data suggests an unborn child can feel pain.

 

State Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), who introduced the senate version of the bill, said it was intended as a defense of unborn human life.

 

“We have an obligation to be the voice of the unborn, who are too often not valued as individuals with the right to chart their own life,” Rodriguez stated.

 

“It is vital that the state of Florida takes action to protect these innocent lives,” she added. 

 

On Tuesday, the Montana state house approved four pro-life bills that Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has pledged to sign, all in a 67-33 party-line vote. The measures include a “Pain-Capable” bill, protections for babies born alive during botched abortions, requirements that a mother see an ultrasound of her child before having an abortion, and restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs.

 

Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Mexico began debate this week on repealing an abortion ban that pre-existed Roe v. Wade. 

 

The state had passed a law in 1969 that prohibited abortion in most circumstances, but the law was rendered moot in 1973 when Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling struck down state abortion bans nationwide. If Roe were to be overturned by the court, the legality of abortion would return to the states and New Mexico’s ban would again take effect.

 

The American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico supports the repeal of the 1969 abortion ban, and calls it “unconstitutional” and “outdated.” 

 

Elisa Martinez, a spokesperson for New Mexico Alliance for Life, told KOB-TV that the group and pro-life legislators are together pushing for the criminalization of abortion to be removed from the 1969 law, but that it should be “replaced with protections for women, for unborn children and for medical professionals.” 

 

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe led a webcast rosary during the debate over the proposed legislation. 

 

 

SB10 (Repeal Abortion Ban) will be heard
today at 2pm in the Senate Health & Public Affairs
Committee. You can watch at https://t.co/X3v7OrUTkL and click on
"Webcast." Please call your legislators and join us in
praying the rosary at 2pm. pic.twitter.com/sSiRtsU5Cr

— Archdiocese Santa Fe (@ASFOfficial) January 25, 2021  

 

Cardinal says Italy is seeing a surge of ‘new poor’ amid the pandemic

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2021 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- An Italian cardinal said Tuesday the country is seeing a surge of “new poor” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and warned that the situation is putting many at risk of becoming victims of usury.



“The fracture of the new forms of poverty is becoming more and more pressing,” Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti said in a video press conference Jan. 26.



The president of the Italian bishops’ conference said “the socio-economic situation in which our country finds itself is a source of growing concern: it is clear that a series of problems of a structural nature that have been known for a long time, and have been underestimated for a long time, must be addressed in an indelible way.”



Speaking at the start of the winter working session of the conference, the cardinal highlighted the “fractures” in society, which the coronavirus pandemic has transformed from “isolated to associated.”



The gift of reconciliation, he said, commits us “as Christians and citizens, to a response of communion and co-responsibility.”



Bassetti noted that the John Paul II National Anti-Usury Council has identified that in Italy, 3 million households, including families and family businesses -- about 7.5 million individuals -- are insolvent, and that 350,000 families are at risk of usury.



Bassetti also said that the Catholic charity Caritas has seen an increase in the number of people who turn to them for material assistance, and that it found the number of “new poor” to have increased from 31% to 45% in the summer of 2020 compared with 2019.



Experts have warned that criminal organizations are taking advantage of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.



One way these groups are benefiting is by taking over bankrupted businesses. Mafia organizations offer usurious loans to desperate owners, who, when they cannot repay, get forced into being front men for a Mafia-controlled business laundering dirty money.



In his speech, the cardinal called for action at the governmental level to quickly address the country’s financial situation, before the problems get worse.



“It is clear that the generous solidarity of many must be accompanied by the political will to go beyond the logic of emergency measures and temporary relief to develop a strategy that is truly systematic, also in order to make the best use of the incoming resources,” he stated.


“It is necessary to design new sustainable and innovative tools and solutions from a social point of view and to implement actions that are close to situations of economic and financial fragility,” he said, “through which to intercept those in difficulty, listen to them and help them make the right choices at the first signs of alarm without waiting inert for the worsening of the situation.”



Bassetti also encouraged action through local institutions, including parishes and anti-usury foundations, “so that no one is left alone in the face of the psychological, economic and spiritual upheaval that all this causes and to prevent criminal organizations from getting close.”



Members of Congress push for end to the federal death penalty

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- Dozens of members of Congress are urging the Attorney General-designate to stop use of the federal death penalty.



In a letter to Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland on Tuesday, 45 members of the House—led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Adriano Espillat (D-N.Y.)—asked Garland to work with Congress on legislation to end the federal death penalty, once he is confirmed.

 

In addition, they asked Garland to take specific steps to halt or end use of the death penalty nationwide, including by revoking the Trump administration’s 2019 resumption of federal executions.



“The death penalty is a stain on the United States’ commitment to advancing justice and human rights,” the letter signed by 45 members stated. “We ask that upon confirmation you partner with Congress to enact legislation to end the federal death penalty and resentence those currently on federal death row,” the members stated.

 

In 2019, Attorney General William Barr—a Catholic—announced a resumption of federal executions after a nearly two-decade moratorium.

 

Beginning in July, a total of 13 federal death row inmates were executed by the end of the Trump administration on Jan. 20. In December and January alone, five of the inmates were executed.

 

The U.S. bishops’ conference condemned the executions, and in a Jan. 11 statement asked Congress and the Biden administration to stop federal executions and abolish the federal death penalty.

 

In one of the cases, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark sent a letter to President Trump asking for clemency for Dustin Honken. Tobin noted that, while previously Archbishop of Indianapolis, he visited Honken at Terre Haute federal prison several times a year. Honken was executed in July.

 

The next chair of the USCCB's doctrine committee, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, called the death penalty part of the "throwaway culture" in a Jan. 8 online panel.

 

While campaigning for president, Biden promised to end the federal death penalty. As a senator, however, he sponsored a 1994 criminal justice bill that expanded the number of federal offenses eligible for the death penalty.

 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Biden was “opposed” to the federal death penalty, but offered no details on a possible stoppage of its use.

 

Among the members’ requests of Garland on Tuesday are that he “[w]ithdraw authorization for all pending death penalty trial cases” and stop seeking the death penalty in any federal cases.

 

In addition, the members are asking that “the federal Bureau of Prisons dismantle the federal death chamber at Terre Haute prison in Indiana.”

 

"As the Trump Administration has undertaken an appalling rush to execute a historic number of Americans this year, it is incumbent upon the Biden Administration to reverse course and work to make America a more just society," the letter stated.

 

Rep. Espillat is a Dominican-American and Catholic. He introduced legislation, H.R. 97, on Jan. 4 to abolish the death penalty under federal law.

 

Pressley, meanwhile, introduced the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Jan. 11, to end federal use of the death penalty and provide for the re-sentencing of federal inmates currently on death row.

Canadian student journalist fired for Catholic views charges discrimination

Toronto, Canada, Jan 26, 2021 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic student who said his university’s newspaper wrongly fired him for his critical views of homosexuality and transgenderism has filed a claim in a Canadian human rights tribunal, saying he was wrongly discriminated against.
 
Jonathan Bradley, a 21-year-old fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto, was cut from The Eyeopener in June 2020 after a former student posted to Twitter a three-year-old private discussion on religion, homosexuality, and transgender people in the military.

The Eyeopener is an independent student newspaper, owned and operated by a non-profit company itself operated by the students of Ryerson University. The university has about 44,000 undergraduates, and most of its students pay a levy to cover the newspaper’s operation and costs.

Bradley’s lawyer Carol Crosson said the case’s outcome could affect all employees at risk of employer action for social media posts. Canadian law treats volunteers the same as employees. She voiced hope that the legal authorities will rule against employers that punish individuals for their comments both in and outside of the workplace, Canadian Catholic News reports.
 
“If we in society are punished for conversation between individuals in our workplace, that’s a slippery slope that we dare not approach,” Crosson said. “The right to free speech in society, and to disseminate our beliefs, is crucial. It’s crucial for a functioning democracy. Should it be that individuals are punished for their conversations, that really goes against the foundational freedoms that we have in society. It puts a chill on speech, even past speech.”

Crosson voiced hope that the legal authorities would not “agree with the punishment of individuals who are having conversations outside their workplace.”
 
Bradley has filed a legal claim with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal seeking $20,000 in general damages, reinstatement as a contributing writer, and a mandate for the paper to “develop and implement non-discriminatory policies and procedures,” Canadian Catholic News reports.
 
The Eyeopener denied Bradley’s charges of discrimination.
 
“We strongly refute the applicant’s allegations of discrimination. Nonetheless, we will honor the (human rights tribunal) processes at this time and not comment further,” the newspaper said in a statement.
Bradley had previously drawn a rebuke from an Eyeopener editor after he criticized diversity, inclusion, and equity offices and events at universities, including a Ryerson University event, in a March 2, 2020 opinion piece at another outlet, the conservative news and commentary outlet Post Millennial
 
On June 3 of last year a former classmate of Bradley, who also objected to the opinion piece, posted to Twitter screenshots of private messages with Bradley from 2017. In that discussion, the classmate objected to Bradley’s views on homosexuality and transgenderism and asked him to delete his public Twitter post.
 
The classmate published the exchange and tagged the newspaper and Bradley on Twitter. The classmate said Bradley was a “bigot” who has “tweeted blatantly homophobic and transphobic things.”
 
“In 2017, he point blank said that homosexuality is a sin. I called him out publicly and messaged him privately and this was what happened. You need to do better!” the classmate told the Eyeopener on Twitter.
 
Screenshots of the 2017 private exchange show Bradley’s responses in a discussion that included religion, sexual ethics, and free speech.
 
“I don’t see how my comments are homophobic or transphobic, as that is what the Bible teaches,” said Bradley, who said he has family members in the LGBT community.  “I hate that people freak out when someone says something that the Bible made clear. I want people to remember that they can be forgiven for any sin, no matter how serious, as long as they repent. Do you get what I’m saying?”
 
His correspondent said it was “homophobic” to publicize his belief, adding, “the world we live in is secular, especially living in Canada, and that needs to be respected. You can worship God and believe being LGBTQ+ is a sin all you want, just don’t publicly say it.”
 
“We’ve come to the point where we think we have to accept everything,” Bradley replied. “Freedom of speech is being suppressed, as different opinions are shut down… I was expressing my opinion that’s tied up with my religion. People are afraid to express their views for being told that they are ‘offensive.’ We’re heading towards a dictatorship because people can’t express the religion of the majority of the population without being told it’s wrong.
 
When the discussion was re-posted publicly in June 2020, Bradley commented on Twitter:

“Was this a gotcha moment or arising out of extreme boredom?” he asked. “If you read my messages correctly, you would see I’m quoting what the Bible says. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, including the Bible.”
 
On June 9 Catherine Abes, editor-in-chief of Eyeopener, sent Bradley an email saying the contributing journalist was fired, the Canadian news site True North News reports.

She cited “screenshots of a conversation in which you defended the notion that homosexuality as well as being transgender is considered a sin.”
 
“I see that you have tweeted this sentiment in the past and also defended it in the present day,” she said.
 
Abes said the publication has a responsibility to ensure that its community, including sources, contributors, readers, and editors, “feel safe and comfortable in working with The Eyeopener and coming into our space.”
 
“I fear that since you’ve made your opinion public, members of our community, especially queer, trans and non-binary folks, would no longer feel safe if you are associated with the publication,” she said in a June 9 email.
 
“It’s for these reasons that I’ve come to the decision that you can no longer contribute to The Eyeopener.”
 
Bradley’s use of the term “homosexuality” has also drawn some comment. In common usage, it can describe sexual orientation, sexual acts, or both.
 
Moral theologian Doris Kieser of St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta told Canadian Catholic News that in Catholic thought “homosexual behaviors are considered sinful but the orientation itself is not.”
 
Crosson said courts or tribunals do not determine the accuracy or completeness of Bradley’s understanding of the Catholic faith. Crosson said Bradley needs to demonstrate “sincerity of belief.”
 
“The test for sincerity of belief from the Supreme Court (of Canada) is a very wide test that grants deference to the adherent,” she said. “There’s an assumption that sincerity of belief is valid. I don’t foresee that as being a problem in his claim.”
 
In a similar controversy Jack Denton, a Florida State University student was removed from his role as student senate president after comments in a private chat group for Catholic students which were subsequently circulated to a member of the senate. The comments expressed concerns that policy positions of certain groups, such as the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com, contradicted Church teaching on abortion, marriage, sexuality, and policing. He cautioned students to be aware of those positions before they donated to the groups.
 
He was subsequently accused of transphobia and racism by fellow students and, after a first vote of no-confidence failed, he was removed in another vote of the student senate in June 2020.
 
Denton filed suit against the student senate’s decision in both the university court and in federal court.

A federal court ruled that Denton’s claim of a violation of his free speech rights had a likelihood of success, and ordered the university to pay Denton for six hours of work a week, for the remainder of what would have been his term as student senate president. The court did not order his reinstatement.

The student court reinstated him in October, agreeing the action was unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements in the Catholic Student Union group chat, expressing his religious beliefs, actions protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
 
Denton’s federal case is ongoing. University officials have not disputed the facts of the case, but have challenged whether they are legally liable.

Pope Francis attends Vatican funeral of his personal physician

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Tuesday afternoon attended the Vatican funeral of his personal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, who died earlier this month.

Soccorsi, 78, had been receiving treatment for cancer at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. He died from complications related to the coronavirus Jan. 9.

Pope Francis had named Soccorsi, an expert in hepatology, the digestive system, and immunology, his personal physician in August 2015.

The funeral Mass for the doctor took place in the Mary Queen of the Family Chapel, located inside the Governorate building at the Vatican. The Mass was said by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State.



Soccorsi trained in medicine and surgery at Rome’s La Sapienza University. In addition to being the papal doctor, he did consulting for the health and hygiene office of the Vatican City State and was part of the council of medical experts at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

As Francis’ personal physician, Soccorsi traveled with the pope on his international trips. During the papal visit to Fatima, Portugal in May 2017, Pope Francis laid two bunches of white roses before the statue of the Virgin Mary for Soccorsi’s daughter, who was critically ill, and died the following month.

Pro-abortion, pro-LGBT groups applaud confirmation of new Secretary of State

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- Pro-abortion and pro-LGBT groups applauded the Senate’s confirmation of Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken on Tuesday.

 

Blinken, nominated to be the next Secretary of State by President Joe Biden, was confirmed to the position by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, by a vote of 67-22. He served as deputy secretary of state under President Obama, from 2015-2017.

 

In response to Blinken’s confirmation, the groups Planned Parenthood Global and the Human Rights Campaign stated their approval on Tuesday.

 

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Global stated its expectation that Blinken’s State Department would be “supporting SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights] across foreign policy.”

 

The term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” has been used by the United Nations’ human rights office to refer to a variety of issue areas that include abortion, contraception, and gender ideology.

 

“We are ready to work together to advance global health & human rights,” Planned Parenthood Global stated of Blinken.

 

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated that the organization would work with Blinken “in the days, weeks, and years ahead to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world!”

 

The Human Rights Campaign also gave its approval of Blinken’s confirmation on Tuesday.

 

“Antony Blinken will ensure the rights of all LGBTQ people, from every background, are once again a top priority in America’s foreign policy — and that when LGBTQ people abroad are under threat, they can count on the State Department as an ally,” the group stated.

 

During his confirmation hearings last week before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken said he would allow U.S. embassies to fly rainbow “Pride” flags and would appoint a Special Envoy for LGBTI issues at the agency.

 

Planned Parenthood Global said on Tuesday that it anticipates “strong leadership” under Blinken at the State Department, “including undoing the harm of the #GlobalGagRule.” The “Global Gag Rule” is a term used by pro-abortion groups to refer to the Mexico City Policy, which bars foreign NGOs that perform or promote abortions from receiving U.S. family planning funding.

 

Incoming presidents normally repeal or reinstate the policy among their first actions in office. President Biden will reportedly repeal the Mexico City Policy on Thursday in an executive action.

 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor on COVID-19, told board members of the World Health Organization (WHO) last week that the administration would be reversing the policy in the “coming days,” and reiterated the administration’s commitment to upholding “reproductive health” abroad.

 

The Trump administration expanded upon the Mexico City Policy, which normally just applies to family planning funding. The administration extended the policy to include more than $8 billion in global health assistance, requiring partner groups not to promote abortion as a condition of receiving the assistance.

 

The International Planned Parenthood Federation was one of the groups outspoken against the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy in 2017, claiming it could lose $100 million in annual funding for non-abortion services.

 

During his confirmation hearings last week, Blinken also affirmed his “judgement” that that China is committing “genocide” against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province—in agreement with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made the genocide designation on Jan. 19.

 

Cardinal expresses concern about preteens using social media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 26, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- An Italian cardinal expressed concern this week about the use of social media by children, encouraging the Church to do its part to give young people hope for the future amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, spoke about kids and social media use on Jan. 24, after the death of a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, which some have tied to use of the video platform TikTok. 

“You have to pay close attention to kids. At the very least, they can approach certain [social media] programs when they are older -- 14-15 years old -- but at 8-10 years old it is harmful,” Bassetti told journalists after Sunday Mass at the cathedral of the archdiocese of Perugia.

The cardinal was responding to a question about the accidental death of a 10-year-old child in Palermo last week. The child’s father told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that, according to their other daughter, the girl had been playing a TikTok “game” before her death. The “game,” reportedly called the “blackout challenge,” involves restricting oxygen to the brain to induce a high.

“Certainly there is also a responsibility of the media,” Bassetti said, declining to comment on the specific situation of the family in Palermo, which he said he did not know.

He added that with young children, “the sense of imitation is very strong, and if you create a hero figure, or even the sense of competition, we can have tragic results, as has happened.”

The coronavirus pandemic has created “a sad moment and a difficult moment, especially for kids and young people,” he said, “and therefore, we need to be close to them also as a Church. We must do more.”

The girl died in a hospital after being found with her cell phone in the bathroom on Jan. 20 by her five-year-old sister. The child’s phone was taken by police.

After the accident, the Italian Data Protection Authority blocked access to TikTok users whose ages cannot be proven, at least through February 15. TikTok’s terms and conditions state that users must be at least 13 years old.

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the death, which has been widely reported as being caused by the video-making platform.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is cooperating with authorities in the investigation into possible “incitement to suicide.”

The company responded on Jan. 22 that it had not identified any content on its platform which could have induced the child to participate in something such as the “blackout challenge.”

Bassetti also commented on the need for hope during the coronavirus emergency -- and the role young people can have in communicating hope to the elderly and disabled.

“If hope is not brought by young people and we are unable to communicate hope to young people, who should transmit it?” he said.

In his homily at Mass, the cardinal addressed young people specifically, especially “adolescents, who live in an age of transition, of delicate and fundamental personal growth for their life, but who are forced to live it indoors, without being able to establish normal social relationships.”

“There is too much silence about these boys and girls who are inadvertently taking on the heaviest social burden of this pandemic: these young people are giving up their youth, their carefreeness, their energy,” Bassetti said.

He encouraged young people to make sense of their sacrifices, even if mandatory, by making them “a gesture of love for the weakest, the most fragile, the old.”

“You are making a great effort,” he stated, “but have faith in God as the disciples did. Follow Jesus and you will do great things in your life.”

Polish Catholic patient at center of UK court battle dies

CNA Staff, Jan 26, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A Polish Catholic patient at the center of a U.K. court battle died on Tuesday despite last-minute efforts by bishops and government officials to bring him to Poland for treatment. 

The Polish Press Agency reported that family members had confirmed that the middle-aged man, identified only as RS, died on Jan. 26, after a hospital withdrew assisted nutrition and hydration for a final time following a series of legal challenges.

RS, a Polish citizen with strong pro-life views who lived for years in the U.K., was hospitalized on Nov. 6, 2020, following a cardiac arrest during which his brain was deprived of oxygen for at least 45 minutes.

The University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust applied at the end of November to the Court of Protection in London for permission to cease life-support treatment, arguing that RS, who fell into a coma, had little prospect of progressing beyond a minimally conscious state.

A judge ruled on Dec. 15 that life-support treatment “could be lawfully discontinued,” noting that the man’s wife and children supported the step. 

The move was opposed by other family members, including his mother, who lives in Poland. 

The family members raised their objects unsuccessfully at a Court of Appeal hearing on Dec. 23 and applied twice without success to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. 

Christian Concern, a U.K. nonprofit organization that offered support to the family members through its Christian Legal Centre, said in a Jan. 26 statement that RS had been deprived of fluids and nutrition since Jan. 13.

“Following a courageous legal and diplomatic battle fought by members of his family and the Polish government to have RS repatriated to Poland, RS lost his life just as Poland was seeking to enforce a judgment of its courts to have him airlifted to a Polish hospital for further treatment and care,” it said.

“Last night (Jan. 25), the family’s lawyers urgently wrote to the hospital’s lawyers, insisting that nutrition and fluids be reinstated in view of the diplomatic status granted by Poland and the decision of a Polish court. The hospital refused to re-commence life-sustaining treatment in the morning, and reported RS’s death later during the day.”

The organization quoted the patient’s mother as saying: “I am devastated that the British authorities have decided to dehydrate my son to death.” 

“What the British authorities have done to my son is euthanasia by the back door. Depriving him of nutrition and hydration is functionally the same as giving him an injection to end his life, except that the entire process is longer, degrading and inhumane treatment.”

Christian Concern said that family members had recorded videos of RS during a hospital visit and asked Fr. Patrick Pullicino, a neurologist and Catholic priest, to interpret them. He concluded that the videos indicated “a clear emotional response to the presence of family members” and recommended further tests.

But at a hearing on Dec. 30, the hospital said that the patient’s condition had not changed and the judge rejected suggestions that RS should be moved to Poland. 

Government officials had sought to intervene amid a mounting outcry about the case in Poland. Proposals included giving RS a diplomatic passport, removing him from the jurisdiction of U.K. courts. 

There were also legal moves in Warsaw aimed at paving the way for RS to be brought to the country.  

The case also raised alarm among Catholic bioethicists and bishops. 

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford issued a press release and briefing paper on Jan. 12 raising concerns about the moral reasoning of the judges in the case.

David Albert Jones, the center’s director, said that the judgment set “a very worrying precedent.”

“The grave danger of this judgment is that committed Catholics and those who hold a similar view about the human significance of food and drink may be starved and dehydrated to death against their will,” he wrote.

Two days later, Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth, the patient’s local bishop, also described the ruling as “very worrying.”

“My prayers are with the patient, his wife and family, and for all those involved in his care. The decision of the court to allow for the withdrawal of hydration and nutrition is very worrying. That it is deemed to be in the best interests of the patient more so,” he said in a Jan. 14 statement

“Providing food and water to very sick patients -- even if by artificial means -- is a basic level of care. This is care that we must strive to give whenever possible.”

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, wrote to his English counterpart Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Jan. 19, asking him “to undertake steps towards saving the life of our compatriot.”

In his letter, Gądecki said that public opinion in Poland had been “shaken” by the case.

“In fact, he was sentenced to death by starvation,” the archbishop said.

English Catholic bishops raised the Polish Church leader’s concerns with Britain’s Health Secretary the following day.

“The Catholic Church continues to oppose the definition of assisted nutrition and hydration as medical treatment which has now become the basis of medical and legal decisions to withdraw assisted nutrition and hydration from patients,” wrote the bishops in their Jan. 20 letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“Providing food and water to very sick patients, even by assisted means, is a basic level of care. This care must be given whenever possible unless it is medically indicated as being overly burdensome or failing to attain its purpose.” 

The letter was signed by Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster with responsibility for life issues at the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, and Bishop O’Toole.

The bishops told Hancock: “The recent court cases concerning patient Mr. RS in the care of the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has shown the level of controversy around this definition as judges have been called to make decisions in the ‘best interests’ of the patient.” 

“We note that Mr. RS had not refused food and fluids nor had he expressed any view about not wanting food and fluids in these circumstances and that there was no evidence that he viewed assisted nutrition and hydration as medical treatment.” 

The bishops noted that Gądecki had appealed to Nichols to intervene in the case.

“On his behalf, we write to express our opposition to this definition of medical treatment and to convey the offer of the Polish authorities to assist in the transfer of Mr. RS to Poland for his future care,” Sherrington and O’Toole wrote.

“We accept the legal process concerning Mr. RS has been completed. However, we pray for agreement within the family about the treatment and care to be provided and express the desire of the archbishop that Mr. RS be transferred and cared for in Poland.”

Writing on his Twitter account on Tuesday, Archbishop Gądecki lamented the death of RS.

“I express my deep sorrow over the death of a Polish man in Plymouth. I pray for heaven for him and for comfort for his family. Let us boldly say ‘NO’ to the barbaric civilization of death,” he said.

Bishop O’Toole said in a Jan. 26 statement: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mr. RS. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, children, mother, sisters, and niece and with all those who loved and cared for him.” 

“Local clergy will continue to offer pastoral support to the family living in Plymouth, as they have done throughout his time in hospital.” 

A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of Mr. RS and offer sincere condolences to all of his family both here and in Poland.”

“We wish to assure them of our prayers for the repose of Mr. RS’s soul, and in doing so we will be joined by the Catholic community here, whose hearts have been touched by this tragic case.”

“We pray that what happened here will not be repeated in the future, and hope that all those requiring Clinically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration (CANH) will be treated with proper human dignity. May he rest in peace.”

This article has been updated to include English and Welsh bishops' comments on the death of RS.

Why birth rates fell more sharply during COVID

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Recently-published data suggest that the birth rate in the U.S. declined considerably from 2019 to 2020, refuting hopes of a “baby boom” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

According to NBCLX, real-time data from several states showed marked declines in their birthrates in 2020. In Dec., 2020, Florida’s birthrates declined 8% from the previous year, Ohio’s by 7%, and Arizona’s by 5%. Several major hospital systems also reported similar drops in birthrates from Dec., 2019 to Dec., 2020.

 

The real-time 2020 data from states follows a steady decline in the overall U.S. birth rate that reached its lowest recorded level in 2019. According to CDC data published in May, 2020, only 58.2 births were registered for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44 in 2019. The birth rate has fallen steadily for more than a decade, following a peak before the 2008 economic crisis.

 

While many had wondered if widespread changes to Americans’ lifestyles—such as stay-at-home orders and cancellations of social events—could spur an increase in the birth rate, researchers told CNA that they instead had expected a continued decline during 2020. 

 

Jonathan V. Last, a journalist and author of the 2013 book on America's demographic challenges What To Expect When No One’s Expecting, told CNA that he was “not surprised in the least” to hear the updated state figures. 

 

In the future, Last said that demographers will be curious to discover whether or not the number of births will “rebound” to the pre-pandemic years, or if the number will continue to decline. 

 

“We won’t know the answer to this question for many years,” said Last. “Probably at least a decade. But when a shock of this magnitude happens, the ripples take a long time to work their way out.” 

 

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was similarly unsurprised by the state numbers.

 

Back in Feb., 2020, Stone predicted that not only would there be no spike in births due to the coronavirus, but also that the virus--and ensuing state measures to prevent its spread, such as mandatory lockdowns--would result in a decline. At the time, he said that many people were skeptical of this assessment but he now believes that has “been vindicated.” 

 

“Lockdowns communicate worry and a negative outlook on society, which motivates pessimism about fertility,” Stone told CNA on Tuesday. 

 

Stone said that he does “not see any reason to be optimistic” about birth rates in the United States, but he added that they may stabilize after the pandemic is over. 

 

“If early data on January births shows a decline above 10-15% for that month, that would be a negative surprise,” he said. “Alternatively, if births remain far below trend after October 2021, that would also be very worrying.”

 

Despite this, Stone does not think that people should worry about the pandemic when it comes to deciding whether or not to bring a child into the world.


“It’s always a good idea to have a kid,” he said.  

 

 

Cardinal calls for 3-day ‘Nineveh fast’ for return to peace and stability in Iraq

CNA Staff, Jan 26, 2021 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Chaldean Catholics in Iraq are undertaking a three-day “Nineveh fast” this week to pray for peace and security in their country ahead of Pope Francis’ scheduled visit in March.

Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, issued a statement calling on Catholics to fast and pray on Jan. 25-28.

“Let us repent of our sins, pray for salvation from the COVID-19 pandemic, contemplate the meaning of our existence, assume our responsibilities towards our brothers and sisters and our communities, and express solidarity … with people who have lost their jobs and livelihood, and extend a helping hand to them,” Sako wrote in a statement published online by the Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon.

“Let us pray also for the return of peace, security, and stability to our country and the region after all the wars and conflicts that have exhausted it.” 

The Fast of Nineveh is a practice observed in some Eastern Catholic rites in the days leading up to Lent. The three-day fast recalls the three days that Jonah spent inside of the whale and the repentance of the Ninevites.

In this case, the Chaldean Patriarch has asked Catholics to fast each day until noon, or evening if they are able, and to pray special prayers daily with Mass. 

“Let us pray also for the success of the visit of Pope Francis. Let us listen to his words, as the people of Nineveh heard the words of Jonah, so that we can have a better life,” Sako said.

The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the pope. It is one of the main Christian communities in Iraq, alongside Syriac, Armenian, Assyrian, and Arab Christians.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq on March 5-8. He is expected to visit Baghdad and the Christian communities in the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq. 

The papal visit has been highly anticipated by Catholics in Iraq. After Pope Francis expressed uncertainty in an Italian interview about whether the trip to Iraq would take place as planned, Cardinal Sako published a special prayer, asking Catholics to recite it at each Sunday Mass leading up to the pope’s visit.

On the day after the Vatican released a statement indicating that plans for the papal trip to Iraq were moving forward, two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests in a crowded market in central Baghdad near Tayaran Square on Jan. 21.

The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, which killed at least 32 people and injured more than 100. 

Sako said that the attack caused great concern and sadness in Iraq, noting that “those who were killed were poor people, very poor.”

“Unfortunately these attacks have a political purpose. They represent a message to the government and also to the new American president,” the cardinal said in an interview with Vatican News on Jan. 26.

The suicide bombing in Baghdad took place the day after the U.S. presidential inauguration. There were more U.S. military personnel in Washington for the occasion than current U.S. troop levels in Iraq, where there were 2,500 U.S. service members as of Jan. 15, according to the Department of Defence.

In a telegram expressing the pope’s condolences after the attack, the Vatican Secretary of State wrote that Pope Francis trusted “that all will continue to overcome violence with fraternity, solidarity, and peace.”

Cardinal Sako said that he anticipated that a papal visit to Iraq would bring “comfort and hope.”

“The pope will come to say: ‘enough, enough wars, enough violence, seek peace and fraternity and the protection of human dignity,’” he said.

“It is a very important event for us Christians, but everyone in Iraq is waiting for this visit, including Muslims, other religious groups, and government leaders,” he add.

The cardinal explained that Catholics in Iraq were undertaking the Nineveh fast not only for Iraq, noting that there have been relatively few coronavirus cases recorded in Iraq compared to other parts of the world.

“Therefore, we must pray and ask for God’s help to be saved and to end this pandemic for the whole world,” he said.