Browsing News Entries

Italian Catholic doctors: Assisted suicide is not a dignified death

null / Video_Creative / Shutterstock.

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2022 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

As the Italian parliament debates whether to pass a bill to decriminalize assisted suicide, an association of Catholic doctors has emphasized that a dignified death “cannot take shortcuts.”

“A dignified death is to be ensured to all: this is an essential principle of care and this action, which has an objective value, cannot take shortcuts compared to practices of support and accompaniment of the sick in the last stages of his life,” Filippo M. Boscia, president of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors, wrote in a Jan. 18 statement.

“We firmly believe that assisted suicide and euthanasia cannot be included among the professional and deontological duties of physicians,” he said.

The statement from Catholic physicians comes as lawmakers prepare to vote in February on a bill to decriminalize assisted suicide in Italy. Debate on the legislation started in mid-December in the Chamber of Deputies.

Both assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in Italy, where the criminal law says, “anyone who causes the death of a man, with his consent, is punished with imprisonment from six to fifteen years.”

Last week, 57 associations, mostly based in Italy, jointly signed their own statement criticizing an article in a Jesuit journal supporting the bill.

The article, which argued that the bill could be an “embankment in the face of a possible more serious damage,” was published in La Civiltà Cattolica, which is produced by the Jesuits in Rome and approved before publication by the Vatican Secretariat of State.  

In the AMCI statement, Boscia referenced a “heated debate” on end of life and other ethical and legislative problems, but emphasized that “physicians cannot be assigned the task of causing or provoking death.”

“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, the doctor will always have the duty to obey his professional conscience,” he said.

There has been a public push to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in Italy in recent years, with several high-profile challenges to the law. In 2021, a petition to hold a referendum on the subject received over 1.2 million signatures. It was submitted to Italy’s supreme court in October and awaits a decision. 

The Association of Italian Catholic Doctors warned in its statement that the decriminalization of actions related to euthanasia in the Italian legal system could undermine democracy and “alter the principles of solidarity and justice” reserved for society’s weakest.

“We insist that the state should never deny forms of assistance and protection to the chronically ill, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, etc.,” it said.

“Those who practice the difficult art of medicine cannot choose between letting people live or letting people die…” it continued. “And in this the doctor has no alternative: the only option he can exercise is, always and in any case, for life and in favor of life, because his conscience requires it and his profession obliges him to do so.”

AMCI president Boscia added that “all Catholic doctors represent the absolute incompatibility between medical action and killing…”

He said that the association’s doctors want to reiterate the urgent need to have better access to palliative care and pain management for the terminally ill.

“Catholic doctors believe that the whole issue of the end of life with all its human, personal and family, ethical and legal, political and legislative aspects," he stated, "certainly represents at the present time an opportunity for dialogue, confrontation, improvement of care towards eubiosia (the opposite of euthanasia), that is, good life…”

Scholarships, loan relief for abortion workers in California budget proposal

The California capitol. / Willem van Bergen (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Sacramento, Calif., Jan 19, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

California health care workers who commit to providing abortions could see their student loans repaid and prospective abortion industry workers could receive scholarships, if lawmakers retain a $20 million proposal in the state’s new draft budget.

The proposal drew criticism from pro-life advocates who worry it creates terrible incentives.

Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, called the proposal “a gross overreach of what most Californians would want our tax dollars to go to.”

“There aren’t a lot of providers who like to do abortions. Abortion is not something that medical students are excited to be a part of. We’ve known that,” she told CNA Jan. 18. “The reason why abortion is not provided in certain areas has nothing to do with laws or regulations. There’s no doctor in the area who wants to perform abortions. They don’t want to do it.”

The California budget summary section for Health and Human Services is 32 pages, with a section dedicated to “reproductive health.” Pro-abortion rights advocates consider abortion to be reproductive health, and abortion is addressed in this section.

“To protect the right to safe and accessible reproductive health care services, the Administration will undertake a number of actions to maintain and improve availability of these essential services,” the summary says, adding, “The Administration will work with the Legislature to reduce barriers to accessing abortion and abortion related services through managed care plans.”

The summary says $20 million in grant funding would go to the general fund of the Department of Health Care Access and Information “to provide scholarships and loan repayments to a variety of health care provider types that commit to providing reproductive health care services.” The goal of this funding is “to support California’s clinical infrastructure of reproductive health care services.”

Domingo was very critical of this proposal.

“This is appalling,” she said. “It's a big deal to pay off medical student loans.”

Students graduate medical school with what seems to be “crippling debt.” For Domingo, incentivizing them to go into the abortion industry is “tantamount to coercion from the state.”

“It’s wonderful to be helping medical students and health care professionals as they go through schools. Let’s figure out a way to do that that’s not handicapping anyone who doesn’t want to do abortion,” she said.

According to Domingo, this section of the California budget is directly related to the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council. In December 2020, the council released a 14-page report on policy proposals to respond to possible changes if the U.S. Supreme Court revisits Roe v. Wade and other precedents that mandate permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The council is made up of some 40 California organizations. Its members include seven Planned Parenthood affiliates, three regional ACLU affiliates, and the Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom has pledged to make California a “sanctuary” for abortion access, while State Sen. President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, wrote a letter introducing the council’s December report and voicing gratitude for a partnership with the council.

The council advocated that lawmakers should “improve the education pipeline by creating a California Reproductive Scholarship Corps” for those who train as physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physician assistants, and others, if they are “dedicated to providing abortion care in underserved areas in California.” These specified medical professionals, if properly licensed, may all perform abortions under state law.

According to the abortion council, lawmakers should also “optimize loan repayment to increase retention and recruitment of clinicians who provide abortion by allocating funds for health care workforce programs.”

Domingo said that these proposals are part of the initial budget, not necessarily the final budget scheduled for May.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s our job now to advocate that it not include those things, to raise awareness and say ‘This is not a good use of California tax dollars. This is not what Californians want to be paying for’,” she said. “I’m sure many adjustments will be done along the way.”

While the state legislature has a Democratic supermajority and Newsom has made strong commitments to expanded abortion access, Domingo said there are many moderates and others in the legislature “who might look at some of these things and say it is going way too far.”

“In terms of advocacy, it’s very important to make our voice heard,” she said, encouraging grassroots involvement to voice opposition to the proposal.

Californians also need to know about resources that are “life-affirming for women in need.”

“There are so many things that can be done to help people on the ground,” said Domingo. “We would really like to make California a place where women know that they are supported, that children and families are supported all the time.”

“We want to prove that we don’t need abortion expansion in California,” she said. In her view, California should aspire to be a place that “respects women, welcomes children, and protects families.”

The proposed budget would also remove requirements for follow-up visits and ultrasound for chemical abortions that currently apply under MediCal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income individuals. Backers of abortion have stressed the importance of flexibility in medication abortion given the limits of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week the California Catholic Conference criticized this aspect of the budget and other efforts to expand abortion access.

“The California Catholic Conference is disappointed and is actively advocating against the Governor’s planned $61 million in additional funding for abortion facilities based on the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council report,” the conference said Jan. 14.

Other budget proposals include $20 million in one-time funding for the state’s Department of Health Care Access and Information “to assist reproductive health care facilities in securing their physical and information technology infrastructure and to enhance facility security.” Still another $20 million would back the Covered California state health insurance marketplace’s one-dollar health care premium subsidy due to federal policy limiting abortion coverage.

While Domingo praised efforts to expand health care access, she said that MediCal gives full coverage of abortion and contraception, gender reassignment surgery, and assisted suicide.

“They’re funding all the really good stuff but also the really bad stuff,” she said.

Many in the immigrant community do not want this, according to Domingo.

“We’re in a situation where, particularly immigrant families, are appalled that their children, who now can qualify for MediCal, have access to all kinds of things they would never want their children to access.”

In California’s political context, the drive to expand health care access not only means expanding access to abortion, but also assisted suicide. California lawmakers last year passed a bill to reduce the waiting period for assisted suicide from 15 days to 48 hours and to eliminate a final attestation form, among other changes.

“They’re removing that mental health safeguard for the end-of-life,” Domingo said. She warned that this further reduces efforts to prevent coercion and to give time for additional intervention for those seeking assisted suicide.

Supreme Court hears Boston free speech case involving Christian organization

Boston City Hall / andrewjsan via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2022 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving the city of Boston’s refusal to raise a flag with Christian imagery in front of its City Hall. 

The North Carolina-based organization Camp Constitution applied in June 2017 to raise a flag featuring a Latin cross in front of City Hall. The display of the flag reportedly would have coincided with an event involving speeches by local clergy.

Boston has a long-standing flag program through which private organizations can apply to raise a flag related to their cause on one of three flag poles in front of City Hall. Previous flags have represented causes including Boston Pride. Some flags have included religious imagery, but this seems to be the first application for a flag with an explicitly religious description. 

The city of Boston rejected Camp Constitution’s application, after approving all 284 previous applications in the flag program’s history. 

The city argued that displaying a flag with a Christian symbol would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Camp Constitution sued, arguing the city’s decision violated its free speech.

The case of Shurtleff v. City of Boston considers whether the city of Boston’s flag program is properly considered a public forum for private speech or a reflection of government endorsement of messages promoted by the flags. 

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city in January 2021, arguing the government is entitled to choose the messages it endorses. 

The Supreme Court agreed in September 2021 to hear the case. The court is expected to issue a decision in June.

Afghanistan the most dangerous place to be Christian, advocacy group says

Kabul, Afghanistan. / Mohammad Rahmani via Unsplash

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

Afghanistan has unseated North Korea for the dubious distinction of the most dangerous country in the world for Christians, according to a group that reports on global Christian persecution.

A takeover of the government by the Taliban has made it even harder — now, impossible— to live openly as a Christian, advocacy group Open Doors writes in its annual World Watch List. 

“The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts don’t have any option but to obey them. If a Christian’s new faith is discovered, their family, clan or tribe has to save its honor by disowning the believer, or even killing them. This is widely considered to be justice,” the group writes.

“Alternatively, since leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity, a Christian who has converted from Islam may be forcibly sent to a psychiatric hospital.”

Afghanistan is over 99% Muslim, with the majority being Sunni. There are small groups of Christians, including about 200 Catholics, as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and Baháʼís.

Overall, 360 million Christians worldwide face persecution, according to Open Doors, an increase of 20 million from last year.

The group had cited North Korea as the most “extreme” persecutor of Christians for twenty years prior to this year’s ranking. 

The “top ten” countries with the most Christian persecution this year are Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India. 

North Korea’s level of persecution increased this year, even as its ranking went down, the group reported. The groups says “any North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, brutal torture and death” at the hands of the communist government. 

Nigeria, which ranks number seven on the list, no longer appears on the U.S. State Department’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a watchlist of countries with the most egregious violations of religious freedom. 

Nigeria was listed in 2020, but the country was not included in the 2021 list, released in mid-November. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had been recommending the designation of Nigeria as a CPC since 2009.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a Nov. 18-19 visit to Nigeria to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, but it remains unclear why the State Department removed Nigeria from the watchlist.

Pro-life vs. Pro-choice states: If Roe falls, what would the abortion landscape look like?

Screenshot of CNA graphic showing abortion policy by state. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case which observers believe could present a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 decision which legalized abortion nationwide. 

But even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortions will almost certainly continue in the U.S.— at least in certain states. 

While the nation awaits the court’s ruling— which could come at any time until roughly the end of June— numerous states are taking legislative action to codify abortion rights, while other states are doing the opposite, creating a potential patchwork of abortion laws throughout the country.

What are the trends? Which states are moving in a pro-life direction, and which in a pro-choice direction? Check out the map above and see where your home state falls. 

More detailed information on each state, and links to coverage by CNA and other outlets, is listed below. 

Information is up-to-date as of Jan. 19, 2022. 

Alabama

Alabama has a “trigger law” that would ban almost all abortions if Roe v Wade were to be overturned, as well as a total ban passed in 2019, which is currently blocked in court. 

A group of 23 Republican lawmakers have prefiled a bill (HB 23) that would implement a Texas-style heartbeat abortion ban, enforced by private lawsuits.

Alaska

The Alaska State Supreme Court found a "right to abortion" in 1997. Alaska law requires the "informed consent" of a patient before they have an abortion, meaning that their doctor must discuss with them the physical and emotional risks involved in abortion before they obtain one. Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates in Alaska has discussed the possibility of asking voters in Nov. 2022 to call a constitutional convention, which only happens once every 10 years.

Arizona

Arizona has a ban on abortion that predates Roe v Wade and is currently unenforceable. Arizona also has laws that prohibit abortions done solely because of a nonlethal genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome. The state also prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

Arkansas

Trigger law, 20-week ban

California

Abortion rights enshrined in law since 1969. California has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions on the books, but the law is permanently enjoined by court order, meaning minors in California can seek abortions without their parents’ knowledge or permission. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills Sept. 22 that relate to privacy surrounding abortion. 

Senate Bill 245, introduced in 2022 by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), would put an end to out-of-pocket costs paid by those seeking abortions. The state already requires abortions to be covered by health insurance.

Colorado

No gestational limit- voters rejected a proposed 22-week limit in 2020. 

The Reproductive Health Equity Act is set to be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly in 2022. Its sponsors say the act will ensure every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception; every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of Colorado.

Connecticut

Abortion protected under state law.

Delaware

Abortion protected under state law.

Florida

Lawmakers in Florida have introduced a 15-week abortion ban for the state, which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. 

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List praised the effort and urged the bill’s passage. 

 “We urge the Florida Legislature to swiftly pass and send to Governor DeSantis’s desk this groundbreaking pro-life legislation that would finally end brutal late-term abortions in the Sunshine State,” said Sue Liebel, SBA List State Policy Director, on Jan. 11. 

“Abortions after 15 weeks are gruesome and inhumane for unborn children and increasingly dangerous for the mother with every passing week.”

According to SBA, Florida has the third highest number of late term abortions among states that report them. 

Georgia

Heartbeat ban. Pro-life lawmakers in Georgia are preparing to introduce legislation to prevent the abortion pill from being prescribed through telemedicine and prevent it from being delivered by mail.

Hawaii

Abortion protected under state law.

Idaho

Trigger law; heartbeat law. A conservative policy group in the state has said that passing a Texas-style heartbeat ban is part of their 2022 agenda.

Illinois

Right to abortion is enshrined in state law. The state also recently repealed its requirement that parents be notified about abortions.

Indiana

22-week ban, abortion pill reversal notification law (blocked)

Iowa

Heartbeat ban (unenforceable); State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion."

Kansas

Abortion is allowed under a state Supreme Court ruling; in Aug. 2022, Kansans will vote on an amendment to the state's constitution to exclude a "right to abortion" and reserve the right to regulate abortion in the state to the legislature.

Kentucky

Trigger law, heartbeat bill. Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, has plans to file a bill banning the receipt of abortion pills by mail.

Louisiana

Trigger law, State constitution excludes right to abortion, heartbeat ban

Maine

Abortion protected under state law.

Maryland

Abortion protected under state law since 1992. Montgomery County Del. Ariana Kelly (D), a former executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, has said that she will be introducing legislation to expand abortion access in the state.

Massachusetts

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion." A bill currently in the state's Joint Committee on Public Health would force public universities to provide medication abortion services at student health centers.

Michigan

Abortion advocacy groups in Michigan have launched a ballot initiative to override a state abortion ban— which is currently unenforced— by way of a constitutional amendment. The state’s Catholic Conference said the effort shows the power of the abortion industry in influencing state policy. 

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan are two of the organizations sponsoring the ballot drive. Organizers of the ballot initiative need about 425,000 valid voter signatures to put it before the electorate in November, the AP reports. 

Michigan is one of several states with an abortion law on the books which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. A 1931 Michigan state law makes it a felony for anyone to provide an abortion unless "necessary to preserve the life of such woman." 

“More than anything, women considering an abortion deserve support, love, and compassion. For decades, abortion has been touted as the only option, harmless and easy, yet we know this is a lie. Abortion hurts women,” Rebecca Mastee, Policy Advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Jan. 7.

“Today’s news that some are looking to enshrine abortion in the state constitution is a sad commentary on the outsized and harmful role the abortion industry plays in our politics and our society. We look forward to standing with women through a potential statewide ballot campaign to promote a culture of life and good health for both moms and unborn children.”

Minnesota

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion."

Mississippi

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, dilation and evacuation abortion ban, heartbeat law. Mississippi's 15-week ban is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Missouri

Trigger law, Eight-week ban (currently blocked by courts). 

House Bill 1854, introduced Jan. 2022, would defund Planned Parenthood. State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, in 2022 introduced a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Montana

State Supreme Court has found a "right to abortion." Abortion restricted after viability; other restrictions, such as requirement that only doctors perform abortions, are enjoined by court order. 

Nebraska

Six-week ban currently under consideration. State also has dilation and evacuation abortion ban. Six week abortion ban has been introduced. 

Nevada

Right to abortion enshrined in state law since 1990. 

New Hampshire

New 24-week limit took effect in 2022. For this year, legislation has been introduced to repeal the state's 24-week limit and ultrasound mandate; a bill to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers who object to abortion, sterilization, or artificial contraception; a bill to allow biological father to seek a court injunction to stop a mother having an abortion; and a heartbeat ban.

New Jersey

Bill S49/A6260, which was introduced Jan. 6, codifies a “fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term.” 

A “right to abortion” already existed in New Jersey because of state Supreme Court rulings. Proponents of the bill say the legislation is necessary to protect abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned. 

The bill passed by both houses of the New Jersey state legislature the afternoon of Jan. 10 was vigorously opposed by the state’s Catholic conference. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law Jan. 13. 

New Mexico

1969 abortion ban repealed in 2021.

New York

The 2019 Reproductive Health Act eliminated restrictions on abortion until the moment of birth in cases deemed necessary for the mother’s "life and health."

North Carolina

20-week ban. Heartbeat bill introduced. 

North Dakota

Trigger law, heartbeat bill. Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal has said she wants to pass a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Ohio

Heatbeat ban. Texas-style heartbeat ban introduced in late 2021.

Oklahoma

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, Heartbeat ban. A Republican lawmaker, Oklahoma State Rep. Sean Roberts, has announced plans to introduce a law modeled after the Texas abortion ban.

Oregon

Abortion fully protected under state law.

Pennsylvania

24-week-limit; abortion not explicitly protected under state law.

Rhode Island

Abortion protected under state law. The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act seeks to repeal a law prohibiting insurance coverage for state employees and Medicaid recipients seeking abortions.

South Carolina

Heartbeat ban. Introduced in 2022, House Bill 4568 and its counterpart Senate Bill 907 would require “the disclosure of medical information" about abortion pill reversal. Other legislative efforts are underway to make adoption easier and less expensive in the state. 

South Dakota

Trigger law. Governor Kristi Noem said in Jan. 2022 that she will be introducing a heartbeat ban for the state, as well as introducing legislation to ban telemedicine abortions in South Dakota. 

Tennessee

Trigger law, heartbeat ban, State constitution bars protection.

Texas

Pre-Roe ban, Trigger law, Heartbeat ban (currently enforced through private lawsuits).

Utah

Trigger law as well as numerous other current restrictions on abortion such as a waiting period.

Vermont

Abortion protected under state law. The Vermont House of Representatives is due to begin debate on an amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, which would require voter approval in the fall.

Virginia

Abortion not explicitly protected under state law. Several abortion expansions enacted in 2021, including the allowing of abortion coverage to be included without limits in health plans on the state exchange, meaning that taxpayers would be funding abortions under the law. 

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has suggested he may be open to a 20-week ban.

Washington

Abortion protected under state law.

West Virginia

Pre-Roe ban, dilation and evacuation abortion ban, State constitution bars protection. West Virginia's House Bill 4004 would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

Wisconsin

Pre-Roe ban, but Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has said he will not enforce a ban on abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Wyoming

Restricts abortion after viability - abortion not protected under state law. Some have speculated that Republican lawmakers may introduce a Texas-style heartbeat ban.

Washington, DC

Abortion fully protected under law.

Catholic health care system removes race as factor in eligibility for COVID-19 treatments

null / Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 14:17 pm (CNA).

A Catholic health care system in Wisconsin is no longer including race as a factor in determining a patient’s eligibility for COVID-19 treatments.

SSM Health and its affiliates use a risk scoring calculator to determine a patient’s eligibility for COVID-19 treatments including monoclonal antibodies. 

A previous version of the calculator boosted the scores of nonwhite or Hispanic patients, making them more likely to be prioritized for treatments that have become increasingly scarce amid a surge in omicron cases. Monoclonal antibody treatments are in particularly short supply because some versions of the treatment are reportedly ineffective against the omicron variant.  

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty questioned the inclusion of race in the calculator in a Jan. 14 letter to SSM Health’s president and CEO. SSM Health responded that the calculator was updated to no longer include race, though it is unclear when that happened.

“While early versions of risk calculators across the nation appropriately included race and gender criteria based on initial outcomes, SSM Health has continued to evaluate and update our protocols weekly to reflect the most up-to-date clinical evidence available,” SSM Health said in a statement. “As a result, race and gender criteria are no longer utilized.”

Other factors included in the calculator include age, gender, and preexisting health conditions. 

Healthcare providers under the umbrella of the Minnesota Resource Allocation Program were also factoring in race in determining patient eligibility for COVID-19 treatments. The policy was reversed on Jan. 12, the same day a conservative advocacy group threatened to sue Minnesota.

New state policy prioritizes treatment for people who are immunocompromised or pregnant. 

Both healthcare systems were following a directive from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prioritize race in the administration of COVID-19 treatments. 

Some studies suggest racial minorities are at higher risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19. But conservative leaders have argued that it is unjust and illegal to discriminate against patients based on race. 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) decried the practice in a Jan. 11 letter to the Acting Commissioner of the FDA

“While our nation should seek to better understand and address real disparities that exist in health outcomes, that important work is a far cry from the rationing of vital medicines based on race and ethnicity,” Rubio wrote. “Rationing life-saving drug treatments based on race and ethnicity is racist and un-American. There is no other way to put it.”

Rubio suggested appropriate factors include age and preexisting conditions. 

“Medical research has long documented that many of these comorbidities disproportionately impact people of color,” he wrote. “Therefore, by prioritizing an individuals’ medical history, healthcare providers would ensure racial minorities at highest risk of disease, including all other high-risk patients, can receive these life-saving drugs.”

Pope Francis appoints apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in US and Canada

The flag of Eritrea. / Creative Photo Corner/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor on Wednesday for Eritrean Catholics in the United States and Canada.

The pope named Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, chaplain of the Eritrean community of Los Angeles, on Jan. 19 as apostolic visitor of Eritrean Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite in the two countries.

The Vatican announced on the same day that the pope had chosen an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in Europe: Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, protosyncellus of the Archeparchy of Asmara, the metropolitan see of the Eritrean Catholic Church.

The move follows the pope’s decision in January 2020 to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe and name an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year.

In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who perform a short-term mission on behalf of the pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role supervising communities which do not yet have their own ordinary.

The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 168,000 members and is based in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, but also has diaspora communities around the world.

Eritrea is a northeast African country with a population of 6 million that borders Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. In 2019, the government nationalized schools and hospitals run by the Catholic Church.

Eritrea gained independence from its larger neighbor Ethiopia in 1991 following a decades-long war.

The Eritrean Catholic Church traces its roots to apostolic times and uses the ancient Ge’ez language in its liturgies, which are celebrated according to the Alexandrian Rite, associated with St. Mark the Evangelist.

Pope Francis agreed in 2015 to formally separate the Eritrean Catholic Church from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, establishing it as a sui iuris (“of one’s own right”) metropolitan church, with Asmara as its metropolitan see.

City names 2022 the Year of Edith Stein to mark 100 years since her baptism

Edith Stein, pictured as a student in 1913-1914. / Public Domain.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Edith Stein’s baptism in the Catholic Church.

The city where the philosopher turned saint was born has launched a Year of Edith Stein to celebrate the life and legacy of the woman who was martyred at Auschwitz.

Stein was born in 1891 into a Jewish family in what is now Wrocław, southwestern Poland. The city was then known as Breslau and located in the German Empire.

After declaring herself to be an atheist at the age of 20, she went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy.

She decided to convert to Catholicism after spending a night reading the autobiography of the 16th-century Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila while staying at a friend’s house in 1921.

“When I had finished the book,” she later recalled. “I said to myself: This is the truth.”

Stein was baptized on Jan. 1, 1922, at the age of 30. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross when she became a novice Carmelite nun 12 years later.

Wrocław Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Kiciński inaugurated the year on Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the parish church where Stein used to come to pray.

“We look today at St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. One hundred years ago she was baptized and 100 years ago she was immersed in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Kiciński said.

“Coming out of the baptismal waters, she took very strongly to heart the words from today’s Gospel: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’”

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. Public Domain.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. Public Domain.

Ten years after Stein entered the Carmelite convent, she was arrested along with her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic, and the members of her religious community.

She had just finished writing a study of St. John of the Cross entitled “The Science of the Cross.”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on Aug. 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998 and proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe a year later.

To mark the year, the city council of Wrocław has also set up an exhibit in the Edith Stein House, the saint’s family home which is now a conference center and a space for interreligious dialogue.

Synod of Bishops’ resources website links to women’s ordination group

The opening day of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican Synod Hall on Oct. 3, 2018. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 10:15 am (CNA).

A website overseen by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican has linked to a group campaigning for women’s ordination.

In a post dated Jan. 15, the Synodresources.org website shared information about the Women’s Ordination Conference organization, based in Washington, D.C.

Thierry Bonaventura, communication manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, told CNA on Jan. 19 that the website was not promoting the group.

“I would rather speak of ‘sharing,’ as the title of the website,” he said.

Bonaventura pointed out that the “About” section of Synodresources.org emphasizes that the website is “a tool for listening and a platform for sharing that does not replace the official website of Synod 2021-2023 (synod.va).”

“Rather than vertical, top-down communication, it aims to be horizontal communication,” it says.

The website was previously at the center of controversy after it linked to an LGBT outreach ministry.

Officials at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops removed the link to New Ways Ministry after they became aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the organization in 2010.

But following an outcry, they restored the link and issued an apology.

Synodresources.org also links to the Latin-American Rainbow Catholic community, part of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which says that it “brings together groups and their members who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and their families.”

The Women’s Ordination Conference, founded in 1975, describes itself as “the oldest and largest organization working to ordain women as deacons, priests, and bishops.”

In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

During an in-flight press conference in 2016, Pope Francis was asked whether there were likely to be women priests in the Catholic Church in the next few decades.

“As for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by St. John Paul II, and this holds,” he replied.

The pope has asked two commissions to study the question of a female diaconate in the Catholic Church.

The first, established in 2016, examined the historic issue of the role of deaconesses in the early Church but did not reach a consensus.

He instituted a second commission in 2020, following discussion of the female diaconate during the 2019 Amazon synod.

Pope Francis changed Church law in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, a permanent institution based at the Vatican and dedicated to serving the Synod, is currently overseeing what has been called one of the largest consultation exercises in human history, ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

A vademecum, or handbook, released in September 2021 urged dioceses to include “all the baptized” in the process, including those on the margins of Church life.

It said: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”

A disclaimer on the homepage of Synodresources.org says: “The publication of any contribution should not be understood as an endorsement of its content; nor should anyone interpret such a publication as an act of formal recognition by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops of the group or community submitting the contribution.”

A pop-up window explains that anyone can send material to the site, but not all contributions will be accepted.

It says: “The current synodal process is addressed to the entire People of God, to all the baptized. In chapter 2.1 of the Vademecum, we urged dioceses to involve people at risk of exclusion (women, migrants, the elderly or Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith).”

“At the same time, in order to participate fully in the act of discernment, it is important for the baptized to listen to the voices of other people in their local context, including those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, people from other faith traditions, people who have no religious beliefs at all.”

“Therefore, anyone is entitled to send material. At the same time, because we firmly believe that the experience of faith is and must be communitarian, we will only accept contributions that express the views of a group clearly identified. We regret that individual submissions will not be considered.”

The Vatican announced in May 2021 that the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase starting in October that year.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

New committee aims to build up political candidates who support religious liberty for all

American flag and Church. / Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jan 19, 2022 / 09:52 am (CNA).

The Religious Freedom Institute on Tuesday launched a committee to support political candidates who defend the free exercise of religion for all.

The National Committee for Religious Freedom describes itself as a non-partisan organization that will support “any candidate from any political party who supports religious freedom, and oppose any candidate of any political party who does not.”

As part of the Jan. 19 launch, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on religious freedom, hailed the committee’s creation, while lamenting the fact that the “first freedom” of religious liberty is “surely one of the last freedoms to get a committee to safeguard it.”

Dolan recently spoke out against attacks on houses of worship and religious art, saying such attacks are akin to attacking the community who prays there.

Sam Brownback, a Catholic and a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, said the founders of the group are “increasingly concerned with declining religious freedom here at home” and the “exponential” effect that has overseas. He said the committee plans to run educational campaigns and assess candidates’ positions on religious freedom; create voter guides; and ask candidates to sign a pledge to support religious freedom.

Though the founders of the committee— who represent a wide range of religions— don’t agree on all points of theology, Brownback praised the fact that the group was able to come together to support the right of all Americans to “peacefully practice their faith, as is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Robert George, a Catholic intellectual and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom , spoke during during the launch and noted that the committee stands ready to defend the religious freedom of all people, not just Christians.

“What we don’t want is religious freedom for me, but not for thee,” he noted.

A legal group known for representing religious believers in court said late last year that support for religious freedom in America has reached a three year high.