Catholic News Agency

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
CNA
  1. CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).-  

    The vast majority of Catholic likely voters – more than 8 in 10 – favor restrictions on abortion, a new poll released this week has found.

    Only 15% of those surveyed said abortion should be permitted at any time in a pregnancy. The same percentage said abortion should never be permitted.

    Eight percent said abortion should only be allowed in the first six months of a pregnancy, while 21% favored limiting the procedure to the first three months of a pregnancy. Thirty-one percent said abortion should only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Nine percent said it should only be allowed to save the life of the mother.

    The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

    The findings among Catholics are consistent with surveys showing that the majority of Americans support restrictions on abortion.

    A January 2020 Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that 70% of Americans favored banning abortion after three months of pregnancy, at the latest. Almost half of those who labeled themselves as pro-choice said abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, at most.

    The majority of Catholic likely voters in the RealClear poll – 59% – said they are concerned about the issue of abortion as they consider the upcoming presidential election, with 30% identifying the issue as a “major concern.” Among weekly Massgoers, 70% said they were concerned about abortion, with 41% saying it is a topic of “major concern.”

    Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said they were more likely to support a candidate for public office if that candidate supports abortion, while 30% said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion.

    Forty-three percent of weekly Mass attendees said they were less likely to support a candidate who supports abortion, compared to 26% of those who attend Mass monthly to yearly, and 18% of those who attend Mass less than once a year.

     

  2. CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).-  

    The Catholic bishops of the United States on Tuesday implored President Donald Trump to halt two federal executions set to take place this week.

    “We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions.” 

    “After the first murder recorded in the Bible, God did not end Cain’s life, but rather preserved it, warning others not to kill Cain (Gn. 4:15). As the Church, we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence,” the bishops wrote in a statement Sept. 22.

    “Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process. Responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society, but executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all articulated.”

    The statement was signed by Archbishop Paul Coakley, chair of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the pro-life committee.

    Naumann, whose own father was murdered, said earlier this month: “Murder is an unspeakable evil. Those who perpetrate such a crime have inflicted a grave injustice, not only upon the person who was murdered but also upon all their loved ones.”

    “The criminal justice system has a responsibility to protect the innocent from victimization and to deter the commission of violent crimes. However. in the United States in 2020, we have the ability to protect society from violent criminals without resorting to the death penalty.”

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the death penalty as “inadmissible,” citing increasing effectiveness of detention systems, the unchanging dignity of the person, and the importance of leaving open the possibility of conversion.

    William LeCroy is set to be executed Sept. 22, while Christopher Vialva’s execution is set for Sept. 24, both by lethal injection. The executions will be the sixth and seventh to take place in the last three months alone.

    LeCroy was convicted of raping and killling a nurse in 2001; Vialva was convicted of killing two youth ministers in 1999, who reportedly prayed, spoke about God, and pleaded for their lives as Vialva murdered them.

    Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic, during July 2019 announced that executions of federal death-row inmates would resume for the first time since 2003.

    The U.S. bishops’ conference has repeatedly condemned the executions, as has Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis, whose diocese includes the federal prison in Terre Haute, where federal executions take place.

    Though the COVID-19 pandemic and several legal challenges delayed the resumption, the federal government resumed executions during July 2020 after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

    On July 7 of this year, several U.S. bishops joined a statement of more than 1,000 faith leaders opposing the resumption of federal executions.

    Federal executions are rare, but the bishops noted that there have been more federal executions carried out already in 2020— five— than were carried out in the last sixty years.

    One of the most recent federal executions was that of Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man whose tribe objected, asking that his sentence be commuted to life in prison. Bishop James Wall of Gallup led a virtual prayer vigil on the afternoon of Aug. 26 ahead of Mitchell’s execution.

    President Donald Trump has defended the use of the death penalty and has claimed that his support of the death penalty did not impact his pro-life credentials.

    Attorney General Barr is set to be honored at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 23. 

     

  3. CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:40 pm (CNA).-  

    Eighty-three percent of Catholic likely voters are concerned about attacks on churches in recent months, a new poll has found.
     
    The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

    More than 60% of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” about recent vandalism and attacks on churches, and another 22% said they were “somewhat concerned.” Just 11% said they were either not very concerned or not at all concerned by the recent church attacks.

    Recent months have seen numerous acts of vandalism and destruction at Catholic churches across the United States, including arsons and graffiti.

    In July, a man crashed a minivan into a Florida Catholic church and then started a fire inside the building.

    In Los Angeles, San Gabriel Mission church, founded by St. Junipero Serra, also burned in a fire being investigated for arson. Numerous statues of the saint have been vandalized or destroyed, most of them in California.

    Several other churches across the country have been set aflame, and statues of Jesus or Mary have been toppled or decapitated.

    While some attacks on statues have been committed by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts have not been identified.

    Some commenters see the attacks against churches as part of a worrying rise in anti-Christian views.

    More than 3 in 4 Catholics surveyed were concerned about anti-Christian sentiment amid recent social protests.

    A little more than half of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” by the anti-Christian sentiment, and an additional quarter said they were “somewhat concerned.” Thirteen percent said they had little or no concern.

    Nearly three-quarters of Catholics surveyed also voiced concern about vandalism of Catholic statues and burning of bibles at some recent protests.

    More than 80% of Catholics who say they accept all or most of Church teaching said they were concerned about the acts of violence against statues, compared to just over half of those whos say their Catholic faith has little to no influence in their lives.

    The survey comes amid ongoing protests against instances of police brutality and racism across the U.S. In some cases, demonstrators have become violent, including by attacking police officers. Law-and-order, police reform, and systemic racism have become major topics of discussion in the upcoming election.

    An overwhelming majority – 82% of those surveyed – said they have at least some trust in their local police department to protect the interests of their family.

    Older respondents were more likely to trust the police department than young adults, and white participants voiced higher levels of trust than Black and Hispanic participants, although all age ranges and racial groups saw more than 60% saying they trust the police.

    Only 1 in 3 Catholics surveyed said they support “defund the police” initiatives, intended to shift funding from police departments to other social services.

    Men were more likely to support defunding the police than women were, and young adults were more likely to support the initiatives than older people were.

    Just 29% of white respondents supported “defund the police” initiatives, compared to 48% of Black respondents and 41% of Hispanics.

    Fifty-three percent of poll participants said Catholics should be doing more to heal divisions in America on race, compared to 19% who said Catholics should not be more active on this issue, and 28% who were unsure.
     

     

  4. CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal said Tuesday that Pope Francis has expressed concern about the Church in Germany.

    Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz Sept. 22 that he believed the pope backed an intervention by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in a debate over intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. 

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote last week to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, saying that a proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” would harm relations with Orthodox Churches.

    Asked if the pope personally approved the CDF letter, dated Sept. 18, Koch said: “There is no mention of this in the text. But the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ladaria, is a very honest and loyal person. I cannot imagine that he would do anything that Pope Francis would not approve of. But I have also heard from other sources that the pope has expressed his concern in personal conversations.”

    The cardinal clarified that he was not referring simply to the question of intercommunion.

    “Not only, but about the situation of the Church in Germany in general,” he said, noting that Pope Francis addressed a long letter to German Catholics in June 2019.

    The Swiss cardinal praised the CDF’s critique of the document “Together at the Lord’s Table,”issued by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in September 2019.

    The 57-page text advocated “reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality” between Catholics and Protestants, based on previous ecumenical agreements on the Eucharist and ministry. 

    The ÖAK adopted the document under the co-chairmanship of Bätzing and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein. 

    Bätzing announced recently that the text’s recommendations would be put into practice at the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt in May 2021.

    Koch described the CDF’s critique as “very serious” and “factual.”

    He noted that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity had been involved with discussions about the CDF letter and that he had personally raised concerns about the ÖAK document with Bätzing.

    “Those appear not to have convinced him,” he said.

    CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner, reported Sept. 22 that the German bishops would discuss the CDF letter at their fall plenary meeting, which began Tuesday. 

    When Bätzing was asked about Koch’s comments, he said that he had not had an opportunity to read the interview. But he commented that the CDF’s “critical remarks” would have to be “weighed up” in the coming days.

    “We want to remove blockages so that the Church has a chance to evangelize in the secular world in which we move,” he said.

    Koch told Herder Korrespondenz that the German bishops could not continue as before after the CDF intervention.

    “If the German bishops were to rate such a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith less highly than a document from an ecumenical working group, then something would no longer be right in the hierarchy of criteria among the bishops,” he said. 

  5. CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- The government of China's Xinjiang autonomous region has acknowledged that birth rates there fell by nearly a third in 2018, much of which it attributed to “better implementation of family planning policy”.

    They denied that involuntary contraception or sterilization had taken place.

    In 2017 the birth rate in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was 15.88 per 1,000 people; the next year, it was 10.69 per 1,000.

    “In 2018, the number of newborns decreased by approximately 120,000 compared with 2017, of which about 80,000 were because of better implementation of family planning policy in accordance with law, according to estimates by the health and statistics department,” the region's government said in a Sept. 1 fax to CNN, adding that families were complying voluntarily with the policy.

    The television channel said the government attributed the other 40,000 fewer births to increased education and economic development.

    In June an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the Chinese Communist Party of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

    “The rights and interests of Uyghur and other ethnic minorities have been fully protected,” Xinjiang's government told CNN. “The so-called 'genocide' is pure nonsense.”

    In Xinjiang an estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

    A leaked document from a county in Xinjiang details the personal information of some 3,000 Uyghurs. It gives violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for their “re-education”, often alongside other reasons.

    The document if believed to have been prepared in May or June 2019. The Karakax List contains information regarding some 3,000 Uyghurs in Karakax County, about 800 miles southwest of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

    It shows that 484 persons were interned for re-education, only 12 of whom had no recorded reason for their detention. There were eight categories of the reasons for internment.

    “No single coding category was dominant, even though violations of birth control policies constituted the most commonly cited reason for re-education, often along with other (typically religion-related) reasons,” Adrian Zenz, a Xinjiang researcher and senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, wrote in a recent paper analyzing the document.

    Of the 484 detained persons, 149 had violated birth control policies.

    From the late 1970s until 2015, China allowed most couples to have only one child. Since 2015, most couples have been permitted two children.

    The Washington Post reported in October 2019 that women in Kazakhstan who say they had been detained in Xinjiang said they were forced to have abortions, had contraceptive devices implanted involuntarily, or were raped.

    Other commonly cited reasons for internment in the document were that the persons were untrustworthy (116 persons), religion-related (101), and that they had overseas links (94).

    Only 24 had committed a formal crime.

    Zenz has also said that sterilizations in Xinjiang rose from fewer than 50 per 100,000 people in 2016, to nearly 250 per 100,000 in 2018.

    And in 2018, IUDs were implanted at a rate of nearly 1,000 per 100,000 people in Xinjiang, while the rate for China in the same year was 21 per 100,000.

    The birth rate in Xinjiang plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the region birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018.

    The region's government told CNN: “As a part of China, Xinjiang implements family planning policies in accordance with national laws and regulations, and has never formulated and implemented family planning policies for a single ethnic minority.”

    Uyghurs make up about 46% of Xinjiang's population; Han Chinese 39%, Kazakhs 7%, and Huis 5%. A large number of minorities make up the remaining 3%.

    The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.

    The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

    Government officials from the region said in July 2019 that the area's re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

    Uyghurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

    In July the Trump administration put  travel and asset sanctions on several senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang for their role in the mass internment of Uyghurs.

    “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, snd attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced July 9.

    The US Commerce Department in October 2019 added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uyghurs.

  6. CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- A spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, has underscored the country’s insistence that Taiwan not be recognized as a sovereign nation in response to a question on the island democracy’s relations with the Holy See.

    The Holy See maintains full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, and is the last major diplomatic power to do so. The mainland government, officially known as the People’s Republic of China, claims Taiwan as a rebel province, though the island  has never been under Communist control.

    Since the 1970s, the Communist People’s Republic of China has insisted that the United Nations and member states recognize only “one China,” under the mainland government.

    In 2018, the Holy See and Beijing signed a two-year deal to unify the underground Catholic Church in China with the Communist-administered Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and to collaborate on the appointment of bishops in Chinese dioceses. That agreement expired on September 22 but is expected to be renewed by both parties.

    Speaking at a press conference on Sept. 22, Wenbin responded to a question on the deal’s expected renewal from the Japanese Kyodo News Agency.

    “According to media reports, the Vatican has decided to extend the interim China-Holy See agreement on the appointment of bishops,” Kyodo’s reporter asked.  “In view of the so-called ‘diplomatic relations’ between the Vatican and the ‘Republic of China’ [Taiwan], will the extension affect the future of diplomatic relations between the parties?”

    Responding to the question, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman insisted “first of all” that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory” and that reporters should not refer to the Republic of China and instead use the term “China-Taiwan.”

    “Regarding the matter you mentioned,” Wenbin continued, “in the last two years, since the signing of the interim agreement on the appointment of bishops between China and the Vatican, with the joint efforts of both sides, the agreement was implemented smoothly and the cause of Catholicism in China developed healthily.”

    “The two sides will continue to maintain close communication and consultations, and will also continue to promote the process of improving these relations. China and the Vatican have maintained good communication. China is sincere and active in advancing China-Vatican relations. It is open and welcomes exchanges between the two sides.”

    The Holy See’s status as the last major diplomatic power to recognize Taiwan has been an ongoing source of discussion during the renewal talks between China and the Vatican.

    Vatican officials have reportedly told journalists off-the-record that a change of status was possible, even while the Vatican has assured Taiwan that its agreement with Beijing addresses religion, not global politics.

    In July, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post quoted a Vatican source saying that the Holy See could even move its embassy from Taiwan to the mainland.

    “Taiwan should not be offended if the embassy in Taipei is moved back to its original address in Beijing,” the Vatican source reportedly said.

    In July, Taiwan’s newly installed Archbishop Thomas An-Zu Chung said that such a move “could happen soon if the mainland Chinese government is more open-minded and receptive towards the Roman Catholic Church.”

    Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has told journalists that the Vatican has sought to downplay the same possibility.

    “The Vatican has assured us repeatedly that the bishop appointment deal with China is a religious rather than a diplomatic matter,” a ministry spokesperson said at a press conference Sept. 15, according to the national news agency of Taiwan.

    "We have been closely observing the interactions between the Vatican and Beijing, and we maintain smooth communications with the Holy See,” Ou said.

    Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said last week that the Vatican’s goal in negotiations is to “normalize” the life of the Church in China.

    “With China, our current interest is to normalize the life of the Church as much as possible, to ensure that the Church can live a normal life, which for the Catholic Church is also to have relations with the Holy See and with the Pope,” Parolin said Sept. 14.

    While the Chinese government has insisted that the 2018 agreement has been implemented smoothly, state officials in different regions of China have continued to remove crosses and demolish church buildings, and underground Catholics and clergy continue to report harassment and detention.

    During the coronavirus pandemic, the state-affiliated Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Zhejiang Province’s Chinese Catholic educational administration committee issued new regulations on the reopening of churches requiring Chinese “patriotism” to be added to the celebration of the liturgy.

    While the agreement cedes a measure of control over episcopal appointments to the Communist government, there are also more than 50 dioceses without bishops in China, including Hong Kong – which has seen a severe crackdown on civil liberties since the imposition of a new National Security Law in July. 

    At the same time, however, some Vatican sources have mentioned to CNA that, since the deal was signed, there have been no illicit ordinations of bishops selected without Rome’s approval, a move some point to as a sign of progress.

    The Vatican, and Pope Francis, have refrained from public comment on the continued abuses of Chinese Catholics by the government during the course of the two-year deal. The Holy See has also remained silent on the the detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs in a network of concentration camps in Xinjiang Province, which human rights groups have called a “genocide” and campaign of “ethnic cleansing.”

    In an interview Monday with CNA, Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired Bishop of Hong Kong, said that the Church’s efforts to negotiate an extension to the 2018 agreement with China are harming the evangelization of that country, especially because of Vatican silence on human rights abuses.

    “The resounding silence will damage the work of evangelization,” the cardinal said. “Tomorrow when people will gather to plan the new China, the Catholic Church may not be welcome.”

    Asked if he saw any prospect of an improvement for the local Church coming out of Vatican negotiations with the current Communist government, Zen said simply “No.”

    “Is there any choice between helping the Government to destroy the Church or resisting the Government to keep our Faith?” Zen told CNA.

  7. Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- President Trump told world leaders that the United States is committed to “protecting unborn children” in remarks to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) from the White House on Tuesday.

    “America will always be a leader in human rights,” Trump said in his speech to the UNGA from the White House. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, world leaders were invited to deliver their speeches to the assembly remotely, and they were then broadcast as “live.”

    “My administration is advancing religious liberty, opportunity for women, the decriminalization of homosexuality, combatting human trafficking, and protecting unborn children,” the president said.

    This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

    Trump previously raised the defence of the unborn in his 2019 address to the UNGA, saying that “like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.”

    Trump’s administration has sought to redirect U.S. foreign assistance away from foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide or promote abortions, under the Mexico City Policy

    While the Mexico City Policy applied to about $600 million in USAID family planning assistance, the administration expanded it to include billions of dollars in global health assistance and is now seeking to apply its conditions to military and government contracts with foreign NGOs.

    The administration stopped funding the UN’s population fund (UNFPA) because of its partnership with China, where the Communist government’s two-child policy is enforced through forced abortion and sterilization. It also reduced funding for the Organization of American States after one of its organs apparently lobbied for abortion.

    Trump’s remarks echoed those of the Holy See, also given at the UN this week.

    Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, addressed a high-level meeting at the UNGA on Monday, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the UN.

    “The UN has strived to champion universal human rights, which also include the right to life and freedom of religion, as they are essential for the much needed promotion of a world where the dignity of every human person is protected and advanced,” he stated.

    On Tuesday, Trump also called on the UN to “focus on the real problems of the world,” which he said included “human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”

    Trump also used his address to criticize China for its response to the new coronavirus pandemic, as well as its pollution of oceans and high rate of carbon emissions.

    Although Trump criticized China and called on the UN to attend to religious persecution, he did not mention China’s mass imprisonment of an estimated 800,000 to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in its northwest region.

    The largely-Muslim ethnic population has reportedly been subject to forced birth control and sterilization, repression of religious practice, mass surveillance, and forced labor, and detainees have suffered indoctrination and torture.

    Trump also defended the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, saying that the country reduced its carbon emissions more than any other country in the accord last year.

    Pope Francis in his 2015 speech at the UNGA, praised the Paris agreement as a step that could “secure fundamental and effective agreements” to protect the environment.

  8. Vatican City, Sep 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Palliative care for the dying is important, but medical interventions are not enough; Catholics have a responsibility to be with the suffering and to communicate the hope of Christ, a new Vatican document on euthanasia said Tuesday.

    While palliative care is “essential and invaluable,” it is not enough, a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said.

    “Palliative care cannot provide a fundamental answer to suffering or eradicate it from people’s lives,” the congregation said. “To claim otherwise is to generate a false hope, and cause even greater despair in the midst of suffering.”

    “Medical science can understand physical pain better and can deploy the best technical resources to treat it. But terminal illness causes a profound suffering in the sick person, who seeks a level of care beyond the purely technical,” it continued.

    “Palliative care in itself is not enough unless there is someone who ‘remains’ at the bedside of the sick to bear witness to their unique and unrepeatable value. Pain is existentially bearable only where there is hope.”

    The CDF presented the 45-page letter, Samaritanus bonus: on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life, at a press conference Sept. 22. It was approved by Pope Francis on June 25 and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi. 

    The letter reaffirmed Catholic teaching on a range of end-of-life issues, underlining the moral impermissability of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and recalling the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments. 

    The Vatican document also pointed out what it described as cultural obstacles obscuring the intrinsic value of every human life: the notion of “dignified death” as measured by a person’s so-called “quality of life,” a false understanding of compassion, and an individualism which sees the other as a limitation or threat to one’s freedom.

    So-called “compassionate” euthansia holds that it is better to die than to suffer, the CDF noted. “In reality, human compassion consists not in causing death, but in embracing the sick, in supporting them in their difficulties, in offering them affection, attention, and the means to alleviate the suffering.”

    Cardinal Ladaria said Sept. 22 that “a compassion that is not accompanied by the truth, by respect for human life in all its phases of existence, is a compassion that is not just, is not right.”

    Catholics need to know how to show authentic compassion and to witness to Christian hope, the CDF document argued.

    “In the face of the challenge of illness and the emotional and spiritual difficulties associated with pain, one must necessarily know how to speak a word of comfort drawn from the compassion of Jesus on the Cross,” it said. “It is full of hope -- a sincere hope, like Christ’s on the Cross, capable of facing the moment of trial and the challenge of death.”

    “The hope that Christ communicates to the sick and the suffering is that of his presence, of his true nearness,” the letter explained. “To contemplate the living experience of Christ’s suffering is to proclaim to men and women of today a hope that imparts meaning to the time of sickness and death. From this hope springs the love that overcomes the temptation to despair.”

    The document said that Catholic priests and others should avoid any active or passive gesure which might signal approval for euthanasia and assisted suicide, including remaining in a room while the act is performed.

    But to someone who is considering taking that action, the presence of a witness to truth, charity, and hope can be powerful, Ladaria said.

    “The witness of Christians, the witness of Christian healthcare workers, the witness of all the Christian relatives of this person, etc. can be something very determinative” in helping a person to turn away from the decision to end his or her own life, he said.

    Ladaria encouraged offering a “witness of presence” to those who were seriously ill and dying.

    When a person sees no other hope than assisted suicide, “if he sees someone who clearly does not accept this solution, but is there beside him, and does not abandon him, and is next to him, maybe this can be a factor which helps him to reflect,” he said.

    “I believe that in every man there is some reserve of hope,” the cardinal stated. Communicating the truth with charity, being present to someone who feels hopeless, could help them to think and reflect, it “makes this person see that there is, however, hope, there is hope. That hope never ends!”

    Priestly ministry to the sick at the end of life, a symbol of the solicitude of Christ and the Church, “can and must have a decisive role,” and makes proper priestly formation vital in this area, Samaritanus bonus said. It also noted that because priests cannot always be present at a bedside, physicians and healthcare workers need formation in Christian accompaniment too.

    “In this essential mission it is extremely important to bear witness to and unite truth and charity with which the gaze of the Good Shepherd never ceases to accompany all of His children,” it stated.

  9. Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, speculation on who President Donald Trump will nominate to replace her has focused on Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 

    Who is Amy Coney Barrett? Here's what you need to know:

    Dogma lives loudly

    Barrett first rose to prominence during her confirmation hearing in September 2017, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) questioned her on her Catholic faith. 

    “Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said at the time.

    “And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern,” said Feinstein.

    The California senator’s questioning of Barrett raised the Notre Dame Law School professor to a national figure. Just over two weeks after she was confirmed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, she was added to President Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks, and was rumored to have been one of the finalists to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy upon his retirement.

    Trump chose Justice Brett Kavanaugh at that point, and a report emerged in 2019 that Trump had said he was “saving” Barrett to fill a potential vacancy caused by the death or retirement of Justice Ginsburg, the oldest member of the court at the time. With Ginsburg’s death, Barrett is once again being discussed for the highest court in the country. 

    Personal life

    Born in New Orleans, the eldest of seven children, she graduated from Rhodes College before receiving a full scholarship to Notre Dame Law School. After graduating first in her class from law school, and then clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, before going into private practice. She returned to Notre Dame Law School and taught classes in 2002 before becoming a professor in 2010. 

    Since Ginsburg’s death, Barrett has been scrutinized for her Catholic faith and family size. Barrett and her husband have seven children, including two adopted from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. 

    Catholic faith

    At the time of her last judicial nomination, criticism of Barrett focused on the size of her family and her Catholic faith, attracting pushback from some commentators and making the judge a popular figure among many Catholics. 

    Amid renewed scrutiny of Barrett’s personal life and beliefs in advance of a possible Trump nomination, Princeton University Professor Robert George highlighted the anti-Catholic tropes again being used in criticism of the judge.

    “One would have hoped that having brought shame on themselves last time, and blunted their spear on Judge Barrett by attacking her religion, they would be more careful this time about exposing their bigotry to public view. But no,” he said on Twitter. 

    During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, questions were also raised about Barrett’s association with the lay organization People of Praise. 

    People of Praise has been referred to in the media as a “cult,” and criticized for a practice, which has since been changed, that called leaders “heads” and “handmaidens,” both of which are references to Biblical passages. 

    People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of a “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” following Vatican Council II, Bishop Peter Smith, a member of the organization, told CNA.

    The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant”- an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give five percent of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects.

    Covenant communities- Protestant and Catholic- emerged across the country in the 1970s, as a part of the Charismatic Renewal movement in American Christianity.

    While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including different Catholic parishes, Smith explained.

    What will happen next?

    On Monday President Trump announced that he expects to name his nominee for the Supreme Court by the end of the week, following memorial and funeral services for Justice Ginsburg.

    Ginsburg will lie in state at the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol on Friday, following two days of lying in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday. Ginsburg will lie underneath the Portico, and the public will be permitted to view the casket outdoors. 

    As per tradition, Ginsburg’s former law clerks will serve as her honorary pallbearers. 

    Ginsburg will be buried in a private ceremony alongside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

  10. Rome Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency Monday, a Vatican official commended the organization for its preventative efforts to address another global threat: zoonotic diseases that cause pandemics.

    The international organization known for safeguarding nuclear energy to prevent nuclear warfare has unveiled a new initiative entitled Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC), which aims to help countries quickly detect and respond to diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

    “This important global network is crucial to helping national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, Avian Influenza and Zika,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said Sept. 21.

    Zoonotic diseases are responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people each year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

    Speaking in Vienna at the agency’s 64th annual conference, the Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States said that the Vatican supported the ZODIAC project and believed it could further the unique collaboration between laboratories of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and IAEA using nuclear or nuclear-derived technologies.

    “This unprecedented pandemic sheds new light on the interdependence between nations and, in particular, on the necessity to consider health as a primary common good, which requires solidarity and coordinated action at the global level,” Gallagher said.

    The Vatican diplomat added that it would be desirable for the ZODIAC program to support the research and development for “novel technologies … for early detection and surveillance” of these diseases. 

    “The current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed problems related to virus detection capabilities in many countries, as well as the need for better communication between health institutions around the world,” he said.

    Gallagher said that the Holy See was concerned about the signs of “an erosion of multilateralism and of the rules-based order” in the world, especially surrounding the control and ban of nuclear weapons. 

    “The Holy See recognizes the important contribution of the IAEA in working for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said, commending the agency’s goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.

    North Korea’s nuclear activities are currently of “serious concern,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said at the general conference Sept. 21.

    “The continuation of the country’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” Grossi added.

    Gallagher said: “We must continue to work towards our common goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons.”