Archive of June 19, 2013

NY abortion expansion fails amid Catholic opposition

New York City, N.Y., Jun 19, 2013 (CNA) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed bill to dramatically expand legal abortion in the state died in the state senate following months of Catholic and pro-life opposition.

The four-senator Independent Democratic Coalition, which has a power-sharing agreement to control the senate with the Republican Party, declined to introduce the abortion measure as part of Gov. Cuomo’s 10-point “Women’s Equality Agenda” measures.

The Republican co-leader of the senate, Sen. Dean Skelos, is pro-life. He said he would not allow a bill with the abortion plank to reach the floor, the New York Post reports.

Jeff Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Coalition, said the coalition supports abortion rights but could not find the votes to pass it.

Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat, criticized the breakaway coalition. He warned in a radio interview that the issue would play a role in their re-election campaigns, according to Bloomberg News.

Cuomo is a possible presidential candidate in 2016. He is a Catholic but has strongly backed abortion rights despite Church teaching that abortion takes an innocent life.

The New York Catholic Conference strongly opposed the bill, saying the expansion of abortion is “unnecessary and harmful.”

“Rather than voting on a bill that will increase the tragedy of abortion for both women and children, we urge policy makers to look at constructive ways to reduce abortion and truly make abortion 'rare,'” the conference said June 10.

The proposal would have declared abortion to be a “fundamental right.” It would have allowed any licensed “health care practitioner,” including non-doctors, to perform abortions. It would have barred any abortion regulations such as parental notification for a minor considering abortion, while also decriminalizing abortions after 24 weeks into pregnancy when a woman’s health was in danger.

The legislation would also have protected abortionists who kill women during abortions from being charged with manslaughter.

Proponents of the bill contended that it simply codifies federal law, but the New York Catholic Conference said this was “disingenuous and misleading.”

They noted that Pennsylvania convicted the late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell for performing 21 abortions after the 24-week limit, but the New York would explicitly legalize these abortions.

The New York proposal would “make New York a safe haven for late-term abortionists like Gosnell, encouraging them to set up clinics here, without fear of prosecution, to prey upon vulnerable women and children.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan had criticized the bill in January, warning it would increase New York’s “scandalous” abortion rate.

Other pro-life groups, including Democrats for Life of America, opposed the bill.

New York state has one of the highest abortion rates in the nation. Over 40 percent of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion, almost twice the national average.

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Catholic Medical Association sees growth in troubled times

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Medical Association has seen “steady growth” in membership, providing fellowship for Catholic medical professionals as conscience rights and religious freedom are increasingly threatened.

“We’ve become more effective at witnessing in the world,” said John Brehany, the group's executive director. “It’s a great organization, full of great people, who are trying to live their faith.”

“One of the purposes of the CMA is to assist the Church in communicating medical ethics and the Church’s teaching on life and love within the medical profession and within society at large,” Brehany told CNA June 18. “We strive to be of assistance to the Church whenever we can.”

The association’s local chapters are present in 31 states and over 70 dioceses. Membership at the national level has almost doubled in the past seven years, while the number of chapters has increased from eight to 75 in the same time period.

“Our goal is to get one chapter, at least, in every diocese of the U.S.,” Brehany said. “We provide opportunities for our members to connect on a local level.”

Guilds host talks and organize service opportunities and socials. They provide mutual support and help their members know “that there are other good people out there in the field who are trying to live the Catholic faith.”

The Catholic Medical Association was founded in the 1930s and reached a high point in the 1960s. Since then, declines in Mass attendance and Catholic school enrollment have had a negative impact on membership.

The association has about 2,000 national members, and many chapters have local members who attend an annual White Mass for health care professionals or other events.

“Anybody who wants to help integrate Catholic principles into healthcare can join at some level,” Brehany said.

Active and retired physicians are the primary members. However, associate membership is open to dentists, podiatrists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and others with doctoral degrees.

Affiliate membership is open to nurses, students, seminarians, clergy and religious, and other friends and supporters of the association and its mission.

The association’s national conference provides members “a unique experience of faith and fellowship and education,” Brehany said.

The conference provides spiritual sustenance such as daily Mass, confession, Eucharistic adoration and scheduled rosaries. Conference talks often focus on ethical issues in medicine, and fulfill continuing education requirements necessary for attendees to renew their medical licenses.

The Catholic Medical Association publishes the ethics journal Linacre Quarterly, which according to Brehany is the oldest U.S. journal dedicated to ethics in medicine.

This June, the association has a four-day “boot camp” in Philadelphia for medical students. The gathering provides opportunities for prayer, study and fellowship, and helps prepare students to defend their faith and to “grow to be solid Catholic caregivers.”

Brehany said the Catholic Medical Association is particularly important in light of present trends.

“Probably one of the biggest battles of our day, going on as we speak, is an attack on religious freedom and also conscience rights,” he said.

He said conscience rights in health care “just never have been adequately protected.”

Especially since the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, those with “an ideology hostile to life” have tried to force doctors to perform abortions and sterilizations and to force students to be trained in these procedures, Brehany said.

“They haven’t gone away. They’ve gotten even more powerful – even more determined – to enforce these things,” he said. “People get this pressure. Sometimes it is concerted and planned.”

Other times, this pressure comes from a cultural atmosphere that holds that the role of the doctor is “to give the patient what she wants.”

“That’s not ever what doctors thought, especially when it comes to doing abortion, and yet we see those attacks coming more and more.”

He said there is no official litmus test on these issues to get into medical school or to advance in a career, “but there are these subtle pressures all the time to go along with our relativist culture, and that is a challenge.”

The Catholic Medical Association is also engaged in the broader fight to defend religious freedom.

Several dozen association members have spoken at religious freedom rallies sponsored by the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Coalition.

The association is encouraging its members to participate in the upcoming Fortnight for Freedom, observed June 21-July 4, to support the U.S. bishops’ opposition to the federal contraception mandate.

The mandate would require employers, including many Catholic organizations, to provide access to insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.

“We’re trying to get our doctors involved in local events and in local rallies, so they can help to explain to people why conscience rights and religious freedom are so important in medicine,” Brehany said. “They are important for the doctors and health care professionals who offer care, but they are important as well for patients who receive that care.”

He said the relationship between a physician and a patient is “at the heart of medicine” and often involves trying to meet a patient’s emotional and spiritual challenges as well.

He said the association has “great concern” about the extent to which the government is “taking more and more dictatorial control over medicine,” especially in its control over what services are provided or not.

“We are afraid that they will be either ordering people to do things that violate their conscience, or to withhold treatments that are really of benefit to the patient.”

Brehany encouraged Catholic medical professionals to “band together for mutual support,” to know their rights, and to use the resources of the Catholic Medical Association.

“Catholics really have to stick together and give a unified, compelling, really nationwide interest.”

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'Hypocrisy in the Church makes all of us bad,' says Pope

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis warned two Vatican offices attending his morning Mass against being hypocrites, stating it makes everyone “bad.”

“We think about the hypocrisy in the Church and how bad it makes all of us,” the Bishop of Rome told members of the Congregation of Bishops and of the Pontifical Council of the Family June 19.

“These do not know beauty, they do not know love, these do not know the truth. They are small, cowardly.”

He celebrated the Mass at the Saint Martha House alongside the heads of the Congregation and the Council, which include Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and Bishop Jean Lafitte.

The pontiff based his homily on the Gospel of the day, Matthew 6, in which Christ criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for proclaiming their good deeds to the world.

“They have no sense of beauty, they achieve only the beauty of a museum,” said Pope Francis.

“They are intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness, the bearers of museum beauty,” he added. “These are the hypocrites that Jesus rebukes so strongly.”

He explained that in the Gospel, Jesus speaks about fasting, prayer and almsgiving, which the Pope called “the three pillars of Christian piety and interior conversion.”

“There are even hypocrites along this path, who make a show of fasting, of giving alms, of praying.”

“I think that when hypocrisy reaches this point in the relation with God, we are coming very close to sin against the Holy Spirit.”

Those who impose “so many precepts on the faithful,” he said, are “hypocrites of casuistry, intellectuals without talent who don’t have the intelligence to find God, to explain God with understanding.”

They thereby prevent themselves and others from entering into the kingdom of God, he said.

“They are ethicists without goodness; they do not know what goodness is, but they are ethicists, aren’t they?” he told the members of the two Vatican offices.

“You have to do this, and this, and this,” said the Pope. “They fill you with precepts, but without goodness.”

He noted “those are some of the phylacteries, of the tassels they lengthen, so many things, to make a pretense of being majestic, perfect, they have no sense of beauty.”

“All of us also have grace, the grace that comes from Jesus Christ, the grace of joy, the grace of magnanimity, of largesse,” he underscored.

“Hypocrites do not know what joy is, what largesse is, what magnanimity is,” he stressed.

The Roman Pontiff then advised them to imitate the publican who prayed with humble simplicity, “have mercy on me, O Lord, a sinner.”

“This is the prayer we should say every day, knowing that we are sinners, but with concrete sins, not theoretical sins.”

“And this prayer will help us to take the opposite road.”

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Vatican theologians approve second miracle of John Paul II

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a second miracle granted through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, moving him closer to being declared a saint.

“The proclamation of his sainthood needs only the approval of the commission of cardinals and bishops and the final signature of Pope Francis,” Italian news agency ANSA reported June 18.

Before Blessed John Paul II can be canonized, the Congregation must formally approve the miracle and present it to Pope Francis. Pope Francis would then promulgate and celebrate the canonization.

The miracle was reportedly approved by two doctors in April as having been a cure that cannot be explained in natural terms.

On April 2, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, postulator of the late pontiff's cause for canonization, told CNA that as a second miracle was sought, “I chose a few cases and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints chose one of those, which they are currently evaluating.”

The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints studies each case rigorously, to determine that no scientific explanation for the miracle is possible and that there is a direct relation to the intercession of the possible saint in question.

Msgr. Oder had told Italian daily Avvenire that alleged miracles worked through Blessed John Paul II's intercession had taken place in Poland, Italy, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

Benedict XVI beatified him on May 1, 2011, after a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease through his intercession.

ANSA speculates that Pope Francis might canonize him on Oct. 20.

Blessed John Paul II died a little over eight years ago, on April 2, 2005. Since he was beatified, his memorial has been celebrated, in certain dioceses, on October 22, the anniversary of his installation as Bishop of Rome.

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Activist's departure from NYU draws fear of Chinese pressure

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid reports that blind pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng is being asked to leave New York University, some human rights defenders are worried that the decision may have been influenced by the Chinese government.

“I have worked on other high-profile human rights cases just like this, and I’ve never known a case to bring such a high-profile, world-class human rights defender, and say ‘your time is up,’” Rep. Chris Smith (R- N.J.) told CNA, adding that the university’s actions bear “the hallmarks of pressure.”

While New York University officials say that the fellowship offered to Chen was always intended to be temporary, the pro-life activist said that the Chinese government exerted pressure on the university after he began speaking out on human rights abuses in his home country.

Blind since childhood, Chen became a self-taught human rights lawyer and drew the attention of Chinese officials for his work in opposing forced abortions and sterilizations under the government’s one-child policy.

Spending more than four years in prison for his activism, he and his family were placed under house arrest in September 2010 with no formal charges. He has said that he and his family members were treated harshly and denied medical treatment during this time.
Following his escape from house arrest to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April 2012, Chen gained international attention. Voicing concerns about the wellbeing of his family, he was offered the fellowship at New York University’s law school in May 2012.

At the time, the university did not name a specific date for the fellowship’s end.

In a May 4, 2012 interview with PBS Newshour, Jerome Cohen, a professor of law at New York University, stated that visiting scholars typically have a “quite flexible” arrangement, and that the Chen family would “come for up to a year,” and then be able to move back to China to further participate in “in the law reform movement.”

A New York Times article two weeks later reported that New York University had “granted him visiting scholar status for an indefinite period.”

On June 13, it was announced that Chen was being told to leave the university. According to the New York Post, “NYU told Chen that if he and his wife and kids don’t find a place by July 15, they will have go to a hotel.”

Chen said in a June 17 statement that “as early as August and September, the Chinese Communists had already begun to apply great, unrelenting pressure on New York University, so much so that after we had been in the United States just three to four months, NYU was already starting to discuss our departure with us.”

Warning of threats to “independence and academic freedom in the United States,” the activist warned that the Chinese government intends “to use these means to disturb our normal life, and even want to make me so busy trying to earn a living that I don’t have time for human rights advocacy, but this is not going to happen.”

New York University spokesman John Beckman reacted to Chen’s claims, claiming in a June 17th statement that “Mr. Chen’s fellowship at NYU and its conclusion have had nothing to do with the Chinese government.”

“All fellowships come to an end,” he said, pointing to Prof. Cohen’s remarks that the position could last only one year.

However, Rep. Smith – who chairs a House subcommittee on global human rights – said that the university’s stance shifted after Chen attended an August 2012 meeting on Capitol Hill with Speaker of the House John Boehner, as well as other members of Congress and the media. Smith said that the university “told him not to come to the Capitol Hill meeting.”

“When he went back, they were very negative towards him,” Smith said. “Chen knew after August 1 that this was not going well.”

The lawmaker said that Chen was invited to speak before Congress at “another hearing on August 10, and on August 11, New York University notified Chen that it would only be a year-long position,” adding that the institution was “very upset” at the activist’s actions.

“He’s a world-class human rights defender who has something to say. Why would you want to gag that?” Smith asked.

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