Archive of April 23, 2014

Church will always proclaim life, Argentine archbishop says

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Alfredo Zecca of Tucuman, Argentina, said the Church does not tire of proclaiming the Gospel of Life and of denouncing the culture of death that eliminates the most innocent and defenseless.

“Christ’s resurrection is also our resurrection and gives us the grace to live as ‘new men,’ as ‘risen ones.’ Our new mission ought to necessarily follow our new being; sin gives way to grace, darkness to light, death to life,” Archbishop Zecca said in his Easter message.

This new mission and new being must be made manifest concretely in daily life, he explained, “and this inevitably raises questions: Can the Church remain silent amidst the malicious attempt to once again institute ‘the culture of death’?”

“Can we Argentineans boast of being pioneers in the defense of human rights when we don’t respect the most basic of them all: human life, which is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death?” he asked.

“Faithful to the Lord’s command, the Church will never tire of proclaiming the Gospel of Life and of denouncing, with the Gospel and natural law, every attempt to legally justify death, any death, but above all, that of the most innocent: the unborn child,” the archbishop stressed.

“During this Easter may God help us to reflect as Christians and citizens, especially those in positions of responsibility, and give us the courage to confront these challenges together,” he said.

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Ariz. law to allow surprise inspections of abortion clinics

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Arizona governor Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill that ended special health inspection rules for abortion clinics, an action proponents say will help prevent dangerous conditions at abortion facilities.

“This law ensures abortion clinics are subject to the same inspection standards as all other medical facilities in the state,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which helped write the law, April 15.

“Abortion clinic inspections matter, and it is unconscionable that they would be exempt from common-sense health and safety standards.”

Herrod said Brewer’s signing of the bill into law was “another tremendous victory” for Arizona’s pro-life movement.

“Today we celebrate this victory, but our work will never be done until every woman and preborn child is protected from the dangerous and deadly practices of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.”

Arizona Right to Life, another backer of the law, issued a statement saying, “Why should abortion facilities in Arizona be held to a lower standard when the medical care of women is at stake? Only a blinding ideology could block such common sense measures.”

The law also criminalizes helping a minor to procure an abortion in violation of the state’s parental consent requirements.

Andrew Wilder, Brewer’s spokesman, said the bill ensures that state health authorities can “appropriately protect the health and safety of all parents.”

While the Arizona Department of Health Services can conduct warrantless and unannounced inspections of regulated facilities including hospitals, dialysis centers, and nursing homes, unannounced inspections of abortion clinics previously required a warrant, the Arizona Republic reports. A warrant had been required even in response to a complaint of wrongdoing.

A 1999 Arizona law allowing unannounced inspections of abortion clinics was affected by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2004 decision which said inspections were too broad and would allow the state to have access to patient information. A legal agreement in 2009 allowed more state oversight, but did not allow unannounced inspections.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which oppose the law, are considering whether to file a legal challenge against it.

Bryan Howard, the Arizona Planned Parenthood affiliate’s president, told the Arizona Republic that the bill would create “circumstances for health care to be interrupted and patients to be harassed and certainly for their privacy to be violated in the absence of any demonstrated need.”

Abortion clinic inspections have come under further focus after the 2013 trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted for the murder of three babies who had survived abortions.

Testimony had indicated that Gosnell and his staff snipped the necks of over 100 infants who survived abortion.

A 2010 federal raid on his abortion clinic exposed foul conditions: blood-stained rooms, filthy equipment, unsanitary practices, and the storage of fetal remains in plastic food containers. The clinic had not been inspected since 1993.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report on Gosnell said that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health had decided to stop inspecting abortion clinics “for political reasons.”

“The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro,” the report said.

Concern over abortion clinic regulations has also increased in New York after the New York Post reported that some New York City eateries and tanning salons undergo more regular inspections than do its abortion clinics.

Only about 25 of the approximately 225 abortion providers in New York State are under the supervision of state regulators, the New York Post’s investigation found.

Of these 25, eight went without inspection from 2000-2012 and five were inspected only once.

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Arabic iBreviary a 'gateway' to religious freedom, creator says

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Paolo Padrini, creator of the iBreviary application, said that part of his goal for the recent release of the program in Arabic is fostering religious freedom in countries persecuted for their faith.

“This, I feel, is a very useful service. It’s a gateway to religious freedom. An instrument of religious freedom, or an instrument of prayer and also an instrument of peace,” Fr. Padrini told CNA on April 15.

Fr. Padrini is a parish priest in Tortona, northern Italy, and is a consultant with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He created the iBreviary application in 2008, which allows the faithful to pray the Liturgy of the Hours from wherever they are with just the touch of a button.

The breviary is a liturgical book used for public prayer, which is centered on the psalms. Clergy and religious promise to pray it daily, and many lay faithful choose to do so as well.

Fr. Padrini explained that he chose to offer the digital prayer book in Arabic in order “to offer a service for prayer. To offer prayer to the Catholics that live in Arabic countries in the Arabic language.”

“They may be in the minority, but they exist and they have the right to pray in their language.”

Emphasizing how Christians in Arab-speaking countries struggle to find books because they “are often censored,” the priest noted that smartphones “are very widespread in the nations of the Middle East, of Asia, and of Africa.”

“Often, they are more widespread than computers” he stated, “so through Arabic I wanted to offer a service, and then I also wanted to open a door to religious freedom.”

“I think that religious freedom, like Pope Francis talked about should be cultivated, made to grow,” Fr. Padrini continued, adding that “prayer on phones in Arabic could be an instrument to live religious freedom and recover the beauty of praying as Catholics in their own language.”

“It’s not nice for a Catholic who lives in Saudi Arabia or in other Arabic countries, to pray in English. It’s more just that one prays in their own language.”

“This is very important,” he went on to say, “because when I pray, I pray as an Arabic person, as an Arab, not like the English. Or it could be French or it could be Italian.”

Drawing attention to the fact that Christians in many parts of the world today are suffering persecution, the priest emphasized that “the worst persecution of Christians, persecution of Catholics, is not being able to pray.”

“They cannot pray freely. So because of this motive I think that the application helps there a lot, in the Middle Eastern countries, and in the Arabic countries. Because it will give them a voice, it will give them a language to be able to pray.”

Already existing in nine languages including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Turkish, Arabic and Latin, Fr. Padrini explained that there are plans to expand iBreviary to other languages in the future in order to reach a wider audience.

“Every day I have calls requesting a new language” he observed, noting that “the languages most requested and probably the next that we will do will be German and Polish,” after which he would like to expand to Chinese.

Referring to the rapid growth of the Church in Asia, the priest highlighted that “it would be just to give them help from the West, in a concrete way. IBreviary I think can be a simple tool, but also a concrete tool.”

The Arabic version of iBreviary was made available for the iPhone on April 15, and will be accessible for the iPad sometime this week. Fr. Padrini revealed that it will also be available for Google Play, Android devices, Kindle, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 in the coming weeks.

With all that a smartphone can do, it “must be also be an instrument of prayer,” he stressed, adding that in creating it, “I didn’t do anything but bring the prayers into the hands of the faithful through most simple and portable instrument possible.”

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Resurrection pours 'fresh hope' on the world, Pope reflects

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized the certainty of Christ's presence in the world today, noting how his resurrection invites us to reject sin and open ourselves to joy and hope.  

“In these days we celebrate with joy the great mystery of the Resurrection of Christ,” he told the crowds packed into St. Peter's Square April 23.

“With the resurrection, all has been made new and fresh hope has been poured out upon our world.”

During his remarks, the Pope commented on the Gospel reading from Luke chapter 24, where the angel appears to the women at Jesus' tomb and says to them: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

“It's not easy to accept the presence of the resurrected in the midst of us,” the Pope reflected. “The question that the angel directed to the women, that Easter morning, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' we must also ask ourselves.”

Pope Francis outlined the relevance of the angel's words today, explaining that we seek the living among the dead “every time we enclose ourselves in selfishness or complacency.”

“When we are seduced by power and the things of this world, forgetting God and neighbor, when we put our hope in worldly vanities, in money or in success,” he added.

“Each time we lose hope or do not have the strength to pray, each time that we feel alone of abandoned by friends, and even God, each time we feel like prisoners of our sins.”

The pontiff said that the angel's warning “helps us to go outside of our sadnesses and to open ourselves to joy and to hope,” which remove “the stones from the grave and push us to announce the Good News to others.”

Pope Francis also noted how the Gospel account shows three examples “of a life-changing encounter with the Risen Lord,” – Thomas, Mary Magdalene and the travelers on the road to Emmaus – which all invite us to the same experience.

“Like Thomas, we need to grasp the reality of Christ's rising to new life,” he said. “Like Mary Magdalene, we need to hear Jesus' voice calling our name.”

“And like the travelers on the road to Emmaus, we need to find renewed joy and hope by recognizing that the Lord is ever at our side.”

The Pope observed that although these disciples “sought the living among the dead,” Jesus “led them, by different paths, to faith in him and the power of his resurrection.”

“Today he challenges each of us to seek him, the Living One, and to leave behind everything that holds us back from encountering him and sharing in the rebirth, the freedom and the hope which he alone can give.”

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Postulators reflect on humanity of John Paul II, John XXIII

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The postulators of the canonization causes for both John Paul II and John XXIII told journalists at the Vatican that the soon-to-be-saints also had faults which show their “humanity.”

At the Holy See Press Office April 22, Monsignor Slawomir Oder and Father Giovangiuseppe Califano discussed both the innate signs of holiness as well as the limitations of the pontiffs.

Msgr. Oder recalled that John Paul II “was a man with blood in his veins,” and as such “had no problem in showing his feelings” – sometimes “he was angry, which demonstrated his humanity.”

The Polish priest noted that in one of his trips, Pope John Paul II was told to use a bullet proof vest. However, the pontiff strongly and negatively rejected the move, “because he trusted in another type of protection.”

Fr. Califano indicated that Pope John XXIII, known as the “good” Pope, also had faults and “used to worry too much about things.”

But, he added, the late pontiff also “had a sense of simplicity and wisdom that helped him to be ironic with himself.”

The priest recounted how one day a newly-appointed bishop confessed to John XXIII “that he could not sleep at night due to an anxiety which was caused by the responsibility of his office.”

“The Pope told him, 'You know, I also thought the same when I was elected Pope. But one day I dreamed about my Guardian Angel and it told me not to take everything so seriously.'”

Both postulators concurred that “all of us have faults, but true holiness is the one in which man responds to the grace of God correcting their mistakes.”

The two also reflected on the saintly characteristics of both men, which they said could be seen from the time both Popes were young.

As a fifteen-year-old seminarian, Angelo Roncalli not only exhibited the qualities of his future episcopal motto – “obedience and peace” – but showed his deep humility and paternal care for others, Fr. Califano said.

University friends of Karol Woytyla were struck by the future saint's prayer habits and profound understanding of the value of human life, Msgr. Oder added.

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Benedict XVI: I knew during his life that John Paul II was a saint

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA) - In a rare interview, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recalled his close friendship with Blessed John Paul II, saying that the pontiff’s sanctity and deep spirituality were apparent during his life.

“In the years in which I collaborated with him, it was ever clearer to me that John Paul II was a saint,” said Benedict XVI during an interview with Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch, which was published April 20 in the Spanish newspaper “La Razon.”

“Naturally, his intense relationship with God, being immersed in communion with the Lord, needs to be taken into account above all,” the former Pope said of his predecessor.

Benedict XVI, who served under Pope John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Polish pontiff courageously “embraced his task in a truly difficult time.”

“John Paul II did not ask for applause nor did he look around worried about how his decisions were going to be received. He acted based on his faith and his convictions, and he was also willing to take hits,” Benedict recounted. “The courage for truth is, in my view, a primary measure of holiness. Only by looking first at his relationship with God is it possible to also understand his unfailing pastoral determination.”

In this sense, he recalled the decision of the future saint to confront head on the spread of liberation theology in Latin America.

“Both in Europe and in North America, the common view was that it was about supporting the poor and that therefore it was a cause that ought to be approved outright. But that was an error. Poverty and the poor were undoubtedly addressed by Liberation Theology but from a very specific perspective,” Benedict XVI explained.

Liberation Theology used the Christian faith and transformed it “into a kind of political force. The religious traditions of the faith were placed at the service of political action. In this way, the faith was profoundly alienated from itself and true love for the poor was thus weakened as well. It was necessary to oppose such a falsification of the Christian faith precisely out of love for the poor and service to them,” he continued.

The situation in John Paul II’s native Poland – ruled at that time by Communism – “had showed him that the Church should truly act for freedom and liberation not in a political way but by awakening in men, through the faith, the forces of authentic liberation,” Benedict XVI said.

During the interview, the Pope Emeritus underscored that his collaboration with John Paul II “was always marked by friendship and affection,” on both an official and personal level. “The Pope was very versed in contemporary German literature and it was very beautiful (for both of us) to seek out the right decision together on these things,” he said.
Benedict XVI recalled that each Tuesday, the two would discuss the catechesis for the Wednesday audience. “Through the catechesis, the Pope decided to offer over time a catechism. He chose the themes and had us prepare brief preliminary considerations to be developed later (…). Here also the theological competence of the Pope became apparent. But at the same time I admired his willingness to learn.”

The retired pontiff also noted “three encyclicals of particular importance” issued by John Paul II. The first is “Redemptor hominis,” in which he offered his personal synthesis of the Christian faith. The second is “Redemptoris mission,” in which he examined “the relationship between inter-religious dialogue and the missionary task.” The third is “Veritatis splendor,” in which he addressed moral problems in a way that continues to be relevant today.

“The encyclical ‘Fides et ratio’ was also very significant, in which the Pope strived to offer a new vision of the relationship between the Christian faith and philosophical reason. And lastly, it is absolutely necessary to mention ‘Evangelium vitae,’ which developed one of the most fundamental themes of the entire pontificate of John Paul II: the intangible dignity of human life, from the moment of conception,” Benedict XVI added.

The retired Pope also said the spirituality of his predecessor was characterized “by the intensity of his prayer, which was profoundly rooted in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”  

“All of us were aware of his great love for the Mother of God. To give everything to Mary meant being, with her, totally for the Lord. Just as Mary did not live for herself but for Him, so also he learned from her and from being with her a complete and rapid devotion to Christ.”

“My memory of John Paul II is filled with gratitude. I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to imitate him, but I have tried to carry forward his legacy and his work the best that I could,” Benedict XVI said.

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Knights of Columbus prepares to celebrate papal canonizations

New Haven, Conn., Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Knights of Columbus will sponsor major celebrations of the double canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII in several U.S. cities, in addition to providing financial and logistical support in Rome.

“These two saints have each left very important legacies for the Church, and important examples of holiness for all of us,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said April 22.

Anderson noted that John XXIII “led the Church into the Second Vatican Council,” the 1962-1965 ecumenical council that aimed to respond to the challenges of the modern world.

The supreme knight described John Paul II as the council’s “key interpreter” who left a “profound legacy” that is still shaping Christianity.

The Catholic fraternal order will host broadcasts of the April 27 canonization ceremony and hold related events in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New Haven, Conn.

In Washington, D.C., on the weekend of April 26-27, the Knights will host several events at the National Shrine of Pope John Paul II, including a live broadcast of the ceremony early Sunday morning. Events begin at 7:30 p.m. local time April 26 with a showing of a documentary on John Paul II. The schedule includes a religious procession, a midnight Mass, a rosary, Confessions and Eucharistic Adoration. The veneration of a relic of the Pope will begin as soon as he is officially canonized.

The shrine will be renamed the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on April 27 at a 9:30 a.m. ceremony.

The Knights of Columbus is also a major sponsor of the Los Angeles archdiocese’s celebration at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, which will last from 7-11 p.m. local time on April 26. The event will include a rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, and music from artists like Tony Melendez, who performed for John Paul II during his 1987 visit to Los Angeles. Several people will speak about how John Paul II changed their lives.

The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven – where the Knights’ headquarters are located – will begin its celebrations at 10 a.m. Sunday with showings of video biographies of the two newly sainted Popes.

The museum will also host tours of its papal gallery. A shuttle will be made available for travel to St. Stanislaus Church for a 3 p.m. prayer service. Participants will then depart the church in a procession with a relic of John Paul II. The relic is a fragment from the Pope’s bloodstained cassock worn during the 1981 assassination attempt.

The procession will end at the Knights of Columbus Museum, which will allow veneration of the relic until 7 p.m. Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the following Monday and Tuesday.

At April 28 at 5:30 p.m., the museum will host Archbishop emeritus Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford for a talk about his personal memories of the two Pope saints.

The Knights of Columbus has donated almost $100,000 for Vatican Television’s broadcast of the canonizations. Additionally, the organization has opened two of its sports fields in Rome to host campsites for a thousand pilgrims who are attending the canonizations.

There are more than 1.8 million members of the Knights of Columbus worldwide in more than 14,000 local councils.

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Easter celebration strengthens Vietnamese migrants in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA) - Scores of Catholic migrants from Vietnam gathered across Thailand on Sunday to celebrate Christ's Resurrection with the traditions of their homeland.

In Bangkok, more than 1,500 Vietnamese youth gathered April 20 for Mass in their own language at Chair of St. Peter parish, said by Fr. James Hanh Vu, a Dominican.

“This has been tremendous … and was perhaps the largest gathering for the Vietnamese Catholic youth in Bangkok and the surrounding areas,” Fr. Anthony Le Duc, SVD, the city's chaplain for ministry to Vietnamese migrants, told CNA April 22.

“Presently, we have organized a total of 11 groups throughout the Bangkok archdiocese and its surrounding areas,” he explained. Each of the groups for Vietnamese expatriates includes between 60 and 300 members.

Speaking of the growth of the bigger groups, Fr. Le Duc added that communication via social media “has been instrumental in organizing various events … and it has resulted in substantive growth of bigger communities.”

Thailand's Committee for Vietnamese Migrant Ministry organized 13 days of recollection throughout Lent to prepare Vietnamese youth to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection.

Several Vietnamese priests and religious from various religious orders prepared and preached catecheses in Vietnamese for the days of recollection, and the celebration of Easter Sunday marked the culmination of the Lenten spiritual preparations.

Speaking of the importance of Confession, Fr. Le Duc said that “although the Mass was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., a large number of youth had begun arriving at the parish as early as 10 a.m. to make their confessions.”

Preaching at the Mass, Fr. Le Duc reminded the Vietnamese youth studying and working in Thailand that the Spirit is urging them to be enthusiastic in their prayer life and in attending Mass.

“No longer can we use the excuse of being too tired from working and studying to pray; nor can we use the reason of not understanding Thai well to excuse ourselves from going to Mass on Sunday,” he added.

Fr. Le Duc emphasized that the difficulties, challenges, and suffering we all face are to be borne with faith and hope in the Risen Christ.

“The way of the cross is meant to be traveled; it is not a place to stop and pitch a tent,” he exhorted.

Sr. Jacinta Nguyen Minh Tuyet, of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary – an order founded in North Vietnam in 1946 – told CNA that the youth “participate enthusiastically in such gatherings because they were raised to be faithful Catholics in Vietnam … hence they bring this faith with them and are able to be examples of living Catholic faith to the Thais around them.”

Peter Do Van Hung, a seminarian of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, told CNA, “it’s a joy to join the Vietnamese Easter celebration in Thailand, and an opportunity to meet the priests and religious, and Vietnamese youth,” adding that the reflections given by the priests had “helped us to enter into the spirit of the Easter season and to live out this spirit in our daily life.”

“I am extremely happy that the priests and sisters have organized this Easter celebration,” Anna Nguyen Thi Hue, one of the attendees at the Mass, told CNA.

“Especially this year, most of us are able to receive Holy Communion because we’ve had the opportunity to attend various Lenten recollections to prepare for the Resurrection of the Lord.”

Nguyen call the atmosphere of the celebration “really joyous,” saying, “everyone is truly showing the spirit of this day.”

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CHA's Sister Carol Keehan Insists Obamacare Bars Federal Dollars for Abortion: Is She Right?

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2014 (National Catholic Register) - Does the Affordable Care Act (ACA) permit federal dollars for elective abortion, in a sharp departure from legislative precedent?

No, says Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, the president of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), an industry lobby that represents Church-affiliated hospitals and nursing-care facilities, which provided crucial backing for the controversial health-care law when it narrowly passed Congress in 2010.

“We are always alert to additional legislative protections that ensure federal funds are not used to provide or facilitate abortions,” Sister Carol told the Register in an email exchange.

“At the same time, we continue to be confident, as we have been since the law passed, that ACA does not enable federal funds to be accessed for abortions (except for Hyde provisions),” she said, in a reference to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to preserve the life of the mother.

But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), some Catholic bioethicists and pro-life activists take a very different view of the ACA.

The crucial issue, they charge, is that Obamacare lacks explicit language similar to the Hyde Amendment. Thus, legal precedent suggests that it will be vulnerable to lawsuits filed by abortion-rights groups.

The CHA has fought off pro-life concerns on this issue ever since President Obama secured passage of the bill in the House after issuing an 11th-hour executive order designed to calm the fears of pro-life House Democrats who ultimately provided the critical votes needed to pass the bill. When Obama signed the bill during a high-profile ceremony at the White House, Sister Carol received one of the president’s pens.

However, the U.S. bishops and pro-life advocates were skeptical about the executive order’s value and withheld support for the law at the time because of their concerns that it would facilitate federal funding of abortion. And after Planned Parenthood's leader, Cecile Richards, dimissed the executive order as "a symbolic gesture" that should be tolerated by her organization's constituents, the USCCB saw no reason to reassess its judgment.

Executive-Order Skepticism

This skepticism has not been alleviated in the four years since the passage of the ACA became law, and pro-life organizations and lawmakers have repeatedly failed to pass legislation addressing concerns about the law.

“The language in the final paragraphs of President Obama’s executive order clearly states that nothing in that order can contravene existing law,” said Marie Hilliard, the director of bioethics and public policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, which consults with the U.S. bishops and other Church-affiliated institutions on such matters. “Thus, the executive order, by its own language, negates itself, since the Affordable Care Act permits such funding.”

Indeed, Hilliard said, legal precedent and the “legislative history of the Hyde Amendment” suggest that, “in the absence of such provisions, abortion could be considered an essential health-care benefit.”

“Without the Hyde Amendment or the similar provision in the Affordable Care Act (Stupak-Pitts Amendment),” Hilliard warned, “the results of a legal challenge to the denial of abortion coverage are quite obvious.”

Hilliard also reported that federal moneys are already flowing to several programs, authorized under ACA, including state health exchanges that have not explicitly barred coverage of the procedure.

“The Affordable Care Act clearly provides for direct funding with tax dollars for abortions on demand in three programs: the Cooperative Grants program, the High-Risk Pool program and the Community Health Centers program,” she said. And she noted that  some states receiving such funding initially indicated these moneys could be used for direct funding of abortions, until the plans were exposed.

Surge of Enrollments

Now, those same concerns about federal funding of abortion have gained traction with the surge of enrollments on the state exchanges authorized under ACA in the weeks before the extended March 31 deadline.

On April 16, Obama announced that an estimated 8 million people had enrolled in insurance plans authorized under ACA. Twenty-six state exchanges, established under the ACA, provide health plans that cover elective abortion, and many enrollees receive federal subsidies to help them pay for their insurance.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, in its January 2014 report, “Coverage of Abortion Services and the ACA,” estimated that the health law would facilitate unrestricted access to abortion in states that permit such coverage on their health exchanges or through the expansion of Medicaid.

“Of the estimated 11.8 million women who are uninsured and legally present in the United States, about half (52%) will be able to enroll in a Medicaid plan or private insurance plan that does not limit the scope of coverage for abortion services if they wish,” stated the Kaiser report, which expressed a clear sympathy for increasing access to abortion for poor women.

Still, the Catholic Health Association insists that the executive order prohibiting the use of federal dollars for abortion is in force, and its leaders base that judgment on the language of the executive order and on the ACA’s segregated accounting mechanism that is designed to satisfy pro-life concerns by keeping premiums for abortion separate from federal dollars used to cover other medical procedures.

“We have seen no evidence at all that any federal funding is being used to pay for elective abortions,” said CHA spokesman Jeff Tieman in an email message.

Tieman provided a link to the federal statute’s Section 18023 guidelines that spell out how insurers should address the issue.

He noted that “insurance companies choosing to offer abortion coverage must collect a separate, second premium check and deposit it into a separate account used exclusively to pay for such services.”

‘Accounting Gimmick’

Since the segregated account plan was first introduced, critics like the Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser have dismissed it as an “accounting gimmick used to try and mitigate the damage of omitting the comprehensive Hyde language (Stupak-Pitts Amendment) from the ACA.”

Dannenfelser told the Register, “Under the scheme, plans charge enrollees, regardless of age and gender, a minimum of $1 per month for elective abortion coverage.”

Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, raised similar concerns about transparency and the segregated accounting plan in an April 7 column in America, the Jesuit website and magazine.

“[A] common impression that enrollees will write a ‘separate check’ for abortion, which pro-life dissenters might try refusing to sign, is apparently false — the funds are separated at the insurer’s end,” Doerflinger explained

Sister Carol disputes related findings of both the USCCB and other organizations evaluating the ACA, including groups supportive of abortion rights.

Sister Carol told the Register, “Our initial research shows that you can go into each marketplace and determine the benefits in each plan.

“The law requires that there be at least one plan in every state marketplace without abortion coverage; we have not been able to find anywhere where that is not the case.”

But the Guttmacher Institute, a research group previously affiliated with Planned Parenthood, issued a 2014 report on the ACA that concluded: It is currently not easy for consumers to ascertain the degree to which abortion coverage is included within marketplace plans.”

Meanwhile, Doerflinger reported, “Some states have said that every health plan on their exchange will cover elective abortions.”

Thus far, every single plan on Rhode Island’s state exchange includes abortion coverage. Possibly, more states have followed this pattern, but the lack of transparency makes a definitive accounting elusive.

CHA’s Resolve

Tieman’s comment about the CHA’s “initial research” on the matter of state exchanges and abortion coverage suggests that the organization has looked into the matter. If so, it would be a public service for all Catholic and pro-life consumers if Sister Carol provided the results of that survey; and, of course, it would also serve to bolster CHA’s own credibility on this issue.

Does it matter that Sister Carol won’t budge on the issue of the health law and abortion coverage? And has this stance hampered efforts to secure legislation that would strengthen both conscience protections and language prohibiting federal funds for abortion?

Doerflinger suggested that it matters a great deal.

“One barrier to progress on the act’s problems regarding abortion is that many, including some Catholics, are confused about those problems or deny that they exist, “ he said.

But for now, CHA is not prepared to reconsider — at least not publicly — the objections raised by the USCCB and the National Catholic Bioethics Center or the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Guttmacher Institute.

Said CHA’s Tieman, “If you have a real example of an actual case in which federal funds were used to pay for an elective abortion, please share that with us, and we will respond and follow up accordingly.”

Joan Frawley Desmond is the senior editor for the National Catholic Register.

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Friends, scholars recount sanctity of 'Good Pope John'

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a conference held at the Vatican Wednesday, a scholar on Bl. John XXIII and the Pope's one-time butler both spoke about his kindness and charity ahead of his canonization, which will occur April 27 along with that of John Paul II.

Guido Gusso, who was John XXIII's personal butler, was present at the April 23 event, recounting several personal stories. Gusso began working for Angelo Roncalli when he was Patriarch of Venice.

Gusso said that when he got a girlfriend, he went to the cardinal to make the case that he wasn't being paid enough.

Roncalli considered what Gusso said, and replied, quoting Christ, that even the birds of the air are taken care of, “so you needn't worry.”

Gusso remained in Roncalli's service.

While Roncalli was cardinal, Gusso made a habit of kneeling before him and kissing his ring. But Roncalli eventually reacted, telling him, “You can kiss my ring in the morning and in the evening, but I don’t like all of this kneeling. Go to the chapel and kneel before the Sacrament, but not in front of me.”
Another moment Gusso remembered distinctly was the night Roncalli was elected Bishop of Rome.

Explaining how it was decided not to announce his election immediately, Gusso said the new Pope asked him to go to his office to retrieve for him some papers and cards.

On attempting to leave the area, Gusso was encountered by a cardinal who threatened him with excommunication for potentially breaking the seal of silence.

Returning to John XXIII to tell him what had transpired, Gusso said John told him to simply tell the cardinal that he would immediately lift the excommunication.

Telling the cardinal this on his second try, Gusso was permitted to leave for the papers and cards.

Monsignor Battista Angelo Pansa, a scholar who has written extensively on John XXIII, said the Pope “was a man who was a pastor, a shepherd of peace who was able to work with the east and the west; a man of great dialogue.”

Msgr. Pansa is pastor of Transfiguration parish in Rome, and is a priest of the Bergamo diocese – the same Church for which Roncalli was ordained a priest in 1904.  

He reflected that the blessed displayed “great docility and openness to the Holy Spirit” throughout his life.

John XXIII's life, he said, can be summed up in the expressions “a blessed and happy poverty,” and “the art of encounter.”

Emphasizing how the late Pope learned his values from a family environment, Msgr. Pansa recalled that when Roncalli entered seminary at the age of 20, he wrote to his mother explaining that “I am not becoming a priest for honors … or for money,” but “for the most poor.”

Msgr. Pansa noted that while on retreat before entering the seminary, Roncalli titled his diary “Journal of a Soul,” scribbling on the inside cover “inflame my heart” – showing his life-long desire for sanctity.

The priest discussed Roncalli's decision to take the name John upon his election as Bishop of Rome: it was the name of the parish church in which he was baptized, and of his cathedral, St. John Lateran.

In his discourse upon accepting the supreme mandate, Bl. John XXIII said, “the name John … is that given to two of the men who were nearest” to Christ, John the Evangelist and John the Baptist.

The name, in fact, of St. John Lateran is in full, the “Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran.”

Moving on to discuss the good works done by Good Pope John, Msgr. Pansa recounted his visit to Bambino Gesu hospital on Christmas Day, 1958 – the children, seeing the hat he wore, mistook him for Santa Claus.

The following day he traveled to Regina Coeli prison, telling the inmates that “since you cannot come to me, I came to you,” and encouraging them to tell their families that “the Pope came to see you and to bless you.”

Msgr. Pansa told of how, prior to convoking the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII visited both Loretto and Assisi, so as to entrust the council to the intercession of Mary and St. Francis.

Going on, he recalled how the Pope worked to unify east and west during the Cuban Missile Crisis, explaining that after visiting him, the daughter of Nikita Khrushchev, Rada, went to the White House, where she saw a rosary hanging from the bedpost of President Kennedy’s youngest daughter, Caroline.

It was identical to the rosary John XXIII had given to Rada's two children when they met with him in Rome, the priest observed, emphasizing how John wanted to unite the two sides through the rosary.

John XXIII was also the first Pope to address an encyclical to “all men of good will” with his “Pacem in terris,” on establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity, and liberty.

Reflecting on how the Blessed become known as the “Good Pope,” Msgr. Pansa recalled his visits to parishes of his diocese during Lent in 1962 and 1963; it was during his visit to St. Basil that the moniker was given him: the church was still under construction, and so he had to stand in a makeshift theater outside.

Msgr. Pansa concluded by noting the “beautiful continuity” between John XXIII and Pope Francis. He pointed in particular to Francis' apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium,” and John's address opening Vatican II, “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia,” or “Mother Church Rejoices.”

He said both tell “the story of the Gospel” and that both documents have a beautiful continuity in both “ideas and spirituality.”

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