London, England, May 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
U.K. requirements that medical professionals seeking a specialist diploma must be willing to prescribe contraception and abortion-causing drugs have sparked objections from those excluded due to their moral beliefs.
“These rules exclude professionals who are unwilling to prescribe contraceptives and abortifacients on moral and conscientious grounds from specializing in an important area of clinical practice,” Victoria Weissman, a Catholic final year medical student in Britain, told CNA May 1.
“These are rules of exclusion based on discrimination, and restrict the rights both of health care professionals and of society in general,” she said, adding that the rules discriminate against her “on the grounds of my moral and conscientious objection.”
She said that the rules also discriminate against the “many women” she has encountered who might benefit and appreciate discussing these issues with “a practitioner who shared their understanding of the meaning and responsibility of their sexuality and fertility and who valued the dignity of every human life.”
In February, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists re-published the guidelines for its specialist diplomas in sexual and reproductive health and for the standards of full membership in the faculty, the British newspaper The Telegraph reports.
The faculty said the completion of the program’s full syllabus is necessary for the qualification and this includes “a willingness to prescribe all forms of hormonal contraception, including emergency contraception, regardless of personal beliefs.”
Weissman said that the diploma is important for general practitioners or nurses involved in “any aspect of reproductive health” and it is “essential” for specialization.
She said that more than 70 percent of British medical graduates become general practitioners and reproductive health constitutes “a large part” of their caseload.
The diploma guidelines update said that clinicians with moral or religious reservations about “any contraceptive methods” will be unable to fulfill its syllabus requirement and will be ineligible for the diploma. It said that nurses and midwives have the right to conscientious objection only in cases of participation in abortion and in artificial conception procedures.
The faculty said that the policy is an updated version that now refers to nurses but is “otherwise unchanged” from existing policy.
Weissman repeated her objections to the policy.
“Sexual and reproductive health care is about much more than preventing and taking away new life,” she said.
Weissman explained that abortifacient drugs prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, a new human embryo, “essentially resulting in miscarriage, termination of pregnancy, abortion.”
“They act once conception has happened, once life exists… they prevent this life from developing, from thriving, from surviving.”
These drugs “cause us to break both the Fifth Commandment and the Hippocratic Oath,” she objected.
She added that Catholics object to contraception on the grounds that it disrupts of conjugal love and places obstacles between the couples and God’s will for them.
Weisman said that disregarding her beliefs would mean she is “endangering the immortal souls of those I treat as well as myself” and also “helping to further an attitude in society that does not respect the dignity of each human life, regardless of its stage in life.”
She said the Catholic faith helps contribute to U.K. medicine. It helps medical practitioners to “see in each individual the image and likeness of God” and to “care for people regardless of their situation, their age, color or creed.” These practitioners’ conscientious objections also help uphold medical moral standards.
Weissman suggested that accommodations be arranged for objecting medical professionals to allow them to complete the diploma.
The rules have also drawn concern from Dr. Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship.
“It bars pro-life doctors from specializing in sexual and reproductive health and also makes it much more difficult for non-specialists to get jobs in family planning or reproductive health,” he said, according to the Telegraph.
In an April 29 blog post, Saunders suggested that the new policy may constitute illegal discrimination against those who hold certain religious and moral beliefs.
“I expect that some serious questions will be asked in parliament and elsewhere about this matter in the coming days,” he said, “and I would not be surprised if some government ministers got very angry as a result, or if a doctor, or a group of doctors and nurses, contemplated bringing a legal case against the College.”
Vatican City, May 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Vatican observer Sandro Magister has said that Pope Francis’ “formidable praise” for Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” is key to understanding his papacy’s alternating emphases of both clear doctrine and pastoral mercy.
Magister, writing in his May 1 column at L'Espresso, noted that the renewed controversy over communion for divorced and remarried Catholics has created “formidable pressure” in public opinion that is likely to expect a change in Church teaching in 2015 or 2016.
“There was similarly massive pressure for change in the 1960s, when the Pope had to decide on the legitimacy of contraceptives, with many theologians, bishops, and cardinals siding in favor,” Magister continued. “But in 1968 Paul VI decided against, with the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’.”
This encyclical met with “bitter contestation” from entire groups of bishops and was disobeyed by “countless faithful,” Magister explained.
“But that today Pope Francis -- surprising here as in everything -- has said he wants to take as his own frame of reference.”
Magister cited Pope Francis’ March 5 interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera, in which the Pope noted that Paul VI urged confessors to be “very merciful and pay attention to concrete situations.” He also said Paul VI had a “prophetic” genius and had “the courage to take a stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a cultural restraint, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.”
“The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral care takes into account situations and what it is possible for persons to do,” Pope Francis had said.
Magister said that one “can truly expect anything” from Pope Francis, including a decision “against the majority” that reconfirms the indissolubility of marriage but is “tempered by the mercy of pastors of souls in the face of concrete situations.”
According to Magister, Pope Francis follows a pattern that “continually alternates flexibility and firmness,” evident in his response to the controversy over communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
Magister noted that some leading German bishops had indicated that they would break with Catholic practice and give communion to the divorced and remarried.
The Pope responded by having the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s prefect, then-Archbishop Gerhard Müller, give “a stern order to halt” in an October 2013 article for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
At the same time, he allowed Cardinal Walter Kasper, a leading advocate of communion for remarried, divorced Catholics, to be the only speaker at the 2014 consistory. Pope Francis “sided with him, warmly praising him even after other cardinals had risen up against him,” Magister said.
In Magister’s view, the Pope “loves to reiterate his fidelity to perennial doctrine” but then “seems to detach himself from it when he acts as physician of individual souls” and responds to a world “so full of the wounded needing urgent care.”
He noted reports of Pope Francis’ phone call with a divorced and remarried Catholic in which the Pope allegedly told her to receive Holy Communion. While the actual contents of the call have been contested, such reports have the effect of creating a “driving crescendo of anticipations of change."
However, Magister suggested that the Pope could defy these expectations.
“As expert as he is in cultivating public opinion, Pope Francis is not the kind to be let himself become its prisoner.”
Vatican City, May 4, 2014 (CNA) -
In his Sunday homily delivered at a Polish parish in Rome, Pope Francis meditated on the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as a source of strength for Christians.
The Pope reflected on the gospel account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who failed to recognize the risen Jesus Christ until he “broke bread” with them. Pope Francis said that the two became “witnesses of the hope that is Christ! Because they met him, the Risen Traveller.”
“This Jesus, he is the Risen Traveller that journeys with us. And Jesus is here today, he is here among us. He is here in his word, is here on the altar, journeying with us,” the Pope preached at Rome’s St. Stanislaus Parish on May 4.
“We too can become risen travellers if his word inflames our hearts, and his Eucharist opens our eyes to the faith and nurtures hope and charity in us,” urged the pontiff.
Sunday’s Mass was held in celebration of John Paul II’s recent canonization on April 27. The Polish saint used to visit St. Stanislaus Church regularly throughout his time as Pope.
“You, brothers and sisters, make part of a people that has been very much tried in its history. The Polish people know well that in order to enter into glory it is necessary to pass through the Passion and the Cross,” acknowledged Pope Francis.
“And they know this not because they have studied it, but because they have seen it. St. John Paul II, like a worthy son of his earthly fatherland, followed this path. He followed it in an exemplary way.”
“Are we ready to follow this path?” asked the Pope.
True Christians are “travellers” rather than “vagabonds,” he explained, because they are “on a journey, but knowing where we are going!”
Jesus accompanies his followers on the path, and his presence allows the faithful to “walk alongside our brothers and sisters who are sad and despairing, and warm their hearts with the gospel, and break with them the bread of fraternity.”
The pontiff continued to reflect on these themes in the gospel during his Angelus message to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square at noon on Sunday.
“The road to Emmaus becomes like a symbol of our journey of faith: the Scriptures and the Eucharist are the indispensable elements for the meeting with the Lord,” he said in his noontime reflection.
Like the disciples who were despairing at the death of the Lord, we “often arrive at Sunday Mass with our preoccupations, our difficulties and delusions.”
“But the liturgy of the Word welcomes us,” just as Jesus explained the scriptures to the two disciples, “rekindling in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope.”
In communion, stressed the Pope, Jesus “gives us strength.”
“When you are sad, pick up the word of God. When you are down, pick up the word of God and go to Sunday Mass to receive communion, to participate in the mystery of Jesus. The word of God, the Eucharist: these fill with joy.”
“Remember this well,” he urged, “every day, read a section of the gospel. And on Sunday, go receive communion, to receive Jesus. Like it was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: they heard the word, they shared in the breaking of the bread.”
Pope Francis then led the crowds in the traditional Easter-time Marian prayer, the Regina Coeli, asking for Mary’s intercession for “every Christian” to “rediscover the grace of a transforming encounter with the Lord.”
At the close of his Sunday message, he also invited everyone to pray for the situation of violent political unrest in the Ukraine, and for the victims of a recent landslide in Afghanistan.
The pontiff then greeted the various pilgrim groups present before wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch.
Rome, Italy, May 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Leaders in the movement to protect human life from conception to natural death held a conference in Rome on Saturday to discuss various pro-life initiatives underway throughout the world.
“The idea was to bring together international leaders from the pro-life movement from all over the world, here to Rome to support the Italians, but also to be here with the Church,” said Joseph Meaney, the Director of Coordination for Human Life International, one of the organizations sponsoring the event.
The May 3 conference known as the Rome Life Forum, hosted just down the street from the Vatican, was held in anticipation of Italy’s fourth annual March for Life on May 4.
“This meeting is very exciting. It’s actually the first international life forum here in Rome, held in connection with the Roman March for life,” Meaney told CNA on May 3.
Leaders from 36 different pro-life groups from Europe, North America, and as far away as New Zealand met behind closed doors on Saturday morning to discuss and strategize.
The afternoon public portion of the conference included speakers Cardinal Raymond Burke and Catholic commentator George Weigel.
Conference participant Julia Calinescu, who moved to Romania with her husband Dan six years ago to begin the pro-life group LifeNation, said that she felt it was “very significant for leaders to be able to get together.”
“You still need a mentor, you’re never a ‘master of the trade,’ so it was really great for us to be inspired by people who have so much more experience than we do,” she noted.
Dan Calinescu said he felt encouraged by meeting so many other pro-life leaders from around the world.
“I think sometimes especially in Romania, because the pro-life movement is so young, sometimes you feel alone and like you’re fighting on your own, but just being here … we get strength from this,” he said.
He said the meeting provided exposure to other pro-life advocates’ experience.
“We’ve got a lot of ideas written down that we want to try, plus contacts, so we hope that we can exchange ideas in the future.”
Another attendee was Robert Colquhoun, a London-based International Outreach Director with the 40 Days for Life Campaign that encourages Christians “to pray and fast for an end to abortion.” He said it was encouraging “to see the collaboration and cooperation of many different leaders from around the world.”
The 40 Days for Life Campaign focuses specifically on helping “locally organized community initiatives” of Christians who hold prayer campaigns outside of abortion centers around the world. The group is in its eighth year and has expanded to 522 cities in 21 countries.
“We’ve seen nearly 9,000 lives that were scheduled to be aborted, saved from abortion,” Colquhoun explained. “We’ve also seen over 140 workers leave their jobs and quit the abortion industry, and we’ve now seen 50 abortion centers close their doors for good.”
He said the morning portion of Saturday’s conference helped to “get people communicating, collaborating together where they can collaborate,” across the different fields in the pro-life movement.
Heartbeat International, which has over 1,060 affiliates throughout the globe, was another represented organization at the event. Dr. Marie Meaney helps the group’s work to aid crisis pregnancy centers in beginning or improving their services.
“We also look at the wider problem because often women feel that they have no choice, that they have to have an abortion,” she explained, noting that some abortions are motivated by life problems ranging from sexual abuse to lack of employment.
“And we try to help them, concretely, in their particular situations, so that they will have a future for their child.”
Meaney expressed her excitement at meeting others in movement. “It is an opportunity to make connections, to work internationally--to gather ideas, to exchange ideas,” she said with enthusiasm.
Saturday’s conference also resulted in a joint declaration from 52 pro-life leaders from 16 countries.
Each leader signed a document asking the bishops of the Catholic Church to withhold Holy Communion from pro-abortion rights politicians “as an act of love and mercy towards those same politicians.”
The document cited Scripture, canon law, and a 2004 letter to U.S. bishops from the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The document said that Catholic politicians who support abortion are in “grave sin.”
Rome, Italy, May 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The fourth annual March for Life held in Rome May 4 drew attendees from across Italy, Europe and the United States.
“The beautiful thing about this march is that it has always been very international,” explained Joseph Meaney, Director of Coordination for the global pro-life group Human Life International.
“The Italians have had a pro-life movement for years, decades, but they’ve never really had a lot of marches, and so they put this together… (with) all different kinds of Italian groups, widening out to European, and now even further,” he told CNA on May 4.
Rosa, an Italian woman from the province of Caserta, north of Naples, was at the March for Life in Rome for the first time. “I’m happy to be here with my friends because it’s a moment of joy and happiness,” she explained.
The group came to “demonstrate together for life, because life is good, and invaluable for all, and it’s necessary to protect it.”
“Life is the most fundamental good that we can have. Therefore, if we don’t protect it as young people, who can?” Rosa’s friend added.
Giorgio, a young man originally from Albania, expressed a similar conviction.
“Life must be respected properly--it’s the foundation of everything,” he said, adding “it would be very beautiful if...everyone in the world rose up to protect life.”
Elvira, a 17-year-old girl from Poland, travelled to Rome with a group of 50 young people. She said they wanted to show that “life is very important for everyone.”
Sunday’s March also had an interreligious element: as one Muslim man who walked with a group of Moroccans explained, “we are together, here for life.”
Pope Francis touched on this theme in his greeting to the march participants. At the close of his Angelus address from the window of the Apostolic palace, he noted that this year the March for Life had “an international and ecumenical character.”
“Many congratulations and go forward, and work on this!” the Pope encouraged participants.
Last year, he made a surprise visit to the March for Life by riding the popemobile to greet marchers.
The March for Life in Rome is one aspect of a wider pro-life movement in Italy.
“The Italian pro-life movement really started very strongly in the crisis pregnancy area, and the ‘muovimento per la vita’ has had a huge impact in almost every major city in Italy,” Meaney said.
These efforts draw “wonderful people who are out there all the time” and have phone lines open 24 hours each day people to call for help. “The Italian pro-life movement has worked very hard to help mothers in distress,” he said.
“But the political level and the marching level has kind of lagged a little bit behind,” he acknowledged, “and so I think they’re kind of taking a page from the US and saying it’s important to get together as a people of life--to get all together, and go out on the streets.”
Geoffrey Strickland, who works with Priests for Life in Rome, noted a similar trend. “The Italians frequently say it’s the initiatives in the United States that give them hope to continue on.”
“Today is a beautiful example of the universality of the Church in action,” remarked Strickland, a young man from Gulfport, Miss. “You have a grassroots movement that has just taken root and grown…(and) an absolutely amazing movement among the youth to be here.”
The March has grown significantly in its first four years.
This year marks Dr. Marie Meaney’s third year participating in the March.
At first, she recalled, “we were a rather small group.”
“It was still wonderful to be there and to be part of that, but it was amazing to see the growth in the last years: suddenly we’re 30,000 people, and it seemed there was no end to it!”