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Sec. Pompeo speaks ahead of first ever Ministerial on religious freedom

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. State Department is set to host the largest and highest-level global meeting on religious liberty next week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told EWTN he is prepared to talk with countries with whom the U.S. government has “deep disagreements.”

The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will be held on July 24-26 and include foreign ministers, religious leaders, and civil society representatives to discuss concrete ways to combat religious persecution in different parts of the world. A Ministerial is a high-level international gathering of senior-rank government officials and experts.

“It’s truly historic. It’s the first time the State Department has led such a discussion. We’ll have over 80 delegations from countries around the world, many, many religious organizations, NGOs,” Secretary Pompeo told Lauren Ashburn of EWTN News Nightly on Thursday.

During the three-day event, survivors of religious persecution will share their stories, senior U.S. government officials will provide an overview of religious freedom policy goals, and foreign delegations will announce new initiatives to promote freedom of religion.

The State Department announced earlier this week that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will address attendees on the importance of international religious freedom on July 26.

Ahead of the ministerial, some have criticized Secretary Pompeo’s prior announcement that the event will be a meeting of “like-minded” countries.

“When I said like-minded, I meant those countries that are prepared to begin their walk towards the religious freedom that we have enshrined in our Constitution and that our nation so values and cherishes,” Pompeo told Ashburn.

“I’m sure there’ll be countries here that we have deep disagreements with,” said Pompeo.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, is expected to attend the ministerial. On July 19, the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy wrote to the U.S. secretary of state urging him to confront Bassil over the arrest and interrogation of two Maronite Christians in Lebanon earlier this month. AMCD reports that the Maronite Christians were targeted for their contacts with Israeli Christians made at an American conference on reviving the Aramaic language and culture.

Pompeo, who met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this year, has said repeatedly that he raises the issue of human rights when meeting with so-called bad actors, although sometimes privately.

“The State Department takes this issue of religious freedom very seriously. In conversations with countries that don’t live up to the standards of religious freedom that they ought to have, we raise that issue, sometimes privately if we think that’s the most effective way to achieve the change that we’re looking for, and sometimes publicly if we think that will accomplish our goal,” Pompeo told EWTN.

When asked about religious liberty issues within the U.S., Pompeo responded, “My faith teaches me that imperfection is all around us, and when it comes to government that’s certainly the case as well. I think the United States stands as an enormous beacon of religious freedom. I’m confident that we can always do better.”

“But we stand strong here in the United States for religious tolerance and freedom, and I think that’s an important demonstration to the world of how valuable that fundamental human right can be to a strong and successful nation,” he continued.

The State Department currently designates 10 “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Since becoming Secretary of State in April, Pompeo has led major U.S. foreign policy shifts towards several of these countries, most notably North Korea and Iran.

A state department official has said that Pompeo plans to address the persecution of religious groups in Iran during a speech on Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 -- the passage of which created the position of ambassador-at-large for religious freedom and other government offices dedicated to the issue.

Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback will launch the week’s activities with a delegation of survivors of contemporary religious persecution in China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, and elsewhere at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Many other religious freedom events will be held in Washington throughout the week of the ministerial. The Religious Freedom Institute will host U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich who will speak on a Vatican perspective on religious freedom on July 24, and the Pew Research center will present their data on global religious restrictions and nationalism in Europe.

“It should be a great gathering where we will make the point that religious freedom is a human right and that every individual ought to have their right to practice their particular religion, or if they have no faith, to not be punished for that either,” said Pompeo.
 

Canons of St John Cantius founder relocating to St Louis

Chicago, Ill., Jul 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. C. Frank Phillips, former pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, has been asked by his religious superior to move to St. Louis, the priest informed his supporters Wednesday.

Phillips, 68, has been accused of misconduct involving adult men. He was removed as pastor of St. John Cantius March 16, and prohibited from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Blase Cupich.

In 1998, Phillips founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and of the Resurrectionists.

“From the founding of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, I have instructed the men how to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. One of those vows, obedience, may especially challenge Religious because it is difficult to submit your will to a superior,” Fr. Phillips wrote July 18 to Protect Our Priests, a group formed to support and assist him.

“As you know, the Canons are requested not to have contact with me, which is difficult for them and for me as their Founder. Also, I have been asked by my superior to relocate to St. Louis. I am requested to do this not under formal obedience but willingly in the virtue of obedience. Is this difficult? Yes, it is,” he wrote.

The saints “were always obedient to their superiors, and their examples help to sustain me now,” Fr. Phillips wrote. “We need only look to St. Padre Pio to see the extent of his lived obedience. If I could not or would not listen to my superior, how could I then expect the Canons, as their Founder, to be obedient to their superior?”

He said he is uncertain of what the future holds for him, and that “time will tell” what it holds for the Canons.

“I feel confident that they will be blessed with vocations for their dedication to the restoration of the sacred in obedience,” he added.

“I thank everyone who has supported the Protect Our Priests initiative with prayers, sacrifices, Masses, and contributions. May St. John Cantius, our heavenly patron, extend his blessing to all of you.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago forwarded unspecified allegations against Fr. Phillips to the Resurrectionists in March.

The allegations were investigated by an independent review board organized by the Resurrectionists, and by provincial leaders. The results of that investigation were forwarded to the Archdiocese of Chicago by Fr. Gene Szarek, superior of the USA province of the Resurrectionists, along with his own proposal for a resolution.

Szarek sent on May 21 a “votum”- an official opinion- to the Archdiocese of Chicago, in response to the findings of the review board.

Citing “a certain amount of ambiguity between the allegations of the accusers and the testimony of witnesses, including Fr. Phillips himself,” Szarek said he would instruct Fr. Phillips to undergo a psychological evaluation, “and possible sensitivity training in the very near future.”

Fr. Szarek said further that Fr. Phillips should not return to St. John Cantius Parish as its pastor, considering both his age “and out of respect for the Cardinal's own preference.”

The superior also wrote that it “seems fair and just to restore the canonical faculties of Fr. Phillips” because “no civil or ecclesiastical crime had been established.”

He noted that Fr. Phillips' accusers “thought that his removal from the parish was all that they desired.”

Fr. Szarek also wrote that since Fr. Phillips is founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, “the ideal would be his restoration as their superior general.”

The Canons Regular are incardinated in the Chicago archdiocese, and their assignments are made by the Archbishop of Chicago, Fr. Szarek noted, so “there is no fear that Fr. Phillips could possibly interfere in some way” with the archbishop's decisions.

“The historical reality of his being the Founder and his ongoing provision of spiritual leadership would be salutary for all,” Fr. Szarek stated, adding that Fr. Phillips “would obviously not reside” at St. John Cantius Parish.

“If the above recommendation is unfeasible, then at least he and the Canons should not be prevented from communication.” A prohibition on communication between Phillips and the Canons Regular had not previously been reported.

Despite Fr. Szarek's proposal, Cardinal Cupich declined to allow Fr. Phillips to minister publicly. Ordinarily, a priest prohibited from public ministry is able to celebrate Mass only in private, and is not able to hear confessions or celebrate other sacraments, unless a person is in immediate danger of death.

“We accept the Archdiocese's decision that Fr. Phillips' faculties for public ministry will remain withdrawn and that he not return as pastor of St John Cantius and as Superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius,” Fr. Szarek wrote in a June 24 letter to the parishioners of St. John Cantius parish.

Paula Waters, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune June 25 that though Fr. Phillips had not been found to have violated civil or canon law, there was other information that justified barring him from exercising public ministry.

“There are standards for behavior,” Waters told the Tribune.

Stating that the review board recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to St. John Cantius as pastor “and on other factors, the cardinal decided that his faculties to minister would remain withdrawn,” she said.

When asked about the removal of Fr. Phillips' faculties, a Chicago archdiocese spokeswoman told CNA June 26 only that “it was recommended that Fr. Phillips not return to ministry at St. John Cantius” in the Resurrectionists' investigation report.

In his letter informing the St. John Cantius community of Cardinal Cupich's decision, Fr. Szarek wrote: “While we know this news will disappoint some of Fr. Phillips' supporters, we hope everyone will come to understand that this process was conducted with prayerful deliberation and sincere compassion.”

In a June 29 statement Fr. Szarek said that reports “the Independent Review Board exonerated Fr. Phillips are without foundation.”

Fr. Szarek added that he has offered his support to those accusing Fr. Phillips of misconduct and has "assure[d] them of appropriate pastoral care." He said this "is surely a difficult time for those who have suffered in any way, and I entrust their care to your prayers."

What Kavanaugh’s judicial record might mean for ‘Roe v. Wade’

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 11:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Judge Brett Kavanaugh prepares for Senate confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court nominee’s record is being examined for indications of how he might handle a move to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Kavanaugh is widely considered to be a constitutional originalist and known to be a practicing Catholic, and how he might approach a hypothetical move to overturn the landmark abortion case is expected to dominate the confirmation process.

President Trump made numerous public commitments to appoint pro-life judges and justices as part of his presidential campaign but, as previous presidents have found, it can be hard to predict how a nominee might rule once on the court. Justices Sandra Day-O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, whose resignation opened the seat for which Kavanaugh has been nominated, were appointed by Ronald Reagan but voted to uphold abortion rights while on the court.

During Senate confirmation hearings candidates traditionally underscore their commitment to existing precedent and their judicial impartiality, and steer clear of responding to hypothetical cases. As a result, Senators often focus questions on previous decisions reached by a nominee in lower courts. Ahead of Kavanaugh’s hearings, attention is now turning to his 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Because of the unique circumstances and demographics of the District, challenges to local abortion laws are almost unheard of, so there are few direct examples look at. The most high-profile case Kavanaugh has heard on abortion came last year.

The case involved a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor detained while trying to enter the country. While in a government shelter, she sought access to an abortion. Government workers denied her request. In his hearing of the case on appeal, Judge Kavanaugh sided with the government, who argued that there was no “undue burden” placed on the girl by making her wait until she was either released to a sponsor, or returned to her home country.

The Court of Appeals eventually decided in favor of the abortion, but Kavanaugh issued a strong dissent, saying the decision was based on “a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong.” He said that the decision created a new right for unlawful immigrant children to abortion on demand from the government.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who acted on behalf of the minor (given the name Jane Doe in the case) called Kavanaugh’s reasoning a “cause for concern when it was issued last year, [but] it’s taken on far more importance now.” 

Writing on the ACLU’s website July 18, Brigitte Amiri, who was in court on behalf of Jane Doe, said “Given that Judge Kavanaugh allowed the government to further obstruct Jane Doe’s access to abortion, we should all be gravely concerned about what his appointment means for the future of Roe.”

Kavanaugh has previously called Roe v. Wade “binding precedent” which he as a judge had to “faithfully follow.” But, as Amy Howe noted July 18 on scotusblog.com, precedent that was binding on him as an appeals court judge would be available for him to overturn on the Supreme Court.

Several cases involving state laws limiting access to abortion are expected to reach the Supreme Court in the coming term; a new consideration of the “right to abortion” is likely. An Indiana law banning abortion after a medical diagnosis for the unborn child was recently struck down by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and many are expecting the state to appeal to the Supreme Court.
 
Numerous pro-life organizations have praised Kavanaugh’s nomination. The National Right to Life Committee called him “exceptionally well qualified” and predicted he would be the target of a “smear campaign.”

The Senate is expected to begin confirmation hearings in September.

 

New Arizona law awards custody of frozen embryos in favor of birth

Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 19, 2018 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A new Arizona law awards contested custody of frozen embryos to the parent seeking to “develop them to birth.” A Catholic bioethicist told CNA it was a “positive development” in an otherwise unusual ethical situation.

The law, which came into effect July 1, is first of its kind in the United States. It was partly inspired by a custody dispute over frozen embryos. Ruby Torres, a 37 year old woman from Arizona, and her ex-husband John Joseph Terrell created the embryos prior to Torres’ treatment for breast cancer, when she was told she was unlikely to conceive after radiation and chemotherapy. They married shortly thereafter, divorcing three years after she had finished cancer treatments.

Seven embryos were created and remain frozen in storage. Torres told the judge during divorce proceedings that she wanted the embryos,calling them her last chance of having a biological child. Terrell protested, saying he did not want to become a father or be responsible for supporting a child.

Last year, the judge ruled that the embryos should be donated, but not to Torres. She appealed this decision. The law does not apply retroactively to this case or other similar cases.

In other custody disputes, judges have ordered frozen embryos to be either destroyed, remain frozen until an agreement can be made, or donated for use in research purposes. Rarely have they been awarded to a person seeking to actually gestate a child.

Should an embryo be successfully carried tol birth, the Arizona law does not make the unwilling party liable for child support.

Critics of the law say that it “forces” people to become parents against their will. Dr. Ted Furton, director of publications at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that this argument is the result of a mentality that considers embryos to be property, not human life.

“As soon as you produce embryos, the man and wife are parents,” Furton told CNA in an interview. “Parenthood doesn't happen later, it happens at that moment.”

“So, they're already parents. What they don't realize when they say 'I don't want to be a parent'--it's too late.”

Furton said that he thought the law’s recognition of an embryo as a human life and not as a form of property was a “very positive development” and a “good sign,” and that he is hopeful these kinds of laws would help people “to better understand that these are indeed human lives, and like every human life, deserve protection.”

New sexual abuse allegations leveled against Cardinal McCarrick

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- A Virginia man filed a police report Monday, alleging that from the age of 11 he was sexually abused and assaulted serially by now-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York when the abuse was alleged to have begun.

The New York Times reported July 19 the man’s allegation, that McCarrick began sexually abusing him in 1969, when the priest was 39 and the man, “James,” whose full name has not been reported, was 11 years old. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to the alleged victim’s family.  

The man says that he continued to be sexually abused by McCarrick for almost two decades, the Times reported.

The man claims that the abuse contributed to alcohol and drug habits that plagued him for years. He also says that he attempted to disclose the abuse to his father several years after it began, but was disbelieved, according to the Times.

In 1969, when the abuse is alleged to have begun, McCarrick ended a four-year term as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and became assistant secretary for education in the Archdiocese of New York. In 1977, he become auxiliary bishop of New York, and later became the Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, and, eventually, Archbishop of Washington.

Criminal statutes of limitation may prevent McCarrick from being charged with crimes relating to the abuse alleged Monday. A canonical statute of limitations, known technically as prescription, might also preclude the possibility that McCarrick face canonical charges for the alleged abuse, although the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is authorized to waive that statute in certain circumstances.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA Thursday that the archdiocese learned of these allegations only when the New York Times article was published.

The archdiocese has not heard from law enforcement agencies about this matter, or from the alleged victim or his attorney, Zwilling said, adding that he hopes the victim or his attorney will contact the archdiocese, directly, or through the archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, an independently managed entity designed to assist victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New York.

A source close to McCarrick told CNA that he had not received any official notification of the allegation and is therefore unable to respond. The source said the cardinal is committed to following the processes put in place by Church authorities regarding the allegations.

On June 20, the Archdiocese of New York, announced that it had concluded an investigation into a different allegation that McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager, finding the claim to be “credible and substantiated.”  

The Vatican was informed of that accusation, and as a result, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by order of Pope Francis, prohibited McCarrick, 88, from public ministry.

Since that announcement, media reports have detailed additional allegations, charging that McCarrick sexually abused, assaulted, or coerced seminarians and young priests during his time as a bishop. The Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark disclosed that they had recevied reports that McCarrick engaged in sexual misconduct with adults, and reached legal and financial settlements in two cases.

The cardinal is prohibited from contact with minors in the Archdiocese of Washington, pursuant to the archdiocesan safe environment polices, a spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA, though that prohibition was not been publicly announced when McCarrick's prohibition from public ministry June 20.

Until recently, McCarrick was resident at a DC-area Catholic nursing-care facility administered by religious sisters, sources tell CNA that he is no longer living there.

The Vatican has not announced if McCarrick will face canonical charges related to the initial allegation of sexual abuse. Sources tell CNA that the matter is being addressed at the Vatican under the direct supervision of Pope Francis.

 

This story was updated July 20 and is developing.

Government to update court on parental reunions as Catholics cite dignity of families

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Government officials are due in federal court Thursday to deliver a list of parents held in ICE detention considered ineligible for reunification with their children. The update comes as Catholics and other organizations continue to call for policies that prioritize the family.

While government officials insist that in some cases there may be security concerns about parents, prominent Catholics have called for end to the separation of families.

Dr. Joseph Capizzi, a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that the “vast majority” of families in separation cases pose no threat to U.S. security. Instead, Capizzi said that Catholics should look to fix the reasons people are leaving their home countries for the United States. Otherwise, he said, there will be no end to the immigration issue.

Many of the parents are seeking asylum in the United States, citing violent or deprived conditions in their home countries.

Capizzi said the United States “needs always to couple our border policies with compassion for the dignity of families and of human beings.”

“As Bishop Flores [of Brownsville, Texas] said, we must join with other countries in Central America and address the ‘push’ factors that lead to the risky and numerous emigrations of so many people from those countries.”

“Until we look at this as a problem involving the unhealthy ‘human ecologies’ of these places, the U.S. will continue to face immigration issues.”

The government has until July 26 to reunite children currently in custody with their parents, but progress has been limited. Health and Human Services officials told a district court judge on Monday that they were unable to locate or identify the parents of 71 children in custody.

Appearing before Judge Dana Sabraw on Monday, Jonathan White, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, admitted that of the 2,551 children in federal custody believed to be separated they had only confirmed matches with 2,480 parents, 1,609 of whom are also in custody.

Efforts to reunite families have been hindered by the government vetting process for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, which relies on DNA verification and criminal background checks, but questions have been raised about the standards being applied.

The American Civil Liberties Union, acting for the families, asked Judge Sabraw to clarify what kind of crimes make a parent ineligible for reunification, noting that some, like petty theft, have no bearing on the ability to care for their child but may factor in judging eligibility.

Of the 46 children under 5 still in government custody, 22 are considered ineligible for reunion with parents due to safety concerns.

Government officials insist that these cases involve serious criminal history by the parent, including suspected child abuse, or instances where the child was brought to the United States by someone other than a parent.

Also Monday, in answer to concerns that the government was expediting deportations of separated families once they are reunited, Judge Sabraw ordered a halt to deportations of adult family members for at least a week after reunification. The order came in response to an emergency motion filed by the ACLU.

Despite some concerns about the pace of reunification, efforts to meet the July 26 deadline continue. Judge Sabraw has said that he is “very encouraged” and “optimistic” about the “real progress” being made. "Reunification can happen quickly and safely,” he said, noting, in reposes to government concerns about proper vetting procedures, that speed and safety are “not mutually exclusive.”

“HHS is responsible for this and can do it well."

Last week, the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the USCCB issued a joint statement with Catholic Charities USA detailing their efforts to assist with the reunification efforts.

"As we have long done, CCUSA and Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB are lending our experience and expertise to support Catholic Charities agencies in their efforts to reunite families and care for immigrant children during this sensitive time,” the organizations said.

MRS and CCUSA said they were “strongly opposed” to the policies that resulted in families being separated, and they will “remain committed to working to ensure their safe reunification.”

“Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic Social Teaching and this moment calls on all people of good will to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents."

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

US bishops conference approves project funding for Africa, Eastern Europe

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Subcommittees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have approved more than $6 million for pastoral projects in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

The grants partner with local bishops’ conferences and Church organizations in dozens of countries to respond to specific needs within the communities.

“The Catholics of the United States show that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Africa and recognize their courageous commitment to peace, justice, reconciliation, and Christian hope throughout the continent,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

The subcommittee recently approved 54 grants providing $1.4 million for pastoral efforts in Africa, which include religious formation, seminarian and lay leader education, evangelization, and family ministry. Money for the grants comes from the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

Among the projects funded by the grants will be the establishment of child protection measures in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana. The new Child Protection Office in the diocese is organizing training sessions on the protection of children and vulnerable adults, safe environment creation, policy development and collaboration with government agencies.

Funding will also be given to the bishops’ conference in Rwanda, which is continuing its peace and reconciliation efforts after the 1994 genocide in the country by translating conflict prevention resources for use in local Catholic schools.

In Lesotho, a grant from the U.S. bishops’ conference will support Radio Maria in establishing three new transmitting stations, so that their educational faith programs can reach the entire national population.

In addition, the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has approved $4.9 million in funding for 209 projects in 22 countries. Used to support the Church in nations that previously saw oppression under communism, the funding will go toward construction projects, formation of Church leaders, and education and evangelization efforts.

These include a seven-week formation program to help develop youth ministries in Romania, where only one-third of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Alba Iulia currently have youth programs, and the expansion of a homeless day center run by Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rijeka, Croatia.

A rehabilitation center for children with cancer in Minsk, Belarus, will also receive a grant. The facility, run by Caritas, offers free housing and psychological support for poor families whose children are going through cancer treatment.

Youth summer camps for children internally displaced by war in East Ukraine will also receive funding. Caritas Donetsk will host two summer camps for 100 young people, who will be offered medical health care from professionals and spiritual care from priests.

“As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

“We can take pride that our steadfast support makes a significant contribution to all their efforts in renewing their communities and passing on the faith of their ancestors to the next generation,” he said.

The grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which is generally collected in churches throughout the U.S. on Ash Wednesday each year.

 

Planned Parenthood sues Idaho over new abortion law

Boise, Idaho, Jul 18, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday opposing a new Idaho law that requires abortion providers to report abortion-related medical complications to state authorities.

The Abortion Complications Reporting Act went into effect July 1. It mandates that abortion providers to report complications that occur during or after an abortion procedure. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit arguing that the law is unconstitutional and requires “invasive reporting that has nothing to do with protecting patient health care."

The act specifies 37 potential abortion complications that clinics must report to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. These include cervical perforation, hemorrhages, and endometritis, as well as any psychological or emotion conditions the patient discloses after the procedure, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Patient identity remains confidential in the reporting process, but the physician must be identified. Other information, such as the gestational age of the unborn baby, and the mother’s age, race, and number of previous abortions must also be included, according to the law. 

Planned Parenthood, who filed the suit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on July 17, stated that the law “violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection by arbitrarily singling out one particular medical procedure” and puts “patient and provider privacy at risk.”

“Previous laws targeting abortion rights have been struck down in Idaho and other states, with some courts saying there isn’t enough information about alleged complications of abortions to justify the laws,” reports the Associated Press.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization founded by Planned Parenthood, 27 states require abortion providers to report post-abortion complications.

The text of the legislation cites the Supreme Court decisions Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reproductive Health, asserting the state’s “legitimate interest” in protecting women’s health from “the outset of pregnancy,” and its “legitimate concern with the health of women who undergo abortions.”

The stated aim of the law is to gather “essential” information to enable scientific studies and research on the safety of abortion.

 

Is this cross-shaped WWI memorial unconstitutional?

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A petition has been submitted to the United States Supreme Court as part of an appeal to prevent the destruction of the Peace Cross, a 93-year-old war memorial because it is in the shape of a cross.

The petition was filed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, following a ruling by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2017 that declared the monument unconstitutional.

The cross, erected in 1925 by the mothers of fallen World War I servicemen, is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. It bears a plaque listing the names of 49 residents of Prince George’s County who lost their lives serving in that war. The seal of the American Legion is prominently displayed at the center of the cross. The sides of the cross are inscribed with the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.”

The monument was the subject of a 2014 lawsuit brought by the American Humanist League. The suit was originally rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

The American Humanist League appealed the case, and the Fourth Circuit found the memorial to violate the establishment clause of the Constitution, which guards the separation of church and state.

In a divided opinion, the circuit court judgment held that because the memorial was in the shape of a cross - “the preeminent symbol of Christianity” - it lacked any meaningful “connection” to national history and government and was inherently “sectarian.” The decision also held that even minimal expenditure by the Commission to maintain the monument “entangled” the state in religion and would lead “any reasonable observer” to conclude that the state was placing “Christianity above other faiths” or viewed “being American and Christian as one and the same.”

The petition to the Supreme Court argues that there has been no previous challenge to the shape of the memorial, which has been in continuous use by the American Legion as a site for patriotic events in honor of fallen soldiers. Moreover, the petition argues, it has never been used for a religious ceremony and the only known connection of the monument to a religious event was 87 years ago.

The monument has been under the management of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission since 1961, as part of its management of the roadway median where it is located.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the cross must have its arms knocked off, be moved off public land, or destroyed completely.

Lawyers for the Park Commission argue that the cross was not erected to promote or convey a religious message, but to resemble the World War I cemeteries of Europe. They also point out that the “absolutist” approach taken by the circuit court decision would be immediately applicable to memorials across the country, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote a dissenting opinion. He and other dissenting judges noted that the decision, if it stands, would invalidate virtually any public display in the shape of a cross, including military medals, regardless of how longstanding the usage or neutral their purpose.

Public monuments with religious symbols have been repeatedly challenged by secularists, and the Fourth Circuit decision represents a split with earlier court findings which have recognized the passive nature of such memorials and the lack of religious intent by the state in maintaining them. It is expected that this divergence of judicial findings could make the case ripe for Supreme Court consideration.

 

Augustinians reach $1m settlement with sex abuse victims

Boston, Mass., Jul 18, 2018 / 01:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Order of Saint Augustine has reached a $1 million settlement with eight people who were sexually abused by two members of the religious order in the 1970s and '80s.

The victims' lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced the payment July 17, the Boston Globe reported.

“Because we are committed to justice in upholding the dignity of every person, and in a desire to promote healing, we have concluded the claims made against our Province,” the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova stated. “At the same time, we continue to work diligently to ensure the safety and protection of all children and adults.”

The victims were five men abused by Fr. Robert Turnbull at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, 14 miles north of Boston, and three women abused by Fr. John Gallagher at St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Lawrence, 30 miles north of Boston. The victims were between the ages of 9 and 13.

Both Fr. Turnbull and Fr. Gallagher have died.

The Augustinians reached the settlement with the victims outside of court last month, after two years of negotiations.

One of Fr. Gallagher's victims wrote in 1992 to Cardinal Bernard Law, then-Archbishop of Boston, detailing the abuse she suffered.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and resigned Dec. 13, 2002, after reports revealed that he did not disclose multiple allegations of clerical sexual abuse to the police or to the public, or intervene to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from priestly ministry.

The sexual abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston led to nationwide outrage regarding practices which failed to protect children from abuse in the Catholic Church.

In June 2002, the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops passed The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, known as the “Dallas Charter,” which established procedures and policies for addressing allegations of sexual abuse in the Church, and for fostering safe environments for children and other vulnerable individuals.