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USCCB official: NEA abortion support 'appalling'

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- The lay head of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic education secretariat has decried the decision of nation’s largest teachers union to recognize abortion as a fundamental right.

“It’s an appalling development,” Mary Pat Donoghue, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA, Thursday. “Here you have the largest union of educators in the country, basically affirming the destruction of those they claim to serve.”

The National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly last weekend adopted agenda items recognizing the “fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade” and supporting the controversial Equality Act, at the NEA’s annual meeting in Houston from July 4-7.

“The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade,” stated New Business Item 56, adopted by the Representative Assembly at the NEA Annual Meeting in Houston, attended by more than 6,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members and others.

Composed of around 8,000 delegates in total, the NEA’s Representative Assembly calls itself “the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world, which at the Annual Meeting determines NEA yearly policy priorities and a strategic plan, among other items.”

The statement in support of abortion was included in a business item honoring survivors of abuse in the #MeToo movement. The NEA did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but according to the NEA website, the rationale given for the item was that “the most misogynistic forces, under Trump, want to abolish the gains of the women's right movement [sic].”

While the Assembly adopted the abortion resolution, it defeated a business item declaring that the NEA “will re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning” by making it the “lens through which we will assess every NEA program and initiative.”

“That tells me that the child is not truly the focus of NEA,” Donoghue said to CNA, noting that the move to support abortion is a mirror for society, “that we no longer have an understanding of the human person that begins with the Creator.”

“When God is separated out from the human person, then this is where these types of ideologies really take root and develop and grow,” she said.

However, Donoghue drew a distinction between the NEA’s Annual Meeting of several thousand delegates and the millions of public school teachers in the U.S. who were not present at the meeting, and may not be members of the NEA.

“We can’t look at this as reflective of the way that the average public school teacher would approach his or her job,” she said, noting that many teachers have “the desire to serve and to help and support children.”

The NEA Representative Assembly also voted to adopt a business item saying the NEA would “organize and mobilize” in support of the Equality Act as a “top legislative priority.”

The Equality Act establishes anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including education, housing, employment, jury duty, and credit. The 2019 legislation was introduced in Congress as H.R. 5 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and as S. 788 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

While U.S. bishops supported the goal of ending unjust discrimination against persons, they have signaled their opposition to the bill because it would “impose sweeping regulations” that would promote redefinitions of the human person, using state coercion to threaten freedoms of thought and religion.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Bishop Frank Dewayne of Venice, Florida wrote a letter to U.S. Senators in March outlining the problematic aspects of the legislation.

The bishops pointed out that it would “remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” mandate “uniform assent to new beliefs about human identity that are contrary to those held by many,” and be exempt from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, thus bypassing fundamental protections for religious freedom that were enacted by a broad bipartisan majority.

New commission will give 'critical attention' to human rights, experts say

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- International human rights experts have praised the creation of a State Department advisory body on human rights, calling it a very much needed contribution to global affairs.

“It’s been a long time since anybody in any official capacity gave critical attention to what it means to claim that something is a human right,” Dr. Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, told CNA.

The new human rights commission will seek better to clarify fundamental human rights amidst an increase in the number of rights claims—claims that compete against each other, he said. 

“Today, the dominant discourse is the human rights discourse,” George said. “There’s certainly been an inflation of rights claims, an inflation of rights language. Now anybody who advocates anything advocates it in the name of human rights. So how do we sort through those claims?”

At a July 8 press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of the Commission on Unalienable Human Rights, consisting of up to 15 human rights experts of various religious, philosophical, and cultural backgrounds. 

The purpose of the commission, Pompeo said, would be to advise him on human rights matters “grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 

That landmark document, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948, recognized fundamental human rights including the rights to life, religious freedom, equal protection under the law, and rights against torture and slavery.

In addition, Pompeo said he hoped the commission’s work would prove to be “one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration.” 

The commission is anticipated to meet once a month with a periodic review by the State Department, and members must have “distinguished” backgrounds in diplomacy, law, and human rights, and each can serve up to one year at the decision of the Secretary.

Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, was chosen by Secretary Pompeo to lead the commission. Other members include Russell Berman, Peter Berkowitz, Paolo Carozza, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Jacqueline Rivers, Meir Soloveichik, Katrina Lantos Swett, Christopher Tollefsen, and David Tse-Chien Pan.

“There’s a spectrum of traditions that are represented here,” George said of the panel, noting that the commission members are steeped in knowledge of human rights and have “engaged more broadly” with a variety of traditions. 

“If there are people making the claim that this commission isn’t diverse enough, maybe they could show me a gender studies department or a university faculty that’s got greater diversity,” he said. 

George praised the appointment of Glendon, whom he called “the leading human rights scholar of our time” who “literally wrote the book on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.” Glendon is the author of “A World Made New,” on the creation of the Universal Declaration and the discussions that shaped the document. 

The commission’s creation appears to be the fruition of a long-term policy priority in the State Department.

In May, Pompeo spoke on foreign policy at the Claremont Institute’s 40th Anniversary Gala, stating that “respect for God-authored rights and liberties” is part of “the distinctive mark of Western Civilization.” He added that the U.S. should uphold human rights by working “to cooperate with like-minded democracies,” while making sure to “guard against those who don’t.”

“You could see this commission as an outgrowth of that speech,” a senior administration official explained to CNA on Monday. 

Speaking separately to CNA, an administration official and human rights experts both emphasized two main reasons for the creation of the commission: countering the abuse of rights language by terrorists and bad actors on the international stage; and addressing the “proliferation” of international human rights claims. 

Today, “some of the worst human rights abusers in the world being represented and even chairing international human rights commissions. That’s just outrageous,” George said. 

Emilie Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told CNA that abusive regimes hide behind the expanded language of rights.

“What often happens is governments which are the worst abusers will say” that “we’ve protected economic and social rights” as a means to “deflect criticism away from their failure to protect unalienable human rights” like freedom of religion and association.

The commission could assist the State Department in putting fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom, at the heart of its diplomacy with other countries, Kao said. But she warned it would not be easy.

Religious freedom has fallen by the wayside in attempts to redefine or introduce new international human rights which have led to “a devaluation of the unalienable human rights,” she told CNA. Nearly 80% of the global population lives in countries with significant restrictions on religious freedom.

Kao also said that the “proliferation” of rights claims could be seen in efforts at the international level to recognize rights that the 1948 Universal Declaration did not, citing the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution on the right to compete in sports based on one’s “gender identity.” 

The senior administration official explained to CNA that the commission’s work will consider the difference between “unalienable” and other kinds of rights—whether the “right not to be tortured” is on the same level as “the right to clean water,” or if the “right to liberty” is akin to the “right to social welfare payments.” 

“Those are the kinds of questions that they’ll ask,” they said.

Some advocacy groups have issued sharp criticisms of the commission. 

Amnesty International called the commission’s creation a “politicization of human rights” that would “further hateful policies aimed at women and LGBTQ people” and ignored an already-existing “global framework” to secure human rights.

Speaking to CNA, a senior administration official said this critique lacked a clear basis. 

“First of all, what global framework?” the official asked. “Has it all worked after 70 years? Have multilateral institutions done the job? Why not step back from it and have a serious genuine debate?”

Kao agreed, noting that groups like Amnesty International have worked to change the existing global framework on rights. She pointed to the Yogyakarta Principles, adopted by various rights groups in 2006, calling it a “manifesto” of the LGBT movement to add sexual orientation and gender identity categories into existing international human rights law and treaties. 

“That’s not what the member states of the UN, the governments, intended for those treaties to mean,” Kao said. 

The State department official also noted that “unalienable” rights are those that apply to everyone, and that the commission was not founded to discover new rights or take existing rights away, and that this should be weighed against more narrow concerns of LGBT rights in a Western political context.

“You have nations where gays are thrown off of roofs,” the administration official said. “Don’t you want government focusing on that?”

“It is really important to go back to the foundations,” Kao said of the effort to better understand human rights, noting that “cultural relativism” also plays a part in the current debate that “devalues” human rights. 

“Unalienable” human rights are universal, she said, they “transcend the civil and political rights” of a particular location.

Where hospices are at their worst, Christians have a mission

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 03:09 am (CNA).- In the wake of terrible conditions of negligence and abuse reported at some U.S. hospice facilities, several Catholic doctors are emphasizing the need for Christians to embrace a ministry of aiding hospice patients and their families.

“How can anyone be other than shocked and saddened by the cases reported?” Dr. Barbara Golder, M.D., J.D. told CNA July 10. “It breaks my heart, and I suspect anyone who has a loved one in hospice or extended residential or skilled nursing care worries about these things. This report makes it clear such worries are not unreasonable.”

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services on July 9 released two reports on U.S. hospice care, CNN reports. These reports said that more than 80% of end-of-life facilities had at least one deficiency.

Over 300 facilities, about 18%, had serious problems that jeopardized patients’ health and safety, the reports said.

Golder, the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Medical Association’s official journal, the Linacre Quarterly, told CNA that such reports are designed to highlight problems which must be fixed immediately.

“It’s also important to remember that there are excellent hospices that provide splendid care for their patients,” she said.

The worst cases of negligence and abuse in the new reports included a dying man whose feeding tubes had maggots growing around it, and a case in which caregivers failed to treat a patient with Alzheimer’s disease to such an extent that his leg had to be amputated. In yet another case, those responsible for a hospice patient failed to recognize signs on her body of sexual assault.

One woman in hospice care was repeatedly abused by her daughter, who was also her caregiver. The hospice’s social worker was notified of the signs of abuse, but he did not visit for several weeks and then did not assess the patient’s safety.

Another patient’s neighbor repeatedly entered his apartment “naked, high and drunk” and stole medications including opioids and anti-anxiety pills. Several hospice employees were aware of the situation but the hospice planned no further action to notify law enforcement or to ensure patient safety.

Hospice care in the U.S. received $17 billion in Medicare funds in 2017, serving over 1.5 million patients.

End-of-life care in the U.S. is increasingly discussed in the context of debates over legal assisted suicide, and Golder suggested reports about poor hospice care show the need to address the fundamental fears and concerns of people vulnerable to suicide.

“People who opt for assisted suicide often do so because they fear losing their dignity and value as people, rather than because they are in intractable pain or near the end of life,” she told CNA. “Reports of care like this – which clearly fails to respect the person – only feed that fear. It isn’t hard to imagine a patient deciding to end his life rather than risk hospice care if he fears that he will be treated as patients were in the most egregious cases outlined in the report.”

Golder encouraged parishes to take account of local people who are in hospice care and ask whether there is a way for the community to be aware of problems and to respond as communities and as individuals.

“Who are the patients in local facilities who have no one to visit and are thus more likely to be abused?” she asked. “Are we stepping up? Are we encouraging each other to do so?”

“Part of our call as Christians is to be present in the lives of the suffering long before it comes down to that choice, and both share in that suffering, and accompany the suffering patient so that the fear of worthlessness – as well as the risk of bad care – can be alleviated.”

The Christian faith in Jesus Christ can also be an explicit part of end-of-life care, Deacon Alan Rastrelli, M.D., told CNA. The Archdiocese of Denver deacon is a member of both the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the Catholic Medical Association.

“It is never too late, and that is where I concentrate my efforts to help those in doubt and despair know that Jesus, the Divine Physician, is always there with His hand reaching out,” Rastrelli said. “With this kind of care, that is the antidote to defuse the cry for assisted suicide and euthanasia – so patients and families can be assured of dignified care during the rest of their natural life, and avoiding aborting life at the end.”

Rastrelli told CNA he moved from anesthesiology into hospice and palliative medicine in order to address deficiencies in normal medical care at the end of life.

“End-of-life care requires addressing not just the somatic or physical symptoms, such as pain, but also the emotional, psychological, financial, and importantly spiritual component to a patient’s suffering,” he said.

Golder emphasized the Christian view that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and this means “every patient is to be treated well and with dignity.”

“It’s particularly important to treat the vulnerable and dependent with love and care, as they cannot fend for themselves and are so often abandoned,” she said, citing Mother Teresa’s words that such people can be “Jesus in His most distressing disguise.”

“Sick patients are the face of Jesus, and if we take the great judgment scene in [the Gospel of Matthew] at all seriously, how we treat the least among us is how we treat Jesus – and it has eternal consequences,” she said.

In the inspector general report, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma wrote that the cases of negligent care and abuse in hospices are “very serious” but not representative.

“We want to reassure beneficiaries considering hospice care that these cases are not indicative of the type of care the majority of hospice beneficiaries receive,” she said.

A CMS spokesperson told CNN the agency has “zero tolerance for abuse and mistreatment of any patient.” It requires every Medicare-certified hospice to “meet basic federal health and safety standards to keep patients safe.”

CMS said it has issued new guidance for hospice surveyors and inspectors “to help them more quickly identify and address the most grave patient safety situations.” Surveyors must now follow a standardized process when they identify “immediate jeopardy situations.”

The inspector general also found that the facilities with serious problems did not face “serious consequences” and recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services secure stronger legal authority to penalize hospices, comparable to its present authority to penalize nursing facilities. At present authorities cannot impose penalties, short of terminating hospices.

The reports also indicated missing areas of regulation. Hospices are not currently obliged by Medicare reporting requirements to report alleged abuse or exploitation.

Congressional action is needed to add remedies for poorly performing hospices and to add enforcement tools to protect patients are needed, the inspector general said.

According to Golder, though, punitive responses are not necessarily fixes on their own, as these can incentivize ignoring or hiding problems.

“We also need a way for institutions, and caregivers on the front lines, to recognize these problems early, and address them effectively, without fearing to ask for help because of overreaching fines and sanctions,” she said.

Golder stressed that hospice caregiving can be very difficult for caregivers and hospice staff. In her view, this is because “we tend to fear the dependency and debility we see in others, especially when it’s something we know to be the natural course of life.”

“We’d rather not face it – and that’s one source of neglect,” she said.

“One thing I think we often forget is that the caregivers in these facilities work hard at difficult and emotionally as well as physically demanding jobs, often for relatively low pay. That complicates these situations though it certainly does not excuse them,” Golder added, saying that abuses are not always simply rooted in malice.

“Staffing, lack of training, lack of understanding of what the law requires, and burnout can all contribute and no solution will be adequate if it fails to address contributing causes.”

Patients and loved ones can also respond to problem situations in hospice care.

Golder told CNA that in critical cases a call to 911 emergency services, adult protective services, or domestic violence hotlines may be in order. A local bar association can make referrals to attorneys specializing in elder law who may be in a position to assist and will meet with prospective clients for a minimal fee.

In less urgent situations, some institutions have staffers like ombudsmen to respond to patient care concerns.

“If the situation is less than life threatening, I think it is worth making one attempt – only one – to resolve the issue in-house by talking to someone from administration and asking for immediate clear steps, a firm timeline, and a responsible contact personally accountable to resolve the issue,” Golder advised.

 

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Gn 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel set out with all that was his.
When he arrived at Beer-sheba,
he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called,
"Jacob! Jacob!"
He answered, "Here I am."
Then he said: "I am God, the God of your father.
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt with you;
I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes."

So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba,
and the sons of Israel
put their father and their wives and children
on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport.
They took with them their livestock
and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan.
Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt.
His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters--
all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt.

Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph,
so that he might meet him in Goshen.
On his arrival in the region of Goshen,
Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot
and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen.
As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck
and wept a long time in his arms.
And Israel said to Joseph, "At last I can die,
now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R.(39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart's requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Alleluia Jn 16:13a, 14:26d

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you to all truth
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 10:16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Teacher fired for abortion rights social media posts sues Catholic school in SC

Charleston, S.C., Jul 11, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- A teacher at a Catholic school in South Carolina whose contract was not renewed because of her posts on Facebook in support of abortion rights is now suing the school, claiming that her First Amendment rights have been violated.

According to the July 8 lawsuit, Elizabeth Cox taught at Bishop England High School in Charleston for 16 years before being informed at the end of the last school year, June 7, that her contract would not be renewed.

Cox had shared on Facebook several posts and links expressing pro-choice views, while at the same time listing the Catholic school publicly as her employer.

According to ABC News 4, included among Cox's social media posts were a quotation from feminist activist Gloria Steinem asserting gun purchasers should be subjected to rigorous screenings similar to those of women seeking abortions, and an unattributed quotation casting suspicion on pro-life claims of people who do not also support gun bans, free healthcare, and other political causes ostensibly meant to protect and improve quality of life.

Another post includes a link to a Washington Post news story, without comment from the teacher, with the headline “Leslie Jones leads the charge against Alabama’s abortion ban in the SNL season finale,” the Charlotte Observer reports.

The Catholic Church has consistently condemned direct abortion, the intentional taking of an innocent human life, as a grave moral evil, and has upheld the sanctity of the life of the unborn child.

Teachers accepting jobs at Bishop England sign contracts agreeing to speak publicly and to act in accordance with Catholic beliefs, regardless of whether they are Catholic, to aid in the “intellectual and spiritual development of students according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.” A copy of the contract is included in the lawsuit.

“When we confronted you with the post, you admitted to it and, moreover, reacted in a manner leading us to conclude you would not do so differently in the future,” Bishop England principal Patrick Finneran is quoted as saying in Cox’s termination letter.

“Parents send their children to [Bishop England] expressly because they want a Catholic teaching and upbringing. Your public expression of disagreement with Catholic values undermines that."

The Diocese of Charleston is not named in the suit, but the school, Principal Finneran, and four additional people Cox believes to be involved in her firing are, ABC 4News reports.

In her lawsuit, Cox contends that her firing "violates political rights and privileges of free speech guaranteed by the United States Constitution and/or the Constitution of the State of South Carolina." She also argues that her firing violates South Carolina law prohibiting the firing of employees for expressing political opinions.

Cox is seeking a monetary award as well as reinstatement as a teacher at Bishop England. The school has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

“Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Charleston and Bishop England High School have received notice of the complaint that was filed on July 8. We will review and file a response to the lawsuit with the court in due time,” diocesan spokesperson Maria Aselage said in a statement to CNA.

Several other cases of teachers being fired for failing publicly to uphold Catholic teaching are ongoing in the US.

This week, a teacher at a Catholic school in Indianapolis whose contract was terminated due to his same-sex marriage announced he is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, one day after reaching a settlement with the school.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC that government cannot interfere with religious institutions’ hiring and firing decisions regarding employees whom they consider to be ministers.

Ariz. Catholic agency hopes to house asylum seekers in unused detention center

Tucson, Ariz., Jul 11, 2019 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- A Catholic agency in Tucson, Arizona is hoping to transform an unused portion of a juvenile detention center into housing facilities for immigrants seeking asylum.

Since January, Catholic Community Services in Arizona has housed asylum seekers in the local Benedictine Monastery, the third largest shelter for migrants in the United States, according to the Sahuarita Sun. Due to monastery renovations, they must relocate later this month.

Arizona Public Media reported this week that a $100 one-year renewable lease is currently being drawn up for the organization to use a portion of the Pima County's Juvenile Justice Complex.

The county board of supervisors must approve the move during the next board meeting in August.

The justice complex can hold 350 people, but currently houses less than 50. Catholic Community Services is hoping to use the additional 300 beds, plus an attached kitchen and laundry room, in a portion of the facility that is separate from the area still used as a juvenile detention center.

Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson said the justice complex will provide a safer and healthier environment to shelter the migrants, who typically stay no longer than a few days.

“Even though the monastery was a lovely environment, it was not setup in its infrastructure for our needs. The plumbing system especially was a real challenge,” he said, according to Arizona Public Media.

The county would pay for operating costs, and would then request reimbursement from the federal government, which is responsible for the immigrants seeking asylum, the Sahuarita Sun reports.

Some renovations will be necessary, to make the space more comfortable and inviting. Jan Lesher, chief deputy county administrator, stressed that the asylum seekers are not being imprisoned, and the building will be altered to reflect that.

“What we hope to do is make it as seamless as possible for those who live in the community and those asylum seekers passing through,” she told Arizona Public Media.

 

Va. legislature ends gun session, after bishops had hoped for 'genuine discussions'

Richmond, Va., Jul 11, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Virginia legislature adjourned Tuesday a special session called by the governor after fewer than two hours. The session was meant to consider gun control bills, and the state's bishops had earlier expressed hope for dialogue.

The July 9 session was called by governor Ralph Northam (D); both houses of the General Assembly are controlled by Republicans with one-seat majorities.

“It is our hope that our elected officials will engage in genuine discussions about comprehensive legislation that will help save lives and make our communities safer,” Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond had said in a July 8 statement ahead of the special session.

“We urge our state leaders to engage in civil and meaningful dialogue, seeking to combat all violence in our communities,” they added, while also recognizing “that many factors contribute to the violence in our society, which will not be solved by a single piece of legislation.”

Northam had called the special session in light of the May 31 killings in Virginia Beach, in which a gunman shot to death 12 people. The gunman, DeWayne Craddock, died in a shootout with police.

According to the AP, Northam had proposed eight gun control measures for the special session.

Senate majority leader Tommy Norment had proposed a bill July 8 to ban broadly guns in government buildings in the state. Norment's fellow Republicans strongly objected to the bill, and it was withdrawn.

During the brief session, legislators did task a bipartisan crime commission with studying policy proposals that might have prevented the Virginia Beach killings.

In November, all 140 seats in both houses of the General Assembly are up for re-election, and gun control is expected to be an important topic of campaigning.

In their statement ahead of the special session, the bishops noted that they continue to keep in prayer Craddock's 12 victims, and that “we also continue to pray for their families, those injured, their co-workers and those who provide assistance within the community.”

“We must also discern what can be done to make our communities safer and address the root causes of violence and terror,” they added.

“Respect and reverence for human life – all life, at every stage of development and in all circumstances – require us to protect it. The culture of violence pervading our society must be challenged.”

The bishops said that the Virginia Catholic Conference has advocated “for reasonable safety regulations for firearms and proper screening for those seeking to acquire a firearm.”

They added that “firearms often serve the legitimate purpose of self-defense and the defense of loved ones,” and that “mental health has been a factor in past shootings and more resources should be invested in early intervention for those at risk of committing a violent act due to mental illness.”

“We will continue to be advocates for proposals that promote a comprehensive approach to combating increasing occurrences of violence, keeping respect for all life at the forefront and ensuring the fundamental liberties of all Americans are protected,” the bishops stated.

Court denies stay against Title X Protect Life Rule

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 11, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday that a new Title X rule banning organizations in reciept of funds from co-locating with abortion facilties can go into effect. Planned Parenthood called the decision “devastating” and “crushing news.”

The court refused to grant an emergency stay of its June 20 decision allowing the rule to be enforced. 

The decision was 7-4. All four dissenting judges were appointed by Democrats, and the seven in the majority were appointed by Republicans. 

This decision means that organizations that receive Title X family planning funds must maintain a physical and financial separation from facilities that perform abortions. Fund recipients are immediately prevented from referring patients for abortion services. By March 2020, health clinics must be located separately from abortion facilities in order to be eligible for continued funding.

Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion can still receive funds. 

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The new rule is expected to strip about $60 million in federal funds from Planned Parenthood, although the organization will still receive about $500 million in other federal programs. 

“We are greatly encouraged to see the 9th Circuit rule in favor of allowing President Trump’s Protect Life Rule to take effect while it continues to be litigated,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List. 

“A strong majority of Americans have consistently voiced their opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion – it is even unpopular among Democrats and self-described pro-choice Americans,” said Dannenfelser. 

“Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund.” 

Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen tweeted that her organization was “incredibly concerned the panel did not recognize the harm of the Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule” and that she “will not stop fighting for the millions across the country in need of care.” 

In late February, the Trump Administration finalized the Protect Life Rule, which created the new eligibility requirements for Title X fund recipients. 

Shortly after the policy was announced, several states sued in an attempt to prevent it from going into effect. Acting together, California, Washington, and Oregon received a preliminary injunction that blocked the rule from going into effect. The Ninth Circuit’s decision overturned that injunction, finding the rule a "reasonable" interpretation of federal law.

A previous version of the policy was enacted in 1988 and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court three years later. When President Bill Clinton became president in 1993, his administration changed the policy to make abortion providers eligible for funding. 

Planned Parenthood currently receives about one fifth of the total Title X funds. 

On Twitter, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood, tweeted “Crushing news from the Ninth Circuit:  the illegal, dangerous, and unethical Title X gag rule can go into effect across the country.” 

“This is what taking away birth control & other health care, and allowing the government to censor doctors and nurses looks like,” they added.

The Protect Life Rule does not contain any new regulations on who can receive birth control or health care, nor does it reduce the amount of funds allocated for Title X.

Raids on undocumented migrants to go ahead, Trump announces

Washington D.C., Jul 11, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Planned raids to detain and deport thousands of undocumented immigrants will go ahead after a postponement of several weeks, the Trump administration has announced.

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli told reporters on Wednesday that immigration raids are “absolutely going to happen.” 

According to a report in the New York Times, the raids could take place on Sunday of this weekend. Immigrants eligible for deportation include those with a final order of removal from an immigration judge.

On June 22, President Trump postponed a widespread campaign of immigration enforcement that was planned for that weekend, stating at the same time that Congress needed to update asylum laws. 

The American Civil Liberties Union announced 11 July that it would file a lawsuit, along with other immigration advocacy groups, against the administration in anticipation of the raids.

The ACLU said that the administration’s targeting of immigrants who failed to appear in immigration court was “illegal and immoral,” noting that immigrants could have failed to show up for a variety of reasons including bureaucratic notification errors.

“The families and children whom Plaintiffs serve fled their countries within the last five years,” the lawsuit stated. “But none of them ever had their claims for asylum and related relief heard by an immigration judge. Instead, the government ordered them removed in absentia because they failed to appear in court.”

On the same day as the raids were first announced, the U.S. bishops’ conference stated its opposition to the move, saying that “broad enforcement actions instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration.”

“Instead, we should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the bishops’ migration committee, stated.

Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot

Reading 1 Gn 44:18-21, 23b-29; 45:1-5

Judah approached Joseph and said: "I beg you, my lord,
let your servant speak earnestly to my lord,
and do not become angry with your servant,
for you are the equal of Pharaoh.
My lord asked your servants, 'Have you a father, or another brother?'
So we said to my lord, 'We have an aged father,
and a young brother, the child of his old age.
This one's full brother is dead,
and since he is the only one by that mother who is left,
his father dotes on him.'
Then you told your servants,
'Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him.
Unless your youngest brother comes back with you,
you shall not come into my presence again.'
When we returned to your servant our father,
we reported to him the words of my lord.

"Later, our father told us to come back and buy some food for the family.
So we reminded him, 'We cannot go down there;
only if our youngest brother is with us can we go,
for we may not see the man if our youngest brother is not with us.'
Then your servant our father said to us,
'As you know, my wife bore me two sons.
One of them, however, disappeared, and I had to conclude
that he must have been torn to pieces by wild beasts;
I have not seen him since.
If you now take this one away from me, too,
and some disaster befalls him,
you will send my white head down to the nether world in grief.'"

Joseph could no longer control himself
in the presence of all his attendants,
so he cried out, "Have everyone withdraw from me!"
Thus no one else was about when he made himself known to his brothers.
But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him,
and so the news reached Pharaoh's palace.
"I am Joseph," he said to his brothers.
"Is my father still in good health?"
But his brothers could give him no answer,
so dumbfounded were they at him.

"Come closer to me," he told his brothers.
When they had done so, he said:
"I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt.
But now do not be distressed,
and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here.
It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:16-17,18-19,20-21

R.(5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
or:
R. Alleluia.
When the LORD called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
or:
R. Alleluia.
They had weighed him down with fetters,
and he was bound with chains,
Till his prediction came to pass
and the word of the LORD proved him true.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Mk 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"As you go, make this proclamation:
'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—
go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town."

For the readings of the Memorial of Saint Benedict, please go here.

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.