Browsing News Entries

New global initiative seeks to ‘unlock’ Catechism of the Catholic Church

WASHINGTON (CNS) — When is the last time you cracked open the Catechism of the...

UK woman who regrets teen gender transition sees court victory overturned on appeal

null / Ink Drop/Shutterstock

London, England, Sep 17, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

A woman who says she was too young when a gender clinic prescribed her puberty blockers has lamented that a U.K. appeals court has overturned a previous decision holding that children under age 16 are unlikely to be able to consent.

“I am obviously disappointed with the ruling of the court today, and especially that it did not grapple with the significant risk of harm that children are exposed to by being given powerful experimental drugs,” said Keira Bell, according to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

Bell, who is now in her mid-twenties, was one of two claimants in a legal challenge to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Britain's main Gender Identity Development Service for children. She was prescribed puberty-blocking drugs around the age of 15 to stop the process of developing female sexual characteristics. A year later she began to take cross-sex hormones to promote the development of male characteristics and underwent breast removal surgery at the age of 20.

She said the clinic should have challenged her more over her desire to have a gender transition. Both claimants argued that prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to children under age 18 was unlawful as they were not competent to offer valid consent to the treatment.

“A global conversation has begun and has been shaped by this case,” Bell said Friday. “There is more to be done. It is a fantasy and deeply concerning that any doctor could believe a 10-year-old could consent to the loss of their fertility.”

She said she had “no regrets” about bringing the case. Doing so “shone a light into the dark corners of a medical scandal that is harming children and harmed me.” She aims to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, BBC News reports.

The Court of Appeal overturned a December 2020 high court ruling that said children are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to medical treatment involving drugs that delay puberty.

The Sept. 17 ruling said there are “difficulties and complexities” in these cases, but that “it is for the clinicians to exercise their judgement knowing how important it is that consent is properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances.”

A Tavistock spokesperson praised the ruling, saying it “upholds established legal principles which respect the ability of our clinicians to engage actively and thoughtfully with our patients in decisions about their care and futures.”

“It affirms that it is for doctors, not judges, to decide on the capacity of under-16s to consent to medical treatment,” the spokesperson said.

Backers of puberty blockers prescribe them to children who are experiencing gender dysphoria. The NHS defines this as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.”

 

The Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service backed their use because this “allows a young person time to consider their options and to continue to explore their developing gender identity before making decisions about irreversible forms of treatment.”

It argued against the high court ruling, saying it interfered with the ability of children to make decisions for themselves. It said the expert evidence presented against its practices was “partisan.”

The other claimant in the case was the mother of an unnamed teenage autistic girl waiting for treatment.  

“A child experiencing gender distress needs time and support – not to be set on a medical pathway they may later regret,” said the claimant, identified in news reports only as Mrs. A.

In the past five years, the number of people referred to the Gender Identity Development Service has almost doubled. According to the service's website, there were 1,408 referrals in 2015-16 and 2,728 in 2019-20.

Alison Holt, social affairs correspondent for BBC News, said that the ruling has effectively “removed the courts from the decision-making process in all but the most difficult cases.”

In the December high court decision, the judges said that children under the age of 16 could only consent to puberty blockers if they were “competent to understand the nature of the treatment.” This includes “an understanding of the immediate and long-term consequences of the treatment, the limited evidence available as to its efficacy or purpose, the fact that the vast majority of patients proceed to the use of cross-sex hormones, and its potential life-changing consequences for a child.”

“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”

The December decision said the clinical interventions are still “innovative and experimental.”

Puberty-suppressing drugs had been prescribed to children as young as 10 on the basis of informed consent. This is a fundamental principle of modern medicine in which a doctor informs a patient of potential risks before they agree to undergo medical treatment.

In March 2021, the High Court’s family division allowed parental consent to puberty blockers for children under 16, so long as safeguarding measures were considered.

In September 2020, before the first High Court ruling, the National Health Service had commissioned Dr. Hilary Cass to review its gender identity services, an NHS spokesman said. This review aimed to “to ensure the best model of safe and effective care is delivered.” The review will set “wide-ranging recommendations,” including the use of puberty blockers and “the many contested clinical issues identified by the court.”

The review is not yet finished.

In March 2021, Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital, which treats minors with gender dysphoria, said it would cease providing “puberty blocking” drugs or cross-sex hormones to children under the age of 16. It cited concerns about long-term effects of the drugs and hormone procedures, as well as questions about the fully informed consent of patients under the age of 16. Its statement cited the December 2020 decision against Tavistock. Children with gender dysphoria would still be able to receive psychological and psychiatric care, it said.

In October 2019, a Swedish investigative television show reported that the hospital performed double mastectomies on children as young as 14 years old.

Other critics of transition procedures have come forward. In a June 25 essay for Newsweek, New York woman Grace Lidinsky-Smith said she regrets going through gender transition surgery. She believed other factors motivated her decision to seek a gender transition.

Lidinsky-Smith is president of the Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network. The organization lobbies against efforts legally to prohibit “trans care,” arguing instead for best practices and accountability for medical providers. She backs the standards of WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, but laments that there is no requirement that these standards be followed.

Paul McHugh, psychiatry professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has criticized WPATH standards and purported gender transition protocols that progress from social transition, to medical interventions and to surgery. He says they lack evidence.

McHugh provided testimony in an amicus brief for the U.S. Supreme Court Case of Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, decided in 2020. There, he wrote that WPATH itself has said that “no controlled clinical trials of any feminizing/masculinizing hormone regimen have been conducted to evaluate safety or efficacy in producing physical transition.”

The Biden administration, citing its interpretation of sex discrimination law, backs a federal requirement that doctors and insurers provide or cover gender-transitioning procedures upon referral. Last month a federal judge ruled in favor of Catholic and Christian health care organizations opposed to this mandate.

Some U.S. and European jurisdictions have passed strict laws banning “conversion therapy” that seeks to change sexual orientation and gender identity. Other jurisdictions have sought to ban gender transition for minors.

Virginia March for Life highlights importance of gubernatorial election

The Virginia March for Life in Richmond, Sept. 17, 2021. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Richmond, Va., Sep 17, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Virginians took to the streets of Richmond on Friday as part of the third annual Virginia March for Life.

The Sept. 17 march took place in the literal shadow of the Virginia capitol, and in the figurative shadow of the upcoming gubernatorial election. Early voting began Friday, and the election was a main point of many of the pre-march rally speeches. 

“Today is the first day of early voting. So we're excited to be ushering in this voting season with pro-lifers,” Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, told CNA prior to the rally. Cobb’s organization assisted with orchestrating the march. 


Virginia, said Cobb, has “a pro-abortion majority in our legislature and a pro abortion governor, and we're sending $6 million straight out of our tax dollars, straight into the hands of the abortion industry.”

“These folks are here to say enough is enough. And today they're going to March and they're gonna March around the Capitol and make their statement,” she said. “And then they're going to March on over to the registrar's office and they're going to go vote for pro-life candidates.”

Volunteers were on hand to register people to vote as they left the capitol grounds. 

If the election in November results in pro-life candidates getting elected, Cobb told CNA that she thinks their first priority should be to defund the abortion industry. 

“We've got to immediately strike all that funding that goes to the abortion industry out of the budget,” she said. “And we've got to get back the pro-life laws that we had for years and years on the books.”

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, also spoke at the pre-march rally. Quigley told CNA that Friday was an important day for “the future of pro-life policy here in Virginia.”

“We want to make sure that pro-life Virginians know who the pro-life candidate is in this very important upcoming race,” said Quigley, “Virginia's gubernatorial race is going to be a bellwether for 2022.” 

The leading candidates in the race are Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

Quigley said that it was important to remind people that Gov. Ralph Northam, who actively supported a law that would allow abortion until birth and removed protections for babies born alive after botched abortions, had endorsed McAuliffe. 

“Last night during the debate McAuliffe said that the two of them have been a brick walls against pro-life policy here in Virginia,” said Quigley. 

With the conversation from the speakers at the rally mainly highlighting the need to elect pro-life candidates, at least one pro-life Democrat was at the march.

Craig Rew, from Short Pump, was clad in a pro-life Democrat hat and was toting a Democrats for Life of America sign. He told CNA that he was at the march “to show that there are pro-life Democrats.” 

Rew explained that he believed that “life is a progressive idea,” and that “abortion is not the solution to any problems.” 

Abortion, he said, “is the problem.” 

Hannah Clarke of Richmond came to the march along with her church, Staples Mill Road Baptist Church, and her nearly-four-month-old baby. She told CNA that while she had long considered herself to be pro-life, the experience of becoming a mother made her even more so. 

“What better reason to fight for life now that I have my own? I’m even more pro-life now that I have a baby. I didn't know if that was possible,” said Clarke. 

For Clarke, her pro-life beliefs are rooted in both faith and reason. 

“The root of the issue is that [those in favor of abortion] don't mind killing babies because they don't see them as human,” she said. “And that's where we need to get back to science. Like you don't even have to argue it from a religious standpoint, if you don't want to. The majority of scientists agree that life begins at conception.” 

She said it was particularly challenging to see the reaction to the law recently enacted in Texas. 

“I just want everyone, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof, to realize you're just laughing in the face of science and damaging people more than more than they realize,” she said. 

Adulthood and motherhood reinforcing pro-life beliefs was a common theme among the attendees CNA spoke to. 

“I was always pro-life--my family was pro-life--but I think that it really came home for me as an adult,” Liz Ferraro, from King George, Va., told CNA. “When you learn how gruesome abortion is, when you learn what it is, and you learn what it looks like, and how it ends a human life.”

Abortion, she said, “is not just a choice, it’s a person.” 

The experience of having her own children, and “seeing the sonograms when they’re only six weeks old” with their “little nubs” for limbs, helped cement her views. 

“It’s just unbelievable that (people think) it’s okay to murder them,” said Ferraro. 

The Virginia March for Life is one of several state-specific marches this year. With the Supreme Court considering Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which will decide the constitutionality of pre-viability restrictions on abortion, abortion could once again become an issue to be decided by states. 

For Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, this represents an opportunity for the pro-life movement. In recent years, even prior to knowing that the Supreme Court would be considering Dobbs, the March for Life has focused on certain states to drum up pro-life support. 

“We’re very active in the states as well,” she said. “Last month we were in California. Here we are today in Richmond, and in two weeks, we’ll be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” 

She said it would be “interesting” to see how the state-level continues to progress. Virginia, Mancini explained, has undergone “a radical shift in the direction of abortion extremism” over the past two years. 

“So, in Virginia it is important to win it back,” she said. “I mean, the two candidates that are running for governor right now could not be more different in this particular issue. Do we want a Northam 2.0, or do we want to try to take Virginia back for life?” 

Looking ahead, Mancini told CNA that she is hopeful things will be changing both in the cultural and legal realms. 

“I certainly hope that the Supreme Court goes in the direction of sending these questions to the states,” she said.  

“Our goal at the March for Life is to make abortion unthinkable. I can’t tell you how happy I’d be to work myself out of a job. That would be wonderful.”

Bishops warn against abortion funding in reconciliation bill

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' pro-life committee / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Friday warned against abortion funding in a massive spending bill being considered by Congress.

“Congress can, and must, turn back from including taxpayer funding of abortion, in the Build Back Better Act,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee.

“We urge all members of Congress and the Administration to work in good faith to advance important and life-saving healthcare provisions without forcing Americans to pay for the deliberate destruction of unborn human life,” they stated.

This week, House committees advanced portions of a federal spending package that could ultimately total $3.5 trillion. The package would include various policy priorities of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, such as funding of universal pre-K, free tuition for two-year community college, investments in “green” energy, and a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.

Included in the health care portions of the package are some proposals supported by the U.S. bishops’ conference. These include expansion of Medicaid coverage, postpartum coverage for mothers, and funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“Catholic bishops have been strong advocates for proposals at both the federal and state level that ensure all people will have access to affordable healthcare,” both Naumann and Coakley said on Friday.

“However, the legislative text advanced by the two House committees also funds abortion, the deliberate destruction of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters - those in the womb. This cannot be included,” they said.

Pro-life leaders have warned that health care spending in the bill could fund abortions, unless specific pro-life language is added to the legislation to block such funding. Federal dollars could fund abortion coverage through Affordable Care Act health subsidies and through the creation of a parallel Medicaid structure for states that refused to expand Medicaid.

Some members, such as Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), tried to insert amendments to the reconciliation bill prohibiting abortion funding; those attempts were blocked this week, in hearings of the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The budget package would need to pass through the process of "reconciliation," the process by which budget-related items can pass the Senate with only a simple majority vote. It is being considered in addition to the normal government funding "appropriations" bills for the 2022 fiscal year.

Supreme Court poised to hear biggest challenge to Roe v Wade in 48 years

An unborn baby at 20 weeks -- well within the second trimester, when dilation and evacuation abortions are commonly performed. / Steve via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Sep 17, 2021 / 14:31 pm (CNA).

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, presented its legal argument Monday for why the U.S. Supreme Court should strike down the state’s 2018 law prohibiting abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, setting the stage for a momentous showdown over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The filing means that both parties in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, have now laid out their legal strategies. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case during its fall term, which begins Oct. 4.

While the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law is the primary question before the Court, both sides make clear in their respective briefs that the law is meant to be a direct challenge to Roe itself, and the decision that affirmed Roe’s central argument 18 years later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In its brief, the State of Mississippi explicitly asks the Court to overturn Roe, arguing that “the conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”

The parties' opposing arguments focus largely on two key points of contention: the legal doctrine known as stare decisis, which holds that legal precedents should not be easily overruled lest the rule of law be eroded, and the concept of fetal “viability,” or the point at which fetal life can survive outside the womb.

Catherine Hadro of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly interviewed Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves about the Dobbs case earlier this year. You can watch the interview below:

Citing Roe and Casey, courts have repeatedly shot down state efforts to restrict abortion prior to viability as unconstitutional. But in Dobbs, the State of Mississippi and other parties filing briefs supportive of its petition, argue that the Court’s viability standard — approximately 24 weeks into a pregnancy — is scientifically outdated and legally unworkable.

In their amicus brief, legal scholars Mary Ann Glendon and O. Carter Snead argue that stare decisis obligates the Court to overturn Roe and Casey, because doing so would protect the Court’s integrity.

“These precedents are notoriously badly reasoned, and involve unworkable, constantly shifting standards that have sown confusion in this and other areas of the law,” Snead, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told CNA in an email.

“Indeed, there are not five justices on the Supreme Court now who agree on what these precedents require,” he wrote. “Moreover, they have caused grievous real world harms; there have been more than 60 million abortions because of these lawless, anti-democratic, incoherent precedents.”

In its brief, Jackson Women’s Health claims Mississippi is “re-litigating” Casey, which held that a woman’s “liberty interest” is stronger than the state’s interest in protecting fetal life before a baby is viable.

The brief maintains that the Casey Court “carefully considered every argument Mississippi makes here for overruling Roe,” asserting that no “legal or factual change occurred that justifies giving any less protection for that liberty interest today.”

In Jackson Women’s Health’s view, the need to rely on past precedents is compelling, since “two generations … have come to depend on the availability of legal abortion,” and have “organized intimate relationships and made choices … in reliance on the availability of abortion.”

Additionally, the brief asserts that “no changed factual circumstances related to viability exist on this record,” and that “[m]edical consensus and the undisputed facts in the case establish that viability occurs no earlier than 23-24 weeks of pregnancy, precisely the time identified thirty years ago in Casey.”

Jackson Women’s Health asserts that the viability line must be maintained because it is the only standard that can consistently be applied by the courts.

“There is no heightened scrutiny framework (stripped of the viability rule) that lower courts could administer against the inevitable cascade of abortion bans that would follow if the Court does anything other than affirm” the lowers courts' rulings that Mississippi's law is unconstitutional, the brief states.

Countering that assertion is an amicus brief filed by a group of women obstetricians and gynecologists and the Catholic Association Foundation. That brief calls the viability standard established by Roe and Casey “outdated according to current science,” adding that “’viability’ no longer means what it did at the time of Roe and Casey.”

The same brief also details the advances in ultrasound technology since Casey, now available in vivid 4D renderings, that have provided more precise knowledge about fetal development. At 15 weeks, the brief states, all the fetus’ major organs are fully formed and functioning, as is the cardiovascular system.

“This is the living reality of what is at issue in this case: a tiny boy or girl who, at 15 weeks, kicks, breathes, and hiccups, who has little fingers that open and close — and who has undeniably ‘assum[ed] the human form,’” the brief states.

Although viability remains a matter of debate, the State of Mississippi and others argue that it ought to be left to democratically elected state legislatures to decide how to handle such contentious questions, not the courts.

“The legal standard, set forth in Gonzales v. Carhart (upholding the constitutionality of the federal partial birth abortion ban act), is that when there is a disagreement among learned scientific experts, the state is free to legislate according to its best judgment,” Snead wrote in his email to CNA.

“There need not be unanimity among experts for a state to legislate in a contested domain,” he explained.

“But the deeper point here is that because this is an area of scientific and medical disagreement, the Supreme Court lacks the institutional competence to serve as the nation's ad hoc abortion medical review board of last resort,” Snead wrote. "That is best [left to] the political branches.”

Senators ask Google why it removed ads for abortion pill reversal

Google offices in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York / MNAphotography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 17, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

A dozen U.S. senators on Thursday sent a joint letter to Google’s CEO asking why pro-life ads for abortion pill reversal were removed by the search engine giant earlier this week. 

The group of 12 senators, led by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) accused Google of suppressing information about a viable alternative to chemical abortion, while leaving numerous ads for dangerous abortion pills intact. 

“While banning pro-life [abortion pill reversal] ads, Google continues to allow ads for purveyors of the deadly abortion pill mifepristone by mail, despite the fact this drug has resulted in at least 24 mothers’ tragic deaths and at least 1,042 mothers being sent to the hospital,” the Sept. 16 letter reads. 

“Google’s double standard on abortion is disingenuous and an egregious abuse of its enormous market power to protect the billion-dollar abortion industry,” the senators stated. 

“The practical consequence of Google’s abortion distortion is that pregnant mothers in crisis will only have the option to be marketed abortion drugs through Google’s ad platforms, while life-affirming alternatives are suppressed.”

Medical abortions, procured by way of a two-drug abortion pill regimen, have become an increasingly common method of abortion in the United States, making up between 30% and 40% of all U.S. abortions. 

The two drugs involved are mifepristone (also called Mifeprex) and misoprostol. Mifepristone effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the pregnancy hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later, and induces labor.

Chemical abortions can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol - although this action must be taken quickly. The administration of progesterone to reverse the abortion pill regimen has not been specifically approved by the FDA, although many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe.

Live Action advertises a hotline for women seeking to potentially reverse the first step of a chemical abortion, with a physician available to help women. 

On Sept. 13, according to Live Action president Lila Rose, Google “disapproved” all of Live Action’s advertisements for abortion pill reversal, claiming they were “unreliable” and contained false information. The advertisements had been running for more than four months and had previously been approved by Google, she said. One of the 18 ads has since been reinstated, she said. 

Google also pulled ads promoting Live Action’s “Baby Olivia” video, a three-minute narrated look at the development of a baby in utero from fertilization until birth.

According to the president of the pro-life group Heartbeat International - which operates a 24-hour hotline for women seeking abortion pill reversal - calls to the hotline have dropped significantly since the abortion pill reversal ads were removed from Google.

“As of this morning, none of our APR [abortion pill reversal] ads or Live Action's are running,” Jor-El Godsey told CNA on Friday, noting that calls to the group’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network hotline had dropped by 75%, and chats had dropped by almost 100%.

“What we are getting is coming from organic search, small third party advertisers, and sidewalk counselor outreach,” he said. 

Google, in blocking the ads, cited a brief from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which called abortion pill reversal treatments “unproven and unethical.” The brief failed to cite any controlled studies done on the procedure. ACOG has released statements in the past advocating for increased access to abortion, and has pushed in court for the federal government to deregulate the abortion pill regimen. 

The reversal regimen, promoted by Live Action and other pro-life medical professionals, “involves an FDA-approved, bioidentical pregnancy hormone called progesterone that has been used for dozens of years to prevent miscarriage and has already saved thousands of lives,” Rose said. 

If an ultrasound confirms the unborn baby is still viable, the mother is given a large dose of progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone, with additional doses of progesterone needed throughout the first trimester.

Each woman who undergoes an attempt to reverse her abortion is also referred to a help center for support throughout the remainder of her pregnancy.

The American Association of Pro-Life Gynecologists and Obstetricians (AAPLOG) has expressed support for the abortion pill reversal regimen, describing progesterone as an “antidote” to the mifepristone and noting that “There is a very long and solid history of safety of the use of natural progesterone in pregnancy.”

“[D]uring the development of Mifeprex, it was clearly demonstrated that Mifeprex is a REVERSIBLE blocker of progesterone,” the group said. 

"Google continues to deny women the choice to choose to keep their baby,” Godsey told CNA on Thursday. 

“Denying them the ability to find Abortion Pill Reversal is forcing these women to go through with an abortion they no longer want. More than 2,500 women have made this choice all ready. Google should not stand in the way of those seeking reversal help today."

Heartbeat International claims that more than 2,000 women have successfully used the abortion pill reversal to stop an abortion. 

A study published in 2018 in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal affiliated with the pro-life organization Watson Bowes Research Institute, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals. It showed that the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol, and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009, wrote the study. Delgado sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and co-founded the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. 

Delgado told the Washington Post that he believed more research should be done on abortion pill reversal, but that he believes there should be nothing to stop doctors from using the progesterone protocol in the meantime.

“[T]he science is good enough that, since we have no alternative therapy and we know it's safe, we should go with it,” he said.

The director of a women’s clinic in Denver told CNA in April 2018 that she has found the abortion pill reversal protocol to be safe and effective with her patients, and her clinic has successfully treated several women who come in seeking a reversal after taking the first pill.

“I think the fact that we have now over 300 successful reversals is evidence that it works,” nurse practitioner Dede Chism, co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado, told CNA at the time.

Disclaimer: CNA’s Executive Director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a board member of Heartbeat International

Mexican episcopate won't cover medical expenses of priests with COVID-19 who aren't vaccinated

null / Ball Lunla/Shutterstock

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 17, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The financial assistance service of the Mexican bishops’ conference stated last month that it will not cover the medical expenses of priests with COVID-19 who chose not to be vaccinated against the disease.

In an Aug. 30 statement, the service provided by the episcopal conference which assists diocesan priests warned that to help with the expenses involving COVID-19 it is required that the priest “was vaccinated” and “maintained personal protection measures.”

In addition, priests who require financial assistance from the service for their medical care must "notify their diocesan representative early" and get a medical evaluation by calling the service’s special telephone line for outpatient cases, which can direct them to the proper medical facility for an appointment on the nearest date.

OCEAS states on its website that it is an in-house service of the Mexican bishops’ conference  “that participates with each bishop in his diocese to carry out the work of Priestly Social Assistance."

The purpose of the service is to attend to "to the clergy in their health, needed rest, old age or disability needs so that they can carry out the mission that God has entrusted to them according to the stage of life in which they find themselves."

In its Aug. 30 statement, OCEAS said that "the last three weeks have been really complicated for the community of our different dioceses", because "we have seen our brother priests pass away due to lack of timely notification."

OCEAS noted that “98% of COVID cases that ended in death had three particular characteristics: 1. They were not vaccinated when they could have been. 2. Late notification (oxygen level less than 80%). 3. More than 60% of the lung surface affected.”

After assuring that they will continue to "help with the expenses incurred by the medical care of the beneficiaries under the criteria of solidarity and search for the common good," OCEAS specified four cases in which "they will not be subject” to paying for amounts the priest cannot pay out of his own pocket.

First, "when the beneficiary took unnecessary risks such as attending indoor entertainment venues or meetings, conventions and non-essential activities or outside the scope of his pastoral activity."

The second exclusion criterion is for those priests who, after testing positive for COVID-19, despite having been notified that they have risk factors that would complicate their case, refuse to "go to a hospital for an evaluation, rejecting the possibility of timely medical care.”

A third case in which priests will not be able to receive an additional amount of financial assistance is when they “deliberately” put “their life and that of their community at risk, by omitting the use of masks due to a personal decision that affects priests at the national level and the People of God.”

The last case mentioned for which priests will not be able to receive additional amounts for COVID-19 care is "when the beneficiary decides not to get vaccinated, putting his life and that of his community at risk."

The statement, signed by Bishop Ramón Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, treasurer of the Mexican bishops’ conference and president of OCEAS, ends by stressing that "the above measures will allow us to take more care of our health and that of our community."

"We don’t want more priests dying when it could have been avoided, their life is valuable to us and irreplaceable for the community that follows them," he concluded.

More than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Mexico, and more than 269,000 deaths.

At least six bishops and 245 priests in the country have died from COVID-19.

Afghanistan’s Christians ‘completely ignored’ in European Parliament resolution

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 25, 2014. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA. / null

Strasbourg, France, Sep 17, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A member of the European Parliament said on Thursday that the EU’s law-making body “completely ignored” the plight of Afghanistan’s Christian minority in a recent resolution.

Carlo Fidanza, the co-chair of the parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said that the resolution adopted on Sept. 16 showed Europe’s general indifference to Christians.

He said: “This resolution demonstrates once again the guilty lack of attention by Europe, not only to Afghan Christians -- who are completely ignored by the text -- but to Christians in general.”

The Italian politician recalled that the European Parliament rebuffed a proposal in June for an annual observance raising awareness about religious liberty.

“As I have already said on the rejection of the establishment of a European Day for Religious Freedom, it is worrying that it is now considered normal that a silence falls upon the tragedy faced by persecuted Christians,” he said.

The resolution, passed in Strasbourg, France, said that the European Parliament was “appalled” by reports of the Taliban’s actions against “women and girls, human rights defenders, LGBTI+ people, religious and ethnic minorities, journalists, writers, academics and artists.”

The resolution mentioned the Shia Hazaras as an example of a persecuted minority, but it did not specifically refer to the country’s Christians.

Fidanza, an MEP for North-West Italy, expressed concern that failing to highlight faith could “lead politics to be timid towards regimes that violate religious freedom on a daily basis.”

The post of EU religious freedom envoy is currently vacant after the incumbent, Christos Stylianides, stepped down after just months in the role. The position had previously remained unfilled for two years.

Adina Portaru, senior counsel for the Christian legal group ADF International in Brussels, welcomed the European Parliament resolution as a “positive step towards action.”

“We urge the international community to make every attempt to secure the safety of those who face grave danger, simply on account of their faith,” she said.

ADF International estimates that 10,000 Christians are living in danger following the Taliban takeover of the country of 38 million people that lies at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Most have converted from Islam to Christianity, an act punishable by death under Sharia Law.

The legal group said there were credible reports that Taliban forces were killing Christians discovered using public transportation and executing those found with the Bible on their cell phones.

One young Afghan Christian recently contacted CNA, saying that the Taliban were searching for him as he desperately sought to leave the country.

Giorgio Mazzoli, a legal officer representing ADF International at the United Nations, said: “The UN Human Rights Council must address the concerns raised by the European Parliament by establishing a mechanism tasked with monitoring the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, focusing particularly on the human rights of vulnerable persons such as those belonging to religious minorities.”

Priest’s rumored involvement in IRA bombings revisited in lawsuit against Derry diocese

Claudy bombing memorial statue created by sculptor Elizabeth McLaughlin / Bjmullan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Denver Newsroom, Sep 17, 2021 / 11:01 am (CNA).

After the Northern Ireland government and police agreed to settle a lawsuit with several families of victims of a bombing during The Troubles, the Diocese of Derry remains a defendant in contested claims that it aided in a cover-up by transferring a priest suspected, but never arrested, in the bombing.

The lawsuit has prompted statements of compassion for the victims’ families, but also questions about whether there is sound evidence for their claims.

Three bombs exploded without warning on July 31, 1972 in the County Derry village of Claudy, killing nine people and injuring more than 30. At a time of tense conflict between predominantly nationalist Catholics and predominantly pro-United Kingdom Protestants, the bombing’s victims included people of both religions.

No one has been charged in the attack and no group claimed responsibility, though the Irish Republican Army was widely blamed.

Without admitting liability, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Office agreed to pay civil claims to relatives of three of the victims as well as their legal costs, said their legal representatives KRW Law. The three victims were William Watson Temple, 16; David Miller, 60; and James McClelland, 64.

The lawsuit charges that Catholic Diocese of Derry collaborated with state officials in transferring Father James Chesney, an outspoken republican priest who died of cancer in 1980. Church superiors had questioned him about his alleged involvement in the bombings, which he denied. The trial could take place next year.

Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic, told CNA on Sept. 16 that he hoped 

“I certainly hope the settlement from the British government and the Police Service of Northern Ireland goes some way to helping the families know that the loss of their loved ones and the ongoing suffering is acknowledged by the civil authorities who have acknowledged that they ought to have done more to bring the perpetrators of the bombing to justice,” Kelly told CNA Sept. 16.

“When it comes to the diocese and the alleged role of the late Fr. James Chesney, if police suspected Fr Chesney of the atrocity, they should have arrested him,” he added. “It is clear that when questioned by the Church authorities about the rumors of his involvement, Fr. Chesney denied this. What was the diocese to do if the police were – as it appears – not confident enough of Fr. Chesney’s guilt to arrest him?”

In 2010, a police ombudsman report said detectives had intelligence and information that pointed to Chesney’s participation in the bombing, but they decided not to pursue this investigation. 

According to the report, then-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland William Whitelaw and then-Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Cardinal William Conway discussed the priest’s alleged IRA activities, and discussed transferring him across the border to Donegal. Chesney was later transferred and was never again assigned to Northern Ireland.

Police drew on intelligence and other material from a variety of sources, and concluded that Chesney was the IRA’s Director of Operations in South Derry and allegedly was directly involved in the bombings and other acts of terrorism. This intelligence presented “significant investigative opportunities” which should have led police to further investigate, and either implicate the priest or eliminate him as a suspect, the 2010 report said.

A senior officer with the Royal Ulster Constabulary - the predecessor to Northern Ireland’s police service - had sought the government’s assistance to engage the Catholic Church to render the priest harmless. This “was wrong and compromised the investigation,” said the ombudsman report. A former special branch detective reportedly told ombudsman investigators he had wanted to arrest the priest in the months after the bombing, but that this request was refused. He was told the matter was being taken care of.

The ombudsman report said there was “no evidence of criminal intent on the part of any Government Minister or official or on the part of any official of the Catholic Church.” It also acknowledged that key individuals in the case are deceased, and cannot explain or defend their decisions or actions.

The role of the Catholic Church in this matter is a key area of debate.

“The failure to question him [Chesney] or pursue a criminal conviction rests squarely with law enforcement,” Kelly commented. “No evidence has been provided that the Church engaged in any kind of cover-up. The rumor that Fr. Chesney was involved was known to the civil authorities. We can only speculate why they did not act to arrest him and let the criminal process take its course.”

At the same time, Kelly voiced sympathy for the victims’ families.

“Sadly, the passage of time and the deaths of many of those who could have helped enquiries makes that now seem impossible. It is a situation unfortunately faced my [sic] many.” 

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing the families involved, told the Irish state broadcaster RTE News that the families will never have total closure. However, he added, “they felt empowered” because their initiating legal action helped them “access key information.”

Their lawyers said the families wanted “to place on record their anger and disgust at the attitude of the Church to date within the legal proceedings,” the Irish Times reports. “The families would like to finally say that they were deeply disappointed in the lack of a proper investigation into the murder of their loved ones by the Police.”

The attorneys said that police and the Northern Ireland Office showed a “mature attitude” in mediation that helped the families in “understanding some serious failings by the state.”

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry told CNA that the case is under legal consideration and “it would be inappropriate to comment.”

When the ombudsman report was released in 2010, Catholic leaders issued two separate statements.

A joint statement from then-Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Sean Brady and then-Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty called the bombing “an appalling crime” and noted “the terrible human cost of this atrocity.” They accepted the report’s conclusions and said the priest should have been arrested and questioned if there was sufficient evidence. They said that all known Catholic Church material was made available to investigators.

Another 2010 statement, from the widely respected Bishop emeritus Edward Daly of Derry, was more skeptical. In an opinion article in the Irish News, Daly said he was not at all convinced of Chesney’s involvement, though the priest was an outspoken republican sympathizer. Daly’s predecessor and superior never informed him they believed the priest was a murderer, and Daly himself had the priest observed.

Further, he said, the quality of intelligence produced by the Royal Ulster Constabulary at the time was notoriously poor, and led to the internment of many who were falsely accused of IRA activities.

Bishop McKeown, who has headed the Derry diocese since 2014, told CNA the 2010 statements are “still valid commentary.”

Daly’s 2010 commentary said the Claudy bombing was “one of Northern Ireland’s most despicable acts of terror.” He prayed for the truth to come out for the families, the community, and Chesney’s relatives.

“I hope the Claudy families launch a campaign that achieves justice and truth,” he said.

At the same time, Daly said that the media reports on the ombudsman’s findings were “very disquieting.” News media should have questioned “key aspects” of its claims that Chesney was a senior IRA figure linked to the bombings.

The bishop suggested that police wanted the priest out of the area “because of his publicly proclaimed republican sympathies and a fear of the influence these might exert on young people in the area.”  

In Kelly’s view, it’s possible Chesney’s reputed involvement - or the source of the rumors about him - may never be known.

“What we do know, however, is that there is a very murky world when it comes to the activities of the intelligence community in Northern Ireland including allegations of such egregious violations of the sacraments as placing listening devices in confessional boxes,” he told CNA. “For large parts of the history of Northern Ireland, the civil conflict was accompanied by a very ‘dirty war’ of propaganda and half-truths.”

“I feel profoundly sad for the losses endured by the Claudy families, and my thoughts are also with the family of Fr. Chesney who see his name repeatedly raised in this context without him even having been questioned by the police,” said Kelly.

Brady and Hegarty in 2010 lamented that the lack of an investigation failed those murdered, injured or bereaved in the attacks. They emphasized that the Church was “constant in its condemnation of the evil of violence” during the Troubles, adding that it was “shocking” that a priest was suspected of involvement.

“The Catholic Church did not engage in a cover-up of this matter,” Brady and Hegarty said.

Malaysian Catholic bishops call for unity, ‘national recovery’ from pandemic  

Pilgrims from Malaysia. / JMJ Oficial Flickr.com/Madrid011

Manila, Philippines, Sep 17, 2021 / 09:30 am (CNA).

The archbishop of Kota Kinabalu and the bishop of Keningau, both in Malaysia, called on Malaysians “to rise above” the challenges brought about by the pandemic and find “alternative ways” to “national recovery and unity.”

“This prolonged pandemic has turned life upside down. There are uncertainties in every dimension of life,” said Archbishop John Wong on Kota Kinabalu on Sept.16, the 58th anniversary of the country’s founding.

“To many, the new norms are ‘abnormal’ because they are quite alien to the very nature of man as a social being,” said the Church leader, referring to the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Archbishop Wong said that people “need to rise above all [the challenges] and find alternative ways to express our sense of nationhood, especially towards national recovery and unity.”

“As believers, let us turn to the Lord to seek His consolation and wisdom,” said the archbishop, addressing the country’s Catholic minority.

“The trials and tribulations we go through as individuals, families or a nation are sometimes beyond our comprehension,” he said.

“To a certain extent, our social analysis may lead us to identify the root causes of the situation,” he added.

“But unless we transcend these obstacles and resort to our faith to help us through at this difficult moment, the ‘blame game’ will lead us nowhere,” said Archbishop Wong.

In a separate statement released for Malaysia Day, Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau called on the country’s leaders to be “exemplary role models” and inspire everyone to be upstanding citizens.

Bishop Piong called on all Malaysians to have a sense of pride in their identity as citizens of a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation.

He went on to remind political leaders to be fair in the distribution of the country’s wealth and to ensure that everyone is treated equitably.

He said that it is vital that everyone, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, feel a sense of belonging to the nation.

He warned that this can only be achieved if leaders govern with “fairness and justice” and are attentive to the welfare of all.

Bishop Piong also urged everyone to commit toward saving the environment “that God created for us and for future generations.”

Only 9.2% of Malaysia’s population of 32.7 million are Christians.

According to the most recent census in 2010, up to 61.3% of the population practices Islam; 19.8%, Buddhism; 6.3%, Hinduism; 1.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, or other traditional Chinese philosophies and religions;. Less than 1% are members of other religious groups, including animists, Sikhs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Baha’is.

Almost all Muslims practice Sunni Islam of the Shafi’i school. Ethnic Malays, defined in the federal constitution as Muslims from birth, account for approximately 55% of the population.

Rural areas – especially in the peninsular east coast of the country – are predominantly Muslim, while the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo have relatively higher numbers of non-Muslims.

Two-thirds of the country’s Christian population inhabits the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Archbishop Wong said that over the years Malaysia has proven that “nation building is possible within a multi-ethnic and multi-religious setting.”

He admitted, however, that “the diverse cultures, demands and aspirations” of the population have “put pressure on interethnic and inter-religious relations, and have at times resulted in some tensions.”

“But, praise God, sense and a spirit of tolerance have kept us going,” he said.

The archbishop said the pandemic has deprived the people of Malaysia of the real celebration “that could have been manifested through fellowship and social interaction.”

Some Malaysian Christians would usually hold fasts ending on Malaysia Day, and pray for Muslims during the celebration to promote religious harmony and the celebration of religious freedom.

Since 2000, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, with 2,800 member churches, has been organizing fasts.

Archbishop Wong said that the spike in COVID-19 cases and casualties in recent months has diverted and drained much of the people’s energy, resources and attention.

“Our public health system is stretched to the limit and frontliners are simply burnt out. The economic sector suffers tremendously, and many are hit by loss of job and income,” he noted.

He said that while people rely heavily on media technology, divisions in communities are “further widening,” especially between those in the rural and urban areas.

“Squabbles on the political front too are not contributing well to the already stressful situation,” said the Catholic Church leader.

“As disciples of Christ, we are called to be ‘salt of the earth and light of the world,’” he said, addressing the Christian population.”

“Instead of cursing the darkness, let us each light our own candle and, together, we can find a way out,” said Archbishop Wong as he assured the people of prayers that this year’s Malaysia Day observance “will be an occasion to make the difference.”

“Where there are lies and deceit, let us uphold truth and integrity. Where there is hatred and vengeance, let us show pardon and forgiveness. Where there are bullies and exploitations, let us stand firm and defend the human dignity of everyone, irrespective of color or creed. Where there are negative forces at play, let us defeat them with the forces of love,” said the prelate.

He concluded his statement with a call on all Malaysians to let their love for the country “bring out the best in us as we march forward through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”