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Pope Francis may visit United States in September after UN invitation

Pope Francis speaks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 25, 2015. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 25, 2024 / 07:22 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is reportedly considering returning to the United States in September to speak before the United Nations General Assembly.

The news was initially reported by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix and has not yet been officially confirmed by the Vatican. A source from the Vatican Secretariat of State, meanwhile, told CNA this week that "a formal invitation has arrived from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Pope Francis seems inclined to respond positively."

If the New York trip occurs, the pope would visit the United Nations during its "Summit of the Future," which the international body will convene from Sept. 22 to 23.

The possible trip to the United States could change the pope’s already-busy September travel schedule. The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Francis will be in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Singapore from Sept. 2-13.

Pope Francis is also expected at the end of September in Belgium, where he is scheduled to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the University of Louvain, which has been divided into two different linguistic entities since the 1960s. The Holy Father told Mexican television network Televisa last December that he intended to travel to Belgium in 2024.

According to a source familiar with the planning of papal trips, Pope Francis' trip to Louvain could be postponed to 2025. The postponement of the journey would leave room at the end of September for the visit to the United Nations.

During his planned stay in Belgium, Pope Francis will also celebrate Mass at the national shrine of Koelkenberg. There are also rumors that the pontiff will stop in Luxembourg, one of the small nations favored by the pope for trips to Europe. Luxembourg officials have denied the visit, but the Vatican Secretariat of State has indicated the trip is possible

The September summit's objective is to strengthen the structures of the United Nations and global "governance" to face more fully the "new and old challenges" of the coming years, the UN has said. 

The meeting will lead a "pact for the future" to advance rapidly toward realizing the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals.”

In a meeting with students in April, Pope Francis described the summit as “an important event,” with the Holy Father urging students to help ensure the plan “becomes concrete and is implemented through processes and actions for change.”

Pope Francis, who is 87, has undergone two surgeries in the last four years and is under regular medical screening. A planned trip to Abu Dhabi to participate in the COP28 meeting was canceled last December due to health reasons. 

The pope was last in the United States in 2015, during which he also appeared before the United Nations.

Priests’ talk show that sparked controversy over Pope Francis remarks now back on YouTube

One of the priests on “The Sacristy of the Vendée”show sparked a firestorm after quipping in February that he prayed that Pope Francis would “go to heaven as soon as possible.” / Credit: LSDLV

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 25, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

“The Sacristy of the Vendée” is now back on YouTube.

Nearly two months ago, the priests featured on the Spanish-language talk show voluntarily suspended the program in the wake of a firestorm that was sparked when one of them quipped on their Feb. 22 show that he prayed that Pope Francis would “go to heaven as soon as possible.”

The YouTube program has had more than 70,000 followers and takes its name from the region in western France that resisted the subordination of the clergy to the government during that country’s bloody 1789–1799 revolution. 

The Archdiocese of Toledo in Spain, to which three of the six priests normally on the show belong, demanded in a Feb. 28 statement that they all apologize for the comments made “that harm the communion of the Church and scandalize the people of God.” 

In a Feb. 28 post on X “The Sacristy of the Vendée” apologized, stating that “it was a comment in bad taste and although it does not express a wish for the pope to die, as some media have maliciously portrayed, we understand that it can be understood that way.”

In addition, the priests expressed their “adherence to Pope Francis, in the same terms in which it was clearly expressed in the program of last Feb. 22. We reject attacks against the pope and the unity of the Church and those who deny the legitimacy of the pope’s ministry.”

In a March 6 special edition, the program announced it was being suspended “until further notice,” given the controversy that had broken out: “After much reflection and of our own volition, wanting to avoid putting our bishops in the position of having to make a difficult decision that would grant victory to our enemies, we have decided to make a strategic retreat.”

Now, as of April 20, “The Sacristy of the Vendée” is back on YouTube. At the beginning of the program, host Father Francisco José Delgado noted that it’s a medium that doesn’t take precedence over his pastoral duties and that if it served “to harm the Church,” then it was time to “let it go.”

Father Francisco Torres, another regular on the show, said with an allusion to the battlefield that “we return here to this trench of Christ the King to the joy of many and the disappointment of our dear enemies for whom we pray as Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us.”

Father Ricardo Gómez of the Archdiocese of Madrid joined the show as a newcomer and Delgado thanked him for his presence because “the truth is that it’s not easy for someone to dare to join us today.”

Not present, however, was Father Gabriel Calvo, who made the following controversial remark on the Feb. 15 show: “I also pray a lot for the pope, so that he can go to heaven as soon as possible.”

The topic of the show was the Valley of the Fallen, a monumental complex located about 30 miles northwest of Madrid that was dedicated in 1959 in memory of both sides killed in the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War. 

The purpose of the complex was to foster national reconciliation after the war that bitterly divided the country. Overlooking the complex rises the largest cross in the world. The current socialist government wants to secularize the memorial site, which includes a basilica and abbey, and reconfigure the area’s historical significance.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Historic St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, will host Pope Francis this weekend

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. / Credit: Canva

CNA Staff, Apr 25, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

This weekend, on Sunday, April 28, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Mark’s Square during a one-day trip to Venice, Italy. Afterward, he will privately venerate the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist inside the basilica. This papal visit to the iconic basilica puts a spotlight on the famous church dedicated to St. Mark and on its significance to the famous “floating city.” 

St. Mark’s Basilica, also known as the “Church of Gold,” is a Byzantine cathedral in St. Mark’s Square. Founded in 828 A.D. after the remains of St. Mark were transported from Alexandria, Egypt, the basilica has undergone several transformations.

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva

After being built as a permanent church in 832, the basilica was burned down in a rebellion in 976. St. Mark’s was rebuilt in 978 but it was a construction project started in 1063 that formed the basis of the current form of the church.

On Oct. 8, 1094, St. Mark’s Basilica was consecrated and dedicated to the apostle and saint credited by many to be the writer of the Gospel of Mark. 

It wasn’t until 1807, on orders from Napoleon, that the city church became the residence of the patriarch of Venice and declared a city cathedral. 

The basilica’s architecture, which combines Byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque styles, features a central dome, spandrels, and four pillars supporting the immense vaults. Inside, St. Mark’s is adorned with beautiful gold mosaics, marble flooring, and luxurious decor. The presbytery, which is reserved for clergy, houses the high altar, which holds the relics of St. Mark. 

The sacristy, which was crafted in 1486 by Giorgio Spavento, has impressive inlaid cabinets illustrating scenes from the life of St. Mark and a vault with mosaics depicting Old Testament prophets. 

There are also several side altars and chapels paying homage to various saints such as the Madonna del Mascoli and St. Isidore. The Chapel of St. Isidore also holds the saint’s relics, which were brought to Venice from the Island of Chios in 1125. 

St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. Credit: Canva

St. Mark’s Museum was built during the 19th century. It hosts a diverse collection of artifacts and artwork, mostly acquired from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. One of the most notable highlights are the Horses of St. Mark — four bronze horses that once were a part of the basilica’s facade — as well as Byzantine and Gothic manuscripts, artifacts, and liturgical objects. 

St. Mark’s Basilica welcomes more than 3 million visitors a year and is truly the center of public and religious life in Venice. 

The Holy See Press Office has released the Holy Father’s schedule for this trip to Venice, which includes meetings with inmates at the women’s prison, a tour of the Vatican art exhibit on display there, a meeting with the featured artists, and a speech to young people.

In wake of euthanasia case in Peru, physician-priest makes case for palliative care

null / Credit: Photographee.eu via www.shutterstock.com

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 24, 2024 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

Father Augusto Meloni Navarro, a priest, physician, and former vice president of the World Health Organization (WHO), urged prayers for the soul of Ana Estrada, the first person to undergo euthanasia in Peru. Meloni also emphasized the importance of protecting life and providing palliative care in these kinds of situations.

As a Church “we stand in solidarity, we sympathize with every human person in all their circumstances. And, of course, at the moment of transition to a new life, which in cases of desperation, as in the case of this person, our sister, and her family, probably calls for more prayer,” Meloni said in an interview with “EWTN Noticias,” the Spanish-language broadcast edition of EWTN News.

Estrada was a 47-year-old Peruvian psychologist and activist who suffered from polymyositis — an incurable disease that left her confined to a wheelchair — and who underwent euthanasia on Sunday, April 21. The procedure was carried out in accordance with a plan approved by Peru’s Social Health Insurance (EsSalud), but it was not specified whether she died by direct euthanasia or medically assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is not legal in Peru. However, in 2022 the judiciary ruled in favor of Estrada so that in her case Article 112 of the current Penal Code “would be unenforced.” The code punishes anyone who “out of pity, kills an incurably ill person” with a prison sentence of no more than three years.

Meloni said he has personally committed to praying for the family, and especially for Estrada’s soul, appealing “to the infinite mercy of God.”

“I pray that in those last mysterious seconds of slipping away and the passage from the present life to a new life” that this person could be saved “so that she could truly find life.”

“We are also going to pray that the Lord increase the faith, if they have it, of those people who in some way have been involved in this very painful outcome, as well as of all the people who may mistakenly think that some progress is being made here, some progress in freedom, for the good, and we know from experience that these issues can often be manipulated and [people] not even being treated with respect. And that is why we are going to pray,” he added.

In early April, the Vatican published the declaration Dignitatis Infinita, which warns of 13 grave violations of human dignity, one of which is euthanasia. 

The document, which encourages palliative care for patients, emphasizes that “suffering does not cause the sick to lose their dignity, which is intrinsically and inalienably their own” and points out that “helping the suicidal person to take his or her own life is an objective offense against the dignity of the person asking for it, even if one would be thereby fulfilling the person’s wish.”

Meloni noted that when we lose “sight of the dignity of the human person, [who is made in] the image of God and loved by Jesus Christ, we tend to treat people as things.”

“We also tend to view human pain and suffering superficially. Life goes beyond the biological. It’s a dimension that is revealed in Jesus Christ, who shows us the meaning of suffering and human dignity,” he explained.

He assured that, as a doctor and priest, he understands “that life goes beyond what is taught at the university.”

“Life is Jesus Christ, and he shows us that pain does not destroy our dignity but is part of the path to its fulfillment [in eternal life],” he said.

The importance of palliative care

The former vice president of the World Health Organization acknowledged that Estrada faced for decades a serious illness “not yet understood by science and without a cure.” However, he noted that there is palliative care available for this type of illness.

“Palliative care helps people cope with these difficult situations. Science, technology, and medicine have advanced a lot in this field,” he commented, while adding that it is also “insufficient.”

The reason, according to Meloni, is that palliative care must include a spiritual dimension: “spiritual assistance, everything that the Lord has left us through his Church so that we can have all the means precisely to face these extreme situations and recognize that love of God.”

This assistance, he said, should not only “be offered to the person who is directly facing pain but also to their family members so that they can understand and help effectively and not believe that eliminating the human person is the solution.”

“I would like to emphasize first of all the need for us as a society, as a community, as a country, as families, as the Church, that we attend to people’s faith. Let us take care of the gift of new life that we have received in Christ Jesus in baptism, so that those who are not baptized will be baptized and those who are already baptized find that treasure that is the new life that we have received in Christ,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Arizona House votes to repeal law protecting life from moment of conception

Pro-life advocates demonstrate prior to an Arizona House of Representatives session at the Arizona State Capitol on April 17, 2024, in Phoenix. / Credit: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 24, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

The Arizona House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal a law protecting unborn babies from abortion throughout pregnancy.

The narrow 32-28 vote passed an “abortion ban repeal” bill designed to overturn the pro-life law. Republicans have a narrow majority in the Arizona House, but the bill was able to pass as three Republicans joined the Democrats against the pro-life measure.

The repeal bill will now be considered by the Arizona Senate where Republicans also hold a narrow 16-14 majority. Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs has already signaled she will sign the bill into law if it is passed by the Arizona Senate.

Even if the repeal bill is signed into law it will likely not go into effect until 90 days after the legislative session closes, meaning the pro-life law may be in effect for a short time. The pro-life measure is currently set to go into effect on June 8.

This comes after Democrats launched several unsuccessful attempts to repeal the pro-life law after a controversial Arizona Supreme Court decision ruled that the law — passed in 1864 — could go into effect.

Dormant since being invalidated by Roe v. Wade in 1973, the 1864 law protects all unborn life from conception and imposes prison time for those who “provide, supply, or administer” an abortion. The court ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision, there were no legal reasons to keep the law from being enforced.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden criticized the Arizona pro-life law as backward, blaming former President Donald Trump for the Supreme Court overturning Roe and “literally taking us back 160 years.” 

Abortion is currently legal in Arizona until the 15th week of pregnancy. If the 1864 law takes effect, however, all abortion will be illegal, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger.

Divided Supreme Court hears emergency room abortion case: DOJ vs. Idaho’s pro-life law

Pro-life and pro-abortion activists at a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments in the Moyle v. United States case, in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 2024. The case deals with whether an Idaho abortion law conflicts with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). / Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 24, 2024 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

A divided Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday in a case that will determine whether federal law requires pro-life states to have broader exceptions for women who seek abortions in emergency situations. 

The crux of the case focuses on whether Idaho’s Defense of Life Act conflicts with a federal rule that requires hospitals to provide stabilizing health care that is consistent with standard medical practice in certain emergency situations.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit that argues Idaho’s law prevents hospitals from providing this care in some situations because it only allows abortions in cases of rape, incest, and when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.”

The lawsuit, Moyle v. United States, is based on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which Congress enacted in 1986 to ensure that everyone has access to emergency medical care even if they can’t afford to pay for that care. 

Under EMTALA hospitals that receive Medicare funds must provide stabilizing care when the absence of care could put the patient’s health in serious jeopardy or cause the impairment of bodily functions or serious dysfunction of bodily organs. The law does not specifically reference abortion, but the Department of Justice is arguing that an abortion will sometimes be the standard care necessary to meet these rules.

According to the DOJ, Idaho’s threshold for when it permits abortion is too strict, because it only permits abortions when necessary to prevent the death of the mother and does not include any exceptions that would cover the other health risks considered in EMTALA.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case could have far-ranging effects on protections for unborn children in Idaho and more than 20 other states that have passed pro-life laws in the past few years.

Idaho claims there is no conflict

In oral arguments presented to the justices, Idaho’s lawyer Joshua Turner said Idaho’s law does not conflict with EMTALA in any way and claimed the DOJ is “misreading” the statute when it makes that assertion.

Turner argued that states can legally regulate the practice of medicine and that they frequently impose such regulations. As an example, he noted that states control medical licensing and the legality of certain treatments. He referenced the different approaches among states related to how long a doctor can prescribe opioids to someone who is dealing with chronic pain and said there are “countless examples” of this.

The DOJ’s interpretation, according to Turner, would prevent the state from enforcing any of these regulations because it “lacks any limiting principle” and essentially “leaves emergency rooms unregulated under state law.” He further said that proper “professional standards” change from day to day and that it is limited to available treatments, according to the text: “Illegal treatments are not available treatments.” 

Turner added that the provisions in EMTALA have never been used to challenge a state regulation or criminal statute. He claimed that for EMTALA to override a state’s criminal law, it would need to be very clear. 

“Congress must speak clearly,” Turner said. “It has not done so here.”

Some of the judges challenged Turner on his interpretation and probed him with questions about when abortions would be allowed under Idaho’s law. Justice Elena Kagan argued with Turner about whether EMTALA was clear, claiming “the federal government has plenty to say about [when care must be provided] in this statute.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor pressed Turner with questions about whether Idaho’s law would permit an abortion in various hypothetical situations. Turner said the law permits an abortion when the life of the mother is threatened, which is based on “the doctor’s good-faith medical judgment” but was repeatedly interrupted when he sought to explain further.

The line of questioning and frequent interruptions provoked the ire of Justice Samuel Alito, who commented that Turner was presented with quick hypotheticals and “asked to provide a snap judgment of what would be appropriate” and “hardly given an opportunity to answer.”

DOJ asserts abortion is covered under EMTALA

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who provided the legal arguments on behalf of the DOJ, said Idaho’s law conflicts with the text of EMTALA, which has real implications for what is “happening on the ground.” She asserted that Turner is “gravely mistaken” in saying that there is no conflict. 

“This case is about how [EMTALA] applies to pregnant women in a medical crisis,” Prelogar said. 

Prelogar challenged Turner’s interpretation that the DOJ’s position would threaten all state medical regulations, asserting that EMTALA is “textually very narrow.”

According to Prelogar, if abortion is necessary to provide stabilizing care for a woman under the conditions set in EMTALA, “the statute protects her and gives her that choice.” She said the patient must “be offered pregnancy termination [when it is] the necessary treatment.”

Some of the justices challenged Prelogar’s interpretation of the law. Justice Clarence Thomas noted that EMTALA imposes a rule on hospitals as a condition to receive Medicare funding but that the law does not make demands of the state. 

“In this case, you are bringing an action against the state, and the state’s not regulated,” Thomas said.

Thomas and other judges noted that EMTALA concerns spending and questioned Prelogar on whether it would preempt a state’s criminal laws. 

“Congress has broad power under the spending clause to impose [these rules],” Prelogar responded. 

The judges also questioned Prelogar about whether EMTALA respects conscience objections made by doctors and hospitals who have moral objections to providing abortions, and she said those protections are still in place. They also asked her whether a mental health crisis could ever permit an abortion under EMTALA, to which she replied that abortion is “not the accepted standard of practice to treat any mental health emergency.”

Arsonists burn down homes of Egypt’s beleaguered Christians

A Coptic Orthodox church in Old Cairo, a historic area of the Egyptian capital. / Credit: Sun_Shine via Shutterstock

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Apr 24, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Muslim extremists set on fire several homes of Christians in Minya, a province in southern Egypt, in a continuation of anti-Christian violence less than two weeks before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. 

According to The New Arab, when anti-Christian fanatics failed to dispossess Christians of their homes in retribution for attempting to build a church in Al-Fawakher village, they proceeded to burn down the houses on the evening of April 23.

On his official Twitter account, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Macarius wrote on April 24 that Egyptian security forces “brought the situation under control, arresting the instigators and perpetrators,” and that the government “will compensate those affected and hold the perpetrators accountable.” 

After noting that calm now reigns in Al-Fawakher, Macarius added: “May God protect our dear country, Egypt, from all harm.” 

CNA reached out to authorities of the Coptic Orthodox Church but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Video of the burning homes was shared on social media that featured celebratory music and Arabic lyrics.

Christianity in Egypt dates to the very beginnings of the faith and nearly 10% of the country’s population of 111 million are Christian. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, while about 2.5% belong to the Coptic Catholic Church and other particular churches. 

Christians constitute the largest minority in Egypt, and Macarius leads the Coptic Christians of Minya Province, where approximately one-third of the country’s Christians live. He narrowly survived an assassination attempt more than 10 years ago. 

The Open Doors organization, which monitors persecution against followers of Christ, ranks Egypt as the 38th most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian. In 2018, seven Christians were killed by Muslim terrorists who attacked a bus carrying pilgrims. In 2017, Islamic State terrorists bombed two Coptic Orthodox churches, killing over 40 people. And in December 2016, a terrorist detonated a bomb killing himself and 189 worshippers at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, injuring more than 400 others. 

On his 2017 visit to Egypt, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for the small Catholic community and called on Christians to forgive the atrocities. Relations between the Vatican and the Coptic Orthodox Church, the leader of which is Pope Tawadros II, have improved in recent years. 

Earlier this year, Pope Francis recognized the Coptic Orthodox Church’s canonization of 21 Coptic Orthodox Martyrs of Libya. 

Last year, Pope Tawadros II celebrated a Divine Liturgy at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where he delivered a homily on Christian unity. Since then, however, Tawadros II has reduced relations with the Vatican following the December 2023 publication of Fiducia Supplicans.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), while noting that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government has appointed the first-ever Christian to the Supreme Constitutional Court and also sentenced a extremist Muslim murderer of a priest, has criticized the “slow pace of approvals for the backlog of legalization applications,” which would allow the construction of new churches. Egypt is on the USCIRF Special Watch List for tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.

In 2016, Egypt’s legislature passed the Church Construction Law, ostensibly to legalize such construction with permits.

Oklahoma attorney general asks Supreme Court to halt execution of condemned convict

Anti-death penalty activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to prevent the execution of Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip on Sept. 29, 2015, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org

CNA Staff, Apr 24, 2024 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond this week asked the Supreme Court to halt the execution of a condemned man whose death sentence has been criticized by an archbishop and other Catholic advocates. 

Drummond announced the filing on his website on Tuesday. In his petition to the Supreme Court the attorney general detailed “why the execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip should be halted and his conviction remanded back to district court.”

Glossip was first convicted in 1998 for allegedly ordering a handyman at a motel Glossip managed to murder the motel’s owner. Glossip was largely convicted on the handyman’s testimony.

Since his initial conviction, two independent investigations have uncovered serious problems with his trial, including allegations of police misconduct and what were reportedly incorrect instructions given to the jury in the case. Prosecutors had also reportedly failed to correct false testimony in Glossip’s trial. 

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Glossip’s death sentence in April of last year, even though the state had previously admitted error and asked the appeals court to overturn the sentence. Drummond called that decision “remarkable and remarkably flawed.”

By “dismissing this extraordinary confession by the state,” Drummond’s office said this week, the appeals court engaged in a “flawed whitewashing of federal constitutional violations.”

The court should “vacate the judgment of conviction and order a new trial” for Glossip, Drummond’s filing said. 

Archbishop: Court’s review ‘offers hope’

The U.S. Supreme Court announced in January that it would review Glossip’s case. At the time, Oklahoma Archbishop Paul Coakley told CNA that the high court’s decision “offers hope in furthering the cause toward one day abolishing the death penalty.”

“With new evidence and the state of Oklahoma’s admission of errors in the case prompting the Supreme Court review — issues that seem to be more and more prevalent — we can clearly see reason to reconsider institutionalized violence against the incarcerated as we hopefully move to respect the dignity of life for all human persons,” Coakley told CNA. 

The Death Penalty Information Center says on its website that Oklahoma has the highest number of executions per capita of any U.S. state since the death penalty’s reinstitution in 1976. It is second only to Texas in total number of inmates put to death.

Glossip’s case has drawn support from other anti-death penalty Catholics. Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, said last year that Glossip “should not be put to death … not ever.” 

“No state should have the power to take the lives of its citizens,” she said at the time. “As we see in Mr. Glossip’s case, the system is too broken, too cruel, too disrespecting of human dignity."

“We give thanks to God that Richard Glossip has been granted a temporary stay of execution,” Vaillancourt Murphy said shortly thereafter, “and we pray the Supreme Court decides to formally take up his case.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting an update promulgated by Pope Francis in 2018, describes the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (No. 2267).

St. John Paul II, meanwhile, called the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary” and encouraged Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life.” 

The former pope argued that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.”

This is not the first time Glossip’s case has been to the highest court in the land. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court in Glossip v. Gross ruled that lethal injections using midazolam to kill prisoners on death row do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

End-of-life resources help Catholics ‘finish life faithfully’

null / Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Apr 24, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

As euthanasia and assisted suicide are legalized in more jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, one Catholic-focused ministry is promoting end-of-life resources that the group’s founder says will help Catholics finish their earthly journeys while remaining faithful.

Aging with Dignity, a nonprofit that for years has been promoting end-of-life support in line with Church teaching, announced this month the release of “Finishing Life Faithfully,” a booklet that “makes complex end-of-life decisions easier.” The materials address “basic questions” on how to approach end-of-life topics such as pain management, feeding tubes, and other matters surrounding death.

The document “summarizes the Catholic Church’s guidance on end-of-life decision-making and the ethical considerations involved and helps patients and families better understand these teachings and follow them,” the group said this month.

Jim Towey, the founder and CEO of Aging with Dignity who previously served as legal counsel to Mother Teresa, told CNA this week that he launched the nonprofit in 1996 “to give people a hopeful vision for end of life that helps them practice their faith and that doesn’t treat dying like it’s just a medical moment.”

For years Aging With Dignity has distributed its “Five Wishes” legal document, which helps Catholics and others “express [their] wishes ahead of a serious illness.” A form of what’s known as an “advanced directive,” Towey said it lets the faithful “address their personal, emotional, and spiritual needs” before the final weeks and days of their lives.

The Five Wishes program has been immensely popular; the group has distributed over 40 million copies of the guide in 33 languages. But, Towey said, “it needed a companion guide to help Catholics understand what the Church teaches on feeding tubes, anointing of the sick, hospice, and pain management.”

Towey said he spent all of last year working with various collaborators, including priests, to develop the guide. The group says the document offers “a positive vision of care at the end of life that contrasts with the euthanasia/assisted suicide movements.”

The guide provides information on the ethical questions that often surround end-of-life concerns. It notes, for instance, that Catholics “can take or increase pain medication to lessen suffering” even if such medication might hasten the onset of death, so long as “death is not willed as either an end or a means.”

Elsewhere it notes that Catholics are not “obliged to accept or continue every medical intervention available” and that waiving “disproportionate medical treatments” that promise “only a precarious or painful extension of life” is “not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia.”

The organization distributes the materials through more than 5,000 distributing organizations, including health care providers, churches, and employers. Individuals often request the documents to distribute to family or friends.

Both euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalized in more and more jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and Western Europe. Assisted suicide is legal in nine U.S. states and under consideration in several more. Numerous countries, meanwhile, allow euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, including Canada, Belgium, Spain, and several others. 

Towey said when he founded the organization nearly 30 years ago, there were already warning signs on the horizon regarding those deadly procedures.

“What I saw back in 1996 were the clouds gathering in favor of assisted suicide,” he said. “Now the storms have begun.” 

“We’re seeing more and more people, including Catholics, deceived by the arguments in favor of assisted suicide,” he said.

Both the advanced directive and the end-of-life guide have been touted by U.S. Church leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdioceses of New York and Boston. O’Malley described the documents as “grounded in the primacy of protecting God’s gift of life.”

Of the group’s end-of-life advocacy, meanwhile, Towey told CNA: “We’re just getting started.”

“Assisted suicide isn’t the solution,” he said. “Good end-of-life care and healthy family discussions are.”

“The Church needs to make this easier for families. We don’t make it easy for them to access some of this information,” he said.

“The Church needs to help people in this critical transition in their life to eternity, to remain faithful and to be assured by the accompaniment of the Church.”

Catholic Charities in Ohio found partially negligent in 5-year-old’s 2017 death

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CNA Staff, Apr 24, 2024 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

Catholics Charities Corporation in Ohio was found partially negligent this week in the 2017 death of a 5-year-old boy who was being supervised by one of the organization’s caseworkers at the time he died.

A jury in Cuyahoga County ruled in the wrongful death suit that the Catholic charity group was 8% responsible for Jordan Rodriguez’s September 2017 death, local media reported. Rodriguez’s body was discovered buried in his mother’s backyard three months after he died.

The boy’s mother and her boyfriend earlier pleaded guilty to several charges stemming from his death, including involuntary manslaughter. Jordan was developmentally disabled and incapable of speaking.

In the civil wrongful death trial this week, Catholic Charities Corporation was ordered to pay $960,000 into Jordan Rodriguez’s estate. Several other defendants, including the boy’s mother and the county’s Department of Child and Family Services, were also found responsible. 

A caseworker contracted by the organization, Nancy Caraballo, had been assigned to Rodriguez’s case and was supposed to be checking on the boy, but she falsified reports and took bribes in connection with a food stamp scheme instead.

Caraballo had previously pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced to three years in prison, though she ultimately served only eight months. She was ordered to pay $240,000 in the civil case this week. 

The lawsuit had argued in part that the Catholic charity organization had failed to properly train and supervise Caraballo and thus failed to detect the false reports she had filed. 

Richard Blake, an attorney representing Catholic Charities Corporation in the case, told CNA on Wednesday that there is “an active gag order prohibiting us from going into any detail or making any comments about the matter.”

“There’s still another portion of the law that permits punitive damages,” he said. A court date is set for next week, he added. 

Catholic Charities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.