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New Mexico legalizes assisted suicide

Oleksandr Lysenko/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

New Mexico’s governor on Thursday signed a bill legalizing assisted suicide in the state.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed the “Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act,” named for a late state district court judge who died of cancer in 2018, and who became an advocate for assisted-suicide in her final years.

The bill allows licensed physicians, osteopathic physicians, nurses, and physician assistants to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for terminally-ill patients who are deemed capable of self-administering the dose.

New Mexico is now the eighth state to have legalized physician-assisted suicide, along with California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. The District of Columbia has also legalized the practice.

The state’s Catholic bishops had strongly opposed the bill, which was passed by the House in February and by the Senate in March, largely along a party-line vote.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe stated on March 3 that the legislation was “the worst in the nation.”

“God’s law calls us all to recognize and protect the life and dignity of each and every human being, especially the most vulnerable. This includes unborn children and those at the end of life,” he stated. “We are promised that God’s law will ultimately bring peace and new life, especially to those who are suffering.”

The bill requires two licensed health care providers, one of them a doctor, to determine a patient’s terminal illness. Patients in hospice do not require a second confirmation.

If the patient has a history of a mental health disorder or intellectual disability – or if the providers believe they have a disorder – they must be referred for a mental health assessment before a prescription is filled.

For the request for a lethal dose of medication, two witnesses must be present, and only one may be a relative of the patient. The bill requires a 48-hour waiting period between the prescription being written and it being filed.

Some amendments in the bill were struck before it passed the state Senate. Amendments allowing for insurance collection and waiving liability for health care providers were removed, AP reported.

The bill still contains a state residency requirement, which a 2019 version of the legislation did not include. Some critics warned that the previous bill would have enabled “suicide tourism” where patients would travel from out-of-state to receive a lethal prescription. That bill also allowed for lethal prescriptions to be issued remotely through telemedicine.

The 2021 bill does include a conscience exemption for health care providers who refuse to provide a lethal prescription, but it requires them to inform the patient and refer them to another provider who will provide the prescription.

Final Kings Bay Plowshares activist sentenced to 21 months in prison

Mark Colville, part of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 anti-nuclear activists, was sentenced April 9 to 21 months in federal prison for conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval installation, depredation of government property and trespassing.

French Catholic bishops open beatification cause of Dominican priest

French Dominican priest Fr. Marie-Etienne Vayssière (1864-1940). / Archives Provinciales de Toulouse. All rights reserved.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 9, 2021 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

The French Catholic bishops have approved the opening of the beatification cause of a little-known but quietly influential Dominican priest.

The bishops made the announcement regarding the cause of Fr. Marie-Étienne Vayssière (1864-1940) at the end of their plenary assembly on March 26.

Although he is relatively unknown in the Catholic world nowadays, partly because of the lack of available written works about his life and spiritual legacy, the French churchman remains a revered figure among the Order of Preachers, as well as in the south of France, where he spent his life.

The model of holiness embodied by Vayssière, according to those who knew him or had access to his writings and correspondence, is that of total self-abandonment to God’s will, of a life lived in a spirit of complete self-denial for the benefit of others, especially the many people he accompanied spiritually along his earthly path.

“Like many of my Dominican brothers, I have a special admiration for Fr. Marie-Étienne Vayssière, who had a profound influence in the region of Provence in the 1940s and whose spiritual doctrine has inspired a lot of people,” Dominican Fr. Serge-Thomas Bonino, secretary of the International Theological Commission and dean of the faculty of philosophy of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, told CNA.

Born on Oct. 29, 1864, in Saint-Céré, Occitanie, Toussaint Vayssière (as he was initially known) became an orphan at the age of four and was raised by his aunt. He received his first call to priesthood at the age of 10, while serving as an altar boy during a funeral.

He entered the neighboring minor seminary of Montfaucon and then the grand seminary of Cahors, where he decided to join the Order of Preachers, touched by the missionary fervor of St. Dominic.

Vayssière received the habit at the Dominican Convent of Toulouse, where the Order of Preachers was founded by St. Dominic in the 13th century, taking the religious name of Marie-Étienne. This took place in 1887, when he was 22 years old.

The unspeakable joy he gained from his vocation and his theological studies, however, was rapidly darkened by a terrible ordeal that would change his life forever. In 1888, he was diagnosed with cerebral anemia, a condition that plunged him into a state of physical and mental fatigue and affected him considerably until his priestly ordination in 1892.

“This ordeal, which took the form of a deep depression and fatigue, broke him at the beginning of his religious life, which could have led him to scrape by, to live in a very basic way,” Fr. Bonino said.

“On the contrary, it spurred him to fully accept the trial and to try to turn it into a gift of love for the Lord.”

Vayssière was appointed guardian of Mary Magdalene’s Grotto of Sainte-Baume, in the department of Var in Provence, in 1900. It was there, where he spent more than 30 years, that his true spiritual stature emerged.

Reduced to a hermitic life of prayer and solitude, although he had always wanted to dedicate his life to preaching, he chose to embrace his situation of great poverty and destitution.

His attitude, according to Fr. Bonino, reflected a sense of the absoluteness of the primacy of God.

“In the great Christian tradition of abandonment to the divine providence, he adhered with all his heart to God’s will, convinced that it was the only way to make his life fruitful, and that we can commune with God through every event of our life, that nothing happens outside of providence,” he said.

Bonino added that, although his condition didn’t enable him to develop a systematic teaching, Vayssière would recover enough strength over time to become a great director of souls.

During his three decades of service at the Grotto, in addition to being a moral and spiritual point of reference for countless lay people and clergymen, Fr. Marie-Etienne enriched the site through several large projects. He also founded the nearby spiritual retreat house, Nazareth du Sacré-Coeur, in 1929. In addition, he helped to inspire the creation of a secular institute, L’Oeuvre de S. Catherine (“The Work of St. Catherine”), which would become Caritas Christi in 1937.

In this sense, he is considered one of the inspirations behind the rise of lay orders in the 20th century, and, more generally, one of the pioneers of the universal call to holiness, as he was convinced that holiness was for everyone and used to grant a great spiritual freedom to those he accompanied.

“He had the sense of the greatness of religious life, but for him, holiness was this union of every moment with God’s will, and that, lay people can do it, too,” Bonino commented. “Then Vatican II emphasized that, but it was far from being obvious at that time.”

Another prophetic trait, according to Bonino, was Vayssière’s constant remembrance that God had to remain the center of every human action.

“It is comparable to what Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote in God or Nothing one century later: Christianity can produce great things in the intellectual or social field, but these things are vain if one forgets that nothing is more important than God,” he said.

“It sounds a bit steep, but it is necessary to recall it these days.”

Vayssière’s exemplary life led him to be elected Dominican Provincial of Toulouse, first at the 1932 chapter and then for a second mandate in 1936. At a crucial and very sensitive time in the history of France and the entire world, on the eve of World War II, he devoted his last energies to his brothers and the development of his province, before taking his last breath on Sept. 15, 1940.

His writings, which were all published posthumously and have long been out of print, have been partly republished in recent years. New publications are expected to accompany his cause of beatification.

Belfast bishop urges politicians to avoid inciting more violence

The Catholic bishop of Belfast urged politicians to be more careful about their language as the city was engulfed in nightly violence.

EarthBeat Weekly: World needs to move more decisively to avoid 'a ghastly future'

A group of researchers urges scientists, policymakers and the rest of us to talk realistically about the environmental challenges we face — and the consequences if we continue to avoid them.

House Republicans push to keep Hyde Amendment in funding bills

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Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2021 / 11:13 am (CNA).

Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday warned against allowing taxpayer-funded abortion in fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills.

The members urged the continued inclusion of pro-life policies in forthcoming budget bills - namely the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 that has barred funding of elective abortions. 

“We sincerely urge you to keep the Hyde provisions and other similar Hyde-type policies that have been enacted in annual appropriations bills as you develop the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills,” said an April 7 letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the appropriations committee. 

“These provisions reflect a time-tested balance of strongly held and differing perspectives on abortion in this country,” the committee’s Republican members stated. “As such, we will strongly oppose any appropriations bill that seeks to weaken pro-life protections or eliminates Hyde policies.”

The letter, signed by 26 Republican committee members, came two days before the White House on Friday made its discretionary budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. Although the request was just a summary of the full budget, which will be released later, the pro-abortion group All Above All stated on Friday "We’re eager to see his full budget without Hyde."

DeLauro has signaled her intent to repeal the Hyde Amendment, calling it a “discriminatory policy” at a committee hearing in December. 

The members reminded DeLauro that President Joe Biden encouraged unity among Americans during his Inaugural Address, adding that “we agree that unity at this time is certainly needed, particularly in light of the divided political climate.” 

“And, while the country may be divided on the question of abortion, a significant majority of Americans do agree that the federal government should not use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion,” they said. 

The Hyde Amendment is a rider that is attached to appropriations bills, preventing the use of funds in the legislation to pay for elective abortions. It is named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who sponsored the amendment in 1976 when it was first signed into law.

Although it was faced with opposition from the beginning - the federal government shut down three times in 1977 over abortion funding battles - the amendment has historically received bipartisan support.

While a senator, Biden was a supporter of the Hyde Amendment. As a presidential candidate, however, he reversed his support over the course of 24 hours in June 2019, and now opposes the policy. Vice President Kamala Harris, who at the time was running for president as a senator from California, credited herself for Biden’s leftward swing on abortion. 

Other Democratic leaders, including DeLauro and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have also promised to repeal the Hyde Amendment. 

The 2016 and 2020 Democratic Party platforms each called for a repeal of Hyde. The recent COVID relief bill did not contain Hyde provisions, a departure from the 2020 CARES Act which included Hyde language and provisions barring funding for Planned Parenthood.

Group urges Biden administration to step up reunification of migrant families

An interfaith coalition is urging the Biden administration to hasten family reunification to remedy Trump's "zero tolerance" policy that separated roughly 5,500 immigrant children from their families.

Catholic Charities pushes back against ‘inaccurate’ viral video of migrant children

August 17, 2017 - A volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen helps a Central American refugee family take a bus to go stay with U.S. family / Vic Hinterlang/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley on Thursday said a viral video of their work with migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border is “inaccurate and unauthorized.”  

In the video published on April 6, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones - known for falsely claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax - alleges that a man driving a car with migrant children outside a Catholic Charities humanitarian center in McAllen, Texas, was “smuggling” the children. The video has been viewed more than one million times on Twitter, a social media platform from which Jones remains banned for violating its policies. 

In a Thursday press release, Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley said the video was “inaccurate and unauthorized,” and accused Jones' website InfoWars of targeting “vulnerable children and families." Catholic Charities operates the center.

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley, said in a statement that the “illicitly taken video of families and children peacefully entering the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen is a contrived misrepresentation of the work of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.” 

“The video clip is a staged confrontation interrupting the goodwill of someone providing assistance in the form of transportation for three mothers and their children to the Humanitarian Respite Center,” Pimentel said.

In the video clip, Jones and several other members of his crew halt the car with migrant children, loudly accusing the driver of smuggling the children and pointing out that several children in the back are not wearing seatbelts.

Pimentel acknowledged that the children in the video “should have been wearing seatbelts,” but “unfortunately, this was not the case in this instance.”

While at the respite center, migrants are making connections with their families in the United States, she said, adding that both the respite center and Catholic Charities “are not involved in any human smuggling or trafficking networks, but instead have worked tirelessly with Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden and their administrations as well as with local elected leaders to ensure that all asylum-seeking and citizen families alike are treated with human dignity and given clean clothes, food, and a moment of rest at the Humanitarian Respite Center.”

“I want to express my deep concern and disappointment regarding this attempt to sensationalize the work of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and so many in the city of McAllen who have consistently worked together to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable,” she continued. 

“Pope Francis says to us: ‘God is love! It is only on the path of love that you can know God. . . and through our love for our neighbor we can get to know God, who is love. Only through loving can we reach love.’ I aspire to live this message daily and to ensure that we, as the staff of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, practice this affirmation through our Work.”

Pimentel said she hopes people can “look past the fear mongering and mischaracterizations and remember to actually see the human beings fleeing persecution and their need for human dignity, which mirrors our own.”

Sister Norma Pimentel was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2020. 

She described the suffering of migrants in an October 2019 interview with CNA. "It's amazing how we see human suffering in such magnitude, right across from the United States.”

Cardinal O’Malley: We must be vigilant in supporting survivors of sexual abuse

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Apr 9, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal Seán O’Malley urged religious leaders to be vigilant in preventing child sexual abuse and supporting survivors in healing at a virtual conference organized by Harvard University in partnership with the Vatican and other religious groups this week.

“We all have a moral and legal obligation to as best possible provide protection and care for the people we serve, especially minors, young people, vulnerable adults in all religious, civic, and social groups, and the people we serve rightfully expect that protection,” the archbishop of Boston said April 8 at the opening of the three-day symposium.

“We must be vigilant in supporting survivors and their loved ones in the journey toward healing,” he said.

The online symposium, “Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse,” taking place April 8-10, is aimed at connecting abuse survivors, health professionals, child welfare advocates, policy-makers, and religious leaders from different traditions.

Among the goals of the conference is the establishment of April 8 as the annual World Day for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Healing, and Justice.

“The participants in this symposium, notably those from Harvard University and the Catholic University of America, are professionals committed to correct the injustices of the past, as well as established advocates for the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley said.

“Many work tirelessly to promote transparency, accountability, and zero tolerance in the Catholic Church and civil society, applying what we have learned from the tragic instances of the past to formulate a clear path for prevention and creating safe environments for our minors and vulnerable adults.”

O’Malley leads Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which co-sponsored the symposium, along with the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection, SNAP, Islamic Relief USA, the New York Board of Rabbis, the World Council of Churches, and a dozen other organizations.

Pope Francis sent a brief message to conference participants in which he expressed his hope that the symposium would “contribute to a greater awareness of the gravity and extent of child sexual abuse and promote more effective cooperation at every level of society in eradicating this profound evil.”

In his opening remarks, O’Malley said that the “betrayal of sexual abuse” is a “terrible and devastating violation of human dignity.”

“I want to acknowledge and thank all of the victim survivors who continue to come forward to share their stories,” he said.

“It is because of your courage that protection of children, youth, and vulnerable adults and victim assistance programs are becoming central components in all facets of our lives, but -- as the program for this symposium makes clear -- there is much work still to be done.”

O’Malley’s speech was followed by remarks from Queen Silvia of Sweden and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege, who also shared messages on the opening day of the virtual forum.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, spoke on the second day of the symposium on the role of faith leaders in abuse prevention and healing.

He shared a personal story of a time when he met with a survivor of child sexual abuse when he was a bishop of a “mostly rural, small diocese” nearly 20 years ago.

“That survivor’s courage forced me to be an adult in a way that I had never experienced,” he said.

He went on to discuss the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ministry to assist abuse victims in healing, established by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and the archdiocesan safe environment training office.

“Like Cardinal Bernardin and me, Pope Francis is motivated to take up the work of making major reforms in large part by his meetings with survivors who bravely share their stories and deep pain,” Cupich said.

“By his own admission, he has learned a great deal from those encounters. He has been decisive in removing cardinals and bishops -- laicizing some -- for misconduct and removing bishops for their mishandlings of cases.”

“Pope Francis wants all the Church’s leaders to not only have a full understanding of the devastating impact clerical sexual abuse has on survivors but also to accept ownership at a national, regional, diocesan, and parish level for effectively addressing this issue in a way that keeps all children safe.”

Cardinal Nichols leads Catholic community in mourning death of Prince Philip at age 99

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh attend the Trooping of the Colour in London, England, June 16, 2012. / Catchlight Media/Featureflash via Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Apr 9, 2021 / 05:53 am (CNA).

Cardinal Vincent Nichols led the Catholic community Friday in mourning the death of Prince Philip at the age of 99.

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said April 9: “At this moment of sadness and loss I pray for the repose of the soul of Prince Philip, Her Majesty the Queen’s faithful and loyal husband. I pray for the Queen and all of the Royal Family.”

“How much we will miss Prince Philip’s presence and character, so full of life and vigor. He has been an example of steadfast loyalty and duty cheerfully given. May he rest in peace.”

After issuing the statement, the archbishop of Westminster announced that he would celebrate a live-streamed Mass at Westminster Cathedral, London, on April 10 for the repose of the prince’s soul.

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland, said that he was saddened to hear of Prince Philip’s death.

“Her Majesty the Queen, and all the members of the Royal family, are in our prayers on the death of a much loved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather,” he said in a statement.

“Prince Philip has been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland in connection with his widespread charitable work. Many pupils from right across the community here have participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. However, his visit to Ireland along with Queen Elizabeth in 2011, stands out as a cherished moment of peace and reconciliation and as an historic demonstration of the importance of mutual understanding and respectful relationships between these islands.”

He concluded: “I will offer prayers for Queen Elizabeth and her family at this difficult personal time and will pray for the happy repose of the soul of Prince Philip.”

Other Catholic bishops expressed their condolences on social media.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, western England, said on Twitter: “We were all deeply saddened to learn of the death of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip. We pray for the repose Prince Philip’s soul and for Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family at this time of personal loss.”

Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna wrote that he was praying for the late prince and offered condolences to Queen Elizabeth.

“I join the thousands of Maltese and Gozitans in our prayers for the late Prince Philip, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, expressing our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family. May he rest in peace,” he said.

The Order of Malta in Britain also paid tribute to the prince, writing on Twitter: “The Order of Malta in Great Britain unites our prayers with those of people across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth for the repose of the soul of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.”

The death of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, was announced by Buckingham Palace.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the palace said.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”

Prince Philip, who was given the title of Duke of Edinburgh on his wedding day, traveled to the Vatican with Queen Elizabeth on April 3, 2014. During a meeting with Pope Francis, he presented the pope with a hamper that included a bottle of Balmoral whisky.

The prince, who retired from royal duties in 2017, also met with John XXIII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI during their pontificates, reported Vatican News.