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For first time, incurably ill patient undergoes euthanasia in Peru

Ana Estrada, 47, suffered from polymyositis, an incurable disease that left her confined to a wheelchair. Since 2019, she had been been petitioning Peruvian courts to recognize a right to euthanasia. / Credit: Jessica Alva Piedra CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

On Sunday, April 21, Peruvian activist Ana Estrada underwent a euthanasia process and died. The terminology employed did not indicate whether it was by direct euthanasia or medically assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is not legal in Peru, but the nation’s Supreme Court nevertheless ruled in favor of her appeal.

According to a statement released by various Peruvian media, the activist “died on her own terms, in accordance with her idea of dignity and in full control of her autonomy until the end.”

“The medical procedure was carried out in accordance with the ‘Plan and Protocol for Death with Dignity’ applicable to Ana, approved by EsSalud, in the context of the historic ruling in her favor, issued on Feb. 23, 2021, and upheld by the Supreme Court on July 14 and 27, 2022,” the press release stated. 

EsSalud is a government agency providing social security health insurance in Peru.

Who is Ana Estrada?

Ana Estrada was a 47-year-old Peruvian activist who suffered from polymyositis — an incurable disease that left her confined to a wheelchair. Since 2019, she has been petitioning Peruvian courts to recognize a right to euthanasia.

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.”

Last February, the Superior Court of Justice of Lima ordered Social Security Health (EsSalud) and the Ministry of Health (Minsa) to respect Estrada’s decision.

Recently, EsSalud also stated that it was unnecessary for Estrada to undergo an additional psychological evaluation from the one carried out last October and decided that she could designate a trusted person to authorize her consent with their signature.

What does the Catholic Church say about euthanasia?

No. 2277 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.”

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator,” the catechism explains.

“The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded,” the text clarifies.

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 notes that “there is a widespread notion that euthanasia or assisted suicide is somehow consistent with respect for the dignity of the human person.”

“However, in response to this,” the declaration explains, “it must be strongly reiterated that suffering does not cause the sick to lose their dignity, which is intrinsically and inalienably their own. Instead, suffering can become an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of mutual belonging and gain greater awareness of the precious value of each person to the whole human family.”

After encouraging palliative care for the sick, Dignitatis Infinita affirms 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.”

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

Argentine doctor completes prison sentence for preventing a chemical abortion in process

Argentine pro-life Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra. / Credit: Buena Vida

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

In 2017, a 19-year-old woman arrived in severe pain at the hospital where Argentine doctor Leandro Rodríguez Lastra was working. She was 23 weeks pregnant and had ingested misoprostol, illegally administered by the La Revuelta (“The Revolt”) organization well beyond the outer limit of 10 weeks of pregnancy for use of the drug.

Using his professional judgment, Rodríguez stabilized the woman by stopping the chemical abortion process, thus saving both mother and child. When the baby reached six and a half months’ gestation, the medical board decided to deliver the child by cesarean section and the baby was placed for adoption.

In 2019, for preventing the completion of the abortion, Rodríguez was given a one-year-and-two-months suspended sentence in prison, and his license to practice medicine was revoked for two years and four months, ending Jan. 30. 

Speaking with “EWTN Noticias,” EWTN’s Spanish-language news program, Rodríguez explained what had happened that led to the unprecedented sentence: In 2017, he was on duty “at the public hospital where I worked, in the Argentine city of Cipolletti in the Argentine Patagonia, where I received a patient in generally poor condition due to an advanced pregnancy, and I made the decision to stop the process of giving birth prematurely that was going on and improve the patient’s state of health.”

“This was interpreted by the justice system, or by the Rio Negro Judiciary, as having overridden the patient’s will to terminate the pregnancy, and so in 2019 I was convicted, and this sentence has just been completed,” he said.

This time, Rodríguez said, “has been very significant,” beyond the notoriety of his case, due to the commitment to be “a kind of example of what can happen if one does not submit to the arbitrary decisions of the powers that be.”

This experience led him to be “even more committed to caring for life, the protection of the life of the unborn child, the protection of women,” the doctor said.

Rodríguez said that in the eyes of the court, his patient was the victim in this case, “since she had been a victim of rape, she was portrayed by all the media, especially the local media, as the great victim in all this, the one who had gotten the worst of it.”

However, he pointed out, “once the trial was over, the sentence issued, this woman was abandoned and no one else cared for her; unfortunately she had to seek help” to survive.

These facts, the doctor said, make it clear “that those arguments that were put forward at the time, saying that this was for the protection of women, were absolutely false.”

“Those arguments, speaking of defending rights, were absolutely false, and the only thing they tried to do was destroy the life of a child who is now about to turn 7 years old, who is happy, with an adoptive family that is taking care of him and giving him the future that any of us deserve. They couldn’t do anything about that,” he said.

“The child is alive, the woman who was a victim of all this is fine, she’s healthy; therefore in that aspect I am satisfied because life triumphed, truth triumphed, beyond the injustices that [I] suffered," he said.

The doctor anticipates that he will continue working in the private sector, as “it’s difficult for me to go back to public hospitals,” he said. However, he reiterated that his commitment to life “is unwavering,” and if he is faced with a case similar to the one that led to his conviction, “in the same case I will act in precisely the same way.”

“When I was sentenced, and before I was sentenced, they looked for a kind of remorse in me, or another message,” he recalled. “No. The message is the same and with more and more conviction: Life must be defended; that’s not up for discussion,” he stressed, telling doctors that “this is our moment, the time to assert our convictions, our moral convictions, that are not negotiable.”

“Conscientious objection is that fundamental right that should exonerate us. We should not give it up and we have to defend it today more than ever,” he said.

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

Pope Francis to meet with thousands of grandparents and their grandchildren at the Vatican

Pope Francis greets an elderly couple at a general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

“A Caress and a Smile” is the name of the event that will take place Saturday, April 27, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall where elderly people, grandparents, and grandchildren from Italy will meet Pope Francis.

A total of 6,000 grandparents and their grandchildren will arrive this week at the Vatican for a special gathering with the Holy Father, an initiative presented by the Holy See’s Press Office today.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, noted that Italy has the second-highest number of elderly people in the world and that for the first time in history, four generations are living together, which “had never happened before.”

He also lamented that currently “we are afraid to use” the word “old” and that old age “is not only a very beautiful time, but can mean a change of direction, within the culture, society, economy, and also of religion.”

The prelate noted the special affection that Pope Francis has for older people and recalled the catechetical series that he dedicated to them, teaching “how to live the last 30 years” of life in a Christian way.

“This event will be held to give a new vision of old age. Old age is a great age, not to be wasted or a burden. Old age is not disconnected from other ages of life,” Paglia continued.

The prelate also noted the demographic winter that Italy is going through and highlighted the “particular harmony” and special ties that exist between grandparents and their grandchildren, two generations “that cannot live without each other.”

The event, organized by the Italian Old Age Foundation, will begin at 8:30 a.m. Rome time with a reflection on old age.

About 40 minutes later, Pope Francis will arrive at the Paul VI Hall to hear the testimony of two grandparents (among them a 91-year-old woman) and three grandchildren.

Also participating in this morning’s press conference was Lino Banfi, a well-known Italian actor who maintains a friendship with Pope Francis, whom he referred to as “the grandfather of the world.”

In addition, Pope Francis has also established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which this year will be celebrated on July 28.

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

‘I’m a witness to unspeakable suffering’: Ethiopia bishop wants peace pact implemented

Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in Ethiopia, which covers the Tigray region. / Credit: CBCE

ACI Africa, Apr 22, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Ethiopia’s Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, which covers the Tigray region, said he has witnessed firsthand the “unspeakable suffering” and death of the people of God in the embattled region of the Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement that ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, obtained April 19, Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin pleaded for the implementation of the Nov. 2, 2022, peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa, in which the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) pledged to “permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia.”

“I am writing as a religious leader with deep concern and feeling for the pain of tens of millions of our population in the country, especially the children, elders, and women of Tigray,” Medhin said. 

He painted a grim picture of the situation of the people of God in Tigray, saying: “I am a witness to unspeakable suffering, despair, disease, and death around me due to years of conflict, drought, and localized rain failure as well lack of attention to meet basic needs.”

Violent conflict in the Tigray region started in November 2020 when TPLF allegedly launched an attack on Ethiopia’s Federal Government Army base in the region.

TPLF and people in the Tigray region were reportedly opposed to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bid to centralize power in Africa’s second most populous country.

In his statement, Medhin said that millions of people as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees have been displaced following the conflicts not only in the region of Tigray but also in neighboring Afar, Amhara, and Oromia regions.

He said the concerted efforts of his episcopal see in partnership with other entities in reaching out to the needy are insufficient.

“We see the human face of the statistics all receive via reports: rising malnutrition, less than half of needs met last year, and even less commitment to meet needs in Tigray this year,” Medhin said.

He highlighted the apostolate of the pastoral agents of Adigrat Eparchy, saying: “We embrace children so undernourished that they appear skin and bones, listen to families who are struggling to provide even a portion of a single meal each day, and every month mourn hundreds of beloved community members dying of diseases they might not have succumbed to were they not suffering from severe hunger.”

“Our problem is holistic — social, political, economic, psychological, and spiritual — for the whole Tigray and also for the neighboring populations who are in a similar situation,” he said.

He pointed to the Catholic Church's teaching on human dignity as important and emphasized the need to protect the vulnerable. “Every human being is a beloved child of God, deserving of equal dignity and care,” he said.

He decried the negative effects of environmental degradation, saying: “In the coming months, we face very serious climatic change impacts to be hitting us this year — foreboding unpredictable rains, drought, and flooding.”

While Medhin acknowledged with appreciation the efforts being undertaken to alleviate the suffering of the Tigray people, he cautioned: “We need not wait for a truly catastrophic situation to occur before sounding the alarm — we are sounding the alarm now.”

“The population of Tigray and neighboring regions have suffered years of war, drought, and disease — and have demonstrated a resilience few can believe — and we pray that we make it through this crisis,” he said.

Medhin also appealed for the implementation of peace.

“I make this plea to the respective national and international governments and community for relieving the suffering and reduce the dying from such dire situations — and for speeding up the implementation of the Pretoria Peace Agreement.”

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

Experts and former abortionist warn about ‘eugenic’ IVF industry

Left to right: Dr. John Bruchalski, a former abortionist and IVF provider, Emma Waters, a senior research associate at the Heritage Foundation, Andrew Kubick, a bioethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Religious Freedom Institute, and Sister Deirdre Byrne, superior of the D.C. Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, discuss the "eugenic" dangers of in vitro fertilization at a panel event at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2024. / Credit: Photo by Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington D.C., Apr 22, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A former abortionist and several pro-life ethicists are urging lawmakers to protect children and parents from the in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry, which they say operates on “eugenic” principles.  

IVF is a fertility treatment that works by inducing hyper-ovulation during a woman’s cycle to harvest her eggs and then fuse them with sperm to conceive a child outside the womb. The Catholic Church is opposed to IVF because it separates the marriage act from procreation and destroys embryonic human life. 

Speaking at a panel discussion on IVF last week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Dr. John Bruchalski, a former abortionist and IVF provider, said that “IVF is embedded with eugenics” and that anything “not perfect” is either eliminated or used for scientific research.

According to Bruchalski, the IVF industry operates like the “Wild West,” with little to no oversight. The result is not only the destruction and abuse of millions of frozen human embryos but also risks to the children born of IVF as well as to the women involved in the process.

“Ultimately, the way we do this is we actually experiment on our patients,” Bruchalski said. “So, even without the embryos being created, I would say that it is something that still needs to be very cautioned over.”

This comes as IVF has returned to the forefront of American politics in the wake of a controversial Alabama Supreme Court decision that ruled children conceived through IVF should be protected under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

IVF takes center stage

Since the ruling, many politicians from both parties have rushed to defend IVF. Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump voiced their support for the IVF industry.

During the 2024 State of the Union, Biden called the Alabama ruling an “assault on freedom” made possible by the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022. He urged Congress to pass a national “guarantee” of the right to IVF.

Trump, meanwhile, praised the Alabama Legislature for quickly passing a law in response to the ruling that gave the IVF industry in the state blanket immunity from certain negligence and malpractice lawsuits.

“The Republican Party should always be on the side of the miracle of life,” Trump said, adding that “IVF is an important part of that.”

IVF is not pro-life, ethicists say

IVF researchers and experts at the Georgetown panel, however, contested the idea that IVF is pro-life.

Andrew Kubick, a bioethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Religious Freedom Institute, said that IVF operates on a “very dangerous eugenic note” in which “only the ‘best’ survive.”

“What are some of the aspects of IVF? Well, after sperm-egg fusion, we have pre-implantation genetic testing. We’re literally using arbitrary guidelines to select who is worthy of life,” he said. “From a country that has fallen into the sin of placing one group over another several times throughout history, we cannot fall into the trap of saying: ‘Well, because of this disability, this individual is not worthy.’”

“When we view the child as a product or commodity rather than a gift, when we put the domination of life and death in the hands of a technician,” he continued, “I don’t think that’s pro-life.”

Despite the current push to expand IVF, Kubick told CNA that he believes the pro-life movement can use this as an educating moment. 

“The different types of procedures they do to bring about the life of the child can have devastating effects,” he said. “Alabama has given us the opportunity to dig deep, to educate, to pray, and to hopefully change hearts and minds.” 

What are realistic pro-life goals?

Emma Waters, another panelist and a senior research associate with the Heritage Foundation, told CNA that her advice to lawmakers is to “take a deep breath” and “not let temporary political pressure result in a rash decision that will have long-term negative consequences.”

Though she believes that Democrats will ultimately continue supporting the anti-life position, she said that several pro-life groups are currently strategizing on how to educate Republicans on the dangers of IVF. Right now, their goals are very limited.

“I think if we can keep Republicans from rashly putting forward legislation on this topic that’s a win in and of itself,” she said.

Going forward, however, she said she thinks it is a realistic goal to get lawmakers to address the “bloat” in the IVF industry by limiting the number of embryos being created through IVF.

“Oftentimes anywhere from 15 to 20 embryos are created in one cycle and yet only a couple, at most, actually result in the birth of a child and then parents are left with a really difficult decision where they have to decide what to do with the leftovers,” she said. “So how can we practice IVF in a way that empowers parents so that they’re not put in that position?”

Another realistic policy to pursue, Waters said, is to regulate the IVF industry by providing parents with legal recourse to sue fertility clinics for negligent or wrongful deaths of their children.

“At least half of the states already have a wrongful death law for children in the womb. So, we just need to extend that to children of in vitro fertilization,” she said. “That’s actually a very reasonable step, it doesn’t penalize IVF, but it does ensure that fertility clinics provide the highest standard of medical care.”

Columbine High School massacre, 25 years later: ‘God, why did you allow me to survive?’

Reporter Catherine Hadro speaks with Sister Mary Gianna of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and Frank DeAngelis on “EWTN News In Depth” on April 19, 2024. Sister Mary Gianna, also known as Jenica Thornby, was a sophomore at Columbine High School and DeAngelis was principal on April 20, 1999, when two gunmen killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves. / Credit: “EWTN News In Depth” screen shots

CNA Staff, Apr 22, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Throughout her freshman and sophomore years at Columbine High School, Jenica Thornby went to the library every single day.

“Not one day went by that I did not go to the library,” Thornby recently told “EWTN News In Depth” reporter Catherine Hadro. “Except one day.”

That day was April 20, 1999. 

“I was 16 years old, and I was sitting in my art class when all of a sudden I had this overwhelming urge to leave school,” she recalled. “I just over [and over] in my head kept repeating, ‘There’s no way I’m staying here. There’s no way that anyone’s going to talk me into staying.’”

Thornby convinced a friend to leave campus with her — they could go study at a local restaurant instead, she told her friend — and the two left school in Thornby’s new car that she had just driven to school for the first time that day.

“The moment we turned on the car and started to leave the parking lot and drive away, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed hundreds and hundreds of schoolmates of mine just running out of the school, and we had no idea what had happened,” she recalled. “We thought maybe it was a fire drill, but we didn’t understand.”

Principal Frank DeAngelis, a lifelong Catholic, vividly remembers his secretary coming into his office that day to tell him about reports of a shooting.

“All of a sudden I come out of my office, and my worst nightmare becomes a reality because I encounter a gunman coming towards me,” he told Hadro.

DeAngelis said he started praying in his head and everything slowed down. He sprinted toward the gunman, managing to avoid gunshots. He then focused on getting as many students as possible into the gym and out of the building.

“I pull on the gymnasium door, and it’s locked. And all of a sudden, we hear the sounds of the shots getting closer,” he recalled. “The gunman’s coming around, and I had 30 keys on a key ring. I reached in my suit pocket, stuck the first key that came into my hand, and it opened [the door] on the first try, or I would not be having this conversation [right now].”

It was 25 years ago that two gunmen killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb. The massacre was the deadliest K-12 shooting in U.S. history at the time, only to be surpassed by the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. 

“Reflecting back, I knew that was something beyond me,” Thornby, now Sister Mary Gianna, told “EWTN News In Depth.” After leaving campus in her car that day, as the events unfolded, she learned that 10 of the 12 students killed were in the library. She overheard an adult say that God must have a plan for her life.

“I had this urge to leave. God has a plan for my life, and so I did bring that to God after I found faith,” she said. “You know, ‘Why did you allow me to survive?’”

A year after the shootings, a friend invited Thornby, who grew up without any faith, to the local Catholic church. When she was 18, she was invited to Eucharistic adoration. She eventually attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and was received into the Catholic Church when she was 19 years old, on March 30, 2002. 

After college she did missionary work and one day, she picked up a book by Father Benedict Groeschel.

“He said, ‘Instead of asking God why something happened, ask God, what would you have me do?’ And so instead of reflecting on my life, why did this happen? … Why did the shootings happen? I started to pray and ask God, okay, what would you have me do?”

Eventually Thornby discerned life as a religious sister and is now a member of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in Prayer Town, Texas. 

DeAngelis said he had his first crisis of faith the night of the shootings. But not long afterward, a priest friend called him to the church and shared some spiritual insight.

“He said, Frank, you should have died that day, but God’s got a plan,” he recalled. “And he quoted Proverbs 16:9. He said, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ And he said, you’re going to have to go rebuild this community and help others.”

Watch the full “EWTN News In Depth” interview with Thornby and DeAngelis below.

Thousands of pro-lifers attend ‘joy-filled’ Illinois March for Life

Pro-lifers participate in the Illinois March for Life in Springfield, April 17, 2024. / Credit: Photo courtesy of March for Life

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 22, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Thousands of pro-lifers, including many groups of Catholic high school and college students, attended the Illinois March for Life in Springfield last week.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, told CNA that the march was “joy-filled” and “hopeful” and had a large youth turnout.

Catholic youth from “Crusaders for Life,” a pro-life group from St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, was one such group that traveled several hours to participate in the event.

The group’s members could be seen at the front of the march holding brightly colored umbrellas and inflatables. Many of the young people cheered, danced, and played drums and cymbals, while others in the crowd chanted pro-life slogans and prayed.

Despite Illinois having some of the most pro-abortion laws in the country, allowing the killing of unborn children until birth, Mancini said the thousands of marchers from across the state brought “a message of hope and love for both mom and baby.” 

Pro-life youth lead the 2024 Illinois March for Life in front of the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield on April 17, 2024. The march was attended by 4,000 pro-lifers and had a heavy Catholic presence. Credit: Photo courtesy of March for Life
Pro-life youth lead the 2024 Illinois March for Life in front of the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield on April 17, 2024. The march was attended by 4,000 pro-lifers and had a heavy Catholic presence. Credit: Photo courtesy of March for Life

Co-sponsored by Illinois Right to Life and March for Life, the Illinois march is an annual event that begins in front of the state Capitol and proceeds through downtown Springfield.  

Mancini said the march was more important than ever because of ongoing efforts to incorporate abortion into the Illinois Human Rights Act

Already passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, the state Senate is currently considering a bill that would amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to declare that “a person has freedom from unlawful discrimination in making reproductive health decisions [including abortion] and such discrimination is unlawful.” 

“Illinoisians understand the importance of witnessing for life at the Capitol in Springfield now that the power to protect the unborn has been returned to the American people through their elected representatives post-Roe,” she said. “By marching at the Capitol in Springfield, legislators witness a multitude of Illinoisians stand for the inherent dignity of the unborn child and mother.”

The atmosphere at the march was “joy-filled and hopeful, but also reverent with the understanding that we were bringing a voice for the voiceless to the Capitol,” Mancini said.

The Catholic Times, a news publication of the Diocese of Springfield, reported that over 1,500 Catholics attended Mass in an auditorium at the University of Illinois-Springfield in preparation for the march. The Mass was celebrated by Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who was also a speaker at the march.

Illinois pro-life advocates march for the unborn on April 17, 2024. Credit: Photos courtesy of March for Life
Illinois pro-life advocates march for the unborn on April 17, 2024. Credit: Photos courtesy of March for Life

Samuel Sweeley, a Catholic junior at St. Teresa High School in Decatur, Illinois, told The Catholic Times that he came to the march to bear witness that “God made us all with a purpose.” 

“No matter what environment you are born into and no matter who you are, you always have a chance to grow closer to Jesus, to live a beautiful life, to love God, and to enjoy that life,” Sweeley said.

Italy set to pass amendment allowing pro-life groups into family planning clinics 

Participants in Italy's pro-life demonstration in Rome on May 21, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

An amendment to a health care law that permits “nonprofits with experience providing maternity support” in family planning clinics, including pro-life groups, will be voted on by the Italian Senate on Tuesday, April 23, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.  

Amendment No. 44.028, a provision attached to a health care system law, part of Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), would allow local public health authorities to freely collaborate with qualified third-party consultants, including nonprofit organizations that specialize in pregnancy and maternity support, “without new or greater burdens on public finance,” according to the web site Centro Studi Livatino. 

Last week, the Brothers of Italy party, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, introduced the amendment to the Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s lower house of Parliament. On April 18, the amendment passed by a vote of 140-91 and is also expected to pass the Senate, Italy’s upper house of Parliament, this week.

In relation to the inclusion of pro-life groups in pregnancy counseling centers, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said to journalists on Sunday: “We are in favor of life and of all those instruments that can affirm the right to life, especially for women in difficulty.”

Since 1978, abortion has been legal in Italy for the first 90 days of pregnancy. Women opting for an abortion — particularly for cases in which the pregnancy is beyond the first trimester — can obtain a certificate attesting to the health risk of her pregnancy from either a public or private health authority, including family planning clinics.

In addition, Article 31 of Italy’s constitution outlines the duty of the state to assist with “the formation of the family” through “economic measures and other benefits, and “protect mothers, children, and the young by adopting necessary provisions.” 

The prospect of having pro-life groups and associations provide counsel or services in family planning clinics continues to spur heated debate among the media as well as activist groups in Italy and across Europe.

According to Eugenia Roccella, Italy’s minister for the family, this amendment does not subvert, and is consistent with, Italy’s abortion law (Law 194/1978). 

Article 2 of the Italian abortion law already establishes that family counseling centers should “assist pregnant women” and help them “to overcome the factors which might lead the woman to have her pregnancy terminated.”

However, Gilda Sportiello, a member of Parliament representing the Five Stars Movement, argued that a woman should ultimately have the right to choose whether to be a mother or not. 

“No woman who wants to interrupt her pregnancy should feel attacked by the state,” she said after speaking out in Parliament about her choice to have an abortion 14 years ago.

Italian journalist Antonella Mariani offered a different view, saying this health care amendment would afford women more options, information, protection, and support when making their own decision about pregnancy.

“Those who truly care about women’s self-determination should consider that it is not one-way: That is, it does not only concern the freedom to have an abortion but also the freedom not to have an abortion,” she said, as reported on the Italian news site Avvenire. 

The Rosario Livatino Study Centre — a group of jurists inspired by the life and example of Blessed Rosario Livatino who research issues concerning family, the right to life, religious freedom, and legal matters — published an editorial written by one of its members in relation to the health care proposal.

A member of the center and a lawyer, Francesco Farri, according to Centro Studi Livatino, wrote that the amendment to be voted on in the Senate this week does not “innovate” but “confirms” current Italian law: “The 194, it should be remembered, does not only concern the voluntary interruption of pregnancy but also ‘norms for the social protection of maternity.’”

Nuns who feuded with Texas bishop say they will defy Vatican order on monastery’s governance

The Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas. / Credit: Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity Discalced Carmelite Nuns

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 22, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

As the Vatican tries to settle a chaotic yearlong dispute between a Carmelite monastery and Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson, the nuns at the center of the controversy announced they will defy a Vatican decree that delegates their governance to an outside religious association.

The dispute centers on Olson’s investigation into the former prioress of the Arlington-based Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity: the Reverend Mother Superior Teresa Agnes Gerlach. The prioress, who is now defrocked, admitted to sexual misconduct occurring over the phone and through video chats with a priest — a confession she has since retracted and claims was given when she was medically unfit and recovering from an operation.

After nearly a year of back-and-forth — which included a failed civil lawsuit against the bishop for how he handled the investigation and allegations from the bishop that the nuns may have been engaging in drug use — the Vatican ordered that the monastery’s governance will be delegated to the Association of Christ the King, which is a Carmelite monastery association.

This governance was meant to be in place until the monastery can hold new elections to replace its leadership, which would be overseen by the bishop. The Vatican also ordered the monastery to regularize its relationship with the bishop, whom the nuns forbade from entering the premises and alleged did not have authority over their governance — a claim rejected by the Vatican.

Rather than following the Vatican’s orders, the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity is going in the opposite direction. The monastery rejected the Vatican’s decree and banned Association of Christ the King President Mother Marie of the Incarnation, along with any delegates of the association, from entering the monastery.

“Neither the president of the Association of Christ the King, nor any delegate of hers, is welcome to enter our monastery at this time,” a statement from the monastery read.

The nuns referred to the Vatican’s order as “a hostile takeover that we cannot in conscience accept” and accused Rome of making this decision without the “knowledge or consent” of the monastery. 

“To accept this would risk the integrity of our monastery as a community, threatening the vocations of individual nuns, our liturgical and spiritual life, and the material assets of the monastery,” the statement read.

“This outside authority could easily disperse us, impose its agenda in respect of our daily observance and dispose of our assets — even of the monastery itself — as it wishes, contrary to our vows and to the intentions of those who founded our community and our benefactors,” the statement added.

The four-page statement, issued by the monastery in response to the Vatican decree, rehashed its grievances with Olson, particularly the accusation of an “illegal seizure of the personal property of the monastery and copying of private information.” A judge dismissed these claims in a civil trial.

In the statement, the nuns also protested the restrictions that Olson put on the monastery after the nuns filed a civil lawsuit against him. This included temporary measures limiting Mass to only Sundays, banning lay participation in their Masses, and limiting their access to regular confessions. The Vatican, however, sided with the bishop and formally recognized his authority in these matters.

The monastery also directed some of its frustrations toward how the Vatican has handled the dispute. In its statement, the nuns said they are still awaiting a response from Rome about their complaints related to the bishop’s conduct during the investigation. They alleged that the Vatican has fallen short of its stated objective to ensure that “every effort should be made to preserve the spiritual health and longevity” of the monastery because the Vatican has not engaged in “active and ongoing dialogue” with the monastery.

“If Rome wishes to ‘save face’ and to sweep the issue of the abuse of the bishop under the carpet and move on regardless, this is unacceptable,” the monastery complained. “In justice, the issue of Bishop Olson must be dealt with for our good and for the good of the Diocese of Fort Worth as a whole.”

The monastery further argued that the problem posed by the expiration of terms of office could be solved in other ways, such as an extension of the terms during the monastery’s appeal of the bishop’s actions. The nuns claim that “nothing is to be changed and the status quo is to be preserved” when matters are under appeal. 

“We hope and pray that Rome will engage in dialogue with us directly to find a suitable way of moving forward that respects the integrity of our life and monastery,” the nuns wrote in their statement.

While openly defying the Vatican order, the monastery emphasized that it is not rejecting the legitimacy of the offices of either the pope or the bishop: “The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is the pope and enjoys full papal authority [and] … Olson is the legitimate current bishop of Fort Worth with all the authority that this office confers.”

“We remain open to any initiative from higher authority that seeks to repair the damage that has been done to us and that respects the integrity of our life, vocation, and monastic community,” the nuns added. “We are not ‘things’ to be traded or given away in back-room deals but women vowed to the exclusive love and service of Almighty God, whose integrity is to be respected and protected for the good of their souls and for the good of the Church.”

The Vatican order, however, is not a mere suggestion to the monastery. The order informed the nuns that they were “instructed to cooperate fully” with Mother Marie, who the Vatican declared is now “the lawful major superior of the monastery.”

Indian bishops condemn Hindu group’s attack on Catholic school and priest

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Bangalore, India, Apr 22, 2024 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops have condemned a recent attack by a radical Hindu group on a Catholic school in southern India.

On April 16 a mob of activists assaulted a priest and vandalized the Mother Teresa English Medium School in Telangana state after school administrators reprimanded students for wearing Hindu religious clothing instead of the school uniform.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) released a statement on April 16 following the violent attack.

“The assault, carried out by a mob of antisocial elements, is a reprehensible act of violence against an educational institution and its staff,” the CBCI said.

Father Jaison Joseph, who serves as principal of the school, which is run by the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, described the attack to CNA on April 20.

“When I saw some students wearing saffron clothes instead of the school uniform, I told them to change or ask the parents to come and inform us,” Joseph said.

“After some time, people wearing saffron clothes started coming in. In an hour, the mob had swelled from 50 to over 500, and they surrounded and started beating me. They put a saffron shawl on my neck and applied tilak [saffron vermillion] on my forehead,” the priest recounted.

News outlets carried the shocking visual of the priest being forced to chant “Jai Sri Ram” (“Hail Lord Ram”) while the mob vandalized the school building and attacked teachers and staff.

Prior to that, the mob shouted “Jai Shri Ram” and threw stones at the statue of St. Teresa of Calcutta installed at the school’s main gate. The attackers damaged the security office of the school, where more than 1,000 students are enrolled  — 80% Hindu, 10% Christian, and 10% Muslim.

“All [political] parties were involved. It was a religiously motivated attack,” said Bishop Prince Antony Panengaden of the Adilabad Diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church.

“We requested the authorities to ensure the safety of the fathers and [take] actions against the perpetrators,” Panengaden said.

Shortly after the attack, police sparked outrage among Christians after filing a criminal case against the Catholic school and the school’s management, accusing them of “offending religious sentiments and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds.”

However, following widespread protests from several Christian groups and viral media coverage of the incident, police on April 18 announced the arrest of nine people in connection with the attack.

Leading the protest was the Telangana State Federation of Churches, which deplored the attack as “despicable” before police announced arrests of the alleged attackers.

The ecumenical Christian forum said it “condemns with great sorrow and deep concern” the “atrocious attack.” 

“We request the Christian community to be united and pray for peace and unity at this hour of distress to the peace-loving community,” said Father Alex Raju, secretary of the forum, in the statement.

The CBCI also urged “all communities to resist the propagation of misinformation and divisive rhetoric. We are all integral parts of this great nation, and our unity in diversity is a cornerstone of our identity.”

“We implore our fellow citizens, irrespective of faith, to stand together against any attempts to exploit our diversity for narrow, selfish agendas. Let us reaffirm our commitment to peace, mutual respect, and the collective prosperity of our beloved country,” the CBCI statement urged through its spokesperson, Father Robinson Rodrigues.