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Paterson bishop: Vaccination exemption for clergy 'will be minimal'

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson. Photo courtesy DeSales Media Group. / null

Paterson, N.J., Sep 15, 2021 / 17:32 pm (CNA).

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson wrote to clerics of his diocese Tuesday to ‘strongly encourage’ their vaccination against COVID-19. Non-medical exemptions, he said, will be minimal, and there may be discussion of whether non-vaccinated priests ‘can remain in active ministry.”

“As teachers and religious educators must be vaccinated by statewide mandate, our clergy should be vaccinated voluntarily as a good example to others and in solidarity with them,” Bishop Sweeney wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to clergy of Diocese of Paterson.

“If you have not been vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to be vaccinated.”

He characterized his encouragement as “one step short of a mandate.”

“This is an essential time when you must be vaccinated to protect yourself and the health of others,” the bishop wrote. “If you feel that you are unable to be vaccinated, please be in touch with one of [sic] diocesan Vicars General in order to discuss your reasoning with them so that they may consult with me for further discussion on particular individual exemptions and whether a priest who is not vaccinated can remain in active ministry. Exemptions from vaccination for clergy, other than those for legitimate medical reasons, will be minimal.”

Writing on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Bishop Sweeney noted that “we celebrate the life giving power of the holy cross that was borne by Christ ‘so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life’ (John 3:16). We have often called upon the Lord to heal those whom we love and serve. The emergence of vaccines which helped to quell the progress of this dreaded illness is God sent.”

 

The bishop recalled that Pope Francis has called receiving vaccination “an act of love,” and that most of the diocese’s clerics and their staff have already been vaccinated. 

 

The bishop said that a cleric’s doctor can help him with information on how or where to be vaccinated, and that the Office of Clergy Personnel can be of additional assistance.

In its December 2020 Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.” 

It said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and  Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago is requiring all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons. 

Bishop Thomas Paprock of Springfield in Illinois recently wrote that “while the Church promotes vaccination as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities in promoting the common good, there are matters of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be respected. Therefore, vaccine participation must be voluntary and cannot be forced, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authority of Pope Francis, indicated last December. While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not force vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to worship in our parishes.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that some persons may have conscientious objections to the taking of the COVID vaccines, and that these conscientious convictions ought to be respected,” Bishop Paprocki added.

The Catholic Medical Association has stated that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance on human dignity in health care and medical research, also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Justice Department asks judge to block Texas abortion law during legal challenge

US Attorney General Merrick Garland / Justice Department

Austin, Texas, Sep 15, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The US Department of Justice asked a federal judge on Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction against Texas’ law prohibiting most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, following a suit from the DOJ against the law last week. 

A preliminary injunction, if granted, would prevent the law from being enforced while the DOJ’s lawsuit plays out in court. 

Such an injunction "is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact," attorneys for the Justice Department said in its Sept. 14 court filing

In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department had argued the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions.” 

Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks gestation, except in medical emergencies. The law allows for at least $10,000 in damages in successful lawsuits; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law. 

In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it, and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. 

In response, President Joe Biden – a Catholic – directed his administration to examine “what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.” 

As a result of Biden’s directive, the Justice Department “urgently explores all options to challenge” Texas’ new law and “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Sept. 6 statement.

Bishops around the country reacted with praise to a Texas law, and noted that women experiencing a crisis pregnancy have resources available, instead of abortion.

The bishops of Texas have said that opponents of the law, who have described a fetal heartbeat as “electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue” or “embryonic cardiac activity,” are making a “disturbing” effort to “dehumanize the unborn.”

“Abortion is a human rights issue; the most fundamental human right is the right to life,” said the Texas bishops Sept. 3. “Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is not freedom. Abortion does not help women. Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.”

Pro-life leaders pointed out that the state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and funding the Alternatives to Abortion program.

“Texas is further leading in compassion for women and families with its $100 million Alternatives to Abortion state program and ten times as many pro-life pregnancy centers as abortion facilities,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, last week.

Holocaust survivor thanks Pope Francis for highlighting anti-Semitism on Central Europe trip

Pope Francis visits Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck at her home in Rome, Feb. 20, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Edith Bruck said: “Your words about anti-Semitism ... are more relevant than ever.”

Live Action says Google’s removal of pro-life ads ‘unprecedented’

Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, addresses the 2021 Live Action Life Awards Dinner at Dana Point, California; Aug. 21, 2021 / Francesca Polio/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2021 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

According to the pro-life group Live Action, the search engine Google canceled its advertisements for abortion pill reversal services. The act is further evidence of Google’s pro-abortion biases, a leading pro-life activist tells CNA. 

“In a dramatic and unprecedented move, Google has sided squarely with extremist pro-abortion political ideology, banning the pro-life counterpoint and life-saving information from being promoted on their platform,” Live Action founder Lila Rose told CNA in a statement. 

Rose said that Google was no longer “hiding their bias,” and that the censorship of the advertisements “baldly reveals that the corporation is in the pocket of the abortion industry.”

On Sept. 13, Rose said, Google “disapproved” all of Live Action’s advertisements for abortion pill reversal, claiming they were “unreliable” and contained false information. The advertisements had been running for over four months and had previously been approved by Google, she said. 

Rose disputed Google’s label of “unreliable claims,” noting that the abortion pill reversal regimen uses progesterone treatment that has been FDA-approved to prevent miscarriages. She said Google “obviously failed to understand” what abortion pill reversal actually entails.

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

Banning the ads, she said, will have “devastating” consequences for women and girls who may turn to the search engine after regretting taking the first dose of the medication abortion regimen. 

“More women and girls will be marketed abortions through Google’s platforms, without also being offered life-affirming options,” said Rose. 

The office of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Wednesday sent a letter to Google’s CEO, asking why the ads had been removed and at what rate ads by pro-life organizations are ruled ineligible for Google’s platform, Live Action reported.

A chemical or medication abortion is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later, and induces labor to expel the body of the deceased baby.

Chemical abortions can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol, although this action must be taken quickly. Live Action advertised a hotline for women seeking to potentially reverse the first step of a chemical abortion, with a physician available to help. 

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

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

In 2019, Andrea Trudden, the director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International - which markets the abortion pill reversal hotline - told CNA of an estimated "64-68 percent success rate" for women who contact the hotline seeking to reverse their abortions.

Rose told CNA that she thinks Google should allow the ads back on its platform as a sign of compliance with its own policies. 

“The tech monopolies that have so much control over our information consumption and our daily lives are so tied in with the radical left that they work to restrict informed consent and censor life-saving options in order to protect the billion-dollar abortion industry,” said Rose. “It’s anti-choice and morally wrong. Google must apply fairness and uniformity to its policy and allow Live Action and pro-life partners back on its ads platform.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – which is pro-abortion and has fought in court to liberalize federal restrictions on the abortion pill regimen – claims that the abortion pill reversal regimen is “unproven and unethical.”

The organization points to a 2012 case series as “not scientific,” where four of six women continued their pregnancies after taking progesterone doses. That study “was not supervised by an institutional review board (IRB) or an ethical review committee,” the college stated.

In 2019, a case study commenced at the University of California at Davis to study the abortion pill reversal treatment, but it was stopped due to safety concerns and lack of participants. According to NPR, only 12 women enrolled in the study while researchers had hoped for 40 enrollees. Three of the 12 were transported to the hospital for serious vaginal bleeding; one of those three had been given progesterone.

The lead researcher on the study – Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis – told NPR that not finishing the abortion pill regimen was “experimental” and cited “some evidence that it could cause very significant bleeding." Crenin has a long history of performing abortions.

Pro-life groups countered that the study actually showed the dangers of mifepristone, as two of the three women who experienced bleeding had not been given progesterone after they had taken mifepristone.

Heartbeat International added that a previous study, in which Crenin participated, also showed hemorrhaging related to the abortion pill regimen.

Heartbeat International claims that more than 2,000 women have successfully used the abortion pill reversal to stop an abortion. The administration of progesterone to reverse the abortion pill regimen has not been specifically approved by the FDA, although many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe.

A 2018 case study, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Issues in Law and Medicine, showed that in 261 successful abortion pill reversals, the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

Rebekah Buell-Hagan, a woman who successfully underwent a reversal of the abortion pill regimen in 2013, told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that she had used her phone to find out what she could do to reverse the procedure.

“I typed in ‘I took the first abortion pill and changed my mind,’ and back in 2013, there wasn’t a whole lot that came up,” Buell-Hagan said in her 2018 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. “But there were a few girls that had asked the same question, and unfortunately the answers they were getting were not hopeful, it was very much ‘you have to finish what you started.’”

However, she found the website AbortionPillReversal.com which connected her with a doctor.

“We started progesterone injections for several weeks to counteract the abortion pill that I took,” she said.

This article was updated on Sept. 15 with new information.

Pope Francis on COVID-19 vaccines: ‘Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers’

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference from Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

He added that “one of these, poor guy, is hospitalized with the virus.”

US bishops push for pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants

null / Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2021 / 11:20 am (CNA).

As members of Congress this week advanced language providing a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, the U.S. bishops’ conference praised the development.

Congress is currently crafting a $3.5 trillion budget package that would fund many Biden administration priorities, such as universal pre-K, child care benefits, additional health care subsidies, green energy initiatives, and permanent residence for millions of immigrants.

Currently, House committees are in the process of approving language for the budget package. The House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 13 approved language creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

“For decades, the bishops of the United States have been proponents of such reforms, which promote integration and family unity,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference immigration committee, on Wednesday.

He urged that such immigrants be granted a pathway to citizenship, and not be allowed to reside in the United States with a dubious legal status.

“We cannot persist in relegating these members of our society to the margins, especially when we simultaneously depend on so many of them for our collective wellbeing,” he said.

While implying that parts of the budget package are contrary to Catholic social teaching, Bishop Dorsonville praised the immigration language.

“Undoubtedly, Catholic social teaching will be implicated by many aspects of this budget reconciliation bill, but this is a welcome milestone for many families and the common good,” he said of the immigration provisions.

Pro-life groups have warned that the reconciliation bill could ultimately include billions of dollars in health care spending without pro-life protections, thus allowing for a significant increase in federal funding of abortions and abortion providers.  

The budget package would need to be passed through the process of reconciliation, a procedure by which budget-related items need only a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than the normal 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

The Senate parliamentarian rules whether certain items are budget-related, and thus can be included in a reconciliation bill. It is unclear if the parliamentarian would maintain immigration language in the bill; the parliamentarian reportedly met with Democratic staffers last week and this week, who presented their case for why the immigration proposals should stay.

“We call on both the House and Senate to include these provisions in the final reconciliation bill and for Congress to pass a bill that helps all those on the margins of our society, strengthens families, protects religious freedom, promotes care for creation, and respects the rights and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death,” Bishop Dorsonville stated.

Those eligible for citizenship, under the House Judiciary Committee proposal, would include Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, Deferred Enforced Departure beneficiaries, undocumented agricultural workers, and other undocumented essential workers.

“Dreamers” are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but who are eligible to apply for permanent residence. “Temporary Protected Status” is granted to immigrants from certain countries who are eligible for a delay of deportation, due to conditions in their home countries that prevent their safe return such as natural disasters or armed conflict.

At a Monday evening virtual event hosted by the advocacy group Faith in Action, other U.S. bishops emphasized the need to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation bill.

The present situation is the “closest we’ve come” since 1986 to reaching a pathway to citizenship, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said.

For immigrants working in certain essential industries, “it would be the height of ingratitude,” Wester said, “if we can’t at least do something to forge a pathway to citizenship.”

“I think what’s at stake is not simply the rights of eight million or more,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, “but really, our own salvation, our own holiness.”

Pope Francis, he said, has emphasized the issue of immigration “to show us the pathway to holiness,” who “profess that we have faith but not have works to show it.”

On papal flight, Pope Francis tackles debate over Communion for politicians who support abortion

Pope Francis, pictured April 17, 2013. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk. / null

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 09:20 am (CNA).

The pope addressed the controversy during an in-flight press conference.

Pope Francis declines resignation of German Catholic archbishop

Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg. / Raimond Spekking (CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons).

Hamburg, Germany, Sep 15, 2021 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Heße announced in March that he was offering his resignation.

Pope Francis in Slovakia: Our Lady of Sorrows teaches us compassion for the suffering

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the esplanade of the National Shrine in Šaštin, Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 15, 2021 / 04:46 am (CNA).

The pope celebrated Mass at the national Catholic shrine in Šaštín.

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Commends Inclusion of Legalization Provisions in House Judiciary Committee Reconciliation Measure

WASHINGTON—On September 13, 2021, the House Committee on the Judiciary approved language to be included in the forthcoming budget reconciliation bill that, if enacted, would provide legalization with a pathway to citizenship for millions of Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) beneficiaries, undocumented agricultural workers, and other undocumented essential workers. The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will need to incorporate these provisions into the budget reconciliation bill and both chambers will need to pass the bill before these provisions can become law. This action by the Judiciary Committee follows a letter sent last week by five committee chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which outlines the USCCB’s broad range of priorities for the full reconciliation bill, as well as a letter sent earlier this week by Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, in which he endorses the Judiciary Committee provisions.

In response to the Judiciary Committee’s passage of the legalization provisions, Bishop Dorsonville issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the House Committee on the Judiciary has taken this important step, setting up an opportunity for many undocumented persons to receive legal status and a pathway to citizenship. Undoubtedly, Catholic social teaching will be implicated by many aspects of this budget reconciliation bill, but this is a welcome milestone for many families and the common good.

“For decades, the bishops of the United States have been proponents of such reforms, which promote integration and family unity. We cannot persist in relegating these members of our society to the margins, especially when we simultaneously depend on so many of them for our collective wellbeing.

“As we continue to work toward a more comprehensive reform of our immigration system—one that acknowledges and respects the God-given dignity of every person—we welcome this crucial step. We call on both the House and Senate to include these provisions in the final reconciliation bill and for Congress to pass a bill that helps all those on the margins of our society, strengthens families, protects religious freedom, promotes care for creation, and respects the rights and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death.”

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