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Catholic hospital in Nova Scotia required to offer assisted suicide, euthanasia

Antigonish, Canada, Sep 20, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- A Catholic hospital in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia will now be required to offer assisted suicide and euthanasia on site, after an assisted suicide advocacy group threatened legal action in January.

The Canadian Senate legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia in June 2016. Both practices are fully funded in the Canadian healthcare system.

The Candian Press reports that St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish was formerly run by the Sisters of St. Martha, which signed an agreement in 1996 with the provincial health authority when it took control of the facility.

The agreement was meant to ensure the hospital’s Catholic identity and values would be preserved.

However, the Canadian Press reports, the Nova Scotia Health Authority last month “quietly instituted” a policy change to require St. Martha’s to offer assisted suicide.

“This approach respects the 1996 Mission Assurance Agreement with the Sisters of St. Martha that lays out the philosophy, mission and values of St. Martha’s in accordance with its faith-based identity, while also meeting the legislated obligation to ensure that [assisted suicide and euthanasia] is available in the Antigonish area for those who request and meet the criteria to access that service,” said Tim Guest, the health authority’s vice-president of health services, as quoted by the Canadian Press.

Dying With Dignity Canada, a group advocating for assisted suicide and euthanasia, said that many hospitals across Canada ban the practice on the premises, particularly in the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

The group’s leadership has said that they hope the province’s proactive approach will be “used as a model in other jurisdictions across the country.”

Canadian lawmakers have raised concerns about the country’s assisted suicide legislation since its passage, over problems such as conscience protections and whether minors should be able to avail themselves of assisted suicide.

Some of these concerns were raised again in the recent case of a Canadian man, Roger Foley, who suffers from an incurable disease and claims that despite asking for home care, the medical team at an Ontario hospital would only offer him assisted suicide.

The bishops of Canada have recently reiterated their support for palliative care as a distinct form of care that attends to the needs and dignity of the whole person at the natural end of their life.

The bishops’ statement clarified that patients and doctors are not required to do everything possible to avoid death if a life has reached its natural conclusion and medical intervention would not be beneficial.

“So while life is a penultimate good, requiring us to take reasonable care of our lives, we are not morally obligated to seek or undergo burdensome therapies ‘at all costs’ that provide no benefit. Nor at the same time are clinicians morally obligated to ‘do everything possible’ if life has reached its natural conclusion and it is no longer medically appropriate. Such a stance is known as vitalism and is rejected by the Catholic moral tradition,” according to Covenant Health’s definition of palliative care included in the bishops’ statement.

A Catholic approach to palliative care is a “person-centered approach,” the bishops said, “which draws deeply from the scriptural understanding of healing, compassion and love.”

This approach takes account of a patient’s “body, mind and spirit” and tries to relieve human suffering while also attending to “the transcendent needs of the dying person and his/her loved ones, with special solicitude for the poor and disadvantaged.”

There also needs to be more and better information available about palliative care resources for patients and their families in Canada, the bishops said. They advocated for public awareness campaigns about palliative care implemented in the country’s health care systems, including resources that would take into account the needs of different cultures or of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

Msgr. Rossi takes leave of absence from CUA board of trustees

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2019 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Msgr. Walter Rossi has taken a leave of absence from the board of trustees at The Catholic University of America, while the priest is the subject of a canonical investigation for unspecified allegations of misconduct.

“Last month the chairman of the Board of Trustees approved Msgr. Rossi’s request to take a voluntary leave of absence pending the resolution of the investigation launched jointly by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton. During the leave of absence Msgr Rossi will not participate in any board activities,” Karna Lozoya, spokesperson for the university told CUA Sept. 20.

Lozoya told CNA that the university is “in contact with the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Washington, who have jointly launched an investigation. We will cooperate with them as needed. We don’t have any information at this point to warrant our own investigation.”

In August, the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that it had commenced “the process of launching a full forensic investigation into the concerns that have been raised,” about Rossi, who is rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus of The Catholic University of America.

Rossi is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton.

“The Diocese of Scranton and Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation,” the diocese told CNA Aug. 14.

Concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Gregory Aug. 13, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap, held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.

During that session, Gregory called for an independent, forensic investigation of some allegations against Rossi.

Rossi has been accused of directing young men to Fr. Matthew Reidlinger, a priest friend of Rossi’s who is alleged to have sexually harassed them in phone calls and text messages. That accusation was made in 2013.

In August, Gregory said he was unfamiliar with the allegation.
 
“That’s news to me. And I am not doubting it, but I have not heard about [this situation].”
 
“I suspect – I hope – that there is a forensic investigation. But in today’s environment, even a forensic investigation that either proves or disproves, will not satisfy the people. But I would like to see that, I would like to see a forensic investigation of those allegations.”

Rossi “is not an employee of Catholic University, nor does he have regular duties or responsibilities to fulfill on our campus. We do have students who are active either as part-time employees or volunteers at the Shrine. We have not received any complaints from our students regarding Msgr. Rossi,” Lozoya told CNA Friday.

“The safety of our students is our first priority. If we ever have good reason to believe the safety of our students is in danger, we will take the necessary action,” she added.

While Rossi is the subject of a canonical investigation, he has not been removed from his post at the National Shrine, and neither the scope nor the timeline of the investigation have been delineated by the Archdiocese of Washington or the Diocese of Scranton.

“If anyone harms a student at The Catholic University of America, we want to know about it. If any member of our community has experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has first hand knowledge of an incident, please contact our Department of Public Safety, the Metropolitan Police Department, our Dean of Students, or our Title IX coordinator,” Lozoya told CNA.

UK rabbi: secular humanists are 'ever-more combative' against religious groups

Madrid, Spain, Sep 20, 2019 / 03:07 pm (CNA).- A top UK rabbi has criticized secular groups in Britain for their remarks against religious practices and faith-based schools.

Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Great Britain and the Commonwealth, spoke at an international interreligious conference held in Madrid this week, addressing comments from groups such as Humanists UK and the National Secular Society.

Mirvis said that “humanism, with a small ‘h’, sits at the centre of what it means to be a Jew. But there is a different Humanism, with a capital ‘H’, which I fear is becoming ever-more combative in the way in which it regards faith communities.”

“We are finding that, often, Humanism, and other secularist approaches, seek out opportunities to attack faith,” said Mirvis, the Jewish News reported.

According to the website for Humanists UK, he said, there has been a campaign against faith-based schools. The charity, which advocates for the rights of non-religious people, is opposed to state-funded religious schools.

“Do I not have the right to educate my children in accordance with the values that I hold dear?” asked Mirvis.

“Those Humanists who campaign against the existence of faith schools are in effect campaigning against my freedom to raise my children in accordance with the tenets of my faith,” he added.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said Mirvis’ reaction was unfair, the Jewish News reported. He said the organization has worked with numerous faith groups in the past to ensure “liberal social values.” He expressed a desire to have a similar dialogue with the rabbi.

“We are ready to engage likewise with the Rabbi Mirvis at any time to explore what we share and how we can work together towards any shared goals and in the cause of greater mutual understanding,” said Copson.

According to The Jewish Chronicle, Mirvis also criticized the National Secular Society’s remarks on circumcision. In the past, the group has petitioned to end non-consensual religious surgery, claiming it is genital mutilation forced upon infants.

Mirvis said circumcision is an “essential part” of the Jewish faith and a sign of God’s covenant with his people. “An attack against our right to perform circumcision is an attack against a most fundamental element of our belief,” he added.

He was particularly critical of the organization’s Chief Executive Stephen Evans, who claimed that religious liberty movements were often a demand for “the state to turn a blind eye to the violation of other’s rights.” Evans’ comment was in regards to circumcision.

"Religious practices aren’t beyond reproach and religious groups shouldn’t be given a free pass to carry out harmful practices,” Evans later added, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

“Secularists seek to ensure that the right to religious freedom is always balanced against other considerations, including the protection of children.”

According to the Jewish News, Mirvis respectfully encouraged the group to pursue their convictions, but not to obstruct other pursuits of faith. He said an organization should be defined by “what they live for” instead of identifying themselves by their opposition to other belief systems.

“If it is freedom you seek, please do not campaign against our freedom to practice our faith. If you are calling for tolerance, please do not stoop to intolerance of faith communities and religious practice,” he said.

"If you wish to prevent religion from imposing its values on our society, please don’t do just that, by seeking to impose Humanism on our society.”

Vatican department heads meet to discuss budget deficit

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2019 / 11:50 am (CNA).- The heads of dicasteries and Vatican City State institutions met Friday to discuss finances and how to reverse a reportedly rapidly growing deficit in the Holy See’s budget.

Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, confirmed to CNA that the meeting took place Sept. 20 among heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia and of institutions connected to the Holy See and Vatican City State.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in May Pope Francis asked Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, coordinator of the Council for the Economy, which oversees Vatican finances, to convoke the meeting to consider solutions and to “inform the respective heads about the gravity of the situation.”

The Holy See sustained a deficit of roughly 70 million euros ($77 million) in 2018, doubled from the previous year, according to Vatican officials, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Sept. 20 meeting was intended to increase awareness of the issue among Vatican officials, many of whom are unaware of the gravity of the situation, according to Joseph Zahra, a Maltese economist who is a member of the Council for the Economy.

Zahra also said the Vatican will be releasing a financial report this fall, the first since 2015.

Vatican finances have been one of the major focuses of Pope Francis’ reform efforts, though he has faced serious setbacks.

Efforts began in 2013, with the creation of an investigatory commission to examine the Holy See's administrative structures. Consisting of seven lay experts, one clerical secretary, and external consultants, the commission met from August 2013 to May 2014.

This work was later overshadowed when, in 2015, two former members of the commission were arrested for stealing and leaking confidential information about Francis’ papacy.

In February 2014, Pope Francis made his first major structural changes to the Roman Curia, establishing the Council for the Economy and the Office of Auditor General, an autonomous office with the power to conduct special investigations.

He also created the Secretariat for the Economy, appointing Cardinal George Pell as prefect, but that office is now vacant, as Pell returned to his home country to defend himself against charges of child sex abuse, of which he was convicted. The cardinal is appealing his conviction.

After Chaput warning, bishops weigh in on Fr. James Martin

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 20, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- After the Archbishop of Philadelphia urged caution regarding the message Fr. James Martin, SJ, other bishops have weighed in on Martin’s message regarding homosexuality and Catholicism, as Martin and the archbishop have continued to exchange views on the matter.

“Father Martin’s public messages create confusion among the faithful and disrupt the unity of the Church by promoting a false sense that immoral sexual behavior is acceptable under God’s law,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, wrote Sept. 19.

“People with same-sex attraction are indeed created and loved by God and are welcome in the Catholic Church. But the Church’s mission to these brothers and sisters is the same as to all her faithful: to guide, encourage, and support each of us in the Christian struggle for virtue, sanctification, and purity,” the bishop added.

Paprocki’s statement came in response to a Sept. 19 column from Archbishop Charles Chaput, that urged caution about “a pattern of ambiguity” in the writing and teaching of Martin.

Chaput’s column raised his concern that “Father Martin – no doubt unintentionally -- inspires hope that the Church’s teachings on human sexuality can be changed.”

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke Sept. 17 at Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University.

“Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput wrote.

“Archbishop Chaput has provided a helpful caution to Catholics about Father James Martin. On the one hand, Father Martin correctly expresses God’s love for all people, while on the other, he either encourages or fails to correct behavior that separates a person from that very love. This is deeply scandalous in the sense of leading people to believe that wrongful behavior is not sinful,” Paprocki’s statement said.

“This matter is not one of opinion, it is our Lord’s own teaching, as we hear in Luke’s Gospel: ‘Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,’” the bishop added.

Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville also weighed in Chaput’s column.

On Twiter, Stika praised Chaput’s “column on the theological and moral errors of Fr Martin. He praises his outreach but challenges his moral and theological thoughts. He also states clearly that this is a great error. I would add the pain it causes by setting people for pain as morally it can never be accepted by the Church. The Archbishop also adds that the vicious attacks on Father is wrong and sinful. It is one thing to disagree but another to be vicious and hide behind a handle.”
 

Martin himself responded to Chaput’s column in an op-ed at CatholicPhilly, the news portal of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“I think my main response to his column is that it’s difficult to respond to critiques that I am ‘implying’ things about church teaching, when I am assiduous in my writings and talks about not challenging church teaching on matters of sexual morality (or anything, for that matter).”

“One of the reasons that I don’t focus on same-sex relations and same-sex marriage, which I know are both impermissible (and immoral) under church teaching, is that LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church,” Martin wrote.

“What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” the priest added.

“I remain grateful for the Archbishop’s asking people not to engage in ‘ad hominem’ attacks, and I appreciate the careful tone of his letter and have always appreciated his kind communications with me,” Martin concluded.

Chaput responded Martin’s column.

“I appreciate Father Martin’s typically gracious comments, which are consistent with the man,” Chaput wrote.

“They do not, however, change the need for my column. I’m sure Father Martin would agree that ‘official’ Church teaching (as opposed to some alternative, imagined, unofficial system of belief and practice) is simply what the Church believes based on the Word of God and centuries of experience with the human condition.”

“Moreover, the point is not to ‘not challenge’ what the Church believes about human sexuality, but to preach and teach it with confidence, joy, and zeal. Biblical truth liberates; it is never a cause for embarrassment,” Chaput added.

The archbishop noted that he and Martin agree that “persons with same-sex attraction are children of God and well loved by him. Thus they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The Church must earnestly seek to do that while remaining true to her convictions.”

“But it is clearly not true that the ‘only thing’ Catholics with same-sex attraction hear from their Church is a message of rejection. Or if it is, perhaps the responsibility can lie as much with the listener as it does with the Church. We each have the freedom to choose. Listening, like teaching, is an act of the will.”