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Religion is not the problem: Brooklyn bishop blasts New York COVID measures

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 16, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn warned on Friday that New York’s most recent coronavirus measures were “not reasonable.” Speaking one day after his diocese argued in court against new state restrictions on religious assembly, the bishop said religion was being treated as a second class part of society. 

“We are relegated to the sidelines, religion,” DiMarzio of Brooklyn told CNA on Oct. 16. “‘Religion is the problem of society,’ the way people think today.”

“In the past, you would think the non-profit sector, religion, was a pillar of the society along with the business community and with the government. This was what held society together. Now, that kind of a thesis of how society works is long since gone, unfortunately,” he said.

Bishop DiMarzio spoke with CNA after the diocese had a hearing in federal court on Thursday in its case against New York’s new public health restrictions.

The state order, announced last week, targeted geographic “hot spots” around the state where the number of cases of the new coronavirus is reportedly surging and put, among other limits, caps on attendance at indoor religious services to slow the spread of the virus.

Under the state order, some churches in Brooklyn and Queens are limited to either 25% capacity or 10 people at indoor Masses, baptism, weddings, and funerals—whichever amount is less—or to 33% capacity or 25 people in other areas, whichever amount is less.

As churches in the diocese are “very large,” the bishop said, liturgies would be effectively limited to either 10 people or 25 people.

DiMarzio said that the diocese worked with public health officials over the summer to implement safety measures in reopening churches, and has been successful in doing so.

“Everything that we know possible to avoid this virus is being done,” he said, noting that churches are requiring Mass attendees to wear masks, limiting attendance to 25% capacity, and requiring families to sit six feet apart inside.

“We’re not asking for full capacity,” he said, noting that churches in the diocese “are very large” and can safely accommodate far more than the 10-or-25-person limit the state is effectively ordering.

But, the bishop told CNA, the diocese’s legal challenge to the state is not about logistics, it is about “religious freedom,” and the unacceptability of classing churches as “non-essential” businesses. 

“We have a different place in society than businesses,” the bishop said, noting that some “essential” stores in the area are open and do not count the number of people going inside.  

“This is all part of the problem. There are two standards, where everybody’s being lumped together, no matter how they deal with the issue,” he said, calling the restrictions “not reasonable.”

The diocesan parishes are not reporting outbreaks of the virus traced to Masses, he said.

“Today, people are very wont to complain to the Church if they don’t like what’s happening,” DiMarzio observed. “If there was a problem, we would know about it.”

“Other religions,” he said, are “packing 400 people into small places” without a mask requirement “and expecting it to be fine.”

“That’s the difference,” he said. “We just have acted differently, and I think we should be treated differently.”

But, the bishop said that he was not arguing for houses of worship to be allowed to flaut basic health rules or  or ignore safety requirements.

“Houses of worship should follow the guidelines that are put in by the state for the safety of everyone. We are following them. That’s our point,” he said, calling the new restrictions “a little bit of an overreach.”

In March and April, the diocese lost two priests to the virus. Bishop DiMarzio acknowledged that it has been a “challenge” leading the diocese through the pandemic, and has focused on maintaining communication with everyone. “We don’t want them to be isolated,” he said.

The priests’ deaths highlighted the seriousness of the pandemic for the diocese, and the need to take all reasonable measures, he said.

“We have to be careful. I’m not trying to be cavalier,” DiMarzio said.

Richmond Catholic diocese to pay $6.3 million in abuse settlements

CNA Staff, Oct 16, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Richmond is set to pay a total of $6.3 million in settlements to more than 50 victims of clerical abuse, the bishop announced this week.

The announcement comes after the diocese celebrated its bicentennial July 11.

“With the celebration of a jubilee year comes another opportunity to work for justice — for acknowledgement of wrongs, reconciliation with those we have wronged, and attempts to repair the hurt we have caused,” Bishop Barry Knestout said in an Oct. 15 letter.

“Those three facets — confession, reconciliation and repair — are at the foundation of the Catholic Church’s sacrament of reconciliation which was the model for our entering into the Independent Reconciliation Program.”

The diocese during February 2020 started an Independent Reconciliation Program to offer help to alleged minor sexual abuse victims through an independent arbiter. On Oct. 15, the diocese released a report detailing the program’s conclusions.

Out of 68 claims initiated, 60 were submitted to the claims administrator. Of those alleged victims, 51 were given offers of payment, all of whom accepted.

According to the report, the settlements will be funded through the diocese’s self-insurance program, a loan, and “contributions from other religious orders, where appropriate.”

The settlements will not come from parish or school assets, the annual diocesan appeal, donor restricted contributions, or restricted endowments, the report states.

“The completion of this program is by no means the end of our efforts to provide for our diocese’s victim survivors. Our outreach is ongoing. We must, and we will, continue to meet victim survivors with support and compassion motivated by our shared love of Jesus Christ,” Knestout concluded, asking for continued prayers for victims of abuse.

Biden backs 'transgender rights' for children during town hall

CNA Staff, Oct 16, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).-  

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Thursday that young children should be able to change gender identities without any “discrimination.”

Speaking at a town hall in Philadelphia October 15, Biden was questioned by a woman who said she had an eight year-old child who identified as transgender. The woman asked him what he would do about the Trump administration’s ban on gender transition in the military and other “weakening” of nondiscrimination rules.

Biden said that her eight year-old should be able to switch gender identities freely.

“The idea that an eight year-old child or a ten year-old child decides, ‘you know I decided, I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be, it’d make my life a lot easier.’ There should be zero discrimination,” Biden said.

He also said he would “eliminate” the Trump administration’s rules affecting gender transition.

"I will flat out just change the law. Eliminate those executive orders, number one,” Biden said.

In addition to banning gender transition in the military, the Trump administration rolled back other Obama administration requirements that people and organizations recognize someone’s gender transition rather than biological sex.

These included overturning Obama-era mandates that single-sex homeless shelters house people on the basis of their gender identity rather than their biological sex, and that doctors perform gender-transition surgery despite any ethical or medical objections to the procedure.

The Obama-era transgender surgery mandate was criticized for infringing upon the freedom of conscience of health care professionals. While Biden said he would overturn the Trump administration’s orders, he did not explain what he would do about religious exemptions for doctors or religious non-profits who have conscientious objections to gender-transition surgery.

In June, 2019, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” condemning so-called gender theory and insisting that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and women, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.

“The effect of [the emergence of gender ideologies] is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society,” the congregation wrote.

Biden held his town hall on the same evening that Trump took questions from audience members at a town hall in Miami, two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 1.

Trump was asked about abortion at his town hall but did not directly answer the question. An audience member asked him about a scenario in which Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion—is overturned.

The registered Republican voter asked Trump “what protections would be put in place or kept” for mothers with high-risk pregnancies whose lives are in jeopardy, if Roe is overturned.

President Trump did not answer what “protections” he might consider, and declined to say whether Roe would be reversed.

“I’m not ruling on this,” he said adding that he had not spoken to previous Supreme Court nominees about Roe.

Trump recently nominated a Catholic federal circuit court judge, Amy Coney Barrett, to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up a series of hearings on Barrett’s confirmation on Thursday, with a committee vote expected on Oct. 22.

At those hearings, Barrett refused to opine on Supreme Court cases so as not to give a “forecast” of how she might rule on the bench if an abortion case appeared before her.

Trump said on Thursday that he did not want to “influence” any future decision by Barrett, as she has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

“I would like to see a brilliant jurist, a brilliant person, who has done this in great depth and has actually skirted this issue for a long time, make a decision. And that’s why I chose her [Barrett],” Trump said. “I did not tell her what decision to make, and I think it would be inappropriate to say right now, because I don’t want to do anything to influence her.”

Anticipation that the Supreme Court could reconsider Roe, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states, has grown in recent years. In 2019, Alabama enacted a ban on nearly all abortions in the state in what was seen as an attempt to bring a challenge to Roe before the Supreme Court.

At a 2016 presidential debate, Trump promised to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court justices who could eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.

“If we put another two, or perhaps three, justices on [the Court],” Trump said, “that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the Court,” Trump said of repealing Roe.

On Thursday, however, he demurred on the question of repealing Roe.

“I think, depending on what happens with Roe v. Wade, I think that it could get sent down to the states, and the states would decide. I also think perhaps nothing would happen,” Trump said.

Another audience member asked Trump about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The administration in 2017 said it would wind down the program and gave Congress a six-month window to enact parts of the program into law, which it failed to do.

In June, the Supreme Court said the administration’s effort to end DACA was unlawful and sent the matter back, saying that it could still end the program but had to do so lawfully.

A woman who said she was the daughter of immigrants who fled persecution in Poland and Russia asked Trump if his administration would continue trying to end DACA in his second term.

“We are going to take care of DACA. we’re going to take care of Dreamer [sic],” Trump said without specifying what actions his administration would take on the program. He then mentioned that more than 400 miles of border wall have been constructed in his first term.

When NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie noted that no new DACA applicants are currently allowed, Trump answered that “we want people to come into our country” but to do so “legally” and on a “merit system.”

Colorado abortion ban backers optimistic, but opponents have big funding advantage 

Denver, Colo., Oct 16, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).-  

Polling shows a close race for a Colorado ballot measure seeking to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, and backers are “very optimistic” that with enough volunteers and community outreach they will succeed, even while abortion advocates have outraised pro-life campaigners by millions in the weeks leading to the election.

“The more Coloradans learn about the truth of late term abortion, the more supporters we gain for Proposition 115. That's the reason why our supporters are growing every day,” Giuliana Day, a sponsor of the proposition with the Coalition for Women and Children, told CNA Oct. 15.

Proposition 115 asks voters whether to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened.

A 9 News / Colorado Politics survey of 1,021 registered likely voters found 42% of respondents said they are certain to vote yes on Prop. 115, 45% said no, while 13% are uncertain, 9 News reported.

63% of Republicans said they would vote in favor of the ban, as did 28% of Democrats and 35% of unaffiliated voters. The survey was conducted by SurveyUSA between Oct. 1 and Oct 6. It claims a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.9%.

More than 150,000 Coloradans signed a petition to put Prop. 115 on the ballot. Day characterized these signers as “a diverse group of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.”

Day told CNA that “19,000 Democrats alone signed the petition. Self-identified ‘pro-choice’ men and women voters signed the petition because they realized that late-term abortions are just too extreme.”

“Coloradans are compassionate, fair and reasonable,” Day continued. “People are very surprised to learn that late-term abortion even exists in our beautiful state.”

Opponents of the measure have a significant cash advantage in the weeks before the election.

About $276,000 in monetary and other contributions have gone to groups supporting the proposition, like the Coalition for Women and Children, according to records from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver so far has been the largest donor, giving about $50,000 to support the campaign, followed by several donors who have given $10,000 to $12,000 apiece.
Foes of the measure have given over $5.7 million in cash and other contributions, mainly to the group Abortion Access for All. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has given over $1.15 million, the D.C.-based North Fund has given $1 million, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has given over $500,000. Cobalt Advocates, formerly known as NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, has given over $438,000 and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has given $400,000.

“Our campaign relies on grassroots door knocking, phone calling, and texting,” Day told CNA. “Prop. 115 supporters are actively engaged in getting the word out about Prop 115. They are also proudly displaying YES on 115 signs in their yards and gathering at intersections throughout Colorado.  It is our passion that is our secret to success.”

Colorado currently has no laws regulating late-term abortion, the state is one of just seven in the country where abortions can take place up until birth. Each year, about 200 to 300 babies are aborted after 21-weeks gestation in the state.

Asked what she would say to undecided voters, Day said abortion at 22 weeks is “especially barbaric.” The dilation and evacuation procedure used means “the systematic dismemberment of the fetus followed by crushing the head before the remaining torso is extracted.”

“This would result in unimaginable fetal pain and suffering,” she said. “Sometimes a poison is administered before the (dilation and evacuation) which causes intense nausea, retching, pain, and delirium before the fetus dies over a period of minutes to hours--sometimes as long as 24 hours.”

“Late term abortions generally take 2-4 days to complete and a delivery can be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes,” she said.

“The late term abortionist Warren Hern instructs his patients to anticipate ‘kicks’ for hours after the feticide is administered,” Day continued. “When the digoxin fails to kill the baby during the first attempt, the poisoning is repeated. This is a very traumatic experience for the woman and cruel e inhumane for the baby. We don't even treat animals this way.”

“If a preborn baby at 22-weeks can survive outside the mother’s womb, there’s no reason to kill her inside the womb,” said Day.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado asked voters to support the ban in a June 30 letter and placed the ballot measure under the patronage of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini, who aided orphans and immigrants in her time in Colorado.

“Ending the legal protection for abortion is the most important political objective of Colorado Catholics because these children are deprived of their right to live. While the late-term abortion ban will not ban abortion entirely, it does protect children who are older than 22 weeks’ gestation. This is a positive change from the status quo and promotes a ‘culture of life’ that values unborn children. It is a step in the right direction.”

If the ballot measure becomes law, doctors would face a three-year license suspension for performing or attempting to perform an abortion of an unborn child beyond 22-weeks of gestation. Women would not be charged with seeking or obtaining an abortion.

In 1984 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortions except to prevent the death of the mother. In 1998 they passed an initiative requiring parental consent and a waiting period for minors who seek abortions.

Other measures have not succeeded. The 2008 and 2010 Colorado ballots included two Personhood initiatives, which tried to define a person under state law to include every human being from the moment of fertilization or “from the beginning of biological development.” The 2008 proposal won under 27% approval from voters, while the 2010 proposal received under 30% of votes.

For Day, these efforts were part of “a complex argument that would have prohibited all abortions,” a goal which Coloradans did not approve. She characterized Prop. 115 as “a modest restriction after fetal viability when the baby can survive outside the womb if born prematurely.”

“This is when a majority of Americans agree that unrestricted abortion is too extreme,” she said.  

Another pro-life group, Colorado Right to Life, was a backer of the Personhood initiatives but rejects Prop. 115. It was a longtime state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, a national pro-life organization established with the support of the U.S. Catholic bishops in 1968. However, the Colorado affiliate broke from the national organization in 2007 over philosophical differences and the Colorado group’s criticism of a partial-birth abortion Supreme Court decision.

A spokesperson for Colorado Right to Life told CNA the group opposes “regulating the killing of the innocent” and “emphatically opposes passage of this and every abortion regulation.”

“Everyone should know that regulating which fetus can be killed and which fetus cannot be killed further erodes the public's understanding of inalienable rights,” said the group. “Abortion regulations typically say that abortion is ‘illegal except’…” which in the group’s view violates “God's enduring command, ‘Do not murder’, by re-authorizing abortion.”

Day, however, said she thinks “the vast majority of the pro-life community is behind us.”

“Colorado Right to Life has opposed all legal maneuvers that don't totally ban abortion,” she said. “Coloradans have tried this approach before and failed.”

“We are promoting a restriction on abortion that will save between 400 and 500 babies each year,” she told CNA. “We are hoping that Colorado Right to Life will lower their criticism of this important proposition.  They are welcome to join our movement at Due Date Too Late.”

In the meantime, Day urged supporters of the measure to keep promoting it.

“Supporters of Prop. 115 need to talk about this issue every chance they get: in their family, church, and community.  They need to volunteer their time and money so that the truth about Prop. 115 is heard throughout Colorado,” Day said.

“It is through these grassroots efforts that we can overcome the multimillion TV/social media propaganda campaign launched by our opponents.”



Vatican to UN: pandemic makes 2030 poverty elimination goal even harder to achieve

CNA Staff, Oct 16, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The coronavirus crisis has made the international community’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 even harder to achieve, a Vatican representative told the United Nations Tuesday.

In a statement Oct. 13, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that, despite the pledge made in 2015, poverty remained “one of the greatest global challenges of our time.”

Speaking during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, he said: “In June 2020, the World Bank estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic could push as many as 100 million people into extreme poverty within this year, leading, for the first time in decades, to an increase in the poverty rates globally.”

“More than 200 million people have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Those who were already in vulnerable situations -- including the unemployed, those in ‘informal’ or precarious employment, seasonal and migrant workers -- are at risk of falling into poverty.” 

Caccia argued that education was critical to lifting families out of poverty, but the pandemic had deprived many children around the world of access to schooling. He also highlighted what Pope Francis has called “pharmaceutical poverty”: unequal access to medicine and healthcare. 

Citing this year’s papal message for the World Day of the Poor, he said: “Poverty is about so much more than the amount of financial resources on which people rely for their survival. It ‘appears in a variety of guises’ and thus eliminating it requires an integral approach that unites monetary measures with comprehensive policies addressing the non-monetary deprivations that millions of people face at the educational, social, political, cultural, and spiritual levels.”

He continued: “If we are to succeed in our shared commitment to eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions by 2030, development policies must give priority to those most in need and foster an economy and a model of development where the human person, especially the poor, is at the center.”

Caccia made another intervention the same day. In a statement on sustainable development, he urged countries to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the damage inflicted by climate change, and engage in “disaster risk reduction.”

“The fight against climate change is a question of justice and a moral imperative. It should combine protecting the environment with advancing the dignity of the human person, eradicating poverty and promoting integral human development, and caring for both present and future generations,” he said.

In an intervention the day before, Oct. 12, Caccia called for multilateral cooperation to defeat international terrorism.

He said: “Violence and extremism are often driven by economic, political, and socio-cultural factors, which foment the grievances of marginalized groups. Greater attention must thus be given to the remedies for the root causes of terrorism, such as educating youth, not marginalizing individuals or groups, resolving severe economic disparity, promoting dialogue and respect for diversity and inclusiveness.”

He urged authorities to respect religious freedom while combating terrorism.

“Greater efforts are also needed to foster tolerance and inclusivity towards minorities through a robust promotion of the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, failure to respect those freedoms may nurture an environment prone to violence and extremism,” he said.

“It is therefore indispensable to promote a positive and respectful distinction between the political sphere and that of religion, so as to preserve both the religious freedom of all persons and the irreplaceable role of religion in the formation of consciences and the creation of a basic ethical consensus in society.”

Florida martyrs remembered at Mass of thanksgiving for their sainthood cause

Denver Newsroom, Oct 16, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- At a Mass on Monday said in thanksgiving for the cause for canonization of the martyrs of Spanish colonial Florida, the Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee emphasized that martyrs were not just in the Old World, but in what is the United States as well.

Bishop William Wack said Mass Oct. 12 in Tallahassee to observe the fifth anniversary of the opening of the cause of Antonio Cuipa and his companions.

Antonio Cuipa was a member of the Apalachee people of the Florida panhandle, who largely embraced the faith from Franciscan missionaries.

In 1704, militias from the English Carolina colony massacred the Catholic Apalachee. Thousands were taken as slaves, and another thousand were martyred.

Martyrs were tied to the stations of the Cross and burned alive, while they invoked the Blessed Virgin. In addition to the 1,000 Appalachee martyred, six Franciscans died for the faith, including Juan Praga and Manuel Mendoza.

Antonio Cuipa, a catechist, was killed Jan. 26, 1704, tied to a cross and burned alive. When he cried out from the cross near the end of his life, an apparition o f the Blessed Virgin reportedly attended to him.

“We don’t have to look across the world at the Holy Land or Colosseum to find martyrs. We have our brothers and sisters right here who gave their lives for Christ,” Bishop Wack said in his homily.

“May we keep the faith alive that many more people know God’s goodness through them,” he added.

The Mass was said at the site of a planned shrine to the martyrs of Spanish Florida.

The cause for canonization is investigating 54 events of martyrdom. The cause includes more than 60 Native Americans, 17 priests and religious, and seven Spanish laypersons.

The first martyrs of La Florida were three Dominican missionaries, clubbed to death in 1549. They were to be joined by many Franciscans and indigenous peoples, as well as Jesuit missionaries, who were killed as late as 1761.

The petitioners in the cause for canonization are the board of the Martyrs of La Florida Missions, which is working to build the shrine.

Michael Sheedy, vice president of the Martyrs of La Florida Missions Board, told CNA, “I’m thankful that we are rediscovering this incredible history of this period in the United States, and to grow up here, where centuries ago before we had a country  … there were people who were living vibrantly the Catholic faith and ultimately gave their lives for it,”

He added that Antonio Cuipa “was a fearless evangelist” who “had great patience and zeal that brought countless natives to ask for baptism.”

Following the Mass, Chris Stavres, president of the Martyrs of La Florida Missions Board, read from Antonio Cuipa’s will, which set aside funds to support places of pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

The cause for canonization is in the diocesan phase, with information being gathered to be sent to Rome.

Sheedy said there are historical documents of the martyrs, including records from Clement XI and Philip V of Spain, who declared a feast day for the martyrs of La Florida in 1743. Sheedy added that that it is likely the cause will soon progress to the next stage.

Sheedy said this is an important project for the Church in Florida and the southeastern United States, because of its ties to the history of the land. He said it also contradicts popular claims about Spanish colonial imperialism, noting that these Native Americans were not forced into the faith but willingly gave their lives out of love for Christ.

“What's so exciting about the cause … is that it's the Native Americans who had embraced the faith,” he said. “These people weren't forced to convert. They embraced the faith, they died for the faith because of love for God.”

“It does serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement for those of us who have followed them …  that there are others who have walked this journey ahead of us who confronted great challenges and persevered. Somehow that gives us hope, encourages us, and inspires us to continue.”

Federal judge strikes down Tennessee abortion waiting period

CNA Staff, Oct 16, 2020 / 12:31 am (CNA).- A federal judge on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion in Tennessee, which had been in effect since 2015.

In the legal challenge brought by Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, Judge Bernard Friedman wrote that most women are already certain about their decision to have an abortion when they go in for their first appointment.

The judge cited testimony from abortion providers that abortion does not increase risk of negative psychological outcomes. He said the regulation placed an “undue burden” on women’s “right to abortion.”

Tennessee Right to Life, a pro-life organization active in the state, decried the court’s decision, contending that the waiting period had saved “countless unborn lives” and spared women the regret of abortion by allowing them extra time to identify life-affirming resources near them.

“Not only is this decision a slap at Tennessee's abortion-vulnerable women, it is an affront to Tennessee's voters who passed a 2014 constitutional amendment in which allowing a short waiting period was a key factor,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.

“Our organization remains committed to seeing a similar statute drafted and enforced during the next legislative session.”

Tennessee’s law required abortion doctors to inform a woman during her first appointment “that numerous public and private agencies and services are available to assist her during her pregnancy and after the birth of her child” if she chooses not to have the abortion.

Barring a medical emergency, a patient was then required to wait 48 hours before the second appointment and proceeding with the abortion.

Though waiting periods have been struck down before in state courts, this case marks the first time a federal court has struck down an abortion waiting period.

Under Tennessee law, the district court’s striking down of the 48-hour waiting period would automatically bring a 24-hour waiting period into effect for the state, but Friedman also blocked the state from enforcing the 24-hour requirement.

The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office is considering appealing Judge Friedman’s decision.

At least 26 states mandate waiting periods for women seeking abortions, most of them 24 hours. Five states— Utah, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota— have a 72-hour waiting period in place.

In Iowa, the legislature passed a 72-hour waiting period during May 2017, which the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018 declared unconstitutional. The Iowa House and Senate passed a 24-hour waiting period requirement for abortion during June 2020, which also requires a woman to have the chance to view an ultrasound of the unborn child and to receive information on adoption.

In January 2020, the authors of a study from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) reported that approximately 95% of women who had abortions did not regret their decision five years after the fact, even if they did initially experience regret. Friedman cited that study in his opinion.

Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University who testified in the Tennessee case, told CNA that she disagrees with that study’s conclusion and methodology.

In addition, larger studies have turned up opposite conclusions. While it did not directly measure “regret,” a study by Dr. D. Paul Sullins of The Catholic University of America published in 2016 followed more than 8,000 women for over 13 years, and found that a significant increase in the relative risk of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety for women who have abortions.


Byzantine priest who made up hate crime ordered to life of penance after abuse allegation

CNA Staff, Oct 15, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).-  

A Byzantine priest in Indiana has been ordered to a life of prayer and penance two years after he was placed on administrative leave for a credible accusation of sexual abuse. The priest made headlines in 2018 when he claimed to have been attacked in his parish church; a claim the eparchy said later had been fabricated.

After a period of “appropriate due process according to canon (Church) law” Fr. Basil Hutsko has been ordered to live a life of prayer and penance by Bishop Milan Lach, S.J. of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, the eparchy said in an Aug. 17 letter posted online, that was first reported this week by the Chicago Tribune.

“A cleric who has been ordered to live a life of prayer and penance has been permanently removed from engaging in public ministry and does not live on premises belonging to the Eparchy,” the letter stated.

“He is not permitted to celebrate Divine Liturgy/Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments. He is forbidden to wear a clerical garb and present himself as a priest. He is bound in conscience to pray and offer acts of penance for those in need of healing due to the harmful actions of clergy,” the letter added.

Hutsko, 67, had been serving as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary, before he was placed on leave in 2018. He has also served at parishes in Cleveland, Dayton, and Marblehead, Ohio, and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

In October 2018, the eparchy announced that Hutsko was being placed on administrative leave following a credible accusation of past sexual misconduct with a minor. At that time, the eparchy said that although Hutsko denied the accusation, it had been found to be credible.

Just two months prior, in August 2018, Hutsko had claimed that he had been “attacked and knocked unconscious” in the altar server's sacristy at his parish after celebrating the Divine Liturgy. Hutsko also claimed that the attacker had said “This is for all the kids” as he assaulted him.

The attack was investigated as a hate crime, but in October 2018, when Hutsko was placed on leave, the eparchy said in a statement that it had “verified with a member of Father Basil Hutsko’s immediate family that the incident Father Basil Hutsko reported on Aug. 20, 2018, did not occur.”

The accusation against Hutsko of sexual abuse of a minor came from a woman who reported that Hutsko had abused her between the years 1979 and 1983.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the woman first came forward in 2004, though an independent review by the eparchy at the time did not find enough evidence to warrant further action.

Bishop Lach did not know of the abuse allegation against Hutsko when the priest claimed to have been attacked in August 2018, the Chicago Tribune noted, but “new facts’ about the accusation surfaced in October 2018.

“It is the same allegation,” attorney James Niehaus told the Chicago Tribune. “As a result of new information, the allegation was reviewed again and now determined to be credible.”

“The Eparchy of Parma remains committed to the protection of youth according to the Safe Environment norms given by the USCCB,” the eparchy's August 2020 letter concluded.



Addition of Cuba, China, Russia to UN Human Rights Council draws criticism

CNA Staff, Oct 15, 2020 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- A human rights group in Cuba criticized the election of China, Cuba, and Russia to the UN Human Rights Council, despite the history of authoritarianism and significant human rights abuses in each country.

“The undeserved election of the Cuban totalitarian regime for a seat on the Human Rights council is an undue and dangerous recognition of a failed state that exhibits an extensive history of human rights violations,” said Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator for the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM).

The CLM is a democracy and human rights advocacy group founded in Cuba in 1988 by dissident Oswaldo Paya. The group has been heavily suppressed by Cuban State Security. Paya was killed in a car crash in suspicious circumstances in 2012, and Cardet was sentenced in 2017 to three years in prison on alleged charges of “attacking law enforcement, scandal and disorderly conduct.” The CLM maintains that Cardet’s sentence was in retaliation for his criticism of the legacy of Fidel Castro.

In an October 14 statement to, Cardet criticized the decision of the UN General Assembly to elect Cuba, Russia and China among the 15 new members of the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

According to its website, the UNHRC is “an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.”

“The fact that the Human Rights Council is made up of many of the main violators on a planetary scale is a serious threat and a strong and clear warning call to all international human rights actors,” Cardet said, adding, “it is imperative to work very hard, because we are all in danger and we cannot stop acting.”

Cardet said the selection of Cuba, Russia, and China shows “structural failure and degradation of the election criteria” within the UN’s Human Rights Council. He warned that the three nations “will form a team to distort and undermine the aims and purposes of the Council.”

Regis Iglesias, a spokesman for the Christian Liberation Movement, lamented that “solidarity with those who are suffering isn’t a value” in the modern world.

“Relativism, the lack of values, the indifference and the lack of leadership in countries of the free world have caused in recent years, perhaps decades, international organizations and governments to unfortunately forget their commitment to the human person and the peoples suffering under dictatorial regimes,” he said.

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