16th of January 2019.
Wednesday of the 1st week in Ordinary Time
Liturgical colour: green    (more...)
I
N THE CHURCH TODAY
M
ASS INTENTIONS
Today (Wednesday)10:00 amMargaret Gorry (2A)
Emma Harrison (1A)
Tomorrow (Thursday)10:00 amPatricia Coleman (1A)
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ECENTLY DECEASED
We remember all those who have died recently:
Gerard Quinn Funeral Notice...
Gerard Crosbie Funeral Notice...
Joseph Cyril Holloway Funeral Notice...
Aine Keating Funeral Notice...
Noel Smyth Funeral Notice...
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha
TODAY'S READINGS
F
IRST READING
Hebrews 2:14-18
He took to himself descent from Abraham
Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham.

...Full Reading

Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.

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ESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 104(105):1-4,6-9
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or
Alleluia!
Give thanks to the Lord, tell his name,
  make known his deeds among the peoples.
O sing to him, sing his praise;
  tell all his wonderful works!
...Full Responsorial Psalm
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or
Alleluia!
Give thanks to the Lord, tell his name,
  make known his deeds among the peoples.
O sing to him, sing his praise;
  tell all his wonderful works!
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or
Alleluia!

Be proud of his holy name,
  let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice.
Consider the Lord and his strength;
  constantly seek his face.
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or
Alleluia!

O children of Abraham, his servant,
  O sons of the Jacob he chose.
He, the Lord, is our God:
  his judgements prevail in all the earth.
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or
Alleluia!

He remembers his covenant for ever,
  his promise for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
  the oath he swore to Isaac.
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or
Alleluia!

...Show Summary

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OSPEL ACCLAMATION
cfCol3:16a17
Alleluia, alleluia!
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness,
find a home with you;
through him give thanks to God the Father.
Alleluia!
...Alternative Acclamation
Alleluia, alleluia!
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness,
find a home with you;
through him give thanks to God the Father.
Alleluia!
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Jn10:27
Alleluia, alleluia!
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice,
says the Lord,
I know them and they follow me.
Alleluia!

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OSPEL
Mark 1:29-39
He cast out devils and cured many who were suffering from disease
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
  That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils.
...Full Gospel
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
  That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
  In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.
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ISTEN TO TODAY'S READINGS

(New American Bible.)

G
OSPEL REFLECTION

In today’s gospel reading we have the first clash between Jesus and his disciples in Mark’s Gospel. After a very busy day healing the sick in Capernaum, Jesus withdrew to a lonely place for a time of prayer. Whereas people greatly appreciated Jesus’ healing ministry and wanted more of it, they didn’t seem to appreciate his going off on his own to find time and space for prayer. ...Full Reflection

In today’s gospel reading we have the first clash between Jesus and his disciples in Mark’s Gospel. After a very busy day healing the sick in Capernaum, Jesus withdrew to a lonely place for a time of prayer. Whereas people greatly appreciated Jesus’ healing ministry and wanted more of it, they didn’t seem to appreciate his going off on his own to find time and space for prayer. Jesus’ own disciples didn’t seem to appreciate this either, because Simon Peter and his companions went out in search of him, and when they found him they rebuked him, saying, ‘Everybody is looking for you’, as much as to say, ‘What are you doing out here on your own when there are so many needy people in Capernaum looking for you?’ Jesus, however, did not go back to Capernaum, in spite of the pressure put upon him by all. After his prayer, he went on to other villages and towns. Activity is often more appreciated than prayer, and that is as true of our own time as it was of Jesus’ time. Yet Jesus shows us that the kind of activity which is an expression of God’s work must always be rooted in prayer. In prayer we open ourselves to God’s activity, and that helps to ensure that our activity is in harmony with God’s desire for ourselves and for others.
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AINT OF THE DAY

Old Calendar: St. Marcellus, pope and martyr; St. Honoratus, archbishop (Hist)

According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Marcellus who was elected Pope just at the time when Diocletian had spent somewhat his first violence against the Church.

...Full Version


Old Calendar: St. Marcellus, pope and martyr; St. Honoratus, archbishop (Hist)

According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Marcellus who was elected Pope just at the time when Diocletian had spent somewhat his first violence against the Church. In Rome he reorganized the Catholic hierarchy disrupted by the persecution. He was exiled and put to labor. He is considered a martyr as he died in 309 because of his treatment during his exile.

Historically today is the feast of St. Honoratus who was born in Gaul (modern France) about 350, and came from a distinguished Roman family. After a pilgrimage to Greece and Rome, he became a hermit on the isle of Lerins, where he was joined by Sts Lupus of Troyes (July 29), Eucherius of Lyons (November 16), and Hilary of Arles (May 5), among others.

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St. Marcellus
Diocletian's terrible persecution had taken its toll. It was reported that within a period of thirty days, sixteen thousand Christians were martyred. The Church in Rome was left scattered and disorganized, and the Holy See remained vacant for over two years.

...Full Version


St. Marcellus
Diocletian's terrible persecution had taken its toll. It was reported that within a period of thirty days, sixteen thousand Christians were martyred. The Church in Rome was left scattered and disorganized, and the Holy See remained vacant for over two years. It wasn't until the ascension of Emperor Maxentius and his policy of toleration that a pope could be chosen. Marcellus, a Roman priest during the reign of Marcellinus, was elected.

The new pope was confronted with enormous problems. His first challenge was to reorganize the badly shaken Church. He is said to have accomplished this by dividing Rome into twenty-five parishes, each with its own priest. The next task was more challenging. Once again a pope was faced with the problem of what to do with the many brethren who had compromised their faith during the reign of Diocletian. Marcellus upheld the doctrine of required penance before absolution. The apostates keenly desired readmission to communion, but they violently opposed the harshness of the penance demanded by the rigorist, Marcellus. Riots broke out throughout the city, and even bloodshed, to the point that Emperor Maxentius intervened. He believed that the pontiff was the root of the problem, and in the interest of peace, he banished Marcellus; the pope died a short time later. Apart from persecution, this was the first time that the secular government was known to have interfered with the Church. There is some confusion whether his body was brought back to Rome or whether he was allowed to return to the Holy See before his death. There is no doubt, however, that he was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Via Salaria.

Symbols: Pope with a donkey or horse nearby; pope standing in a stable.

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St. Honoratus
St. Honoratus was of a consular Roman family settled in Gaul. In his youth he renounced the worship of idols, and gained his elder brother, Venantius, to Christ.

...Full Version


St. Honoratus
St. Honoratus was of a consular Roman family settled in Gaul. In his youth he renounced the worship of idols, and gained his elder brother, Venantius, to Christ. Convinced of the hollowness of the things of this world, they wished to renounce it with all its pleasures, but a fond pagan father put continual obstacles in their way. At length, taking with them St. Caprais, a holy hermit, for their director, they sailed from Marseilles to Greece, with the intention to live there unknown in some desert.

Venantius soon died happily at Methone, and Honoratus, being also sick, was obliged to return with his conductor. He first led a hermitical life in the mountains near Frejus. Two small islands lie in the sea near that coast; on the smaller, now known as St. Honoré, our Saint settled, and, being followed by others, he there founded the famous monastery of Lerins, about the year 400. Some of his followers he appointed to live in community; others, who seemed more perfect, in separate cells as anchorets. His rule was chiefly borrowed from that of St. Pachomius.

Nothing can be more amiable than the description St. Hilary has given of the excellent virtues of this company of saints, especially of the charity, concord, humility, compunction, and devotion which reigned among them under the conduct of our holy abbot.

He was, by compulsion, consecrated Archbishop of Arles in 426, and died, exhausted with austerities and apostolical labors, in 429.

Excerpted from Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894]

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ATEST PARISH NEWS
FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY, 2019.

An information sheet has been placed underneath the Epiphany window, at the back of the church, outlining the story of the dedication of the window  by Thomas Byrne.
All are invited to visit and read the notice.
World Meeting of Families 2018 KNOCK
The Whelan family in Rathfarnham were chosen as one of the three families to represent the Archdiocese of Dublin at Knock. See our parish pilgrimage in the Gallery.

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ATEST WORLD NEWS
See more in the Catholic World section. News, Opinion, Reviews, Catholic Teaching, Living the Life.
British women in their 50s increasingly requesting in-vitro fertilization
London, England, Jan 15, 2019 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- In-vitro fertilization clinics in Britain are increasingly helping women over age 55 to conceive children because there is currently no legal age limit for the treatment, according to news reports. “Women have been expected to cram all their life tasks into 15 years between the age of 25 and 40, including having a career, finding a man and having children,” Dr. Nick Macklon, medical director of the London Women's Clinic, was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. “The technology we have opens that up so that they have longer. We believe an age limit for them to deliver at 54 is reasonable.” Women are at greater risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth if they conceive after menopause, which occurs on average at age 51 for British women. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a British professional organization, recommends women have children between the ages of 20-35, and women older than 40 are considered to be at a higher risk of pregnancy complications. Macklon said at his clinic, women over 50 are asked to confirm with an obstetrician that they are fit and healthy for pregnancy, while their medical and social circumstances are also assessed. The London Women’s Clinic has accepted 26 women aged 51 to 54 for egg donation treatment in the three years since it instituted a policy of treating women before their 55th birthday. Dr. Marco Gaudoin, medical director for the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Scotland, told the Daily Mail that his clinic's maximum age of 55 for women using donor eggs was set by its ethics committee, but also that he would consider treating a 60-year-old woman if she were mentally and physically well, and would ask the ethics committee to consider the request. Dr. Gaudoin said it was “sexist” to believe that older women could not have children, when men of the same age could. The Catholic Church has judged IVF treatment to be immoral because it separates the act of procreation from the marital act between a husband and wife. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 issued instruction that laid out guidelines for treatment assisting with infertility, writing that medical techniques regarding fertility must respect the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death, the unity of marriage, and the requirement that “the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.’” The CDF also noted that even in modern IVF treatments, the number of embryos sacrificed in order to achieve pregnancy remains high, and embryos with defects may be discarded altogether. Moreover, IVF disassociates procreation from the personal marital act of a husband and wife, which in itself is ethically unacceptable. “The Church recognizes the legitimacy of the desire for a child and understands the suffering of couples struggling with problems of fertility,” the CDF wrote. “Such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy. The desire for a child cannot justify the “production” of offspring, just as the desire not to have a child cannot justify the abandonment or destruction of a child once he or she has been conceived.” In order for there to be an age limit for IVF treatment set in Britain, the Department of Health would have to change the law. Alternatively the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority could issue guidelines telling clinics not to exceed a certain age. In 2009, a British woman gave birth at age 66 after undergoing fertility treatment in Ukraine. In July 2018, a 58-year-old paid woman £4,500 to undergo IVF in India because British clinics would have turned her down because of her age.  
Pope Francis: What to expect in 2019
Vatican City, Jan 15, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The finalization of a Curial reform process, a reshuffle in some Vatican positions, and an eventual consistory to “refill” the College of Cardinals might be among Pope Francis’ key moves in 2019.   As all eyes are set on the Vatican anti-abuse meeting, to be held Feb. 21-24, Pope Francis is in fact engaged in ongoing to reshape the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals.   The first of the pope’s likely key moves has to do with the College of Cardinals.   After the death of Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, there is no cardinal camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. The camerlengo is chosen by the pope only, and holds is a very delicate position, especially during a sede vacante in the papacy.   When the pope dies, or renounces his seat, “the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three cardinal assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise,” according to the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus.   In general, the camerlengo oversees an office of the papal household that administers the property and revenues of the Holy See.   If the pope doesl not appoint a camerlengo, the cardinals will elect one at the beginning of the sede vacante.   However, Pope Francis might refrain from appointing a new camerlengo before he promulgates a long-awaited apostolic constitution on Vatican governance, Predicate evangelium, which is expected to reshape the offices of the Roman Curia.   There are rumors, in fact, that Pope Francis is going to abolish the pontifical household, including its office within the first section of the Secretariat of State. According to a CNA source familiar with the subject, the idea has been suggested, though the shutdown of the pontifical household does not appear to be imminent.   The abolition of the pontifical household will bring some issues to be solved, since all the competencies of the pontifical household might be divided into other offices: the Sistine Chapel choir would go under the administration of the office for liturgical celebrations, the management of state visits would be placed under the protocol of the Secretariat of State, and so on. It is yet to clarified.   However, the decision would mark a major break with the past. The pontifical household is the direct legacy of the pontifical court, and its presence recalls the religious meaning behind any papal activity.   The rumors about the pontifical household also involve Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the prefect. Ganswein was appointed to the position in 2012 by Benedict XVI. He is now in his  second 5-year term at the helm of the prefecture, while maintaining his position as particular secretary to the Pope Emeritus Benedict.   However, discontinuing the prefecture would prompt Pope Francis to find Ganswein a new position. One of the more widespread rumors is that Ganswein will be appointed secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to replace Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci. Bartolucci will turn the retirement age, 75, in April. Ganswein could also be eligible to take a position within the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is noteworthy that Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect, will end his five-year mandate in November, and it is possible the composition of the congregation’s top ranks will be reshuffled at that time.   Another key move in the Roman Curia might be the shutdown of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei. Established in 1988 by St. John Paul II in order to carry on a dialogue with traditionalist parties, the commission was reformed by Benedict XVI with a 2009 instruction Universae Ecclesiae, linking the commission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   Pope Francis may shut down the commission, making it an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   If the shutdown takes place, the pope will have to find a new post for Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the commission’s president.   The shutdown of both the pontifical household and Ecclesia Dei would be part of the wider project for Curia reform.   At the moment, Praedicate evangelium, that is, the new constitution that will regulate tasks and competencies of Curia offices, is being finalized. Pope Francis will likely want to make an overall revision of the text.   However, most of the structural reforms are already in place: Pope Francis has established the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, merging there the Pontifical Councils for Laity and Family and a part of the competency of the Pontifical Academy for Life; he established the dicatery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, that absorbed the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, Cor Unum, and for Health Care Workers.   Under Pope Francis, the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy have been set up, while the reform of the communication department led to the establishment of the Secretariat for Communication, now a dicastery.   It seems that, at the moment, the other curial offices will not be touched. Cardinal Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, is 76 now, so he has surpassed the usual retirement age. Pope Francis, however, confirmed him at the helm of the dicastery until his 80th birthday. No changes are to be expected there, then.   The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is without a leader since Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, the president, died in July 2018. It is still uncertain whether the pope will appoint a new president or will merge the pontifical council with another Curia office.   While undergoing these major structural changes, it likely Pope Francis will hold another consistory for the creation of new cardinals during this year.   Cardinals are eligible to vote in a conclave when they are under 80. At the moment, there are 124 cardinals who are eligible to vote in a conclave. Out of these, 59 have been created by Pope Francis in five consistories, an average of one consistory per year.   During this year, there will be 10 cardinals that will turn 80, and will not be eligible to vote  in a papal conclave anymore. Out of these 10, three were made cardinals by Pope Francis.   The cardinals aging-out are: Alberto Suarez Inda, Orlando Beltran Quevedo, Edwin O’Brien, Stanislaw Dzwisiz, John Tong Hon, Sean Baptist Brady, Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya, Zenon Grocholewski, Edoardo Menichelli, and Telesphore Placidus Toppo.   By October there will be only 114 cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave, six less than the maximum permitted number of voting cardinals, which was set at 120 by St. Pope Paul VI – Pope Francis made an exception to this number at the last consistory.   All odds say that Pope Francis will hold another consistory, naming new cardinals during 2019. Who will receive new red hats is not foreseen.   It is noteworthy that Archbishop Filippo Iannone, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for  Promoting the New Evangelization, are the only heads of dicasteries without red birettas.   And it is noteworthy that Ireland’s only living representative in the College of Cardinals will age out of voting eligibility. So,  the pope might consider  another Irish cardinal.   However, it is also possible the pope will reward some of the periphery Churches, sticking to the point that all the Church must be represented in the College of Cardinals.   So by the end of 2019, the Roman Curia and College of Cardinals might be completely made in Pope Francis image. And it would be the first time since the beginning of his pontificate.  
How the Knights of Columbus save lives: 1,000 ultrasound machine donations
Arlington, Va., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A program to donate ultrasound machines to U.S. pregnancy centers has passed the 1,000 mark, thanks to the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus and its members. “Building a culture of life requires all of us to strive for the just treatment of innocent unborn children and to accompany with compassionate concern women facing crisis pregnancies,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in the January 2019 issue of Columbia magazine, which is published by the charitable organization. “This program is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.” The 1,000th machine was donated to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, which has already expanded since its December 2017 opening. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and officials of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington joined local Knights of Columbus members at the Jan. 14 celebration marking the milestone. The ultrasound program has put a Knights-sponsored ultrasound machine in every U.S. state and in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, and Peru, as well as places in Africa. Anderson said the 1,000th machine marked “a historic milestone,” adding, “there are still many more milestones ahead of us in the lives of thousands of vulnerable unborn children.” “Our Ultrasound Initiative must continue to expand into every community where it is needed,” he said. One woman who benefitted from the program is Lauren, from South Bend, Ind. She told Columbia magazine that when she was pregnant two years ago she wasn’t sure what decision she should make and didn’t know what to expect from an ultrasound procedure. She went to Women’s Care Center in South Bend, which had received an ultrasound machine through the program. “The only way I can describe it is that it changed me in the blink of an eye,” Lauren said. “The moment I saw my child on the big screen in front of me, I knew I was going to be a mom. It did not matter what I had thought before — all that mattered was loving my child and caring about her safety. I saw her little feet and little arms. I heard her heartbeat as I watched her in front of me. I still have the pictures of the ultrasound that were given to me that day — the day that changed my life forever.” Lauren is still attending college and working “to make a great life for my daughter.” She said pregnant women in similar circumstances should know “Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are never alone.” The ultrasound program was launched in 2009 with the goal of donating 1,000 machines. State or local knights’ councils raise funds half of the ultrasound machine expenses, which is matched from the Supreme Council’s Culture of Life Fund. On average, the machines cost about $30,000 each. According to program details on the Knights of Columbus website, councils must first identify qualified pregnancy centers and have these centers evaluated by the local diocese’s Culture of Life director. Evaluation criteria include whether the proposed beneficiary has the staffing, finances and other resources to justify the purchase of an ultrasound; whether the center’s location, client load and hours of operation justifies the “major expenditure,” ongoing costs, and staffing commitments; whether the center’s practices, policies and history are consistent with Catholic ethics; and whether the pregnancy center is welcoming of Catholics as employees, volunteers and clients. The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened in December 2017 with support from the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. It aims to provide free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in northern Virginia. Many of its patients are recently arrived immigrants. Its new expansion has rooms for prenatal care, offices for adoption services, space for the Gabriel Project service for pregnant mothers in need, and space for the Project Rachael ministry to post-abortive women, the Arlington Catholic Herald reports. The clinic is presently open 24 to 36 hours per week for no-cost patient care. It averages 65-70 patients a week and 209 registered volunteers, including five primary care physicians, four nurse practitioners, two cardiologists, an obstetrician, a pulmonologist, an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, and a pharmacist. The clinic also gives referrals for other services. Bishop Burbidge blessed the ultrasound machine, the new expansion, and those gathered at the clinic on Monday. “We want to do everything we can to promote the gospel of life, but ultimately it’s entrusting our work and our intentions to the Lord,” he said, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s ultimately his work and upon his grace that we must depend.” The clinic is located in a medical office formerly occupied by one of the area’s largest abortion clinics, Amethyst Health Center for Women, which closed in September 2015 when its owner retired. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1882 by Connecticut priest Ven. Michael J. McGivney, have close to 2 million members worldwide. It recently made the news when two Democratic U.S. senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a Catholic judicial nominee about his membership in the group, citing its stands against abortion and same-sex marriage. They asked whether membership could prevent judges from serving “fairly and impartially.” The questioning drew strong objections from many Catholics and other public figures.
AG nominee says Catholic faith not an issue
Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general William Barr said Tuesday that he does not think his Catholic faith is an impediment to leading the Department of Justice.   Barr, a practicing Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus, was asked by Sen. Joe Kennedy (R-LA) if he were Catholic and what this meant.   “You’re a Roman Catholic, are you not?” asked Kennedy. After Barr confirmed that he was, Kennedy then asked him if he thought that this “disqualified” him from having a position in the U.S. government.   “Some of my colleagues think it might,” Kennedy added. Barr replied that if he were the attorney general, he would “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”   Kennedy’s question appeared to reference the recent controversy that erupted following a CNA report that Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned judicial nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, which they described as an organization with “extreme views” that are “opposed to marriage equality” and “women’s reproductive rights.”   If confirmed, Barr will replace Matthew Whitaker, who has served in the role on an acting basis since the resignation of Jeff Sessions in early November.   Barr previously held the post of attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from November of 1991 until January 20, 1993. Prior to that, he served as deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.   After leaving the White House in 1993, Barr worked in private practice. Most recently, he was with the firm Kirkland & Ellis. A practicing Catholic, he a graduate of Columbia University and George Washington University law school.   The Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization with approximately 2 million members. Last year they carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. As a Catholic organization, it holds views that are in line with Church teaching.   Buescher said that he would not be leaving the Knights of Columbus if he were to be confirmed to the district court, and that he joined the organization because of its charitable work. He said that it was the “role and obligation” of a judge to “apply the law without regard to any personal beliefs regarding the law.”   At least six other judicial nominees have faced scrutiny from Democratic senators over their Christian faith or membership in the Knights of Columbus since President Donald Trump took office. Last May, District Judge Peter J. Phipps was asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) during his confirmation hearing about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, and if he stood by the group’s pro-life mission.   Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who now sits on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was questioned about her Catholic faith by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).   “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” said Feinstein, adding, “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”   Feinstein also pressed Judge Michael Scudder, who is now on the Seventh Circuit Court, if he had been involved through his local parish in the creation of a home for women facing crisis pregnancies. Scudder said he did not know if the home had ever even been built.   Last November, Feinstein asked Third Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Paul Matey about his involvement in the Knights of Columbus, and if he intended on either leaving the organization or recusing himself from any case if the Knights had taken a position.   Similar to Buescher, Matey said that his involvement in the Knights was limited to “participation in charitable and community events in local parishes,” and that he was not involved in any policy work with the organization.  
UK Court of Appeals will hear challenge to exclusion zones in Ealing, London
The UK Court of Appeal will hear a pro-life activist’s challenge against London’s Ealing Council regarding its Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which criminalised pro-life activity outside abortion clinics. Simon Harris is considering a similar nationwide ban here. If imposed, it would be the first nationwide ban in Europe. According to the Order, no one near the business may express approval or disapproval of abortion, pray, hand out literature offering material support to women who might wish an alternative to abortion, or “interfere” with the business’s clients in any way. Alina Dulgheriu lost her original case in the High Court but was “delighted” that the Court of Appeal will reconsider that decision. She herself changed her mind about having an abortion when she was approached by pro-life activists outside an abortion clinic. She is shocked that the Council had “criminalised charity and attempted to remove dedicated and caring individuals from public space without justification.” “I cannot imagine a society where a simple offer of help to a woman who might want to keep her child is seen as a criminal offence,” she added. “I refuse to accept that women should be denied the opportunity to receive help where they want to keep their child.” Although powerful supporters of the UK abortion industry called for similar PSPOs to be imposed across the country, even some pro-abortion British activists protest using PSPOs to shut down freedom. In May 2018, leading LGBT activist Peter Tatchell was among the pro-abortion signatories of a letter to the Times condemning the Ealing Council PSPO. Last September the British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that he would not be imposing nationwide “buffer zones” outside abortion businesses, saying that such a measure “would not be a proportionate response” given the realities of pro-life activism in the UK.
UK doctors to be polled on assisted suicide law changes
Doctors in the UK will be asked if they would personally help a terminally ill patient commit suicide and whether they would support changing the law to permit assisted suicide. In sharp contrast to how Irish legislators and medical bodies proceeded with legislating for abortion, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is to poll its 35,000 members on their views before forming a corporate position. RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said the College is frequently asked for its stance on this high-profile issue, which may be cited in legal cases and parliamentary debate, so, “it is essential that we base this on an up-to-date understanding of our members’ and fellows’ views.” The RCP said it will adopt a neutral position until two-thirds of respondents say that it should be in favour or opposed to a change in the law. It said this means it will neither support or oppose a change in the law so it can reflect the differing views of its members and fellows in discussions with government and others. Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK, with doctors facing a jail term of up to 14 years under the Suicide Act 1961. Countries like Netherlands and Belgium have seen a sharp rise in the number of assisted suicides since each legalised it, or broadened the grounds for it.
China's crackdown on Christians continues
Beijing, China, Jan 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A campaign by the Chinese government to 'Sinicize' religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country, and the closing of underground churches to the east. In early December, Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained in Sichuan province. Some were released the next day, but then put under house arrest. The Observer, a sister paper to The Guardian, reported Jan. 13 that Wang's ecclesial community, Early Rain Covenant Church, has now been closed, and that Wang and his wife remain in detention,charged with inciting subversion. Some members of the community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others are under surveillance. The building rented by Early Rain Covenant Church has new tenants, and police turn away those looking for the church. According to The Observer, another church was put under investigation in the Sichuanese capital last week, a Sunday school was raided in Guangzhou in December, and a 1,500-member church in Beijing has been “banned … after its pastor refused to install CCTV.” Part of the plan to Sinicize Christianity, The Observer reported, is “thought reform”: “The plan calls for 'retranslating and annotating' the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a 'correct understanding' of the text.” Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. The Sinizication of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities. The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a government-sanctioned organization. In December, two bishops of the underground Catholic Church agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the CPCA, in the wake of a deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government. And the month prior, four priests from the underground Church in Hebei province who refused to join the CPCA were taken into police custody for indoctrination. The US Commission on International Religion wrote in its 2018 report that last year China “advanced its so-called 'sinicization' of religion, a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with 'Chinese characteristics.'” Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have all been affected. The September 2018 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the CPCA. The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. In 2017, Xi said that religions not sufficiently conformed to communist ideals pose a threat to the country’s government, and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.” Since he took power, crosses have been removed from an estimated 1,500 church buildings. And a government official who oversees religious affairs said in April 2018 that government restrictions on bishop appointments are not a violation of religious freedom, as he emphasized that religions in China must “adapt to socialist society.” The official, Chen Zongrong, added that “I believe there is no religion in human society that transcends nations.” Restrictions put in place in February 2018 made it illegal for anyone under age 18 to enter a church building. Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong. Muslims, too, have come under pressure from the Chinese government. It is believed that as many as 1 million Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnoreligious group in China's far west, are being held in extra-legal detention. Mosques in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region have had Islamic icons, Arabic signs, and domes removed.
Pro-choice and pro-life majorities want more abortion restrictions, poll shows
Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2019 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A new poll shows that while most Americans identify themselves as pro-choice, the vast majority of the same group support increased restrictions on abortion.   The poll found that overwhelming majorities of people, even those who identify as “pro-choice” in theory, support major restrictions on abortion. The poll also found only minority support for late term abortion.   The poll, conducted by Marist Poll and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, surveyed 1,066 American adults between January 8th and 10th.   While the headline number showing a majority of Americans calling themselves pro-choice would suggest a similar number would oppose abortion restrictions, they do not tell the whole story, Marist Poll Director Barbara Carvalho and Knights of Columbus Vice President Andrew Walther explained in a call with members of the media.   “We actually have an enormous amount of support [for restricting abortion] from Americans of all political stripes,” said Walther.   “We’re not really looking at a lot of people at the extremes, as we often hear in the debate in Washington,” said Carvalho. “But we actually see one where there is a good deal of common ground on a whole host of policy positions.”   Only 25 percent of those who identified themselves as pro-choice said they believed abortion should be available to a woman at any time during a pregnancy, the current law in the United States. Conversely, 42 percent of pro-choice respondents said that they believed abortion should only be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy.   In total, 55 percent of those surveyed said they identified as pro-choice, compared to 38 percent who claimed to be pro-life, and seven percent who were unsure.   When further broken down by political parties, 20 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Republicans, and 38 percent of independents said they were pro-life; 75 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent were pro-choice.   Among those who identify as pro-life, 24 percent said that abortion should never be legal, and another 22 percent said that it should be legal only to save the life of the mother.   Slightly more than four out of 10 people who called themselves pro-life said that abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.   When specifically asked if abortion should be banned after 20 weeks gestation, when fetuses are capable of feeling pain, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would support or strongly support a ban. Slightly under one third of respondents said they would be opposed or strongly opposed to a ban.   For the first time, Marist surveyed what respondents would like to see the Supreme Court do if Roe v. Wade were to be reconsidered.   Three out of 10 respondents said that they would like to see the Supreme Court hold abortion to be legal without restriction, as Roe decided.   Nearly half of respondents--49 percent--said they would like the Supreme Court to allow states to make certain restrictions, similar to the legal framework pre-Roe.   Only 16 percent said that they would like the Supreme Court to make abortion illegal in all circumstances.   The poll did show that Americans largely disagree with the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, both in the United States and abroad.   Three out of four people surveyed said that they were opposed or strongly opposed to the use of public money to pay for abortion abroad, 54 percent said they were opposed to tax dollars being used to pay for abortion at all.   In the United States, the Mexico City Policy prevents the use of U.S. funds from being given to organizations that provide or promote abortion abroad, and the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of taxpayer money from being spent on abortions domestically.   The Democratic Party has made the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and overturning the Mexico City Policy part of its party platform.   This is the 11th year Marist and the Knights of Columbus have polled abortion and pro-life attitudes in the United States.
Lori announces whistleblower system for allegations against Baltimore bishops
Baltimore, Md., Jan 15, 2019 / 01:13 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Baltimore introduced Tuesday a third-party system for reporting allegations of abuse or misconduct against its archbishop and other bishops serving in the archdiocese. “I pray this step and our continued commitment to child protection will send a clear message to the faithful of this local Church that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated and that those in positions of authority, namely bishops, will be held accountable for keeping the Church safe, especially for children and others who may be vulnerable,” Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori told reporters Jan. 15. “In this we hope to begin rebuilding the confidence of trust of those we serve, and the wider community.” Lori is one of four bishops active in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Bishops Adam Parker and Mark Brennan are auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese, and Bishop William Madden is a retired auxiliary bishop who is still active in the archdiocese, an archdiocesan spokesman told CNA. The third-party reporting system is administered by Ethics Point, which also facilitates third-party whistleblower reporting in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for fraud, theft, workplace and school safety and harassment issues, and allegations of sexual misconduct by diocesan priests, deacons, employees, or volunteers. Complaints made through the Ethics Point systems about bishops will be routed to Baltimore’s diocesan review board, a lay led panel that will be charged with reporting allegation to civil authorities and the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s diplomatic and administrative representative to the U.S. The system does not facilitate complaints against bishops other than those active in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Lori told reporters that in 2002, when the U.S. bishops’ conference developed policies to address child sexual abuse by priests or deacons, “the nation’s bishops drew a line in the sand by establishing clear and consistent standards of accountability and transparency for priests, deacons and others working in the Church. Those standards are working and have contributed to increased scrutiny and accountability. “Now it is time for the Church to establish similar consistent standards for bishops. Therefore, I have asked that the lay Independent Review Board serve as the direct recipient for any allegations of abuse or misconduct by a bishop serving in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.” The archbishop said he had also asked the diocesan review to issue an annual report on the the archdiocese has handled abuse allegations. “There must be a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and approach for dealing with any priest, bishop, employee or volunteer who violates their office and harms in any way a young person or adult.  Moreover, the high-profile case of former Cardinal McCarrick makes clear that utmost accountability must be required of all, regardless of rank,” Lori said. The announcement of the third-party reporting system comes one month before the Vatican will hold a summit on the sexual abuse of minors for bishops’ conference leaders from around the world. That meeting is not expected to produce specific policies on sexual abuse, but is expected to charge bishops to create policy on the national level. The announcement comes two months after the U.S. bishops’ conference was stopped by the Vatican from voting on proposals that would have created a nationalized third-party whistleblower system for reporting allegations against bishops, and a lay-led independent commission for investigating those allegations. The Vatican said it had not had sufficient time to review the proposals ahead of the scheduled vote. The Baltimore policy resembles some aspects of those proposed policies, although the diocesan review board would apparently not be charged with investigation allegations independently, and would instead forward them directly to Church authorities. The possibility of lay investigations of bishops has raised concern among some Catholics, who note that only the pope is empowered to investigate bishops regarding potential canonical offenses. Lori, 67, has led the Archdiocese of Baltimore since 2012. In September 2018, the archbishop was also assigned to lead temporarily the neighboring Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, and to investigate allegations of “sexual harassment of adults” against Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned from the diocese at that time. The archbishop has for months called for lay involvement in addressing the Church’s sexual abuse crisis. In August, he said that the anger, disillusion, or frustration of Catholics over the sexual abuse crisis “must be met with more than prayers and promises. They must also be met with action by any and all with responsibility for ensuring the safety of children and others in our care." Laity must be a part of the solution to the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, he said, “for no longer can we expect the faithful to entrust this to the hierarchy, alone."    
Pope advances sainthood causes of 17 women
Vatican City, Jan 15, 2019 / 11:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis approved Tuesday the next step in the canonization causes of 17 women from four countries, including the martyrdom of 14 religious sisters killed in Spain at the start of the Spanish Civil War. After meeting with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Jan. 15, the pope gave his approval to the declaration of the martyrdom of Sr. Maria del Carmen and 13 companions, all religious sisters of the Order of Franciscan Conceptionists, who were killed in Madrid in 1936. Francis also approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Swiss laywoman Bl. Marguerite Bays, paving the way for her canonization in 2019. Bays, who was born in La Pierraz, Switzerland in 1815, was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. She never married but gave her life to the needs of the people of her parish and neighborhood, especially the sick and dying, children and young girls, and the poor, whom she called “God’s favorites.” After developing intestinal cancer at the age of 35, Bays asked Our Lady to intercede that her suffering from cancer would be exchanged for a suffering more directly connected to the suffering of Christ at his Passion. The holy woman was miraculously healed of the cancer Dec. 8, 1854, the day Bl. Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. After the healing, Bays began to experience a sort-of ecstatic immobilization every Friday, where she would relive physically and spiritually the events of Christ's passion. Bays also received the stigmata. Bays’ deep devotion to prayer, which had been a focus of her life since childhood, included a strong love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for praying the rosary. She also loved the Eucharist and spent many hours in adoration. Bays died at 3:00pm, on Friday, June 27, 1879, and was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1995. Two women were also declared Venerable Jan. 15: Anna Kaworek, a Pole and cofounder of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Michael the Archangel (1872-1936); Maria Soledad Sanjurjo Santos (religious name Maria Consolata), a sister of the Congregation of the Servants of Mary Ministers of the Infirm (1892-1973) from Puerto Rico.
Pope tells Life academy to defend human dignity with courage
Vatican City, Jan 15, 2019 / 06:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dialogue with society for the protection of human dignity and the common good, which are under threat, Pope Francis said in a letter to the Pontifical Academy for Life, published Tuesday. “We know that the threshold of basic respect for human life is being crossed, and brutally at that, not only by instances of individual conduct but also by the effects of societal choices and structures,” the pope wrote. In an over 3,000-word letter to the president of the Vatican’s life academy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Francis encouraged the group to be a place “for courageous dialogue in the service of the common good.” As never before, he said, business strategies and the pace of technological development is influencing “biomedical research, educational priorities, investment decisions and the quality of interpersonal relationships.” A love for creation, deepened and illuminated by faith, has “the possibility of directing economic development and scientific progress towards the covenant between man and woman, towards caring for our common humanity and towards the dignity of the human person,” he said. Sent for the 25th anniversary of the academy’s institution, the letter urged active participation in the intercultural, interdisciplinary, and interreligious discussion of human rights. “At stake is the understanding and exercise of a justice that demonstrates the essential role of responsibility in the discussion of human rights,” duties, and solidarity with those in need, he said. The pope’s letter also commented on the need for the Church to study “emergent” and “convergent” technologies, such as formation and communication technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and robotics. Due to advancements in physics, genetics, neuroscience and computing, it is now possible to make “profound interventions on living organisms,” he said, which creates a “pressing need” to understand “these epochal changes and new frontiers” in order to put them at the service of the human person while “respecting and promoting the intrinsic dignity of all.” Pope Francis noted that Pope St. John Paul II’s institution of the academy on Feb. 11, 1994, was, as he wrote at the time, to promote research, education, and communications which show “that science and technology, at the service of the human person and his fundamental rights, contribute to the overall good of man and to the fulfilment of the divine plan of salvation.” The Pontifical Academy for Life’s new statutes, adopted in October 2016, were intended to give a “renewed impetus” to this task and to engagement with contemporary issues surrounding technological and scientific advancement, he explained. “It is time,” he wrote, “for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples,” knowing that they are not completely closed off “to the seeds of faith and the works of this universal fraternity sown by the Gospel of the kingdom of God.” Fraternity must continue to be emphasized, the letter continues. “It is one thing to resign oneself to seeing life as a battle against constant foes, but something entirely different to see our human family as a sign of the abundant life of God the Father and the promise of a common destiny redeemed by the infinite love that even now sustains it in being.” Pope Francis also praised the 25-year history of the academy, which he said has shown a “constant effort to protect and promote human life and every stage of its development,” condemning abortion and euthanasia as “extremely grave evils.” “These efforts must certainly continue, with an eye to emerging issues and challenges that can serve as an opportunity for us to grow in the faith, to understand it more deeply and to communicate it more effectively to the people of our time,” he said.  
Should Catholic health plans cover transgender surgeries? Settlement raises questions
Seattle, Wash., Jan 15, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- A Catholic healthcare network has settled an ACLU lawsuit over transgender surgeries, saying that it has covered these procedures in its employee medical plan since January 2017. Plaintiffs in the suit said they want Catholic employers to cover minors’ transition surgeries as well, though one leading Catholic ethicist says Catholic institutions can’t ethically provide these health plan options for anyone, adults or minors. “People who suffer from gender dysphoria exhibit great anguish. We can acknowledge this and should accompany them on a personal level and try to offer effective interventions,” John F. Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA. “However, just because someone requests some intervention doesn't mean it should be provided. Sometimes people who are depressed request assistance in suicide, but no one, including Catholics, should provide such assistance.” Brehany said such coverage falls short on Catholic ethical grounds and the medical evidence for the benefits of these surgeries is lacking. “There is no clear and compelling evidence that gender transitioning interventions ‘cure’ or resolve the anguish of people suffering extreme distress from gender dysphoria. In fact, there is some evidence that those who complete sex reassignment surgery are more likely to commit suicide than those who do not.” In October 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a federal lawsuit against PeaceHealth on behalf of an employee claiming it was “discriminatory and illegal” for the medical plan not to cover a mastectomy and chest reconstruction for a 16-year-old child who identifies as transgender. The ACLU affiliate said the minor, Paxton Enstad, was born female and has “a male gender identity.” A doctor had prescribed the mastectomy and chest reconstruction but the health plan declined to cover it, citing a lack of coverage for “transgender services.” PeaceHealth and the plaintiffs “reached a mutually agreeable settlement of the litigation,” the ACLU affiliate said Jan. 2. “We applaud PeaceHealth’s decision to include coverage for transition-related care in their employee medical plan, and hope it will set a good example for other employers to follow suit,” said Lisa Nowlin, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Washington. The lawsuit charged that not including these services in the medical plan coverage constituted discrimination under the Affordable Care Act and Washington state anti-discrimination law, the Bellingham Herald reports. “PeaceHealth was telling me my son was undeserving of medical care simply because he’s transgender. It’s heartbreaking. It is not fair,” Cheryl Enstad, the mother of the young patient, said at a press conference after the lawsuit was filed. From 1996 to 2017, Cheryl was a medical social worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash., a coastal city near the Canadian border. PeaceHealth is based in Vancouver, with over 15,000 employees and 10 medical centers in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. It traces its history to the institution founded in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. On its website it describes itself as “the legacy of the founding Sisters” that “continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its mission.” Its system’s Dec. 21, 2018 announcement described its history of employee health care coverage for transgender care. “In 2016, prior to the filing of the Enstad lawsuit, PeaceHealth began the process of updating its employee medical plan,” the healthcare network said. “Effective January 1, 2017, PeaceHealth’s employee medical plan was changed to cover medically necessary transgender surgery as determined under Aetna’s Gender Reassignment Surgery policy, a nationally-recognized guideline.” Brehany said Catholic institutions should not cover such services because “they are often provided based on the mistaken belief that one can and may change his or her outward bodily appearance in a significant manner to match an inner belief about ‘true gender identity’.” Catholic ethics includes principles like “respect for the body as created” and “the inadmissibility of mutilating or destroying one’s body or parts,” he said. Brehany’s organization, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, does not provide medical or legal advice, but “ethical discernment” about bioethical issues based on Church teaching and the Catholic moral tradition. For Cheryl Enstad, the result was “bittersweet” because the policy change did not go far enough. “Our number one priority in bringing this case was to ensure access to gender-affirming care for transgender people, and we are pleased PeaceHealth changed its policy,” she said. But we hope that PeaceHealth eventually removes the age-related limitation on coverage.” The plaintiffs in the lawsuit still objected to the amended policy because Aetna’s gender reassignment coverage does not include mastectomies and chest reconstruction surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria Because Paxton is no longer a minor, the lawsuit cannot challenge the amended plan. The PeaceHealth statement stressed its commitment to “an inclusive healthcare environment for all” and said it “does not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis prohibited by applicable federal, state, or local law.” In its over 100 years of service, it said, “we have been dedicated to embracing and celebrating the diversity of our communities, our caregivers and the individuals we are privileged to serve.” Paxton’s problems reportedly began around puberty, with poor functioning and withdrawal from activities. Attempts to treat depression had little effect, the northwestern U.S. news site Crosscut said. Paxton claimed to have self-diagnosed gender dysphoria through self-research. Paxton’s doctor suggested the surgery, which took place in 2016. The family took out a second mortgage and used college fund money, but also paid $11,000 out of pocket for the operation. Brehany said there is a need for caution in accepting minors’ claims about their identity. “Minors in particular should be protected from their own immaturity and from advocacy organizations who claim to have their best interests at heart,” he told CNA. “The vast majority of minors resolve doubts about their gender identity by age 18. Interventions, such as puberty blockers, provided early in life make it harder to accept that biological sexual identity and can cause major health and developmental issues, including sterility.” The ACLU cited standards of care from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, saying these standards are recognized as authoritative by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. These standards mean “it may be medically necessary for some transgender people to undergo treatment to affirm their gender identity and transition from living as one gender to another.” This treatment may include hormone therapy, surgery and other medical services that “align individuals’ bodies with their gender identities.” According to Brehany, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health is “comprised significantly of people committed to using the full resources of medicine to support people in their mistaken beliefs.” “Most secular standard medical societies have gone along because their leadership complies with the demands of activists,” he said. “Their position statements or guidelines often do not represent the beliefs of most of their members.” The ACLU of Washington is in legal action against another Catholic non-profit hospital network, Providence Health and Services, and its affiliate Swedish Health Services. Providence is the largest healthcare provider in the state. That lawsuit, filed in December 2017, concerns a 30-year-old law student’s claims that his chest reconstruction surgery was abruptly canceled. Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney with the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal, said that employer plans appear to be changing to include transgender services, many individual hospitals and doctors, especially Catholic ones, decline such services on the grounds of religious exemptions. “It is a growing problem that we are seeing nationally because of the consolidation of hospitals,” he told Crosscut, noting that most hospitals in Washington state are Catholic-affiliated. For several decades the national ACLU has been charging that Catholic hospitals wrongly refuse certain medical procedures, like sterilization and abortion, that the legal group says are necessary to ensure reproductive rights. There is also a growing effort, based out of social change funders and strategists like the New York-based Arcus Foundation and the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund, to limit religious freedom they consider to be discriminatory and in violation of what they consider to be LGBT or reproductive rights.  
Jan. 15 Tuesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time; Our Lady of Prompt Succor; Black Christ of Esquipulas (Guatemala) , Weekday
It was from St. Jerome (+ 420) that the west learned of the life of St. Paul the Hermit; the book, which he devoted to the life of the first Christian hermit, charmed and instructed generations of the faithful and formed the inspiration of many artists. St. Paul is said to have died in 341, in a hermitage in the region of Thebes in Egypt after having received at the age of 113 a visit from St. Antony. According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, St. Paul is celebrated as a Confessor, III class and St. Maurus is commemorated.
Guatemalan bishops express support for UN anti-corruption commission
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Jan 14, 2019 / 07:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The bishops of Guatemala expressed Thursday their grave concern at confrontations among governmental branches over a UN anti-corruption investigatory body. The Guatemalan government informed the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala Jan. 7 that its member were to leave the country within 24 hours. The commission had begun investigating president Jimmy Morales over election fraud and funding irregulaties in his 2015 campaign. Its remit is not due to end until September. The Constitutional Court granted a temporary injunction Jan. 9 to block the government's decision. However, the Supreme Court of Justice then held a preliminary hearing to strip immunity from prosecution for judicial malfeasance from three of the five judges on the Constitutional Court, which has created tensions among the branches of government. The Guatemalan bishops' conference said Jan. 10 that “We deeply lament the open confrontation between the current government and other legitimately constituted state agencies which puts at risk the already fragile rule of law in the country. Therefore we reaffirm the need to defend the primacy of the rule of law and respect for the laws, beginning with the Constitution." They also said that they viewed “with satisfaction and relief the actions consistent with the law taken by the Constitutional Court” and rejected the “polarization that, taken to its extremes, degenerates into violence with grave consequences for social peace.” “Thus energies are wasted that should be directed toward the solution of the country's serious underlying problems such as deficiencies in healthcare, education, social inequality, unemployment, migration, the victims of natural disasters, disrespect for human rights  and so many others that are detrimental to the quality of life,” the bishops said. In their communiqué the bishops also expressed their desire that the June 16 general elections “unfold under the conditions of the rule of law.” “We ask all Guatemalans to be adequately informed. God willing, we will all do our best to ensure that the next electoral process be an opportunity to find solutions for the common good, for corruption or illegal financing,” they added. Finally the Guatemalan bishops exhorted the entire Christian people to “to pray and commit themselves to building a different Guatemala.” In addition to the statement of the Guatemalan bishops' conference, Bishop Alvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri of Huehuetenango stated his worry Jan. 9 at president Morales' decision, “contrary to the constitutional norms and principles and to the norms of international law,” to expel the anti-corruption commission. The CICIG has been operating since 2006. It has no prosecutorial power, but rather assists in investigations, which are handed over to Guatemalan prosecutors. It has helped to make cases against high-profile politicians and business leaders.  This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Pope Francis meets with Chilean bishops to discuss abuse crisis
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Analysis: The fall of Cardinal Wuerl
Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- For the last six months, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has managed to keep his head above water amid dogged and persistent criticism of his leadership. The cardinal managed to draw praise from the pope even while his priests and parishioners called for his ouster from Washington, DC, and he managed to remain in a leadership position in Washington’s archdiocese even amid a growing body of concern about his ability to lead a diocese at all.   But this week, Wuerl seems to have reached the end of whatever combination of luck and skill has kept him on his feet.   It now seems clear that Wuerl’s mandate to lead, and whatever was left of his legacy as a reformer, are gone. All that is left now seems for the pope to announce his successor, and for Wuerl to make his quiet exit from public life.   Last week, CNA reported that in 2004 Cardinal Donald Wuerl was made aware of an allegation that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick had engaged in inappropriate behavior with seminarians. This was a surprise to some, since Wuerl has denied for months that he had ever heard even rumors about McCarrick’s alleged sexual behavior.   Set against last week’s revelation, Wuerl’s seven months of denial appear to undercut completely his decades-long career, which until the events of the last year was marked by a reputation for competence and reliability.   After months of repeated and increasingly narrow denials, news that Wuerl forwarded 14 years ago a direct accusation against McCarrick to Rome is seen nearly everywhere as the final blow to the cardinal’s credibility.   Wuerl is the Archdiocese of Washington’s apostolic administrator, essentially a placeholder for his own successor. His resignation as Washington’s archbishop was accepted by Pope Francis in October 2018. At that time, the move was widely understood as a response to the cumulative weight of scandal following the McCarrick revelations and the July release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, in which he was named more than 200 times.   Francis seemed to accept Wuerl’s resignation as archbishop with reluctance, and he heaped  praise on the cardinal while he did so.   “You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you,” the pope wrote in October.   In the light of last week’s revelations, that praise now looks, to many Catholics, to have been seriously misplaced.   --   When the first accusation against McCarrick was made public in June last year, involving the abuse of a minor, Wuerl spoke of his “shock and sadness.”   In the following weeks, numerous accusations surfaced about McCarrick’s conduct with seminarians in the now-famous beach house, and even in the cathedral rectory in Newark.   Wuerl was repeatedly asked what he knew about McCarrick’s apparently serial misconduct with minors, priests, and seminarians. The cardinal responded, on camera, that he had never even heard rumors about his predecessor.   In a private address to Washington priests about the subject last summer, Wuerl joked that bishops are “often the last to know” about widespread rumors.   His tone shifted after it was discovered that he had known for more than a decade that McCarrick was accused of sexual improprieties with seminarians.   In a letter to Washington priests sent Saturday, Wuerl said that when he “stated publicly that I was never aware of any such allegation or rumors [about McCarrick],” his denial “was in the context of the charges of sexual abuse of minors, which at the time was the focus of discussion and media attention.”   “While one may interpret my statement in a different context,” he wrote, “the discussion around and adjudication of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior concern his abuse of minors.”   On several occasions last year, a spokesman for Wuerl told CNA that the cardinal took “no particular interest” in where McCarrick lived or ministered during his retirement - especially as it pertained to his contact with seminarians. CNA was told Wuerl was unaware of any reason he should be concerned about McCarrick’s seminary domicile.   Wuerl told priests this weekend that his words were being placed in a “different context” than one in which he said them. The effect of his denials seems to be that his entire life of ministry is now being evaluated in a “different context” than the one he would have preferred.   --   In August 2018, former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released his first “testimony,” a letter that alleged, among many other accusations, that McCarrick’s life and ministry had been restricted in his retirement by order of Pope Benedict XVI.   Vigano charged that McCarrick had been ordered out of the seminary where he lived, and that Wuerl was well aware of both his predecessor’s situation and of Rome’s efforts to curtail his ministry. Wuerl denied ever receiving specific “documents or information” about any such restrictions, despite conceding that he had intervened to cancel an event at which McCarrick was due to address aspiring seminarians.   In the weeks and months following Vigano’s intervention, as some of Vigano’s assertions were confirmed, Cardinal Wuerl’s denials about what he knew and when about McCarrick appeared to many to become markedly more narrow and carefully worded.   CNA also discovered that, even after Wuerl had first been informed of the New York allegation against McCarrick in 2017, he declined to warn the religious order providing McCarrick with seminarians to serve as his personal staff - much to their frequent discomfort.   Despite that, Wuerl’s supporters have been willing to believe, until now, that his apparent inaction in Washington must be the result of some misunderstanding.   Just a few months ago, Wuerl still enjoyed support from Church watchers who felt he was being unfairly singled out, and his quiet support for a new phase of reforms held weight in Rome.   In the light of last week’s revelation, many are now saying that Wuerl’s failure to act on or acknowledge what he now says he learned in 2004 marks the final landslide in the erosion of his reputation as a credible reformer on the issue of sexual abuse.   --   As the bishops of the United States gathered at Mundelein Seminary for a retreat earlier this month, they received a letter from Pope Francis underscoring the “crisis of credibility” facing the US hierarchy.   During the 2018 U.S. bishops’ conference meeting in Baltimore last November, Wuerl spoke from the floor, recalling that in 2002 St. John Paul II invited the U.S. bishops to begin “a time of profound purification, not just personal but institutional.”   “That frame of reference has to be with us today,” he told the bishops.   “Transparency on the level of a diocese but [also] transparency on the level of all of us working together: I think that is going to be a very significant factor,” he said.   “We’ve come a long way since 2002, but we still have some way to go.”   “Part of purification is [that] sometimes we simply have to take personal responsibility,” Wuerl told the bishops.   The conclusion now being drawn by many commentators is that, by his own measure, Wuerl cannot now continue even as administrator of the archdiocese he once led.   --   For decades, Wuerl was known for advancing policies and systems to deal quickly and efficiently with accusations of abuse against priests. But, many now observe, when asked about McCarrick in June 2018,r his first instinct - conscious or otherwise - was to dissemble. In that, it has been observed, he appears now to embody the cause of, not the solution to, the “crisis of credibility” the pope identified.   Wuerl’s eventual departure from Washington is a coming certainty. But the mere appointment of a successor is in itself unlikely to quiet those outraged by last week’s revelation.   Wuerl’s “precision of language” in recent months, some say, has effectively salted the earth behind him.   Increasingly, many prominent Catholics are voicing their concern that Wuerl’s response to questions about McCarrick betrays a culture of evasion, even among those bishops with the strongest reforming credentials.   Wuerl’s example, they say, demonstrates that no bishop armed only with policies can bring systemic change to an episcopal culture which turns inwards in the face of hard truths. Individuals, many are saying, not policies create and sustain that culture, and it is they that need systemic change - beginning with Wuerl. As Pope Francis has argued to the U.S. bishops, integrity must precede policy if policy is to have any effect.   Facing a diocese and a city hardened against him even before he arrives, Wuerl’s eventual successor is likely to need near heroic reserves of sincerity and humility in the face of the Church’s failings.   Washington Catholics are saying they want a bishop with the courage to make decisions rooted in truth and justice, not policy and procedure, and one with the mind and heart to explain those decisions patiently, and without reservation, to a world which may not understand or accept them.   They are praying they receive such a shepherd, and soon.
Diabolical possession very rare, priest says
Charleston, S.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 09:01 am (CNA).- While an exorcist of the Diocese of Charleston has received many more requests relating to diabolical possession in recent years, the phenomenon is in fact exceedingly rare, he said. Fr. Marreddy Allam told the Post and Courier that on coming to South Carolina in 2013, he received 10 requests for exorcisms, and that that figure had jumped to about 45 by 2018. However, in the past five years, only one of these persons was the subject of diabolical possession. Fr. Allam expressed that prayer, therapy, or medical treatment are often what is needed for those who think themselves possessed. Fr. Bryan Babick, another priest of the Charleston diocese, reflected that the rise in requests for exorcism may be related to occult practices, as people “are seeking the supernatural in other places, such as Wicca and even worship of Satan.” Fr. Jeff Kirby, also a priest of Charleston, said that “as our society begins to engage in areas of darkness, there are spiritual consequences of that.” Fr. Babick said, “Not everyone who thinks they are possessed is, and sometimes medical science relative to mental health is not as equipped to treat every condition as it thinks.”
Judges block Little Sisters' religious exemption from contraception mandate
Philadelphia, Pa., Jan 14, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Judges in California and Pennsylvania have issued injunctions against a Trump administration rule that would allow the Little Sisters of the Poor and similar groups to claim a religious exemption against the Department of Health and Human Services so-called Contraception Mandate. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a preliminary injunction Jan. 13 that affects 13 states plus the District of Columbia in the case State of California v. HHS. Gillam declined to issue the nationwide injunction requested by the plaintiffs, the attorneys general of several states led by California. Responding to the ruling, Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Sunday’s decision “will allow politicians to threaten the rights of religious women like the Little Sisters of the Poor,” whom the Becket Fund represents. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction blocking the same rule in her decision for the case Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump. “We never wanted this fight, and we regret that after a long legal battle it is still not over,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We pray that we can once again devote our lives to our ministry of serving the elderly poor as we have for over 175 years without being forced to violate our faith.” In October 2017, the Trump administration issued a new rule that would expand the eligibility of groups to claim religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate. The new rule was set to go into effect on Monday. California attorney general Xavier Becerra filed suit against the Trump administration over the new rule shortly after it was announced, and was joined by 12 other states and the District of Columbia. The Little Sisters of the Poor, and many other religious-based organizations, were not eligible under previous religious exemptions to the mandate since they do not exclusively employ or serve people of their religion. The Sisters argue that forcing them to offer an insurance plan that provides birth control pills and devices to their employees would violate their religious beliefs. Rienzi said in a statement Monday that the Little Sisters will return to court to fight the injunctions. “Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor,” said Rienzi. “We are confident these decisions will be overturned.”
Indulgence available for participants in National Prayer Vigil for Life
Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2019 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See has granted that a plenary indulgence may be obtained by those who participate in the National Prayer Vigil for Life or other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life, being held Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C. “The Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See has granted a plenary indulgence that may be obtained, under the usual conditions, by those who participate in the sacred celebrations carried out on January 17 and 18,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington said in a statement on the March for Life. “The elderly, sick and homebound may also gain a plenary indulgence if they spiritually unite themselves to these events and make their prayer and penance an offering to God.” Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that “the Vatican has granted that a plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions by participating in the National Prayer Vigil for Life, as well as the other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life.” An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven. The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence which must be met are: that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope's intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act. The National Prayer Vigil for Life will be held Jan. 17-18 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil begins with a Mass said by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the US bishops' pro-life committee. It continues through the night with confessions, rosary, Compline in the Byzantine rite, Holy Hours, Lauds, and Benediction. The vigil concludes with a Mass said by Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond. The March for Life, an annual peaceful protest against abortion, will take place at the National Mall Jan. 18. The 2019 march's theme is “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science”. The march is held to oppose publicly the US Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion across the country. It remains one of the largest political protests in the United States today. In addition to the March for Life, Bishop Burbidge noted the Diocese of Arlington's Life Is VERY Good Evening of Prayer, Rally, and Mass, being held Jan. 17-18 in Fairfax. Along with the March for Life, the US bishops' conference is promoting 9 Days for Life, a Jan. 14-22 novena. “Even if you cannot attend the Prayer Vigil or the March, you can always remain united in the cause of life through prayer,” Talalas said. Bishop Burbidge wrote that January “provides us with opportunities to express our belief in the dignity and value of all human life and to provide public witness that we will not be silent when injustices like abortion continue to have a place in our society. Each year, people from around the country gather in our nation’s capital for the March for Life. I take this opportunity to thank all who travel from great distances to take part in public action on behalf of those who cannot speak out for themselves.” “I pray that one day we, united in prayer, and persistent in our advocacy for the unborn and the vulnerable, will root out any instance of injustice or violence again human life,” Bishop Burbidge wrote.
Caritas Rome will continue receiving Trevi Fountain coins, mayor clarifies
Rome, Italy, Jan 14, 2019 / 01:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After several weeks of confusion, the mayor of Rome has clarified that coins scooped from the famous Trevi Fountain will not be used to pay for city council maintenance projects, but instead will continue to go to Caritas, a Catholic charity that helps Rome’s poor and homeless. “Caritas and all the thousands of people it helps can rest assured,” Mayor Virginia Raggi told L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 14. “I personally guarantee that this administration will never take away its contribution. On the issue of the coins, I confirm that they will continue to go to the charity. No one ever considered taking them away.” Caritas Rome has been the beneficiary of the coins since 2001. Visitors to Rome toss about €1.5 million ($1.7 million) worth of coins into the Trevi Fountain each year, which represents about 15 percent of Caritas’ charitable budget. The funds are mainly used for housing for the homeless, soup kitchens, and parish-based services for struggling families.   Rome’s City Council approved a proposal at the end of Dec. 2018 to use the funds gathered from the fountain for “maintenance of cultural sites and social welfare projects” starting April 1, the Telegraph reports. An article denouncing the city council’s decision appeared in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, on Jan. 12. Raggi now says the purpose of the December plan was merely to get an accurate count of the money in the fountains. Raggi said the city’s utility company, ACEA, will be responsible for cleaning, sorting, and counting the coins under the new plan, a job previously done by Caritas volunteers. In addition, Raggi announced that coins collected from other fountains in the city would also be given to the charity, to the tune of an extra €200,000. Under the previous arrangement, ACEA periodically emptied the fountain and presented the coins to Caritas officials in the presence of the police. Caritas volunteers then dried, cleaned, separated by currency, counted and deposited the coins in the bank. Caritas provided a quarterly report to the city of how the funds were used, according to Avvenire. The city council first proposed using the Trevi Fountain funds for its own purposes in Dec. 2017, but the plan was delayed for a year. In 2016 the city of Rome had an estimated €14 billion in public debt, and the city council is facing mounting pressure to fix dangerous roads and pavements in the city.