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Meet the kids who traveled 24 hours on a bus to stand up for the unborn

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Lincoln sent more than 200 young people to Washington, D.C., to stand up for the unborn, and they believe they are part of a growing trend of pro-life sentiment.

CNA spoke to some of these students outside of the capitol to see what motivated them to embark on a daylong journey to the nation’s capital. The group was meeting with pro-life Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who represents their district.

Earlier that day, Fortenberry had given a floor speech where he said that “women deserve better” than abortion, and that “no matter how hard the circumstances,” human life is a gift.

The students largely expressed excitement about being in a crowd of young people from across the country. The March for Life drew an estimated crowd of 100,000, many of whom were college-age or younger.

Abby Pella, a 17-year-old from Lincoln, admitted that she found the bus ride to be “pretty awful,” but that she found the trip to be a “great opportunity.” She told CNA that she was most looking forward to standing alongside her peers, and fighting for an end to abortion.

“Being able to stand up for something I believe in is really empowering and is really worth the 24-hour drive,” Pella added.

Ziyal McArthur, 16, also from Lincoln, agreed with Pella. McArthur said that while she has always been pro-life, she did not get involved in activism until a few years ago, and is now a member of the pro-life club at her school. She told CNA that she was most excited about “seeing people my age marching against abortion.”

Hunter Stutzman, 14, is from David City, about 50 miles northwest of Lincoln. He said he was motivated to come to Washington because teens like himself may find themselves dealing with unexpected pregnancies. He told CNA that he is pro-life because “babies don’t have a choice.”

His sentiment was echoed by Logan Walker, an 18-year-old from Lincoln.

"That is a baby in there, but it's also one of us, one of our own kind,” said Walker.

“It's a person.”

Annie Timmerman, 18, was on her second trek to D.C. from Nebraska. She described the trip as “a cause worth sacrificing for,” and said that her travel companions were a “joyful group.”

Timmerman said that she had run into “more and more people who are pro-life” and that she thinks she is part of a generation who is changing on abortion.

“We just really want to be the pro-life generation,” Timmerman told CNA. “The generation that really makes the horrors of abortion end.”

Church in Fiji threatens to close all Catholic schools

Suva, Fiji, Jan 23, 2019 / 12:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in Fiji is prepared to shut down all of its 44 primary and 19 secondary schools if the government continues to elect non-Catholics as the head of those schools.

Fiji’s education ministry recently named two non-Catholics as principals of Saint Thomas High in Lautoka and Xavier College in Ba. Education Minister Rosy Akbar said the decisions were part of the country’s merit-based recruitment system, and that the Church can privatize its schools if it disagrees with the move, the London-based Christian radio station Premier reported.

The Church is now calling for greater autonomy in the governance of its schools.

After a meeting held last Thursday, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva said he is prepared to close the local schools, but will only do so if Catholic leaders and government authorities cannot arrive at a solution, according to Premier.

At the meeting, four possible courses of action were identified: initiating a “critical self-reflection and an organisational review of Catholic education in the areas of identity, character, quality of teachers and planning”; working toward partnership with the government; demanding that the government take faith into account when appointing heads of schools; and engaging in civil disobedience, which would include closing the nation’s 63 Catholic schools.

The Fiji Sun reported that Permanent Secretary for Education Alison Burchell has said the government is open to more discussions and is dedicated to finding the most appropriate person for the job.

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae elects new superior general

Aparecida, Brazil, Jan 22, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Colombian José David Correa González has been selected as the new superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic society of apostolic life.

The selection took place during Fifth General Assembly of the Sodalitium, which is being held at the Aparecida Marian shrine in Brazil, Jan. 6-27.

Correa, 49, will serve a six year term. He was chosen by the Vatican Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from a three-person list chosen by members of the society during the general assembly.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. CNA's executive director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a member of the community.

The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, stepped down as superior general in 2010, after allegations surfaced that he had committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Other former leaders of the community have since faced related abuse allegations, and several remain subject to law enforcement investigations.

In February 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

As a result, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

In January 2018, Pope Francis appointed Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the society, tasking him with overseeing an ongoing process of reform that began after allegations against Figari came to light. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was tasked in 2016 with assisting the community’s reform process and its internal investigations of alleged misconduct.

The election of Correa is seen as the latest step in the reform process.

The new superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was the first Colombian member of the community. He was born in Medellin July 26, 1969, entered the SCV on September 4, 1992 and made his perpetual vows May 13, 2000.

Correa had been serving as superior of the Our Lady of Alta Gracia community in the prelature of Ayaviri, Peru, one of the poorest regions of Peru, situated 12,800 feet above sea level. Until now he was also the Secretary General of Caritas in Ayaviri.

Correa is the first non-Peruvian superior general of the Sodalitium.
The SCV general assembly next elect the community’s vicar general, who functions as an executive officer to the superior, and five members of its governing council.

The Holy See has also announced that with Correa’s selection, the Sodalitium will no longer be directly governed by its commissioner. Tobin, however, will continue to assist the community as a papal delegate, especially on financial matters.

The general assembly will conclude with a Mass of thanksgiving at the Aparecida Marian shrine Sunday, January 27.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

'Induced' deaths rise in Netherlands, sparking concerns from doctors, ethicists

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jan 22, 2019 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide have the longest history in the Netherlands: 17 years ago, the two practices became legal, under what were supposed to be very limited circumstances, available only to those undergoing “unbearable” suffering with “no reasonable alternatives” for relief.

But time has brought a loosening of definitions and a level of comfortability with the practices, increasingly extending their availability far beyond patients with terminal conditions and extreme pain.

The Guardian recently reported that “well over a quarter” of deaths in the Netherlands in 2017 were “induced.” This included 6,585 who died by euthanasia; around 1,900 who killed themselves; and 32,000 “who died under palliative sedation.”

In a longform piece published by the Guardian, Christopher de Bellaigue examines the increased popularity of the practices, and the expanding availability of euthanasia and assisted suicide to include the young and the mentally (though not physically) ill.

He also notes that the increase in demand has some doctors and ethicists balking at the practice, and questioning whether the Netherlands has headed down the oft-referenced “slippery slope” of having gone too far in letting people choose when to die.

“The process of bringing in euthanasia legislation began with a desire to deal with the most heartbreaking cases – really terrible forms of death,” Theo Boer, an ethics teacher at the Theological University of Kampen, told the Guardian. “But there have been important changes in the way the law is applied. We have put in motion something that we have now discovered has more consequences than we ever imagined.”

Those opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia often do so out of concern for the possibility of coercion, or the impossibility of predicting whether someone’s condition or mental state might improve, with additional care. Many disability groups actively campaign against it, arguing that it discriminates against the disabled, making insurance companies more likely to pay for their death than their ongoing care.

Ethicist Berna Van Baarsen shares similar concerns. Sometimes patients write advance directives, requesting assisted suicide once they deteriorate past a certain point, while they are still fully physically and mentally competent. But these patients may adjust to their new circumstances and change their mind, but be unable to communicate, making it nearly impossible to know whether their original request still stands.

Van Baarsen resigned from her position on a euthanasia case review board last year, citing her qualms with these types of cases, which are common.

“It is fundamentally impossible to establish that the patient is suffering unbearably, because he can no longer explain it,” she told the Dutch daily Trouw.

She has also recently lamented that “legal arguments” often weigh more heavily on committees that approve people’s requests for euthanasia, “while the moral question of whether in certain cases good is done by killing, threatens to get snowed under,” the Guardian reported.

“The underlying problem with the advance directives is that they imply the subordination of an irrational human being to their rational former self, essentially splitting a single person into two mutually opposed ones. Many doctors, having watched patients adapt to circumstances they had once expected to find intolerable, doubt whether anyone can accurately predict what they will want after their condition worsens,” de Bellaigue wrote.

De Bellaigue also detailed another disturbing case, in which a doctor went on vacation at a time when one of her patients had requested euthanasia, but she had declined his case, at least for the time. When she came back, another doctor had euthanised her patient.

“...guilt was a factor; if she hadn’t gone away, would her patient still be alive? Now she was making plans to leave the practice, but hadn’t yet made an announcement for fear of unsettling her other patients. ‘How can I stay here?’ she said. ‘I am a doctor and yet I can’t guarantee the safety of my most vulnerable patients,’” de Ballaige wrote.

Currently, a doctor is being investigated in the first case of euthanasia malpractice in the Netherlands. The case was the kind Van Baarsen was wary about - the woman in the case had signed an advance directive, requesting euthanasia if she was still mentally competent at the time it was carried out.

After getting dementia and being confined to a nursing home, the woman was secretly slipped a sedative by the doctor in question and then given a lethal injection. While the woman fought the doctor, her family held her down.

Prosecutors say they are investigating the doctor for administering euthanasia to a woman who had voiced different desires about euthanasia at different times, and for euthanizing her without checking to be sure it was her wish at the time. Two other cases investigating possible euthanasia malpractice have been dropped.

De Ballaige wrote that these cases may be the cause of a 9 percent drop in euthanasia and assisted suicide that has been reported for the first nine months of 2018.

Boer told the Guardian that when he speaks to lawmakers from other countries considering legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, he points to the Netherlands as a warning.

“Look closely at the Netherlands because this is where your country may be 20 years from now,” he said.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal only in a handful of states in the U.S., though there has been a recent push to legalize the practice in more places, in part due to the high-profile case of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year-old with terminal cancer who ended her life via assisted suicide in 2014. Compassion and Choices, which advocates for legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, helped publicize her death.

Catholic social teaching holds assisted suicide and euthanasia to be “morally unacceptable.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.”

“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of,” it adds.

In June 2016, Pope Francis denounced assisted suicide as part of a “throwaway culture” that offers a “false compassion” and treats a human person as a problem. Addressing medical professionals from Spain and Latin America at the Vatican, the Pope criticized “those who hide behind an alleged compassion to justify and approve the death of a patient.”

“True compassion does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate and exclude – much less considers the disappearance of a person as a good thing.”

Updated: Nathan Phillips rally protesters attempted to disrupt Mass at DC’s National Shrine

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 03:58 pm (CNA).- While demonstrators chanted and played ceremonial drums, protesters at a rally led by Nathan Phillips attempted Jan. 19 to enter Washington, DC’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during a Saturday evening Mass.

The group of demonstrators was stopped by shrine security as it tried to enter the church during a Saturday evening Vigil Mass, according to a shrine security guard on duty during the Mass.

“It was really upsetting,” the guard told CNA.

“There were about 20 people trying to get in, we had to lock the doors and everything.”

The guard said the incident was a disappointment during a busy and joyful weekend for the shrine.

“We had hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the country come here to celebrate life, to celebrate each other together. That a protest tried to come inside during Mass was really the worst.”

The guard told CNA the situation was “tense.”

“I’m just really grateful that nothing too bad happened, they were really angry.”

A source close to the shrine’s leadership corroborated the security guard’s account, telling CNA that during the Mass, Phillips and the group tried to enter the church while playing drums and chanting, and were prohibited from entering the building by security personnel, who locked the main basilica doors with the congregation still inside.

The shrine’s spokeswoman would not initially confirm or deny that the group attempted to enter the Mass. She told CNA Jan. 22 that “a group did assemble on Saturday evening outside the the shrine” and that they “left without incident.”

On Jan. 23, however, the spokeswoman provided to CNA a statement confirming that during a 7:00 p.m. Mass celebrated at the basilica, “a group of approximately 50 individuals attempted to gain entrance to the basilica while chanting and hitting drums.”

“In respect and reverence for the Mass, the individuals were not permitted to enter the Basilica due to the disruption it would have caused during the solemn Mass. The individuals were asked to leave the property after it was determined they did not intend to share in the celebration of Mass.”

Video footage of the demonstration was posted to Facebook by one rally participant.

The video begins as a group including Phillips prepares to approach the main steps of the basilica. One participant announces that the group will march to the front of the shrine for “a non-violent peaceful action.”

Another participant tells the group that if they want to enter the basilica, they can do so if they go “in small groups” to pray.  

“Just say you are going to Mass,” a third participant advises, and another demonstrator says the basilica is “a public space.”

As the participants begin walking, one demonstrator advises participants: “I’ll watch the cops.”

The video next shows the group, led by Phillips, ascending the front staircase of the basilica, chanting and playing drums. A smaller group of protesters appears to attempt entering the basilica, while the larger group, estimated by some reports at about 60 people, continues to ascend the front stairs before stopping at a landing.

The participants who attempted to enter the shrine can eventually be seen returning to the larger group of protesters.

A California seminarian, who was not permitted by seminary officials to be publicly identified, spoke to CNA about his experience of the events.

“I was outside when the protesters were coming up the steps of the basilica. I was curious because of the noise and chanting. At first I didn’t take it too seriously, but as they came up the steps we were told to go inside - I was with a group of people from California there for the March for Life. The security people shut the doors and locked them.”

“I was inside and the protesters were banging on the doors.”

On the basilica steps, Mr. Phillips read a statement which said: “We demand that the students of Covington Catholic High School be reprimanded not just by their school officials but, as seniors, by their upcoming universities.”

“We demand that the Catholic Church hold itself responsible for the [indistinct] hundred-plus years of genocide that indigenous peoples have endured and endure persistently by implementing the following: with reparations of land and restorations to the indigenous peoples in the U.S. and across the world.”

“We demand that the Catholic Church revoke the papal bulls related to the doctrine of discovery, which laid the foundation for religious prejudice and the dehumanization of indigenous peoples.”

The video shows several shrine security guards standing between the group and the basilica's entrance.

Inside the basilica, the seminarian said that visitors to the shrine and Mass attendees were unable to leave immediately, either through the main doors or the various side exits.

“We couldn’t leave from there either [downstairs and side doors],” the seminarian told CNA. “There was more security that told us it was not exactly safe to leave at that point.”

The seminarian said his group was not permitted to exit the building for another 20 or 30 minutes.

“It was about 30 minutes before the police were able to contain the situation and disperse the protestors,” he told CNA.

A spokesperson for DC Metro Police confirmed to CNA that officers responded to a call at the shrine’s address, 400 Michigan Ave NE, at 6:27 pm on Saturday.

After Phillips read his statement, the video shows a participant telling the group that “we need to get off the premises, we have been informed by police that we need to get off our occupied indigenous territory.”

“We came here, we sat, we made peaceful ceremony. We showed the Catholic Church how to respect prayer, how to respect ceremony. It’s not even their land and we still showed respect.”

“Right now we are going to head out with the AIM song to make sure nobody gets arrested or hurt.”

CNA contacted the Lakota People’s Law Project, whose lead counsel, Chase Iron Eyes, acts as spokesman for the Indigenous Peoples March, to ask if the demonstration was an officially sanctioned or affiliated event. No response has yet been received.

CNA has attempted to contact Phillips and has been unable to reach him.

Philips was the subject of national media attention on Saturday, after video went viral on social media depicting parts of a Jan. 18 incident involving him and several teenagers, some of whom were students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. The incident has become the subject of intense national debate, and Phillips has been accused by some of instigating an encounter with the students, and subsequently altering his initial account of events. 

Covington Catholic High School was closed Jan. 22, following threats against students and staff in the wake of media coverage of Friday’s incident.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that about 60 people gathered outside the shrine in support of Phillips on Saturday night, though it did not mention reports that Phillips and some supporters attempted to disrupt the evening Mass.

Video footage posted by CBC showed one supporter saying that the group had gathered at the shrine to listen to Phillips, and to hold the Catholic Church “accountable” for the alleged actions of the Covington Catholic students and for the “colonial violence that the Catholic Church reproduces every day.”

The Facebook video viewed by CNA concluded with the reflections of one protester.

“It’s cold, but you know what the cold, the rain, the snow, whatever, it ain’t gonna stop us. We’re gonna get out here and let our voices be heard. Whether it be at a Catholic Church, it don’t matter, Catholic school, whatever.”

“We’re still gonna come on this property, it’s all our ours anyway. We came, said our part. You know, because what them boys did, you know, Trump supporters, and you know, being disrespectful. We didn’t bother them. They came over and bothered us, saying stuff, being disrespectful. You know what, we’re still here. We’ll be back.”

The shrine security guard told CNA that for him the incident was especially distressing because Mass was underway.

“It’s a house of worship, a place of prayer where people come to celebrate. All this anger is so against what we are all about here.”

He told CNA that he’d never witnessed anything like it during his whole time of employment at the basilica.

“I don’t know the details of what happened on Friday [after the March for Life], I wish I did. All I know is it’s a shame, and it’s got nothing to do with why people were here.”

“And this all happened on our biggest event of the year. I hope we never see it again.”


This story is developing, and was updated Jan. 23 at 11:30 a.m. MT and 4:30 p.m. MT.

CNA initially reported the disruption occurred during a 5:15 pm Mass at the basilica. A shrine spokesperson subsequently clarified that it took place during a 7:00 p.m Mass. The story has been updated.