Browsing News Entries

Supreme Court sides unanimously with Catholic Social Services in religious freedom case

Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 09:17 am (CNA).

The Supreme Court on Thursday decided unanimously in favor of Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, ruling that the city violated the group’s free exercise of religion. 

The city in 2018 had stopped partnering with the agency in its foster-care program, since Catholic Social Services [CSS] would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents on religious grounds.

In the majority ruling, the high court found that “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. 

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” he added. 

According to Becket, a religious liberty law firm representing the foster moms and Catholic Social Services in the case, 29 other foster care agencies in Philadelphia work with LGBTQ couples, and three of those agencies are certified by the Human Rights Campaign for their excellent service to LGBTQ families. The firm also said that Catholic Social Services had not turned away any same-sex couples before the city ended the contracts. 

In a tweet, Becket stated on Thursday, “This is a huge victory for heroic foster moms and for #religiousfreedom. It ensures that religious groups like Catholic Social Services—who serve kids regardless of their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation—can continue their great work.”

Roberts’ majority opinion was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas and Alito, and Barrett also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, and Breyer - in part.

The case - Fulton v. City of Philadelphia - concerns the largest city in Pennsylvania ending its foster care contracts with Catholic Social Services because the faith-based agency said it would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents; the agency’s policy was religious, due to the Church’s teachings on marriage and family. The agency also does not certify unmarried couples as foster parents, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

The city argued that the policy constituted discrimination according to its nondiscrimination ordinance, and would no longer work with the group. 

Two foster mothers who worked with the agency - Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch - sued Philadelphia, arguing that in ending the contracts the city violated the agency’s First Amendment right to religious freedom. 

A spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA. 

Catholics and religious freedom advocates praised the decision on Thursday.

“Today's decision prohibits government sanctioned discrimination against religious adoption and foster care agencies because of their beliefs about marriage,” stated Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “Those efforts are rooted in an anti-Catholic bigotry that refuses to tolerate pluralistic views and beliefs.”

“For more than two centuries, Catholic agencies have successfully placed the most at-risk kids in loving, forever homes. Today, the Supreme Court rightly affirmed that the Constitution guarantees faith-based agencies freedom from government harassment and discrimination because of their religious beliefs about marriage,” stated Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.

Other pro-LGBT activists criticized the ruling.

In a statement, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the decision “does not negate the fact that every qualified family is valid and worthy—children deserve a loving, caring, committed home.” 

One legal expert said the ruling was significant for religious freedom.

Professor Richard Garnett, a First Amendment expert, said the ruling "will have significant impact."

"It is striking, and telling, that the Court's more liberal justices joined the Court's decision," Garnett noted. "Today's ruling illustrates that respect for religious freedom should not be a partisan, or left-right issue.  All nine justices agree that, when a rule targets religious practices for disapproval, or singles our religious exercise for burdens, it is highly suspect."

This story was updated on June 17.

Pro-life group files complaint with Small Business Administration over Planned Parenthood PPP loan

Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2021 / 09:01 am (CNA).

A pro-life group recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Small Business Administration, alleging that a regional Planned Parenthood affiliate “unlawfully obtained” emergency loans during the pandemic.

In the complaint filed by New Hampshire Right to Life last week, the group said the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England received a $2,717,300 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. They cited data from the administration showing the affiliate was approved for a PPP loan of that amount in April 2020.

Jason Hennessey, president of New Hampshire Right to Life, said in a statement that “Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize or pay for abortions.” 

“The SBA has already determined that the Planned Parenthood affiliate structure is such that it was unlawful to apply for the PPP funds; therefore, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England should return the taxpayer funds,” Hennessey said. 

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was set up under a pandemic relief bill passed by Congress in March 2020, the CARES Act, and has been administered by the Small Business Administration. It was established to provide emergency loans to small businesses and eligible non-profits to keep employees on payroll; the loans could be forgiven provided certain conditions were met.

The loans were intended for businesses and non-profits with fewer than 500 employees. Planned Parenthood argued last year that its affiliates were individual non-profits with their own leadership structure, and thus would qualify as eligible small non-profits. 

Critics, including Republican senators, argued the affiliates are all part of a broader umbrella organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America - and thus the entire organization would be too large to receive the emergency loans. 

The Small Business Administration appeared to make that case multiple times. In one letter, the administration asked a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Delaware to return a loan it had received under the program. In another letter obtained by NPR last year, the administration told Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, Inc. that it was “ineligible” for the loan it received given its relationship to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

Last month, the office of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee, said the SBA did not respond to its inquiry as to why Planned Parenthood affiliates were continuing to receive PPP loans.

It was reported in May 2020 that Planned Parenthood affiliates had received $80 million in emergency loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. In recent months, data released by the SBA showed that two Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania and New York were approved for loans on April 21 and April 27. 

Planned Parenthood Keystone, in Warminster, Pennsylvania, was approved for a PPP loan in the amount of $853,975 on April 21. On April 27, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Inc. in New York City was approved for a PPP loan of $10 million - the maximum loan amount under the program

Religious leaders, scientists to convene at Vatican ahead of climate summit

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican is partnering in an event that will bring together scientists and leaders of the world’s religions ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) in November.

“Faith and Science: Towards COP26” will take place Oct. 4 at the Vatican. The event has been organized by the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See.

At a press conference June 17, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, said it was “highly likely” that Pope Francis would participate in the October meeting given his commitment to the issue of climate change.

The conference will include more than 30 leaders from the world’s major religions and 10 leading scientists, Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, said.

She explained that faith leaders already played a key role in building momentum for COP21 in 2015, and she and the Italian ambassador Pietro Sebastiani wondered if the same thing could be done for COP26, which takes place Nov. 1-12.

Gallagher described the faith and science meeting as a “no-brainer.”

“The sense of urgency is rising,” he said, “more and more crises affect us: economic, social, food crises. Everything is coming together in a sort of perfect storm.”

“This is a great opportunity to work together. And I think in the preparation of this conference, the work that has been done -- mainly in a series of webinars -- has shown the value of working together: that working together is positive, that it does produce results.”

Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said he thought that COP26 would be “a key moment in the history of humanity.”

“There will be difficult choices to be made and we hope, with God’s grace, that we will have the courage to make those choices and to move forward on these issues which will determine what life will be like on our planet in the coming decades and centuries,” he said.

In an interview with Vatican News last month, John Kerry, U.S. President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said that Pope Francis “intends to attend” COP26.

Kerry met with Pope Francis privately on May 15. In a video clip released by the Vatican, Kerry could be heard telling members of his staff, “first day he’ll be there with the heads of state.”

The Vatican has made no official announcement about the pope traveling to Glasgow and Gallagher declined to comment on the question Thursday.

Axworthy said that a full list of the religious and scientific leaders attending in October would be released at a later date, but they were chosen to represent all world religions and to come from around the globe.

“It was key to have representatives of most major faiths and denominations from every corner of the world,” she said.

The ambassador explained that in online meetings held in advance of COP26, the organizers asked the faith leaders to do three things: “set out their own theology on the environment; explain the action they had taken so far to protect the environment; and articulate what they wanted for the future, including what they wanted to say to political leaders at COP26.”

“We asked the scientists to bring us up to date on the science,” she said.

In her presentation, Axworthy outlined some of the potential consequences to the environment should the global temperature rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“People in the least developed countries will be most affected by rising temperatures,” she said. “We have a moral obligation to protect the planet and those most affected by the climate crisis, in particular indigenous peoples, small-island developing states, and the least developed countries.”

The science and faith conference takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ 2013 encyclical Laudato si’ and from the Document on Human Fraternity, signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Gallagher said that “the magnitude of these challenges... mean that you’ve got to draw on all of your resources if we’re going to rise to these challenges; and that certainly is faith, is religion, is the spiritual dimension of humanity.”

“If we ignore that and think the only solution is good politics or good science or good something like that I think that we’re going to find that we’re not going to be successful,” he said.

Cardinal: International Eucharistic Congress hymn helped Catholics survive war and communism

Cardinal Péter Erdő. / Screenshot from 52nd International Eucharistic Congress YouTube channel.

Budapest, Hungary, Jun 17, 2021 / 07:05 am (CNA).

A cardinal has said that the lyrics of the official hymn of this year’s International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest helped Hungary’s Catholics survive war and communism.

In a video welcoming the adoption of the hymn for the Sept. 5-12 meeting, Cardinal Péter Erdő noted that the lyrics date back to the last time that the Hungarian capital hosted an International Eucharistic Congress in 1938.

“These days, the hymn of the Eucharistic Congress will sound again. The lyrics of this song served in 1938 already as the hymn of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest,” he said.

“Its closing lines and chorus are unforgettable, for we ask Christ: ‘Bless this earth with peace and honor, bring us to Thy holy tryst.’”

Commenting on the hymn’s historical context, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest said: “This was very topical at the time, on the eve of World War II. And this gave us, devout Catholics, Hungarians, strength during the war, as well as later in the decades of communism and oppression.”

Hungary has a population of 9.8 million, 62% of whom are Catholic. The country, which borders Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia, was occupied by the Nazis in 1944-1945. After World War II, communists took power, ruling until 1989.

Erdő recalled that the hymn was also sung during the papal visit to Romania in 2019, when Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Marian Shrine of Șumuleu-Ciuc in Transylvania in the presence of Hungarian pilgrims.

“But this beautiful song still lives on today not only in the memory of Hungarians, I think, since we sang this anthem together as a crowd of 100,000 in 2019 in Csíksomlyó at the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis,” the 68-year-old cardinal said.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress was originally due to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis is scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the closing Mass in Heroes’ Square at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 12.

The official anthem has been recorded in both English and Hungarian, performed by the three young singers Bogi Nagy, Máté Czinke, and Gergő Dánielfy. The hymn’s title is “Győzelemről énekeljen” (“Sing the Triumph”).

Erdő said: “The message of this hymn is still relevant today as Christ wants to unite and embrace all nations in brotherly love.”

“This is the melody that is now resounding, but in a new orchestration. In a way that I think it must be able to touch even the youngest, the most distant, and capture their hearts.”

“And the message is essential: Christ as a brother brings together all nations in love; he wants to unite all mankind in love and happiness.”

Girls’ choir to join 1,000-year boys’ choir at German Catholic cathedral

The Regensburger Domspatzen, a choir based at Regensburg Cathedral in Bavaria, Germany. / Bistum Regensburg.

Regensburg, Germany, Jun 17, 2021 / 06:15 am (CNA).

A German Catholic diocese announced Tuesday that a cathedral school whose pupils sing in a 1,000-year-old boys’ choir will admit girls.

The Diocese of Regensburg said June 15 that the cathedral school associated with the Regensburger Domspatzen choir will be open to girls from 2022.

The school in the southern German city of Regensburg will form its own girls’ choir, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The diocese explained that the step was intended to “make the high-quality musical training of this institution accessible to girls in the future.”

“With their singing abilities, they should form a new pillar of their own in Regensburg Cathedral music,” it said.

The Regensburger Domspatzen’s board of trustees decided unanimously that the cathedral choir would remain “as a pure boys’ and men’s choir with its unmistakable sound in its previous form.”

The Domspatzen -- which means “Cathedral Sparrows” in English -- are believed to be one of the world’s oldest boys’ choirs.

The choir traces its roots back to 975, when Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg founded a cathedral school that emphasized musical training. The pupils sang in the cathedral’s liturgies.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, led the choir from 1964 to 1994.

The cathedral school is known today as the Domspatzen Gymnasium.

Cathedral dean Fr. Franz Frühmorgen noted that both the cathedral chapter and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg supported the new project.

He said: “In recent years, especially in connection with the hiring of important key positions at the Domspatzen, there has been repeated talk about offering girls the opportunity to come to the Domspatzen Gymnasium in order to promote their singing and musical skills at the highest level and to put them at the service of cathedral music.”

He added: “We consider this opening to be meaningful and we warmly welcome the girls at the Gymnasium and as a choir in our cathedral.”

Vatican diplomat: We must ensure that the internet promotes human dignity

Computer. / UnSplash.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 17, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The internet enabled human trafficking and sexual exploitation to increase during the pandemic, according to one Vatican official, who has urged that steps be taken to protect human dignity online.

Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk told the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that the internet must “not become a medium that fuels the violation of human rights.”

“Action must be taken to ensure that the internet and social media will promote the dignity of the human person,” he said June 16.

Urbańczyk serves as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Vienna, Austria. He spoke during three panels of the 21st Conference of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons.

The Holy See official said that economic regulations need to be enforced to combat human trafficking, which continued to increase during the pandemic.

“As Pope Francis also recently pointed out: ‘Human trafficking finds fertile ground in the approach of neoliberal capitalism, in the deregulation of markets aimed at maximizing profits without ethical limits, without social limits, without environmental limits,’” he said.

“‘An economy without human trafficking is an economy with market rules that promote justice, and not exclusive special interests,’” he added, quoting the pope’s video message for the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action against Trafficking in Persons in February.

Urbańczyk cited the Council of Europe’s report on human trafficking in 2020, which predicted that the coronavirus pandemic’s “long-term socioeconomic effects are likely to aggravate the root causes of human trafficking.”

The World Bank estimated that COVID-19 could push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty in 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction, which is one of the key factors that underlies the lives of trafficking victims, he explained.

“As Pope Francis said: ‘In many parts of the world, the crisis has predominantly affected those working informally, who were the first to see their livelihood vanish,’” he noted.

“Living outside of the formal economy, they lack access to social safety nets, including unemployment insurance and health care provision. Driven by desperation, many have sought other forms of income and risk being exploited through illegal or forced labor, prostitution, and various criminal activities, including human trafficking.”

Urbańczyk highlighted the work of Catholic communities around the world to assist victims with shelter and rehabilitation.

“The Catholic Church, through its various institutions, has for a long time been dedicated to the protection of victims of sexual exploitation,” he told the OSCE.

“These projects are frequently carried out with local institutions and associations. Obviously, they are small drops in an ocean, but they can produce examples that can be multiplied with the goodwill of institutions and civil society in order to make the fight against the demand that fuels human trafficking more effective.”

Churches vandalized in Vancouver archdiocese

A prolife memorial at St. Joseph's church in Port Moody, Canada, that was vandalized June 13, 2021. Credit: St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

Vancouver, Canada, Jun 16, 2021 / 18:29 pm (CNA).

Two parishes in the Archdiocese of Vancouver were vandalized last weekend.

The incidents come shortly after the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

At St. Augustine's parish in Vancouver on June 12, vandals wrote ‘release the records’ and ‘killers’ on the front door of the church.

A parishioner at St. Augustine’s told Global News in an interview that the incident was sad. “We had nothing to do with what happened with those poor kids,” the parishioner said. 

St. Joseph’s Church in Port Moody, about 10 miles east of Vancouver, was also found vandalized the morning of June 13. A pro-life memorial gravestone was knocked to the ground, while the stone on which it was standing has been broken.

Fr. Mark McGuckin, pastor of St. Joseph’s, told CNA around the same time the memorial was knocked over, new building developments next to the parish had been burning down in what likely was an incident of arson. 

McGuckin considered himself and his church community “very fortunate and blessed” because of the damp weather conditions. “The fire was so hot that flying embers landed on our church roof,” he told CNA, “and had it been three weeks of real dry season that could have really caught on fire.”

“I think it's unrelated,” Fr. McGuckin said, doubting the connection between the vandalism at St. Augustine’s and the vandalism at his church. “We would have had clearer messaging around the residential school if that was someone who wanted to express themselves that way.”

The pro-life gravestone has been temporarily fixed but lays at a 45 degree angle, while it awaits full refurbishment.

Fr. McGuckin told CNA that over the weekend, there had been peaceful protests at Catholic churches in the area.

On the weekend of May 22, the remains of 215 indigenous children were found in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The discovery was made with ground-penetrating radar. It is unclear how the children died.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kamloops was vandalized following the discovery. Graffiti reading ‘banished’, ‘evicted’, and ‘crime scene’ was found spray painted on the walls of St. Joseph’s May 31. An ‘X’ was on the front doors.

The chief of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc, or Kamloops Indian Band, has condemned the vandalism of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kamloops shortly after the discovery of indigenous children’s graves at a nearby Church-run residential school.

“We are deeply disturbed to learn that the Saint Joseph’s church was vandalized. The church was built from the ground up by Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc members. We understand the many emotions connected to a Roman Catholic run residential school. At the same time, we respect the choices that Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc ancestors made, over a 100 years ago, to erect this church,” read a May 31 statement from Rosanne Casimir, the band’s chief.

Kentucky attorney general argues he can defend pro-life law in court

Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky. Credit: Kentucky Office of the Attorney General.

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a brief on Monday in support of his ability to defend his state’s law banning dilation and evacuation abortions, as the issue heads to the Supreme Court. 

Cameron filed the brief June 14 for the case Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Unlike other cases relating to abortion, this does not concern the legality of the Kentucky law. Rather, it concerns who is permitted to defend the law in court. 

The US Supreme Court agreed in March to consider the case.

Cameron is a Republican. Kentucky’s current governor, Andy Beshear, is a Democrat who does not support the law. 

In 2018, Kentucky’s then-governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed into law a bill which banned the use of dilation and evacuation abortions. The bill was quickly challenged by an abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and a federal judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also found the bill to be unconstitutional. 

In 2019, Bevin lost in his re-election bid to Beshear. Beshear and the state’s health secretary declined to challenge the Sixth Circuit’s decision, but the newly-elected attorney general, Cameron, moved to intervene to defend the law. 

The Sixth Circuit denied Cameron’s request to reconsider the law, and he then appealed to the Supreme Court saying that as the attorney general he had the right to defend the law, even when other state officials did not wish to do so. 

Susan B. Anthony List expressed their happiness with Cameron’s brief.

“We are proud to stand with Attorney General Cameron as he fights for the right to defend Kentucky’s pro-life laws and values, all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. 

“Time and time again, science reveals the humanity of unborn children – including their capacity to feel pain, with pain receptors beginning to develop at seven and a half weeks. Kentucky lawmakers acted on the will of the people in banning the barbaric live dismemberment of tiny babies at a stage when they already possess fully formed arms, legs, fingers and toes, passing this legislation by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.”

Dannenfelser noted that the efforts to pass pro-life laws is not unique to Kentucky, saying, “Across the nation, momentum to humanize our extreme abortion laws is on the rise, with state legislators enacting 89 new pro-life laws and counting this year alone.”

Spanish youth launch prayer campaign ahead of euthanasia law taking effect

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock.

Madrid, Spain, Jun 16, 2021 / 16:29 pm (CNA).

A group of young Catholics have launched "1 Week for Life", a campaign of prayer and fasting for the end of euthanasia in Spain and the world, the conversion of all souls, and the promotion of a culture of life.

"1 Week for Life" will begin June 18 and end June 25, the day when a euthanasia and assisted suicide law goes into effect in Spain.

A group of young people from a parish in Madrid attended a talk about the euthanasia law called “the Value of Life” given by nurses, and realized that while there are prayer campaigns to end abortion, there was nothing for euthanasia.

The group explained in a statement that during that week 30 minute prayer slots will be organized so each person can pick a time and pray from wherever they may be.

The group pointed out that the euthanasia law in Spain "was passed without any input from healthcare professionals and it goes against the right to life, contained in Article 15 of the Constitution."

"Not only will euthanasia be decriminalized with this law, but it will become a right, a healthcare service.” 

“Euthanasia is criminal and unacceptable and our duty as Christians is to accompany those who suffer, as Mary did with Jesus on the Cross. In addition, today there are alternatives such as palliative care that help alleviate pain without ending the life of the patient ”.

The “1 Week for Life” group also recalled the words of Saint John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person, when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: Some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity?”

Spain’s legislature passed a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in March.

Patients who can request euthanasia must be adult Spanish nationals or legal residents who suffer from "a serious and incurable disease or a serious, chronic and incapacitating condition.”

The law defines such condition as a having “limitations that directly affect physical autonomy and the activities of daily life, such that the patient can’t fend for himself, as well as the ability to communicate with and relate to others, and that are associated with constant and intolerable physical or mental suffering for the patient with the certitude or great probability that such limitations will persist over time without the possibility of a cure or appreciable improvement. On occasion, it can mean absolute dependence on technological life support.”

A serious and incurable disease is defined as  "one that by its nature causes constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering without the possibility of relief that the person considers tolerable, with a limited life prognosis, in a context of progressive frailty.”

The law requires the National Health System to provide euthanasia, and while individual doctors can claim conscientious objection, medical facilities, even private, cannot object as institutions. Conscientious objectors will be listed on a registry.

It requires that before requesting euthanasia, the patient must be informed in writing of his medical condition, and of alternative courses of action and palliative care.

A request for euthanasia must be approved by two doctors and an oversight board.

The law also states that "the death resulting from providing aid in dying shall be considered a natural death for all purposes.”

Bishop Luis Javier Argüello Garcia, auxiliary bishop of Valladolid and secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, has urged doctors who don’t want to participate in euthanasia to exercise conscientious objection.

He also cautioned against a defeatist attitude, seeing the new law as an opportunity “to promote a culture of life and to take concrete steps to promote a living will or advance declarations that make it possible for Spanish citizens to express in a clear and determined way their desire to receive palliative care,” instead of assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Bishop Argüello urged doctors “not to induce death to alleviate suffering,” but instead to treat the patient with “tenderness, closeness, mercy, encouragement, and hope for those people who are in the final stage of their existence, perhaps in moments of suffering that need comfort, care and hope.”

The bishops’ conference also issued a guide for patients to create a living will that "specifies that appropriate treatments be administered to alleviate suffering,” but excluding euthanasia.

Those opposed to the law have pointed out that what the country needs instead of euthanasia is access to palliative care. Out of an estimated 120,000 patients in need of palliative care, 50% do not have access.

Euthanasia is also legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the Australian state of Victoria.

Nuncio urges US bishops to unity in Christ

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the US, addresses the USCCB's 2020 Fall General Assembly.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 16, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

Following the Covid-19 pandemic the Church needs to dialogue with an aim of unity, and emphasize the importance of Christ, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said to the USCCB’s assembly on Wednesday. 

The assembly is taking place virtually via video conference. 

“I am firmly convinced that emerging from the pandemic, we need to be a Church that proclaims, with conviction, the basic kerygma and the person of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Pierre said June 16.

“And we need to be a Church that follows the method of Jesus, which is one of accompaniment and dialogue, a dialogue directed toward salvation.”

Archbishop Pierre said there was a need for unity in the Church in America, noting that while this is a challenge, it is one that has been met before in other trying times. 

“In response to the abuse crisis, it answered with a unified and concerted effort that showed care and compassion for the plight of survivors; it provided for the needs of the immigrant community; it stood in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world by providing material and spiritual closeness; it came to the rescue of those affected by natural disasters; it spoke with one voice in defense of the dignity of all peoples and against the scourge of racial inequality,” said Archbishop Pierre. 

“These examples point to the undeniable truth that unity is possible and that the Church in the United States has numerous experiences of it.”

The bishops, he said, have a particularly important role to play in ensuring that this unity is achieved. He noted that the four dimensions of dialogue described by St. John Paul II in the 1995 encyclical Ut unum sint “can be helpful to illumine the path towards greater unity,” even though they were not written with this particular situation in mind. 

Those four dimensions--the dialogue of charity, of conversion, of truth, and of salvation--all play a role in helping to better unite the Christian people. 

Archbishop Pierre highlighted the need for the Church after the pandemic to center its evangelical efforts on the saving work of Christ, pointing out that “Christianity offers more than an NGO or a social service organization.” 

“The Church offers salvation in the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

“What is often lacking in the process of evangelization, and we certainly need to evangelize and catechize now more than ever, is ‘beginning again from Jesus Christ,’’’ said Archbishop Pierre. ’

“The starting point, therefore, cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” he said. 

“With respect to the latter, Holy Communion is not merely a ‘thing’ to be received but Christ Himself, a Person to be encountered.”

Archbishop Pierre stressed the need to center the Church on Christ, saying that “a Catholicism that confuses itself with a mere cultural tradition or which cannot distinguish itself from other proposals, including political or ideological ones that are based on certain values, will never be convincing to this generation or to new ones.”

“Jesus Christ is a Person, not a concept,” he said.