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Family sues over hospital’s religious exemption for euthanasia

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. / Credit: Margarita Young/Shutterstock

Vancouver, Canada, Jun 20, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The parents of a terminally ill woman who was transferred to another facility to be euthanized after St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, refused to allow the procedure on its premises are suing the provincial government and Providence Health Care, the Catholic health care provider that operates St. Paul’s Hospital.

The couple’s lawsuit says their daughter’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated by the British Columbia government’s religious exemption to the provincial medical assistance in dying (MAID) policy.

The lawsuit filed in British Columbia’s Supreme Court on June 17 wants the province to remove the religious exemption.

Providence spokesperson Shaf Hussain said in a statement that the court filing is being reviewed. “Providence is committed to providing compassionate care to all patients and residents,” he said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a statement saying he respects all parties’ perspectives but can’t comment on the matter while it is before the courts. 

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said in a statement that it is examining the case and will apply to intervene.

St. Paul’s routinely arranges for the transfer of patients who request euthanasia to non-Catholic facilities, but the decision by the hospital to transfer Sam O’Neill last summer ignited public and media reaction after her family drew attention to the case.

Dix addressed the situation at the time, saying hospital transfers for MAID are rare, occurring in about 0.2% of cases. He said St. Paul’s Hospital acted according to protocol and praised its contributions to the provincial health system, saying the overall relationship with faith-based health care providers is beneficial.

Media extensively covered the issue, with stories quoting critics calling for the British Columbia government to reconsider the master agreement with the Denominational Health Association, which allows religious health providers to follow their ethical guidelines.

Further fueling the debate, Dying with Dignity Canada released a poll to indicate strong public support for MAID. Health Canada also announced $560,000 in funding for a project to gather Canadians’ experiences with MAID. Dying with Dignity is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, a survey last year by the Angus Reid Institute, in collaboration with Cardus, showed the majority of British Columbians support the right of religiously affiliated health care facilities’ right to reject providing MAID and transfer patients seeking euthanasia to other institutions.

Fifty-eight percent agreed with transferring patients, while only 24% said these hospitals should be forced to provide MAID against their beliefs.

Nationally, a majority in all regions except Quebec said transferring a patient who wants MAID should be sufficient. In Quebec, 47% believed transferring the patient is adequate while 35% said the hospital should be mandated to provide MAID on-site. 

The survey also found that 61% of Christians and 56% of those from other faiths supported transfers, while 54% of nonreligious individuals agreed. However, 70% of Canadians said doctors who object to MAID should be required to refer patients to another willing doctor.

In November, the British Columbia government announced a plan to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide at St. Paul’s Hospital — by making it available next to the hospital. The Ministry of Health announced it was taking over property beside the hospital to create a “clinical space” where St. Paul’s patients requesting euthanasia can receive it without having to be transferred to another setting.

In the announcement, the ministry said it had directed Vancouver Coastal Health authority to take land next to the hospital and “establish a clinical space and care setting for VCH use.” 

The government said it is updating protocols for discharging and transferring St. Paul’s patients to the new site where MAID can take place.

The government said the space will be staffed by Vancouver Coastal Health staff and be connected by a corridor to St. Paul’s. Patients who want MAID will be discharged from the hospital and transferred to the care of the regional health authority. The new site is expected to be completed in August.

Providence Health Care said at the time that the ministry’s announcement respected Providence’s position of not allowing MAID to be performed within the walls of a Catholic facility or setting.

The ministry said in an announcement at the time: “While faith-based organizations may opt not to offer MAID services at their facilities, they are expected to work with regional health authorities to ensure the option is available to patients who choose it.”

Archbishop J. Michael Miller said the directive “respects and preserves Providence’s policy of not allowing MAID inside a Catholic health care facility,” and the new patient discharge and transfer protocols are consistent with existing arrangements for transferring patients from its other hospice and palliative care sites, St. John Hospice and May’s Place. 

“Providence Health Care and St. Paul’s Hospital will continue to provide compassionate care, in accordance with Catholic teachings, and support the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of every patient we serve,” he said.

The government’s announcement came just hours before the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement reiterating its opposition to euthanasia in Catholic hospitals. Miller noted that the bishops had already drawn a line in the sand at their September 2023 plenary meeting when they stated unanimously that MAID would not be delivered at Catholic hospitals. 

The new statement formalized that stance by saying the bishops “unanimously and unequivocally oppose the performance of either euthanasia or assisted suicide (MAID) within health organizations with a Catholic identity.”

The bishops said: “Any efforts by governments or others to compel such facilities to perform MAID” would be “in violation of Catholic teachings” and would “deeply betray the identity of these institutions as Catholic and would not be in keeping with the Church’s moral teachings on the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.”

This article was originally published by The B.C. Catholic and is reprinted here with permission.

Can generous family policies help boost fertility rates?

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CNA Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Advocates and policymakers have for years argued that extending family benefits — such as paid leave, job guarantees, and cash payouts for new babies — could help reverse the steep declines in fertility rates observed in recent decades in most of the developed world. 

The data, meanwhile, paint a less optimistic picture, though there are signs that some policies could play a role in convincing families to have more children. 

Government leaders in numerous countries have been struggling in recent years to address falling birth rates. In South Korea, for instance — where the birth rate has cratered to less than one birth per woman — the Seoul metropolitan government will next year begin offering housing subsidies to newlywed couples, in part so husbands and wives might have more children. 

Some private companies in South Korea, meanwhile, have begun offering generous baby bonuses to employees.

In Taiwan, which has a similarly grim birth rate, the government has grown desperate enough to begin hosting its own singles mixers in the hopes of encouraging men and women to marry and have children. 

The Japanese government, meanwhile, has vowed to take on the country’s perilously low birth rate, with the Tokyo government launching its own dating app and the national government considering expanding both child allowances and parental leave.

European countries are trying to institute their own policies and incentives to boost birth rates. 

Italy is offering “baby bonuses” to couples, doling out a monthly allowance for the first year of a new baby’s life.

In France earlier this year, President Emmanuel Macron proposed free fertility checks for 25-year-old women. The government is also looking to expand its parental leave policy.

And the Greek government has raised its own baby allowance in a bid to fight the country’s low fertility.

‘It takes a rather large amount of money’

Beyond special measures that specifically target falling fertility rates, many countries have offered generous family policies for decades. Sweden, for example, began offering parental leave benefits in the 1970s, while Germany has offered various forms of paid leave for nearly as long. 

Yet both of those countries are nevertheless posting birth rates well below “replacement rate,” or the rate necessary to keep a population stable. Below the replacement rate, a country’s population will inevitably decline.

Essentially every country in Western Europe is recording sub-replacement fertility rates, as are the U.S., Canada, and many Asian countries.

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told CNA in an interview that there have been numerous studies in recent years on the effectiveness of family policies in boosting the fertility rate. 

“In general, these policies work,” he said. 

Stone pointed out that there are “nuances” to the data. “It takes a rather large amount of money,” he acknowledged. But “not an implausible amount,” he said.

He noted that a family policy’s effect on fertility depends on the policy itself. Some policies merely guarantee a parent’s job will be held for a period of time after a baby’s birth; others offer straight cash payouts for a new baby.

“What the research suggests is that job guarantees have probably no effect on fertility, and possibly in some contexts have a negative effect on fertility,” he said. 

“Job guarantees might convince currently employed people to have a bit more babies than they otherwise have; they may also convince people who might have stayed home to have another baby to return to the workforce. Job lock doesn’t seem to do very much.”

“However, the compensation side does,” he said. “When you increase the wage replacement rate for maternity leave programs, you get more babies.” 

“Money works,” he said. “Job guarantees probably don’t have a big effect.”

Stone pointed to a 2017 study from Anna Raute, an economics professor at Queen Mary University London, one that examined a “major maternity leave benefit reform” in Germany that “considerably increase[d] the financial incentives for higher-educated and higher-earning women to have a child.”

Raute in her study found “an up to 22% increase in the fertility of tertiary educated versus low educated women” stemming from the new policy. 

Stone said the overall picture of the data is straightforward. “If you put more money into families, you get more babies,” he argued. 

‘You need to solve it for 18 years’

Not all experts are as confident about the data, however. Catherine Pakaluk, an associate professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, said the field doesn’t have “enormous experimental data on paid leave and maternity leave policies,” mainly because “they’re hard to implement at a really huge macro level.”

But “if you survey leading economists and demographers around the world, the bulk of the evidence is that it doesn’t work,” she argued. 

The source of the stubborn problem, she said, lies within “the collision between career and family” that occurred throughout the 20th century as more and more women went to work. Pakaluk described this phenomenon as “an enormous inflection point.”

“That is the source of low birth rates,” she argued. 

“The goal of a good maternity leave program is to keep women attached to their jobs,” she pointed out. “They have the baby, they stay home, then they can return to their jobs.” 

But “is keeping women attached to their jobs longer — past the birth of their child — likely to solve the problem that arose in the first place with the tension? What we’re trying to do is, in a sense, more of that which got us the problem in the first place.”

“It sounds a little weird,” she said, “but the point of maternity leave is to give women a break right after a baby comes. Well, you’re resolving the tension for just six weeks. Okay, double it. You’ve solved it for 12 weeks.” 

“You need to solve it for 18 years,” she said bluntly. 

Indeed, there are signs that the fertility crisis goes beyond concerns of financial stability. In one recent survey, a majority of Americans who don’t want children cited “maintaining personal independence” as a motivating factor. 

Large percentages, meanwhile, also cited politics, work-life balance, and “safety concerns” in addition to financial constraints.

Pakaluk, who has eight children, says couples “have to figure out a 20-year solution for how you’re going to make work and family work together.”

“Once that conflict has been settled, in that context, a generous maternity leave can be a really great benefit or blessing,” she pointed out.

“For people on the margin, who haven’t got the 20-year thing solved, I don’t see how it’s likely to incentivize people to solve a 20-year plan,” she said. 

Stone, meanwhile, said that even when they do work, family policies should not be seen as a panacea for low fertility rates. He shared with CNA a survey he co-authored on the effects of various family policies on fertility, one that found mixed results across various countries.

The effects of those policies, the survey noted, are “sufficiently irregular that they are likely contingent on the wider realm of social norms and political structures in which the policy is implemented.” 

“Family leave probably helps boost fertility in contexts where it is part of a wider pro-family policy regime, complementing, supporting, and enabling voluntary family choices,” the review said. 

“But implementing family leave on its own, or in a context where parents primarily want to make bigger investments per child rather than having more children, may have little impact on fertility.”

Stone told CNA that “all these different family policies have a different role.”

“None of them is a silver bullet,” he said. “They’re part of the types of things that societies would need to do if they wanted to get fertility rates meaningfully elevated.”

New York court puts pro-abortion amendment back on November ballot

Pro-abortion activists gather in front of pro-life advocates outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Manhattan on Feb. 3, 2024, in New York City. / Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

A New York court ruled in favor of putting a proposed amendment to enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution back on the Nov. 5 ballot, but Republicans plan to take the fight to appeal.

The unanimous appellate court decision on June 18 reverses a lower court ruling that would have taken the proposal off of state ballots.

Although the lower court had ruled that the state did not follow the proper procedure when approving the ballot language, the appellate court found that the lawmakers who challenged the procedure had done so after the statute of limitations had passed. For this reason, the appellate court dismissed the complaint entirely.

Republican opponents of the ballot measure intend to appeal the appellate ruling to New York’s highest court, according to the Associated Press.

“We continue to believe the Legislature violated the constitution when it adopted the proposal,” said David Laska, a party spokesperson, according to the AP report. “We will fight this proposal in the courts and, if necessary, at the ballot box.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James praised the appellate court ruling for allowing the proposal back on the ballot. 

“Today’s decision to put the Equal Rights Amendment back on the ballot in November is a huge victory in our efforts to protect our basic rights and freedoms,” James said in a statement.

“The ERA was advanced to protect access to abortion care, enshrine this basic right in our constitution, and protect people from discrimination,” James added. “We will continue to do everything in our power to protect these rights and ensure everyone can live safely and freely in the great State of New York.”

Although the proposed “Equal Rights” amendment does not use the word “abortion,” it would establish broad rights to “reproductive health care” by prohibiting any discrimination based on “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive health care and autonomy.”

The text would also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Constitutional amendments to establish abortion rights will also appear on the ballots in other states on Nov. 5, including Colorado and Florida.

Culture of death advances in Spain with two new developments

null / Credit: Josh Applegate/Unsplash

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The culture of life suffered two setbacks as the culture of death advanced again in Spain: The government is proposing to extend euthanasia to people with mental illness, while the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of abortion for minors 16 and over without parental knowledge.

According to the Diario Médico journal, the Spanish government’s Ministry of Health is going to modify the “Manual of Good Practices for Euthanasia” to include mental illnesses.

The draft of the planned change states that the Organic Law for the Regulation of Euthanasia “does not exclude mental illness, allowing people with an unbearable suffering due to the presence of a mental illness to request PAM [aid in dying] on ​​equal terms with those whose suffering comes from a bodily illness.”

Consequently, the government would apparently allow euthanasia for people with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, or those who are bipolar.

In addition, the Constitutional Court upheld a provision in a recently passed law that allows minors 16 years of age and older to abort their baby without the knowledge and permission of their parents.

The VOX political party had filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the latest changes to the abortion law made in February 2023.

This change in the law, in addition to allowing minors to make a decision of this magnitude without the involvement of their parents or legal guardians, establishes other anti-life measures.

Eliminated from the provisions of the previous law were the three-day waiting period after the initial appointment for an abortion and the practitioner’s obligation to provide complete information, which could include ultrasounds, alternatives to abortion, and the methods and risks involved in abortion.

Furthermore, the changes to the law now upheld by the Constitutional Court mandate that abortion be deleted from the patient’s medical history after five years.

VOX told Spanish media that the court’s ruling affects “millions of young women who are left helpless at a time when they are most vulnerable.” According to the political party, it is “a decision against the value of human life” that creates “the configuration of a society without a culture of life and that represents another attack on the family, parental authority, and the duty and right of parents to ensure the well-being of their children.”

Also in February 2023, the Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal against the abortion law passed in 2010. This was a decision surrounded by controversy due to accusations of lack of impartiality on the part of the judges since at least four of them had been involved in the legislative process for the law under appeal.

In response the Christian Lawyers Foundation filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights for prevarication against the president of the Constitutional Court, Cándido Conde-Pumpido.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Argentine bishops speak out about interrupting Mass with political chants

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ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

In two separate recent incidents, participants at Mass in Argentina started chanting the political slogan “the country is not for sale,” an expression of opposition to the policies of President Javier Milei. Videos showing the chanting have circulated on social media, leading several bishops to speak out about the situation.

One of the Masses was celebrated by the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, Gustavo Carrara, who later issued a statement “humbly apologizing” to those who might have felt offended. Although he did not participate in the chanting, as the celebrant he took responsibility for what had happened.

The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, also spoke out about the incidents during a June 15 Mass at St. Ildephonsus Parish, making it clear that “the Mass is something sacred.”

“Here we come to be nourished by unity, brotherhood, peace. That’s why it’s not good to use the Mass to divide, to fragment, to be partisan,” he added.

Two more bishops have now commented on the matter. 

In an interview with Radio 10, the bishop of San Justo, Eduardo García, when asked about the “political tone” that has been attributed to the actions of the Church lately said it “would seem that since there is no opposition, we [the Church] are the opposition.”

“We are doing what we have to do, what we always do, and perhaps it becomes more visible and stronger because the reality is more painful,” he said in defense of the Catholic Church and its solidarity work in the face of the crisis besetting Argentina.

“Reality kills the story,” García added. “You have to get down to reality, look at the people, ask questions, see what is happening to them.”

Regarding the videos going viral of people chanting political slogans at Mass, García said: “We are in a critical moment, what is critical is accentuated, perhaps, by the issue of communications, social media, that anyone can say anything and it’s taken as truth, then that creates even more confusion.”

“I believe that social media used well, coming from the truth, ethically, with common sense and with sensitivity can do a lot of good; when used coming from another place they are very harmful,” he concluded.

In a June 15 post on Facebook, the bishop of San Francisco in Argentina, Sergio Osvaldo Buenanueva, also referred to what happened, expressing his appreciation for Carrara’s gesture of apologizing for the incident.

“In a polarized country like ours, the power of social media quickly makes incomplete information go viral. Thus people rush to take positions and make judgments, largely unappealable. And social harmony is greatly diminished,” the prelate noted.

“This polarization also hurts our Christian communities,” lamented Buenanueva, who, referring to Carrara, said that “the words and the gesture of the bishop are sincere and ameliorating, and so they are appreciated.”

“The Mass cannot be used to promote political causes,” he pointed out, “not because politics is bad, but because that’s not the purpose of the Mass, which is to glorify God and sanctify the baptized, strengthen the unity of the Church and promote its mission in the world, also encouraging ‘better politics’ as Pope Francis says and Bishop Carrara has aptly noted.”

“This video, like another one that circulated before, causes estrangement, discouragement, and annoyance in many good Catholics, both pastors and especially laypeople,” he acknowledged. 

“The vast majority of our Christian communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, do so with deep faith and respect for the sacred mystery,” Buenanueva noted, pointing out that “some minority positions and — in my opinion — also anachronistic positions, cannot make us lose sight of the rich life of faith, mission, and commitment of our communities throughout the country.”

“I say it again that I value the gesture of Bishop Gustavo Carrara because it expresses the will to work for the harmony that animates all bishops. It is the power of the charity of Christ to which we must always return so that he may transform us into artisans of peace,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Arizona governor vetoes bill requiring insurance companies to cover trans ‘detransitions’

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs sits in the audience prior to President Joe Biden's remarks at the Tempe Center for the Arts on Sept 28, 2023, in Tempe, Arizona. / Credit: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs this week vetoed a bill that would have required insurance companies to cover “detransitioning” procedures for transgender-identifying individuals who had undergone sex-change surgeries.

The Democratic governor vetoed state Senate Bill 1511 after it passed both houses of the state Legislature. The measure would have stipulated that health insurance plans that offer “coverage for gender transition procedures” may not “deny coverage for gender detransition procedures.”

It would have also required that physicians who perform gender transition procedures “must agree to provide or pay for the performance of gender detransition procedures.”

“Detransitioners,” or transgender-identified individuals who have ceased trying to make their bodies resemble those of the opposite sex, have been getting increased attention in the media in recent years. 

Oftentimes such people have been on cross-sex hormones for years, resulting in significant or irreversible changes to their bodies; in other cases, they have undergone irreversible surgeries. Extensive medical work can be required to attempt to return their bodies to normal function. 

In a “veto letter” provided to CNA by the governor’s office on Wednesday, Hobbs said the measure was “unnecessary and would create a privacy risk for patients.”

On its website, the Arizona State Senate Republican Caucus said Hobbs in her veto of the bill was “aiding doctors and insurance companies taking advantage of a vulnerable population.”

State Sen. Janae Shamp, who sponsored the bill, argued on Tuesday that doctors “must be prepared to undo the damage” of gender transition procedures “as much as possible.”

Insurance companies should also pay for such reparative procedures, she said.

“Shame on Gov. Hobbs for sending a message that the institutions tasked with protecting their health and well-being have turned their backs on them,” Shamp said on the state senate GOP’s website.

Advocates say detransitioners demonstrate why doctors and health officials should proceed cautiously with transgender procedures, especially given that many of those procedures cannot be easily reversed, if at all. 

Some formerly transgender-identified individuals, such as young adult Chloe Cole, have spoken out strongly against what they say is a too-permissive medical culture that rushes into “gender-affirming” models of care.

In the Netherlands earlier this year, a study found that nearly two-thirds of children who had wished that they belonged to the opposite sex as adolescents ultimately became comfortable with their biological sex in early adulthood.

In an interview with the New York Times last month, meanwhile, English pediatrician Hilary Cass warned there is no comprehensive evidence to support the routine prescription of transgender drugs to minors with gender dysphoria. 

The doctor earlier this year published the independent “Cass Review,” commissioned by the National Health Service in England, which prompted England and Scotland to halt the prescription of transgender drugs to minors until more research is conducted.

Shamp, the Arizona senator, this week pointed to Chloe Cole as an example of the perils of transgender medicine.

Cole was “given puberty blockers and underwent a double mastectomy” at a young age and now struggles with “the severe damage left behind,” the senator said.

“It’s unfathomable that we consider mutilating an undeveloped child’s body as ‘health care,’” Shamp said, “but what’s even more horrifying is the fact that we deny them access to care when they go on to suffer the mental and physical consequences.”

Pope Francis tells Communion and Liberation leader: ‘Do not look at your navel’

Pope Francis greets members of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation in St. Peter's Square Oct. 15, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 14:57 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis in an audience last week with the president of Communion and Liberation (CL) reportedly told the leader not to “look at your navel” but to share their movement with the whole Church.

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement founded in the 1950s by Italian priest Father Luigi Giussani, a theologian and public intellectual. It received papal recognition in 1982 and today is present in 90 countries worldwide, with its members — clerical and lay — primarily focusing on community, culture, and Catholic education and faith formation. Its members meet weekly in small discussion groups that they call the “School of Community.”

In a June 15 audience, the pope received Davide Prosperi, president of CL, and Father Andrea D’Auria, director of CL’s International Center.

As reported by Prosperi, the pope spoke of “the need to share the charism and for a co-responsibility in the leadership of the movement.” He also stressed, Prosperi said, that every charism must conceive of itself as being at the service of the whole Church.

Prosperi said Pope Francis said several times during the audience: “Do not look at your navel, go outside, go outside! The whole Church needs this.”

“A movement, the Holy Father reminded us, must remain faithful to its charism by communicating itself creatively in every place around the world where it is present,” Prosperi said.

Pope Francis has previously warned representatives of Catholic movements that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that hinder their call to serve the Church, saying it is “treachery” when a leader “wants to serve the Lord but also serves other things that are not the Lord.”

CL has faced dissension among some members in recent years over its governance. The Holy See in September 2021 appointed a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay-consecrated branch of CL. Two months later, Father Julián Carrón announced his resignation as president of CL, and Prosperi succeeded him.

Pope Francis spoke to thousands of CL members at a 2022 event marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Giussani. Giussani died in 2005 and his cause for beatification was opened in 2012.

“Times of crisis are times of recapitulation of your extraordinary history of charity, culture, and mission; they are times of critical discernment of what has limited the fruitful potential of Father Giussani’s charism,” the pope said. “They are times of renewal and missionary relaunch in light of the current ecclesial moment as well as the needs, sufferings, and hopes of contemporary humanity.”

He encouraged the movement to foster unity amid diversity and to not waste any time with “gossip, mistrust, and opposition.” He added: “Please, do not waste time.”

Holy See convenes UN panel urging global abolition of surrogacy

Panelists speak at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” held by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. / Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The Holy See this week hosted a panel at the United Nations at which advocates highlighted the “exploitation and commodification” inherent in the surrogacy industry and stressed the need to regulate and eventually abolish surrogacy around the world.

The participants “highlighted the need for a universal ban to protect against exploitation and commodification,” the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations said, with the panelists calling for “increased awareness and concrete steps at the U.N. level to abolish surrogacy and uphold human dignity.”

The event, titled “At What Price? Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” was held at the Palais des Nations at the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters.

The side event, held at the 56th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was organized by the Holy See mission and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Italy to the United Nations and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Pope Francis earlier this year called surrogacy “deplorable” and called for a global ban on the exploitative practice of “so-called surrogate motherhood” in a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors.

“The path to peace calls for respect for life, for every human life, starting with the life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking,” the pope said in January. 

A press release from the Holy See mission said the panel this week brought together “a wide range of participants” to discuss surrogacy, including a woman born through surrogacy who has since become a child rights activist, as well as an Italian government minister and other advocates.

It was moderated by Gabriella Gambino, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Attendees listen to panelists at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See
Attendees listen to panelists at the event "Towards the Abolition of Surrogacy: Preventing the Exploitation and Commodification of Women and Children,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See in Geneva on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Permanent Mission of the Holy See

Olivia Maurel, who was born in America through surrogacy and raised in France, told participants at the panel of the “severe emotional and psychological toll it took on her life,” according to the mission. 

She argued that surrogacy “commodifies children and exploits women, violating international laws and children’s rights,” the release said. 

Gambino, meanwhile, argued that surrogacy has resulted in “procreative tourism” around the globe. Italian Minister for Family, Natality, and Equal Opportunities Eugenia Roccella also argued that surrogacy regulations often fail to capture the complex ethical concerns regarding the exploitation of women and children. 

This has resulted in “a vast international movement of individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds advocating for a global ban on surrogacy,” the Holy See mission said. 

The mission held a similar event earlier this year at the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. 

At that event Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See Mission to the U.N., argued that “children have rights and interests which must be respected, starting with the moral right to be created in an act of love.”

The archbishop at the time called for “an international prohibition on this abusive practice.” 

Pope Francis tells faithful: Learn some of the Psalms by heart

Pope Francis gives a blessing to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 19, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday there are Psalms to fit any need and that they should be learned by heart and repeated often.

“It is necessary to make the Psalms our prayer,” the pope said at his general audience in an overcast but hot and muggy St. Peter’s Square on June 19.

Continuing his series of catechesis on the Holy Spirit and the Church, he explained that the Psalms “are the songs that the Spirit himself has placed on the lips of the Bride, his Church.”

“If there are Psalms, or just verses, that speak to our heart, it is good to repeat them and pray them during the day. The Psalms are prayers ‘for all seasons’; there is no state of mind or need that does not find in them the best words to be transformed into prayer,” he said.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Speaking to a crowd of Catholics and tourists, he pointed out specific Psalms that could be helpful to pray in different circumstances, such as Psalm 50 for when one is feeling bad for having sinned.

He also recommended Psalm 51 for when one is feeling oppressed by remorse or guilt for being a sinner. “We can repeat with David: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love,’” he said.

“If we want to express a strong personal bond with love, let us say: ‘O God, thou art my God / I seek thee, / my soul thirsts for thee; / my flesh faints for thee, / as in a dry and weary land where no water is,’ Psalm 63,” he continued.

“And if fear and anguish assail us, those wonderful words of Psalm 23 come to our rescue: ‘The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I fear no evil.’”

A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pontiff told listeners that there are many Psalms that can help them in their day-to-day lives. He added that the Psalms do not lose their effectiveness by being repeated many times, unlike other prayers.

“Form the habit of praying with the Psalms. I assure you that you will be happy in the end,” Francis said.

He drew attention to another beautiful aspect of praying with the Psalms: the fact that they help one avoid reducing prayer to just a series of requests to the Lord — “give me, give us…” 

“The Psalms help us open ourselves to a prayer that is less focused on ourselves: a prayer of praise, of blessing, of thanksgiving; and they also help us give voice to all creation, involving it in our praise,” he said.

Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis also pointed out that the Psalms are so important that, though they are part of the Old Testament, they are sometimes included together with copies of the New Testament.

This is the case with a book he received as a gift, he noted, an edition of the New Testament and Psalms that once belonged to a Ukrainian soldier who died in the war. The Holy Father keeps it on his desk, he said.

The pontiff highlighted that not every Psalm, or every part of some Psalms, is relevant to modern man given that they “reflect, at times, a historical situation and a religious mentality that are no longer our own.”

“This does not mean that they are not inspired,” he underlined, “but in certain aspects they are linked to a time and a temporary stage of revelation, as is also the case with a large part of ancient legislation.”

“What most commends the Psalms to our attention is that they were the prayers of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, and all the Christian generations that have preceded us,” Francis said. “When we recite them, God listens to them with that grandiose ‘orchestration’ that is the community of saints.”

At the end of his hourlong audience with the public, the pope publicly greeted members of the Friends of Cardinal Celso Costantini Association as it marks the 100th anniversary of the First Council of the Catholic Church in China.

The “Primum Concilium Sinese” (the first Plenary Council of China) was held from May 15–June 12, 1924, and was led by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Celso Costantini.

Pope Francis said this anniversary makes him think of “the dear Chinese people.”

“Let us always pray for this noble people who are so brave and have such a beautiful culture. Let us pray for the Chinese people,” he said.

U.S. bishops approve plan for youth, young adult ministry

Pilgrims kneel in adoration at a World Youth Day event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and featured a talk by Bishop Robert Barron culminating in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. / Credit: Claudette Jerez/EWTN News video screen shot

CNA Staff, Jun 19, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops approved a new pastoral framework for youth and young adult outreach, titled “Listen, Teach, Send,” following their spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, last week. 

The framework was approved on Monday, passing with 188 in favor, four against, and four abstentions, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced in a Tuesday press release

The initial vote was held at the bishops’ spring plenary assembly, but not enough eligible bishops were present to vote and were contacted to cast their votes after, the release noted.

“We’re hoping that ‘Listen, Teach, Send’ can offer new life for these ministries in our local Churches,” Bishop Robert Barron, who is heading the initiative as chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, explained at the USCCB June Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Barron noted that it has been 30 years since the “last major moment” for the Church’s work with youth, the World Youth Day gathering in Denver, which was accompanied by the release of two national frameworks on youth and young adults. 

“Since then, frankly, enthusiasm has waned while disaffiliation has risen,” he told the bishops gathered in Louisville. “It’s our fond hope that the ‘Listen, Teach, Send’ framework, combined with the Holy Father’s encouragement in the Synod and Christus Vivit, will be another watershed moment.”

Five years ago, Pope Francis published Christus Vivit, “Christ Is Alive!”, an apostolic exhortation addressed to young people and the “entire people of God” after the Youth Synod. In response to this, the U.S. bishops authorized this framework in 2021.

The framework, “Listen, Teach, Send: National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and with Young Adults,” follows Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and highlights how he listens to them, reveals Scripture to them, and sends them forth. 

“‘Listen, Teach, Send’ is a summons to the Church to renew her engagement with youth and young adults in imitation of Jesus Christ on the journey to Emmaus,” Barron explained.

“Like the Lord in that familiar story, we’re called deeply to listen to the realities facing young people with pastoral care and compassion; to teach in a new way that shares the light of Christ with young people and brings about a conversion of heart; and, finally, to send youth and young adults forth so they eagerly choose to follow God’s call and their mission to transform the world,” he continued. 

Barron and his department took inspiration from ministries such as the National Dialogue, the Hispanic ministry V National Encuentro, and Journeying Together, as well as other bishops’ insights in drafting the document.  

“What we heard was a strong desire to develop a framework that was streamlined and straightforward, one that could be used not just by pastors and pastoral ministers but also by families and by young people themselves who can evangelize and guide their peers to Christ,” Barron said.

“We heard a desire to name and address issues, including sexuality, mental health, disaffiliation, racial justice, polarization, and the desire of so many young people to transform our society,” he continued. “Most importantly, we heard that we cannot be silent or inactive when it comes to the engagement and accompaniment of youth and young adults.”

The framework highlights mutual listening, mentorship, evangelization, and vocation, noting that formation should take place in the home and through parents, grandparents, and families but can take place in a variety of contexts.

The USCCB will be releasing complementary and supplemental resources this year with concrete ideas for implementing the framework on a local level.

“In this, we encourage ministry leaders and families to establish conditions for mutual listening to take place: where older generations can truly listen to the young and where the young can truly listen to God speaking to them in the Word and the wisdom of the Church,” the document reads.

The document notes that young people “need faith-filled parents and pastoral ministry leaders (and peers) who can lovingly interpret young people’s stories through the lens of faith and foster a conversion of the heart.”

“Too many youth and young adults today lack mentors in their lives, and yet these wisdom figures can do so much to guide a young person along the right path,” it continues. “This experience of accompaniment is something that begins in the family and extends to the teachers, respected adults, Church leaders, and professional connections that a young person encounters as they mature through life.”

The framework explains the importance of conveying the whole Gospel, including what may challenge young people.

“The teachings of Christ are countercultural and transformative: seeking God’s kingdom first above all, loving enemies, living a moral life, and sacrificing one’s own self for the good of others, especially those who are marginalized and forgotten,” the document reads. “It may take time to embrace these truths, and young people should be given loving environments where they can ask questions without judgment and wrestle with difficult issues.”

“As young people are accompanied on a pilgrimage of faith, they need to hear a clear proclamation of the message of salvation, the implications of Gospel living (including the effects of sin), the embrace of God’s mercy, and the unconditional love that Christ offers those who follow him — all inculturated in their lives in a language and style they can understand, appreciate, and appropriate within their own lives,” the document notes.

The document concludes by highlighting that young people have a mission to “go where Christ is calling them,” highlighting the importance of reaching out to the vulnerable and marginalized, embracing the universal call to holiness, and being transformed by Christ through “prayerful openness” while recognizing God’s work in their lives.