CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY Daily Feed
Feb. 18, 2018
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Catholic Schools Week; Rachel Doll; Ellinwood; Great Bend; Garden City; Ness City; Dodge City; Sister Rita Schwarzenberger; Nigeria; Bishop Hermes; Fasting for Priestly Vocations; World Day for Consecrated Life; 50th Anniversary St. Dominic School; What will life be like in 50 years?
Feb. 4, 2018
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: March for Life; Tracy and Ross Smith; Adoption; Vibrant Ministries; Faith and Light;
Pro-Life; Mortal sin to discard elderly; DACA; Abortion; Dreamers; Human Trafficking
St. Nicholas School, Kinsley, Advent Cantata, Dec. 7, 2008
Click on the photo below for the 41-minute concert.
Funding for abortion to become more compulsory in Oregon
Salem, Ore., Jul 12, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News) - The Oregon governor is expected to sign into law a proposal requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders.
“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said.
“House Bill 3391 forces insurance companies to cover abortion on demand and it forces all Oregon taxpayers to help finance an extremist abortion agenda that does not enjoy majority support.”
The Oregon House of Representatives passed the bill July 5 by a 33-23 vote. The Senate passed the bill 17-13.
The initial version of the bill’s religious exemptions were so narrow that the Catholic-run Providence Health System threatened to exit the state’s insurance market. The bill’s backers increased exemptions to the bill, but some objecting lawmakers said the provisions did not go far enough, the Catholic Sentinel reports. The exemptions apply to churches and other religious nonprofits.
Under the bill, the Oregon Health Authority must now provide abortion coverage where religious organizations will not.
The bill aims to counter expected changes in federal health care policy. It increases state spending by $10.2 million, most of the funding aiming to provide free coverage of exams, drugs, devices, and procedures. Abortion is considered a procedure under the law.
Under the Oregon Medicaid program, over $2 million is spent each year to pay for about 3,500 abortions, the Associated Press reports. The proposed bill sets aside about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.
The Oregon Catholic Conference voiced hope that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will not sign the law.
The conference encouraged citizens opposed to H.B. 3391 to support the proposed 2018 ballot initiative called the Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The proposal would bar state funds for any abortion that is not medically necessary or when spending is required by federal law.
The petition needs 117,000 signatures from registered Oregonian voters in order to qualify for the ballot.
Senate health care bill ‘unacceptable,’ bishop says after budget office report
By Matt Hadro
Washington D.C., Jun 28, 2017 / 06:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Senate’s health care bill remains “unacceptable,” one U.S. bishop insisted after a non-partisan government office estimated it would result in millions more uninsured.
“This moment cannot pass without comment,” said Bishop Frank Dewane, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, in response to the scoring of the draft Senate health care bill by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday.
“As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable,” he said of the office’s estimate that the number of uninsured could increase by 22 million by 2026. “These are real families who need and deserve health care.”
The Congressional Budget Office released its scoring of the Senate health care bill on Monday, H.R. 1628, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
The bill eliminates the individual and employer mandates of the Affordable Care Act, replacing the individual mandate with a six-month waiting period for new insurance in non-group plans if one goes without insurance for more than 63 days.
Also, the bill makes it easier for states to waive essential health benefits, or the list of benefits like emergency services and maternity care that was mandatory in health plans under the Affordable Care Act. The elderly can be charged up to five times more than younger persons in their premiums by insurers, as opposed to the limit being three times more than younger people.
The bill could reduce the federal deficit by over $320 billion over 10 years, according to the CBO, largely because of cuts to the rate of increased spending on Medicaid over that time (almost $800 billion in cuts) and cuts in the amount of federal subsidies for health plans.
The Medicaid cuts would take place through “per capita” caps on federal Medicaid funding of states. Thus, the funding in the future would be dependent upon the populations of the states.
An estimated 22 million more people would also be uninsured by 2026, increasing the projected number of uninsured from 28 million to 49 million.
Some of those uninsured would be persons who voluntarily forego having health insurance because of the removal of the individual mandate, which levies heavy fines on those without health insurance.
Instead, the new bill would fine persons with a gap in coverage once they sign up for insurance again, at a rate of 30 percent of their new premium.
In the short-term, this would be the “primary” reason behind the increase in the number of uninsured, the CBO said. However, after several years, other policies could increase the number of uninsured, like the cuts to Medicaid spending and federal subsidies.
For instance, for persons under the age of 65 by the year 2026, Medicaid enrollment would be down 16 percent, the office estimated.
The White House panned the CBO estimates in a statement released on Monday evening.
“The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how healthcare legislation will impact insurance coverage,” the White House stated. “In 2013, the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have coverage under Obamacare by 2016. It was off by an astounding 13 million people – more than half – as less than 11 million were actually covered.”
“To date, we have seen average individual market premiums more than double and insurers across the country opting out of healthcare exchanges,” the White House continued, urging action to be taken to reform health care.
Bishop Dewane, meanwhile, promised to pray for the Senate “to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right.”
Last week, the bishop had outlined his serious concerns with the draft legislation. The bill, he said, in some ways made the problems with the House health care bill on health coverage for low-income persons worse.
“It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written,” he said on Thursday. The cuts to Medicaid funding in particular would “wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported,” he insisted.
Bishop Dewane also noted the lack of language protecting “conscience rights” of those in the health care industry from mandates that they perform morally objectionable procedures like abortions or gender-transition surgeries.
He did praise the language protecting tax credits from being used to pay for abortions, but showed caution in warning that the language could very well be removed by the chamber’s parliamentarian because it could be ruled as not pertaining to the budget.
Other parts of the health care bill that the CBO scored included changes to premiums for persons in non-group plans.
The average premiums for these plans would increase in the short-term, the CBO estimated, but by 2020 would drop to 30 percent lower than the premium estimates under the current health care law.
However, some could still see their health care costs rise because their benefits might be cut and their out-of-pocket health costs could be higher, especially those living in states which choose to waive the essential health benefits.
The marketplaces for non-group health insurance would still be stable in the coming years, the CBO estimated, but in certain areas for “a small fraction of the population,” insurers might not participate in non-group coverage.
This would be because fewer people would sign up for health plans due to fewer available subsidies, or even if the insurers participate in marketplaces, the plans themselves might be more expensive.
When asked on Monday if the White House would take CBO scores into account to the extent that they would go “back to the drawing board” on the bill if necessary, press secretary Sean Spicer answered that the White House would continue its current plan on health care reform.
“We feel very confident with where the bill is,” he stated. “And he [President Donald Trump] is going to continue to listen to senators who have ideas about how to strengthen it. But it’s going to follow the same plan as we have.”
Combat the world's elitism with inclusion, Pope encourages youth
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2017 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis participated in a Google Hangout on Friday with youth from around the world, emphasizing that “everyone has meaning,” even though the world will try to exclude certain people.
Combatting a world which promotes elitism and exclusion, the Pope said June 9, “you have a meaning, everyone … has meaning, you have a meaning, it is in your hands to discover the meaning I have in life, what I am like, with the potentiality that you can … and how to give this meaning to others.”
The hangout, Pope Francis’ third time for the meeting, was organized for the inauguration of a new Vatican office of the Scholas Occurentes, a world-wide initiative in schools to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts, and sports.
Society “is accustomed to exclude, to select, to attack, to shut out people,” he lamented.
However, he said Scholas isn’t like the world, but instead it will “include, shake hands, give a hug, [refrain from] attack, and recognize that no one is a ‘no’… everyone is a ‘yes,’ a ‘yes’ for them and a ‘yes’ for others. To include, a ‘yes’ to give.”
The video chat included youth from the countries of Italy, Colombia, Haiti, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. Each group took turns giving a short presentation on the impact of their local “Scholas Ciaudadania” group.
The Pope listened intently to each one before making his comments in Spanish.
“This work that you're doing, of encountering one another, dialoguing … is an example for us grownups,” he said.
Scholas was started by Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In 2013 it was approved as an ecclesiastical institute by the Holy See.
With just a few youth involved at its beginning, the foundation now consists of a worldwide network of over 400,000 state and religious schools, which are organized by Argentine school headmasters Enrique Palmeyro and José María del Corral.
Nigerian priest shares harrowing story of being kidnapped
.- It was supposed to be a quiet retreat weekend last April for Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe, a Nigerian Jesuit priest and director of a local spirituality center.
Before he left, he chatted with his new provincial, Fr. Chuks Afiawari, who joked with Fr. Sam: “Make sure where you are going they don't kidnap you."
“We laughed about it,” Fr. Sam recalled.
Little did the priests know that the joke would be an unfortunate foreshadowing of what was to come. In a testimony posted on the website of the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, Fr. Sam recalled how his faith carried him through a traumatic and harrowing experience of kidnapping.
On his way to the retreat, which was to be in Onitsha, in the state of Anambra, Fr. Sam took a familiar, seemingly safe highway on which he had traveled many times.
That’s why he was so surprised when he heard gunshots.
“On glancing back I saw all the vehicles behind me stopping, and trying to reverse … that's when it hit me that there was something dangerous ahead of me,” he recalled.
“On looking up I saw masked men with AK47 rifles shooting. I was so scared. I also stopped my car abruptly and began to reverse, but as I was trying to do that, a man suddenly appeared … and said, ‘If you don't get out of the car I'll shoot you.’”
The priest could see behind him that the men had also stopped another car, a black Mercedes, and were forcing two men out of the car. In a hurry, Fr. Sam left his phone in the car.
He quickly identified the armed kidnappers as Fulani herdsmen, a notoriously violent group whose clashes with farmers have killed thousands of people in Nigeria over the past two decades. According to the Global Terrorism Index, they were the fourth most violent militant group in the world in 2014.
Violence against Christians has also significantly increased in the country in recent years, particularly in Muslim-majority areas. In 2016, one Nigerian bishop lamented that Christians had essentially become “target practice.”
The Fulani kidnappers led Fr. Sam and the other two men into the forest at gunpoint for eight hours, barely stopping for breaks. They eventually let one of the two other men go, because he could not keep up with the pace, but they first cut his feet so that he could not escape quickly, Fr. Sam recalled.
“The pace in the forest was jogging, jumping over tree trumps, going over leaves, which often cut through our skin. So it was quite brutal!” Fr. Sam said.
“I was so shaken, and began to ask myself, is this happening to me? What am I doing in this forest? What am I doing here? I felt extremely cold and in my confusion … I'd mutter to myself, this can't be happening, God. This can't be happening,” he said.
The captors started questioning Fr. Sam and the other man, and were suspicious when Fr. Sam identified himself as a priest; they thought he might be a government spy. They stripped him of all his belongings – his watch, wallet, and rosary.
When they questioned Fr. Sam about his phone, the captors were enraged that he had left it in his car – which was fortunate, the priest said, because he had saved financial information from his work on it.
The militants asked him if he could remember anyone’s number – someone to call who could negotiate for Fr. Sam’s life and pay off the herdsmen. Traumatized by his experience, Fr. Sam couldn’t remember one phone number.
“That triggered a series of beatings...they huddled me up, hands and feet tied to the back with a rope like a goat before a kill. They removed my cassock, then my shirt, threw me into the dirt on the ground, and began to beat me with the back of their guns, they'd kick me hard on my sides, slap across my face, push and pull me hard across the ground...one of them said ‘We are going to burn you alive!’” the priest recalled.
“I really believed that they were going to do it...I began to pray in silence...I said, ‘God, I commit to you, I commit my spirit' and I resigned to the thought of my fate, that I was going to die that day.’”
Finally, the beating stopped. Fr. Sam said he remembers praying constantly through the whole experience.
“I hoped for a miracle...every minute I'd pray saying all kinds of prayers, I'd pray to Saint Ignatius, say the rosary and the Divine Mercy (chaplet)...at one time I found myself singing heartily but in the inside, a Ghanaian song that says 'God speak to me...God where are you?’ I kept humming in my heart...it gave me hope,” he said.
Eventually Fr. Sam was able to get the phone number of another Jesuit priest through the contact of the other man in captivity. This priest, Jesuit provincial Fr. Jude Odiaka, began negotiations with the herdsmen.
And while at times he prayed for death, Fr. Sam said he felt better once he had made contact with the Jesuits.
“I knew that word must have gotten around about the kidnapping, and that the sisters at the retreat centre and people who knew me all over, must have been praying for me.”
The other man who had been captured with Fr. Sam also was a great comfort, he recalled.
“...the guy I was kidnapped with...he was a grace for me, a gift from God. I hope I was too for him because we exchanged words of encouragement silently, as we were not allowed to talk to each (other).”
Finally, the captors seemed to have gotten what they wanted, and started talking of letting the men go.
“I intensified my prayers and I prayed to God ‘Please God, make this end well,’” Fr. Sam said.
“I recalled a saying that ‘God will not bring you this far, then abandon you’, so this brought some assurance to my heart,”
When the militants decided to release the men, they were left to wander alone together through the forest, trying to find the pathway out. Eventually, they were able to make it to safety and back home.
While the experience was “painful and traumatizing,” Fr. Sam said one of the best consolations upon his return was hearing from many people, near and far, that they had been praying for him.
“In all these things God revealed to me that I was never abandoned while in the forest, even if I was out of reach and in danger, that God heard the prayers and was with me,” he said.
“It has renewed my faith in God, my faith in people...the human person, God's gift of friendship and that if what I do matters, then also those people I do it with are also very important.”
Fr. Sam said he also plans to use his experience to help other people in his work as a counselor.
“This has also given me an understanding to accompany those who come to me for help seeking solace, encouragement, strength, hope, renewal...you know...maybe that's why it happened,” he said.
“I'm going to use it in my work as a counselor, psychologist and help those who come to me for help, because what support can be given to people that have been kidnapped? What help can we give such people? I think I have become part of that help with what I have received, and experienced.”
.- Two Texas bishops have defended from charges of fear mongering the opponents of a new law which targets sanctuary cities for immigrants, explaining that the bill draws little distinction between criminals and undocumented immigrants.
The law in question, Senate Bill 4, was signed into law May 7. It will take effect in September, and requires local government and law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. Cities which do not comply face fines and the withholding of state funding.
The law also allows law enforcement to question the immigration status of those they detain, as well as the victims and witnesses of crimes. This provision had led to fears that undocumented immigrants will be less likely to report crimes.
“The public debate often makes it sound as if all immigrants are criminals because they are here without proper documentation. Overstaying a visa is not a criminal offense; it is a civil offense against a federal statute,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville wrote in a June 4 column.
“Yes, immigrants without valid documents have infracted federal statutes; but they are not justly lumped together with human traffickers, drug dealers and murderers,” they maintained.
The column, which appeared in the McAllen-based daily The Monitor, is a response to a previous column by Governor Greg Abbott (R) which appeared in the San Antonio Express-News and in The Monitor.
The governor had charged that “Whether driven by misunderstanding or by purposeful fear mongering, those who are inflaming unrest place all who live in Texas at greater risk.”
The bishops said there is more to the unrest than misunderstanding, and that it is SB 4 which is causing fear among immigrant communities.
“This new Texas state law encourages the notion that the immigrant community is defined by the criminals in our midst – instead of defined by the fact that most immigrants are working families with children. These things generate fear in the immigrant community.”
Archbishop García-Siller and Bishop Flores are worried that the option for law enforcement to question immigration status will lead to aggressive interpretations, and that “pretexts will be invented so that [people] can be stopped and asked about their immigration status.”
Noting that while the law “prohibits discrimination and profiling,” the bishops said that “the immigrant poor are not likely to have the resources or the counsel needed to defend themselves.”
“People get stopped, and they are desperately afraid. They immediately wonder about their children, and about their own safety if deported. It is this uncertainty and potential panic at the moment of questioning that breeds fear and that hurts the community fabric.”
Any law enforcement agencies that are more aggressive in questioning immigration status will undermine trust in all law enforcement persons, the bishops noted.
“And does not such uncertainty make it less likely that crimes will be reported?”
Archbishop García-Siller and Bishop Flores noted that “We are a nation of laws, as the governor says; unfortunately, not all our laws are good laws. Bad laws have bad effects.”
They stated, “we will step up our efforts to inform persons of their rights, including the right to remain silent, and to make available the best advice about what to do if you are stopped and are without valid documentation.”
“We will also work to repeal SB 4, or correct the most injurious aspects of this law. And we encourage all who oppose this law to work together in strenuous and peaceful ways toward this same end.”
.- Stephanie Packer cherishes every moment with her husband and four children. Living with a terminal illness in Orange, California, her goal is “to do everything I can to have one more second with my kids.”
When assisted suicide legislation was officially passed in California in 2016, Packer experienced the ultimate slap in the face: her insurance company denied the coverage of critical chemotherapy treatment that her doctors recommended for her condition.
Her insurance would, however, cover end-of-life drugs for just $1.20.
“It was like someone had just hit me in the gut,” said Packer, who shared her story in the documentary, Compassion and Choice Denied.
Produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, the documentary details Packer’s experience of living with a terminal illness in an age where assisted suicide is cheaper than the fight for life.
Particularly concerning: the insurance company had initially suggested that they would cover the chemotherapy drugs. It was one week after assisted suicide was legalized that they sent Packer a letter saying they were denying coverage. Despite multiple appeals, they continued to refuse.
“As soon as this law was passed, patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option… it’s hard to financially fight,” Packer said in the documentary.
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in a handful of states, gaining momentum ever since the high profile suicide of cancer patient Brittany Maynard in 2014.
Many prominent Catholic leaders, such as Pope Francis, have spoken out against assisted suicide, calling it “false compassion.” Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has said that assisted suicide “represents a failure of solidarity” and abandons the most vulnerable in society.
“We are called as people to support each other, to hold each other’s hand and walk through this journey,” Packer said, adding, “I want my kids to see that dying is a part of life, and the end of your life can be an opportunity to appreciate the things you didn’t appreciate before.”
Packer leads support groups for individuals with terminal and chronic illnesses. She said there was a clear morale change in many of the group members when physician-assisted suicide became legalized in her state.
“Normally, we would talk about support and love, and we would be there for each other, and just encourage them that, you know, today is a bad day, tomorrow doesn’t have to be,” she said.
But when assisted suicide was legalized, individuals became more depressed, with some saying that they wanted to end their lives.
“Patients are going to die because of this,” Packer said. “Patients need to know what this means, and the public needs to know that it’s going to kill these patients because they aren’t going to get the treatment they need to extend their life.”
She also said that assisted suicide proponents have twisted the meaning of suicide to make it sound “sweet and pretty,” and have also redefined what it means to live with a terminal illness.
“It makes terminally ill patients feel ‘less than,’ that they are not worthy of that fight, that they're not worth it,” she said.
Packer believes that end-of-life drugs should never “be supported by physicians or run by the government. That’s not okay... because it affects me negatively and affects my fight and my ability to stay here longer with my children.”
Packer pointed to other resources, saying that there is a whole treasury of support for terminal patients – financially, psychologically, physically, and even if patients just need someone to talk to.
While life-affirming palliative care remains an expensive medical cost, Packer recommended that more energy and resources fund hospice care, instead of making death the cheaper option.
“We can start to fix our broken health care system, and people will start to live instead of feeling like they have to choose to die.”