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How the SCOTUS abortion ruling could affect upcoming Senate races

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The US Supreme Court this week issued a ruling overturning a Louisiana law seeking to hold abortion clinics to the same standards as other surgical centers. In the wake of the decision, advocacy groups are highlighting the importance of preserving a pro-life majority in the US Senate. 

“Monday’s decision makes clear we do not yet have a majority on the Supreme Court who will uphold laws that protect the lives of women and unborn children,” said Marjorie Dannefelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, which advocates for pro-life politicians.

The 5-4 Supreme Court decision, handed down June 29, included a dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas, with Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, the court’s newest appointees, joining the dissent along with Justice Samuel Alito.

Pro-abortion groups such as NARAL have capitalized in recent days on senators who supported Kavanaugh’s 2018 nomination to the court, criticizing them for supporting a justice they see as a threat to ‘reproductive rights’.

Nearly all sitting Republican senators voted to confirm Kavanaugh, including several facing potentially competitive races in the fall, the New York Times reports. The Republican Party currently holds a 53-47 Senate majority.

In NARAL’s crosshairs are Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) — one of the few Republicans in the Senate openly supportive of Roe v Wade — as well as Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, all Republicans up for reelection in 2020.

Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act was passed in a bipartisan effort, authored by pro-life Democratic Rep. Katrina Jackson, now a state senator, and signed into law by then-governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican. It required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic.

The state’s current governor, John Bel Edwards (D), campaigned on a pro-life platform leading up to his election in 2015 and signed a bill to ban abortion in the state upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat, in advance of his 2019 re-election.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas commented shortly after the ruling that abortion “violently ends the life of a child, and often severely harms women. Abortion becomes even more destructive when basic health and safety standards are ignored, and profit margins are prioritized over women’s lives.”

“Even as we seek to end the brutality of legalized abortion, we still believe that the women who seek it should not be further harmed and abused by a callous, profit-driven industry,” he continued.

In Montana, man tears down Ten Commandments monument at county courthouse grounds

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- A man has been arrested for allegedly tearing down a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of a county courthouse in northwest Montana.

The man, a 30-year-old Columbia Falls resident, allegedly wrapped a chain around the monument at the Flathead County courthouse grounds in Kalispell on June 27. He attached the chain to his truck, then pulled the monument into the street. He removed then chain, got into his truck, and left the area.

The Kalispell Police Department told NBC Montana that observers saw him and called police.

The accused man, Anthony Weimer, faces a felony charge of criminal mischief. Police said they did not know any motive for the action.

Kalispell Police Chief Doug Overman told MTN News he has no affiliation with any protest or demonstration groups in Flathead County.

Local media did not know whether the monument could be restored or if it had to be replaced.

The Ten Commandments monuments, often spread in collaboration with the movie of the same name, have been a tool for building Catholic, Protestant and Jewish unity in America. They have sometimes drawn objections, protests, and legal cases due to perceived violations of constitutional provisions regarding separation of church and state and non-establishment of a religion.

Many public monuments have been the focus of vandalism or have been thrown down in recent weeks.

Largely peaceful protests against police brutality swept the United States after the spread of video showing the death of Minnesotan George Floyd, a black man, during his detention by police.

However, civil unrest, looting, and vandalism have sometimes accompanied or followed these protests. Long-controversial statues of Confederate leaders were toppled in some localities, as were statues of George Washington, Christopher Columbus, and Ulysses S. Grant.

At least two statues of St. Junipero Serra were knocked down by rioters in California.

During the eighteenth century, the saint founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities. Serra helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new agricultural technologies.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and said the missions engaged in the forced labor of Native Americans, sometimes claiming Serra himself was abusive.

But Serra’s defenders say that Serra was actually an advocate for native people and a champion of human rights. They note the many native people he helped during his life, and their outpouring of grief at his death.

Biographers note that Serra frequently intervened for native people when they faced persecution from Spanish authorities. In one case, the priest intervened to spare the lives of several California natives who had attacked a Spanish outpost.

In St. Louis, Missouri the statue of the city's namesake French king St. Louis IX has drawn protests from Muslims, Jews, and others who object to the crusader king. The statue has also drawn hundreds of Catholic defenders who have prayed at the base of the statue.

St. Louis was King of France from 1226-70, and he took part in the Seventh and Eighth Crusades. He restricted usury and established hospitals, and personally cared for the poor and for lepers. He was canonized in 1297.

Disabled man dies after Texas hospital withheld coronavirus treatment

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- A woman in Texas says that her husband was denied treatment for COVID-19, was moved to a hospice, and then starved for six days after a doctor decided that his quality of life did not merit care due to his preexisting disabilities. 

Michael Hickson 46, died on June 11, eight days after he was admitted to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with pneumonia. He had contracted the coronavirus from a staff member at his nursing home. 

Hickson, a Black man, developed an anoxic brain injury and quadriplegia after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest in 2017.

After he was admitted to St. David’s South Austin, his wife, Melissa Hickson, said she recorded a conversation she had with a doctor, where he explained that he did not want to administer coronavirus treatment to her husband because of his concerns that treatment would not improve Michael’s quality of life. Melissa posted the video on YouTube

“So as of right now his quality of life, he doesn’t have much of one,” says the unidentified doctor in the recording.

Melissa replied “What do you mean? Because he’s paralyzed with a brain injury he doesn’t have quality of life?” she asked. The doctor replied “correct.” 

Michael was given a court-appointed guardian, Family Eldercare, while his wife and his sister were engaged in a legal battle over which of them should be Michael’s permanent guardian. Representatives from Family Eldercare made the decision to remove Michael from the hospital  and place him in a hospice. 

The doctor informed Melissa that the decision to withhold care was “what we feel is best for him along with the state, and this is what we decided,” and that “this is the decision between the medical community and the state.”  

The doctor explained that he did not wish to intubate Michael, which is what the protocol for administering the treatment drug Remdesivir required. While Melissa agreed that she did not wish to have Michael intubated either, she did not approve of him being moved to hospice and asked for alternative treatments. 

While in hospice, Michael did not receive food or medical treatments, and was instead given painkillers until his death six days later, she said. He died from untreated illnesses related to the coronavirus.  

In a separate YouTube video posted by Melissa on June 29, she states that she was not permitted to FaceTime her husband while he was in hospice, and that she was not informed of his death for over 12 hours. She also claims that he was not visited by anyone from Family Eldercare the duration of his hospice stay.

A statement from St. David’s South Austin posted on their website offered condolences to the Hickson family. 

"The loss of life is tragic under any circumstances. In Mr. Hickson’s situation, his court-appointed guardian (who was granted decision-making authority in place of his spouse) made the decision in collaboration with the medical team to discontinue invasive care,” said the statement.  

“This is always a difficult decision for all involved. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Hickson’s family and loved ones and to all who are grieving his loss.”

Michael is survived by Melissa and his five children.

Catholic archdiocese in Guam stopping monthly payments to former archbishop

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Agaña announced Tuesday it will no longer give a monthly honorarium to its emeritus Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Archbishop Apuron, 74, was found guilty of some of several abuse-related charges by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2018.

The archdiocese announced June 30 that “the decision by Archbishop Michael Byrnes will become effective Wednesday, July 1.”

Archbishop Byrnes is on an extended leave from Guam, having had hip surgery earlier this month.

In April 2019, Archbishop Apuron's sentencing was announced by the CDF. He was sentenced to privation of the office of Archbishop of Agaña; forbidden from using the insignia attached to the rank of bishop, such as the mitre and ring; and forbidden from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He was not removed from ministry or from the clerical state, nor was he assigned to live in prayer and penance.

The archdiocese noted in its statement that it “has still remitted a monthly honorarium of $1,500 to former Archbishop Apuron, even during this time of bankruptcy.”

The statement included quotes from a letter sent to Archbishop Apuron last week by Fr. Ron Richards, episcopal vicar of the archdiocese.

Fr. Richards said that the payment “has been been, to say the least, very difficult for the victim survivors of sexual abuse to comprehend. The victim survivors see this honorarium, to a credibly accused violator of delicts against the Sixth Commandment, as contrary to justice and a continuation of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the clergy.”

The priest added that “Archbishop Byrnes has heard from more of the victim survivors. Recognizing the pain these survivors have experienced from the sexual abuse in the past, he sees the continuation of remitting this honorarium as a further deepening of the wounds they are trying to heal from.”

The Agaña archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. Guam's territorial legislature had eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse in 2016.

Earlier this year the Diocese of Buffalo, which has also filed for bankruptcy amid sex abuse lawsuits, similarly announced that a number of priests “with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse” would no longer receive financial assistance or health benefits, though pension plans would not be affected.

Greg Tucker, the Buffalo diocese’s interim communications director,  told CNA in May that “the diocese recognizes that there are certain canonical obligations to ensure that these individuals are not left destitute and is addressing this.”

Canon 402 of the Code of Canon Law says that “the conference of bishops must take care that suitable and decent support is provided for a retired bishop, with attention given to the primary obligation which binds the diocese he has served,” while canon 707 notes that a retired religious bishop is to be supported by his former diocese “unless his own institute wishes to provide such support; otherwise the Apostolic See is to provide in another manner.”

Archbishop Apuron had been found guilty by the CDF in March 2018, and the decision was upheld on appeal in February 2019.

The Vatican first opened its investigation in 2015 after a victim reported his alleged abuse to the apostolic nuncio for the Pacific.

Archbishop Apuron, is a native of Guam. He took solemn vows as a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1968, and was ordained a priest in 1972. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Agaña in 1983, its apostolic administrator in 1985, and its archbishop in 1986.


Canadian Catholic diocese aims to repair defaced Stations of the Cross

CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 02:35 pm (CNA).- A Canadian diocese said it will aim to repair six statues whose heads and arms were cut off in an act of vandalism.

The statues were part of a walking Stations of the Cross at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sudbury, Ontario. Some statues were beheaded, while the legs of one statue were partially cut through. The heads were not found in proximity to the statues.

The vandalism is not part of the recent spate of incidents in which statues have been toppled amid protests in cities across the U.S., including two statues of St. Junipero Serra that were toppled in California cities.

David Sirios, an administrator at the St. Sault Marie diocese, told the Sudbury Star that the vandalism took place May 22, and was reported to the police then, but that the matter has only become public recently because police initially wanted to explore leads.

Protests in the U.S. began May 25, after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.

In Sudbury, no suspects have been identified, according to local media, and the investigation has reached a standstill.

Sirios told the Sudbury Star that the diocese has begun working with a sculptor to develop a cost estimate for repair.

“We’re looking at different artists who could maybe re-sculpt the missing pieces, and then re-braze them onto the current statues,” Sirios said. “If that’s not possible, we would basically have to re-pour six new statues.”

The Stations of the Cross were cast and placed in the early 1950s. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in 1907 by the region’s French Canadian community, and remains a place of pilgrimage and prayer.