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New Jersey judge temporarily blocks assisted suicide law

Metuchen, N.J., Aug 16, 2019 / 02:31 pm (CNA).- A judge in New Jersey has temporarily halted a law allowing physician assisted suicide, which had gone into effect August 1.

The law is being challenged by a physician who says that it is a violation of religious freedom protections in the U.S. Constitution and laws against suicide.

Dr. Yosef Glassman is an Orthodox Jew who says that he is opposed to facilitating suicide both due to his religious beliefs and his profession as a doctor. He also objects to the law’s stipulation that a doctor who objects to assisted suicide must refer patients to another doctor who will help them end their life.

The law’s demands on doctors, Glassman said in his lawsuit, present “not only a violation of the rights to practice medicine without breaching the fiduciary duties owing to those patients ... but also violations of their First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to freely practice their religions in which human life is sacred and must not be taken,” the AP reported.

The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, which passed the New Jersey legislature with bipartisan support, allows those deemed by a doctor to have less than six months to live to request lethal medication to end their lives. The patient then must administer the medication themselves.

The temporary injunction, signed by Judge Paul Innes of Superior Court in Mercer County, means that the state attorney general may not enforce the law while it is being challenged in court.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who signed the bill in April, said he will fight the lawsuit, the AP reported.

A self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic,” Murphy said when he signed the bill into law that he was aware that the Church opposed assisted suicide, but after careful consideration and prayer, he believed assisted suicide was a personal decision and legalizing it would respect residents’ freedom and humanity.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen condemned assisted suicide as “a grievous affront to the dignity of human life” that “can never be morally justified” in a letter to his diocese on July 30.

“Passage of this law points to the utter failure of government, and indeed all society, to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst, especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” he said.

He stressed that despite the new legality of the practice, it remains gravely immoral, and said the Church would continue advocating for the sanctity of all human life and working to educate lawmakers and the general public about the dangers of assisted suicide.

“With this law there will be a further desensitization of the value of human life,” said the bishop, adding that the elderly, sick and disabled could feel pressure to choose suicide so as to avoid burdening others.

He also clarified that Saint Peter’s University Hospital, sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen, will not condone or participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Instead of assisted suicide, Checchio called for a renewed commitment caring for those living in pain and suffering while dying and who might otherwise consider suicide.

“Let us strive to help the sick and incapacitated find meaning in their lives, even and especially in the midst of their suffering,” he said. “Let us, as a society and as individuals choose to walk with them, in their suffering, not contribute to eliminating the gift of life.”

Assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as in Montana under a 2009 state Supreme Court ruling.

Planned Parenthood to pull out of Title X program

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest provider of abortion services, has announced that it will withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program, ending its access to millions of dollars in government funding.

The decision is set to take effect Aug. 19, the date by which funding recipients are required to make a “good faith” undertaking to comply with a new rule barring the referral of clients for abortion services.

After it was announced in final form in February, the Protect Life Rule was subject to court challenges from abortion providers and several states. In June, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the rule could come into force. In July, judges refused to issue a stay against that decision.

Planned Parenthood informed the court on Wednesday that, unless the reversed its refusal to grant a stay, it would leave the Title X program on Monday.

Planned Parenthood’s acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said the group refused “to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients.”

Calling the Protect Life Rule a “gag on health care providers,” Johnson said in a statement that the rule is “a blatant assault on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it.”

In addition to barring Title X fund recipients from referring women for abortions it also prevents participating groups from co-locating with abortion clinics and requires financial separation of government-funded programs from those that carry out abortions.

Planned Parenthood had previously intended to remain in the Title X program but refuse funding, an arrangement that HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Diane Foley called “inconsistent” in a letter to the organization.

In guidance issued by HHS on Friday, the department responded directly to Planned Parenthood’s objections to the rule, noting that the organization operated less than 10% of participating sites nationwide.

“To the extent that Planned Parenthood claims that it must make burdensome changes to comply with the Final Rule, it is actually choosing to place a higher priority on the ability to refer for abortion instead of continuing to receive federal funds to provide a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services to clients in need of these services.”

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The administration previously said in June that it would delay enforcement of the rule, provided that fund recipients submitted a compliance plan and made a “good faith” undertaking to comply with most of the rule’s requirements as soon as possible. Facilities are required to end co-location with abortion sites by March 2020.

Last month, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, welcomed the 9th Circuit’s decision to deny a stay, calling the Protect Life Rule “greatly encouraging.”

“Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund.” 

Before announcing its withdrawal from the Title X program, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates had received some $60 million annually, about one-fifth of total Title X funds, making up approximately 15% of its annual federal funding.

Iraqi church formerly defaced by ISIS rededicated on Assumption feast

Qaraqosh, Iraq, Aug 16, 2019 / 05:23 am (CNA).- An Iraqi church damaged and defaced by the Islamic State in 2014 was rededicated Thursday for the parish’s celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

The Syriac Catholic Church of Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah in the Iraqi city of Qaraqosh welcomed Archbishop Petros Mouche of Mosul, priests, and the local Catholic community to celebrate the solemnity.

Archbishop Mouche rededicated the church's altar, which had been burned by the Islamic State. After renonvations and rebuilding, the interior of the church, once charred black by fire, has been painted white.

“All these people do not see the community reborn only as stones, but as faith around Christ who is celebrated in the Resurrection. So the Resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of the community itself that goes on. Our community has about 800 families,” Fr. George Jahola told Vatican News in an interview published Aug. 15.

Five years ago on the August Feast of the Transfiguration, the Islamic State devastated the city of Qaraqosh in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains causing Christians to flee the region.

“In 2014 we left our churches and our homes. The city had about 50,000 Christian inhabitants,” Fr. Jahola said.

Now the Christian population in the city has been reduced to half of what it was. About 26,000 Christians have returned to Qaraqosh, Jahola explained.

During their occupation, the Islamic State desecrated the churches in Qaraqosh, in some cases writing battle instructions on church walls. St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church was turned into a bomb factory and used as storage for supplies of deadly chemicals to make powerful explosives. The church of the Immaculate Conception was used as an indoor shooting range with mannequins as targets, according to Aid to the Church in Need.

The Church of Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah was charred black and its bell tower was demolished. “But we never stopped imagining how beautiful our church would be, once fixed,” Fr. Jahola said.

 

À Qaraqosh, l’évêque Mgr Petros Moiche a consacré le nouvel autel de l’église Mar Behnam et Sarah. Elle avait été incendiée par les djihadistes. Une impressionnante rénovation a été menée, signe de la victoire de la vie sur la destruction. #15aout #Irak pic.twitter.com/wgYfrY1jM2

— Fraternité en Irak (@FraterniteIrak) August 15, 2019  

Christmas Mass was celebrated in the church in Dec. 2018 during the church's reconstruction. The bell tower was rebuilt in 2019.

“We started the reconstruction project even before the liberation of the city, in the Nineveh Plains, when we were refugees,” he said. “We have worked to rebuild houses and communities as believers, because this is the sense of belonging both to a parish and to a community.”

ISIS was driven from Mosul in 2017, and the last remaining town of the original caliphate in Syria fell earlier this year. However many Christians who fled the ISIS onslaught in 2014 have not returned to their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh region.

Although the territorial ISIS caliphate is gone, security threats to Christians and Yazidis in the region remain. There are up to 15,000 ISIS fighters estimated to have remained in Iraq, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Christianity has been present in the Nineveh plain in Iraq – between Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan – since the first century.

“What we have learned from the Gospel, from the Lord, is to be instruments of peace, and also to live peace,” Fr. Jahola said.

“We try in every way to realize it here, where the majority is Muslim, where there is still someone who still bears hatred. We truly believe in this, in forgiveness and in leaving the past behind to continue towards the future,” he said.

A Catholic group wants to honor Ireland’s oldest grandparents

Dublin, Ireland, Aug 16, 2019 / 12:04 am (CNA).- In anticipation of the Irish National Grandparents Pilgrimage, a Catholic group has launched a search for the oldest grandparents in Ireland.

The Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) has issued an invitation for the oldest grandparents and longest married couple to attend the 17th annual pilgrimage.

“Please help us find the longest married couple in Ireland and the oldest grandparents to come celebrate with us and be honoured at our annual national grandparents pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock,” the organization said, according to Irish news.

On September 8, thousands of grandparents from all over Ireland will travel to Knock Shrine in County Mayo. The event draws over 10,000 attendees each year.

The deadline for entries into the grandparent search is August 30. According to Irish News, participants may email their submission to catholicgrandparents@gmail.com.

The national shrine has been a destination for pilgrims since 1879, when 15 townspeople witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, angels, and Jesus Christ - as the Lamb of God - on the south gable of the town church, which was named St. John the Evangelist. For a period of about two hours, a crowd gathered to adore the apparition and to pray the rosary. Despite the rainstorm, the ground around the gable did not get wet.

The shrine began hosting the National Grandparents Pilgrimage in 2007.

The CGA was formed two years later to manage the pilgrimage. It has a goal of providing grandparents in the country with the encouragement to support their families. Both the pilgrimage and the organization were founded by Catherine Wiley.

“This association grew out of our Grandparents Pilgrimages, where thousands of grandparents gathered in recent years, united by the same goal to do the very best we can for our children and grandchildren,” the organization says on its website.

“Grandparents’ vital contribution to the family, the Church and society was never as important as now,” it adds.

In Ireland, Catholic group warns of housing discrimination against migrants

Dublin, Ireland, Aug 15, 2019 / 05:29 pm (CNA).- A representative from an Irish Catholic charity has warned that discrimination against immigrants in the private housing market has forced more people to pursue public housing.

The housing market in Ireland is “unbelievably difficult” for immigrants, said Danielle McLaughlin, a policy officer for Crosscare, a Catholic charity which aids the homeless.

McLaughlin said many immigrants face discrimination in the rental market and workplace, according to RTÉ News. She also said they receive lower wages because of a lack of language proficiency and qualifications.

Many immigrants have encountered a poor quality of accommodation or exploitation efforts by a landlord, she said.

“We have huge numbers coming to us with notices to quit. They are more susceptible to exploitation or not knowing their rights,” said McLaughlin, according to RTÉ News.

She cited two reports - one from the Economic and Social Research Institute and another from the Dublin City Council. The first report found that African immigrants suffered discrimination in the workplace. The other report determined that migrants had a greater chance of becoming homeless than those who were not migrants.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive reported that last March, 2,704 migrants applied for social housing in Ireland.

It also found that, while the total number of applicants on a waiting list for social housing dropped 12% since 2016, the number of immigrant applications have increased by 45%.

For the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, then-Bishop John Buckley of Cork and Ross expressed gratitude for the contribution immigrants have offered to Ireland. He encouraged parishioners to welcome migrants and refugees, who may have already faced numerous hardships, including hunger and displacement.

“Some will be coming to this country and they are hoping that Ireland will be a place where they are safe and can begin the process of rebuilding their lives,” he wrote.

“It is important that the local church be at the forefront of efforts to welcome them.”