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Arizona strengthens conscience protections for health care workers

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 28, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Health care providers and institutions opposed to assisted suicide gained more legal protections under a new Arizona law that aims to help ensure doctors and nurses aren’t fired for their beliefs if the practice is ever legalized.

Senate Bill 1439 was “an important rights of conscience bill,” according to the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference.

“S.B. 1439 will help protect health care providers not wanting to participate in services causing the death of their patients,” the state’s four bishops said March 24, adding they were grateful that it has become law.

The bill lists assisted suicide, euthanasia, or “mercy killing” as some activities that a doctor, nurse or health care entity may decline to participate in.

Bill sponsor Sen. Nancy Barto said the bill would help ensure that individuals would not lose their jobs if they have objections to these practices.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the legislation on Friday.

The Arizona bishops’ conference said federal law already protects health care providers who decline to participate in assisted suicide or similar actions, but the bill adds state-level protections and clarifies that providers cannot face discrimination in employment.

The bill bars discrimination against state health care providers and facilities if they refuse to assist in services that result in a person’s death or if they refuse to provide items that result in a person’s death.

Assisted suicide is illegal in Arizona, though the conscience protection bill comes at a time when several other states have legalized the practice.

This historic black Catholic grade school could get shut down

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After 111 years of serving the community of Birmingham, Alabama, the city's only African American Catholic elementary school could close due to financial struggles.

Over its long history, Our Lady of Fatima has become an integral part of the community, serving students from all backgrounds: of its 64 children, 11 percent are Catholic, and 89 percent are non-Catholic.

“It's looked at as a community school,” the school's principal Al Logan told the Birmingham Times.

“Most of these children are neighborhood children and their parents are struggling to send them here for a Catholic education,” staff member Cynthia Pinkard noted, according to CBS WIAT.

Closing the school “would really hurt the neighborhood,” she said.  

Our Lady of Fatima is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Birmingham, serving students from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. The school is located in the Titusville area, and is also connected with Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Diocese of Birmingham.

“We've seen a decline in enrollment,” Logan said. “It's just because of the way our housing market went a few years ago. It all plays into that same arena. I don't think it has personally anything to do with Catholic or non-Catholic (schools); it just happens.”

Logan believes that the school can raise the necessary funds to keep the school open for at least another year. The school is asking for $150,000 in donations for the 2017-2018 academic year, which needs to be raised by August. The Diocese of Birmingham has chipped in over the years, but the school will need more to keep its doors open.

“I really think we will be able to keep it open,” Logan said, saying that they have already received donations from all across the country from places like Indiana and Florida.

“With the support of everyone who's interested in seeing a good, Catholic education be afforded to the kids, we'll find a way to keep the school open,” he added.

However, Our Lady of Fatima is not the only school on the chopping block. Across the country, private and Catholic schools in particular have faced financial trouble due to lower enrollment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there has been a two percent enrollment decrease in private schools over the past 20 years for elementary or secondary students. Over 1,000 Catholic schools have also been forced to close or team up with other schools since 2006.

Looking to the future, Logan is hopeful that the school will receive the money necessary to keep the school open and asked for continued donations.

“We would like for the community to step up and to give us whatever they can donate, and likewise, anyone who would like to (donate) from any city or location in the country.”

Donations to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School can be received by phone at 205-251-8395 or through the mail at 630 1st Street S., Birmingham, AL, 35205.

In NYC, admissions error excludes Catholic school students

New York City, N.Y., Mar 27, 2017 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid charges that a selective public high school excluded Catholic school students from admission, the principal insists it was due to a clerical error but still faces heavy criticism.

Maspeth High School, in the New York City borough of Queens, gives admission priority to students who live nearby and attend information sessions or open houses.

The school selected about 250 prospective students out of 1,000 applicants in its lottery.

However, the principal had failed to mark for priority status 207 students of Catholic schools who had attended an information session for Maspeth. Priority status would have placed them in the random lottery.

Instead, none of those 207 students were accepted, the New York Post reports.

Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir told parents the omission was due to a “clerical error.”

“There was an error. There was a problem,” the principal said at a March 16 meeting of the Juniper Park Civic Association, the Queens Chronicle reports. “So there is no vast conspiracy against any of the parochial schools. Some of our best students come from parochial schools.”

As controversy grew, New York City Department of Education officials then entered 207 of the applicants from parochial schools into a second lottery. It offered seats to 66 of these students, who would make up about 15 percent of the freshman class.

Critics of the system charge that it is vulnerable to abuse by principals who want to exclude or favor certain students.

The president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Bob Holden, told the New York Post that the principal had in a phone call described parochial schools as “a problem” because “many of the students opt out and don’t go to my school,” which costs the school funding.

Holden called for an investigation.

Parents may ask the city to re-do the entire lottery for the high school.

Among the parents critical of the school was Jimmy Guarneri, whose son Michael was not accepted. “We’re very angry,” he told the New York Post.

His son will go to a Catholic high school, but only received a partial scholarship. “I’m working two jobs as it is,” he said.

The second lottery meant many students were rejected twice, including the son of parent Santo Vicino.

“I haven’t seen my son cry before and he’s cried twice this past week,” Vicino told the New York Post.

“I need this school for my son’s health, safety and well-being,” he added. “I’m demanding a seat. I want what’s right.”

Mother Angelica: A female powerhouse in a supposedly sexist Church

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It was September 1987, and Pope John Paul II had just arrived in Los Angeles after traveling around the United States. The Pope was greeted in the City of Angels by a closed-door meeting with a group of progressive bishops who had a bone to pick with several Church traditions.

One of four chosen representatives, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, spoke to the pope about female ordination:

“Women seek…(a church) that teaches and shows by example the co-discipleship of the sexes as instruments of God’s kingdom. They seek a church where the gifts of women are equally accepted and appreciated...where the feminine is no longer subordinate but seen in a holistic mutuality with the masculine as forming the full image of the Divine,” he said.

Meanwhile in Alabama, a woman of the Church named Mother Angelica had just thrown her cable network, which reached more than 2 million homes at the time, into 24-hour coverage territory. During the 1987 papal trip, the EWTN Network took on the then-unprecedented task of live, unedited, constant coverage of the Holy Father’s visit.

And when word reached the spunky nun of the Milwaukee bishop’s remarks to the Pope during the trip, she couldn’t help but chime in with her opinion.

“Women in the priesthood, that’s just a power play, that’s ridiculous,” Mother Angelica said the next day.  

“As it is women have more power in the Church than anybody. They built and run the schools. God has designed that men be priests, and we can’t afford to deny God his sovereign rights,” she said, as recalled in her biography by Raymond Arroyo.

If anyone has any doubts as to whether ordination is necessary for leadership and influence in the Church, they need look no further than the media mogul nun herself to be proven wrong, said Catholic talk show host and media consultant Teresa Tomeo.  

“Not only was she a prominent international media personality, because of her work on air and her great shows, but she was a foundress of a major religious network and she was a CEO of that network while being on the air, which is something that few women in the secular world accomplish,” Tomeo told CNA.

“And here she is accomplishing this in the Catholic Church, which is supposedly so sexist and backward according to the world. She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.”

In 1981, at a time when women were still struggling for places of prominence in the world of broadcasting, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation launched Eternal Word Television Network, which today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.

Besides founding EWTN, Mother Angelica is also credited with building a monastery, a shrine, and establishing two religious orders.

Mother Angelica passed away on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

After her passing, the praises of Mother Angelica were sung from both the secular and Church media, with many recognizing her as a strong example of female leadership.

In his tribute, John Allen of Crux wrote:  

“Today there’s a great deal of ferment about how to promote leadership by women in the Church in ways that don’t involve ordination, a conversation Pope Francis himself has promoted. In a way, however, debating that question in the abstract seems silly, because we already have a classic, for-all-time example of female empowerment in Mother Angelica.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, remembered her as a “devout believer and media pioneer" in a statement following her death.

"Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations, and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen. She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious," he said.

Her vigorous leadership and vision in a Church with all-male clergy came from her security in knowing her identity before God, Tomeo added.

“Bottom line is that she knew who she was in Christ, she knew that she was designed in the image and likeness of God, that we’re male and female, we’re equal but we’re different,” she said.

“And she knew that God has a special role for her, and that he chose her for a specific reason, and that you can do all things through Christ as St. Paul tells us.”

Mother Angelica doesn’t stand alone in the line of formidable female figures in the Church, either, Tomeo noted. She succeeded other spiritual giants like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena, and is joined by other women in the contemporary world, who are working to make a difference in the Church.

For years to come, Mother Angelica will be remembered for her authenticity and punchy humor, and her ability to preach the Gospel with love, Tomeo added.

“She was funny, she always gave me hope that no matter how many mistakes any of us make, God is always going to allow us to come home,” she said.

“I think that we have just begun to unpack her wisdom. I think...for decades and centuries, she’s going to be seen as one of the greatest evangelists in America.”

 

This article was originally published April 1, 2016.

Abortion bill makes unlikely alliance of Bolivian clergy, feminists

Sucre, Bolivia, Mar 27, 2017 / 03:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill in Bolivia that would allow abortions only for certain groups of women is uniting unlikely groups in opposition to the policy - namely, Bolivian bishops and pro-choice feminists.

Abortion is currently illegal in Bolivia except in certain rare cases, such as rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

The new legislation, proposed by the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, would decriminalise abortion during the first eight weeks of pregnancy in situations of extreme poverty, and would allow students and women with three or more children to be eligible for an abortion up to eight weeks.

The Catholic Bishops of Bolivia have said that the new proposal “seriously threatened” the right to life found in the Bolivian constitution.

“Life is a gift from God and no one can dispose of it under any circumstances,” said Bishop Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, the Secretary General of the Bishop’s Conference, according to Vatican Radio.

He also decried the new policy as targeting children born into poor circumstances, and said that it does not address the issues that lead to poverty.

“The proposal introduces a foreign ideological colonization that discards boys and girls born in fragile situations and accepts the sad violence of abortion as a way of providing solutions to social and economic problems.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, pro-choice feminists also voiced opposition to the bill, in part because it targets poor women.

“They should then promote vasectomies for poor and irresponsible men,” the feminist group Mujeres Creando told The World Weekly.  

However, they believe that the government should allow access to abortion for all women up to  eight weeks of pregnancy.

Although President of Bolivia Evo Morales is a member of the Movement for Socialism party, he has distanced himself from the controversy surrounding the bill, saying that he has not been involved in the proposal process. Abortion was decriminalized under certain circumstances in the country under Morales in 2014.

Most countries in majority-Catholic Latin America have very strict laws on abortion, with some countries allowing for it in certain circumstances, and only four countries allowing for abortion without restrictions.