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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Federal judge overturns transgender surgery mandate

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 18:58

Dallas, Texas, Jan 3, 2017 / 04:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has ruled against the Obama administration’s mandate that health professionals must carry out gender reassignment surgeries, even if they have medical or religious objections.

“The regulation not only forces healthcare professionals to violate their medical judgment, it requires them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs,” U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas said in a Dec. 31 decision granting a temporary injunction against the Obama administration.

“Tragically, the regulation would force them to violate those religious beliefs and perform harmful medical transition procedures or else suffer massive financial liability,” the judge added.

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, discrimination on the basis of sex is explicitly barred for some federally funded health care programs. The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services ruled that the provision bans discrimination on the basis of “termination of pregnancy.” The agency also said discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a form of sex discrimination.

Critics of the mandate argue that there are many reasons that a doctor might decline to perform gender reassignment surgeries, including purely medical reasons. Doctors must be free to exercise their judgement in deciding the medically appropriate course of action.

Several studies have found that the majority of children experiencing gender dysphoria will outgrow it by adulthood.

“Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” found a report by the science and technology journal The New Atlantis.

Furthermore, it added, “compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.”

Johns Hopkins University, once a pioneer in sex reassignment surgery, has since ended the practice, finding that it was actually damaging to those who undergo it.  

The plaintiffs challenging the rule included the Christian Medical and Dental Association and the Franciscan Alliance, which is a hospital network founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. The states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas also joined the suit.

Judge O’Connor sided with the plaintiffs, saying that the new law used the term “sex” to refer to “the binary, biological differences between males and females.” Before the passage of the 2010 law, he said, “no federal court or agency had concluded sex should be defined to include gender identity.”

The judge said the plaintiffs presented “concrete evidence to support their fears that they will be subject to enforcement under the Rule.”

He contended that the case was in essence a question of whether the Department of Health and Human Services can redefine the term “sex” and impose “massive new obligations” on healthcare professionals and U.S. states.

Matt Sharp, legal counsel with the religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, said the ruling was in line with previous court decisions against Obama administration efforts to require individuals and institutions to provide procedures and surgeries that violate their deeply held beliefs.

The decision indicated the court believes the Obama administration “has been essentially rewriting federal law,” Sharp told CNA Jan. 3.

Others had filed challenges against the same federal rule.

On Dec. 29 the Diocese of Fargo and the Catholic Benefits Association, which includes 880 Catholic hospitals, filed a lawsuit against the rule, also charging that it would force doctors and hospitals to perform abortions.

Their suit, filed in North Dakota District Court, characterized the rule as part of a “multi-agency effort to redefine the term ‘sex’ in federal anti-discrimination laws.”

“Catholic hospitals provide compassionate care to everyone, regardless of status. Patients experiencing gender dysphoria deserve no less,” said Douglas Wilson, chief executive of the Catholic Benefits Association. “The prime ethic of any healthcare provider is do no harm. These regulations do the opposite.”

The Obama administration has sought to include gender identity as a class prohibited by sex discrimination in other rules and agencies.

A May 2016 Department of Education directive that public schools should allow students to use the bathroom that matched their self-declared gender identity was blocked after 13 states sued.

Sharp noted that Judge O’Connor had previously ruled against Obama administration rules on schools and gender identity.

“When Congress spoke it was clear they had in mind the biological differences between males and females when they talked about banning sex discrimination,” Sharp told CNA.



So, abortion doesn't harm women's mental health? The stats disagree

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 17:29

Washington D.C., Jan 3, 2017 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that women who get abortions show no signs of increased mental health problems after having an abortion – and that in fact, it's women who are denied an abortion that suffer more greatly.

But pro-life organizations and other researchers have responded that the study doesn't show the whole picture, and that these findings don't mean that women don't regret their abortions. They also counter that similar studies involving an exorbitantly higher number of women have shown the opposite results, and that everything needs to be taken into account.

“I confess I'm not that surprised at what it uncovered, and it's important for abortion opponents to neither instantly vilify the study nor to fear what it can tell us,” Mark Regnerus, associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin told CNA.

“A sober assessment is in order.”

The study, called the “Turnaway Study” was conducted by researchers from University of California – San Francisco and tracked 956 women from 21 states for more than five years. The women – all of whom had sought abortion – were interviewed once a week after seeking out an abortion, and then every six months for that five year period.

Antonia Biggs and Diana Greene Foster, two of the researchers who wrote the study, told CNA in a statement that in their study, women who were denied abortions had more mental health repercussions – like anxiety, lower self-esteem and less life satisfaction, in the short-term than women who had abortions. The study also found that by six months these rates of mental health consequences were similar. Both groups of women  had “ similar levels of depressive symptoms over the entire five year period,” of the study the researchers commented.

“We found no evidence of increases in mental health problems after having an abortion,” they added.

Critics, however, say that the relatively short length of the study doesn’t account for women who come regret their abortion many years later, nor does it mean that a lack of depression or other mental health effects means that women don’t experience regret.

Ana-Maria Dumitru, director of Medical Students For Life, told CNA that other studies have come to opposite conclusions. Dumitru pointed to a study by Dr. D Paul Sullins of the Catholic University of America published earlier in 2016 followed more than 8,000 women for over 13 years.

“The Sullins study confirmed that even after controlling for over twenty possible variables, there's still a clear, significant increase in the relative risk of mental health disorders for women who have abortions.” These risks, she added were compared to both live birth and miscarriage outcomes. Other studies from New Zealand and Norway also showed similar increased risks of mental health issues for women who have abortions, she added.

Regnerus helped explain some of the design of the study to CNA. He said that while abortion is not his area of study, there were some reasonable interpretations and qualifications to be made of the findings from a social sciences perspective. He said the basic design of the study was “competent,” since the researchers were able to track nearly 1,000 women over the five-year time span, and that the findings were “illuminating.”

He added that it’s reasonable to expect that women who do not see abortion as wrong would experience abortion differently. “Some, of course, may come to think differently about their abortion weeks, months, or even years later. Others seem not to,” he said.

Regnerus also noted that “no study can do it all,” and that there are some indirect effects between abortion and emotional consequences that the study could not assess. The professor also pointed out that regret and depression “are two different things,” and the study doesn’t delve into women’s regret about their abortions “and that's fine because it's not a study of regret.”

The professor also pointed to flaws in the study that might be overlooked by most casual readers. Regnerus noted that there was “a good deal of sample selection bias – only 32 percent of women approached actually participated, leaving us to wonder if there are differences between they and the 68 percent who didn't.”

Furthermore, the study was unable to keep track of 42 percent of the original participants. Regnerus added that while these kinds of sample selection bias and challenges in collecting data are difficult to avoid in studies, particularly on a subject like abortion, they do introduce unknowns into the study.

Regnerus said that the study's focus on near-term emotions such as anxiety or self-esteem “are too tangled up in the emotions of the event, the circumstances surrounding pursuing an abortion,” and said he thought it was a “leap for the authors to draw sensible conclusions” from such data.

What was more noteworthy, he commented was the study’s tracking of depression over the five year period, which remained constant. “The ability to track the direct effect of abortion on depression longer-term,” he noted, “is this study's contribution.”

“It is unreasonable to presume that every abortion conducted in the United States – and elsewhere, for that matter – will make the woman who sought it troubled or sad over the long run,” Regnerus added.

“It does for plenty, no doubt. We hear about it. On the other hand, we hear of accounts to the contrary.”

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life said that in her experience, even in cases where there is regret and suffering, those feelings can lead to more positive states of healing.

“Abortion takes the life of one and often wounds the life of another,” Mancini told CNA. “Some women only come to discover such deep wounds after many years, sometimes decades,” she said, pointing out again that the study only covered a five-year span.

“My personal experience in working with women who regret abortion is that when a woman honestly faces the truth of what’s happened, she suffers tremendously, but this in turn is the first step to finding real and lasting hope and healing.” 

How this new LA deacon will serve Catholics on the margins

Mon, 01/02/2017 - 21:23

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 2, 2017 / 07:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the estimated 5,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, parish participation can be difficult.

From homilies to retreats, normal Church events can be inaccessible to those with auditory disabilities, unless specific accommodations are made in advance.

Dr. Tomas Garcia Jr., who has been deaf since childhood, knows these challenges well.

And now, he’s helping shed light on some of those challenges in his ministry as one of the newest deacons for the archdiocese.

Deacon Garcia is the director of ministries at Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf in Vernon, California. In addition, he is an associate professor of American Sign Language at East Los Angeles College.

He is also bilingual and as a permanent deacon will be able to reach out to serve other Catholics with auditory disabilities in Los Angeles.

“I was born with a hearing loss and progressively began losing more at a rapid pace,” he told CNA. “By the time I reached school age, I was profoundly deaf.”

While his family grieved when they learned of his disability, Deacon Garcia believes it brought them all closer to God.

At eight years old, Deacon Garcia attended Bible study classes with his grandmother.

“I always thought she was also taking me because she wanted me to recover from my hearing loss,” he said.

“Eventually, I realized she saw that I had the call.”

That call was fulfilled in June, when Archbishop José H. Gomez ordained Garcia and 12 other men to the deaconate.

“The deacon is service sacramentalized,” said Dr. William J, Shaules, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ associate coordinator for diaconate formation.

“Deacon Garcia and his wife have heightened our awareness of service to the deaf community. Not only what it means, but what it actually looks like.”

Deacon Garcia interprets the liturgy in American Sign Language, Spanish, and English for parishioners. Before his ordination, he interpreted for priests during workshops, blessings, and retreats.

Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf works to serve the needs of those with auditory disabilities. Latinos make up 95 percent of its parishioners. Most of these families are monolingual speakers of Spanish.

The parish is one of the few places Spanish-speaking parents and their deaf children can go to Mass together and all understand the liturgy.

“There’s a great need for the deaf faithful to experience the Sacraments in their own language,” Deacon Garcia said.

He recalled going to a youth retreat at the parish when he was in high school. Before attending, he could only follow the liturgy by reading the Roman Missal. When he saw two priests at the retreat sign with American Sign Language, he said, “I could laugh and cry, and truly feel as I belong to this community we call the Body of Christ.”

Though a parish may have a sign language interpreter during the Mass, Deacon Garcia said, “at Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf, everyone signs.”

“The deaf feel at home and they can form loving, lasting relationships with members of their community through a common language.”

In 2005, Deacon Garcia received his first cochlear implant and in 2010, his second. He made it a point, “to participate in the Spanish track and to try to do so without an interpreter.”

Eventually, Deacon Garcia learned to participate in a Spanish program and not rely on an interpreter. He is now able to help parishioners feel more comfortable receiving some of the sacraments in American Sign Language or Spanish.  

The parish also streams the Liturgy of the Word online, to accommodate people in the archdiocese and around the nation.

Pope Francis drew attention to persons with disabilities at the Vatican’s Jubilee for the Sick and Disabled, held June 9-12.

“People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity,” the Pope tweeted for the occasion.

Deacon Garcia said the Pope’s jubilee was “a powerful testament to remind ourselves of the need to reach out and ‘encounter’ those on the margin of society, or even, at the margin of our parishes.”

He explained that many of those who are deaf have not seen God’s mercy and grace made visible; many struggle with their deaf identity; and many experience discrimination in all forms.

“These people,” he said, “need to be comforted, healed and strengthened by the Eucharist…something that can happen if people reach out to them and invite them into the Father’s home.”


This article was originally published on CNA June 19, 2016.

There's a generation that didn't know John Paul II – this film is for them

Mon, 01/02/2017 - 18:02

Denver, Colo., Jan 2, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and around their television sets to pray for Pope John Paul II as he passed away on April 2, 2005. They remembered the more than 26 years he served as the Holy Father; the courage he had in fighting communism; his immense love; and his adventurous spirit.

But that was eleven years ago.

The generations of young people who grew up during the papacies of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis might only know St. John Paul II for his canonization, which took place April 27, 2014.

The recent documentary Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism hopes to educate these younger generations on the heroic life of the Roman Pontiff – telling the stories they cannot find in their textbooks.

“One of the reasons we set out to make this film is to kind of cement the legacy of Pope John Paul II,” David Naglieri, the film’s writer and director, told CNA.

“There’s a generation now that’s graduating college, entering the workforce, that didn’t necessarily live through all these events with the fall of Communism. Perhaps they didn’t … have the chance to see Pope John Paul II in person.”

Like a real life super-hero movie, the 90-minute film focuses on the saint’s role as an integral part in the fall of communism in central and eastern Europe – except St. John Paul II did not use destructive weapons to take down some of the world’s toughest leaders.

Rather, he used prayer and solidarity to encourage those oppressed by communism in Poland to keep their hope and will alive.

According to Naglieri, this documentary is unlike any other John Paul II film.

“What helps separate our film from past works is that we looked at the entire span of central and eastern Europe and how his message not just impacted Poland, but other countries as well,” he said.

“And then we tried to connect it to the modern day and to see how John Paul’s legacy continues to impact those who are striving for freedom in Europe.”

The film reveals the events in St. John Paul II's life through a timeline, which helps show how God’s providence guided the saint his entire life.

The late Pope grew up in Krakow, and became its archbishop in 1964. The documentary explains how he returned to the city for nine days in 1979, the year after his election as Bishop of Rome, instead of his intended two.

An interview in the documentary with Dr. Norman Davies, a historian of Poland, explains how the government’s distribution of antennas during the 1980 Olympic games led to the spreading of St. John Paul II’s message behind the Iron Curtain.

The film even tells the story of how President Reagan and the Pope met six days before the president’s famous ‘tear down this wall’ speech in 1987.

Filled with striking stories and interviews such as these, the documentary shows who truly held the power during this difficult time in the world’s history.

Naglieri said the film was an 18-month project from beginning to end, and that “we traveled to Poland and other central European countries several times during the making of it. ”

The documentary features interviews with Reagan’s National Security Advisor from 1981-82, the Prime Minister of Poland, the Archbishop of Lviv, a former Director of the Holy See Press Office, as well as journalists, historians, authors, and professors.

Narrating the documentary is Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Christ in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’. Joe Kraemer, known for his work on multiple ‘Mission Impossible’ movies, composed the documentary’s original music.


This article was originally published on CNA June 15, 2016.