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‘Stay the course’ - Keeping the faith, keeping a restaurant, and helping employees amid coronavirus

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 06:00

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 25, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Favazza’s Restaurant has been an institution in St. Louis for over four decades. It’s located on The Hill, an Italian neighborhood well-known for its cuisine.

Now, with fears of coronavirus shuttering restaurants throughout the country, Favazza’s owner, a Catholic family man, is trying to keep his restaurant afloat, while at the same time trying to take care of laid-off employees as well as he can.

"I couldn’t do this if it goes three or four months. I'll probably have to close or something," owner Tony Favazza told CNA.

"Good thing I own the building, I have a good reputation— I've been here 45 years, and we've saved our money over the years. But we couldn't do this for a long time...We have business interruption insurance, but it does not qualify for this pandemic, evidently.”

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson ordered restaurants across the city to close their seating areas March 19, in favor of delivery, window, walk-up or drive-thru service. No date has yet been given for when the provision could be lifted.

Favazza has had to lay off almost 50 people, but has been able to help many of them get set up for unemployment, showing them how to fill out complicated government forms.

The restaurant now is open only for carry-out and curbside delivery, with only about 10 employees left. They’ve cut down hours, and are “operating on minimum,” Favazza said. Favazza is paying one of his remaining employees, who has worked at Favazza's for 40 years, a full salary.

"I don't know how long that's going to last, and he told me 'whatever you need to do,' but I told him I'd pay him, and his insurance. He's 62 years old, and I'm just trying to help him through this," he said.

A couple of restaurants in the area have closed completely, Favazza said. His wife was diagnosed with myeloma a month ago.

Still, he and his family are doing their best to keep the faith during this trying time.

Favazza had been going to Mass for a long time every morning at 6:30, and though public Masses are suspended in the St. Louis archdiocese, the church has remained open from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm.

"So there's about 10 of us, every morning we meet and do the readings, and we do the rosary, and the pope's novena for the virus," he said.

"We're just trying to do all we can. Take care of your neighbors and just be more civilized...if you have faith, just stay the course."

Favazza's regular customers have been doing their best to help the business.

"Even last week, we had people in the area calling us, buying gift certificates, saying 'What can we do?'" Favazza said.

"One lady had a party that she had canceled— it was supposed to be last weekend— and she came by and paid the $300 deposit, because she's going to do it in July now. She said, 'I figured you'd need the money now.' So she pre-paid for the party."

Favazza said he always gives law enforcement a 50% discount at his restaurant. This week, two policemen came to get food at the restaurant, and placed a large order.

"My brother went out to tell them they got half off, and the cops said: ‘Mo no, we're here to splurge you,’" Favazza said. "So that was very nice."

Kim Peters, who has worked at the restaurant for nearly 18 years, is confident that the restaurant will reopen, even though the feeling of not going to work every day makes her feel a little anxious.

"Favazza's has been around a long time, and they'll be opening back up," she told CNA. "I have no doubt about it."

As a hostess, her job has been rendered non-essential since the restaurant is only taking take-out and curbside orders. Her last day was Thursday, but hopes that she will soon be rehired at Favazza’s.

"We've got a lot of employees that have been there for many, many years, and even people that did different jobs and come back to fill in here and there. They're just a wonderful family to work for," she said of the Favazzas.

"They're just more concerned about their employees than they are about themselves...they're well established, they're taking a crunch like everybody else, but they're going to be ok. They're a very strong, Catholic, close-knit family, and they're going to be fine even though they'll feel a crunch."

Jimmy Naucke normally works as the head maintenance man at Favazza's, and picks up the alcohol that the restaurant sells. But they're not selling any beer, wine, or liquor at the moment, and multiple parties have been canceled.

Still, he said, Tony's first priority has been his employees.

"Those of us that work at Favazza's— Tony always looks at us and just does everything he can above and beyond what most bosses do," Naucke told CNA.

"He's keeping people working, but since you can't serve food at the tables, there goes the bussers, and all the waiters, and everything," he said.

"He's trying to do what he can, but with a lot of this stuff, his hands are tied."

Naucke, who has been working at Favazza's for 20 years, encouraged people to support small businesses during this time.

"There are a lot of people, in a lot of trades, that aren't working at all," he said.

"There's a lot of restaurants on the Hill that are completely closed. Nobody's working."


Colorado becomes latest state to repeal death penalty

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 20:19

Denver, Colo., Mar 24, 2020 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Colorado have welcomed the repeal of the death penalty, as the state becomes the 22nd to repeal capital punishment.

“For many years, the Colorado Catholic Conference has supported efforts to repeal the death penalty, and we are grateful for the determination and commitment it took for the state legislature to pass this bill,” the Colorado Catholic Conference said March 23.

“We believe that human life is sacred from conception until natural death,” said the Catholic conference, which represents the four bishops and three dioceses of Colorado. “We believe that, because God made us in his image and likeness, it is not possible to lose the dignity that confers to our lives. We are, as Jesus said, his brothers and sisters, even if we have committed great crimes or sins.”

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law March 23. The legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 38-27, and the State Senate by a vote of 19 to 13.

“We thank Gov. Jared Polis for signing this historic piece of legislation, and we commend the many state senators and representatives who worked hard to make this important change to our state law,” the Catholic conference said.

While the bill had strong Democratic support and both chambers of the legislature are Democrat-controlled, some legislators broke with their party majorities. Republican State Sens. Kevin Priola, Jack Tate, and Owen Hill, co-sponsored the bill and voted in favor. Democratic Sens. Rhonda Fields and Jessie Danielson voted against it.

Tate said he thought the death penalty is ineffective and expensive and risks “executing an innocent person.” Priola cited the principle of “protecting life from conception to natural death,” Colorado Public Radio reported.

Colorado legislators failed to repeal the death penalty five times since 2000. There had not been an execution under Colorado law since 1997.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado had backed the repeal effort.

With Colorado, there are now 22 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have abolished the death penalty. The governors of California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have placed moratoria on executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said there is a trend against the death penalty, especially in the western U.S.

“Public support for capital punishment has been thinning and is near a generation low. America’s views of criminal justice have experienced a sea change and in state legislatures, the issue has become increasingly bipartisan,” he said March 23. “And as legislators have shifted from viewing the death penalty as an instrument of politics and have increasingly subjected it to the same type of scrutiny afforded other government programs, we have seen significant legislative movement towards abolition across the country.”

“Growing numbers of legislators have criticized the high cost of capital punishment, the inherent risk of convicting and executing the innocent, the continuing racial, geographic, and economic disparities in the way it is applied, and the untrustworthiness of states to carry it out fairly, consistently, or in a principled manner,” said Dunham.

Polis also commuted the sentences of three inmates on death row.

“Commutations are typically granted to reflect evidence of extraordinary change in the offender. That is not why I am commuting these sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Polis said.

“Rather, the commutations of these despicable and guilty individuals are consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the State of Colorado, and consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado,” he said.

The inmates on Colorado’s death row were Nathan Dunlap, who murdered four people at a children’s restaurant, and Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, who both had been involved in the murder of a young engaged couple, Javan Marshall Fields and Vivian Wolfe. Fields was set to testify against Ray in court on charges Ray was an accomplice in a murder case.

The murders of Fields and Wolfe helped inspire Fields’ mother, Aurora Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields, to become active in public life. Fields was one of the strongest critics of the bill in 2019, objecting to the speed with which it passed through committee consideration.

She was critical in Jan. 30 debate on the bill, saying it was unjust to give all murderers the same sentence.

“We’re saying that you if you kill one person, two persons, three people — it could be another Sandy Hook, it could be another club shooting, a concert shooting, a theater shooting, whatever it is — you can shoot as many people as you can, everybody gets the same penalty,” she said, according to the Colorado Sun. “And the penalty is life in (prison) without the possibility of parole.”

Some Republican critics of the bill wanted death penalty repeal to be put before Colorado voters in a ballot initiative.

The Colorado legislation bars the death penalty for defendants charged on or after July 1, 2020.

Pending death penalty cases and potential death penalty cases in Colorado include the case of self-confessed Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear, Jr. Such cases could continue.

Both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors have condemned the practice of capital punishment in the West.

The Colorado Catholic Conference cited the 1995 Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by St. John Paul II. While the death penalty was considered necessary to protect society from violent criminals, under advanced prison systems the circumstances where the death penalty is necessary are “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Pope Francis then changed the Catechism to read that the death penalty is “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” He said that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voted to change the Catechism for use by adults in the U.S. to follow Pope Francis, the Colorado Catholic Conference said.

The Catholic conference also stressed the need to remember those affected by crime, saying “while today we applaud the repeal of the death penalty, we must never forget about the victims of these horrendous crimes, and as a community we must continue to support their families and loved ones,” the conference said. “May they find comfort, healing and forgiveness in the love of Jesus Christ.”

With medical supplies limited, Ohio abortion clinics face cease and desist orders

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 19:00

Columbus, Ohio, Mar 24, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Amid efforts to conserve medical supplies for the response to the new coronavirus, Ohio’s health department has asked the state attorney general to issue a cease and desist order to Preterm, a Cleveland-based abortion clinic that continues to perform elective abortions despite statewide orders against elective surgeries.

Melanie Amato, press secretary of the Ohio Department of Health, told the Daily Caller News Foundation March 23 that the health department “has been made aware of allegations that some health care providers appear to have violated the order on performing non-elective procedures.”

When the state health department learns of allegations of non-compliance, it is asking the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to issue cease and desist orders, she said.

“These orders have started going out,” said Amato. “This is now an enforcement issue.”

The Ohio Department of Health’s March 17 order canceled “all non-essential or elective surgeries” that use personal protective equipment by 5 p.m. March 18. The move is intended to conserve resources for health care workers as victims of new coronavirus are expected to fill hospital beds.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office previously sent out letters to non-compliant facilities that have been subjects of complaints to the health department. Ohio authorities have said abortion clinics were only some of the surgical clinics that received letters.

Abortion clinics that received letters included Planned Parenthood Ohio Southwest Region, Women’s Med Center in Dayton and the Preterm facility in Cleveland.

Despite the statements from Ohio authorities, Preterm plans to continue to provide “the full range of abortion care services because it is essential healthcare,” Preterm executive director Chrisse France told the Daily Caller News Foundation Monday morning.

“In compliance with the order from the Ohio Department of Health, our physicians will be making individualized determinations to ensure each person gets the healthcare they need and that all healthcare providers across the state have access to the supplies needed during this pandemic,” France said.

Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, the respective presidents and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, have claimed that Planned Parenthood can still continue to provide “essential services, including abortion.”

Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson sent a March 20 letter to Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio’s Cincinnati surgery center saying that the health department order was driven by the need to preserve personal protective equipment “for health care providers who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading in our state” and to “preserve critical hospital capacity and resources.”

“This is an unprecedented time in the state’s history and everyone must do their part to help stop the spread of this disease,” Fulkerson said.

“If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical elective abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures,” he continued.

Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, told CNN that abortion providers are among one of many to receive such a letter.

“This is not an abortion issue,” McCorkle said. “A letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries.”

A March 18 joint statement from eight medical groups including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, which tends to take pro-abortion rights stands, asserted that abortion is “an essential component of comprehensive health care.”

The groups argued that abortion is “a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible.” Not being able to obtain an abortion has consequences that “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

Ohio Right to Life had previously written Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio to complain about what it said was a violation of the order.

“As countless other clinics across the state comply with this health order and prioritize the lives of their fellow Ohioans, Planned Parenthood continues to put profit and abortion above the safety of our society’s most vulnerable members--children and the elderly,” Ohio Right to Life president Michael Gonidakis said March 21.

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide order barring non-essential surgeries, issued on Sunday, applied to abortion clinics.
“We must work together as Texans to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time,” said Paxton. “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers.”

Failure to comply with the Texas executive order could mean fines of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.

Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for the group Texas Values, welcomed the decision.

“Abortion is not essential healthcare,” he said March 23. “At a time when so many lives are at risk, we should all be able to agree that efforts to protect people from the coronavirus should be more important than the taking of a human life through abortion.”

Tara Pohlmeyer, communications manager with the pro-abortion rights group Progress Texas, criticized the action.

“Instead of trying to distract with ideology, state lawmakers should focus on prioritizing public health and safety measures,” she said, according to the New York Times.

On March 24, the Catholic Medical Association, along with several other medical groups, issued  statement explaining that abortion “generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms. Most abortion providers instruct women to go to an emergency room if they have any concerning symptoms after the abortion. Approximately 5% of women who undergo medication abortions will require evaluation in an emergency room, most commonly for hemorrhage. Surgical abortions can also result in hemorrhage. Emergency room personnel – who are already struggling to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic – will be further strained to provide care to these women”.

In Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington state, where pro-abortion rights support is strong, officials have said that orders halting elective surgeries do not apply to abortions.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has suspended non-essential business and elective medical procedures but did not clarify whether this included an elective abortions. The state of Louisiana has ordered a delay in non-essential medical procedures but it is also unclear whether elective abortions are included.


Memento mori in a time of pandemic

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- As the coronavirus continues to spread, many people find themselves confronted with their mortality for the first time. One religious sister, who has created a ministry helping Catholics find hope in their faith when faced with the reality of death, says they need help.

Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, an order dedicated to spreading the faith through modern media. She is also the author of several publications on the theme memento mori, remembering your own death, all of which aim to help the reader develop spiritual practices and disciplines which acknowledge the reality of death. 

She told CNA Tuesday that in the “relatively unprecedented” situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been forced to consider their own deaths “in a different way altogether, almost communally.” 

Catholics have a special role to play in this time, she said.

“As Catholics, we have a special responsibility to live this [time] close to our tradition,” Noble told CNA. 

“I think that it will be beneficial to us spiritually if we live this reality close to our tradition, which gives us a lot of guidance on how to live with fear of death and how to cope with it in a faith-filled way, but also a reasonable way.” 

Personal faith and responsibility are both important, especially now, Noble said, with the “fearful reality” of the coronavirus leaving her concerned for the health and safety of her own loved ones. 

Faced with the unique situation of entire societies experiencing some form of memento mori, Noble said that Catholics should bring their fears and anxieties to Jesus, as well find hope in their faith. 

Noble explained that from a religious perspective, “meditation on death helps us to see those fears, but then bring them to Jesus and help him to fill those fears with this hope.”

A faith-filled approach to death is not about rejecting fear, she said, “it’s natural and real to respond to death with a feeling of fear,” but becoming open to grace at the same time. 

“Because we have the gift of faith from our baptism, we can respond to that fear differently,” said Noble. “We can also have hope in the midst of that fear.” 

Witnessing to this hope, she said, is something Catholics can do to help those who do not have faith and have been left isolated through anxiety and fear during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Personally, I think that's how Catholics can help their secular friends right now. They might not have the faith that we have, but we can keep turning to Jesus in this and finding that hope that our faith really does provide for us, and being that light of hope to others right now.” 

Finding hope in this time is a “special gift that all Christians can be to the world,” she said. 

While many Catholics are struggling to adjust to closed churches and the suspension of public Masses, Noble said that it was important to remember that “in extraordinary circumstances” God provides.

“God provides us with the graces that we need in the time that we need them,” she said, and encouraged people to make acts of spiritual communion, “asking Jesus to give us the graces that He would have us at Mass, and to give us even more to deal with the situation, because He’s going to give us all that we need.” 

Noble emphasized that while memento mori is a beneficial spiritual practice, it does not mean that someone should become “totally fearless of death,” especially not to the point of carelessness.

A Christian approach to mortality is “the balance of extreme caution and value for the preciousness of our lives, with the recognition that the end of our lives is really out of our hands, and it’s in the good and holy will of God,” said Noble. 

“God wants us to use our minds and our intellect to be cautious and careful, and to only take risks when God calls us to and not when the risks outweigh the benefits,” she said.

Hospitals, states consider how to distribute healthcare if coronavirus surges

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- In Italy, which has the most deaths from coronavirus, some doctors have said they have had to overlook older patients to focus on younger ones who are more likely to survive as the virus overwhelmed the healthcare system.

In the US, states and hospitals are considering how to distribute healthcare if demand for limited resources exceeds what can be provided. Worldwide, there are 332,930 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 14,509 deaths. Of those, 31,573 cases are in the US, where there have been 402 deaths due to the virus.

Colorado adopted a Crisis Standards of Care Plan in 2018 as guidelines “to assist healthcare providers in their decision making with the intention of maximizing patient survival and minimizing the adverse outcomes that might occur” when healthcare needs “far surpass” what is available.

“It’s very military-style triage,” Dr. Matthew Wynia of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus told The Colorado Sun's John Ingold. “If we get hit that hard, we are going to have some very difficult decisions to make. And we can’t wait until then to get ready for that … it would be irresponsible not to plan right now for a huge surge of patients.”

Colorado's crisis standards of care would be activated only after the governor declares a public health emergency, and even then, it would implemented locally, depending on the conditions in individual counties or communities.

Among the goals of the state plan is to “minimize serious illness and death by administering a finite pool of resources to those who have the greatest opportunity to benefit from them”.

Guiding ethical elements of Colorado's plan are stewardship of resources, duty to care, soundness, fairness, reciprocity, proportionality, transparency, and accountability.

It focuses especially on fairness, proportionality, solidarity, and being participatory.

The Colorado guidelines say healthcare providers should be fair to all the affected “without regard to factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability or region that are not medically relevant.”

With regard to solidarity, the Crisis Standards of Care Plan says that “all people should consider the greater good of the entire community.” It adds that for transparency and accountability, “the community, healthcare providers, and emergency management agencies” should be engaged during the process.

Dr. Charlie Camosy, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University, last week discussed with CNA the principles that should be used as doctors might face choices over healthcare distribution.

“There are virtually no universally agreed-upon principles to do this--excepting, perhaps, the idea that health care providers, first-responders, law enforcement, and others primarily responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the polity should get priority,” he stated.

For Catholics, he said that serving “the most vulnerable first” is a fundamental principal.

“Those people are Christ to us in a special way and we will be judged according to how we treat them. We don't think about, say, how long they might stay on a ventilator vs. how long someone we might encounter next week might stay on a ventilator. We also don't think about how long they might have to live if the treatment is successful vs. how long other someone we might encounter next week might live if their treatment is successful.”

He added that it makes sense among limited resources “to treat those first who are most likely to benefit from the treatment. And there may be a disproportionate number of younger people in the former category. But that is not the same as deciding that we ought to prefer the young to the old because they have longer to live.”

While the US bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services do not directly address resource allocation during crises, they do note that “Catholic health care should distinguish itself by service to and advocacy for those people whose social condition puts them at the margins of our society and makes them particularly vulnerable to discrimination: the poor; the uninsured and the underinsured; children and the unborn; single parents; the elderly; those with incurable diseases and chemical dependencies; racial minorities; immigrants and refugees.”

The directives add that “in particular, the person with mental or physical disabilities, regardless of the cause or severity, must be treated as a unique person of incomparable worth, with the same right to life and to adequate health care as all other persons.”

In Washington, advocates of persons with disabilities have filed a complaint saying that crisis care guidelines issued by the state health department are improperly discriminatory.

“There's been a long history of people with intellectual, development mental disabilities having our medical care denied," Ivanova Smith, one of the complainants, told NPR. "Because we're not seen as valuable. We're not seen as productive or needed. When that's not true. We have people that love us and that care for us. Many people with disabilities work and they do amazing things in their communities but they need that life saving care."

Attorneys representing the Thomas More Society and the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund published a memo March 23 urging that “policies rationing care on the basis of disability or age … would violate federal law regarding invidious discrimination.”

“Anticipated longevity or quality of life are inappropriate issues for consideration. Decisions must be made solely on clinical factors as to which patients have the greatest need and the best prospect of a good medical outcome. Therefore, disability and age should not be used as categorical exclusions in making these critical decisions,” the memo concludes.

Peter Breen, vice president of the Thomas More Society, commented that “The horrific idea of withholding care from someone because they are elderly or disabled, is untenable and represents a giant step in the devaluation of each and every human life in America.”

Other possible criteria for healthcare distribution during crises include first-come-first-served, or a lottery system.

Lives worth living? Why healthcare rationing must be ethical

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 15:30

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- As state health officials plan for health care rationing during the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers, ethicists and theologians are warning that denying care on the basis of age or disability violates federal law. 

“There’s always the temptation when things get rough, and when you’re looking at rationing situations and looking at triage, to fall into the error of devaluing human lives,” Dr. Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University, told CNA on Monday.

While health care rationing may be a “reality” during a crisis, George said, it can never be done on the basis of categories such as age or disability.

“What we think it’s critical to avoid is falling into the trap of making judgments about whose life is and whose life isn’t a life worth living, or falling into the trap of thinking that some peoples’ lives are inherently superior to others,” George said.

George and two other scholars—Fordham theology professor Charles Camosy and Harvard sociology professor Jacqueline Rivers—requested a legal memorandum on federal civil rights protections against age and disability discrimination.

They did so citing reports that health care entities are already planning for “crisis” scenarios in the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has already resulted in more than 46,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

Health experts have warned that the U.S. healthcare system could soon be overwhelmed with new hospitalizations as the virus spreads, and face a shortage of beds and necessary equipment such as ventilators.

For such “crisis” scenarios, state health officials, hospitals, hospital groups, physicians, and medical teams in several states are already making plans to decide who should be prioritized to receive critical care when there is a shortage of available personnel, beds, ventilators, and other equipment.

“As somebody who has studied bioethics, and who is a professor of bioethics, I know the overwhelming majority of them have virtually no ethics training,” Camosy told CNA. “Those that do have ethics training tend to be more utilitarian in their approach.”

Health officials are reportedly basing health care rationing upon age and disability.

According to the New York Times, Washington state officials and hospital leaders discussed last week a “triage document” for the new coronavirus pandemic to establish limitations on critical care for patients based on their age, health, and likelihood of survival, granting only comfort care to other patients.

Disability rights advocates in Washington have already written to the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking them to “act swiftly” and clarify existing civil rights protections before Washington finalizes its triage plan.

Otherwise, “there will be no way to undo the lethal outcome of the discriminatory plans that have been formulated without OCR’s guidance,” the groups stated.

On Tuesday, the OCR told CNA that it did not comment on open or potential investigations.

However, a spokesperson for the office told CNA that OCR director Roger Severino is committed to ensuring no one is left behind during times of emergency.

“Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills, or needing religious accommodations should not be put at the end of the line for health services during emergencies. Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism,” Severino said in a quote sent to CNA.

If healthcare is rationed based on age or disability, ventilators could be denied to COVID-19 patients above a certain age or those with a condition such as muscular dystrophy, Camosy said.

“We’re trying to raise the alarm about this,” George told CNA, saying the scholars will ask Attorney General William Barr to clarify to states that health care rationing must not violate federal civil rights laws.

In response to the academics’ request, a legal memorandum was prepared by attorneys for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society, led by the groups’ special counsel Charles LiMandri, who is also a partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP.

“Federal law requires that decisions regarding the critical care of patients during the current crisis not discriminate on the basis of disability or age,” the memorandum states.

Among the federal civil rights protections in healthcare cited in the document are the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which forbids age discrimination in federally-funded health programs, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits disability discrimination by private entities and state and local governments.

“The Affordable Care Act extends the above protections against discrimination on the basis of disability or age to individuals participating in any health program or activity administered by HHS or that receives funding from HHS,” the memorandum states.

Critical health care decisions are fast looming as the pandemic grows, particularly in hotspots such as New York City and Seattle.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned last week that by early May, 110,000 hospital beds would be needed to deal with the virus with a current total capacity of only 53,000 beds.

Unfortunately, health officials and doctors will probably have to ration care, Camosy said, with not enough hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators and other equipment available to treat all the patients with the virus..

“There’s really no question at this point that we’re going to have to have some kind of plan, even if it’s just first-come-first-serve,” he said.

However, he emphasized, “we ought not to violate people’s fundamental rights by doing so.”

Louisiana governor announces day of prayer and fasting

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 09:40

Baton Rouge, La., Mar 24, 2020 / 07:40 am (CNA).- The Catholic governor of Louisiana has asked fellow citizens to pray and fast on March 24 for those affected by the coronavirus. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced on Monday evening that he and the state’s First Lady will fast on Tuesday, in the middle of both the season of Lent and a global pandemic.

“In this Lenten season where we focus on fasting and prayer, I wanted to let the people of Louisiana know that I will be fasting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24,” Edwards tweeted.

The governor asked others to pray and fast with him “for comfort to those that have lost a loved one to COVID-19, the complete recovery of those that have tested positive, and that God will, as He has done before, heal His people and our land.”

Edwards, a Catholic, was re-elected in November to his second term as Louisiana’s governor. In 2019, he signed a ban on abortions once a baby’s heartbeat can be detected in utero, usually around six to eight weeks.

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in more than 46,000 confirmed cases in the U.S.

Louisiana has the third-highest rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita of any state in the U.S., Edwards said on CNN on Monday evening. There are 1,172 reported cases and 34 deaths from the new coronavirus in the state, and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond tested positive for the new coronavirus on Monday.

Edwards issued a stay-at-home order to all Louisiana residents, effective at 5 p.m. CT on Monday, limiting the movement of residents outside their homes to activities such as grocery store and pharmacy shopping, medical visits, recreational walks outside, and urgent visits to friends and family.

On Monday evening, he asked others to join him in prayer and fasting on Tuesday.

“[The First Lady] and I believe in the power of prayer and know, based on our Catholic Christian faith, that prayer coupled with fasting is pleasing to God. #lagov #lalege,” Edwards tweeted.

In defiance of CDC guidelines for limited gatherings to slow the spread of the virus, pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana held a service on Sunday with more than 1800 people in attendance, according to local news outlet WNEM.

On CNN on Monday, Edwards responded to the gathering that “I’m a person of faith. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe in science.” His stay-at-home order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people in one place at one time.

“In this case, I choose to do what science tells me while I pray for the best possible outcome,” he said.

AA under quarantine: How coronavirus is changing 12-step recovery programs

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 06:00

Denver, Colo., Mar 24, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Ian, a 30 year-old living and working in an addiction recovery community in southern Florida, is somewhat used to paradoxical living conditions. Ian has been clean and sober for ten years, and he lives in an area he says is densely populated with recovering addicts. Seven minutes from his house, though, is spring break territory.

Ian finds the contrast puzzling.

“(The surrounding) community is very spring break-esque, but it's also the largest recovery community in the United States. It's the largest recovery community for people that are getting sober or staying it's just weird because it's two polar extremes,” he told CNA. 

Last week highlighted the differences between the communities even more, as the sober living community observed social distancing and isolation per federal coronavirus guidelines, while hordes of spring-break revelers hit the beach and blithely partied on.

“It's really polarized at this point,” Ian said. “There are people that are clearly trying to keep their space, and then there's people that just don't care.”

‘It’s affected everything’

Spring breakers notwithstanding, the addiction recovery community in Florida and across the United States is scrambling to make group and sponsor meetings as available and effective as possible, while observing federal and state guidelines which dictate that no more than 10 people may gather together, and in some cases, that people cannot leave their homes except for essential supplies and emergencies.

“It's really affected everything,” Ian said of the coronavirus restrictions.

Ian told CNA he qualifies for membership in multiple 12-step programs, including Heroin Anonymous, but that he has remained the most active in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Despite what people might think about Alcoholics Anonymous meetings based on movies or T.V. shows, Ian said that the primary reason for in-person meetings is not so much therapy as it is to offer a place for newcomers to meet others in recovery and to find a sponsor.

“The idea is that someone who is brand new has a place to go where they can meet someone who's not brand new, and in that process get involved with the 12 steps,” he said. “It's the catalyst of all other things, i.e., the newcomer really getting involved with the 12 steps.”

“If you bring them to a group that is really enthusiastic...they get almost attacked by people that are trying to help people. And so before you even know it, you've got a sponsor,” and a community, or at least the prospect of onem he added.

Involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous varies from person to person, but typically, a member of AA attends meetings at least once a week (often more frequently), and has regular meetings with a sponsor, who is usually a member with more years in recovery offering guidance through the 12 steps of recovery.

While coronavirus restrictions have put a damper on in-person interactions, Ian said he and his friends anticipated that lockdowns and quarantines were possible in the face of coronavirus, and they worked to put together Zoom online conference meetings, as well as a master spreadsheet of anyone available to sponsor new people.

“We're going to be actually sending this to every local halfway house and treatment center and saying, ‘Hey, if you have new people that need sponsors, all of these people are willing to take as many as possible until it becomes unbearable,’” he said.

Back to the roots

“Father C”, a priest in Pennsylvania who is in recovery from alcohol addiction, spoke to CNA on the condition of anonymity. He said that in some ways, remote ways of connecting people in recovery to one another are a throwback to the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, when the organization, founded in 1935, reached new people primarily by telephone.

“Groups only got organized because one alcoholic reached out to another and shared the message of his own recovery through the practice and the steps,” “Father C” told CNA.

Before they had texting or other digital ways of organizing meetings, “two people meeting together...even on the telephone, was a meeting to them,” he said.

Only after the telephone became more common in American homes, and the word about Alcoholics Anonymous got out, were organizers able to establish bigger group meetings.

Dave, a Catholic father of six in recovery in Maryland, said that mail was also used in the early days of AA.

“So the history is that Bill Wilson got sober in New York and Dr. Bob Smith got sober in Akron, Ohio. And Bill was in Ohio at the time when they started; Bill got Bob sober. And then they hung out and they would go to these Oxford Group meetings. Oxford Group is a Protestant group that had some of the basic tenants of AA,” he said.

“When Alcoholics Anonymous started, it was mainly these disparate groups of people that would exchange letters before there were meetings everywhere. So it's a little bit of how things were in the beginning, but just with a 21st century spin on it,” he added.

More isolation, but more ways to connect

Joelle is a wife and mother in her 50s in Fresno, California who has been in recovery through AA for 10 years. She serves as an event planner for AA (though, all upcoming events have been canceled).

The move to virtual meetings means that newcomers will have to be especially proactive about reaching out for help, Joelle told CNA.

“We have a principle, a little refrain, that we say. It's: ‘When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, we want the hand of AA to always be there. And for that I am responsible.’ Well, in this time, (newcomers) really are going to have to reach out. They're going to have to find us,” Joelle added.

“Because usually somebody drops into a meeting and they don't leave that meeting without some phone numbers and exchanging numbers so that they don't get lost in AA. But, obviously that's not possible right now.”

The “big saving grace” at the moment has been videoconferencing, Joelle said. The groups with which she’s involved have set up online conference meetings via Zoom, and put the word out via Facebook and word of mouth about the change. So far, attendance has been high.

“One of the meetings I go to is an every-morning-meeting, every day of the week, at 6:30 a.m. And a lot of the people who come to that meeting, they're kind of hit-and-miss because some days they need to be at work at 7:30 and coming to a 6:30 meeting doesn't make sense. But now that we're on Zoom, all of them are coming,” she said.

They’re also picking up people from other groups who have not yet organized virtual meetings, she said.

“So our meeting is bigger and more vital than ever. I also think the stressful situation makes people want more AA meetings.”

Joelle said she sees this time as “kind of a mixed bag.”

One the one hand, she said, social isolation can be really bad for addicts. She predicts that a lot of people will discover during their time of social isolation that they are alcoholics or drug addicts.

“There's going to be people who figure out they're alcoholic during this time because being trapped at home, instead of busy with work and activities, heavy drinkers are very likely going to figure out that there's an issue there,” she said. “But how are they going to get ahold of us?”

Because 12-step groups typically happen locally, Joelle said she would encourage those looking for a meeting to do an internet search with the name of their city plus “AA meetings,” or whichever recovery group they need. 

“You're going to find all kinds of meetings,” she said. She encouraged newcomers and those long in recovery to take advantage of extra time at home to connect to even more virtual meetings than they might normally be able to attend in person.

“I would say we need more connection, not less, when there's stress,” Joelle said. “So home isolation is really rough for an alcoholic. But being able to attend more meetings because you're sitting at home and so you don't have some ways it's more convenient for people now. In other ways, you're still sitting at home by yourself.”

Joelle said she thinks this time might pave the way for more virtual meetings in the future for AA, even after the threat of coronavirus has passed.

“AA already has conference call meetings, which I know is kind of old-fashioned, dial-in meetings...but from my perspective, there's plenty of times when you would want to have someone able to Zoom in, because maybe they've got cancer and they're in chemo, and so they're stuck at home, they can't come. I really believe this will be the wave of the future in terms of giving people more options.”

The steps at a social distance

While being able to host online meetings has been convenient in many ways, Ian said he still had many concerns about people in recovery programs, particularly those who are in early recovery.

Often, those in early recovery will take part-time jobs as restaurant servers or cashiers so they can focus on their recovery, Ian said, but a “huge influx” of people are losing such jobs in his community, he said.

“We're just having a lot of people not only not have an income, but also not be able to participate both in meetings and fellowship, which is as, if not equally, important as meeting attendance,” he said. Fellowship typically involves 40-50 people or so going out for dinner or just hanging out together after meetings. Get-togethers of that size are now banned throughout the country.

Ian said he is also concerned about newcomers who were working the steps for the first time, because, somewhat like the sacraments of the Catholic Church, there is something particularly effective about completing those steps in person.

For example, he said, the fourth step of AA, which is to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” is typically undertaken in person, with one’s sponsor. It is similar to the sacrament of confession, where sins are stated to a priest in person.

“There's something about doing that face to face with someone and seeing someone's face not judging you,” he said. “Like someone looking at you and being like, ‘He doesn't think I'm a scumbag or a loser.’”

“When you remove that facial component, even through FaceTime, you've obviously diminished the effectiveness or efficacy of that step,” he said. “So there's all these other underlying limitations that we're going to tease out over the next few weeks or months potentially.”

Staying close to God when Masses are canceled

Another component of recovery that will be challenging for Catholics at this time will be remaining close to God when all public Masses and other liturgical celebrations have been canceled throughout the United States.

Connecting with a higher power is crucial for all 12-step recovery programs, but doing so can be hard for Catholics who can’t attend Mass or go to confession regularly due to coronavirus restrictions.

Christine N., a Catholic in recovery in Annapolis, Maryland, said she was “devastated” when Masses were canceled, because she had recently been trying to attend daily Mass as well as Sunday Mass. Now, she said, she’s been watching her local parish’s livestream of morning Mass, and she said she might watch Bishop Robert Barron’s streamed Masses as well.

She encouraged fellow alcoholics and others in recovery to stay the course and to trust God.

“I, and all Catholics, need to continue to pray and have faith that God will never abandon us and that he is with us,” she said. “Believe that, and we'll get through it. But it definitely feels like a test.”

Dave said that he and his family are part of a movement, started in France, called Teams of Our Lady, which are small faith groups that meet monthly for a shared meal and fellowship, and they also have a rule of life by which they try to live. Their group just had their first online meeting yesterday.

Dave said he encourages Catholics to find virtual ways to connect and share about their faith with other Catholics or Christians.

“I think we have to be willing to share more openly with other people of our faith of what's going on, share the difficulties, and connect (with each other),” he said, adding that he had also heard of stay-at-home virtual retreats being put on by some priests in Maryland.

Joelle said that for the past few weeks, she has been saying a daily rosary and a morning meditation and turning to prayer more often throughout the day. She encouraged Catholics to “stay out of fear” and to look for ways that God is calling them to be of service every day.

“I am constantly looking for the role that God is assigning me right now,” she said.

“I want to focus on the present and especially on being in service in the present…for me it means using my cooking skills and time to get meals to people who are shut in, especially to people over 65 or who otherwise have health concerns. To be able to take them a meal and leave it on their doorstep and make sure they're okay, and go grocery shopping for them so they aren't exposed. Those are things that help Catholics and they help alcoholics too.”

“Father C” said he thinks it is fitting that Catholics are all experiencing a great spiritual hunger for the sacraments during Lent. He said his advice for Catholics in recovery is similar to his advice for other addicts in recovery: "Keep coming back."

“Stay close, be involved, do service even in the smallest things,” he said. “Think of one another and pray for one another. Even with the social distance, there needn't be spiritual distance.”

“If God will make the greatest good come forth on the greatest evil, the death of the Son, well, would not God be able and willing to make good come out of this, even those lives that end up being lost to it?” he added.

Lt. governor and aspiring Jesuit has long record on 'abortion rights'

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 20:10

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2020 / 06:10 pm (CNA).- While Washington’s governor has praised the decision of his state’s lieutenant governor to enter the Society of Jesus after his term of office ends, the political record of Lt. Gov Cyrus Habib is unusual for an aspirant to Catholic religious life.

After Habib announced March 19 his plans to enter the Jesuits, Governor Jay Inslee led tributes to Habib’s public service, saying his “life and career are an inspiration to many.”

“He has had a meteoric career in elected public service,” Inslee said. “While the news was unexpected, anyone who knows Cyrus is not surprised by his commitment to faith. I have no doubt his future in the Jesuit priesthood will bring much good to a world that needs it right now.”

Speaking to the Seattle Times on Monday, Habib said that the illness and death of his father first brought him to consider religious life.

Habib’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, an event that “really, really rocked my world,” Habib told the Seattle Times.

A priest at the Cathedral of St. James in Seattle recommended Habib read “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” by Fr. James Martin, SJ, which Habib said started him on his path towards the Jesuit order.

Habib’s father died in 2016, the same year his son was elected Washington’s lieutenant governor. Cyrus Habib told The Times that the year was a “real low point for me, emotionally and spiritually,” despite his political success.

“From that place, that low point, I started to really reevaluate and start to really think, is this actually making me happy?” he said.

Before his announcement last week, Habib was widely considered a leading light in state politics and widely tipped to eventually rise to the position of governor. As he leaves behind electoral politics, Habib also leaves behind a longer political record than most seminarians.

Habib’s eight years in public life included support for abortion rights and contraception funding in the state of Washington.

He enjoys an 75% and “B” rating from NARAL, the national abortion rights group, and listed the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington during his 2016 campaign for lieutenant governor on his website, The politician was endorsed by NARAL during his 2014 campaign for legislature as well.

During Habib’s relatively brief career in Washington’s legislature, consisting of two years in the state’s House of Representatives and two years in the state Senate, the lawmaker co-sponsored several bills related to the expansion of abortion rights.

In 2015, he was co-sponsor of the Washington Reproductive Health Act, which mandated insurance cover abortions, sterilization and contraception. This bill did not pass.

Also in 2015, he co-sponsored the Washington Employee Reproductive Choice Act, which would have declared that failing to provide contraceptive coverage in employer-provided health insurance would amount to discrimination. The bill would have established that access to birth control in Washington State is a human right. That bill, also, did not pass.

Similar legislation mandating abortion coverage in insurance plans was passed in Washington state in 2018, once Habib was already the state’s lieutenant governor.

Habib listed Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest & Hawaii’s official endorsement on his 2016 campaign website, and said during that campaign that he was “honored” to have the group’s backing.

In 2017, when the Trump administration announced it would alter the HHS mandate to exempt some employers from covering contraceptive services in their healthcare plans “based on sincerely held religious beliefs,” Habib called the announcement “disgraceful.”

Reposting NARAL’s reaction to the policy shift on Twitter, Habib added “to those who are anti-choice, please recognize that this will increase abortions as well as economic insecurity.”

Habib has also taken positions in suport of both same-sex marriage and so-called transgender rights.

While running for the state legislature in 2012, Habib said he “absolutely support[ed]” a referednum to recognize same-sex marriage.

“I am proud that Washington will lead the way in passing marriage equality at the ballot box,” Habib said during his 2012 campaign.

“Having lost my eyesight at a young age, I have always been particularly sensitive to the dignity and respect owed each individual, and there is no doubt in my mind that denying consenting adults the freedom to marry deprives them of an essential civil right.”

While in the legislature he voted against a bill that would have required people to use the bathroom which corresponds with their biological sex.

During the debate regarding transgender bathroom access, Habib tweeted “Wish you’d been on the right side of history when marriage equality first came up? Here’s another chance: equal transgender bathroom access.”

As recently as last month, Habib posted on his Twitter page a speech given by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in which she offered a response to the decision by a Catholic hospital network in California to refuse to perform a “gender-transition” hysterectomy on a woman who identifies herself as a man.

Cortez complained that ”the only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigaotry and discrimination.”

“There is nothing holy about rejecting medical care to people, no matter who they are, on the grounds of what their [self-ascribed gender] identity is,” the first-term Congresswoman said. “There is nothing holy about turning someone away from a hospital.”

Habib called the speech “a great articulation of Catholic social teaching.”

CNA contacted Habib’s office on Friday, asking if his plans to enter a Catholic religious order signaled any shift in his political views. His office responded on Monday, explaining that Habib is only presently responding to in-state media requests and was unavailable for comment.

In an essay published in America Magazine on Thursday, announcing his plans to enter the religious life, and the Jesuits in particular, Habib wrote that his decision to seek public office in 2012, 2014, and 2016 were ”firmly rooted in Catholic social teaching, which places the poor, the sick, the disabled, the immigrant, the prisoner and all who are marginalized at the center of our social and political agenda.”

Habib also wrote in America that “the Catholic Church has wrestled with difficult social and moral questions for 2,000 years, and while I can be as impatient as anyone when it moves too slowly, I know from personal experience how much we can all benefit from a moral vocabulary that insists on the dignity of each and every person.”

The lieutenant governor also expressed his appreciation for what he called the Jesuit “philosophy of finding God in all people, cultures and things, for their advocacy for a more inclusive church and world” and predicted that his new life in the order “will involve teaching, intercultural and interfaith dialogue, advocacy and spiritual accompaniment.”

Christine Rousselle contributed to this report.

Ohio AG: abortion clinics can't use resources needed for coronavirus fight

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 19:13

Columbus, Ohio, Mar 23, 2020 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- Ohio’s abortion clinics are wrongly using resources that should be conserved for health care workers fighting the new coronavirus, and these clinics must halt all “non-essential or elective” surgical abortions, the Ohio Attorney General's Office has said in letters to Planned Parenthood and others.

“This is an unprecedented time in the state’s history and everyone must do their part to help stop the spread of this disease,” Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson said in a March 20 letter to Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio's Cincinnati surgery center.

“If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical elective abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”

The Ohio Department of Health’s March 17 order canceled “all non-essential or elective surgeries” that use personal protective equipment by 5 p.m. March 18.

“The order was issued, in part, to preserve (personal protective equipment) for health care providers who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading in our state and also to preserve critical hospital capacity and resources,” Fulkerson’s letter to the Planned Parenthood affiliate said.

However, Ohio’s Planned Parenthood affiliates suggested they believed the health department order did not apply to their work.

“Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to offer other health care services that our patients depend on. Our doors remain open for this care,” Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, the respective presidents and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, said in a statement, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Few states have said whether elective surgical abortions may be performed given the need to conserve medical supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic. But those states which have spoken are divided.

In Washington and Massachusetts, where pro-abortion rights support is strong, officials have said that orders halting elective surgeries do not apply to abortions, the Washington Post reports. After the Texas governor ordered a halt to non-essential surgeries on Sunday, the Texas Attorney General said the order would apply to most abortions.

As of Saturday, more than 320 Americans had died from the coronavirus, with Washington state suffering the most fatalities. Confirmed cases now total over 25,000, CNN reports.

In Ohio, Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told CNN that abortion providers are among one of many to receive such a letter.

“This is not an abortion issue,” McCorkle said. “A letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries.”

While officials said that abortion clinics were not targeted, Ohio Right to Life nonetheless welcomed the move.

“We are thankful to Attorney General Yost for protecting Ohio’s most vulnerable populations and holding abortion clinics accountable to the law,” Ohio Right to Life said March 21.

The pro-life group had previously written Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio to complain about what it said was a violation of the order.

“As countless other clinics across the state comply with this health order and prioritize the lives of their fellow Ohioans, Planned Parenthood continues to put profit and abortion above the safety of our society’s most vulnerable members--children and the elderly,” Ohio Right to Life president Michael Gonidakis said March 21.

If the Ohio Department of Health finds its order was violated by any surgical facility in the state, the attorney general office’s spokeswoman said, “they can refer it to our office to pursue legal action on behalf of the Ohio Department of Health.”

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide order barring non-essential surgeries applied to abortion clinics.

“We must work together as Texans to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time,” said Paxton. “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”

Failure to comply with the Texas executive order could mean fines of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.

The Ohio letters were sent to facilities only if they were subjects of complaints to the health department, the Washington Post reports. Besides Planned Parenthood Ohio Southwest Region, abortion clinics which received letters included the Women’s Med Center in Dayton and the Preterm facility in Cleveland.

“The Ohio Department of Health has received a complaint that your facility has been performing or continues to perform surgical abortions, which necessarily involve the use of (personal protective equipment),” Fulkerson's letter to the Planned Parenthood affiliate said.

“Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient,” he said, referring to the health department’s criteria.

These criteria for essential procedures include threat to a patient’s life, “threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system,” and “risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms” unless the surgery is performed.

Fulkerson said he looked forward to hearing confirmation that Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and its facility are complying with the order.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said abortion is “a time-sensitive medical situation that cannot be significantly delayed without profound consequences.” It accused the attorney general and Gonidakis of Ohio Right to Life of “exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to further their agenda to close Ohio’s abortion clinics,” CNN reports.

A March 18 joint statement from eight medical groups including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, which tends to take pro-abortion rights stands, asserted that abortion is “an essential component of comprehensive health care.”

The groups argued that abortion is “a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible.”

“The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being,” said the joint statement, encouraging collaboration between community- and hospital-based clinicians to “ensure abortion access is not compromised during this time.”

Newark archdiocese campaigns for parishes facing coronavirus cash crunch

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 18:00

Newark, N.J., Mar 23, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Newark is working with GoFundMe Charity to encourage Catholics to support their parishes online during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many parishes have suffered a sharp drop in donations following the loss of in-person Sunday collections because of the suspension of public Masses.

To date, Catholics have raised more than $70,000 in response to the appeal.

“Together we will navigate unchartered waters, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Newark,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin in a statement published on Saturday, March 21, on the archdiocesan website. 

“We are coordinating with the team at GoFundMe Charity to provide one online platform for the faithful to support continued outreach and the critical needs of their own parish communities and other parishes in need,” Tobin said. 

The archdiocese is the first in the country to launch this type of online crowdfunding platform for its parishes, and Tobin said in his statement that he hopes others follow Newark's lead. 

The archdiocese made the decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass on March 18. Public Masses have now been suspended in every Latin rite diocese in the United States.

GoFundMe Charity is the charitable arm of GoFundMe, a crowdfunding platform. All donations made to parishes in the archdiocese through this platform are tax deductible, said Tobin. 

At the archdiocesan campaign landing page, donors are able to select a specific parish to send their contribution, or donate to the “Parishes in Need Fund,” which will go to the parishes that are having the most trouble staying afloat amid the suspension of public Masses. As of press time, $71,032 has been made in donations. 

Tobin announced that he will waive the ordinary archdiocesan assessment of donations in order to allow parishes to benefit directly from all funds raised.

“Our worship avoids becoming empty narcissism if it is based on a real love for God that is manifested in a love for our neighbors, especially those who suffer,” said Tobin. 

The suspension of Masses has hit hardest for parishes not equipped for online giving, able to use electronic databases of parishioners, or who have congregations who are mostly lower-income or elderly. While some parishes do have savings, others do not and have had to make sacrifices to stay afloat, such as lower the heat of the parish building in order to avoid having to lay people off. 

On Monday, March 23, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all residents of the state to remain in their homes in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Prison chaplains adapt as coronavirus limits their ministry

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 17:01

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The worldwide outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is beginning to touch one of the populations in the United States most vulnerable to disease: the incarcerated.

A growing number of prisons in the US have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and most have suspended visits for inmates.

In the face of such precautions, prison chaplains throughout the country have had to adapt their ministry.

Joe Cotton, director of prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle, told CNA that all of his chaplains are currently blocked from entering the facilities where they normally minister.

Seattle has one the highest rates of infection in the United States, with more than 1,600 confirmed cases and more than 90 deaths. Washington State was also the site of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the US.

"So we're trying to be as creative as we can— some of our chaplains are doing things like developing their reflections and Communion services and programming, working from home and getting ahead, and using this time for getting things ready for when we can go back in, so that they're well ahead of the game," Cotton told CNA.

He said his team that normally ministers at a juvenile facility got especially creative, setting up a telephone answering service to forward calls from inmates directly to chaplains' cell phones, depending on a schedule of chaplains' availability throughout the week that they set up.

"Tonight's my night, for example. So between five and nine, I'll have my cell phone on me, and if the answering service calls me, it means someone on the inside wants to talk to a chaplain over the phone. So that's one of the creative things that we're doing to at least make chaplains still available...although that's not happening in every facility."

Art Alvarez, who has ministered at Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles for the past 14 years, told CNA that for now, he is still able to go into the facility to minister to the men, but must keep a safe distance to avoid bringing in the virus.

In L.A., chaplains are still able to enter county jails, though that may soon change. In state prisons, all the chaplains’ operations have been canceled.

Alvarez said he has had to adapt to speaking to the men through the doors of their cells through food slots that are no longer used for food, but which are once again serving a purpose.  

He said the inmates are able to have access to the news and have a pretty good idea what is going on.

"They're concerned about their families on the outside. But on the inside, with the deputies, they feel pretty safe," he said.

At at least one major prison— Rikers Island in New York— authorities have released dozens of inmates over fears that they may have contracted the virus. Many county jails are doing the same.

At least 38 people at Rikers Island have contracted COVID-19 and dozens more have likely been exposed to it, the Associated Press reports.

Prison officers and staff in states including California and Michigan have tested positive for the virus, and in Wisconsin, 18 inmates at a prison were quarantined last week after a facility doctor tested positive for the virus, according to reporting from the AP. 

In Los Angeles county, which has the largest prison population of any county in the United States, prisoners with non-violent criminal records and who have between two and three months left of their sentences are being released.

Alvarez said he is also continuing to assist with what are known as “extractions”— per state policy, if an inmate refuses to leave his cell, a doctor, a nurse, or a chaplain must be brought in and try to talk the inmate out of his cell before the deputies are allowed to use force.

He said he was recently asked to assist with an extraction whereby the inmate was informed that he was being released, but he didn’t believe that it was really happening.

"This guy didn't want to go home. He didn't want to leave," Alvarez said. 

Alvarez said the jail has prepared two entire floors for quarantine, but as of March 21, no inmates are there.

He said the inmates’ attitudes are mixed during this time of uncertainty, and he said the chaplains are trying to reassure the inmates that they are in many ways safer inside than jail

“Some want to stay in, some want to go home and be with their families and protect their families,” he said.


"There's nothing more that they can say or do."

In at least two states, Arizona and Minnesota, prison officials have waived copays charged to inmates for medical visits and waived fees for personal hygiene supplies, NPR reports. A California senator is advocating that all low-risk inmates be released nationwide.

In California, prison officials announced that a prisoner at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, has tested positive for COVID-19, and in addition, at least five prison workers have the disease, the LA Times reports.

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide, mandatory stay at home order on March 19 that workers in critical sectors should go to work. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and more will stay open, the governor said.

Gonzalo de Vivero, director of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Office of Restorative Justice, told CNA that he has been getting calls constantly from his chaplains, asking whether they can continue to do their ministry.

Every jail makes its own rules, he said, and for now the county jails are still allowing chaplains in.

"The mayor [of Los Angeles] is asking everybody to stay home, unless your work is essential. Well, the work of a chaplain is extremely essential. But on the other hand, we have families...and that's very hard. And the uncertainties are very hard."

Even before the governor’s order, a lot of the chaplains’ services have had to be reduced, de Vivero said.

As of last week, they could not have more than 10 people in their services in the jails, including the minister; a chaplain last week held a communion service that normally has 35 people, but this time had only nine, de Vivero said.

In Los Angeles County in 2019, de Vivero said, the archdiocesan prison ministry said over 2,000 Masses in jails, with over 25,000 attendants.

de Vivero said he worries that switching to virtual chaplaincy during this time could cause the jails they serve in to be reluctant to allow chaplains into the jails in person after the pandemic ends. He said many of his chaplains are against broadcasting Mass by videoconferencing, and he called it a "dangerous route."

“The institutions will be very happy to say that all Masses should be via video from now on,” he warned.

"People need people. We cannot replace going to Church with watching Mass on TV."

de Vivero related a story of one of his chaplains, who was determined to continue to go and serve inmates in the jails during the pandemic, and whose boss at work threatened to fire him if he continued to do so.

Above all, he said, this situation highlights how difficult it is for Catholics to serve the underprivileged, even in non-crisis times.

"We have two pandemics: the virus, and the fear. And I don't know which one is more dangerous," he mused.

"I am very concerned about the long-term effects in our jails, because people are going to get extremely sensitive, be more prone to violence...the enemy would like to use this opportunity to fuel disagreements, arguments, and they turn into altercations, and then fights, and we have more problems that nobody needs right now."

Senate fails to pass coronavirus stimulus bill

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Monday failed for the second straight day to advance consideration of a stimulus package to respond to the new coronavirus.

The senators failed to deliver the 60 votes necessary to proceed on a shell bill to consider the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third major piece of legislation in response to the new coronavirus .

The bill would provide recovery checks to eligible taxpayers, defer student loan payments, and grant relief to small businesses.

However, some Democrats on Sunday reportedly opposed the package because it lacked guarantees that companies receiving relief would retain their employees, and lacked sufficient restrictions on the use of relief money for corporate stock buybacks.

The Hill reported on Sunday that, according to a Democratic aide, leading Democrats also opposed the  provision excluding non-profits that receive Medicaid funds from Small Business Administration assistance in the bill. The non-profits reportedly affected by the provision would include Planned Parenthood and community health centers, among other health care entities.

On Monday, Democratic leaders reportedly wanted other provisions unrelated to the pandemic added to the legislation, including tax credits for wind and solar energy. By Monday afternoon, the Senate failed to proceed on consideration of the legislation, by a vote of 49 in favor to 46 against.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), expressed his support on Sunday for limits on executive compensation and stock buybacks

On Sunday evening, Hawley tweeted that “any relief for big corporations must limit executive compensation, ban stock buybacks, & require companies to pay back loans w/ interest. Or I’m not voting for it.” He voted on Sunday in favor of advancing consideration of the legislation.

Several senators missed the votes on both days due to a Coronavirus diagnosis. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has tested positive for the virus, his office announced on Sunday, and other senators who interacted with him were voluntarily self-quarantining, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also announced on Monday that her husband had coronavirus.

On Monday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would introduce the House Democrats’ version of the third stimulus bill, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.

She said the bill would require corporations to “protect their workers’ wages and benefits,” provide relief to small businesses, bolster unemployment insurance, fund hospitals and health care institutions, expand paid family and medical leave, support food insecurity benefits and provide nearly $40 billion for schools and universities.

Other senators and religious leaders pushed for greater protections for non-profits and Church employees in the legislation.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who is also the president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, on Saturday called on California’s Catholics to support an extension of unemployment benefits to Church employees. Non-profit employees in several states currently do not have access to the benefits.

“As we know, the impact of the coronavirus emergency is being felt profoundly in our Catholic

Community,” Archbishop Gomez said, noting nationwide closures of Church-run ministries and offices.

“Please join me in asking Congress to extend unemployment benefits to Church workers who might need this relief. Let us stand together in solidarity for our brothers and sisters in this time of trial and need.”

Archbishop Aymond of New Orleans has coronavirus

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 13:33

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2020 / 11:33 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of New Orleans has tested positive for coronavirus. He is the first U.S. bishop known to have tested positive for the virus, which is now a global pandemic.

“Recently, I had very mild symptoms, which included fever only. Out of an abundance of caution, I took the Coronavirus test which came back positive,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond announced March 23.

“I have notified those with whom I have been in close proximity. Needless to say, I have self-quarantined in order to be responsible and not affect others. I will use this quiet time for additional prayer and sacrifice for all those seriously affected by the virus,” the archbishop wrote.

“I pray to get well soon and continue ministry. In the meantime, I will be present through Facebook and the archdiocesan website with reflection on this crisis and God’s healing power. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us! Blessed Seelos, pray for us!”

Aymond, 70, has been Archbishop of New Orleans since 2009. He was previously Bishop of Austin and an auxiliary bishop in the New Orleans archdiocese.

At least 5 U.S. priests are known to have the virus, and on Friday, an Franciscan friar and deacon became the first U.S. cleric known to have died of the virus.

More than 366,000 people have contracted COVID-19 as of Monday morning. More than 16,000 people have died and 101,000 have recovered from the disease so far.

A priest in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington was the first U.S. priest known to be diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 15, and a second Yakima priest was announced to have the virus March 23. Fr. Stephen Planning, SJ, president of DC's Gonzaga College High School, announced last week he also has the virus. Two priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn were also diagnosed with the virus last week.

On Saturday, Brother John-Sebastian Laird-Hammond, OFM, became the first American cleric known to have died after contracting the virus. The 59 year-old deacon had been battling leukemia for years when he became ill with the disease.

In Italy, more than 60 priests have died from the virus. On Monday, Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops conference, published the names of 51 diocesan priests who died after contracting COVID-19, and noted that religious communities in Italy had also reported nine coronavirus related deaths.

At least one Italian bishop is known to be recovering from the virus.

The majority of the deceased were over the age of 70 years old, and some of these priests had underlying health conditions.

The youngest priest to die from COVID-19 in Italy was Fr. Paolo Camminati, who died in the hospital on March 21 at age 53.
Every Latin rite diocese in the United States has suspended the public celebration of Mass, and church buildings remain closed to the public in many places, with weddings, funerals and confirmations all indefinitely suspended.

Several states have brought emergency measures to combat the spread of the virus, with California, New York and Maryland acting to close non-essential businesses and encourage people to remain in their homes. Before he was diagnosed with the virus, Aymond called for a “Day of Prayer and Fasting” to take place March 27 in his archdiocese.

“Please spend additional time in prayer seeking God’s healing and compassion in this crisis. Also, we can fast from whatever we wish. Say to the Lord as we are hungry – I hunger for you more than I hunger for food, social media, spending time with others, etc,” Aymond wrote March 19.

“Be assured of my prayers daily and a remembrance at Mass. God is faithful and, in his time, and his way we will come to experience healing and peace. We must wait patiently which is no easy task,” the archbishop added.



Former USCCB president and Archbishop of Cincinnati dies age 85

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 12:30

Cincinnati, Ohio, Mar 23, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- The former head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference and archbishop emeritus of Cincinnati, Daniel E. Pilarczyk, died on Sunday at the age of 85. 

A statement from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said that Pilarczyk died “peacefully” on Sunday morning, but did not offer further details. Public funerals are currently suspended in the archdiocese because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, led tributes to the archbishop on March 22.

“He was known as a shepherd close to his flock. The Archbishop led during challenging times but sought reconciliation and reform with humility,” Gomez said of Pilarczyk on Sunday.

“Among his brother bishops, Archbishop Pilarczyk was recognized as one of the outstanding churchmen of his time,” said his successor, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. “They elected him not only president of what was then the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, but also chair of every significant committee of the bishops’ conference."

Ordained a priest in 1959, Pilarczyk was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati in 1974, serving also as the vicar general for the archdiocese.

In 1982, he became the archbishop of Cincinnati, succeeding Joseph Bernardin who was appointed Archbishop of Chicago. At the time of his retirement in 2009, Pilarczyk was then the longest-tenured archbishop in the U.S., having served for 27 years.

In that time, he also served as vice president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from 1986 until 1989. That was followed by a three-year term as president of the conference until 1992, as the U.S. prepared to host its first World Youth Day in Denver in the summer of 1993.

Pilarczyk also served in a number of national positions, including as the chair of the conference’s Committee on Doctrine from 1996 until 2000, chair of the Committee on Liturgy from 1984 to 1986, and chair of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) from 1991 to 1997.

The archbishop also served as the chairman of the board of trustees for the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from 1988 until 1990.

Reflecting on Pilarczyk’s tenure as archbishop and head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, Gomez called him “generous also in service to his brother bishops.”

As Cincinnati’s archbishop, Pilarczyk also oversaw the archdiocese’s response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. In 2003, he filed a no-contest plea in court to five misdemeanor counts of failing to report the sexual abuse of children, and the archdiocese established a $3 million victim’s fund on his watch.

"I express my sorrow and shame at the suffering that priests and other church employees have inflicted on young parishioners," Pilarczyk said at a press conference after the plea, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“The Ohio bishops wanted a resolution. It was a difficult time for the Church,” Pilarczyk’s successor Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati reflected on the decision on Sunday in an interview with Sacred Heart Radio.

“The agreement was that the Archbishop of Cincinnati would enter the plea and that a fund for victims would be established,” Archbishop Schnurr said. “I know he [Pilarczyk] put his heart into it. It was a tragic moment.”

While archbishop, Pilarczyk was also rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology, also called the Athenaeum of Ohio.

Archbishop Schnurr said that Pilarczyk would be remembered as a “teacher.”

“Some seminarians told me they thought he was stern, but I explained he never forgot to be the teacher, always in control, tolerating no nonsense and always ready to correct,” Schnurr said.

“He was regarded by his fellow bishops as an intellectual, a scholar. He was one of the few bishops who could carry on a conversation in Latin,” said Schnurr.