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Assisted suicide undermines medicine, targets the vulnerable, panel warns

null / Oleksandr Lysenko/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2021 / 18:03 pm (CNA).

Assisted suicide undermines the practice of medicine and endangers persons with disabilities, a panel of experts argued in an online event held on Tuesday, Oct. 5. 

The event, titled “Deadly, Not Dignified,” was hosted by the Maryland Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the three Catholic dioceses in Maryland. 

“Medicine is a noble profession. Physicians are committed to the practice of medicine and the preservation of human life,” said Dr. Marie Alberte Boursiquot, an internist and former president of the Catholic Medical Association. 

“The taking of one’s life, even if a physician assists, is not medical care,” she said. “Physician-assisted suicide harms the patient, the patient-physician relationship, and undermines trust in medicine.”

The very concept of assisted suicide “underscores the sentiment that certain lives are expendable,” Boursiquot explained. This is particularly true for the elderly, poor, disabled, and members of minority groups, she said. 

So-called “death with dignity” laws are inherently flawed, she said, arguing that they broadly define a terminal condition that qualifies someone for assisted suicide. 

A diabetic teenager who refused to take insulin could be classified as terminally ill under such laws, she said, even though diabetes is treatable and manageable. Further, patients who request to end their lives are not required to tell their loved ones of their plans, nor is a psychological evaluation required of them. 

And while many people seeking assisted suicide envision a quick death, some have survived for “days” after injesting a drug cocktail, she noted. 

“The process is not painless. There are instances where consuming the meciations has essentially burned the throat of the patient,” Boursiquot said. 

“Most physicians, thankfully, are not willing to participate in physician-assisted suicide,” she said.

Anita Cameron, the director of minority outreach for Not Dead Yet, a disability-rights organization opposed to the expansion of assisted suicide, was blunt in her criticism of “death with dignity” laws.

“Assisted suicide laws are dangerous,” she said. She noted that doctors are “sometimes wrong” about a terminal diagnosis, and a doctor’s prediction on how long a patient has left to live can sometimes be off by years. 

Cameron explained that her own mother was once thought to be on the brink of death from COPD. 

“She rallied,” Cameron said, and after six months in hospice, her mother was released and “lived almost 12 years” after being told she had less than a week to live. 

The prejudices of doctors also increase the danger of assisted suicide laws to people with disabilities, she said.

“Due to the view of doctors that disabled people have a lower quality of life, therefore leading them to devalue our lives,” she said. Assisted suicide, said Cameron, runs counter to the values she and other racial minorities were raised in. 

“I didn’t see assisted suicide as part of my culture,” said Cameron, who is Black. She added that a majority of racial minorities are consistently opposed to assisted suicide, and rarely use the procedure when it is legal. Those who opt for it “tend to be white professionals and managerial-class folks,” she said.

Cameron believes that the medical system must address its disparities before making it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal medications to vulnerable patients. Until that happens, “doctor-assisted suicide has no place in Maryland, or our nation.” 

Annette Hanson, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist who works in state-operated mental hospitals, criticized the pro-assisted suicide faction for using dangerous methods to promote its cause. 

She warned of an existing “suicide contagion,” and added that the way suicides are reported in the media can result in an increase of suicide. Anti-suicide organizations have provided media training to journalists on how to properly report suicides, with a heavy emphasis on not glamorizing the act of self-destruction. 

“The right to die movement took just the opposite approach,” she said, citing the 2014 death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman from California who sought to end her life due to a battle with brain cancer. Maynard was unable to recieve assisted suicide in California as the practice was not legal at the time; she eventually moved to Portland, Oregon, where it was legal. 

“Compassion and Choices created a donation and membership website around [Maynard],” Hanson said. Since Maynard’s death, seven states--including California--have enacted physician-assisted suicide laws. 

Hanson noted that for a person suffering from paranoia or other mental issues, finding out their doctor could legally prescribe lethal medication serves would “reinforce their delusion, and that’s really bad for psychiatric care.” 

Politicians, she said, need to realize that legalizing assisted suicide would also result in the incarcerated and those in psychiatric institutions being able to ask a doctor to end their lives.

“Our politicians need to think about, ‘how is the government going to carry this policy out in their facilities,’” said Hanson. “What are they going to do when every single physician employed in those facilities refuses to participate?” 

Mobile archbishop tests positive for COVID-19, reminds public to get vaccinated

Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile / Archdiocese of Mobile

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2021 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine, the Archdiocese of Mobile announced on Tuesday.  

“Fortunately, Archbishop Rodi is fully vaccinated and a full recovery is anticipated,” the archdiocese stated in a press release. 

Rodi had begun experiencing “mild flu-like symptoms on Oct. 4,” the archdiocese said. He began his quarantine at his residence in Mobile and his symptoms remain mild, the archdiocese said. 

Rodi, 72,  will continue with his duties as archbishop “remotely” from his residence, while diocesan offices remain closed. Those who were in contact with the archbishop have been notified per the city’s requirement, the archdiocese said.

The archbishop encouraged all who are “eligible” for a COVID-19 vaccine to receive one.

“Archbishop Rodi would like to remind the public to take all steps necessary to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19 and he continues to strongly encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated,” the archdiocese said. 

“The archdiocese of Mobile asks that everyone keep archbishop Rodi, our healthcare providers and those who have COVID-19 in your prayers,” the archdiocese said. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “breakthrough” infections - infections of those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - “are expected.” According to data from the agency, as of Sept. 27 there were 22,115 reported cases of patients who were hospitalized or had died from COVID-19 after having been fully vaccinated. More than 183 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Alabama has recorded 415,847 COVID-19 cases in the year 2021. The state recorded 7,424 deaths from COVID-19 in 2021, exceeding the total of 7,188 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020. 

According to the state’s public health website, more than 3.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the state as of July 15. Alabama has a population of more than five million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.. 

Bishops around the country have been encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but have differed in their statements on vaccine mandates and religious exemptions. 

All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have some connection to cell lines derived from fetal tissue of babies aborted in the 1970s. Two of them, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, were tested using the cell lines, while one of them, produced by Johnson & Johnson, used the cell lines in both development and testing.

In its December 2020 “Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines,” the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

The Vatican added that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois recently wrote that “while the Church promotes vaccination as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities in promoting the common good, there are matters of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be respected.”

“While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not force vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to worship in our parishes,” he said. 

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago is requiring all archdiocesan employees and clergy to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, and will only allow exemptions for medical reasons.

Why stories of rescued Afghan Christians cannot be told

Afghan refugees are being processed inside Hangar 5 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Sept. 8, 2021. / Olivier Douliery/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Denver Newsroom, Oct 6, 2021 / 12:54 pm (CNA).

The stories of Afghan rescues are compelling human dramas, filled with miraculous saves, life-threatening dangers, and heroic choices on the part of volunteers and Afghans alike. 

But those stories also can compromise future rescue missions. 

An important U.S. magazine recently published a story about how Christians are trying to stay safe in Afghanistan and how one group of vulnerable women got out. The story, though inspiring, was very damning because it revealed strictly confidential information that jeopardized the ability of Christian and other humanitarian organizations to rescue vulnerable Afghans, including Christians. The story was quickly taken down, but not before real damage was done.

“It doesn't matter how friendly a publication is — that's not the problem,” Jason Jones, founder of the Vulnerable People Project and one of the organizers of an Afghan rescue team, told CNA. 

“Here's the thing: We know that the Taliban watches Western media. They keep tabs on everything that might be happening behind their backs in Afghanistan, especially anything involving Western organizations and minority groups.”

The celebration of heroic successes in the media, in fact, makes future successes less likely.

“Since August 13, our team and other partners have had success after success in extracting vulnerable people from the region, often just in time to avoid suffering the unthinkable at the hands of the Taliban,” Jones said. At the same time, he added, “We've seen our share of heartbreak, too.”

That is the paradox of currently rescuing Christians in Afghanistan: Many people would like to know what is happening and, for those who are financially supporting rescue groups hoping to assist these vulnerable populations, how their donations are being used. But at the same time, in order to be able to save those lives, details and even generic information must be kept away from the public, because that information can end up in the hands of the Taliban.

"Everybody loves a heart-stopping adventure story. But too often those who are assisting desperate Afghans flee Taliban terrorism have carelessly revealed specifics about border crossings, safe-houses and other dangerous details,” Lela Gilbert, fellow for international religious freedom at the Family Research Council told CNA.  

“Even worse, ambitious journalists have haphazardly written exposés about high-risk, clandestine journeys. Not only does such writing put specific people in grave danger, but it also limits the options of future evacuees,” Gilbert explained.

“Matters of life and death need to be carefully concealed — and to stay that way,” Gilbert added.

Vatican Media/CNA
Vatican Media/CNA

“The work is endless, especially for our people on the ground, and requires 24-7 vigilance,” Jones said.

“But it's a conundrum. All of the work is made possible by the generosity of donors, of course. But to share the stories of the people we're working to extract — or of those we've already extracted, thanks be to God — would put a lot of lives in jeopardy. Not only the lives of the people we help, but the lives of their family members, their wider communities, even whole religious and ethnic minority groups.”

The majority of private efforts to save Afghans are focused on the many left behind who worked and lived hand-in-hand with U.S. military and special forces. Much less resources have been dedicated to specifically rescue Afghan Christians, who make up a small portion of Afghanistan’s 38 million total population, with an estimated population of up to 12,000. 

Many of the facts related to that effort, from how to find Christians, vet them, and find ways to get them out of Afghanistan and to secure a permanent place for them to live freely, cannot be made public, precisely because they are working successfully, those engaged in this work stress.

“We know everyone involved looks forward to the day when they can show their faces, openly share their heroic stories, and give glory to God for all the good that's being accomplished,” Jones said.

“We pray for an end to all of this. But for now we'll keep sticking it out, and won't rest until we've fulfilled what we set out to do: to serve the vulnerable to the limits of our ability,” he continued.

“Until then, what information we can share can be found at TheGreatCampaign.org. Please pray for us!”

Federal government issues guidance on COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions

Credit: Seasontime/Shutterstock. / null

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2021 / 10:40 am (CNA).

New guidance on issuing COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions for federal employees insufficiently treats the matter of conscience, one Catholic bioethicist told CNA. 

Federal employees are now required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22, 2021. Guidance for federal agencies from the Office of Personnel Management, released on Monday, Oct. 4, states that employees requesting a religious exemption to the mandate “must first establish that [their] refusal to be vaccinated is based upon a sincere belief that is religious in nature.”

A template for religious exemptions includes a seven-part form for employees to fill out, asking a series of questions about employees’ religious-based objection to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

However, religious exemptions should be “liberally available” for employees, said Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., the director of education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center, in an interview with CNA. Otherwise, the vaccine mandates “can easily become intrusive, blunt instruments that end up violating personal liberties,” he said. 

Many of the questions about religious exemptions in the federal guidance are “largely irrelevant to assessing whether someone has conscience concerns about being vaccinated,” he said.

The template provides questions for federal agencies, such as why an employee is opposed to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Other questions include the length of time an employee held their religious beliefs that support their objection, their adult vaccine history, other medicines they have avoided due to religious beliefs, and why receiving a COVID-19 vaccine would “substantially burden” their religious practice. 

Pacholczyk said that questions about a “substantial burden” on one’s faith or how long they have objected to COVID-19 vaccines are “not, per se, of importance.”

Instead, the important point is “whether someone manifests a current conviction of conscience that they do not wish to be vaccinated,” he said. 

“Simply conveying this personal point of resolve, whether in written or even oral form, and even in the absence of revealing the reasons, ought to provide the needed basis for the granting of a conscience exemption.” 

Pacholczyk told CNA that it would be an error to presume that “one size always fits all” when it comes to vaccinations. 

“Decisions about medical interventions properly belong in the hands of the individual patient, who can make an assessment that corresponds to his or her on-the-ground situation much more fully and meaningfully than any federal agency can do,” he said. “The principle of subsidiarity reminds us that one should not withdraw those decisions or choices that rightly belong to individuals or smaller groups and assign them to a higher authority except unless strictly necessary.”

People who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, or any vaccine, however, should comply with other mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of disease, he said. 

“Those who decline vaccinations, of course, may reasonably be expected, and even obligated, to choose other effective precautions to help limit the spread of pathogens when pandemics arise,” he said. 

According to the federal guidance on COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions, “A refusal to be vaccinated does not qualify for an exception if it is based upon personal preference, concerns about the possible effects of the vaccine, or political opinions.”

“The purpose of this form is to determine whether you may be eligible for an exception,” says the religious exemption template. “To be eligible for a possible exception, you must first establish that your refusal to be vaccinated is based upon a sincere belief that is religious in nature.”

The guidance adds that the government “is committed to respecting the important legal protections for religious liberty.”

Missouri executes inmate after Holy See appealed for clemency

null / Felipe Caparros/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2021 / 07:15 am (CNA).

Missouri on Tuesday evening executed Ernest Johnson, 61, an inmate convicted of murdering three people in the 1990s, after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Johnson’s emergency appeal for a stay of execution. The Holy See had also advocated for a halt to the execution.

In an unsigned order on Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court denied Johnson’s appeal for a stay of execution, and the state shortly afterward executed Johnson by lethal injection.

The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, on Monday had asked for “some appropriate form of clemency” for Johnson in the Holy Father’s name.

While noting that “grave crimes such as this deserve grave punishments,” Pierre said in a plea to Missouri Gov. Michael Parson (R) that “His Holiness wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life.”

Johnson was convicted of killing three convenience store employees in 1994 while trying to rob the store for drug money. The victims were 46-year-old Mary Bratcher, 57-year-old Mable Scruggs, and 58-year-old Fred Jones.

His lawyers have argued that he is intellectually disabled, and thus should be spared the death penalty. Johnson was born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and eight of nine full-scale IQ scores of his were “within range of intellectual disability,” his lawyers argued in an appeal for executive clemency.

The state supreme court on Aug. 31 denied Johnson’s petition for habeas corpus, stating that he “is not intellectually disabled.” Gov. Parsons this week declined to grant clemency in the case.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, Johnson “does not possess such substantial deficits in intellectual functioning to prove intellectual disability,” the state supreme court stated in its Aug. 31 ruling. “Most glaring is Johnson’s ability to plan,” the court added, noting that in an interview he gave 10 years after the killings, he “was able to recall specific, strategic decisions he made and the reasons for them.”

Johnson has been on death row three times, according to the AP. 

In 2001 he was scheduled to be executed before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the intellectually disabled was unconstitutional. Following a new sentencing hearing, he was again sentenced to death in 2003 before the state supreme court dismissed that sentence. In 2006, the state again sentenced him to death. The state supreme court in 2015 denied his petition for habeas corpus; when he appealed again, citing more recent court decisions, the supreme court again denied his petition in August 2021.

A prayer vigil was held in St. Louis on Tuesday for a halt to Johnson’s execution, the St. Louis Review reported.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Missouri governor's name. It has been updated with the correct information.

Dr. Francis Collins, scientist and Christian, to step down as NIH head

Dr. Francis Collins / Courtesy photo

Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and an outspoken Christian, announced Tuesday that he will step down as director after serving in the role since 2009. 

Collins was the longest-serving presidentially appointed NIH director, the organization says, having served under three U.S. presidents after his 2009 appointment by President Barack Obama. In expressing gratitude for his time as director, Collins said he “fundamentally” believes that “no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future.”

During his 12 year tenure, the NIH partnered with pharmaceutical companies to aid in the creation of an approved vaccine for COVID-19. 

But Collins, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, differed from the Catholic Church’s teachings in his opinions regarding the use of fetal tissue of aborted babies in research. Earlier this year, he oversaw a rollback of a moratorium on new NIH research with aborted fetal tissue. 

Collins has said he considers the question of whether it is ethical to use human embryos and aborted fetuses for research is an "important issue to think through carefully."

"I would be the first to say we should not be creating or destroying embryos- human embryos- for research, and we should not be terminating pregnancies for research," Collins told CNA in a May 2020 interview.

"But if there are embryos that are left over after in vitro fertilization- and the hundreds of thousands that are never going to be used for anything, they'll be discarded- I think it is ethical to consider ways in which research might make it possible to utilize that information to help somebody."

"And likewise, if there are hundreds of thousands of fetuses that are otherwise being discarded through what is a legal process in this country, we ought to think about whether it is more ethical to throw them away, or in some rare instance to use them for research that might be life saving,” he said. 

The 2008 Vatican document Dignitas personae strongly criticized research using human embryos and fetal tissue of aborted babies, stating that researchers have a “duty to refuse” such material. Regarding treatment of human embryos, the document states that "the obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo…invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit.”

However, regarding common vaccines — such as those for chicken pox and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) — that are derived from cell lines of aborted babies, the Vatican said they could be used by parents for "grave reasons" such as danger to their children's health.

After Collins in 2018 defended NIH research using fetal tissue, and said it “will continue to be the mainstay,” the associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities called his remarks “deeply disturbing.” The pro-life groups Live Action and the March for Life also called for Collins’ replacement as NIH director that year over his support for fetal tissue research.

In 2019, Trump administration rules imposed a moratorium on new NIH research with aborted fetal tissue. For federally-funded fetal tissue research proposals outside NIH facilities, the agency required approval by federal ethics advisory boards. 

However, in April 2021, the Biden administration reversed that moratorium, again allowing federally-funded NIH research using fetal tissue and organs of aborted babies. Also nixed was the requirement that a federal ethics advisory board review all proposals for fetal tissue research. 

During his tenure as NIH director, Collins oversaw the institutes’ collaboration with several pharmaceutical companies and government agencies to develop vaccines for COVID-19. Some Catholics have raised concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines’ remote connection to aborted fetal tissue, using cell lines derived from fetal tissue of babies believed to have been aborted in the 1970s. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use because of the gravity of the pandemic and the vaccines’ remote connection to abortion. If one has the ability to choose a vaccine, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should be chosen due to their not having been produced with the controversial cell lines, as was the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the conference said.

Before joining the NIH in 2009, Collins was professor of internal medicine and human genetics at the University of Michigan, leading research that had discovered the genes responsible for diseases such as cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease, and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a rare form of premature aging.

In 1993, he was appointed director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, overseeing the Human Genome Project, an international collaboration that in 2003 succeeded in sequencing the three billion DNA "letters" in the human genome.

A Virginia native, Collins was homeschooled until age 10 and studied chemistry at the college and graduate level, earning a bachelor's, Ph.D., and later his M.D., after which he was named a Fellow in Human Genetics at Yale Medical School.

Non-religious until age 27, Collins has said that he was previously "very happy with the idea that God did not exist and that he had no interest in me." 

Collins converted in part thanks to his reading of C.S. Lewis' classic book Mere Christianity, which lays out a rational case for God's existence. Today, he is outspoken about his Christian faith. He wrote a book in 2006 entitled "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," in which he describes how religious faith can motivate and inspire rigorous scientific research.

He and his wife in 2007 founded the non-profit BioLogos Foundation, which aims to foster discussion about harmony between science and biblical faith through articles, podcasts, and other media.

Collins is also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, having been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

Collins was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Templeton Prize, an award recognizing his contributions to insight about religion through his work as a scientist.

Pro-lifers counter pro-abortion protests across the United States

Sign at 2020 March for Life / Catholic News Agency

Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2021 / 14:56 pm (CNA).

As pro-abortion rallies were held across the country last weekend in response to a Texas law regulating abortion, pro-lifers in several areas also staged protests to counter them. 

An Oct. 2 pro-abortion march in Washington, D.C., organized by the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood, also spawned an additional “more than 650 marches in 50 states” such as Texas and Colorado, according to organizers. 

Though “Women’s Marches” have been organized since 2017 to advocate for a range of women’s rights issues, the marches this week were largely focused on abortion, following the recent passage of a pro-life law in Texas, and coinciding with the start of a new Supreme Court term in which the court will soon take up a case that many observers are saying could pose a substantial challenge to Roe v. Wade. 

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, pro-lifers organized a prayer rally to counter a pro-abortion rally that gathered at a park and marched the streets of the downtown. 

Candy Clepper, with Greater Chattanooga Right to Life, told local station WDEF: “We believe that every human being, including the unborn has a right to life and we are committed to advocating [for] that and defending that.”

Similar pro-life marches were held in Allentown, Green Bay, Madison, and St. Louis

In Ocala, Florida, pro-abortion and pro-life protestors clashed directly. Groups on two separate intersections held signs and chanted slogans at each other; police had to step in at one point to quell a disagreement, local media reported.  

Similarly, in Augusta, Georgia, a pro-life gathering organized by the Alleluia Pro Life organization and Augusta Right to Life came together across the street from the pro-abortion Bans Off Our Body gathering.

Knights of Columbus online exhibit explores baseball's Catholic history

Public domain. / null

Hartford, Conn., Oct 5, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

The Knights of Columbus are releasing a four part series presentation exploring the historical connection between the fraternal organization and America’s pastime, baseball. 

“For the Knights of Columbus,” the group wrote in an Oct. 1 statement, “the game served as an early avenue of assimilation for Catholic immigrants and first-generation Americans.”

The presentation, “Knights of Columbus Baseball: An American Story,” is an online exhibit and a presentation by the Knights of Columbus’ Andrew Fowler, who has researched Blessed Michael McGivney’s connection to baseball. 

McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, was beatified in October 2020. 

Fowler is splitting up the exhibit into four phases, or “bases.” First base was released Oct. 1. Second base will be released during spring training of 2022. Third base will be released around the 2022 All-Star game, and home base will be released during the MLB playoffs in 2022.

In his presentation of “first base,” Fowler explains the Knights’ participation and contributions to the beginnings of baseball in the United States. 

Jim O’Rourke, was the first man to get on base in a national league baseball game in 1876. O’Rourke went on to become a Knight of Columbus and serve on the Council 16 World War I war fund.

“So literally,” Fowler said, “a Knight of Columbus christened the new and oldest active professional league in American sports.” 

Throughout the 19th century, many baseball teams were formed, “and the Knights of Columbus was no different.”

Fowler explained the difficult path for Catholics in America during the late 1800s, because they were seen as outsiders as having allegiance only to Rome. Catholics wanted a way to assimilate, and used baseball as a means for that end. 

“So what did they do? They formed baseball leagues. And these leagues also served the purpose of promoting inter-council fraternity,” Fowler says. 

Fowler added that Knights of Columbus leagues began popping up all over the country, noting that Chicago’s had 42 teams participating. He said that these leagues included major leaguers, notably Joe Quinn and Ross Youngs.

Fowler continued to list “prominent Knights in baseball,” such as Connie Mack, John McGraw, Johnny Evers, and Willie Keeler. More than 200 Knights were on Major League rosters by the mid-1910s, Fowler said. 

Fowler says that Blessed Michael McGivney is recorded as playing in at least one game while at seminary in 1872. Displaying the box-score card from the game, Fowler notes that McGivney scored three runs, batted “cleanup,” or fourth hitter in the order, and played in left field. 

Most games during the time were not played with a fence, Fowler added. With McGivney playing left field, he said, the Blessed “most likely had a decent throwing arm.” Batting cleanup, McGivney was probably one of the better hitters on the team, he added.

Deeming McGivney the “patron of baseball,” Fowler noted that the Knights’ founder “not only played the game, but that he saw value in the game as a tool for evangelization and for bringing the community together.”

Citing a 1908 Boston Globe article, Fowler displayed writer T.H. Murnane’s quote which said: “Strange to say baseball has a spiritual side. This is a fact, and the Knights of Columbus have done much for the members of the profession, for the player Knights are bound to do their duty, and protect, as far as possible, the young men breaking into the business, making the game cleaner and more wholesome all round.”

Giving a preview of “second base,” Fowler announced that he would explore how Babe Ruth, himself a Knight, revolutionized the game. He will also touch on the Knights’ World War I baseball efforts, and the Black Sox Scandal.

Arkansas students seek to intervene in challenge to federal transgender sports policy

Cate Ford, one of the intervenor-plaintiffs in The State of Tennessee v. United States Department of Education / Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2021 / 10:05 am (CNA).

Three female athletes and a Christian education association are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its transgender athletics policy.

The Department of Education in June announced that it would interpret existing federal civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The policy would apply to federally-funded education programs, opening up many women’s sports and women’s facilities at schools to biological males identifying as transgender females.

In response, 20 state attorneys general sued over the policy. On Monday, the Association of Christian Schools International and three female athletes in Arkansas filed a motion in a federal court to intervene in the lawsuit. The group Alliance Defending Freedom represents the athletes as well as the association of evangelical and Protestant schools, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“The Biden administration’s radical push to redefine sex in federal law has widespread impact and specifically threatens female athletes. This undermines one of the driving purposes of Title IX to promote equality for women in athletics, and it jeopardizes the safety of female athletes by allowing physically stronger, faster, and larger males to compete on women’s teams,” stated Ryan Bangert. senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field, and states, schools, and individuals across America are rightly stepping up to safeguard equal athletic opportunity for female students,” he said.

The three female athletes seeking to intervene in the case are Anna Scarborough, a senior soccer player at Brookland High School, as well as Cate Ford, a senior basketball, tennis, and track athlete at Brookland High, and Amelia Ford, an eighth grade basketball and volleyball player at Brookland Junior High School.

Their motion argues that Title IX – the federal civil rights policy that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education activities – was specifically meant to ensure girls and boys had an equal opportunity in sports.

“Female athletes deserve the chance to compete on a safe, equal playing field,” the motion states, arguing that the administration’s rule “by executive fiat” would “erase women’s sports and eliminate the opportunities for women that Title IX was intended to protect.”

In January, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order stating his administration's policy of interpreting sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Education Department’s interpretation of Title IX in June stems from this order.

At his confirmation hearing in February, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that student-athletes identifying as transgender should be allowed to play sex-specific sports according to their gender identity and not biological sex.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference in 2017 began allowing student-athletes to compete in sports based on their preferred gender identity. Four female track athletes sued, arguing that the policy put them at a disadvantage when competing against biological males. Two males identifying as transgender females had competed in and won a combined 15 state female track titles following the policy change in 2017. A federal court in April tossed out the girls' lawsuit.

Profiles of pro-life women: A Q&A with Elizabeth Kirk

Elizabeth Kirk, research associate and lecturer at CUA's Columbus School of Law. / Catholic University of America

Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2021 / 00:01 am (CNA).

This December, the US Supreme Court is set to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that many experts say presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

What follows is a Q&A with Elizabeth Kirk, a research associate and lecturer at the Catholic University of America and one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s abortion law.

The brief lays out an argument that abortion has hurt women’s advancement; that women were making strides toward equality before Roe; and that abortion is not necessary for women’s socioeconomic success.

Kirk is a research associate and lecturer at the Catholic University of America, where she also serves as the Director of the Center for Law and the Human Person. Her scholarly interests are in the area of law and the family, and in particular the intersection between law and the Catholic intellectual tradition.

CNA: The amicus brief you signed lays out an argument that contrary to the Supreme Court’s rulings, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement, and in reality, has hurt women. Can you walk me through the brief’s argument and evidence?

EK: There are 80 briefs in support of the State of Mississippi in the Dobbs case, each one articulating a different relevant argument. The focus of this particular amicus brief relates to the claim made in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) to justify upholding Roe: “the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

The authors rebut this claim, summarizing the empirical evidence relating to women’s historical achievements and their participation in society in the last half-century, and demonstrate convincingly that the Casey premise is false, i.e., that there is no causal link between the availability of abortion and women’s participation in society.

Furthermore, the authors point out that the data actually suggest some correlation between abortion and negative consequences for women, such as the feminization of poverty and declining levels of happiness.

Finally, the authors make the point that the argument that women need abortion to participate necessarily takes the male reproductive experience as the model for economic and social participation, and that this lopsided view has prevented meaningful accommodation of women, including their experience of pregnancy and motherhood, in the workplace and other spheres of society.

How did it come about that you signed the amicus brief in this case? Have you signed amicus briefs in similar cases in the past?

The amicus brief drafted by Teresa Collett, Helen Alvare and Erika Bachiochi was written on behalf of professional women and women scholars who hold doctorate degrees, as well as prolife feminist organizations. Any woman who fit that description and supported the brief’s argument was welcome to join. I know the drafters personally and was honored to sign.

I have testified in state legislatures on matters related to abortion, but this is the first amicus brief I have signed on the topic. I joined previous amicus briefs in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia [a significant case related to religious freedom] and Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, a companion case to Bostock [a 2020 decision that a federal ban on sex discrimination also protects sexual orientation and gender identity].

Many are saying the Dobbs case has a chance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Do you agree?

Certainly. This case presents this question to the Court: “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” Under the governing precedents of Roe and Casey, there is a constitutionally protected right to abortion and states may not place an “undue burden” on it before viability. So, the question presented goes to the heart of the matter.

Of course, there are a number of ways the Court could handle this case short of overturning Roe and Casey. For example, it may affirm the constitutional right itself, but articulate a different test than the current “undue burden” test, or it may reconsider the role of viability in evaluating laws restricting abortion.

Many people are talking about what a “post-Roe” country could look like. What could the legal landscape of the United States look like, in terms of abortion law, if Roe is overturned?

A post-Roe legal landscape will better reflect the different views our pluralistic society holds on abortion. If Roe is overturned, all this means is that abortion regulation will again become the province of the states (as it was before 1973) and different states may be more restrictive or more permissive, as their constituencies demand through the legislative process.

We already know that some states, either legislatively or judicially, allow abortion in almost every instance. For example, New York and Illinois have very permissive abortion laws. The state supreme court of Kansas recently found a natural right to abortion in its state constitution which will likely invalidate many of its state restrictions on abortion. Overruling Roe would have little impact on the law in such states.

Some have speculated that since abortion rates are highest in places that already have such permissive abortion laws, if Roe were overturned, the national abortion rate would not be impacted dramatically. Those seeking to promote a culture of life, and a culture that supports women and embraces pregnancy and motherhood, would still have work to do.

Of course, overturning Roe would give more latitude to those states that wanted to protect human life more vigorously than is possible under the Roe/Casey regime. Pro-life advocates would need to persuade legislators and voters of the wisdom of this and to be creative about laws, policies, and initiatives to help women and families welcome children more readily.

Do you ever feel you are treated differently from others because you are a pro-life woman?

Frequently, I experience the presumption that, because I am a professional woman with an advanced degree, I must be pro-choice.

We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science” or “anti-intellectual.” Do you face this accusation often? If so, how do you respond?

I do not experience this accusation often. I think many people today, familiar with incredibly detailed ultrasound photos of their siblings or their own children, are reluctant to deny the obvious humanity of the unborn child.

Rather, I experience more frequently the arguments that (1) the pro-life position fails to promote women’s equality (refuted in our brief); (2) women’s healthcare includes abortion access (which depends on the faulty premise that fertility and pregnancy are “diseases”), or (3) the pro-life movement only demonstrates concern for unborn children (which Helen Alvaré has convincingly called the “lazy slander of the pro-life movement”.)

Have you always considered yourself to be pro-life, or was there a moment or event that convinced you of the position?

For me this has always been a very personal matter as I was the child of a “crisis pregnancy” and my husband and I were blessed to adopt our four children, three at birth through private placements by their birth families and the littlest one through foster care.

The reality of the pressures that my mother, and the birthmothers of our children, may have experienced has informed my thinking about how we might best respond generously to women in need to support them and their children.