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Los Angeles archdiocese offers Dia de los Muertos resources amid pandemic

October 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 06:26 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is helping Catholic students and their families celebrate Día de los Muertos amid the pandemic this year, with online videos and craft kids for Catholic students.

Instead of the usual in-person cultural events, the archdiocese’s Office of Religious Education and Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries will offer pandemic-friendly initiatives to help school children and their families learn about Día de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a primarily Mexican way of celebrating the feasts of All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The celebration is an expression of Latin American culture and Catholic beliefs, which makes use of some familiar symbols to teach and celebrate the Church’s teaching on the communion of the saints and the souls in purgatory.

Annual celebrations typically involve skeletal costumes and face makeup, parades and processions, as well as traditional foods such as “pan de muerte” (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls (calaveras).

Over the past 6 years, the archdiocese has hosted special catechetical programs for local Catholic school students on this day. Normally, about 15 local Catholic schools send over 350 third-grade students to Calvary Cemetery & Mortuary in East Los Angeles to learn more about the celebration.

Plans for this year are different, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Oct. 26, Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries provided 12 local Catholic schools with special Día de los Muertos crafts kits, containing materials for students to create art projects teaching them about the day.

Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally include sugar skulls, picture frames, and paper flowers to decorate shrines for deceased relatives.

This year, the archdiocese will also offer a series of education videos online, so students can learn about the meaning and history of Día de los Muertos with their families. The video will cover topics including the final resurrection, treatment of the dead, and the faith and cultural traditions associated with the Day of the Dead.

“The videos will guide students on creating a sacred space, or altar, in their home to pray and remember family and friends who have passed,” the archdiocese said in an Oct. 26 statement.

Among the schools participating this year will be Our Lady of Guadalupe in East LA, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rose Hill, Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Montebello, and Sacred Heart in Lincoln Heights.

Last year, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan told CNA that the day is a powerful reminder about the communion of saints and a way to help parishioners remember their dead loved ones.

“For Mexicans to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, my experience is the remembering of the dead is really the most important part of it. Making sure that the dead are remembered, that their deceased are remembered, and that we really are one with them even though they’re on the other side and we’re still here,” the bishop said.

“And that’s basically our teaching on the communion of saints. The different parts of the Church: the ones in Heaven, the ones that are still on their way trying to find their way to the gates of Heaven, and us here on Earth, and we are still together as one. We are still one Church.”


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As Coloradans consider late-term abortion ban, statistics shed light on Colorado clinic

October 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Oct 26, 2020 / 05:06 pm (CNA).-  

Coloradans are preparing for a ballot referendum that would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy in the state. While abortion advocates argue that such abortions are “extremely rare,” statistics recorded by a longtime Colorado abortionist shed light on the late term abortions performed at one Boulder clinic.

The data reveals hundreds of late-term abortions performed over a 20-year period on babies with fetal abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

Warren Hern, an abortionist who has been active in Boulder, Colorado since 1975, released a paper in 2014 which included many self-reported statistics about the abortions his clinic performed between 1992 and 2012.

The statistics show that Hern’s clinic performed hundreds of abortions between 1992-2012 on women who were at or past 24 weeks pregnant, including several performed on women between 38 and 39 weeks gestation.

Nearly 240 of those late-term abortions were performed on babies with Down syndrome.

The self-reported statistics only cover abortions Hern performed for reasons of fetal abnormality, which in some years made up just 2.5% of the thousands of abortions he performed.

Colorado remains one of the only a handful of states that does not have some legislation on  late-term abortion. As a result, abortions can take place in the state up until birth.

The Boulder Abortion Clinic is one of just a handful of clinics in the U.S. that publicly accept patients seeking late-term abortions from anywhere in the world.

Colorado voters are set to decide on Proposition 115 in November, which asks voters whether to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened.

More than 150,000 Coloradans signed a petition to put Prop. 115 on the ballot, which has garnered bipartisan support.

A poll conducted in early October by 9 News / Colorado Politics found that among 1,021 registered likely voters, 42% of respondents said they are certain to vote yes on Prop. 115; 45% said no, while 13% are uncertain.

If the late-term abortion ban passes in November, it would mark the first time since 1967 that Colorado would impose voter-approved restrictions on abortion.

While some abortion supporters claim the phrase “late-term abortion” is “imprecise and misleading,” Hern uses the term “late abortion” throughout his paper.

Hern reports that between Jan. 4, 1992 and Oct. 31, 2012, just more than 1,000 women requested a “late abortion” for reasons of fetal disorder.

Abortion supporters frequently cite CDC data from 2016— data which excludes abortion hotspots like California, Illinois, New York state, and Washington DC— to argue that abortions after 21 weeks gestation make up only 1.2% of all abortions performed in the US and are thus “extremely rare.”

In Colorado, the percentage of abortions performed after 21 weeks is higher than the national average, at 3.3%— a figure higher than any other state in the CDC’s data except New Mexico.

The statistics do not account for the fact that women have traveled from other states to Boulder for decades to avail themselves of Hern’s late-term abortion services. At least 11% of all abortions performed in Colorado are on out-of-state residents, according to the CDC data.  

Each year, about 200 to 300 babies are aborted after 21 weeks gestation in Colorado. Dilation and evacuation abortions are typically used in the second trimester of pregnancy, and result in the crushing of the head and eventual dismemberment of an unborn child.

The trend in Hern’s statistics suggest that the proportion of all patients seeking abortions because of fetal disorders increased over time from 2.5% to 30%.

Hern credited this increase to “gradual change in clinic policy to accept patients with more advanced gestations, more requests for late termination of pregnancy because of fewer options being available elsewhere, and advances in fetal diagnosis.”

“Genetic disorders”— as opposed to “structural anomalies”— were the most common disorders among the babies aborted, appearing in 40% of cases.

Of those cases, 63% of the genetic disorders were Trisomy 21, commonly known as Down syndrome. Hern reported 237 total abortions of babies with Down syndrome.

The most common “structural anomalies” reported were neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida; but some of the babies were aborted for reasons such as extra fingers or toes, cleft hands or lips, or because two twins were conjoined. 

The median age of all 1,005 patients in Hern’s study was 32, and the median gestational age was 24 weeks, or five and a half months. He said many patients who request abortions after 30 weeks have had their fetus evaluated as “normal” around 18 to 20 weeks.

Patients seeking particular kinds of abortions at Hern’s clinic tended to request abortions, on average, around eight months into their pregnancies.

For example, some patients carrying twins requested an abortion for one of the twins—“selective termination”— usually because of a fetal abnormality.

Hern writes that in these cases, the abortions were generally done after 32 weeks— more than seven months— gestation to “permit optimum development and survival probability for the healthy twin.”

Patients seeking “selective termination” or “induced fetal demise”— an injection to kill the fetus before the abortion operation— tended to be in their mid-30s in age. Hern said these patients typically request abortions between 33 and 36 weeks— over eight months— gestation.

Several of his patients suffered major complications, including major unintended surgery, hemorrhage requiring transfusion, and pelvic infection, he reported.

A Nebraska couple filed a lawsuit against Hern and the Boulder Abortion Clinic in 2015, alleging that Hern left a nearly two-inch piece of a fetus’ skull inside a patient’s uterus during a late-term abortion, apparently forcing a patient to undergo a hysterectomy.

In 2016, Hern was the subject of a congressional investigation into the practices of late-term abortionists. The panel requested information on any infants who were born alive at his clinic and the babies’ records thereafter. According to the Denver Post, Hern refused to provide any of the requested documentation, calling the panel a “witchhunt.”

During May 2019, Hern argued in a New York Times op-ed that because women are more likely to die in childbirth than from complications related to an abortion, “pregnancy is dangerous; abortion can be lifesaving.”

Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, a high-risk obstetrician and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami, responded at the time that although any pregnancy carries some risk, it is not a “serious” threat to a woman’s health, especially in the United States where maternal deaths are still very rare, even in rural areas.

Opponents of Colorado’s late-term abortion ban, including groups like Abortion Access for All, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have raised millions of dollars to attempt to defeat the proposition.

If the ballot measure becomes law, doctors would face a three-year license suspension for performing or attempting to perform an abortion of an unborn child beyond 22-weeks of gestation. Women would not be charged with seeking or obtaining an abortion.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado asked voters to support the ban in a June 30 letter and placed the ballot measure under the patronage of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini, who aided orphans and immigrants in her time in Colorado.

In addition, the Catholic Medical Association and a group of more than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have backed Proposition 115.

Colorado was the first state in the nation to decriminalize abortion. The initial legislation, signed into law April 25, 1967, allowed abortion in certain limited cases: rape, incest, or a prediction of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother. Six years later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade declared abortion a constitutional right nationwide.

Abortion-rights groups in Colorado have touted the fact that for a time during the pandemic, many women from other states were traveling to Colorado to take advantage of the state’s permissive abortion laws.

Abortion clinics in states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, which did not introduce any pandemic-related restrictions on abortion, saw increases in patients traveling from other states, such as Texas, to undergo the procedure during spring 2020.

 

 


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Second round of US aid to Lebanon in question after August blast

October 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 26, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- As Lebanon continues to deal with fallout from the massive August explosion that devastated parts of the capital, Beirut, advocates for Lebanese Christians call for continued U.S. aid and collaboration with local NGOs, while one State Department official says that conversations about additional aid have stalled.

On Oct. 19, the Daily Star, an English-language newspaper in Beirut, reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Lebanese President Michel Aoun by phone that the United States would send additional aid to rebuild areas damaged by the port explosion in Beirut earlier this year. 

An official State Department read-out of the call between the leaders did not mention such a pledge, and a spokesperson for the State Department did not return a request for comment on whether Pompeo had pledged additional aid to the president, but an official within the State Department said conversations about a second round of aid have stalled within the government.

Lebanese authorities attributed the Aug. 4 blast in the port of the country’s capital and largest city to “highly explosive material stored unsafely.” The explosion left 190 dead, more than 6,500 injured, and three people missing, as well as approximately $15 billion in direct damage.

In the aftermath of the explosion, the United States pledged more than $17 million in initial aid for Lebanon for food assistance and medical supplies. Some advocates called for additional relief funds in response to the disaster, pointing to approximately 300,000 people officials said have been displaced from their homes. Al Jazeera reported 70,000 homes were among the buildings damaged in the explosion.

Advocates for Lebanese Christians told CNA that funds dedicated specifically to reconstruction were vital, because much of the damage occurred in neighborhoods with a Christian majority. If these Christians are unable to return to their homes, it could shift the demographics of the city—and the country—by destabilizing the Christian community there. 

They also stressed that working with established partners in NGOs would safeguard funds from Lebanon’s corrupt government.

A State Department spokesperson told CNA that the U.S. government provided more than $750 million to Lebanon last year, and that the United States has provided more than $41.6 million in supplemental foreign assistance and redirected $11.5 million in USAID Mission funding to help Lebanon respond to the COVID-19 crisis. According to data from the Department of State, the United States has provided more than $4 billion total in foreign assistance to Lebanon since 2010.

“American assistance to Lebanon saves lives, strengthens our strategic partners, ensures key services reach the Lebanese people and refugees, and counters Hezbollah’s narrative and influence,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson added that the U.S. government “directly supported the Lebanese people in the aftermath of the port explosion,” by providing “immediate humanitarian assistance to meet emergency needs,” including emergency food, shelter, and medical assistance.

“We continue to work with our partners in Beirut to identify additional recovery needs,” the spokesperson said.

Despite those remarks, a senior state department official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told CNA that discussions about an additional round of reconstruction aid have stalled, over concerns from some U.S. officials that the funds would end up in the hands of the Lebanese government, which has close ties to Hezbollah. The group, a political party in Lebanon, is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

“The idea that any aid to Lebanese Christians confers a benefit on Hezbollah is deeply problematic,” the official said. “That’s not the policy of the administration or the [State] Department or Secretary Pompeo.”

“Lebanon’s political leaders need to end their association with Hezbollah. The U.S. won’t achieve this end by withholding aid to blast victims,” the official told CNA.

Toufic Baaklini, president of In Defense of Christians, told CNA it is crucial for American relief funds to go directly to local NGOs and not through the Lebanese government due to its corruption and ties to Hezbollah.

“We want to make sure that people on the ground are receiving the aid and rebuilding their homes,” Baaklini said, adding that he thinks the administration is committed to finding the best way of getting aid “directly to the people.”

Baaklini said he hopes the aid comes through soon because “the winter season is coming.”

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn told CNA in an interview that following the blast “the need is great.”

“We don’t want to lose the special character of Lebanon,” if Christians are forced by circumstance to leave, Mansour said.

“It’s very clear to every Christian of the Middle East: outside of Lebanon they are minorities,” he added. “They don’t have those freedoms in other parts of the Middle East.”

Mansour said he thinks the administration seems “to understand the importance of helping Lebanon even though Hezbollah is present in the government.”

“They’ve been very careful; nobody wants to fund a government that has close ties to Hezbollah, I don’t blame them,” Mansour said. “But at the same time, they haven’t let the good people of Lebanon feel like they have to swim on their own.”

Marc Malek, the founder of Conquest Capital Group and an advocate for Lebanese Christians, said the matter is of great importance to Lebanese Americans and Christians in the United States.

“We’ve been trying to make a push here as Christians and Lebanese Americans to dedicate some of that money for shelter,” Malek said, arguing that in some cases a small refurbishment can make a home damaged by the blast habitable again.

Robert Nicholson, president and executive director of The Philos Project, told CNA that he would urge a “robust response to the crisis in Lebanon.”

“There’s actually an opportunity in Lebanon to do some of these things we could never have accomplished in other countries,” Nicholson said, pointing to the country’s “historical, cultural, and religious connection to the West.”

Nicholson called for a “creative and strategic” response to the crisis, “using our dollars to help our friends.”

“There is a way for the US government to spend our aid—which we should give—but to do it in a way that actually advances our mission in the country, which is to raise up the good guys and disempower the bad guys,” Nicholson said. “We need to be clever.”


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