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Citing pope’s warnings about drugs, Catholic bishops speak on ballot proposals

October 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 12:07 am (CNA).- This Election Day, voters in multiple U.S. states will consider several proposals to legalize drugs, ranging from medical and recreational marijuana to harder drugs. Catholic bishops in several states have said voters should look to Pope Francis’ warnings that legalization is ‘highly questionable,’ as it becomes a compromise with drug addiction.

The Oregon Catholic Conference “strongly opposes” Ballot Measure 110, which would decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of controlled substances including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. It would reduce penalties for possession of large amounts of such controlled substances.

“The Oregon Catholic Conference firmly supports treatment and rehabilitation for all those suffering from addictions. We encourage you to get behind solid programs and not accept an initiative that promotes the use of illegal drugs,” the bishops said.

“Pope Francis has unequivocally stated that drug use is incompatible with human life,” the conference said in a flier. It cited the pope’s 2014 address to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.

“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” the pope said. “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs’, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”

According to the Oregon Catholic Conference, local communities and treatment groups have expressed reservations about how the program will be applied under Ballot Measure 110. Other critics have said decriminalization of the drugs would cause more addiction by making drugs easier to acquire and by removing law enforcement and the courts from drug regulation, the New York Times reports.

“The treatment options the measure provides will be primarily funded by diverting marijuana tax revenues away from education, alcohol/drug abuse prevention and law enforcement,” said the Catholic conference, citing the Oregon Secretary of State’s financial impact evaluation of the measure.

Major backers of the measure include the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which previously backed the successful 2014 Oregon ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of social media giant Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan have backed the measure through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

The text of the proposed act cites poor access to drug addiction treatment compared to other states. Backers of the measure argue that reduced arrests and incarceration will provide savings that can be used to make addiction treatment more widely available and free of charge. They also say drug crimes are disproportionately enforced against racial minorities.

Oregon has already legalized marijuana, which is a talking point in the proposed act.

“Oregon now receives more than $100 million in marijuana tax revenue a year,” it says. “The amount of marijuana revenue is expected to grow by more than $20 million per year.”

Oregon voters will also consider ballot Measure 109, which would legalize psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in some mushrooms, for mental health treatment. Though the FDA has deemed psilocybin a potential breakthrough therapy for major depression, studies are inconclusive. The American Psychiatric Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association both oppose the measure, saying proponents overstate the drug’s usefulness in treating many phenomena including anxiety and addiction, according to the New York Times.

In South Dakota, voters will consider Amendment A, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years and older. It would legalize possession or distribution of up to one ounce of the drug. It would require the state legislature to pass laws providing for a medical marijuana program and the sale of hemp.

Like the bishops of Oregon, the South Dakota Catholic Conference cited Pope Francis’ June 2014 remarks to drug enforcement agencies. The conference also noted the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph 2291, which teaches that drug use “inflicts very grave damage on human health and life.”

The conference said on its website that marijuana use overstimulates the nervous system while also decreasing high-functioning rational thought.

“Often these effects are accompanied by others, including distorted sensory perception or hallucinations, irrational anxiety or panic, diminished motor control and slowed reactions, and reduced learning and memory,” South Dakota’s bishops said. “Studies have shown that impaired cognitive function continues into the workweek even after a person no longer feels intoxicated, and that regular users are at approximately twice the risk of developing psychosis as non-users.”

“Human beings are endowed by God with the gift of reason. Reason aids us in differentiating between right and wrong and is foundational for human freedom and personal responsibility,” the bishops continued. “Thus, we can understand that to directly intend to suppress our God-given rational faculties is gravely wrong.”

They warned that in Seattle and Denver, where marijuana businesses are legal, they are disproportionately located in poorer neighborhoods. According to another analysis, every dollar raised in marijuana sales costs $4.50 in unwanted effects, primarily in healthcare and reduced workforce readiness.

In Arizona, the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference criticized Proposition 207, called the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, which would both allow persons 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana and provide for the legal sale of the drug.

“It is anticipated that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will lead to more abuse by teens, increase child fatalities, and result in more societal costs,” the Arizona bishops said in a Sept. 23 statement.

Legalization would send the message to children that “drug use is socially and morally acceptable,” they warned. Marijuana use is 25% higher among teens in states with legalized recreational marijuana, they said.

Self-reported use of Arizona middle- and high-schoolers has already increased because fewer youth believe it is risky, said the bishops. Marijuana is a direct or contributing factor in almost as many child deaths as alcohol, according to the state’s most recent child fatality report.

“As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on children and families,” the Arizona bishops said.

They cited the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s September 2019 report on the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado under a November 2012 ballot measure. That report found that Colorado traffic deaths, crime, emergency room visits, and youth usage of marijuana increased significantly in the period of 2013 to 2015, the first two years following the legalization of recreational pot.

In Mississippi, Initiative 65 would license and regulate marijuana dispensaries and allow a patient to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat any of 22 conditions.

The American Medical Association said there is a “lack of rigorous medical evidence to support cannabis as a medical treatment” that is a good alternative to FDA-approved drugs. The Mississippi proposal would require state health officials to create “new complex agriculture and revenue programs” that divert resources from its public health focus, the association said.

“Amending a state constitution to legalize an unproven drug is the wrong approach,” Susan R. Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said Oct. 8. “Early data from jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis are concerning, particularly around unintentional pediatric exposures that have resulted in increased calls to poison control centers and emergency department visits, as well as an increase in traffic deaths due to cannabis-related impaired driving.”

The Mississippi State Medical Association also opposes the measure.

If approved by voters, fees on dispensaries would fund only the medical marijuana oversight program. The language prohibits revenue from going into the state’s general fund.

Critics say the fees are extremely low and the amendment fails to restrict the number of marijuana businesses. They also argue the amendment could trump local zoning laws. Pot dispensaries are barred within 500 feet of a school, church or child care center, but the language says zoning ordinances on dispensaries must be no more restrictive than they are on pharmacies and “shall not impair the availability of and reasonable access to medical marijuana.”

Some law enforcement leaders say the amount of legal purchase allowed is enough that patients would be able to re-sell marijuana on the streets.

Since marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law, banks tend to avoid handling money linked to marijuana businesses and insurance companies also avoid involvement, Mississippi Today reports.

Over 228,000 Mississippi voters signed a petition to place Ballot Measure 65 the ballot. The legislature responded by approving its own ballot measure 65A, which would allow lawmakers to regulate medical marijuana. Some thirty-four states have already legalized medical marijuana, with a great diversity of regulations and programs, Mississippi Today said.

In New Jersey, where medical marijuana use is already allowed, the state legislature has introduced Public Question 1, a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

Legalized drug sales are being touted as a way to boost revenue and employment, save money and redirect police resources.

New Jersey borders Pennsylvania and New York, which have not legalized the drug. Medical marijuana presently sells for about $400 to $500 per ounce in the state, the New York Times reports. The state legislature’s research arm has estimated that a developed recreational marijuana industry would generate about $126 million in tax revenue a year. Municipalities may charge their own 2% tax under the proposal.

Backers of the New Jersey measure also point to the disproportionate criminal charges against Black Americans for marijuana possession, even though they use the drug at similar rates to white Americans.

Catholic News Agency sought comment from the New Jersey Catholic Conference and the Mississippi dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi but did not receive a response by deadline.


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Some 2016 Trump critics say record on abortion, religious liberty changed their minds

October 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2020 / 08:00 pm (CNA).-  

During the 2016 Republic primaries, some prominent conservative Catholics warned about Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Four years later, some say they now support his reelection, while one Catholic scholar told CNA his focus is on the future of American political discourse.

“I have never been more happy about being wrong,” Brian Burch, president of, told CNA about Trump.

In January 2016, Burch issued a warning that Trump, who was by then the Republican front-runner, would not uphold Catholic principles as president. Burch exhorted Catholics to support another candidate, saying that Trump would “sell out everyone and anyone when it benefits him.” In the general election, did not endorse Trump.

But four years later, Burch told CNA that Trump has delivered “far more than we ever thought possible” on pro-life issues and religious freedom.

In September, CatholicVote launched a nearly $10 million campaign to target Catholic voters, highlighting Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s record “on issues of fundamental importance to Catholics including the sanctity of life, religious liberty, judges, education, the dignity of work, and other core issues.”

Trump has been widely praised by pro-life advocates for his appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, to the Supreme Court. The president said in 2016 that he would fully defund abortion providers, and sign laws to ban abortions after 20 weeks and make the Hyde Amendment permanent, actions which have not been completed during his term in office.

Burch noted those moves depend upon Congressional action.  “The president’s done what he can via executive order, but he had an unwilling Congress,” he told CNA.

Other Catholics also told CNA last week that Trump’s White House support for life and religious freedom causes has surprised them. They recalled that, early in the 2016 election, his record did not evince a deep grasp of social conservatism.

Trump was on the record in 1999 saying that he was “very pro-choice.” He had been criticized for making crude, sexually-explicit comments about women on host Howard Stern’s radio show and in other contexts.

Looking at those factors in 2016, some critics thought the president’s pledges on abortion would not have much follow through.

“I did not believe his promises on behalf of the unborn, or on judges, or on foreign policy. I thought he would start wars,” Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNA this month. “I was wrong.”

Pecknold added that he has not endorsed Trump, but he thinks a case can be made for supporting him in the 2020 election.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie did not believe that Trump would defend life and religious freedom causes, but voted for him reluctantly in 2016 because she thought his opponent Hillary Clinton would “expand” attacks on those causes.

When President Trump dramatically expanded a policy that prevents federal funding of foreign groups that provide or promote abortions—known as the “Mexico City Policy”— Christie said her doubts about him subsided.

As someone who grew up in Latin America, Christie saw Trump’s policy as a victory against “ideological colonization” of groups that promote abortions in developing countries.

“I know that he [Trump] has surrounded himself with really good people,” she said, “who really understand in a deeply philosophical way the issues of human dignity, marriage, and family.”

Nina Shea, an expert in religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, also warned about Trump’s candidacy in 2016. She recalled thinking that he did not have the foreign policy background required to promote religious freedom and defend persecuted religious minorities overseas.

A year later, Shea watched Vice President Mike Pence promise a summit on international Christian persecution that promoting religious freedom would be a priority for the administration.

The direct assurance was a departure from earlier administrations’ seeming reluctance to promote religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy, Shea said. Since then, she noted that Trump’s “speeches, initiatives, and directives” on religious freedom “have set the high water mark” for the issue.

Not all conservative Catholics who opposed Trump in 2016 support his re-election four years later.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review and a Catholic, wrote an Oct. 15 column he said was “a case for principled abstention.”

Ponnuru wrote that in his view, Trump’s “character flaws” are bad enough to “keep him from meeting the threshold conditions to be entrusted with the presidency.”

The president is “deficient” in “judgment, honesty, and self-control,” Ponnuru wrote, lamenting “a more degraded and less honest political culture, the cheapening of the president’s word, and a decline in trust.”

But in the same column, Ponnuru said he would also not be voting for Biden.

Biden “says he now favors taxpayer funding of abortion. He may seek to enlarge the Supreme Court to make room for more justices who won’t make room in American law for unborn children,” Ponnuru wrote.

“If there’s a persuasive case for recognizing abortion as a grave injustice and voting for Biden anyway, I haven’t seen it,” the columnist said, while explaining why he will abstain from voting for a presidential candidate.

George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, helped in March 2016 to initiate a petition urging Catholics to support alternative candidates to Trump during the Republican primary.

Weigel told CNA that he is grateful the Trump administration has defended religious freedom “at home and internationally” and has been “firmly pro-life.”

But the author lamented “continued coarsening of public debate, the deliberate polarization of opinion and sentiment, and the lack of any magnanimity toward opponents.”

Weigel said his focus is on the future. The author said that in his view both Trump and Biden are “seriously flawed in numerous ways.”

“My primary focus now is on building a political culture that doesn’t, in the future, produce two such distasteful options. America can and must do better than this,” Weigel told CNA.

In an Oct. 28 column, Weigel pointed to the U.S. Senate as a critical aspect of the 2020 election.

American cultural renewal “will be more difficult if the Democratic party wins the presidency, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives—and is thus able to enforce the agenda of lifestyle libertinism and intolerant ‘tolerance’ to which its platform commits it, especially in matters of the sanctity of life and the conscience rights of believers,” Weigel wrote.

“As the House will certainly have a Democratic majority in 2021-2022, prudence dictates maintaining a Republican Senate, irrespective of who is elected president,” he added.

Supporters told CNA that after reviewing his record, they think Trump’s policies are a more important consideration than his personal behavior.

“I’m happy with his policies. I don’t plan to have him over for dinner,” Christie said.

Pecknold acknowledged the importance of character in a president, but cautioned that character should not be “reduced to table manners.”

Political leaders, he said, “should be judged by whether their laws help a society to live in greater accord with virtue.”



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The martyrs buried at the Valley of the Fallen

October 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Valley of the Fallen is a monumental complex near Madrid which includes an abbey and basilica, and which honors the fallen of both sides during the Spanish civil war. The bodies of more than 30,000 victims of the war are buried in the complex.

Among them lie 57 Blesseds and 15 Servants of God.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 was fought between the Nationalist forces, led by Francisco Franco, and the Republican faction. During the war, Republicans martyred thousands of clerics, religious, and laity; of these, 11 have been canonized, and 1,915 beatified.

Fr. Santiago Cantera, prior of the Abbey of the Holy Cross, recently spoke at an event organized by the Diocese of Barbastro-Monzón to commemorate the martyrs who died during the religious persecution of the Civil War. The prior highlighted some of the common characteristics of the martyrs, who came from diverse backgrounds.

The martyrs who are buried in the Basilica of the Holy Cross “are the finest testimony of forgiveness and reconciliation” and belong to all states in life: “laity, diocesan and religious priests, consecrated men and women religious, people of all ages, but also a large group of young people, such as Rafael Lluch, a 19-year-old member of Vincentian Youth and Catholic Action,” Cantera explained.

Acceptance of martyrdom

One aspect the martyrs all share in common, Cantera highlighted, was their “acceptance of martyrdom,” giving “the finest testimony for peace, forgiveness and the reconciliation of the Spanish people, because they died forgiving their executioners without any hatred.”

Blessed Juan Pedro de San Antonio, a 46 year-old Passionist priest, was hiding in a boarding house along with four other brothers from the congregation. He told the owner of the boarding house that “if anyone takes us out to shoot us, I ask that no one bear hatred or resentment for the evil they are thinking of doing to us. The Lord allows it for our sanctification.”

Before dying, Fr. Antonio Martínez Lópe said he wanted to bless his executioners, but they struck his arm and broke it before killing him. “These are examples of the peace with which they died, in the absence of hatred, with the will to forgive and to reconcile,” the prior noted.

A supernatural outlook

Another common element is  “the supernatural outlook they had at the time of martyrdom,” Fr. Cantera said. These martyrs “looked to eternity, they lived out the love of God and this led them to imitate Christ even to the ultimate consequence, accepting death as having a redemptive meaning for all men.”

During the years of religious persecution in Spain it was common for the martyrs to say goodbye with the words “Until (we meet again in) Heaven.”

Rafael Lluch, the youngest of the martyrs buried in the Basilica of the Holy Cross, was arrested for carrying a holy card of the Virgin of the Forsaken in his pocket and belonging to the association of the Miraculous Medal. The young man said goodbye to his mother saying: “Don’t cry, I’m going to give my life for our God, I’ll wait for you in Heaven.”

“Long live Christ the King” were also the last words of many of the martyrs, such as Blessed Florencio López Egea, whose executioners stuck thorns in his eyes demanding he blaspheme, but he always replied “Long live Christ the King.”

Also sharing this supernatural outlook are the 23 sisters belonging to the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. Seven of them are buried in the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

When they were riding in a truck on the way to being shot, “they all knelt down to receive the Sacred Hosts that they had kept in a watch case,” Fr. Cantera related. “The driver of the truck carrying them after they had been arrested told his wife how much he admired them: ‘I saw them all die, most of them young, with smiles on their faces and blessing God. What women. They were Adorers.’”

Love for the priesthood

Another common aspect of the martyrs is “their love for the priesthood and the priestly ministry,” the prior said, citing Blessed Enrique López Ruiz. An altar boy described him as “a true apostle of Jesus Christ.” The militiamen wanted to stop him from offering Mass, but he refused to leave his parish and the faithful.

The “willingness to die and be martyred, offered in immolation for the salvation of Spain” is also a hallmark of the martyrs.

Blessed Josefa María, a Salesian sister, refused the offer to hide in the house of a relative whom she told: “If Spain has to be saved by the shedding of our blood, we ask God for it to be as soon as possible.” Or Blessed Florencio López, who on his way to be shot was singing a song he had composed himself asking the Virgin “to save quickly the Spanish people.”

Enduring torture and cruelty

Cantera also pointed to the cruelty suffered by the martyrs, to which they responded with their love for God and by offering their lives for Spain, as did Fr. Domingo Campoy, a curate of a parish in Almería who was tortured on one of the prison ships.

This priest served in the military as a chaplain and interceded for the release of a soldier who had been arrested who later became one of his executioners.

Serving the needy

The prior noted that almost all of them dedicated a large part of their lives to performing works of charity, such as the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, whose charism is helping young women at risk of falling into prostitution.

Fr. Cantera also wanted people “to know the great spiritual wealth and theological mark sealed upon his soul by the Valley of the Fallen as an authentic place of peace and reconciliation in the shadow of the redemptive Cross, a symbol that reminds us of the redemption of Christ, the reconciliation that God has accomplished to which he invites all men.”

The Valley of the Fallen

The complex was inaugurated in 1959 under Franco, who was Spain’s head of state from the end of the Spanish Civil War, when the Nationalist forces he led defeated the Republican faction, until his death in 1975.

The government of Pedro Sanchez, secretary-general of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party, in September introduced the Law on Democratic Memory.

The bill seeks to transform the Valley of the Fallen into a civil cemetery, and would expel the Benedictine community. It would also bar publicly funded groups from glorifying Franco, the BBC reported.

While removing the 150 meter cross that presides over the valley is not explicitly mentioned in the bill, it has been considered on other occasions.

Franco’s body was exhumed from the Basilica of the Holy Cross in October 2019 by the Sanchez government. Fr. Cantera said the exhumation failed to respect the inviolability of the abbey as a sacred place.