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Pope Francis calls Catholic students to gratitude, and community

June 6, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Jun 6, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Friday told students that in times of crisis, community is key to overcoming fear.

“Crises, if they are not well accompanied, are dangerous, because one can become disoriented. And the advice of the wise, even for small personal, marital, and social crises: ‘never go into crisis alone, go in company.’”

In a crisis, the pope said, “we are invaded by fear, we close ourselves off as individuals, or we begin to repeat what is convenient for very few, emptying ourselves of meaning, covering up our own call, losing our beauty. This is what happens when one goes through a crisis alone,”

The pope was speaking June 5 through a video message to young people, parents, and teachers connected to the Scholas Occurrentes Foundation, an international organization that provides technological, artistic, and athletic initiatives for young people around the globe.

The pope spoke about the power of education.

“Education listens, or it does not educate. If it does not listen, it does not educate. Education creates culture, or it does not educate. Education teaches us to celebrate, or it does not educate.

“Someone can ask me: ‘But, isn’t education knowing things?’ No. That’s what knowledge is. But to educate is to listen, to create culture, to celebrate,” Pope Francis said.

“Therefore, in this new crisis that humanity is facing today, where culture has shown to have lost its vitality, I want to celebrate that Scholas, as a community that educates, as an intuition that grows, opens the doors of the University of the Sense. Because to educate is to seek the meaning of things. It is to teach to look for the meaning of things,” he added.

The pope emphasized gratitude, meaning, and beauty.

“They may seem useless,” he said, “especially nowadays. Who starts a business looking for gratitude, meaning and beauty? It does not produce, it does not produce. And yet, on these things that seem useless depend the whole of humanity, the future.”




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Catholic law school offers free help to arrested protesters

June 6, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

St. Paul, Minn., Jun 6, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Since Friday, there have been 612 arrests in the Twin Cities metroplex associated with protests following the killing of George Floyd, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

In response to the arrests, the University of St. Thomas School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, announced that it would defend those arrested for non-felony offenses associated with the protests free of charge. The school ranks second in the nation for practical training, according to a 2020 ranking by the National Jurist.

Defending the marginalized of society, who otherwise would not be able to afford representation, has been a long-standing goal of the Criminal and Juvenile Defense Clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, which is taking on the cases associated with the protests.

The center will defend anyone charged with “gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors, petty offenses, delinquency offenses” that are associated with the protests, such as curfew violation. The center will not defend those charged with burglary and arson, which accounted for some of the arrests accompanying the protests.

“There have been a lot of cases coming in regarding violations of the curfew and other peaceful violations,” said University of St. Thomas School of Law Dean Robert Vischer. “That’s been the focus, rather than destruction of property.”

While the charges these defendants face are petty, if a defendant does not pay the fees associated with their arrest, their charges can quickly accumulate.

“There are huge collateral consequences for a juvenile who gets a misdemeanor charge or even an adult who gets a misdemeanor charge,” said Leyla Bari, a 2020 graduate from St. Thomas School of Law and an alumna of the clinic.
“The way that Minnesota law is written means [that] your driver’s license will get suspended, and then often people will still have to drive to work… and when your license gets suspended, that results in more fees, and often people will have to drive out of necessity, and it just creates a whole cycle of debt that it makes really difficult to get out of,” Bari said. “So it’s a small, little, tiny charge that just snowballs.”
Sarah Koziol, a rising third year law student who has been responding to calls made to the clinic, said that these kinds of cycles “plague poor people.”
“These types of fines create a pathway for criminalizing people who weren’t even found guilty in the first place,” Koziol said.
“It is critical to perpetuating the mission of St. Thomas [and] perpetuating Catholic social teaching pillars in the community in a very tangible, real way, to make sure we stand up for each protestor, each indigent person who is down there fighting for their rights, to make sure these small, little minute charges do not snowball and ruin their life,” Bari said.

Although the commitment to serving the under-represented is part of the center’s mission, this particular initiative arose in immediate response to community need and will require the volunteer work of a team of 13 law students over the summer, during a time when the center does not usually accept new cases.

“We were not planning on this being our summer, but who was?” said Rachel Moran, who founded and directs the Criminal and Juvenile Defense Clinic. “It was just a very organic response to community need.”

On the second night of protests following the death of George Floyd, Moran received a message from Bari asking if the clinic would be able to provide representation for protesters who were being arrested.

“I saw protesters out on the streets very early on, and I was very distraught at seeing so many young black and brown youth who were the first on the front lines to be picked out by officers, being intimidated by officers, getting arrested, getting maced, and sprayed with tear gas, and I wanted to do something, so I reached out to Professor Moran,” said Bari.

“I said yes,” said Moran. “We are a clinic that prioritizes being responsive to community need.”

Vischer said that the response of the community has been “largely enthusiastic.”

“Of course, whenever you’re delving into the representation of participants in controversial social actions, it won’t be uniformly enthusiastic,” he said. “But that’s part of being a criminal defense attorney; you are representing those who may not otherwise have a voice, and you may not be embraced by the larger community.”

The calls of complaints he has received from the public have expressed concern that the center is “supporting the protesters,” Vischer said.

“I point out that representing someone who is accused of a crime is separate from whether you support the underlying action that they have been arrested for,” said Vischer. “Ensuring that someone has representation doesn’t mean that the person will escape all punishment for violating the law.”

“Defense attorneys broadly have to represent everyone,” said Bari. “That is our duty as attorneys. We have to represent people, we have to give people a fair shot at justice in our justice system.”
Koziol said that the voices that criticize the clinic often point to the destruction that ensued with protests, often saying, “look at the destruction of Minneapolis and other cities, you are supposed to be taking care of creation, not destroying it,” Koziol reported.
Bari challenged that assertion, saying that “by amplifying and standing up for communities who have traditionally been pushed down and silenced, we’re helping to not just keep our gardens and yards looking nice, we’re helping to actually deliver true justice, which is the fulcrum that any kind of creation needs to be premised on.”
“The protests are legitimate and the tactics that have turned violent were turned violent by police,” said Koziol. “When protestors can speak up, they can create meaningful change.”

As a former public defendant in Chicago, Moran said that she is accustomed to being criticized for her work.

“I’d like to have a longer conversation with them,” said Moran. “We have a duty to advocate for the marginalized and we have a duty to stand up for those who have been wronged, particularly when they have been wronged by an abusive authority. That should be very consistent with Catholicism.”

The center believes that in defending the protesters it is living its Catholic identity.

“I think a Catholic law school should be instrumental in helping provide a voice for the voiceless and that the views of those on the margins of society are heard, and I think that a criminal defense clinic, generally, is aligned well with that mission, and that includes protesters who are arrested for protests,” Vischer said.

“By protecting freedom of speech and expression, that doesn’t just help one person, it helps all of us, which is directly tied to our mission, which is ‘for the common good,’” said Bari, quoting the University of St. Thomas motto. “It’s not isolated as one incident.”

“It is deeply Catholic to affirm the dignity of every person, and that’s really the starting point for what we’re doing here,” said Moran. “We are affirming the dignity of George Floyd. After the police denied that dignity and treated him as if he had no value, we are affirming that his life mattered.”


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UK government doubles down on N Ireland abortion regulations

June 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 05:06 pm (CNA).- While saying that abortion regulation is a devolved issue, the British Minister of State for Northern Ireland emphasized at Westminster Thursday that any local changes to the region’s abortion law would have to comply with human rights conventions.

Earlier in the week the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a non-binding motion rejecting the imposition of abortion regulations by the Westminster parliament.

“We hope that the regulations provide a solid framework for abortion services to be provided within Northern Ireland, although I appreciate that this remains a devolved issue and the Assembly can amend the regulations in future, subject to the usual Assembly and other procedures, including compliance with the European convention on human rights,” Robin Walker, the Northern Ireland minister, said June 4 while answering questions from members of parliament.

“If the Executive and Assembly were to legislate for an alternative approach, it would still be required to be human rights and convention-compliant,” he added.

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020, which came into force March 31, allow elective abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; abortions up to 24 weeks in cases of risk to the mother’s physical or mental health; and abortion without time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment or fetal fetal abnormality.

Previously, abortion was legally permitted in the region only if the mother’s life was at risk or if there was risk of long term or permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The new framework was adopted to implement Westminster’s Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which decriminalized abortion in Northern Ireland and placed a moratorium on abortion-related criminal prosecutions, and obliged the UK government to create legal access to abortion in the region by March 31.

The NI EF Act required that the recommendations of a UN report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women be implemented.

Walker maintained June 4 that “The Government are … under a clear statutory duty to allow for access to abortions in cases of both severe foetal impairment and fatal foetal abnormalities, and this is what we have delivered … We consider the regulations in this regard to be compatible with the requirements under the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.”

The regulations will be debated in a House of Commons Committee June 8, and afterwards in the House of Lords.

Thursday’s questions about the regulations were opened by Jeffrey Donaldson, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life party.

Donaldson urged that “the Government should withdraw the regulations, respect the fact that devolution has been restored and, rather than seek to further undermine devolution, allow the Northern Ireland Assembly its rightful place to legislate on its own abortion law.”

He noted that the regulations’ provision for abortion in cases of severe fetal impairment “was not even required by CEDAW.”

MPs who participated in the discussion were divided over the regulations. Of the nine members of the governing Conservative Party who asked questions of Walker, six expressed support for the regulations, or a more liberal provision of abortion access.

Two members of the Labour Party expressed support for the regulations, as did one Liberal Democrat from a Scottish constituency, while one Labour Party member spoke in favor of devolution and handing the matter over to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Four DUP members voiced their opposition to the regulations.

Ian Paisley Jr commented that CEDAW does not require legislation for a full-term abortions, disability abortions, or sex-selection abortions, yet “that is that what is going to happen in Northern Ireland as a result of what has occurred in this place.”

Carla Lockhart, also a member of the DUP, commented that “the Government…continue to ride roughshod over the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland. They are discriminating against people who have non-fatal disabilities and going far beyond their legal requirement.”

“Will the Minister recognise the severe offence that the regulations cause to people with disabilities and also that the clear will of the devolved institutions is that the regulations are not wanted in Northern Ireland?” she asked. “What is the Minister’s message today to Heidi Crowter, who says that she feels she should not exist in this society if the regulations go ahead? … Both lives matter. It is not just about women’s health, but about both lives. It is not the Government’s right to impose such liberal abortion laws on Northern Ireland that will see abortion up to birth for disability.”

Walker responded that “nobody in the House wants to regulate or legislate in any way to the detriment of people with disabilities. We rightly have a huge body of legislation in this country to protect the rights of people with disabilities. It is not for the Government—and it is not the approach we take in the rest of the UK—to list specific conditions that it may or not be decided constitute severe foetal impairment.”

He maintained that “Addressing [severe foetal impairment] was a specific requirement of the CEDAW report, which is why it is included in the regulations.”

The Northern Ireland minister said that “this Government believe in supporting the rights of people with disabilities and do not in any way see these regulations as impinging on those. The regulations mirror the law in the rest of the UK, where abortions are permitted in cases of severe foetal impairment and fatal foetal abnormality, with no time limit. The Abortion Act does not define what conditions fit within this meaning, but similarly, it is an individual’s decision based on proper medical assessments and advice and other relevant provision of information and support.”

Walker also noted that the government had sought to conform Northern Ireland’s regulations to those in the rest of the UK, noting that it had used “the legal basis that has been established in England, Scotland, Wales for this process and [was] ensuring that we stick to it as closely as possible, particularly on issues such as conscientious objection…However, our approach throughout the design of this framework is to ensure that the outcomes are as consistent as possible.”

He also said that “it is important that wherever possible we make sure the outcomes of the regulations in Northern Ireland are aligned with the outcomes in the rest of [Great Britain]. ​It is important both because it is the right thing to do fundamentally—as a Unionist I believe it is the right thing to do—and because the approach in the rest of the UK has been legally tested and found to be compliant with the relevant human rights law.”

And when questioned about devolution and the possibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly legislating on the problem, Walker responded that “it is in the hands of the Assembly to propose reforms and a way forward on the regulations, so long as it can do so in a way that is CEDAW compliant. I would be very happy for it to take that opportunity. There is nothing to prohibit it doing so, and it is a matter of regret that, having been in place for a number of months before the regulations came into force, it has not.”

“However, my firm understanding of the advice that the Government have received is that the legal obligations on us to ensure a human rights-compliant model in every part of the UK, including Northern Ireland, remain in place,” he added.

A legislation scrutiny committee of the House of Lords published in April a report which noted that the regulations are more expansive than were required by law.

Northern Ireland rejected the Abortion Act 1967, which legalized abortion in England, Wales, and Scotland; and bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Northern Irish women had been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017. They are allowed to travel to the rest of the UK to procure abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

The amendment to the NI EF Act obliging the government to provide for legal abortion in Northern Ireland was introduced by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who represents a London constituency.


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El Salvador pro-life groups decry ‘misleading’ CBS report amid abortion fight

June 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 12:35 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders in El Salvador say a recent CBS News report on abortion in the country is misleading, and does not accurately portray factual narratives, amid a fight over the legalization of abortion in the country. 

A CBS documentary “Jailed for Abortion in El Salvador” and an accompanying print report, were published online May 28. Pro-life advocates in the country say the report leaves out or misrepresents crucial information regarding landmark fights over abortion in the country.

The CBS report claimed that “more than 140 women have been charged under El Salvador’s total ban on abortion since 1998, incarcerated for up to 35 years in some of the world’s most notorious prisons. Many say they never had an abortion, but instead claim that after suffering a miscarriage they were wrongfully convicted when their doctors accused them of intentionally terminating their pregnancies.”

Alabama state Representative Merika Coleman visited last November a prison in El Salvador where some of those women are incarcerated. She told CBS News that if Roe vs. Wade is overturned “things that are going on in El Salvador could actually happen in the United States,”

The report mentioned the case of “Manuela,” whose real name is María Edis Hernández de Castra, a woman who according to CBS, claimed to have had a miscarriage and “was charged and convicted for aggravated homicide, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

Hernández served two years of her sentence before she died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010.

“But a lawsuit brought on behalf of Manuela’s family after her death may bring change. Next year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is expected to hear her case, and if the international body sides with Manuela and her family, El Salvador could be barred from prosecuting women who say they miscarried, according to an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the law firm representing the family,” CBS reported.

El Salvadoran pro-life organizations say that the case of Hernández, or Manuela, is one of numerous cases in El Salvador in which acts of infanctide have been reported as miscarriages, and used in litigation intended to promote the legalization of abortion.

According to VIDA SV, the trial documents in Hernández’ case indicate that her child died when he was discarded in a latrine shortly after his birth. At trial, Hernández claimed she did not know she was pregnant until she miscarried in the latrine. Prosecutors presented evidence that she discarded her child while he was alive, and argued that evidence indicated she’d done so knowingly. A jury agreed with the prosecution.

Sara Larín, president of the Fundación VIDA SV, and Ligia Castaldi, a professor at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, published this year in the International Human Rights Review an exhaustive legal investigation of 25 cases, which explains in detail “the fraud involved in the Hernández case before the Inter-American Court” and the other cases.

Speaking June 3 to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Larín said that the Center for Reproductive Rights had “sent an intimidating letter” requesting Hernández’ name be redacted from that investigation, “alleging that it is necessary to protect the privacy of the relatives of the alleged victim.”

Larín pointed out that “CBS News itself and a documentary made by the Center for Reproductive Rights show the faces of family members and the family’s living conditions to emotionally manipulate public opinion in favor of this case.”

Larín further noted that Hernández “was not a victim, but a victimizer,” given her conviction for aggravated homicide.

“The sentence is public precisely because the right to privacy is reserved to the victims and not to the victimizers,” Larín stressed.

“She never disputed her guilt, did not file any appeal for review, and gave conflicting versions of the facts. The evidence shows that she committed the crime and those false versions were never found reasonable by the Court. It’s not true that she didn’t know that she was pregnant, she had already had three children previously, ”Larin explained.

In her testimony, “Maria Edis said that she had fallen into the river, that she had inadvertently expelled the child in the latrine, which according to forensic doctors was not possible; there was no evidence of any injuries from the alleged fall into the river. It was determined that the child was born alive, breathing, and survived between 10 and 20 minutes after being thrown into the latrine,” Larín said.

The court’s sentence said that Hernández’ statements were “contrary to logic and medicine,” and concluded that she deliberately caused the baby’s death.

The international campaign to legalize abortion

According to Larín, abortion proponents intend to create a legal precedent that forces the Salvadoran government to pay millions in compensation to the organizations that filed the lawsuit.

“That money will have to be financed from the taxes of the entire Salvadoran people so these pro-abortion groups can continue to use it to bombard us with ideologies contrary to the law, morality and good customs,” she said.

Another pro-life leader, Julia Regina de Cardenal, the president of the Fundación Sí a la Vida (Yes to Life) in El Salvador, told ACI Prensa June 3 that this “slanderous international campaign against El Salvador to legalize the abortion industry is financed by petty interests capable of the worst tricks to achieve their goal. “

De Cardenal said that the other cases presented in the documentary and in the CBS News articles were also “being manipulated” since “they have nothing to do with abortions.”

“These women were convicted for the aggravated homicide of their children who were born alive,” she said.

Babies allegedly miscarried have been found “strangled, struck with a stone, with fractures to the neck, stabbed, abandoned in septic tanks or inside plastic bags that had been hidden,” she said.

“They were all full term babies who breathed, but were cruelly killed.”

De Cardenal pointed out that in El Salvador “there is not a single serious media outlet that has published the lies repeated in the international propaganda media, that women are hated and persecuted here; that hundreds of women are imprisoned for abortion; that poor women who had ‘miscarriages,’ ‘obstetric emergencies’ or ‘non-hospital deliveries’ are given 40 years in prison.”

“That’s false,” she underscored.

De Cardenal emphasized that in El Salvador miscarriage is not punishable, and that “this farce is so absurd because women are not even imprisoned for induced abortion.”

“Why? Because the penalty for induced abortion is 2 to 8 years (not 40) and the judges don’t hate or persecute the women, instead they give them alternative sentencing, ” she explained.

The Yes to Life Foundation representative said that the Salvadoran people “are fed up with the lack of respect and insults of deceitful foreign actresses and journalists who accuse us of having a ‘medieval, draconian law,’ when in reality we have legislation that truly protects equal human rights for all people, which ought to serve as a model for the rest of the world. ”

“Why are they lying? Because they know that very few people would support the infanticide they are defending, ” she said.

De Cardenal believes that “it is not surprising that those who profit from exploiting women in crisis pregnancies by killing their unborn children, also defend killing them after they’re born.”

“Fortunately, we Salvadorans are pro-life and we know that these women need all our support, not violence and death,” she added.


This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.