Diocese permits nurses to anoint during sacrament of the sick

March 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2020 / 02:54 pm (CNA).- A Massachusetts diocese has authorized a change to norms for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, permitting a nurse, rather than a priest, to conduct the physical anointing, which is an essential part of the sacrament.

“Effective immediately I am allowing the assigned Catholic hospital chaplains, standing outside a patient’s room or away from their bedside, to dab a cotton swab with Holy Oil and then allow a nurse to enter the patient’s room and administer the oil. If the patient is alert, the prayers may be provided via telephone,” Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield, Mass., told priests in a March 25 message.

“The hospitals need to control bedside access to patients so as to reduce transmission of COVID-19 as well as to preserve very limited supplies of masks and other personal protection equipment(PPE),” Rozanski explained, noting that the policy was devised in consultation with “pastoral services at both Mercy Medical and Baystate Medical centers.”

Mercy Medical Center is a Catholic hospital, and a part of Trinity Health, a Catholic healthcare system.

The Church teaches that only a priest may validly perform the sacrament.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield told CNA March 27 the permission reflects diocesan policy “for now.” The spokesman said the policy was proposed by the Trinity Health system, and has also been proposed to other dioceses.

Trinity Health has not responded to questions from CNA. 

According to the Church’s canon law, “the anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends the faithful who are dangerously ill to the suffering and glorified Lord in order that he relieve and save them, is conferred by anointing them with oil and pronouncing the words prescribed in the liturgical books.”

“The celebration of the sacrament includes the following principal elements: the ‘priests of the Church’ – in silence – lay hands on the sick; they pray over them in the faith of the Church – this is the epiclesis proper to this sacrament; they then anoint them with oil blessed, if possible, by the bishop,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains.

“Only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick,” the catechism adds.

The minister of the sacrament, who must be a priest for its valid celebration “is to perform the anointings with his own hand, unless a grave reason warrants the use of an instrument,” according to canon 1000 §2 of the Code of Canon Law.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments has spoken on related questions regarding the sacrament of baptism. In a letter published in 2004 by the Canon Law Society of America, Cardinal Francis Arinze, then prefect of the congregation, explained that “if a minister administering the Sacrament of Baptism by infusion pronounces the words of the sacramental form but leaves the action of pouring the water to other persons, whoever they may be, the baptism is invalid.”

With regard to the anointing of the sick, in 2005, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained “the Church has identified down the centuries the essential elements of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick…a) subject: the seriously ill member of the faithful; b) minister: “omnis et solus sacerdos”; c) substance: the anointing with blessed oil; d) form: the minister’s prayer; e) effects: salvific grace, the forgiveness of sins, the relief of the sick person.”

“The Sacrament is not valid if a deacon or a layman attempts to administer it. Such an action would be a crime of simulation in the administration of a sacrament, to be penalized in accordance with can. 1379, CIC,” the congregation added.

Canon law establishes that a person who “simulates” a sacrament, or celebrates it invalidly, is subject to ecclesiastical discipline.

 

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

 

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As dioceses face coronavirus money woes, Knights of Columbus offer line of credit

March 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- The Knights of Columbus have offered a $1 million line of credit to Catholic dioceses to help dioceses and parishes suffering from the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is critical for us to support the Catholic Church in the United States at this time, so that the Church can continue to provide irreplaceable spiritual and charitable support, and can keep the staff supporting its mission and outreach employed,” Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said March 26. “Our fund is designed specifically to help dioceses and their parishes weather this pandemic financially so that they can continue their important work – now and after the pandemic.”

The $100 million fund allows up to $1 million line of credit per Catholic diocese. The program will open March 30 and will be available for 60 days following.

The Knights of Columbus say the interest rate is “very competitive,” equal to the rate of a one-year Treasury bill plus 2.25%.

The line of credit will have a two-year term. At the end of the term, dioceses may convert the line of credit into a Knights of Columbus church loan fully amortized at the prevailing rate for a five, 10 or 20 year period.

These are the same terms offered by the Knights of Columbus’ present ChurchLoan program

“The Knights of Columbus has been a key lender to parishes and dioceses for more than a century, and the ChurchLoan program remains a key source of financing for Catholic parishes and institutions,” the Knights of Columbus said.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 2 million members in more than 15,000 local councils worldwide. Its members worked 76 million service hours in 2019 and helped donate more than $185 million in charitable causes.

Its life insurance branch claims about $109 billion life insurance in force. The insurance program helps fund the knights’ charitable work and other efforts to support the Catholic Church.

The Knights have many grassroots initiatives responding to the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization has asked members to help provide food and other essentials to those in need. It has also urged members to take part in blood drives. The Knights of Columbus helped pioneer nationwide blood drives in the 1930s.

With churches closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, parishes face dwindling cash flow from collections. It is doubtful whether churches will open for the crowds who typically attend Mass on Easter, as some models project the virus will peak at the time.

Some parishes and dioceses have tried to expand online giving. Catholic charitable outreach also faces shortages of funds at a time of great need.

At the same time, the coronavirus has prompted massive layoffs. About 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment and the unemployment rate could have already risen to 5.5%, the highest since 2015, the Washington Post reports.

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Dioceses permit meat on Lent Fridays due to coronavirus

March 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Several dioceses across the United States have dispensed Catholics from the canonical requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in certain food items becoming difficult to acquire.

The Archdioceses of Boston and Dubuque, as well as the Dioceses of Brooklyn, Houma-Thibodeaux, Metuchen, Pittsburgh, and Rochester, have all issued letters stating that Catholics who may find it difficult to obtain other foods are permitted to eat meat on the last two Fridays of Lent. 

In a letter to his diocese published March 26, Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodeaux, Louisiana, wrote that while the practices of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on other Fridays during Lent was the law of the Church, he understood that many people in his diocese may be experiencing difficulty with grocery shopping or obtaining meat alternatives. 

Since President Donald Trump announced a ban on travel between the United States and Europe on March 12, grocery stores have reported instances of increased buying of many items. 

While there is not a shortage in the production of food, toilet paper, or other necessities nationwide, in many places, items have been purchased quicker than supply chains are able to replenish stocks. 

In response to this, some grocery stores have implemented “senior-only” hours, for the elderly or otherwise vulnerable populations to go grocery shopping without fear of having to fight for products. 

“I am being mindful of this and have our people’s best interest in my heart. Nevertheless, I am also aware that these Fridays of Lent will remain as days of penance and prayer,” said Fabre. 

The bishop said that those who are able to abstain from meat should continue to abstain, but “for those who sincerely find it difficult to embrace this practice, I hereby grant you dispensation from the obligation to abstain from eating meat for the remaining Fridays in Lent (4th and 5th weeks).”

Fabre instructed Catholics in his diocese to substitute the penance of abstaining from meat with “other forms of penance, especially works of piety and charity.” 

Other dioceses issued similar letters, citing concerns that parishioners may not have non-meat food on hand, be reliant on meal deliveries, or otherwise be concerned about leaving the house to go to the grocery store. 

“One of the effects of the current events is uncertainty regarding what food products are available on any given day. At this time, we are called to make the best of what we have at hand or is available for purchase,” said a letter from the Archdiocese of Boston. 

“Many people are using what they have stored in their freezers and on their shelves. Others are depending upon pre-packaged meals or food delivered through support agencies, which are providing an important service for individuals and families in our communities, especially for children and our senior citizens,” the letter added. 

Those who are still able to abstain from meat at this time are encouraged to continue this practice.

The Archdiocese of Boston clarified to CNA that, unlike the other dioceses who have dispensed their congregations from the requirement to abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays, Catholics there are further dispensed from the requirement to abstain from meat on Good Friday if they are unable to obtain meat-free foods. 

Examples given as substitute penance include abstention from desserts or other food items, volunteering time, donating to charity, or increased personal prayer. 

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Abortion groups challenge Texas’ coronavirus-driven elective surgery ban

March 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Texas has said that elective surgeries, including abortions, must halt to free up medical supplies for the response to the coronavirus, but pro-abortion rights groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the order on behalf of the state’s abortion clinics.

“It is unconscionable that abortion providers are fighting against the health of Texans and withholding desperately needed supplies and personal protective equipment in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a ‘choice’,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Twitter March 25.

“My office will tirelessly defend Governor Abbott’s Order to ensure that necessary supplies reach the medical professionals combating this national health crisis,” he said.

There are over 1,200 cases of coronavirus in Texas, and at least a dozen people have died. While the infection is not deadly for most people, and requires hospitalization only in a minority of cases, there is still a danger of hospitals exceeding their capacity to care for new patients. Supplies are already short.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide order March 22 barring non-essential surgeries through April 21. The attorney general later said elective abortions would not be considered essential surgeries. Failure to comply with the Texas executive order could mean fines of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.

The lawsuit challenging the order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, and the Lawyering Project

“The Texas attorney general’s enforcement threats are a blatant effort to exploit a public health crisis to advance an extreme, anti-abortion agenda,” the lawsuit charged.

It argued that the ban on elective abortions does not free up hospital space or supplies of personal protective equipment to respond to the new coronavirus pandemic. Continued pregnancy would “impose far greater strains on an already taxed health care system, as prenatal care and delivery involve much greater exhaustion of hospital health care services and (supplies of personal protective equipment) than abortions.”

“Abortion is essential healthcare, and it is a time-sensitive service,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman´s Health, the Associated Press reports. Her organization’s three Texas abortion clinics in Austin, Fort Worth, and McAllen have been forced to cancel more than 150 appointments in the last week. This has left some women “begging for the abortions they needed,” she said.

“It is shameful that our politicians are using emergency actions during a global pandemic to push their anti-abortion agenda,” Miller told reporters, the Austin American Statesman reports.

Paxton told Texas Values March 25 that the governor’s emergency order blocking medically unnecessary procedures aimed to make clear “all medical procedures that were unnecessary should be stopped, and that definitely includes elective abortions.”

“The truth is abortion, for the most part, is an elective procedure that can be done later,” he said. While he acknowledged that limiting abortion surgeries would “save some lives,” he focused his remarks on medical resources.

“I don’t even see how people who are on the other side of this issue at this time would dispute that we need our hospitals to take care of the really sick,” Paxton said.

The pro-abortion rights groups’ lawsuit further claims the order wrongly singles out abortion providers and their patients for differential treatment, compared to other medical providers and patients. The order “effectively bans abortion in Texas for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said the lawsuit.

Delays in securing abortion for women means “attendant risks to their health, well-being, and economic security,” said the lawsuit, which argued that women should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their wishes.

“COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout do not reduce patients´ needs for abortion; if anything, they make timely access to abortion even more urgent,” it said.

The lawsuit also objects to the ban on medical abortion, saying it is not surgery or a procedure. It argues that this shows the order explicitly aimed to limit abortion access.

Paxton’s initial remarks stressed the need for Texans to work together to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to “ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time.”

“No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law,” he said.

In Ohio, the state Department of Health canceled all non-essential or elective surgical abortions that use personal protective equipment. Officials said that abortion clinics were not singled out and letters of violation were also sent to a urology group that allegedly continued to perform surgeries.

Ohio’s health department asked the state attorney general to issue a cease and desist order to Preterm, a Cleveland-based abortion clinic that continues to perform elective abortions despite statewide orders against elective surgeries.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves said that state directives to postpone elective and non-essential medical procedures apply to abortion. He pledged support for “whatever action we need to to protect the not only the lives of unborn children, but also the lives of anyone who may contract this particular virus,” CBS News reports.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer at the Mississippi Department of Health, said he would review the situation.

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

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

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

On March 24, the Catholic Medical Association, along with several other medical groups, issued a statement critical of the March 18 pro-abortion rights statement.

The Catholic Medical Association statement said that abortion “generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms.” Abortion providers themselves instruct women to go to an emergency room if they have any concerning symptoms.

“Approximately 5% of women who undergo medication abortions will require evaluation in an emergency room, most commonly for hemorrhage,” the statement said. “Surgical abortions can also result in hemorrhage. Emergency room personnel – who are already struggling to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic – will be further strained to provide care to these women.”

Some abortion providers are seeking medical supplies despite the need to fight the coronavirus.

Planned Parenthood of Keystone, Pennsylvania posted social media posts March 24 soliciting donations of personal protective equipment including hand sanitizer, home sewn masks, shoe covers, and surgical hats.

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Aid workers kidnapped in Iraq released

March 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 11:19 am (CNA).- Four men working in Iraq for the French humanitarian organization SOS Chrétiens d’Orient who went missing in Baghdad in January have been released by their kidnappers, the French president announced Thursday.

Emmanuel Macron announced March 26 that he “welcomes the release of our three nationals Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy and Iraqi Tariq Mattoka.”

The men disappeared Jan. 20 after they made a trip to an appointment by car. SOS Chrétiens d’Orient tried to contact them the following day, unsuccessfully.

The missing employees had gone to Baghdad “to renew their visas and the registration of association with the Iraqi authorities and to monitor the association’s operations” in the country.

Macron’s office said it had made “every effort” to secure their release, and he expressed “gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their co-operation.”

SOS Chrétiens d’Orient said last week that they had received no ransom demand, and no group had claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The organization works to support Eastern Christians with humanitarian material aid; it has permanent missions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt.

Christians in Iraq have suffered persecution in recent years, especially during the invasion of the Islamic State.

Prior to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were about 1.5 million Iraqi Christians. Today, that number is believed to be fewer than 500,000.

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