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UK court clears 80-year-old accused of ‘mercy killing’ her husband 

September 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Sep 19, 2019 / 06:39 pm (CNA).- Family members of an 80-year-old woman in England are advocating for legalized assisted suicide after the woman was found not guilty by a U.K. court in an apparent “mercy killing” of her husband.

Mavis Eccleston, 80, was accused of killing her husband Dennis, 81, with a lethal dose of prescription medicine.

Prosecutors claimed that Mavis had done so without Dennis’ knowledge or permission.

But, according to the BBC, Mavis told jurors at the Stafford Crown Court that she and her husband had both intended to take their lives with the medication, and that they had decided to do so after Dennis’ diagnosis of terminal cancer.

The couple was found in their apartment by family members on Feb. 19, 2018, after they had taken the drugs. The couple was rushed to the hospital and given an antidote to the medication. Mavis survived; Dennis did not.

After the hearing, Joy Munns, a daughter of Dennis and Mavis, called for the legalization of assisted suicide “so that dying people aren’t forced to suffer, make plans in secret or ask loved ones to risk prosecution by helping them,” the BBC reported.

Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal under U.K. law. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, euthanasia could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while physician-assisted suicide carries with it a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

In 2015 the U.K. parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis, by a vote of 330 to 118.

The U.K.’s Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court in 2017 by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

Some disability groups in the U.K. and throughout the world have argued against legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying that such legislation would put vulnerable populations such as the elderly, physically disabled and mentally ill at risk for coercion.

The Catholic Church teaches that assisted suicide and euthanasia are a violation of the dignity of all human life, and therefore morally impermissible.

“Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded,” it adds.

The Catechism similarly states that suicide or the cooperation in suicide is morally unacceptable, though it notes that: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

In the recent U.K. hearing, Mavis told jurors that her husband wanted to end his life after receiving a terminal diagnosis of bowel cancer. He had stopped treatment except for pain management medication, and he had reportedly talked about going to Switzerland to take advantage of legal assisted suicide in the country.

The couple decided to end their lives together with a lethal dose of medication, and reportedly wrote a note to their family explaining their decision.

According to the BBC, Mavis said she handed the medicine to her husband before taking it herself, and that Dennis “knew full well” what he was doing as he gave himself the medicine.

Mavis said after she took the medicine herself, she kissed her husband and covered him before lying down, and remembers nothing else until she woke up in the hospital.

One of the couple’s children said outside of the courthouse that while they were “grateful and relieved” for the court’s ruling of not guilty, they said that if there “had been an assisted dying law here in the UK our dad would have been able to have the choice to end his suffering, with medical support, and with his loved ones around him.”

The case is similar to a 2017 case in which an English chemist was cleared after administering lethal drugs to his 85-year-old father, who had reportedly wanted to die. A judge at the time ruled that the chemist’s actions “were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”
 

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Spanish bishops on migrants: ‘We don’t love God if we don’t love our brothers’

September 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Madrid, Spain, Sep 19, 2019 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- The head of the migration commission for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference emphasized that love of neighbor is essential for Christians, and this includes a care for migrants and refugees.

“We don’t love God if we don’t love our brothers,” stressed Bishop Luis Quinteiro of Tuy-Vigo in a presentation on the bishops’ preparations for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Observed in the Church since 1914 as an opportunity for prayer and awareness, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held Sept. 29. Pope Francis has chosen as this year’s theme, “It’s not just about migrants.”

Normally observed in January, the day will instead by marked on the last Sunday of September this year.

Quinteiro called migration “a decisive issue” and said he hopes that this World Day of Migrants and Refugees will help remind people that foreigners are “not a danger, but help to enrich us.”

In a message, the Spanish bishops called for the most vulnerable to be protected and for human rights of migrants to be respected regardless of their legal status.

They also called for the closure of detention centers where migrants who cross the border illegally are held. The detention centers have drawn significant criticism for poor living conditions.

“It’s not just about migrants, it’s about humanity,” said Fr. José Luis Pinilla, secretary general of the Spanish Conference of Religious.

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Padre Pio overcame suffering with hope, says Italian journalist

September 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Foggia, Italy, Sep 19, 2019 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- More than 50 years after the death of Padre Pio, one of the last journalists to interview the saint has reflected on the saint’s hope and suffering.

Renzo Allegri, the author of the biography “Man of Hope,” visited the Italian saint a year before he died in 1968. He said Pio’s suffering was difficult to witness, but the experience emphasized the saint’s silent strength.

“It was hard for me to watch him walking in the sacristy or the corridors of the monastery, bent over, dragging his swollen feet, and holding on to the walls so that he would not fall down,” wrote Allegri.

“His suffering was tremendous, but he bore it without complaining as he continued to give himself to those who needed him. When he would lift his head and look around, his big eyes looked like they were burning, not from pain but from a goodness that he could not contain.”

Allegri said that during his stay at San Giovanni Rotondo in 1967, he was able to speak with Pio twice. He said he witnessed an “extraordinary moral strength that emanated from [Pio’s] whole being.”

Following the saint’s death, Allegri wrote a long newspaper piece on Pio’s life and works. During his research, the journalist was given thousands of unpublished documents regarding the saint’s hardships.

“I discovered something about Padre Pio that few people knew: he had endured incredibly enormous suffering throughout his life, consisting of more persecution, humiliation, accusations, slanders, trials, and condemnations than one can imagine,” he said.

He said many people will focus on Pio’s intense life of penance and characterize him as a dark and medieval. However, he said the saint is better labeled as “a man of hope.”

“Throughout his life, in the midst of the most difficult trials, he always looked to the future with a spirit of optimism, faith, and love,” said Allegri.

The saint was born in 1887 to farmers Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio. During his childhood, Pio was known for his zealous spirituality, and, when he was 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone.

World War I broke out in 1914 and Pio was drafted into the 10th Company of the Italian Medical Corps. He was released shortly thereafter due to medical reasons. In 1916, he moved to the Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Many miracles and extraordinary sufferings have been attributed to Pio’s life. Beside experiencing bilocation and levitation, he also had the stigmata – a miraculous exhibition of the wounds of Christ – and underwent physical attacks from the devil.

In his recent reflection, Allegri pointed to the words of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, archbishop emeritus of Genoa, who highlighted Christ’s redemptive suffering as essential to the faith. In times when this is misunderstood, Siri said God will send men like Padre Pio.

“With the stigmata which he bore throughout his life and with the other physical and moral sufferings he endured, Padre Pio calls our attention to the body of Christ as a means of salvation,” Siri told Allegri in an interview for “Man with Hope.”

“In our time the temptation to forget about the reality of the body of Christ is enormous. And God has sent us this man with the task of calling us back to the truth.”

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‘Secret preacher’ of Dachau concentration camp beatified

September 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Limburg, Germany, Sep 19, 2019 / 12:06 pm (CNA).- The ‘secret preacher of block 17’ who witnessed to Christ in a Nazi concentration camp was beatified this week in Limburg, Germany.

Blessed Father Richard Henkes was a German Pallottine priest denounced by the Nazis for his outspoken preaching. He died in Dachau concentration camp in 1945 while caring for prisoners sick with typhus.

“The real reformers of the Church are the blessed and the saints,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch at Henkes’ beatification on Sept. 19. “For we can only achieve the utmost externally, in structural terms, when we are also prepared to strive to achieve our utmost internally, in faith.”

“Love is not without sacrifice,” Koch said. “The Christian martyrdom is only real if it is realized as the supreme act of love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters.”

From the pulpit and the classroom, Fr. Henkes spoke out against the Nazi ideology and condemned the regime’s crimes against human dignity, focusing one homily on their killing of the disabled. Henkes was first denounced in 1937 for one of his homilies, for which he had to stand trial.

In the following years of World War II, Henkes was interrogated and threatened by the Gestapo again and again as he continued to work as a youth chaplain and retreat master.

“In the face of this neo-pagan ideology, Father Henkes surmised that wherever God is reduced to insignificance and pushed out of the public eye, man is also reduced to insignificance,” Koch said.

“Only when God is exalted through us human beings, when we do what Mary did in the Magnificat – Magnificat anima mea: Let God be exalted through my soul – wherever that takes place, there man is not reduced to insignificance, but is given a share in the greatness of God’s love,” the cardinal said.

Fr. Henkes was finally arrested by the Gestapo in May 1943 because of the content of one of his homilies in Branitz. He was then imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp, where he lived in the priests’ barracks, did compulsory labor, and secretly studied Czech with the future archbishop of Prague, Servant of God Cardinal Josef Beran.

Henkes had begun studying the Czech language before his imprisonment, and said that he hoped to continue serving the Czech people as a priest after the war. He secretly preached in block 17 of Dachau, where there were many Czech people.

In late 1944, a typhus epidemic overtook block 17. Fr. Henkes volunteered to be locked up with the sick prisoners, so that he could continue to minister to them and care for the dying.

He described the situation in Dachau in a letter smuggled out of the camp through a middleman: “People are dying in masses because they are completely starving. There are only skeletons. A gruesome picture. I have been vaccinated against typhus fever and I hope that the Lord God protects me … However, one thinks of how this will end up here. We can do nothing, we can only rely on the Lord God.”

After eight weeks in the quarantined barracks, Fr. Henkes became infected with typhus. He died within a week, on Feb. 22, 1945. Allied forces liberated Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Catholics in the Czech Republic began calling for Henkes’ cause for sainthood to be opened.

Last Sunday, Henkes joined the ranks of the saints and beatified priests and religious who died witnessing to Christ amid the inhumanity and horror of the Nazi concentration camps. This includes not only St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who both were killed in Auschwitz, but also Henkes’ fellow prisoners in the priest barracks of Dachau, several of whom have already been beatified.

More than 2,500 Catholic priests and seminarians were imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime, of which 1,034 died in the camp.

Blessed Michal Kozal — a Polish bishop killed by lethal injection in Dachau in 1943 — was beatified by St. John Paul II in Warsaw in 1987.

Blessed Karl Leisner was secretly ordained a priest while imprisoned in Dachau in 1944 by a French bishop also held within the concentration camp. (Bishop Gabriel Piguet was able to obtain clandestine authorization from Leisner’s bishop before the ordination.) Leisner died of tuberculosis shortly after celebrating his first Mass.

Fr. Leisner was beatified, along with Fr. Provost Lichtenberg, by St. John Paul II during his visit to Berlin in 1996.

Blessed Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig, who also died in Dachau while caring for sick prisoners infected with typhus in 1945, was beatified in Germany in 2016. Fr. Unzeitig wrote in a letter from the concentration camp: “God’s almighty grace helps us overcome obstacles … love doubles our strength, makes us inventive, makes us feel content and inwardly free. If people would only realize what God has in store for those who love him!”

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Dutch doctor cleared in case of euthanasia without final consent

September 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

The Hague, The Netherlands, Sep 11, 2019 / 04:29 pm (CNA).- A Netherlands court acquitted a doctor involved in a controversial euthanasia case who had been accused of breaching the consent requirements for ending a woman’s life.

A district court in The Hague issued a decision on Wednesday. Judge Mariette Renckens said the now-retired doctor – whose name was not given – did not need a final consent for the euthanasia of a 74-year-old woman because of the severity of the patient’s dementia. The doctor instead relied upon a desire for euthanasia expressed four years earlier.

“We conclude that all requirements of the euthanasia legislation had been met. Therefore the suspect is acquitted of all charges,” said Renckens, who presided over the case.

“We believe that given the deeply demented condition of the patient the doctor did not need to verify her wish for euthanasia,” she said, according to the Guardian.

Euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands in 2002, The procedure is available for terminally ill patients who experience unbearable suffering and face no foreseeable improvement. Under the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act, patients are required to give consent in writing and persistently over time.

The patient in question suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was euthanized in 2016. When she was diagnosed with the disease four years prior, she requested the procedure occur at a time she deemed appropriate and before she was placed in a nursing home.

“I want to be able to decide (when to die) while still in my senses and when I think the time is right,” she told the public broadcaster NOS, according to Courthouse News.

Before the patient was moved to a nursing home, the Dutch doctor initiated the euthanasia process. The doctor confirmed her decision with two other medical professionals.

On the day of the patient’s euthanasia, the doctor gave her a sedative to put her to sleep. However, the patient woke up, and her daughter and husband had to restrain her while the procedure was completed.

Prosecutors said the doctor violated the Netherlands’ law by not ensuring the consent of the patient, who might have changed her mind, the BBC reported. They said that a more in-depth discussion should have taken place.

“A crucial question to this case is how long a doctor should continue consulting a patient with dementia, if the patient in an earlier stage already requested euthanasia,” said Sanna van der Harg, a spokeswoman for the prosecution.

According to the BBC, the court said it was impossible to further identify the patient’s consent, since the elderly patient no longer understood the definition of “euthanasia.” The court ruled that a decision made during a time of sound judgment is valid even after the patient loses their mental capacities.

Religious freedom and pro-life advocates decried the court’s decision and emphasized that legal euthanasia has dangerous consequences for society, the National Catholic Register reported.

“With regulators and euthanasia campaigners closely intermingled, this case shines a spotlight on the weakness of safeguards and review procedures, as well as, frighteningly, on the whole culture around attitudes to end-of-life care in the Netherlands,” said Gordon Macdonald, CEO of Care Not Killing.

“The case in the Netherlands exposes the threat that legalizing euthanasia poses to individuals and the society as a whole,” said Andreas Thonhauser, spokesman for Alliance Defending Freedom International. “Once a country allows euthanasia, as in the Netherlands, there is no logical stopping point.”

 

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Bishop warns of the ‘desolate panorama’ of Spain’s birthrate

September 10, 2019 CNA Daily News 3

San Sebastian, Spain, Sep 10, 2019 / 03:26 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of San Sebastián wrote Sunday of the problems facing Spain as its birthrate is well below replacement level, and called on society to consider the implications of this situation.

Bishop José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre wrote Sept. 8 in El Diario Vasco, a San Sebastián daily.

He referred to the data published in June by Spain’s National Institute for Statistics, which he said show a “desolate panorama in terms of the birthrate.”

According to the article “fertility stands at 1.25 children, and births have fallen 6% compared to the previous year. We have accumulated a decrease of 30% in the last decade; if we had not benefited from the birthrate of immigrants, this decrease in Spain would have reached 44%.”

And so, in Spain “more people are dying than are being born, and while the over-65 population exceeds 9 million people, those under 15 are not more than 7 million,” data which “is further aggravated if we refer to the Basque Country.”

Munilla explained that “it seems we’re getting used to periodically hearing this kind of data without sufficiently taking into account what it implies.”

He therefore said that the publication of these figures raises the logical concern “for the sustainability of the pension system.”

He also said that there are those who “exhibit a certain fear for the future of our civilization since the migratory flow is accelerating because of the demographic dearth.”

The bishop did note that there are a few voices who bring up the need for “implementing measures to foster the birthrate, such as balancing one’s work and personal life, the fight against speculation in the price of housing, direct incentives, etc.”

The Bishop of San Sebastián also explained that “we’re not facing a new phenomenon in the history of humanity,” since this “crisis in the birthrate has accompanied almost all cultural declines.”

He noted for example the testimony of Polybius, a Greek historian of the second century BC, who wrote: “The peoples of this country have yielded to vanity and attachment to material goods; they have become fond of the easy life and don’t want to get married or, if they do get married, they refuse to keep the newborns with them, or only raise one or two at the most, in order to provide them with the best kind of life and later leave them a considerable fortune.”

Munilla noted that Polybius’ Histories ends with the conquest of “decadent Greece” by the Roman Republic, and that “centuries later the decline of the Roman Empire arrives, again accompanied by a profound crisis in the birthrate.”

Given this situation, the Bishop of San Sebastián said that “it would be very sad if our concern for the demographic crisis were limited to the fear of the weakening our pensions or the fear of the arrival of foreigners.”

He said that “likewise it would be very naive to suppose that government is going to be able to reverse this trend with the mere passage of incentives to give birth, however necessary they may be.”

In fact, he underscored that the “wealthiest social classes” do not have a higher than average fertility rate, while “the immigrants in Spain have a much greater number of children than the natives, even though their economic level is lower and their  objective difficulties to balance work and personal life are greater.”

Consequently “our birthrate crisis is one of the most obvious signs of the crisis of values the West is suffering,” the bishop explained.

“In the context of a society in which quality of life is identified with mere well-being, the challenge of motherhood and fatherhood is perceived as too demanding … it’s undeniable that the education of children demands a full and unconditional commitment, I would dare to say heroic, which is not easily compatible with the culture of the weekend, the digital invasion, compulsive consumerism, widespread disordered lives, the existential crisis.”

 “Certainly motherhood and fatherhood require ‘giving your life’ in the broadest sense of the term” since “the demographic crisis hides a crisis of hope,”  Munilla noted.

 “To address the question it’s important for us to understand that the low birthrate not only compromises the future of a culture but affects to a great extent its present,” since “the dearth of children in our families and in our society impoverishes much more than we suppose.”

The bishop emphasized that “on not a few occasions we have found that only the innocence of children is capable of jolting us out of our comfort zone, of our becoming bourgeois, leading us to give the best of ourselves until we reach the height of maturity, which often coincides with self-forgetfulness” and so he stressed that “our culture urgently needs children because there are few things so false as joy without innocence.”

Munilla also recalled that it is important not “to deprive children of the experience of having brothers and sisters” since its deficit “translates in education, in the notable difficulty in socialization, besides the tendency to developt a narcissistic wound.”

“If the filial experience helps us to become conscious of our dignity, that we are unique and irrepeatable, the experience of fraternity teaches us to be one among all; something absolutely necessary,” he reflected.

He explained that “fatherhood and motherhood require ‘giving your life.’ But life is something that is greater than us. It’s a ‘miracle’ that we have received gratis and we are called to transmit it generously” and that is why “we believers do not usually speak of reproduction but of procreation” and that “the parents cooperate with God the creator to give life to the world.”

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