No Picture
News Briefs

New York uses budget bill to legalize commercial surrogacy during coronavirus

April 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Apr 3, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The state of New York legalized commercial surrogacy as part of a budget bill passed on April 3. The law was condemned by the state Catholic conference. There are now just three states where commercial surrogacy is not legal. 

“The action by the legislature and governor to legalize monetary contracts for surrogate motherhood stands in stark contrast to most other democratic nations across the globe,” Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference said in a statement Friday.

“[Other countries] have outlawed the practice because of the exploitation of women and commodification of children that inevitably results from the profit-driven surrogacy industry,” she said.

The New York State Catholic Conference represents the bishops of New York state in matters related to public policy. 

Gallagher criticized the inclusion of legal commercial surrogacy in a budget bill during the COVID-19 pandemic. New York has more cases of coronavirus than any other U.S. state, and has seen nearly 3,000 people die from the disease. 

“We simply do not believe that such a critical legal and moral decision for our state should have been made behind the closed doors of a Capitol shut off to the public,” she said. “The new law is bad for women and children, and the process is terrible for democracy.” 

In January, Gallagher was critical of the bill, calling it “a dangerous policy that will lead to the exploitation of poor, vulnerable women, and has few safeguards for children.” There are no safeguards such as residency requirements and background checks for surrogate parents, the conference points out.

“The surrogacy legislation is designed mainly to benefit wealthy men who can afford tens of thousands of dollars to pay baby brokers, at the expense of low-income women,” said Gallagher in a January 8 statement. 

Previously, New York was one of four states that prohibited contracts that would pay surrogate mothers to carry and deliver an unrelated child that would be then placed with a different family. 

Louisiana, Michigan, and Nebraska are the only states that now do not allow commercial surrogacy.

Gestational surrogacy typically uses a “donor” egg, rather than the surrogate’s ovum, to avoid legal complications if the surrogate were to decide she no longer wants to surrender the child to the “intended parents.” 

The donor egg is then fertilized and implanted in the surrogate using in-vitro fertilization (IVF). 

Regarding the practice of IVF, the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2376 teaches that:

“Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ ‘right to become a father and a mother only through each other.’”

Previously, all surrogacy in New York was known as “altruistic” surrogacy as the surrogate mother could not be paid for carrying the child. 

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), said that the passage of commercial surrogacy was a move to “bring New York in line with the needs of modern families, while simultaneously enacting the strongest protections in the nation for surrogates.” 

Under the new law, those wishing to use a surrogate must pay for her life insurance during the pregnancy and for one year after giving birth, and the “intended parents” must pay for legal counsel for the surrogate mother. Surrogates must be at least 21 years of age. 

Paulin has worked on legalizing commercial surrogacy for 14 years, and first introduced legislation to legalize the practice in 2012. 

She said her bill would provide “the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents.” 

Surrogacy costs range from $55,000 to nearly a quarter of a million dollars. 

In addition to the legalization of commercial surrogacy, the budget bill also banned plastic foam containers and flavored vaping products, instituted new paid sick leave requirements, expanded wage mandates, and introduced new policies that make it more difficult for third parties to qualify for ballots. 

The legalization of commercial surrogacy goes into effect on February 15, 2021.


No Picture
News Briefs

Jesus, livestreamed: Priests, bishops to offer 40 Hours Devotion via Facebook Live 

April 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Apr 3, 2020 / 04:33 am (CNA).- When the plague struck the Italian city of Milan and the surrounding area in the 1570s, St. Charles Borromeo, then a cardinal, became well-known for his efforts to remind people of their faith in a time of sickness and death.

According to multiple accounts, St. Borromeo would process the streets of his diocese barefooted, carrying a cross, as an act of penance. He also visited the sick with a relic of one of the nails of the Cross, and promoted the practice of 40 Hours Devotion, in which people take turns praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament for 40 straight hours.

“St. Charles Borromeo actually is one of the (clerics) who is often associated with the 40 hour devotion during the plague,” Fr. Jonathan Meyer, a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in Indiana, told CNA.

The history of this devotion is part of the reason Meyer and a group of priests and laypeople in the U.S. are hosting a Virtual 40 Hours Devotion streamed on Facebook starting this Friday, just before the start of Holy Week.

The devotion comes at a time when much of the world is experiencing another pandemic, and when most public Masses and other services are closed to slow its spread.

The number of hours of devotion comes “from the 40 hours from our Lord being in the tomb from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning,” Meyer explained.

“So there’s 40 hours of darkness, of very few people believing. And we’re at a period of darkness in the Church,” he said. The number 40 frequently signifies a time of darkness in the bible – the 40 days of Jesus in the desert being tempted, the 40 years of the Jewish people wandering in the wilderness, the 40 days of rain Noah experienced on the ark.

“But at the end of all of those, the story of hope.” Meyer said. “And so (we) gather around our Lord for 40 pray and petition and to be a people of hope. Our Lord is in the Blessed Sacrament, he is our hope. And so, God willing, our ability to gather with him and spend time with him as a Church will bring people hope.”

The idea, Meyer said, originated on a Facebook group of priests who were sharing best practices of how to bring Christ to people during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Once Meyer and a former classmate of his, Fr. Thomas Szydlik, came up with the idea, they sent out emails to other priests and bishops, asking them to sign up and take an hour, during which they would livestream a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in their respective churches, during which they can preach or pray the rosary or offer other prayers.

Meyer said he’s been struck by the eager response of so many priests.

“I think it just shows a lot about the generosity of our priests,” Meyer said, “and how they want terribly for our people to gather around our Lord, and to pray in prayers of petition, prayers of reparation for what’s happening right now in our world.”

Each hour will be posted to the Facebook page, Virtual 40 Hours. Meyer will kick off the Virtual 40 Hours with a live-streamed Mass starting at 6 p.m. Central on Friday, April 3.

Joan Watson, who works as the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Nashville, was recruited by Szydlik and Meyer, friends of hers, to help with the project. Watson helped establish the Facebook page and to recruit more priests and bishops to take hours.

Each priest will be streaming their hour on the 40 Hours Facebook page, Watson said, so “people don’t need to leave that page, which is going to be really nice. There’s no need to jump around. It’ll all happen on that page.”

The devotion has even gone international.

“We have a group from the Notre Dame Newman Center in Dublin that’s going to be doing some Taizé worship music. So I’m really excited for that,” Watson said. “Each hour might look a little different depending on the spirituality of the priest.”

Watson said she hopes the 40 Hours is a time for Catholics to unite as a Church in prayer and focus on the prayers they can offer and the graces they can receive during this time.

“I think rather than kind of dwelling on what we don’t have, this gives us an opportunity to unite our hearts…and really unite that yearning for the Blessed Sacrament, and turn that itself into a prayer,” she said.

“I think there’s so much grace there. And learning how to pray as a Church – I think that’s one thing that maybe this time has given us an extra grace not to be divisive and not to find ourselves picking fights where there shouldn’t be fights, but rather really uniting with our Church and uniting across the country as a Catholic Church. I think it’s really beautiful to see what’s coming out of all this.”

Kate Johnson, the sister of Fr. Szydlik, was recruited to help with Virtual 40 Hours as one of the page “watch dogs”, who will be taking turns moderating the Facebook page to make sure the Blessed Sacrament is being respected and the livestreams are running smoothly. 

Johnson said she is grateful for the idea to do the Virtual 40 Hours because it focuses on what Catholics can do at this time even while public Masses and services are closed.

“There’s so much you can do. And this is something that you can do…to help people that are hurting in one way or another, but also to beg the Lord’s mercy and grace upon our nation and upon the world” she said.

Johnson, who lives in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said she has been grateful to be able to attend adoration in her church with her mother, but that she misses receiving the Eucharist at Mass.

She encouraged Catholics who feel that same hunger for the Eucharist to participate in the Virtual 40 Hours.

“This is something you can do. It’s easy. You can get dressed up. You can come in your pajamas. If you’re an insomniac, you can do this in the middle of the night,” she said.

“It’s an opportunity to hear some fantastic preaching…it’s an opportunity to experience the bigness of the Church, because this is a very old devotion, so we’re going back in time but we’re also spreading it out around the world. So, it’s an opportunity to pray with others who are as hungry and sad as we are, as I am.”

There are at least four bishops who will be offering an hour of adoration in the Virtual 40 Hours, including Bishop Edward Rice of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico.

Wall told CNA that he will take the 8:00 a.m. Central hour on Sunday, and that he plans to preach for about half the time and have silent adoration for the rest of the time.

“I’m going to preach on the Eucharist, and I’m going to preach on sacrifice, and the sacrifices that many people are invited to make right now, and how sacrifice is related to our baptismal call,” he said. “Because when we’re baptized, we’re made priest, prophet, and king. What does a priest do? A priest offers sacrifice. Obviously this is different from ordained priesthood, but we’re all called to offer sacrifice.”

As a bishop during this time of pandemic, Wall said it has been a sacrifice for him to offer Mass without an assembly, and that not only as a bishop but also as an extrovert, he’s really missed interacting with his people.

“It’s a little difficult, but again, it’s a sacrifice, and if we receive the sacrifice well, if we unite it to the sacrifice of Christ and the cross, we know that Christ will bring glory out of it. So I think the word that’s been just coming up to me over and over and over is ‘sacrifice’ and how we can imitate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross,” he said.

Wall said when he was invited to join the Virtual 40 Hours by a friend, he was “really excited and grateful that they called me and asked me to participate in this endeavor. I’ve been thinking of ways that we could bring our Lord to people and I think this is a great way. We have to be creative, and I think this is one of the ways we’re being creative.”

He encouraged Catholics to not let the opportunity for spending some time with the Lord, even virtually and during a pandemic, to pass them by.

“Think about in the scriptures where Jesus is passing by and the cripple cries out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ And what a courageous thing he did by calling out to the Lord, not letting him pass by,” Wall said.

“I think we, as we’re at home too…(let’s) not let this pass by. (Let’s) see Jesus and cry out to him, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ And we can do that from our homes as we watch our Lord and adore our Lord, virtually adore our Lord, in the Eucharist.”



No Picture
News Briefs

What does a traveling evangelist do during the coronavirus lockdown?

April 2, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

Denver, Colo., Apr 2, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- What does a traveling evangelist do when a global pandemic keeps him at home? He goes online!

One Catholic evangelist said that lessons he’s learning about online evangelization during the coronavirus pandemic could make some Catholic ministries far more effective than they once were.

Chris Stefanick, who hosts EWTN’s “Real Life Catholic,” also travels the country, speaking to more than 80,000 people each year. His travels are the way he spreads the Word of God, and the way he makes a living.

Stefanick told CNA that preaching during the pandemic has meant a slew of personal and practical challenges. But he said those challenges could compel the Church to develop and refine effective use of technology for evangelization.

“This is not a time for the Church to slow down its ministry. It’s time to aggressively pivot and quickly pivot. This hasn’t changed what we do at that core,” Stefanick said.

In the past, even the recent past, Stefanick said, his evangelization work has focused mostly on events at which he speaks about how the Gospel, and the Church, have transformed his life and the lives of others.

His ministry has “able to leverage my gift for speaking with 40 parishes a year and that makes an impact,” he said.

But those events, however effective they are, have impact limited by attendance.

“Taking that same thing and doing it digitally,” Stefanick explained, broadens the reach of his ministry.

“If this succeeds, we can work with hundreds and hundreds of parishes. Whereas the events were limited by how many places I can get to.”

The pandemic will “make us more effective because this will strengthen the whole digital component of our ministry. So instead of being 75% about events, 25% digital, now it’s 100% digital. By the time we are out of this, we [will] strengthen that component,” he said.

Stefanick pointed to “I AM,” a virtual coaching program that was released by his ministry, Real Life Catholic, on Ash Wednesday. He said the initiative aims to help users replace negative self-thoughts with positive reflections on the Word of God. Drawing from struggles in his own life, he said, “I AM” is a program that is relevant to everyone, even non-Catholics.

“We have a 30-day coaching program and it’s [one] of the most effective ministr[ies] we’ve ever done, based on the responses of people [and] how it’s hitting their hearts. It’s a program about helping people rewire how they talk to themselves and replace self-talk with the uplifting Word of God,” he said.

“I’ve been with the Lord for a long time and I wrote some of this out of personal experience of the things that I struggle with negative self-talk.”

The coronavirus lockdown has changed Stefanick’s daily work schedule and brought about some own personal concerns, including worries about finances and the fragility of society. He said, though, it is also a blessing to spend so much time with family. 

“I can perceive the good for me in that I haven’t been home this much in 10 years and it’s the Sabbath that’s made me relook at life. We’ll never get this chance again. God willing. We will never get the chance again to pause on so many of our activities,” he said.

“So it led to a lot of reflection, self-correction, repentance, prayer, silence and family time. Doing things like taking walks with kids, things I never did before that I regret not having done. Very simple things that you lose track of when life is going 300 miles an hour.”

Stefanick said the pandemic is also an opportunity to trust in the Lord.

“It also forces a real look, not theoretical, but a very real [look] at life and death,” he said. “We’re delusional in the Western world. We forget … how fragile the whole system is that insulates us from our need, from death, from everything,” Stefanick said.

“I found myself in moments of fear when going to the grocery store and seeing everything [going] totally nuts, “ he said. “[It’s ] forced me to come back to, ‘Lord, you are really my provider and whatever happens to me, your only motive is love.’ And that’s where my peace comes from. Not [from] having enough to pay bills and enough stuff out there to get what I need.”

Stefanick said the pandemic requires a different kind of courage than many people might have expected, adding that members of the Church are all called to a sort of monastic lifestyle at the moment. He said it would be potentially hazardous for people to break the quarantine, and should focus on an important work of mercy – prayer.

He pointed to a challenge from Pope Francis, who has offered a plenary indulgence to people suffering from COVID-19 and their caretakers, including healthcare workers, along with their benefactors in prayer.

The pandemic will lead to more death in the upcoming weeks and those in the hospitals need to know that prayers are being offered for them, Stefanick said..

“What’s being asked of us during this time is withdrawal, silence, and the life of a Carthusian monk …  not the life of an evangelist missionary. So that’s a different kind of heroism and it’s no less difficult. Frankly. I think it would be easier for me if I knew I could go out and help people and risk my life going to Mass,” he said.

“We really have to pray for the world right now … We should be praying a lot for people who are facing death. It’s going to be a lot of bad news in the month ahead. A lot of people are gonna lose their lives and they need prayers.”



No Picture
News Briefs

Texas AG: Planned Parenthood not singled out by coronavirus order

April 2, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has disputed Planned Parenthood’s claim that the state targeted abortion clinics in an order prohibiting non-essential medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Interview an interview that will air Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Paxton said that the abortion provider was itself demanding special treatment in a legal challenge to the executive issued last month by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbott issued the executive order (GA 09) on March 22, halting non-essential surgeries and medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic, in order to free up resources and medical personnel to treat COVID patients.

Abbott clarified that the order would apply to “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

“What they are actually asking to be singled out,” Paxton said Thursday. “[They want] to be treated better than everybody else during this crisis, so they could be doing elective abortions, when those resources could otherwise be used to save somebody’s life.” 

Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups filed litigation over the executive order, claiming Abbott singled out the procedure. A federal district court initially blocked the order, but the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on that ruling March 31, permitting Abbott’s order to go into effect.

In a statement Tuesday, Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called Abbott’s order “heartless,” adding, “No other form of health care is being targeted this way — only abortion.”

During the interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Paxton argued that the Texas order does not single out abortion clinics, but is “a ban on elective procedures which also includes abortion.”

“It includes orthopedic surgeries, it includes dental procedures, it includes dermatological procedures, it includes all kinds of elective procedures, they are not being singled out, they are just being treated like everybody else,” Paxton said.

Paxton argued that any type of nonessential medical procedure “had to be stopped” in an effort to conserve personal protective equipment for health care professionals battling the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We’re trying to conserve those because there’s a shortage of them, and conserve resources like hospital beds, and even the focus of doctors’ time,” Paxton said.

Paxton argued that through its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood is asking for special treatment.

“We didn’t want anybody treated any differently but apparently Planned Parenthood and the abortion providers felt like they should be given an exception to how other people and how other providers are being treated,” he said.

The order, Paxton said, “applies to everyone.”

The full interview with Paxton will air Thursday at 10:00 PM EST on EWTN.


Texas Attorney General @KenPaxtonTX explains how Governor Greg Abbot’s order was designed to conserve medical supplies during the #coronavirus pandemic. He also discusses the ongoing legal battle with @PPact.
Watch the full interview tonight. #prolife

— EWTN Pro-Life Weekly (@EWTNProLife) April 2, 2020



Kate Scanlon is a producer for EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.


No Picture
News Briefs

Spatula baseball: L’Arche ‘leans into creativity’ during lockdown

April 2, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- While sports around the country have seen their seasons suspended due to COVID-19, spatula baseball season is in full swing at one of the L’Arche community houses in Washington, D.C.

Faced with quarantines and stay-at-home orders, the four houses of L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. (GWDC) were forced to adjust to a whole host of changes to keep the members of the community safe. 

But, according to Luke Smith, executive director and community leader of L’Arche Greater Washington, the changes have meant that the L’Arche homes are doing what they do best: embracing creativity. 

“We’re very creative as a community,” Smith said, noting that there are many artists within the organization. “We’re intentional communities, so we’re intentional about how we share our gifts–and we’re full of gifts–and so, and we’ve taken time to kind of lean into our creative energies.” 

L’Arche GWDC is part of L’Arche International, “a worldwide federation of people, with and without intellectual disabilities, working together for a world where all belong.” L’Arche communities consist of “core members,” who have intellectual disabilities, and “assistants,” who generally do not have intellectual disabilities, and who live in community with core members. There are 14 “core members” in the Washington area.
Part of L’Arche’s “leaning in” to creativity involves devising new ways to pass the time. One home is having community members give “TED Talks” each night about topics they are interested in, and residents at another home invented “spatula baseball”–a game that has proven to be quite popular. 

Unlike traditional baseball, which uses a bat and a ball, “spatula baseball” is designed to be played indoors–Smith said it is typically played in the kitchen and living room–and uses a spatula in place of the bat and a paper ball instead of a baseball. Once batters hit the ball, they proceed to walk around the bases. 

Smith said that while community members are flexing their creative muscles at this time, others have tried to stick to a routine, even though they can no longer attend day programs or go to work due to the coronavirus. 

“People are still getting up to have breakfast as they would do normally, still getting dressed to go to work,” he said. “Charles, who’s a member of the community, is still wearing a tie every day, as he would do normally.” 

The core members understand why they cannot go to their jobs or programs and, Smith said, they have learned on the news about the coronavirus and why it is important to practice social distancing and handwashing. Being part of an international federation means that L’Arche GWDC can see how the homes abroad were dealing with the virus.

“We know that other members in other communities are experiencing this too,” he said. “So that reality of ‘we are doing this together, not just as a national population of people here in the U.S., but also as people of L’Arche across the world,’ has helped to set the tone.”

Even though Washington and Virginia are both under some variation of stay-at-home directives, the world of L’Arche’s community continues, albeit with modifications, said Smith. This Tuesday’s prayer service, which is normally held in-person, will instead be done via Zoom. 

He added that there has been an “unintended benefit” of a new reliance on technology–being able to reconnect with past community members. 

“Technology is a wonderful way of ensuring that we remain an intentional community, where we continue those mutual relationships or we are able to flourish–even in the midst of this,” said Smith.

Smith said that other measures, such as new screening procedures and temperature checks for any guests to the homes, as well as changes to who is permitted to go grocery shopping and when, are to ensure the health of the core members and assistants, many of whom are considered to be medically vulnerable. 

“People with intellectual disabilities are often the most impacted by this,” said Smith. “And we have people in our community who are no longer at work. They are people with intellectual disabilities who are no longer receiving a paycheck and they are no longer engaged in, what is being meaningful and is meaningful for them.” 

Smith also raised concerns about the potential quality of medical care that the core members would receive if they were to fall ill as extra motivation to introduce additional safety steps. He noted several states have been accused of issuing disaster preparedness plans that, should the situation arise, could prioritize giving care to people without intellectual disabilities if there were a shortage of ventilators. 

“I am particularly mindful of that, in light of some personal experiences in  my own community here in DC, where we’ve had issues in the past in terms of communicating the dignity of someone with their medical provider or the medical system,” said Smith. 

Smith praised the “great work” of the assistants of L’Arche GWDC, as they have made “sacrifices in limiting what they are doing, to make sure that our homes are safe and healthy and protected.”

An obstacle facing L’Arche GWDC is the cancelation of their fundraising breakfast, as well as the challenges they face in obtaining common household supplies, which typically sell out very quickly. Smith said the communities have a wish list where people could support them financially if they wish. 

As the DC-area concludes its third week of coronavirus-related restrictions, Smith told CNA that he has been careful to work to maintain a strong sense of community and cooperation within the homes. 

“One of the things that we practice every day at the L’Arche community is the reality of forgiveness and celebration are daily parts of our reality,” he said. 

“I’ve been sharing with the community that we need to be gentle with ourselves and gentle with others and that it’s okay to be frustrated with the coronavirus, but we don’t need to be frustrated with each other.” He said his community has “really leaned in” to this mentality.

“We’ve been able to lean into each other, and ask each other for support, and ask each other for space and time,” he added. 

Smith told CNA that he hopes the L’Arche community is able to be a sign of hope and community for not only each other, but also for other members of the greater DC area–particularly those who have been impacted in one way or another by the coronavirus. 

“We are praying with you,” said Smith. “We are thinking of ways we can support you. L’Arche wants to give, too; we as a community want to be supportive.”