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Pope Francis braves rain to visit homeless in St. Peter’s Square

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- On a rainy Friday in Rome, Pope Francis popped over to St. Peter’s Square to greet the poor and homeless receiving treatment at a mobile medical clinic this week.

A now-annual tradition leading up to the World Day of the Poor, the mobile clinic offers free visits with specialists to Rome's poor and homeless population.

During his brief “Mercy Friday” visit to the clinic Nov. 15, which took place around 4:40 p.m., Pope Francis also greeted and thanked the health care workers and doctors who donated their time to the clinic this week.

According to a Vatican press release Nov. 15, the health clinic has been seeing hundreds of patients each day, most of whom hear about it through word of mouth.

During his visit, Pope Francis was greeted with applause from the patients in the lobby and medical offices.

“The Holy Father spoke with everyone; a smile and a word of support for each,” the press release states.

He also said a short prayer during the encounter.

The services offered include general medicine, cardiology, infectious diseases, gynecology, obstetrics, podiatry, dermatology, rheumatology, and ophthalmology. A laboratory for clinical analysis is also present.

Afterward the pope stopped for a few minutes at a new location of the Apostolic charity office, located just outside St. Peter's Square on extra-territorial Vatican property.

Pope Francis established the annual World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016.

This year, the pope will celebrate the third World Day of the Poor with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 17, followed by a lunch at the Vatican with over 1,000 poor and homeless people invited as guests.

The theme is taken from Psalm 9: “The hope of the poor shall not perish forever.”

US House oversight committee hears testimony on abortion regulation

Washington D.C., Nov 15, 2019 / 03:53 pm (CNA).- Members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee heard testimony Thursday on abortion from a new mother, as well as a mother who aborted her child because of a fatal fetal diagnosis.

“I am here today as a mom, fighting for a future for her kids in which rights are not dependent on whether a person is wanted, but upon their humanity,” Allie Stuckey, a conservative Christian commentator, told members of the committee Nov. 14.

“With broken hearts, we knew that the greatest act of love that we could undertake as her parents would be to suffer ourselves instead to end the pregnancy, grant Libby peace, and spare her tiny, broken body a short life full of pain,” Jennifer Box, a mother of three who aborted one of her daughters, Libby, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, said.

Missouri’s abortion law, and the state’s last remaining abortion clinic, were in the spotlight at the hearing in the Democratic-controlled House on “State Efforts to Undermine Access to Reproductive Health Care.”

Ahead of the hearing, the committee said that states "have been taking draconian steps to restrict their residents’ access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion."

The committee heard the testimony of five witnesses, four of whom are supportive of abortion rights.

Both Box and Dr. Colleen McNicholas, OB/GYN, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, spoke to state laws or policies that they said were designed to coerce all abortion clinics in the state into closing.

Missouri enacted a law earlier this year that criminalized abortions after eight weeks gestation, and banned abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or diagnosis of disability. If the eight-week ban were to be overturned in court, that would “trigger” other bans set up in the law at 14, 18, and 20 weeks.

Currently, Missouri has just one abortion clinic open, and that is solely because of a court order.

In June, the state’s health department refused to reissue a license for the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic after it submitted a “statement of deficiencies” to a court; the state cited an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” by the clinic in its investigation, along with “failure to meet basic standards of patient care” and lack of compliance with state safety regulations.

In one case, the state said, the clinic would not have been prepared to handle a case of “severe hemorrhaging” of a female patient that she later suffered at a hospital. The clinic also agreed to perform extra pelvic exams on women before refusing to do so, the state said.

The clinic did submit a “Plan of Correction” but it did not sufficiently address all the stated deficiencies, the health department said. The state’s Administration Hearing Commission conducted a hearing on the matter in October, and the clinic will remain open until a final decision is made.

McNicholas said on Thursday that the state “weaponized” the licensing process, and that officials “admitted under oath” that they targeted Planned Parenthood for extra scrutiny. Planned Parenthood did not want to perform the “extra” pelvic exam on patients that was unwarranted, she said.

In a later exchange with Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), McNicholas was questioned about efforts to fight against protecting babies who survive botched abortion attempts.

“There is no way to oversimplify the medical conditions” of second trimester abortions, she said, noting that the “Born-Alive” act which would require doctors to give standard medical treatment to babies surviving abortions makes such botched abortions seem like a “real thing.”

Stuckey testified in the minority.

Abortion advocates used to advertise “safe, legal, and rare” for the procedure, but now they champion abortion-on-demand through nine months of pregnancy, Stuckey said, despite evidence that doctors can feel a baby’s heartbeat at six weeks gestation, and that babies can feel pain at 20 weeks, and survive outside the womb as early as 21 weeks.

“In speaking of abortion, its defenders ignore the existence of the child entirely,” Stuckey said. “I am here as a woman who believes that female empowerment, equality and freedom are not defined by her ability to terminate the life of her child.”

“I’m here as a human being, horrified by the violence, the oppression and the marginalization of a defenseless people group based solely on where they reside, the womb,” Stuckey said.

Her testimony followed that of Box, who said she aborted her daughter because of a “fatal fetal diagnosis.”

In her testimony in February before a Missouri state house committee, Box said her daughter was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. She said she was first informed that he daughter was at “high risk” of the chromosome abnormality when she was 13 weeks pregnant, in a May op-ed for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the baby “would likely die within minutes or hours of birth,” if not before.

Most babies with Trisomy 18 die before birth, and only around ten percent survive the first year of life. Abortion rates are high for babies with fetal chromosomnal abnormalities such as Trisomy 18.

Fearing her daughter would have to endure a “life of immediate and repeated invasive medical intervention,” Box said she and her husband chose to procure an abortion.

However, she did not have insurance coverage for the abortion, Box said. According to the Guttmacher Institute, private insurance in Missouri only covers abortions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. A Catholic hospital which delivered her two other children refused to perform the abortion.

“My actual abortion procedure was the most compassionate care I have ever received from a. physician,” Box said. “Jake and I left that day knowing that we made the most loving and merciful choice for our daughter.”

In her op-ed in the Post-Dispatch, Box said she recently discovered she was pregnant but would not find out the results of pre-natal tests until she was 24 weeks pregnant. At the time, Missouri had just enacted several bans on abortions, including at 20 weeks post-gestation.

“When we got to the car I sobbed, ‘At 24 weeks it will be illegal in Missouri to have an abortion,’” Box wrote. “I don’t want to fly to Colorado to end this pregnancy if something goes wrong.”

“I speak for Libby,” she said on Thursday. “It is an honor to share her name with this committee and the country today. Libby Rose Box.”

“I have a rose tattoo above my heart so that she is with me every day. I am her mother, and she is my daughter and will always be my daughter. I made decisions from day one as her mother, and then made the most important decision of Libby’s life when together with my husband, we decided to terminate the pregnancy. It was a sacred, painful, personal decision.”

Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center, testified that “it’s not lost on me” that abortion is under its gravest threat “on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, when some women first gained the right to vote.”

Court rules Daleiden's undercover videos caused 'substantial harm' to Planned Parenthood

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 15, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- A pro-life organization said that “justice was not done,” after a federal court found that pro-life advocate David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress caused “substantial harm” to Planned Parenthood by secretly recording meetings with abortion doctors and staff to expose their business practices.

“Justice was not done today in San Francisco. While top Planned Parenthood witnesses spent six weeks testifying under oath that the undercover videos are true and Planned Parenthood sold fetal organs on a quid pro quo basis, a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks influencing the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressing the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment,” the Center for Medical Progress said Nov. 15

“This is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country, sending a message that speaking truth and facts to criticize the powerful is no longer protected by our institutions,” the group added.

The federal court in San Francisco has ordered Daleiden’s organization to pay Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages.

The decision was issued Nov. 15, after U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ordered the jury to find Daleiden guilty of trespass on several separate occasions in the course of his work.
 
“I have already determined that these defendants trespassed at each of these locations. Because I determined that these defendants trespassed, the law assumes that Planned Parenthood has been harmed and is entitled to an award of nominal damages such as one dollar for each trespass,” Orrick told the jury on Thursday, leaving jury members only with the determination of how much to award the abortion provider.
 
Daleiden’s lawyers argued that he was investigating violent felonies committed against children born alive in Planned Parenthood facilities. They had previously petitioned to have Orrick removed from the case, alleging bias on the part of the judge.
 
During the six-week trial, Orrick ruled that jurors could not take into account any information discovered by Daleiden in the course of his investigation which would retrospectively justify his actions, but only the information he possessed when he began his work in 2012.
 
Planned Parenthood's legal team told the court that Daleiden’s actions were “not to find crimes, and it was not about journalism. It was about using any means, including illegal means, to destroy Planned Parenthood.”
 
The jury found that Daleiden’s work showed the “requisite malice” needed to award punitive damages.
 
The suit concerns covert recordings made by Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who posed as representatives of an invented human tissue company called BioMax to meet with Planned Parenthood personnel. Beginning in 2015, the Center for Medical progress released a series of videos of the meetings which allegedly demonstrate the illegal sale of body parts and fetal tissue from aborted babies.

The released videos appeared to show various Planned Parenthood and StemExpress executives discussing, often callously, their methods for obtaining and selling fetal body parts. Daleiden alleged that Planned Parenthood was profiting from these sales, which is illegal under federal law.

Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., has said it abides by all relevant laws and has charged that the videos were deceptively edited. It faced a congressional investigation into the allegations related to the videos.

Soon after the Center for Medical Progress videos were released, Planned Parenthood’s lobbying arm, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, launched an emergency response campaign, with initial costs projected at $7 to $8 million in partnership with allies and funders such as the Open Society Foundations, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Democracy Alliance.
 
The Center for Medical Progress has faced several lawsuits seeking to halt the release of the videos. Legal charges against two of its members were dropped in Texas.
 
In April the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal seeking to dismiss a lawsuit against Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress on the grounds of First Amendment freedoms.

Ukrainian auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia retires at 75

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 15, 2019 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- The resignation of Bishop John Bura, an auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia, was accepted Nov. 15, five months after Bura turned 75.

The archeparchy is led by Archbishop Borys Gudziak, with the assistance of Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy. It also has two archbishops emeritus.

Bura was born in Germany in 1944, and was ordained a priest of the Philadelphia archeparchy in 1971. He was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of the archeparchy in 2006.

The Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia includes the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania, and serves around 13,000 faithful in 62 parishes and two missions. It has three suffragan eparchies, in Parma, Chicago, and Stamford.

Rockville Centre diocese challenges Child Victims Act over due process

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Nov 15, 2019 / 01:31 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Rockville Centre filed a suit challenging New York's Child Victims Act on Tuesday, claiming it is barred by the due process clause in the state constitution.

The act opened a one-year window for adults in the state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers. It also adjusted the statute of limitations for both pursuing criminal charges and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions where the abuse took place.

The diocese's motion, filed Nov. 12 in the New York Supreme Court in Nassau County, says that “the Due Process Clause allows the legislature to revive formerly time-barred claims only where they could not have been raised earlier,” which it adds “is not so here.”

“The formerly time-barred claims revived by the legislature pursuant to the Child Victims Act all could have been brought within the then-applicable three- or five-year period, after plaintiffs attained the age of majority,” according to the diocese.

The diocese added that the state Court of Appeals “has held that the Due Process Clause allows for the exercise of what it has characterized as an exceptional legislative power 'to remedy an injustice' created by circumstances that prevented the assertion of a timely claim.”

It said claims under the Child Victims Act “do not fit within the scope of this narrowly circumscribed legislative authority.”

The one-year window opened Aug. 14.

The Child Victims Act was signed into law Feb. 14 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In addition to opening a one-year window for suits, it allows child abuse victims to file criminal charges up to age 28, and lawsuits up to age 55. Previously, they had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim.

Other New York dioceses have not indicated they would challenge the act.

Sean Dolan, spokesman for the Rockville Centre diocese, said the diocese is committed to providing “pastoral care and equitable compensation” to child sex abuse victims through its independent reconciliation and compensation program.

As of August, that program had paid a little more than $50 million to 277 claimants since its 2017 institution. Between 75 and 80 claims were still being processed, and 370 people had filed claims with the program.

The spokeman added that “the diocese supported the CVA as a mechanism for all survivors of sexual abuse to seek redress through the court system for sexual abuse – that took place in any organization, municipality or organization. At the same time, the diocese supports the rule of law and, in particular, the rights of all citizens of this state to have access to the courts and to invoke the protections afforded to all of them by our laws of civil procedure and the New York state Constitution. The diocese’s motion and its brief present these important issues to the judiciary for resolution.”

The Times Union reported Nov. 13 that nearly 1,100 cases have been filed under the Child Victims Act.

The day the one-year lookback was opened, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston was named in a lawsuit accusing him of sexually abusing a young man while he was a priest of the Rockville Centre diocese, starting in 1978. The bishop has said he is innocent of the accusation.

In January, Dennis Poust, director of the New York Catholic Conference, told CNA the conference had not opposed the final version of the act, which provided the same protections for child abuse victims in public insitutions, including schools, as it did for private institutions.

Earlier versions discriminated between public and private institutions, but once that was amended “the conference dropped any opposition to its passage,” he said.

When the bill was passed, the New York bishops issued a joint statement saying, “We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation.”

The Diocese of Rockville Centre said Aug. 14 that it “takes seriously and investigates all allegations of sexual abuse … While the ultimate effects of the Child Victims Act on the Diocese of Rockville Centre and its parishes are not yet known, and may not be known for some time, we expect the daily work of the diocese’s many ministries to continue uninterrupted. Bishop Barres and his leadership team at the Diocese of Rockville Centre have been working for months with financial and legal experts to prepare for this day.”

In preparing for the one-year window, the diocese created an independent advisory committee in May “to review its financial position and related party transactions.”

“The diocese has diligently prepared over the last several months to meet the challenges presented by the Child Victims Act, while ensuring it continues to meet its responsibilities to parishioners and its ministries. The diocese also continues its efforts to extend to survivors of abuse: pastoral care, healing and support services,” it stated.

Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre said Aug. 11 that “we have worked diligently with our financial and legal advisors to assess our financial position and maximize the availability of insurance coverage to meet the demands that will likely be imposed by anticipated CVA litigation.”