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Pope Francis urges ‘an immediate cease-fire in Gaza’ that frees hostages, grants aid 

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3 about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 3, 2024 / 09:25 am (CNA).

“Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.” 

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3, the pope made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid.

“I carry daily in my heart, with sorrow, the suffering of the peoples in Palestine and Israel due to the ongoing hostilities,” the pope said, reflecting on five months of war in Gaza.

“The thousands of dead, the wounded, the displaced, the immense destruction, causes pain, and this with tremendous consequences on the little ones and the defenseless who see their future compromised. I wonder: do you really think you are going to build a better world this way? Do you really think you are going to achieve peace? Enough, please! Let us all say: Stop! Please stop!”

Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3 about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. Credit: Vatican Media
Speaking in his Angelus address on March 3 about the Israel-Hamas war, Pope Francis made an emotional plea for negotiations to reach a deal that both frees the hostages immediately and grants civilians access to humanitarian aid. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope made his appeal as negotiations are underway for a weeks-long cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. President Joe Biden said last week that he believed that a ceasefire could go into effect as early as March 4.

The Associated Press reported that Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week cease-fire framework that would include Hamas releasing some of the most vulnerable of the roughly 130 hostages being held in Gaza, citing a senior U.S. official. A response from Hamas is expected as talks resume in Cairo on March 3.

Pope Francis said: “I encourage the continuation of negotiations for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and throughout the region, so that hostages can be freed immediately and return to their anxiously awaiting loved ones, and the civilian population can have safe access to due and urgent humanitarian aid.”

People gather in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' March 3, 2024, Angelus address. Credit: Vatican Media
People gather in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' March 3, 2024, Angelus address. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope also urged people not to forget “battered Ukraine where so many people are dying every day.”

Francis gave a shout-out to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war. 

The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme, “Overcome evil with good.”

During his Angelus remarks March 3, Pope Francis gave a shout-out to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war. The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme, “Overcome evil with good.”. Credit: Vatican Media
During his Angelus remarks March 3, Pope Francis gave a shout-out to some young Ukrainians in the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, thanking them for their commitment to helping those who are suffering due to the war. The Ukrainians took part in a meeting in Rome organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio with the theme, “Overcome evil with good.”. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis also made an appeal for disarmament, calling it “a moral duty” for the international community.

“How many resources are wasted on military expenditures, which, because of the current situation, sadly continue to increase,” he said, noting that March 5 will mark the second International Disarmament and Nonproliferation Awareness Day. 

“I sincerely hope that the international community understands that disarmament is first and foremost a duty; disarmament is a moral duty,” he added. “This requires courage on the part of all members of the great family of nations to move from the balance of fear to the balance of trust.”

“Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.”. Credit: Vatican Media
“Enough!” “Stop!” Pope Francis repeated from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday as he called for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.”. Credit: Vatican Media

In his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple. The pope focused on the difference between “the house of God” and a marketplace.

One goes to “the house of God” to encounter the Lord and to be close to Him, whereas in a market prices are negotiated and “one seeks one’s own interests.”

“The invitation today, also for our Lenten journey, is to build a greater sense of home and less of a sense of ‘a market’ in ourselves and around us,” Pope Francis said.

“First of all, towards God. How? By praying a lot, like children who knock confidently at the Father's door without getting tired, and not like greedy and distrustful merchants. And then by spreading fraternity. There is a great need for it.”

What is inclusive language and why is it dangerous?

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. / Credit: Courtesy of Archdiocese of La Plata

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 3, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The move toward so-called inclusive language finds its origins in the feminist movement where activists considered sexist the generic masculine form of words, which has perennially been understood to include both men and women. 

In the past, for example, no one thought of challenging “for the good of mankind” as excluding women. However, the feminist movement drew heightened sensitivity to what activists considered the “patriarchal” nature of language.

Various publications started to use terms or forms of words that made it clear that a job could be performed by both men and women. Hence “fireman” became “firefighter” and “mankind” became “humankind,” etc.

While some of these changes are not that dramatic or noticeable in English, introducing inclusive wording in languages such as Spanish, where nouns are either grammatically masculine or feminine, becomes quite obvious due to the novel alteration of noun endings.

Gender-neutral language has similarly become an issue in Germany, as German nouns are also either masculine or feminine.

Inclusive language has also been identified as “one of the tools” of gender ideology, a school of thought that has been repeatedly criticized by the Catholic Church. 

Pope Francis has warned about this school of thought on several occasions. As recently as March 1, for example, the Holy Father pointed out that gender ideology “erases differences and makes everything the same; erasing differences is erasing humanity.”

What does inclusive language mean?

The Royal Spanish Academy, considered the definitive authority on what is correct Spanish, describes inclusive language as “a set of strategies that aim to avoid the generic use of the grammatical masculine.”

In addressing the issue, the academy has stated that the generic masculine is “firmly established in the language and does not imply any sexist discrimination” and that the recently invented artificial gender-neutral noun endings “that are supposedly gender inclusive are … unnecessary since the grammatical masculine already fulfills this function.” 

In a May 2022 article in the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Alicia María Zorrilla, president of the Argentine Academy of Letters, said that inclusive language is based on the error of taking literally the concept that, in language, the masculine [form of a word] always refers to the men only.”

Pushback

In a YouTube interview with Edgardo Litvinoff, Nobel Prize winner in literature Mario Vargas Llosa said that within feminism “there are some excesses” that he believes are “very important to combat,” for example, in the field of language.

“We cannot force language by completely denaturalizing it for ideological reasons; it doesn’t work that way, languages do not work that way, and so the so-called inclusive language is a kind of aberration within language,” he noted.

Cardinal Fernández weighs in

In 2022, while still archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, the current prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, warned about the “ideological imposition” that “inclusive language” can trigger.

In June of that year, Fernández wrote in a column in the Argentine newspaper La Nación: “Fundamentally, the intention does not seem to be to ‘incorporate everyone’ but to make the very conception of ‘male-female’ disappear. The aim is that what was called ‘sex’ leaves room for a personal construction that ‘fabricates’ the identity that each person comes up with.”

“Destroying the language and expecting everyone to submit to a certain ideology can only be counterproductive and, due to the law of the pendulum, will cause more intolerance and tension,” he warned.

Growing backlash 

In 2021, the French Ministry of Education prohibited the use of inclusive language in educational institutions because, according to the Daily Mail, such alterations “are a threat to the language.” The Académie Française, a nearly 400-year-old institution similar to its Spanish counterpart, said inclusive language is “harmful to the practice and understanding” of French.

Uruguay’s National Administration of Public Education, for its part, established restrictions in 2022, determining that “language that conforms to the rules of the Spanish language” must always be used.

The City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, banned inclusive language in 2022, arguing that this variation of the language creates difficulties for students in learning grammatical rules.

Most recently, Argentina’s government, led by recently elected President Javier Milei, extended the ban to all areas of national public administration. The spokesman for office of the president, Manuel Adorni, announced on Feb. 27 that artificial alterations of word endings to make them gender neutral are now prohibited.

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

This tailoring shop in Jordan helps Iraqi refugees knit their lives back together

Woolen scarves produced at the Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The workshop is hosted in the premises of the Latin parish of Mar Yousef and it provides employment for approximately 20 young Iraqi women who sought refuge in Jordan. / Credit: Marinella Bandini

Jerusalem, Mar 3, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In Amman, Jordan, there is a tailoring workshop where, in addition to creating clothing and accessories, the wounds of life are stitched back together. 

It is called Rafedìn, which means “the two rivers.” The rivers refer to the Tigris and the Euphrates, enclosing Mesopotamia, the land of Iraq. The name was chosen by the first Iraqi girls who participated in the project: approximately 20 young women who fled the persecution of ISIS in 2014. In Jordan, they attempted to rebuild their future.

A view of the Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The word “Rafedìn” means “the two rivers.” The rivers refer to the Tigris and the Euphrates, enclosing Mesopotamia, the land of Iraq. The name was chosen by the first Iraqi girls who participated in the project: approximately 20 young women who fled the persecution of ISIS in 2014. Credit: Marinella Bandini
A view of the Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The word “Rafedìn” means “the two rivers.” The rivers refer to the Tigris and the Euphrates, enclosing Mesopotamia, the land of Iraq. The name was chosen by the first Iraqi girls who participated in the project: approximately 20 young women who fled the persecution of ISIS in 2014. Credit: Marinella Bandini

The project was launched eight years ago, on Feb. 24, 2016. Since then, approximately 150 young women have been trained, according to Father Mario Cornioli, the founder and coordinator of the project.

“We started with the ‘cash for training’ formula: Those who attended the training courses received expense reimbursements. It was a way to assist with dignity, providing professional training and helping them support their families,” Cornioli told CNA. 

Cornioli comes from a family of entrepreneurs, a characteristic that emerges in his practical approach to challenges and attention to details, which are coupled with a profound spirit of service.

Father Mario Cornioli, initiator of the Rafedìn project in Amman, Jordan. Cornioli arrived in the Holy Land in 2009 as a “fidei donum” priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Since 2015, he has been in Jordan, serving with Iraqi refugees. “They are people of extraordinary faith," he told CNA. "They have lost everything they had but have kept their faith alive. For me, for my work, they are an endless source of personal enrichment and edification.” Credit: Marinella Bandini
Father Mario Cornioli, initiator of the Rafedìn project in Amman, Jordan. Cornioli arrived in the Holy Land in 2009 as a “fidei donum” priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Since 2015, he has been in Jordan, serving with Iraqi refugees. “They are people of extraordinary faith," he told CNA. "They have lost everything they had but have kept their faith alive. For me, for my work, they are an endless source of personal enrichment and edification.” Credit: Marinella Bandini

In 2013, he founded the nongovernmental organization Habibi, of which he is the president, supporting various human and social development projects, including Rafedìn, in both Bethlehem and Jordan, where Cornioli has carried out his mission. 

In fact, after being ordained a priest in 2002 for the Diocese of Fiesole, Italy, he arrived in the Holy Land in 2009 as a “fidei donum” priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. (“Fidei donum” refers to priests, deacons, and laypeople who serve temporarily in an existing diocese by way of an agreement between the sending bishop and the receiving bishop.) Since 2015, he has been in Jordan, serving with Iraqi refugees.

According to the latest statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in Jordan there are nearly 718,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, including more than 55,000 Iraqis. They have arrived in multiple waves since the 1990s, after the First Gulf War. In 2014, during the significant exodus due to the rise of the Islamic State, Christian churches and organizations alone welcomed over 10,000 refugees.

What began as an emergency of a few weeks transformed into a long-term situation, bringing forth challenges related to residency, the sustenance of families, access to health care, education, and employment. 

As explained in a report from Caritas, Iraqi refugees in Jordan do not receive legal status. This means they cannot work legally, making it difficult for them to sustain themselves. Consequently, they are compelled to seek settlement elsewhere, particularly in Australia, Canada, or the United States, even though their ultimate dream is to return to their homeland one day.

It is in this context that Rafedìn was born. 

“We are here to tell them that God has not abandoned them,” Cornioli said. “We started with the idea of restoring dignity to these people.”

Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The project started on Feb. 24, 2016, initiated by Italian priest Father Mario Cornioli, who serves as a "fidei donum" for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Credit: Marinella Bandini
Rafedìn tailoring workshop in Amman, Jordan. The project started on Feb. 24, 2016, initiated by Italian priest Father Mario Cornioli, who serves as a "fidei donum" for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Credit: Marinella Bandini

With the support, not only financially but also professionally, of friends and volunteers, Rafedìn took its first steps. “Some seamstresses and fashion designers got involved,” Cornioli explained, particularly the designer Rosaria Mininno, who left her job in Italy last year to move to Amman and dedicate herself full time to Rafedìn. The fashion designer Antonella Mazzoni also joined them.

Currently, 19 girls are employed, all of whom are Christians. The workshop is hosted in the premises of the Latin parish of Mar Yousef. This serves as a means to protect the women working there who might not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise.

“One of the crafts that sets us apart is patchwork. The idea originated to reuse fabric scraps, but it also holds symbolic value,” according to Cornioli. “Just as something new and beautiful can emerge from scraps of fabric joined together, these ‘discarded’ girls, when united, can create beauty around them, as demonstrated by this project.”

For Cornioli, contact with refugees is what nourishes his own faith. 

“They are people of extraordinary faith: They have lost everything they had but have kept their faith alive. For me, for my work, they are an endless source of personal enrichment and edification,” he said.

Since 2018, the project has been supported by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and benefits from the collaboration of the association Pro Terra Sancta. Since 2020, there has been a partnership with the French Embassy in Jordan. 

A woman inserts the zipper into a pillowcase lining in the Rafedìn workshop in Amman (Jordan). “We cover expenses and manage to provide a small salary to the girls,” Father Mario Cornioli said. Credit: Marinella Bandini
A woman inserts the zipper into a pillowcase lining in the Rafedìn workshop in Amman (Jordan). “We cover expenses and manage to provide a small salary to the girls,” Father Mario Cornioli said. Credit: Marinella Bandini

Over the years, Rafedìn has grown, developing various production lines and expanding its collections. Now, it is economically self-sufficient: “We cover expenses and manage to provide a small salary to the girls,” Cornioli said.

Luna Sharbel, 25, arrived last November after leaving Iraq with her husband and two children. They are from Qaraqosh and made the decision to leave after a fire destroyed a structure during a wedding party resulting in more than 100 casualties

“There is no work, no security in Iraq. Now we hope to leave soon for Australia, where my husband’s entire family is already settled,” she said. 

In the meantime, Sharbel works at Rafedìn: “I feel good here. Even though I don’t think I’ll continue doing this work, coming here gives me hope.”

Hope is also the word found on Rafedìn’s label: “Fashion seen through threads of hope.” 

“For these young women, being forced to leave their homeland is an open wound,” Cornioli explained. “Working, organizing their day, contributing to support their family has a positive impact, even psychologically. As they sew, the threads of colored cotton become threads of healing, of hope for the future, the fabric of a new life.”

Church Militant to shut down following $500,000 defamation lawsuit brought by priest

St. Michael's Media founder and CEO Michael Voris during an interview for local television news before the "Bishops Enough Is Enough" rally at the MECU Pavilion Nov.16, 2021, in Baltimore. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 14:22 pm (CNA).

Church Militant, the controversial Catholic media outlet that has for years maintained a reputation for combative and antagonistic coverage of Catholic figures and issues, will cease operations next month following a $500,000 defamation judgment against it.

Boston-based law firm Todd & Weld said in a press release this week that Church Militant had “agreed to the entry of a judgment against it in the amount of $500,000” in a defamation lawsuit brought by Father Georges de Laire, the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire.

The media outlet had run an article in 2019 titled “NH Vicar Changes Dogma Into Heresy,” one in which the author, canonist Marc Balestrieri, claimed to “have talked to a number of anonymous sources who allegedly made negative comments about Father de Laire both personally and professionally,” the law firm said.

De Laire brought suit against both Balestriei and Church Militant over the article. In the course of the lawsuit, both the writer and the outlet were “unable to identify a single source who said anything negative about Father de Laire,” Todd & Weld said.

The law firm said the article had been written in “an attempt to discredit Father de Laire” and the Diocese of Manchester.

Todd & Weld said in the press release that St. Michael’s Media, the parent company of Church Militant, “will cease all operations of Church Militant by the end of April 2024.”

Church Militant did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday regarding its reasons for shutting down. Asked for insight into the company’s decision, Howard Cooper — a founding partner of Todd & Weld — declined to speculate.

“Questions about Church Militant’s thinking will need to be answered by them,” he told CNA.

Late last year, Church Militant founder Michael Voris resigned over a “morality” violation, with Voris at the time alluding to “horrible ugly things” he had done, though he did not go into specifics at the time.

“I need to conquer these demons,” he said of his decision to resign. “The underlying cause of it has been too ugly for me to look at.”

The Washington Post reported last week that staffers had “complained that Voris had sent shirtless photos of himself to Church Militant staff and associates” prior to his resignation.

Voris founded St. Michael’s Media in 2006. The company launched Church Militant — originally titled Real Catholic TV — in 2008. 

Pope Francis opens Vatican’s Judicial Year, has aide read speech due to ‘bronchitis’

Pope Francis engages with a youngster at the inauguration of the 95th Judicial Year of the Vatican City State on Saturday, March 2, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2024 / 10:42 am (CNA).

Pope Francis presided over the inauguration of the 95th Judicial Year of the Vatican City State on Saturday morning, however he delegated the task of reading the speech to an aide due to bronchitis. 

“I thank you all. I have prepared a speech, but you can hear I am unable to read it because of bronchitis,” a visibly fatigued and hoarse-sounding Francis said to the Vatican’s magistrates gathered in the Hall of Blessings. 

The 87-year-old pontiff canceled his public engagements last Saturday and Monday due to a “mild flu.” After his remarks at the general audience on Wednesday, which were also read by Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli, the pope went to Rome’s Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for “diagnostic tests.” 

On Saturday, however, the pope maintained a full schedule, including several meetings with curial officials and a private audience with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

The pope’s remarks to the Vatican magistrates highlighted the virtue of courage, which he observed was at the very center of justice. He said that when “combined with fortitude, [courage] ensures constancy in the search for good and makes one capable of facing trials.” 

Observing that “in well-organized, well-regulated, and institutionally supported societies, it always remains that personal courage is needed to face different situations,” the pope stressed that courage is underscored by a “healthy audacity.”

In the absence of this, the pope warned, “we risk giving in to resignation and ending up overlooking many small and large abuses.”

Expanding on this reflection, the Holy Father noted that courage is a core virtue that allows people to confront difficult inner and external trials.

“Let us think of the victims of wars, or of those who are subjected to continuous violations of human rights, including the numerous persecuted Christians. In the face of these injustices, the Spirit gives us the strength not to give up, it inspires indignation and courage in us: indignation in the face of these unacceptable realities and the courage to try to change them.”

“Courage,” the pope continued, “contains a humble strength, which is based on faith and the closeness of God and is expressed in a particular way in the ability to act with patience and perseverance, rejecting the internal and external conditioning that hinders the accomplishment of good. This courage disorientates the corrupt and puts them, so to speak, in a corner, with their hearts closed and hardened.”

The pope also noted that courage is not an isolated virtue but exists in tandem with “prudence and justice,” both of which are underscored by charity. The nexus of these virtues, the pope observed, form the basis for exercising sound judgment.

“The administration of justice,” the pope added, “[is] demonstrated by the serenity of judgment, the independence and impartiality of those who are called upon to judge at the various stages of the process. The best response is industrious silence and serious commitment to work, which allow our courts to administer justice with authority and impartiality, guaranteeing due process, in compliance with the peculiarities of the Vatican system.”

Pope Francis to the world’s children: ‘If we really want to be happy, we need to pray’

Pope Francis poses with a woman and three children during a lunch in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for over 1,000 poor and economically disadvantaged people on Nov. 19, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2024 / 10:16 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has issued a message to the world’s children in anticipation of the Church’s first-ever World Children’s Day, which will take place in Rome from May 25–26, reminding them that the key to happiness lies in cultivating a prayer life and personal relationship with Christ, which in turn forms the basis of broader social action. 

“If we really want to be happy, we need to pray, to pray a lot, to pray every day, because prayer connects us directly to God. Prayer fills our hearts with light and warmth; it helps us to do everything with confidence and peace of mind,” the pope wrote in his March 2 letter addressed to the world’s children. 

The pope followed up this reflection by asking children to pray the Lord’s Prayer “every morning and every evening, in your families too, together with your parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents.” But the pope urged children to not merely recite the words but to reflect on their meaning and on Jesus’ ministry. 

“He is calling us and he wants us to join actively with him, on this World Children’s Day, to become builders of a new, more humane, just, and peaceful world. Jesus, who offered himself on the cross to gather all of us together in love, who conquered death and reconciled us with the Father, wants to continue his work in the Church through us,” the pope continued

Pope Francis announced the creation of World Children’s Day last December, saying that it will be an event to bring children from all around the world together to reflect on the question of “What kind of world do we wish to pass on to the children who are growing up?” The Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education is sponsoring the initiative. 

In his March 2 letter, the pope explained the theme for the World Day of Children is taken from Jesus’ words in the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.” The pope noted these words “invite us to become as clever as children in grasping the new realities stirred up by the Spirit, both within us and around us.” 

Reflecting on the importance of children for families, the pope noted that they are a sign “of every person’s desire to grow and flourish” and a “source of joy,” a recognition that helps foster an intergenerational link “from the past to the future.” 

The pope’s message also touched upon the need for social action, asking young people to always remember “other children and young people who are already battling illness and hardship.” 

Highlighting the examples of those who are facing poverty and hunger, “victims of war and violence,” or those “forced to be soldiers or to flee as refugees, separated from their parents,” Pope Francis pleaded that “we need to hear those voices, for amid their sufferings they remind us of reality, with their tearful eyes and with that tenacious yearning for goodness that endures in the hearts of those who have truly seen the horror of evil.” 

The pope encouraged children that action starts on the local level through small acts of kindness.  

“Our world will change if we all begin with these little things, without being ashamed to take small steps, one at a time,” the pope expressed. 

Catholic priest finds kidney donor through parishioner

null / Credit: Chaikom/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Father Tim O’Sullivan is a parochial vicar at St. Ephrem Catholic Church in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. He first arrived to the parish in 2001 and says he considers it home.

In 2017, the priest began to have several health issues that led to him undergoing 11 different surgeries in a matter of 15 months. 

“The doctors say all the anesthesia that was in my system eventually took its toll on my kidneys,” O’Sullivan told Trish Hartman of Channel 6 Action News.

This led O’Sullivan to being on dialysis for five years. 

In November 2023, he decided to write a letter in the parish bulletin letting parishioners know that he was in search of a kidney donor. Despite having several people reach out, none were a match.

“A couple people in the parish did call but were not qualified for some reason or another,” he said.

It wasn’t until January that O’Sullivan received the good news — he had a donor.

Albert Stanley, 46, of South Philadelphia, died on New Year’s Day after suffering several strokes and a brain bleed. His sister, Christine Moretti, is a parishioner at St. Ephrem’s. After seeing on her brother’s driver’s license that he was an organ donor, she contacted O’Sullivan. 

“He had multiple people in his family that were not matches, so in speaking with him, of course, this would be the miracle that we need,” Moretti told Channel 6 Action News.

On Jan. 3, O’Sullivan received the call that Stanley was a match.

He received both of Stanley’s kidneys and is no longer on dialysis. O’Sullivan is still recovering but hopes to be offering Mass again at St. Ephrem’s in April. 

Stanley’s mother and sister said that knowing his organs saved someone else’s life has given them comfort in their grief.

“It was already a comfort knowing that he would live on through others. But to know that it’s someone so close — part of our parish, that my kids interact with — was very meaningful to me,” Moretti said.

O’Sullivan shared that the family’s decision was “humbling” and was a “very generous decision, even in the midst of a mother’s worst grief.”

Experts warn of ‘inhumane’ treatment of embryos, ‘evil’ circumstances surrounding IVF

Heritage Foundation researcher Emma Waters speaks to Prudence Robertson on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Feb. 29, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly”

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic moral theologian this week warned that in vitro fertilization (IVF) “separates the things that God wanted to be together” while another expert spoke out against the “inhumane” treatment of the hundreds of thousands of human embryos produced by IVF. 

The Alabama Supreme Court has sparked a national debate on the ethics surrounding IVF following the court’s recent decision that ruled embryos are considered children under state law.

“EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” anchor Prudence Robertson spoke to Emma Waters, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, about the ethical implications of IVF and its effects on marriage and society.

“In a normal in vitro fertilization process, clinicians will create anywhere between 15 to 20 embryos at a time,” Waters explained.

Embryos are then tested for genetic issues, and parents have the opportunity to choose the sex of the baby, she explained. After this, wanted embryos are either implanted into the intended mother or frozen for a later time. 

But unwanted embryos are “routinely destroyed or donated to science, where they’re also later destroyed after having inhumane testing done to them,” Waters pointed out.

Because of the high cost of IVF, which averages about $19,000, many couples choose to discontinue the process, resulting in the embryonic children being destroyed. 

Nearly 80,000 infants born were conceived through such alternatives to sex, according to the most recent data from 2020. But reports say that between 400,000 and 1.5 million frozen embryonic children are preserved in laboratories in the U.S. today. 

Father Ezra Sullivan, OP, a professor of moral theology and psychology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, told Robertson that the Church is outspoken against the mass “production of children” through IVF. 

When asked what might be done about the thousands upon thousands of embryonic children now in existence in labs throughout the U.S., Sullivan called it an “irresolvably evil” situation.

“Should we try to allow parents to conceive these children, since they already exist?” he asked. “Should we baptize them — and in that moment of baptism, the embryo, unfortunately, cannot survive?”

“There’s no definitive resolution because it’s a situation that John Paul II would say is irresolvably evil,” he continued. “There’s no way to solve it without some kind of moral problem arising.”

IVF has “totally upended society’s understanding” of what it means to procreate, Waters said. 

Children “can be created at will by any adults who simply have the right parts whether they come from themselves or they come through sperm and egg donation,” she explained. 

Sullivan, meanwhile, noted that IVF “breaks apart” the “marital bond” because it creates a child “outside of the marital act, within a hospital or laboratory.” 

“The issue of IVF is sensitive because a lot of people are having trouble conceiving in this time, ” he said. “But ultimately the Church says that we want to go the natural route.”

IVF separates ‘the things God wanted to be together’

While “conception is difficult” for a variety of reasons, Sullivan noted that IVF “separates the things that God wanted to be together: love and marriage, conception, procreation in the very marital act.” 

“One of the difficulties that we need to accept as human beings is that we’re weak, we’re imperfect,” Sullivan noted. “And sometimes when, for instance, we have trouble conceiving, sometimes that’s our body’s way of saying that maybe we need to find another way to give life to the world, another way to serve others.” 

The Alabama ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by three couples after their IVF-created embryos were accidentally destroyed at the lab where they were stored. 

During the discussion of the issue on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Dr. Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, defended the Alabama ruling.

Meaney said the decision “recognizes that human life begins at conception” and that “children should be protected no matter where they are, in their mother’s womb or in the laboratory.”

“In fact, it points out that the in vitro fertilization process kills huge numbers of children at the embryonic stage,” he said.

The ruling limited the protection of these embryos to legal protection against cases where clinics were negligent. But the Alabama Legislature has since defined protections for IVF after three clinics in the state paused their in vitro services.  

In the wake of the controversy, several top contenders for the 2024 U.S. presidential election have voiced their support for IVF. 

Donald Trump came out strongly against the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on social media, saying he supports IVF “in every state in America.” 

Trump’s lone remaining rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she conceived her son through artificial insemination. She said that “Alabama needs to go back and look at the law” that fueled the court’s decision. 

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, told EWTN White House correspondent Owen Jensen this week that he disagreed with the Catholic Church’s position on IVF.

Catholics express concern over eroding ‘brain death’ standards

Patient in a hospital bed. Via Shutterstock / null

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A broad coalition of 151 Catholics including medical professionals, bioethicists, and scholars released a joint letter this past week expressing concern about new guidelines issued by a major neurological society regarding “brain death” — a hotly contested topic in the medical community and among people of faith.

The signers of the letter contend that the current guidelines regarding brain death from the American Association of Neurology (AAN), released in 2023, could lead in practice to patients being incorrectly pronounced “brain dead” and subsequently having their organs removed while still alive.

The Catholic Church has long supported — with Pope Francis carrying on the tradition — the idea of freely given organ donation as an act of charity for others.

However, the signers of the February letter contend that because of what they see as ambiguity in U.S. law and medical practice regarding the declaration of brain death, Catholics ought to remove themselves from their state’s organ donation registry and create advance directives refusing organ donation until those ambiguities are resolved.

The signers of the letter — which encompass a range of views on the validity of brain death — encouraged those engaged in Catholic faith formation and pastoral guidance to reiterate the importance of “moral certainty” that a person has died.

“All agree that the BD criteria found in the guidelines and used in current clinical practice do not provide moral certainty that a patient has died,” the signers wrote.

The statement was prepared by Joseph Eble, a physician and president of the Tulsa Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; John Di Camillo, an ethicist of The National Catholic Bioethics Center; and Peter Colosi, a philosophy professor at Salve Regina University.

What is brain death?

Brain death, also called “death by neurologic criteria,” is a commonly accepted practice of declaring a person dead based on the loss of brain function rather than the stoppage of the heart and breathing. A “brain dead” person on a ventilator may appear, at least to the untrained eyes, to still be alive.

While legal standards for determining brain death differ from country to country, in the U.S. the law relevant to brain death is the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, which states that an individual who has sustained “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.” All 50 states have adopted the UDDA into their own laws, with a few variations in the language used.

According to a 2020 study, brain deaths made up 2% of all deaths at U.S. hospitals between 2012 and 2016. In the United States, 70% of organ donors were declared dead using BD criteria in 2021, the February statement notes.

What has changed?

Ever since the concept of brain death was first introduced in 1968, the medical community has debated what exactly it entails.

The previous AAN guidelines, released in 2010, did not mandate tests for complete cessation of brain function beyond what can be diagnosed bedside, such as an electroencephalogram.

Further, AAN’s 2023 guidelines, announced in October, state that neuroendocrine function can persist in patients with permanent injury to the brain and “is not inconsistent with the whole brain standard of death.” The signers of the February statement note that AAN’s guidelines are “commonly accepted criteria for determinations of BD throughout the United States and are considered the most rigorous and comprehensive.”

When similar guidelines were introduced last year, the bishops of the United States weighed in, expressing concern that the rewrite “would replace the standard of whole brain death with one of partial brain death.”

“Nothing in Catholic teaching provides support for lowering the criterion to something less than ‘irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain,’” the bishops wrote.

“We are opposed to lowering that standard in the absence of compelling scientific evidence.”

The Catholic view

While the term “brain death” is not found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II asserted in 2000 that, if properly diagnosed, the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain function seems a valid way to assess with “moral certainty” that a person has died. Moral certainty, the saint said, “is considered the necessary and sufficient basis for an ethically correct course of action.”

Catholic doctors and ethicists today largely echo the former pontiff in stating that brain death, when properly diagnosed, is not a “kind” of death; it is simply death, period.

However, brain death remains a hotly debated topic among some Catholic medical professionals and ethicists, partly because brain-dead donors are, today, the primary source of organ transplants. Organs such as the heart, lungs, and pancreas can be — and are routinely — harvested from brain-dead donors as close to the time of death as possible.

In his 2000 address, John Paul II stressed the importance of only removing organs from people who have definitively died. The pope’s speech built upon his writing in the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae in which he decried any practice whereby “organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor,” calling such a practice a form of “furtive ... euthanasia.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its 2018 Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, states that the “determination of death should be made by the physician or competent medical authority in accordance with responsible and commonly accepted scientific criteria.”

Catholic bishops object to Senate IVF bill, warn against deaths of preborn children

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on protections for access to in vitro fertilization on Feb. 27, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops are urging lawmakers to oppose a bill that would create a federally sanctioned right to access in vitro fertilization (IVF) — a fertility treatment that has resulted in the deaths of millions of human embryos in the United States.

The bill, called the Access to Family Building Act, was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. This legislation would establish a federally protected right to IVF access, preempting state-imposed restrictions.

“We can understand the profound desire that motivates some of these couples to go to great lengths to have children, and we support morally licit means of doing so,” the heads of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“The solution, however, can never be a medical process that involves the creation of countless preborn children and results in most of them being frozen or discarded and destroyed,” the bishops emphasized.

The four signatories were Bishop Michael Burbidge, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Robert Barron, who chairs the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty.

IVF, the bishops warned, is “a threat to the most vulnerable of human beings.” They further rebuked the IVF industry as one that is “built on millions of children who are created to be destroyed or abandoned.” 

“Contrary to what some have claimed, a position that supports legal enshrinement of IVF, however well-intended, is neither pro-life nor pro-child,” the bishops added. “Approaches such as investing in life-affirming research on infertility, or strengthening support for couples who desire to adopt, would be better to explore.”

IVF is a fertility treatment in which doctors fuse sperm and eggs to create human embryos and implant them in the mother’s womb without a sexual act. Embryos that are intended to be implanted at a later date are frozen. Undesired embryos are routinely destroyed or used for scientific research, which kills those preborn children.

Duckworth’s IVF bill was introduced in response to an Alabama Supreme Court decision, which ruled that human embryos are legal persons under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. With significant Republican support, both chambers of the Alabama Legislature passed a bill that would shield IVF clinics from criminal and civil liability in cases of embryo deaths.

Because of an objection on the Senate floor from Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, the bill was blocked from advancing via unanimous consent and must go through the committee process before it can receive a vote. 

Hyde-Smith claimed that the bill, dubbed the Access to Family Building Act, would go “far beyond providing legal access to IVF.” She suggested that it would force religious groups to facilitate IVF procedures and cover such procedures in their insurance plans. She also said it would legalize human cloning, three-parent embryos, and gene-edited designer babies.

Duckworth rejected that characterization, claiming the legislation would simply prevent states from restricting access to IVF procedures. She said it would not force anyone to provide them or cover them. 

“This bill does three things and three things only,” Duckworth said in response to Hyde-Smith. 

“It protects the right of individuals to seek assisted reproductive technology without fear of being prosecuted,” Duckworth continued. “...It preserves the right of physicians to provide that assisted reproductive technology without fear of being prosecuted. And it also allows insurance companies to cover assisted reproductive technology.”

Hyde-Smith and dozens of other Republicans continued to emphasize that they support access to IVF despite the destruction to human life that is integral to the process. Several lawmakers have even suggested that supporting IVF is pro-life. 

“I support the ability for mothers and fathers to have total access to IVF and [to bring] new life into the world,” Hyde-Smith said when objecting to the proposal. “I also believe human life should be protected.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-South Carolina, has already introduced a resolution that would affirm the House of Representatives’ support for IVF. Supporters of IVF include former President Donald Trump, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the main House Republican political action committee.