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A statement from the Catholic Bishops of Maryland: End of Life Decision Making for the Faithful

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The month of November, which begins with the celebration of the companion feasts of the Solemnity of All Saints and All Souls Day, offers a time for our community of faith to pray in a special way for those who have passed to eternal life. As we remember the saints in heaven, and the souls of all those who have gone before us, this time of year also offers us an opportunity to consider important questions we might face at the hour of our own or a loved one’s death.

On a spiritual level, we pray that our journey of faith each day will lead us to a deeper awareness that this life on earth is transitory, and that our true selves will not be fully revealed until we have passed through death into eternity with God. As we more fully grasp this essential reality, we see more clearly the truth of Pope Francis’ words: “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” Read more »

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Health Commentary: Faith-full recipe

October 18th, 2014 Posted in Senior / Health Tags: , ,

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With a tried and true recipe, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have been producing altar breads and distributing them since 1910. But in the early 1990s, they began to receive telephone calls from individuals who had a unique need for a different recipe: They suffered from celiac disease and could not receive holy Communion in the form of the usual, wheat-based hosts.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley and many prepared foods, such as wheat-based pastas. Read more »

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U.S. Catholic health care workers, dioceses respond to Ebola crisis

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Tabiri Chukunta has been trying to get the word out to the West African community in New Jersey that their families and friends in Liberia need to put on hold, at least temporarily, cultural traditions of greeting people affectionately and washing bodies of the dead.

For now, Chukunta, executive director of community outreach at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey — a long way from his Nigerian homeland — feels the educational campaign has been effective.

Read more »

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Viewpoint: For caregivers — Special beatitudes and a prayer

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I don’t recall my late wife, Monica, and I ever apologizing to Jesus or the evangelist Matthew for plagiarizing and doing a little rewriting of the beatitudes.

Perhaps I should assume that sometimes since Monica’s death in January 2013, she straightened the whole thing out face to face. Read more »

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St. Mark’s theology teacher anticipates healing after pilgrimage to Lourdes

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Staff reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Mary Johnston sat on a plane at Baltimore Washington International Airport on April 30, prepared for a flight she knew would change her life. She was headed to Lourdes, France, where she was confident she would find healing for various health issues.

The long-awaited pilgrimage was nearly derailed, however, by an engine problem on the plane, but after a night in a hotel, Johnston was off to France. What she experienced there, she said, will affect her the rest of her life and was worth the one-day delay. Read more »

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Catholic health group calls N.Y. Times editorial wrong and ‘irresponsible’

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WASHINGTON— The Catholic Health Association said a Dec. 8 New York Times editorial “was misleading and in error” when it claimed that mergers between secular hospitals and Catholic hospitals and the U.S. bishops’ ethical and religious directives that guide Catholic health care restrict quality medical care for women and children.

“It is especially regrettable that such a respected publication would rush to judgment without validating the facts,” the Catholic Health Association said in a Dec. 9 statement issued by the St. Louis-based organization’s Washington office.

“Catholic hospitals in the United States have a stellar history of caring for mothers and infants,” it said. “Hundreds of thousands of patients have received extraordinary care, both in the joy of welcoming an infant or in the pain of losing one. In many communities in our country, the Catholic hospital’s maternity service is the designated center for high-risk pregnancies.”

The New York Times editorial was prompted by a lawsuit filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan/Southern Division by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Michigan affiliate claiming that because of the directives, Tamesha Means of Muskegon, Mich., received negligent care at a Michigan Catholic hospital when her pregnancy was in crisis at 18 weeks, leading to the loss of her baby.

The suit claims the directives kept the doctors from giving Means complete information about her condition, treatment options and adequate care, a situation that led her, it says, to suffer emotional and painful trauma that resulted in a premature birth, and the death of the baby shortly thereafter.

“Beyond new state efforts to restrict women’s access to proper reproductive health care, another, if quieter, threat is posed by mergers between secular hospitals and Catholic hospitals operating under religious directives from the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops,” the editorial said. “These directives, which oppose abortions, inevitably collide with a hospital’s duty to provide care to pregnant women in medical distress.”

The suit names as defendants the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Mercy Health Muskegon, as it is now called, which is the hospital where Means sought care; and three former or current chairs of the board of the health care network that includes the hospital.

The CHA statement said the editorial was “inaccurate and irresponsible to assert that these wonderful community services are unsafe for mothers in an obstetrical emergency, simply because a Catholic hospital adheres to the ethical and religious directives.”

“There is nothing in the ethical and religious directives that prevents the provision of quality clinical care for mothers and infants in obstetrical emergencies,” it said.

The “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care” guide Catholic health care facilities in addressing a wide range of ethical questions, such as abortion, euthanasia, care for the poor, medical research, treatment of rape victims and other issues. They are now in their fifth edition, approved by the U.S. bishops in 2009. The 43-page document includes 72 directives.

The ACLU lawsuit cites only one directive, No. 45, which says in part: “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted.”

Directive No. 27 requires informed consent. Directive No. 47 states: “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

Beyond the directives, several independent organizations have oversight responsibility for all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, the CHA said.

“Nationally, for most hospitals it is the Joint Commission (JCAHO) and, in each state, there is a licensing agency. Both organizations have robust standards and inspections,” it said. “They would not accredit or license a hospital that is unsafe for mothers or infants under any circumstance. Add to that the commitment of health professionals caring for these mothers.”

In a Dec. 6 statement, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., USCCB president, said that “the death of any unborn child is tragic, and we feel deeply for any mother who suffers such pain and loss,” but he called the ACLU lawsuit “misguided.”

He said it was “baseless” for the ACLU to claim the directives encourage or require “substandard treatment of pregnant women” because they do “not approve the direct killing of their unborn children.”

The archbishop added that the USCCB will continue to defend the principles of Catholic teaching, including as outlined in the ethical directives, “in season and out, and we will defend ourselves against this misguided lawsuit.”

 

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Women from diocese join D.C. rally against HHS contraception mandate

November 25th, 2013 Posted in Senior / Health

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Not all women believe the government should force health insurance carriers to provide free contraception, and a few hundred of them, including 16 from the Diocese of Wilmington, rallied in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 1 to make their position known.

The rally was sponsored by Women Speak for Themselves, a group of mostly Catholic women who are opposed to the mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that contraception be included in health care plans.

The mandate was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, hence the date of the rally, but it has been pushed back to Jan. 1 of next year.

Delia DeAscanis, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in New Castle who is active in Delaware’s pro-life community, said the idea behind the rally was to put a public face to the movement. The mandate, she said, is an infringement on women’s First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.

“This is not about agreeing with contraception,” she said. “I think the main message is that the women in this group disagree with the government’s assertion that contraception is part of women’s freedom.”

Jessica Ferraro of St. Hedwig Parish in Wilmington said Women Speak for Themselves welcomes women of all faiths, and some of them are proponents of contraception but don’t want to be forced to pay for others to get it. The next mandate might affect another faith like this one hit Catholics.

“We realize that even though Catholics may have felt the blow of the HHS Mandate most acutely, it’s not going to end there. Which religious group is going to be next?” she asked.

Eleven women spoke at the gathering, including Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University Law School and a former pro-life official for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Teresa LoPorto, one of the local attendees, said Alvare was dynamic.

“Helen Alvare kind of summed it up: we are like the new hippies. We are the ones working against the system, and we’re right,” said LoPorto, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin.

Ferraro said Alvare’s talk reminded her that “we as Catholic women are called to be a support for one another, and continue the discussion in our own diocese. Maybe there will be a woman reading this article who is using contraception and doesn’t understand why it is wrong.”

The Obama administration has carved out several exceptions to the mandate for religious employers and their affiliates, such as hospitals and universities, but DeAscanis said the exceptions do not matter. Everyone paying into a health care plan will contribute to contraceptive care, no matter where one stands on the issue.

“That’s where the accommodation doesn’t protect individuals,” she said. “Right now, there’s really no way to remove yourself from it.”

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US high court justice denies HHS injunction; lower court grants one – update

November 25th, 2013 Posted in Senior / Health

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WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied two companies’ request for an injunction while they challenge part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate in court.

In an order filed Dec. 26, Sotomayor ruled that the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store and the Mardel Christian bookstore chains did not qualify for an injunction while they challenge requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks with then-Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington following the 2009 annual Red Mass at the city’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Sotomayor denied two companies’ request for an injunction while they challenge part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate in court. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks with then-Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington following the 2009 annual Red Mass at the city’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Sotomayor denied two companies’ request for an injunction while they challenge part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate in court. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Four days later, a federal District Court judge in Michigan granted a temporary restraining order to Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, allowing him to decline to provide contraceptive coverage to the employees of his current business, Domino’s Farms Office Complex. The company’s website lists offices for lease, a petting farm, an art gallery, a hair salon, a fitness center, a Catholic chapel and Our Lady of Grace Bookstore among the entities on the property. It’s unclear how many people are employees of Domino’s Farms. Monaghan no longer has any financial interest in the pizza company.

District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff issued the Dec. 30 temporary restraining order, saying there would be little harm to the government in delaying possible implementation of the law at the company and that there was enough evidence of a possible valid religious rights claim by Domino Farms to justify further court proceedings.

At the Supreme Court, Sotomayor ruled on the bookstore chain’s petition because she oversees the federal circuit where Hobby Lobby filed suit challenging the HHS mandate.

The companies’ Oklahoma City-based owners contend that the mandate violates their religious beliefs because some of the drugs they are required to cover can lead to abortion. The family-owned companies have said they have no moral objection to “the use of preventive contraceptives” and will continue to cover those for employees.

The owners have appealed lower-court rulings that denied their claims on religious grounds.

Meanwhile, Priests for Life won its challenge to the mandate when government lawyers agreed Dec. 20 that the pro-life organization would not have to offer contraceptive services through the health insurance it provides to employees.

Charles S. LiMandri, president and chief counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which filed Priests for Life’s lawsuit against the government, told Catholic News Service that the government changed its stance after a judge in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York said he would be inclined to side with the pro-life group. Priest for Life argued that it was a religious organization that should be exempt from the rule.

The American Freedom Law Center also filed the suit on behalf of Priests for Life.

Without the agreement, Priests for Life would have been forced to comply with the mandate beginning Jan. 1 or face fines for not complying, LiMandri said.

The agreement will stay in effect at least until the government issues new regulations covering contraceptive services under the health care law. The new regulations are expected in 2013.

Sotomayor’s decision does not pertain to any of the other lawsuits filed by Catholic and other religious organizations against the mandate.

The justice said it is not “indisputably clear” that the companies’ owners deserve the injunction while their appeals are pending.

“Even without an injunction, the applicants may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts,” Sotomayor wrote in her order, leaving the door open for a future hearing by the Supreme Court.

The request to Sotomayor was the latest legal step by the companies controlled by Oklahoma City billionaire David Green and his family and follows a Nov. 20 ruling by a federal judge in Oklahoma City who denied a request for an injunction against the mandate.

That decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Lawyers asked for “emergency relief” from fines of more than $1 million a day the companies say they will face if the mandates are not met.

The HHS mandate has a narrow exemption that applies only to those religious institutions that seek to inculcate their religious values and primarily employ and serve people of their own faith. The mandate does not include a conscience clause for employers who object to such coverage on moral grounds.

About 50 Catholic dioceses, universities and church entities nationwide have filed lawsuits against the mandate.

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October 18th, 2011 Posted in Senior / Health

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