Following is a compilation of recent briefs published by Catholic News Service on these topics: Opioid crisis; Democrats for Life; Illinois abortion law; Seeking release of kidnapped priest; Calls from Catholic leaders in Congo, and Terminally ill baby in England.
Faith 'compels us' to fight scourge of opioid crisis, says bishop
GREENSBURG, Pa. (CNS) -- Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg in a pastoral letter called the opioid crisis in this country a scourge and urged the people of his diocese to take action against it. In "A Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis: From Death and Despair to Life and Hope" issued June 29, he addressed the epidemic that last year killed more than 300 people in the four counties that comprise the Diocese of Greensburg and outlined the Catholic Church's local response to the crisis. Besides efforts that focus on prayer and education, he also discussed the Church's cooperative efforts with government and social service agencies that are already engaged in the fight against addiction. Noting that rarely a day goes by without news of a death from a drug overdose, he wrote, "One especially deadly expression of the crisis of addiction, which is becoming more and more prevalent in our communities, is the current opioid epidemic." In the four counties of the diocese -- Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland -- 319 deaths in 2016 were directly related to opioid addiction, he said. "This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town and even the rural areas of our diocese," he wrote. "It has touched the very hearts and souls of our parishioners in the pews and the people living in our communities; it has affected men and women of every age, profession and state of life. Even more tragic is the reality that every one of those 319 deaths was preventable and did not have to happen."
Democrats for Life meet with Perez on future of pro-life views in party
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Perez caused an uproar with pro-life Democrats when he released a statement in April stating that the Democratic Party's commitment to "choice" is non-negotiable. "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable," Perez said in the statement. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, along with other Democrats for Life board members and pro-life Democrat political figures, met with Perez and DNC staff June 27 to discuss the state of the Democratic Party and the pro-life cause. "I feel that it was a first step and I think we have a lot of work to do, to continue to educate people," Day said in an interview with Catholic News Service June 29. "I think a lot of Democrats are still in denial that we are in trouble (as a party), and we need to start recognizing that." Since 2010, the Democratic Party has lost over 1,000 legislative seats. With 68 of 99 state legislative chambers currently in Republican control, the Democratic Party is in its lowest numbers since 1928, according to Day. "Republicans have full control over 27 states, meaning governor, statehouse and state senate," Day said. "Democrats are down to four states having full control."
Illinois sued over law targeting conscientious objectors to abortion
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pro-life physicians and crisis pregnancy centers have filed suit in state and federal court against an Illinois law that specifically requires those with a conscientious objection to abortion to give their patients information about abortion providers and what the state calls the "benefits" of an abortion. The physicians and crisis pregnancy centers approached the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that primarily represents people in the pro-life movement. Thomas Olp, senior counsel and the Chicago-based society's co-executive director, is representing the plaintiffs in this case. "We represent over 20 medical pregnancy centers in Illinois who basically came to us saying, 'We cannot comply with this law,'" Olp told Catholic News Service in a phone interview. The Health Care Right of Conscience Act gave doctors the option of not participating in procedures to which they had a conscientious objection. Public Act 99-690, passed in 2016, amended the Health Care Right of Conscience Act, requiring health care providers to discuss "the risks and benefits of legal treatment options." Olp explained that "legal" is shorthand for procedures such as abortion, sterilization and contraception. The bill requires doctors to supply information on providers of these options. Providing the names and addresses of abortion facilities is akin to providing the patient with a referral, Olp explained.
Marawi bishop says Church can't negotiate with terrorists who hold priest[[In-content Ad]]
DAGUPAN, Philippines (CNS) -- The Catholic bishop in the southern Philippine city of Marawi dismissed as "ridiculous" proposals to negotiate for the release of a priest held captive by terrorist gunmen. Speaking before a gathering of church people in the northern province of Pangasinan, Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi said "there is no way we can dialogue" with extremists, reported ucanews.com. The bishop said that for the past four decades, the Catholic Church's response to war and conflicts in the southern region of Mindanao has been dialogue. "We can only dialogue with like-minded people," he told the June 29 gathering at the Solidarity Congress for Persecuted Christians. The gathering was sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation that supports victims of persecution. Ucanews.com reported Bishop de la Pena said the Church should "choose the kind of people that we will have a dialogue with." He said people who have fallen victim to extremism, those who "experience so much pain ... are all the people who are open to have a dialogue with us."
Congo's bishops condemn repression, demand elections
KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) -- Catholic bishops in Congo accused their government of suppressing civil liberties and demanded free elections envisaged under a Church-brokered New Year accord. "The miserable situation we're living in reflects the persistent social-economic crisis, which is due to the failure to organize elections," the bishops' conference said. "Although our republic's constitution guarantees every citizen the right to enjoy their freedoms, we're seeing a growing restriction on freedom of expression and the barring of peaceful demonstrations, alongside an excessive use of force." In a 24-point message after their June 19-23 plenary in Kinshasa, the bishops said they were "profoundly alarmed" by deteriorating economic, security and humanitarian conditions, as well as by rampant corruption and fiscal abuses. They added that 60 Catholic parishes had been "profaned and closed" during nationwide violence, along with 31 Catholic health centers and 141 Church-run schools, while 20 Catholic villages and thousands of private homes had been "completely destroyed. The massive, uncontrolled and permanent presence of foreign armed groups is sowing desolation," the bishops' conference said.
Life academy offers prayers to parents of terminally ill baby
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Pontifical Academy for Life and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales extended prayers for a terminally ill baby, the medical staff caring for him and the parents who have lost a legal battle to keep him on life-support and seek treatment in the United States. Ten-month-old Charlie Gard was born in England with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness, brain damage and respiratory or liver failure; it is typically fatal. British hospital specialists believed the baby had no chance of survival, but the parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, crowdfunded nearly $1.7 million in four months to finance having the baby treated in the United States. Only 16 children in the world are believed to have been diagnosed with the rare syndrome. When hospital officials wanted to stop providing life support for the baby, Gard and Yates went to a London court with their case, but the court ruled the baby should be allowed to "die with dignity" and doctors could stop providing life support. After the ruling was upheld by an appeals court and the nation's Supreme Court dismissed the parents' case, Gard and Yates turned to judges in the European court of human rights. However, that court decided June 27 that it would not intervene in the case. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the situation of Charlie and his parents "has meant both pain and hope for all of us" and he assured them of his prayers.