Tag Archives: News

#AllforJan: Slovakia mourns a young Catholic journalist

After Laetare Sunday Mass, a fellow parishioner asked me: “Have you heard of the protests in Slovakia? They are the largest since the fall of Communism! 50,000 people marched in the streets of Slovakia on Friday, and 25,000 on March 2, not to mention even more people gathering in cities across Europe. A 27-year-old investigative journalist was killed, along with his fiancée, because he had uncovered links between the Italian mafia and the government.”

Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová were found fatally shot in their new home on February 25, 2018. They were to be married in May.

A funeral Mass was held for the young couple at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Štiavnik, north-western Slovakia, attended by his parents, friends and fellow journalists. Kuciak’s sister Mária Kuciaková said, “Our whole family got a bullet to the heart.”

Former Archbishop of Trnava Monsignor Róbert Bezák C.SS.R. stated: “The murder of a person should not be lost in time. It would be a sign that we are morally broken and that we don’t care at all. But we do care. Janko and Martinka will always remain in our hearts.”

Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský of Slovakia’s capital Bratislava, who celebrated the funeral Mass, observed: “If the murderer wanted to silence Jan, he managed quite the opposite. Believe that evil won’t win — even if it might seem so now.”

Slovakia is the third most Catholic Slavic country, after Poland and Croatia, with 62% of the populace being Roman Catholic, and 4% Byzantine Catholic. Trnava is known as “parva Roma”, that is, “little Rome”. The first Slovak in Australia was a Jesuit missionary who arrived in 1888. The first recorded Slovak immigrant in the USA was also a missionary, albeit Mennonite.

My fellow parishioner said, “Slovakians are hardworking people, but because of government corruption, they work hard for very little. It is sad to see how living conditions in Slovakia haven’t improved much since the fall of Communism.”

Kuciak’s last, unfinished story also reveals how Italian businessmen with mafia links have been siphoning off European Union funds meant for the development of eastern Slovakia.

A memorial website, https://www.allforjan.com/, has been created for people to express their sorrow and their gratitude for Kuciak’s work uncovering the criminals manipulating Slovakia’s government. On Twitter, the hashtag #AllforJan has been trending, displaying photographs of the crowds who came out in the bitter cold in honor of this young man’s life and death. His fellow journalists have refused to be cowed by his murder, vowing to continue his work.

Two politicians, Viliam Jasaň and Mária Trošková, have taken a leave of absence, and the Minister of Culture, Marek Maďarič, has resigned from his post.

Pope Francis last year publicly acknowledged Italian victims of the mafia, in particular three assassinated judges. He created a new category for sainthood which allows the canonization of those who freely give up their lives for others.

May the terrible sacrifice of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová be the catalyst for real change in their country, freeing it from the grip of organized crime. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Villa Maria Chapel Upgrade Creates Controversy

By guest writer David Ryan.

A recent Saturday morning Mass at Villa Maria. Photo: Catherine Toomey

New South Wales based aged-care organization Catholic Healthcare has become embroiled in controversy over renovation plans for the Villa Maria Hostel in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, especially its chapel.

The controversy hinges on proposed modifications to the chapel within the hostel complex to turn part of it into a café and dining area.

Hundreds have protested outside the Hostel against the proposed renovations.

“Nobody in the community was properly consulted,” remarked Peter Bond, member of the community and altar server.

Anthony Vaughan, regular attendee, commented on behalf of his community:

“Villa Maria Chapel is very important to the prayer life of Brisbane — like St Patrick’s Church Hill in Sydney …

The community will not accept anything except keeping the complete chapel intact.

It is a sacred space frequented by many in the area.”

The plans replace the historic choir loft and antechamber with a gathering area separated via glass walls; this will consume a third of the current Romanesque chapel.

Villa Maria, founded in 1927, in the heart of Brisbane, was a center for the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Today it is an aged care facility leased by the Brisbane Archdiocese to Catholic Healthcare.

The chapel, under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese, is within the complex and is not a parish; this has caused significant confusion.

Catholic Healthcare, planning to triple the capacity of elderly residents in the future, intended for better facilities.

Catholic Healthcare could not be contacted but reported to the community that the move was a misunderstanding:

‘We thought there was a large chapel that wasn’t being used and wanted to utilize the building to its best potential.”

But the chapel, evidently, is used.

In December a vigil of over 200 gathered on the street and a petition of over 1,000 signatures is circulating for the chapel’s status quo.

Will Marcus, architect, offered floor plans to utilize alternative areas of the complex:

“There are already 27 other places for gathering-rooms in the nursing home.”

He further argues that the upgrade, canonically, is invalid:

“Canon law 1229 states: ‘oratories and private chapels must be reserved for divine worship alone and free from domestic uses.”

Catholic Healthcare informed that the intent is better facilities for the elderly:

“We have a ministry to aged care.

Our ministry is neither social welfare nor building parishes.

We see aged care as a social responsibility.”

The final decision on the matter is to be made this month. But the community says they feel ignored.

The community is supportive of better facilities for the elderly which should include the current preservation of the chapel.

Peter Bond concluded:

“We are not against Catholic Healthcare’s upgrades per se.

Their desire to look after the elderly is honourable.

But we are adamant there should be appropriate respect given to God and his holy place.

One small change and the situation would be resolved instantly.”

_____

David Ryan is a young journalist based in Sydney, Australia.

Cardinal Pell’s response to his charges

The sexual abuse crises in Catholic dioceses from the USA to Ireland have created great distress and fomented considerable media attention. It is a sickening tragedy and grave injustice, always and everywhere, when adults in positions of trust take advantage of vulnerable children and young adults under their supervision. However, it is also a tragedy and injustice when the reputations and lives of the innocent are ruined by false allegations, and also when organizations which provide significant support to the community are tainted by scandal, with the ongoing contributions of the majority of their members overlooked.

The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, and also in Australia, providing vital healthcare, educational and social services every day. At the same time, the 2016 census found that, for the first time in Australian history, there are now more people identifying as non-religious than Catholic. Meanwhile, the media has fudged the statistics to make levels of historical abuse appear higher than in actual fact. In reality, priests are less likely to commit sexual offenses than the average male (for example, in the USA, 4 percent of priests active between 1950 to 1992 were accused of sexual misconduct, and it is estimated that 10 percent of American males commit sexual abuse; as George Weigel notes, the Church is probably the safest place for a young person today). David Gibson of The Washington Post reasons:

Part of the issue is that the Catholic Church is so tightly organized and keeps such meticulous records – many of which have come to light voluntarily or through court orders – that it can yield a fairly reliable portrait of its personnel and abuse over the decades. Other institutions, and most other religions, are more decentralized and harder to analyze or prosecute.”

The charges against 76-year-old Cardinal George Pell in particular have occasioned significant media frenzy, in Australia and overseas. His case is unique, because he is the highest-ranking Australian Catholic and highest representative of the Universal Church to be charged. Pell was ordained in 1966 and served as the Archbishop of Melbourne (1996–2001) and eighth Archbishop of Sydney (2001–2014) before becoming the first Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy (2014–present), in charge of managing the Vatican’s finances. He is the third most senior official in the Vatican.

Cardinal Pell was not obliged to return to his homeland to face the charges, as the Vatican has no extradition treaty with Australia. However, he said: “Court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome to work.” Pell has willingly cooperated with the entire legal process, beginning with an interview with three Victorian police in Rome last October. His legal bills will not be funded by the Archdiocese of Sydney.

On 26 July, Pell appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for a filing hearing and entered a plea of not guilty, even though he was not obliged to do so, and had to walk through a massive media scrum including reporters who had flown in from other countries. Pell has thus demonstrated his complete willingness to engage with the proceedings against him.

Pell’s forthrightness is unsurprising, given that he established the Melbourne Response in 1996 to handle allegations of clerical abuse, six years before The Boston Globe broke the scandal which became the premise for the 2015 movie Spotlight. The Melbourne Response was the first Catholic redress scheme addressing child abuse. It was only last year that the Australian federal government introduced a national compensation scheme. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been holding inquiries into various Australian organizations and state institutions, including the Australian Defence Force. Child abuse is a horrible scourge in Australian society, now increasing with technology.

Let us pray not only that the truth will be uncovered and justice be done, but also that the wounds of all involved, and all those affected by the media coverage, will be healed.

Save

The Strange Case of Savita Halappanavar

Targets of choice: babies, pro-lifers, Catholics, the Church…

At this point, the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar is “old” news, in that most people have been at least somewhat aware of of it. Most people in the Catholic and pro-life blogsopheres—to say nothing of the ideologues who oppose us—who will comment on it have already posted their preliminary thoughts. The forces at work to make abortion common now have their martyr—willing or no—and thanks in no small part to media coverage and concern, her blood seems to cry out louder than the blood of millions and tens of millions killed annually through abortions.

The facts are not all in just yet—in fact, very few facts have really been made available at all. This is perhaps strange, given the passage of nearly two weeks between Mrs. Halappanaavar’s death and the time at which the news of said death broke. What we know, nearly three weeks after her death, is that she died of septicemia in the hospital of Galway University—a state institution—about a week after checking into said hospital with complaints of severe pain. She was miscarrying at the time that she checked in—and was leaking amniotic fluid—though the baby was still alive. His heart was still beating.

The Halappanavars allegedly asked for an abortion. Though not being exactly well-versed in the difference between an abortion and the termination of a pregnancy as an unintended side-effect, we might well assume that she only wanted the staff to induce labor knowing that the 17-week-old baby would most likely suffocate to death shortly after the delivery. We are told that she was told by the (strangely anonymous) staff that Ireland is “a Catholic country” and so abortion could not take place. We know that not only was labor not induced, but no treatment whatsoever was given for septicemia, including antibiotics, for two days.

The world is “baying for the blood of Irish children.” Image Source.

We don’t know why the staff refused such treatments to Mrs Halappanavar. The staff allegedly said that they were refusing treatments because Ireland is a Catholic country: this could mean any number of things. A man might say that before refusing because he was a sincere Catholic who for some reason thought that treatment would be immoral and not materially helpful; it might also be said by a surgeon who was sympathetic [] to the pro-abortion movement and was wanting to give them a martyr. The effect has certainly been the latter, that the pro-abortion movement now has a martyr to stand behind, and that the result is that the world is, in the words of Hilary White, “baying for the blood of Irish children”:

Meanwhile, the bereaved husband, in-laws and parents of the young mother have retreated to India and are demanding that Ireland liberalise its abortion laws. This demand is being joined by the Indian Ambassador to Ireland, the legalisation-pushers in Ireland’s parliament, the secular media and professional abortion lobbyists, as well as, perhaps most strangely, the official opposition party of India, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

This despite the fact – as has been pointed out several times in editorials, press releases, blog posts and hundreds of comments boxes both Catholic and non-Catholic – that abortion is not a medical treatment for either miscarriage or for severe systemic infections and no one has any idea whether Savita Halappanavar really wanted an abortion, or whether “early induction” of labour would have saved her life….

Even pro-life advocates have pointed out that the current law and medical guidance include the possibility of abortion in the “rare” cases where the woman’s life may be endangered. The University Hospital would certainly have known this, it being the standard of gynecological care throughout the country. Indeed, I was told today by a reliable Irish source that on the gynecological staff at that hospital is at least one “rabid” pro-abortion doctor who would certainly have made sure that this would have happened had it been medically possible. Eilís Mulroy has written in The Irish Independent, under the headline “Pro-choice side must not hijack this terrible event”, asking, “Was Ms Halappanavar treated in line with existing obstetrical practice in Ireland?

In light of these facts, it seems extremely unlikely, except perhaps in the dreams of rabid anti-Catholics, that the doctors at the hospital would have simply said, “This is a Catholic country, we don’t do that here.”….

It’s also strange that the Indian ambassador would take so sudden an interest in Irish abortion law, especially given Ireland’s much lower maternal mortality rate:

The second maternal death in Ireland since 2005. Can you name the other one? Image source.

How much better? The WHO’s document shows that from data gathered up to 2005, Ireland had one maternal death. Yes, one. India had 450 per 100,000 live births for a total of about 117,000. Under India’s current law allowing abortion virtually on demand, about 11 million children are (officially reported) killed by abortion annually – just under two and half times the entire population of the Irish Republic – and around 20,000 women die of complications related to these legal abortions.

 

There’s still much of this story which just doesn’t add up. For one, how is it that doctors in a state hospital attached to a state  university do not know the laws of their own country? These are laws which certainly allow and even demand that a woman be given every medical treatment possible (excluding outright abortion) to save her life, even if it results in the loss of her unborn child’s life. To quote Irish Secular Pro-life member (and medical student) Evelyn Fenelly:

“We cannot know the all the details about her condition, treatment, and untimely death until the investigations are completed and the results made available to the public. What we do know is that the standard medical practice, in conformity with Irish law and medical ethics, requires that pregnant women receive all essential medical treatment during pregnancy – even if it won’t be possible for the baby to survive that treatment.

The Irish on professional conduct and ethics clearly state that ‘In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.’…

Miscarriage has never formed part of the abortion discussion in Ireland. Legalising abortion will not change the management of miscarriage. Miscarriage is a common and very sad event that is managed by doctors as a routine part of their obstetric practice. About 14,000 women in Ireland experience miscarriage every year. Half of them attend hospital for treatment. Our laws on abortion do not prevent physicians from treating these 7,000 women in whatever way is necessary. It is misleading to suggest that Ireland’s law on abortion is in any way responsible for Savita Halappanavar’s death. The Medical Council is clear that treatments managing miscarriage are permitted, and they do not constitute abortion.”

Note well that in Mrs. Halapanavar’s case, a miscarriage was underway. So, try as they might, abortion advocates can’t pin this one onto Ireland’s pro-life laws. Nor can they pin this on the Catholic Church’s moral teachings, for one because this was a state and not a private Catholic university, and for another because Catholic moral teaching includes the principle of double effect. Under the latter, treatment to the mother would be allowed, even if it resulted in the expedited death of the baby [].

Unfortunately, Mrs. Halappanavar’s tragic death is being exploited——to advance a cause which does not even guarantee that future Halappanavars’ lives would be saved. It is arguable that inducing early labor might have helped to save Mrs. Halappanaavar’s life, and even that it might have given the best—albeit very slim, approaching nil—chance for the baby to survive. As Christina Dunigan has commented,

Once an infection like that takes hold it’s very difficult to get under control. That’s why it’s important in an obstetric infection to get the baby out as quickly as possible.

I could see the ban on doing it while there’s still a fetal heartbeat if you’re doing an extraction abortion, which involves dismembering a live baby in-utero. That’s unspeakably cruel to the baby — and I can’t see how it could help the mother to have the baby’s body converted to lots of sharp bone shards to scratch up her uterine walls and give the infection an even quicker way to get into her bloodstream.

Inducing labor or doing a forceps-assisted delivery makes perfect sense. It removes the baby from what is, essentially, a toxic environment of infected amniotic fluid, and gives the child the chance to know being held and loved before he or she dies.

So this whole thing strikes me as just utterly bizarre.

Obviously, a dilation and extraction abortion was not considered—nor should it have been. It also appears, however, that simply inducing labor, delivering the dying baby live though barely, and evacuating the uterus of the other contents—the infected amniotic fluid and the placenta, which were the true source of danger to Mrs. Halappanavar’s life—was also not considered. Or more accurately, it was not considered so long as the baby himself was still alive, since the staff did in fact deliver him two days later, dead.

They want to make all the abortions legal. Even if we grant–wrongly–that an abortion would have saved Savita Halappanavar’s life, the solution of legalizing abortion is a bit disproportionate to the problem it solves: and it creates a new set of problems. Image source.

Legalizing abortion does not bring back Savita Happlanavar. Nor does it save the lives of any future women who find themselves in her shoes. Indeed, obedience to the laws of Ireland as they currently stand would require that she be given treatment for her condition, treatment which was not apparently rendered until much later. Nor does Catholic moral theology speak out against rendering such treatment, though we do not know if any (let alone all) of the medical staff involved in this case are faithful Catholics. By ignoring the relevant parts of both, the end result is one tragic, though perhaps preventable, death, no lives saved, and a martyr for the pro-abortion cause.

The people (and government) of Ireland would be wise to exercise prudence in this matter, recalling the old adage that Providence moves slowly, and the devil always hurries []. The result of legalizing abortion will be more abortions in Ireland—nothing more, nothing less. It may mean that the occasional Savita Happlanavar is saved, but it will also certainly lead to the occasional Kermit Gosnell or Scott Pendergraft, or for that matter the next Holly Patterson or Laura Smith. It offers a road to nowhere, paved in the skulls of the murdered unborn—to the tune of 125 million daily 44 million annually worldwide—and cemented with the blood of innocents which cries out to heaven. That blood never goes unheard []. In his beloved Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis warns us that the devil loves nothing so much as to win a man’s soul and give him nothing in return. This is as true on a broad, national or cultural scale as on the individual scale.

Footnotes

[] Indeed, we can’t know the motives of anyone involved. It could be that the supervising OB/GYN is zealously pro-life, but ignorant of Irish Law and/or Catholic moral teaching. It could also be that he opposes said laws and teachings—it is possible that he’s run aground of them before. It certainly appears that Mr. Halappanavar opposes both, though having just lost his wife to what he perceives as ‘anti-abortion policies,’ it is hard to blame him for this.

[] She was already miscarrying, and the baby died two days after she was admitted. Hence, treatment might have hastened the baby’s death, or it might not. We don’t know whether or not labor needed to be induced here, or even how long the baby would have survived if labor was induced. The record at this point for youngest child to survive early labor was at 21 weeks, fully 4 weeks later than this case. Indeed, National Review has quoted Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, as saying that

“The lack of precise medical details included in media coverage of the Savita Halappanavar case does indeed make it difficult to offer a cogent moral analysis of what transpired…If it were the case, for example, that she suffered from a serious placental infection unable to be controlled by other remedies, it would have been allowable to induce labor under a proper application of the principle of double effect. Such an action would not constitute a direct abortion, but maternally directed therapy to remedy the infection, with the secondary, unintended effect that the life of the child would be lost.”

[] I am not sure the origin of this, though it is a favorite expression of Russell Kirk’s and can be found in several of his works, including The Politics of Prudence and Redeeming the Time.

[] It is one of the sins which cries out to heaven to be avenged.