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Priest shot to death in Mexico

null / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 13, 2023 / 12:20 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of San Juan de Los Lagos in Jalisco state, Mexico, mourned the Feb. 10 shooting death of one of its priests, Father Juan Angulo Fonseca.

According to the Mexican newspaper El Financiero, the 53-year-old priest was shot from behind with two blasts of a shotgun. The homicide occurred in the Atotonilco el Alto district of the state of Jalisco.

According to the initial investigation, the murder was apparently due to a dispute over land.

“The Diocese of San Juan de los Lagos lifts up prayers to God, the Father of Mercy, for the heartbreaking death of Father Juan Angulo Fonseca,” the diocese said in a Feb. 11 statement.

“May God reward the dedication of his life in the name of Christ for the Church! May his soul and that of all the faithful departed, by the mercy of God, rest in peace!” the statement concluded.

“We entrust to God and to his infinite mercy, that he would grant him to celebrate the eternal Eucharist in the company of the Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints, and that he would help us, pilgrims on this earth, to always seek paths of peace and brotherhood,” wrote Archbishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of San Juan de los Lagos.

“I commend to all the priests to offer a novena of Masses and prayers for our brother,” the prelate said in a statement.

Angulo was born in the town of Tepatitlán de Morelos in Jalisco state on Jan. 24, 1970. He was ordained a priest on May 2, 1998.

The priest had been working since 2017 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the town of Valle de Guadalupe.

Angulo also served in other parishes such as Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph the Worker, and Holy Spirit.

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

Nicaragua’s dictatorship sentences Bishop Rolando Álvarez to 26 years in prison

Bishop Rolando Álvarez. / Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 10, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua sentenced on Friday, Feb. 10, the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez Lagos, to 26 years and four months in prison, charging him with being a “traitor to the homeland.”

The sentence against Álvarez comes just one day after the dictatorship deported 222 political prisoners to the United States.

Álvarez refused to get on the plane with the deportees, Ortega himself said yesterday afternoon in a speech.

The sentence read this afternoon by Judge Héctor Ernesto Ochoa Andino, president of Criminal Chamber 1 of the Managua Court of Appeals, states: “The defendant Rolando José Álvarez Lagos is held to be a traitor to the country.”

“Let it be declared that Rolando José Álvarez Lagos is guilty for being the author of the crimes of undermining national security and sovereignty, spreading fake news news through information technology, obstructing an official in the performance of his duties, aggravated disobedience or contempt of authority, all committed concurrently and to the detriment of society and the State of the Republic of Nicaragua,” the sentence states.

Detailing each of the charges and their respective penalties, the text adds: “The defendant Rolando José Álvarez Lagos is sentenced to 15 years in prison and perpetual disqualification from exercising public office on behalf of or at the service of the State of Nicaragua.” 

“The loss of the convicted person’s citizen rights is declared, which will be perpetual, all of this for being the author of the crime of undermining national security and sovereignty,” the ruling continues.

The sentence also decrees “the loss of Nicaraguan nationality to the sanctioned José Álvarez Lagos, in strict adherence to Law 1145.”

The aforementioned Law 1145, as well as a constitutional reform that allows the loss of nationality of those sentenced for “treason,” was passed by the National Assembly of Nicaragua Feb. 9.

Today’s ruling reads: “The defendant Rolando José Álvarez Lagos is sentenced to five years in prison and an 800-day monetary fine (based on a percentage of his daily salary) for being the author of propagating fake news through information and communication technologies.”

“The penalty in days-of-fine is equivalent to the amount of 56,461 córdobas and 15 centavos (about $1,550).”

Lastly, the judgment sentences the “defendant Rolando José Álvarez Lagos to five years and four months in prison for being the author of aggravated obstruction of the performance of duty of an official to the detriment of the State and the Republic of Nicaragua” and also “one year in prison for being the author of the crime of contempt of authority.”

“The prison sentences will be served successively, so the convicted Rolando José Álvarez Lagos must serve 26 years and four months in prison,” the sentence reads.

According to the sentence, Álvarez must be imprisoned until April 13, 2049.

The bishop refused to board the plane yesterday afternoon along with 222 other deportees, including four priests, who were flown to the U.S. in an agreement with the U.S. State Department. Álvarez decided to stay to accompany the Catholics who are suffering the repression of the dictatorship in Nicaragua.

In a statement issued Friday following the deportation of the 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners, Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the House Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives, said: “We must continue to work to combat the brutal Ortega regime and free the remaining prisoners — including courageous Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who refuses to abandon his flock.” 

“He is truly a Christ-like figure with a servant’s heart, and we continue to urge Pope Francis to speak unequivocally on his behalf and seek his release,” the congressman said.

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

Why persecuted Nicaragua bishop turned down the chance to leave the country

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Credit: Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 10, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa refused to leave Nicaragua along with the 222 political prisoners — including several priests and seminarians — who were deported by the Daniel Ortega dictatorship on Feb. 9. 

The prisoners arrived in Washington, D.C., following a ruling by the Managua Court of Appeals, which stated that “those sentenced who, for different crimes, violated the legal and constitutional order, attacking the State of Nicaragua and Nicaraguan society, harming the supreme interest of the nation” are deported.

The court explained that the deportation was carried out “to protect peace, national security, public order, health, public morals, [and] the rights and freedoms of third parties.”

In a speech yesterday, accompanied by his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, and other government officials, Ortega explained what happened with Álvarez, whom he called “that character.”

“This is not bartering,” the dictator said. “It’s a matter of principles, of dignity. And what it does is confirm that [the political prisoners] are returning to a country that, its ruler, not the American people, has used them to sow terror, death, and destruction here in Nicaragua.”

Ortega said that Álvarez was taken to the airport and before reaching the plane, “he starts saying that he’s not leaving, that he would first have to talk to the bishops, meet with the bishops, and he demands a meeting with the bishops. Which is absurd.”

Ortega said that what this means then is that the ruling by the Court of Appeals, is a “decision of the Nicaraguan State that he (Álvarez) does not abide by.”

According to the dictator, the bishop of Matagalpa asked that they call “all the priests, because he would have to talk to them. For them to get off the plane so they could talk to him. And for the bishops to also come to speak with him.”

Given the refusal of the prelate to get on the plane, Ortega said that they couldn’t force him.

“We couldn’t, because they didn’t allow that. In the agreement the U.S. authorities did not allow using force on anyone who didn’t want to go to the United States. They could not be forced to get on,” the dictator said.

Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa since April 2011, was arrested in the middle of the night by the Ortega dictatorship in August 2022 and held under house arrest in Managua shortly thereafter.

The prelate is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 15 for “conspiracy” and for spreading “fake news” against the regime. Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan researcher and lawyer, told EWTN News that the bishop could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners posted on Twitter a list of 38 prisoners who were not among those deported on Thursday.

On the list are the priests Manuel Salvador García Rodríguez, 57, pastor of Jesus the Nazarene Church in the Diocese of Granada, sentenced to two years in prison for the crime of threatening five people with a weapon; and Monsignor José Leonardo Urbina Rodríguez, 51, from the same diocese, sentenced to 30 years in prison for allegedly abusing a minor under 14 years of age.

Other priests who were deported are Oscar Benavidez Dávila, 50, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in Molokukú; Ramiro Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez, 50, rector of the John Paul II University; Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano, 35, former vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral; and José Luis Díaz Cruz, 33, current vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral.

Also deported were Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega González, 27; seminarians Darvin Esteylin Leiva Mendoza, 19, and Melkin Antonio Centeno Sequeira, 23; and photographer Sergio José Cárdenas Flores, 32.

Benavidez was sentenced Feb. 4 to 10 years in prison, while the aforementioned others were sentenced Feb. 6 to 10 years in prison with an additional 800-day monetary fine based on a percentage of their daily income. They were all accused of conspiracy and spreading fake news.

According to the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, at least 40 political prisoners were incarcerated in the El Chipote prison, notorious for torturing opponents of the regime, and are “high-profile” opponents, including university students who were prominent in the 2018 anti-government protests.

The United States government has granted the deportees a humanitarian permit to live and work in the country.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, José Manuel Albares, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that his government will offer Spanish nationality to the deportees.

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

UPDATED: Nicaragua deports more than 200 political prisoners to US, including Catholic priests

Nicaraguan political prisoner Juan Sebastian Chamorro speaks to the press ouside a hotel in Herndon, Virginia, on Feb. 9, 2023, after he was released by the Nicaraguan government. / Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 9, 2023 / 14:24 pm (CNA).

The dictatorship of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega deported 222 political prisoners to Washington, D.C., Thursday, including recently jailed priests and seminarians. 

A Nicaraguan appeals court claimed the deportation was necessary to protect “peace” and “national security.” Friends and relatives eagerly awaited their arrival at Dulles International Airport. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the freed prisoners, saying: “The United States welcomes 222 individuals who had been imprisoned by the government of Nicaragua for exercising their fundamental freedoms and have endured lengthy unjust detentions.” 

He added that “the release of these individuals, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, by the government of Nicaragua marks a constructive step towards addressing human rights abuses in the country and opens the door to further dialogue between the United States and Nicaragua regarding issues of concern.” 

Blinken announced that “the United States facilitated their safe transport to Dulles International Airport. The individuals arrived today, and the United States is providing medical and legal support to ease their arrival.” 

Activists and supporters wait for the arrival of political prisoners from Nicaragua at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on Feb. 9, 2023, after they were released by the Nicaraguan government. More than 200 detained members of Nicaragua's opposition were set to arrive in the U.S. after being freed by authorities, family members and opposition figures said. Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images
Activists and supporters wait for the arrival of political prisoners from Nicaragua at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on Feb. 9, 2023, after they were released by the Nicaraguan government. More than 200 detained members of Nicaragua's opposition were set to arrive in the U.S. after being freed by authorities, family members and opposition figures said. Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

John Feeley, former U.S. ambassador and executive director of the Center for Media Integrity of the Americas, told CNA that the release was “a significant diplomatic victory for the U.S. government in support of human rights in Nicaragua.”

“The fact that there were no leaks and work has been going on for over a week to coordinate today’s flight is a testament to disciplined, powerful diplomacy,” he added. “Ambassador Kevin Sullivan and the State Department team supporting his embassy in Managua deserve an enormous amount of credit.”

According to ACI Prensa, those released included seven clergy and laity recently sentenced to a decade in prison by the Ortega regime for “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and “spreading fake news.” 

The freed priests included Ramiro Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez, 50, rector of the John Paul II University; Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano, 35, former vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral; and José Luis Díaz Cruz, 33, current vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral.  

Other deportees were Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega González, 27; seminarians Darvin Esteylin Leiva Mendoza, 19, and Melkin Antonio Centeno Sequeira, 23; and photographer Sergio José Cárdenas Flores, 32. 

U.S. officials have reportedly confirmed that Cristiana Chamorro, a leading presidential contender before her arrest in 2021, was on board the flight. She was sentenced to eight years in prison last March and placed under house arrest after a conviction for money laundering. Other presidential hopefuls Arturo Cruz and Juan Sebastian Chamorro were also on the flight. 

Some tweets captured the joyous scenes of relatives, friends, and even well-wishing strangers waiting to welcome the freed prisoners at Dulles Airport.

ACI Prensa reported that sources say the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, who has been under house arrest in Managua since Aug. 19, 2022, was recently removed from the home where he was confined.  

Former ambassador Feeley paid tribute to Álvarez, who, some have reported, chose to remain in Nicaragua.

“Bishop Alvarez’s decision to stay behind recalls the courageous legacy of Salvadoran Archbishop [Oscar] Romero — a man of titanic faith who chooses to stay with his flock despite the very real threat of death. The man who most wanted ‘this meddlesome priest’ on that plane was Daniel Ortega, but God kept him in Nicaragua.”

This developing story was last updated at 6:15 p.m. ET on Feb. 9, 2023.

Priest kidnapped in Haiti; captors demand ransom

An aerial view of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. / Public domain

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 8, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Claretian Missionaries’ Independent Delegation for the Antilles reported that on Feb. 7 one of its priests was kidnapped.

Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah was abducted in the morning when he was going to his missionary community in Kazal, about 20 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital.

The kidnappers have contacted “the superior of his missionary community asking for money in exchange for his release,” according to a statement from the Claretians posted on Facebook.

Macaire is originally from Cameroon and has been the parochial vicar at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Kazal for one year.

Violence in Haiti

A Camiliian priest, Father Antonio Menegón, told the Vatican news agency Fides in December 2022 that currently armed gangs are running the country and also attacking Catholic schools and hospitals.

“Unprecedented” violence is spreading throughout Haiti, Menegón reported.

The priest warned that this situation creates “insecurity, fear, hunger, and despair and as if that were not enough, the cholera emergency has returned, which especially kills children.”

Menegón explained that “the armed gangs that rule the country are increasingly aggressive and now they run everything. The prices of primary goods, such as food, fuel, and medicine, have more than tripled.”

“Violent youths have destroyed, looted, and burned fuel depots, as well as supermarkets, churches, Caritas food banks, and other international humanitarian organizations. Hospitals, one after another, are closing due to lack of fuel, electricity, food, and medicine,” he lamented.

Haiti has been without a president since July 2021, when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. Since then no new elections have been held. The struggle for power has ramped up violence.

The August 2021 earthquake only further aggravated the plight of Haitians.

According to the World Bank, Haiti is “the poorest country in the Latin American and Caribbean region and one of the poorest countries in the world.”

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

European bishops call for release of Nicaraguan bishop due to stand trial for conspiracy

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, during the indictment presented by the dictatorship of Nicaragua on Jan. 10, 2023. / Credit: Judiciary of Nicaragua

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 8, 2023 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

The president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, has demanded “the immediate release” of the bishop of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Rolando Álvarez.

Álvarez has been under house arrest since Aug. 19, 2022, and is due to go on trial for “conspiracy to undermine state security and sovereignty” and for “spreading fake news.”

In a letter addressed to the president of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez of the Diocese of Jinotega, Hollerich shared the “sadness and concern” with which the situation in Nicaragua is being followed.

The cardinal referred to “the persecution to which our Church and some of its members have been subjected in that country in recent times” and in particular the situation of Álvarez.

The letter also explicitly mentioned priests Ramón Tijerino, José Luis Díaz and Sadiel Eugarrios; Deacon Raúl Vega; seminarians Darvin Leiva and Melkin Centeno; and lay cameraman Sergio Cárdenas, “victims, all of them of false accusations,” who were recently fined and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the same charges that Álvarez faces.

The cardinal denounced the regime’s shutdown of Catholic radio stations, “police obstructing access to churches and other serious acts that disturb religious freedom and just social order.”

According to Hollerich, these are examples of the worsening situation for Catholics that began a few years ago in the country. 

The president of COMECE described as “admirable” the testimonies of commitment to the faith of the Church in Nicaragua.

“Your fidelity to the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ and your dedication to the good of your neighbor is a living example and model to follow in so many other situations of persecution that, unfortunately, are multiplying in various parts of the world,” Hollerich noted.

“We join ours to the voice that cries out because of the injustice to which our brothers in Nicaragua are being subjected and we demand their immediate release,” the cardinal said.

Finally, he committed the efforts of COMECE to intercede with European institutions for the release of Álvarez and the others.

The persecution of the Church in Nicaragua

According to lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina, “2022 was the most disastrous year for the Nicaraguan Catholic Church,” the target of  “140 attacks from the Sandinista dictatorship.”

In a Dec. 28, 2022, statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Molina noted that since 2018 the Daniel Ortega regime has intensified attacks against the Catholic Church.

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

Canadian man says hospital staff ‘pressured’ him to euthanize his wife

Richard Leskun says he was pressured repeatedly to put a do-not-resuscitate order on his wife Marilynn at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Then staff offered to euthanize her. / Courtesy of The B.C. Catholic

Vancouver, Canada, Feb 7, 2023 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

Richard Leskun remained at his wife Marilynn’s side nearly 24 hours a day after she was admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital, the result of a fall from her wheelchair. 

Over the next several days Leskun found himself not only caring for his 71-year-old wife but also fending off efforts by medical staff to let her die, before they offered to do the job themselves. 

The Sunshine Coast widower is sounding the alarm over what he says is a shocking and dangerous bias in the medical system toward the promotion of death for sick and elderly patients.

Leskun, 75, made the charge after he said medical staff at the Abbotsford hospital “pressured” and “badgered” him to allow his wife of 50 years, Marilynn, to die, and then suggested that he let her be euthanized.

Already fragile from the debilitating effects of dementia, Marilynn, 71, had entered the hospital after falling from her wheelchair and breaking vertebrae in her neck.

As Marilynn Leskun’s condition deteriorated, her husband Richard was asked if he would agree to medical staff euthanizing her. Courtesy of The B.C. Catholic
As Marilynn Leskun’s condition deteriorated, her husband Richard was asked if he would agree to medical staff euthanizing her. Courtesy of The B.C. Catholic

Leskun, who was a member of St. James Parish in Abbotsford at the time and now lives in Secret Cove, told The B.C. Catholic in an interview that over the course of eight days staff asked him five times whether they could place a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) designation on his wife.

He said he strongly objected each time and also made his pro-life views known at a family conference with hospital staff.

“At that meeting, I was very clear: I’m a Catholic and I’m absolutely against medically assisted dying,” he recalled saying. “I’m against euthanasia. I want my wife to live. I want her to continue living. We’ve had a good life for 10 years, even though she has dementia. I was very clear.”

As his wife’s condition continued to deteriorate, a hospitalist — a specialist physician assigned to the case — asked Leskun if he would agree to medical staff euthanizing Marilynn.

“The hospitalist is the one who came to me, quite late in the evening, on the night before she died,” Leskun said. “I was absolutely worn, frazzled, completely worn out. I was there every day, almost 24/7, and he said to me, ‘You know, I have written orders for medically assisted dying.’

“I was probably too tired to jump down his throat or whatever. I said no, for sure. I was too tired to feel anything. But I was saying no, absolutely not.” Hours later, when it was clear to him that Marilynn was dying, he told a nurse he would finally agree to a DNR order.

“The nurse said to me, and this shocked me, the nurse said, ‘Oh, it’s OK, the doctor has already put a DNR on,’” Leskun said. “And this was done without my approval. I never gave consent until that moment. [But] she said, ‘It’s already on there. It’s already on the chart.’”

Marilynn Rita Marie Leskun died soon after, in the early morning of Dec. 8, 2018. She was survived by her husband and their two adult children.

Marilynn Leskun with her son and daughter. Courtesy of The B.C. Catholic
Marilynn Leskun with her son and daughter. Courtesy of The B.C. Catholic

Leskun, a retired accountant, wanted to share his experiences after reading The B.C. Catholic’s reports on its investigation into the pro-Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) policies of the Fraser Health Authority, under whose jurisdiction the Abbotsford hospital falls.

He said he is concerned for the welfare of other families whose loved ones may end up in hospital in an era when assisted suicide is being offered in every Fraser Health facility, including hospices.

“Now that the health system offers both death and life, you must speak strongly and clearly if you want life,” he said. “Ensure that your primary care doctor believes in your principles and is willing to act powerfully to negotiate for the care you need.”

The Church teaches that assisted suicide is immoral in all circumstance but does not have formal teaching regarding DNRs. Rather, a patient or a patient’s legally designated decision-maker can decide on its application in light of the patient’s medical condition and life circumstances.

Leskun said he is not bitter over what happened and did not launch a formal complaint but did convene a “debriefing” meeting with seven members of the hospital medical staff on March 5, 2019, at which he laid out his concerns.

“I remember one comment that the hospitalist in charge of Marilynn’s care made to me: ‘Mr. Leskun, we have to look at the big picture.’ I did not know what he meant by that, but it shows how little he valued her individual life,” he said.

Leskun said he now has a clearer idea of what that doctor’s comment meant: that the state-run medical system has its own utilitarian ethics centered on how best to use its limited funds and other medical resources.

“Institutional ethics are appropriate for institutions but are often in conflict with individual ethics,” Leskun said. “I cannot fault the individual doctors for the ‘sins’ of the institution.”

The B.C. Catholic asked the Fraser Health Authority a series of questions related to the Leskun case but did not receive answers before deadline.

Canada’s leading anti-MAiD activist, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, says Leskun’s story is all-too-typical these days.

“We have received multiple calls from people with exactly the same story,” Schadenberg told The B.C. Catholic. “It’s the constant badgering about MAiD or euthanasia.”

He said he is currently trying to help a woman who wants information on what legal provisions exist to force medical staff to stop asking for MAiD approval.

Schadenberg said it is wrong for health care staff to pester someone to agree to a DNR order and then secretly override their wishes. “People have the right in law to decide,” he said. “We shouldn’t be badgered.”

The situation points to a large and growing problem, he said. “When the culture will not respect our values and beliefs, then we have a serious problem. Then it stops being about my needs but what the state believes is important.”

Schadenberg said human life is being devalued across Canada, and although troubling incidents took place before the legalization of MAiD in 2016, the situation has worsened since.

“Today, it seems that the concept of wanting treatment is coming, to some medical staff, to be seen as absurd — that you actually want treatment and not death,” he said. “You’re now being seen as terrible for wanting to be treated. You’re costing the system. Everything turns upside down once you start killing.”

Leskun said he believes there is an effort to lead people toward MAiD in some circumstances. “I believe it is at a point when the system figures that there is too much cost and effort. I believe that the system has a motivation towards moving those kinds of people towards medically assisted dying.”

That realization greatly upset him. “I initially wanted to get back at the system, but I no longer want to do that,” he said.

“I just want to make sure that people are aware that they have to be very careful when they are getting care that they speak for themselves and that they understand that the system, I think, has a leaning towards getting rid of the bad cases, the hard cases, the expensive cases. And they have to be aware of that.

“It seems to me that MAiD is being made out to be a noble choice — good for society, for everybody, for yourself, it’s the noblest thing you could do,” he said.

The Fraser Health Authority says it has enacted programs to help its staff cope with the emotional and moral distress that can result from participation in the provision of assisted suicide.

Dixon Tam, a senior consultant with the authority’s communications and public affairs office, said in an email that, since the legalization of Medical Assistance in Dying in 2016, Fraser Health has encouraged “staff to access support and resources as required, such as reaching out to their manager, as well as accessing internal and external employee counseling services.”

The authority also facilitates “discussions with staff members to explain their right to conscientiously object and not participate in the direct provision of medically assisted deaths, while ensuring that eligible patients have access to this service,” he said.

Tam’s statements were in answer to a series of questions sent to his office by The B.C. Catholic after the authority gave the newspaper previously secret documents showing that implementation of MAiD sparked staff opposition and discomfort throughout the system. The B.C. Catholic reported on these concerns in its Jan. 23 edition.

That story was the latest in a series that began in March 2021 after several FHA patients complained they were pestered about agreeing to MAiD. A similar complaint was made public by Sunshine Coast resident Richard Leskun.

Tam said the health authority provides MAiD “as an end-of-life option in a manner that is safe, respectful, and supportive of patients, families, and providers“ and that the authority “created a number of initiatives to assist our staff in understanding the [2016] legislation in order to best support our patients.”

They include: “An ethics debriefing tool for staff to be used both before and after a MAiD provision,” providing “specific MAiD education to staff across Fraser Health, as well as education specially tailored to specific staff, such as those who work in hospice care,” and establishing “community of practice MAiD sessions, including one facilitated by the regulatory College of Nurses (now known as BC College of Nurses and Midwives).”

Tam rejected the idea that internal opposition to MAiD has contributed to current staff shortages in B.C.’s health care system.

The federal government, which wants to extend euthanasia eligibility to include people whose sole condition is a mental disorder, announced this week it will delay implementation of the provision until March 17, 2024.

“Fraser Health is working to prepare for this new legislation to ensure we are able to support our staff, while also ensuring eligible Canadians have access to information regarding legal options that are available to address their intolerable suffering,” Tam said.

Meantime, the B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is scheduled to hold a written inquiry on Feb. 9 into The B.C. Catholic’s quest to uncover yet more hidden information from secret meetings of Fraser Health’s board of directors.

This article was originally published in The B.C. Catholic, a weekly publication serving the Catholic community in British Columbia.

Dictatorship in Nicaragua sentences seven more clergy and laity to 10 years in prison

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Feb 7, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

In a new attack on the Catholic Church, the Nicaraguan dictatorship led by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, sentenced three priests, a deacon, two seminarians, and a layman from the Diocese of Matagalpa to 10 years in prison. 

According to reports from the local newspaper La Prensa and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the sentence was issued on Feb. 6 by Judge Nadia Tardencilla of the Second Criminal Trial District.

The sentence consists of five years for the crime of “conspiracy to undermine national security and sovereignty” and five years for “spreading fake news” with an additional 800 days monetary fine based on the convicted person’s daily salary.

The convicted priests are Ramiro Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez, 50, rector of the John Paul II University; Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano, 35, former vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral; and José Luis Díaz Cruz, 33, current vicar of the Matagalpa cathedral.

Also sentenced were Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega González, 27; seminarians Darvin Esteylin Leiva Mendoza, 19, and Melkin Antonio Centeno Sequeira, 23; and photographer Sergio José Cárdenas Flores, 32.

The seven were found guilty on Jan. 27 and were awaiting sentencing. In a separate trial, Father Oscar Benavidez was also found guilty of the same charges and sentenced Feb. 4 to 10 years in prison.

The regime announced Jan. 10 that the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, who has been under house arrest since Aug. 19, 2022, will stand trial accused of conspiracy. The prelate has not yet been sentenced.

The CENIDH charged that the sentence issued against these seven men is “a new legal aberration” that also “disqualified them for life from holding public office and popular election.”

“We at the CENIDH condemn these perverse actions of the regime that violate human rights. We demand immediate freedom for them and all political prisoners,” the organization added.

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

Mexican court rules against pro-family leader who called a trans woman legislator a man

Member of Mexico Congress Salma Luévano. / Credit: Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 6, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

The Specialized Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary in Mexico has ruled against the National Front for the Family (FNF) and its president, Rodrigo Iván Cortés, for calling Salma Luévano, a “trans” woman congressional representative, a “man.”

In a Feb. 2 statement, the court said that Cortés and the FNF “committed political violence against women based on gender due to various posts on social media and the internet against the federal congresswoman, Salma Luévano, and trans women.”

To the Specialized Chamber, “the reported expressions were offensive and discriminatory by rejecting the gender identity and devaluing the performance of the federal congresswoman, which constituted digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence against her.”

“Consequently, a fine was imposed on the aforementioned association as well as on its president; in addition, the publication of a retraction of the sentence was ordered [to be posted] on the social media on which the offense was committed, the issuance of a public apology, and other comprehensive reparation measures and guarantees of non-repetition,” the statement added.

This ruling is the most recent episode in a controversy that arose after Luévano, a member of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, showed up in the Federal Congress on Sept. 21, 2022, wearing clothing similar to that of a Catholic bishop.

On that occasion, Luévano announced a bill to reform the Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship, which would allow churches that, according to the bill’s criteria, spread “hate speech,” to be penalized.

“The full weight of the law [must fall on] those leaders who incite hatred against us until [our] dignity becomes the norm,” said Luévano, who wore a miter and a red chasuble.

The National Front for the Family, along with the Citizens Initiative platform, charged in a social media post that “the transsexual deputy [legislator] Salma Luévano” by his actions “offends the believers of a religion but insults all of Christianity.” 

Cortés later said in a video that Luévano is “a man who describes himself as a woman, who demands respect, but it is exactly what he does not give, he asks for what he does not give, with tremendous disrespect.”

These and other posts critical of Luévano were deleted from social media by order of the Grievances and Complaints Commission of the National Electoral Institute in November 2022.

The verdict of the Specialized Chamber against Cortés and the FNF could be appealed to the Superior Chamber of Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary, whose mission, according to its website, is “to resolve controversies in electoral matters, protect the political-electoral rights of male and female citizens, and administer justice in the electoral sphere.”

The Superior Chamber ruled last year against Congressman Gabriel Quadri from the opposition National Action Party for criticizing “trans” congressmen occupying spaces reserved for women in the Congress of the Union (i.e., federal congress).

Based on the notion of “parity” added to the constitution in recent years, state agencies in Mexico must aim to be made up of 50% men and 50% women. That includes both houses of the Congress of the Union, Mexico’s national legislature.

According to the court ruling, Quadri’s name must remain for two years and nine months in the “National Registry of Persons Sanctioned in Matters of Political Violence against Women based on Gender.”

Months prior, Quadri was sanctioned by the National Action Party’s Platform Committee for calling Salma Luévano “sir.”

The verdict against Cortés and the FNF was criticized by well-known pro-life and pro-family politician Juan Carlos Leal, a former state representative from Nuevo León.

In response, Salma Luévano taunted “@CarlosLealMx you want to end up like the transphobes of @gquadri and @rodrigoivanc: suspended of their political-electoral rights.”

In his posts, Luévano used ungrammatical gender-neutral endings to words that in Spanish have either masculine or feminine endings.

‘We are already in a gender dictatorship’

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Leal pointed out that Luévano is a “man who perceives himself as a woman and who is taking the place of a woman in the Congress of the Union.”

“We are already in a gender dictatorship. It’s a dictatorship where if you think differently, and if you mention a biological truth, that sex cannot be changed, you can now be fined by an electoral authority,” he criticized.

Leal pointed out that it ought to be determined in the legal system “if this electoral authority has the jurisdiction to penalize anyone for this kind of situation.”

For the Mexican pro-family politician, “it’s unfortunate that we are already living through a gender dictatorship imposed by the progressive and left-wing governments that have ruled the country.”

“We really require a change now, we need a right-wing party to be formed now, that a right-wing government be formed, and we hope that this will be very soon,” he said.

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

Dictatorship in Nicaragua sentences priest critical of the regime to 10 years in prison

Father Oscar Benavidez. / Credit: Parish of the Holy Spirit of Mulukukú, Nicaragua

CNA Newsroom, Feb 6, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The dictatorship in Nicaragua, led by President Daniel Ortega, sentenced Father Óscar Danilo Benavidez Dávila to 10 years in prison for the alleged crimes of “conspiracy” and “spreading fake news” to the detriment of the regime.

The news site Despacho 505 obtained access to the closed-doors verdict and reported Feb. 4 that the Tenth Criminal Trial District Court of Managua, presided by Judge Nancy Aguirre, had sentenced the priest on Jan. 24.

According to the ruling, after a trial riddled with irregularities, the priest was given five years in prison for the crime of “spreading fake news” and another five for “undermining national security and sovereignty.”

In addition, the Catholic priest was fined 49,917 córdobas, about $1,350. 

Benavidez, 50, known for being a critic of the dictatorship, has been in custody since Aug. 14, 2022, when he was arrested after celebrating a Mass in the Conception of Mary chapel in the Diocese of Siuna.

He was found guilty Jan. 16 and the state prosecution requested a sentence of eight years in prison. However, the court sentenced him to 10 years.

Despacho 505 noted that Benavidez is the first priest sentenced for “conspiracy and cybercrimes, crimes invented by the regime of Daniel Ortega and [his wife, Vice President] Rosario Murillo to imprison opponents.”

According to the priest’s defense, during the trial the alleged “crime” he committed was expressing his opinion in a social media post.

The Nicaraguan news outlet Mosaico reported Jan. 16 that the only trial hearing lasted fewer than eight hours.

In total there are nine Nicaraguan clergy that the dictatorship has accused of the crime of “conspiracy,” including Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who was  arrested along with other priests around 3 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2022.

A recent report from the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, endorsed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), indicated that the number of political prisoners in Nicaragua has risen to 245 as of January 2023.

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