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Costa Rican diocese orders canonical closure of Benedictine monastery

The Benedictine Monastery of San Jose in Costa Rica's Diocese of Cartago, which was canonically closed Nov. 7, 2021. / Diocese of Cartago.

Cartago, Costa Rica, Nov 10, 2021 / 10:24 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Cartago has ordered the canonical closure of the San José Benedictine Monastery, a diocesan foundation that had functioned ad experimentum for some years.

“This decision of ecclesiastical closure is carried out as a result of an internal administrative process of the Church, which originated in a pastoral visit to the Monastery; this being done in accordance with the powers conferred by the Code of Canon Law, whose result and conclusions were endorsed by the Congregation for the Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome,” the diocese stated Nov. 7.

Father Jorge David Arley Campos, press officer for the Diocese of Cartago, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency Nov. 9. that “as the assessment and investigation of the fruits of the experience is an internal process, the specific reasons" for the closure are not published, since "it was the decision of the commission in charge and the judicial vicar of the diocese."

“The final decision was made known but not the reasons, since there are elements of secrecy in the matter and they cannot be exposed to public opinion due to the nature of the entrusted secret, in order not to damage the conscience of the faithful and to avoid incorrect interpretations by the faithful,” the priest said.

On its Facebook page, the monastery calls itself a "monastic community governed by the Rule of Saint Benedict, cloistered under our constitutions, and our main work is: prayer and manual labor."

“We are a cloistered community, we do not do pastoral work outside the monastery. We do not belong to the Diocese of Cartago,” the Facebook page states.

The Nov. 7 diocesan communiqué says that “the members of this diocesan experience have been allowed and offered all our collaboration in their transfer to other experiences of community, if they see fit, awaiting word from them.”

The diocese said that while it has closed the monastery and thus ended its ecclesial mission, it is aware that the monastery was also established as a civil association enrolled in the Civil Registry and so “it belongs to them to determine its future as a civil association.”

From Nov. 7 "the Diocesan Experience of the San José Benedictine Monastery will not be part of the Diocese of Cartago, likewise there will be no authorization for the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals in the place of that experience."

Fr. Arley Campos explained to ACI Prensa that as a civil association the monastery is “a legal entity under which they were legally protected as a group."

"As an association it’s up to them to determine their future, but they are no longer canonically a movement of the Catholic Church," the priest said.

An article published Nov.1 La Nación, a San José daily, says that “the Benedictine monks of the San José Monastery, in Paraíso de Cartago, charged that the current bishop of Cartago, Mario Enrique Quirós Quirós, has persecuted them for years to 'eliminate' their 'presence 'in the diocese and take from them their monastery grounds.”

The monastery was founded about eight years ago under Bishop José Francisco Ulloa Rojas. Bishop Quirós succeeded him in 2017.

In its Nov. 7 statement, the Diocese of Cartago doesn’t mention the article in La Nación, but noted that "the land and facilities where the campus of said experience have been located is the property of the indicated Association and has never been the subject of discussion.”

A response sent by the Diocese of Cartago to La Nación says that "the members of the San José Monastery, which was founded by the diocese, were informed of the conclusion of said experience, as a result of not obtaining the expected fruits during this time.”

The diocese further noted that members of the monastery “have been given the opportunity to exercise, pursuant to CIC c. 50, their right of reply.”

Canon 50 of the Code of Canon Law establishes that “before issuing a singular decree, an authority is to seek out the necessary information and proofs and, insofar as possible, to hear those whose rights can be injured.”

The press officer of the Diocese of Cartago explained to ACI Prensa that what happened in this case was the “closure of a diocesan foundation that was subject to evaluation and that could have become an autonomous monastery,” as they exist in other parts of the world.

Fr. Arley Campos said that the members of the group can stay on their property, "since the material goods they enjoy are theirs and their internal regulations, like those of any civil group, are those that govern their action."

However, the priest clarified, "its mode of operation and what that entails is no longer covered by the Diocesan Church of Cartago."

Mexican Electoral Tribunal rules political party's pro-life ads 'offensive'

Ballot boxes for federal elections in Mexico City, June 6, 2021. / ProtoplasmaKid via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 9, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal ruled Thursday that political ads against abortion and adoption by same-sex couples from the the Solidarity Encounter Party “contain statements and images of an offensive and/or denigrating nature.”

The ads for PES expressed the party's position on abortion and adoption by same-sex couples. They were run in April ahead of the 2021 Mexican legislative election held June 6.

"In the PES we defend the value of the family and we oppose people of the same sex being able to adopt," said one of the videos, which were run on social media. "There is only one mother, not two. There is only one father, not two," it added.

In the other proscribed video, the PES stated, “we live in a world in which almost everything is disposable, including life? For life and for the family we say no to abortion.”

The videos were initially proscribed by the Instituto Nacional Electoral, which organizes federal elections in Mexico. 

The Federal Electoral Tribunal, the part of the judicial branch that resolves disputes in federal elections, decided Nov. 4 that "although it is permissible and desirable to set out the ideas and opinions of the political parties that reflect their founding ideologies, they may not contain offensive, denigrating and/or discriminatory statements and images that are unnecessary to express their ideological position." 

"In the case of abortion," the tribunal said, "the statements contained in the spots are not covered by free speech, because they are not necessary to disseminate partisan ideology."

"In the case of adoption by homosexual partners, the court’s Superior Chamber determined that the proscribed ads exceed the limits of freedom of speech because they include discriminatory content."

Juan Carlos Leal, a former state representative for Nuevo León, warned that the ruling is an “attack on freedom of speech and conscientious objection.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, Leal warned that “any political organization will be prohibited from mentioning that it is against abortion, that it’s against gender ideology, marriage equality, adoption by homosexual partners, among other issues.”

Leal commented, "we find it deplorable to see the completely ideological position of the court."

The ruling shows the need for political parties that defend life and the family, Leal said, while "pro-life groups and pro-family groups must unite to raise their voices against these types of resolutions."

PES won 1.35 million votes in the 2021 Mexican legislative election, or 2.85 percent of votes. Mexican law requires that parties achieve at least 3 percent to maintain registration as a party, and so the PES was dissolved in August.

Child of raped minor in Bolivia dies shortly after forced delivery at 24 weeks

sfam photo via Shutterstock.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Nov 8, 2021 / 17:14 pm (CNA).

The child of a pregnant 11-year-old rape victim in Bolivia died several hours after his birth on Saturday. The mother had refused to procure abortion, and was made to deliver her child when she was 24 weeks pregnant.

Bolivia’s People’s Ombudsman’s Office, charged with defending human rights, got a court order on constitutional grounds to have minor girl removed from a shelter run by the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra specializing in the care of mothers and adolescent girls, and taken to a medical center.

Labor was induced at the medical center Nov. 5, and in the morning of Nov. 6 she gave birth to a live baby boy, José María, who weighed a little over 17 ounces.

José María died a few hours later.

The girl was 24 weeks pregnant at the time, and according to what ACI Prensa has been able to learn, the facility where she was taken did not have adequate conditions for dealing with the high risk delivery.

According to Bolivian newspaper El Deber, the lawyers for the minor's mother, Néstor Higa and Yovani Cabello, "charged that the mother (of the minor) was practically kidnapped and persecuted to keep her away from her own daughter."

The girl had been allegedly repeatedly raped by her 61-year old-grandfather, who is currently in custody, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. 

State authorities had been pressuring the girl and her mother to agree to an abortion.

Some governmental institutions, including the People’s Ombudsman’s Office as well as the Bolivian and international press, charged that the Catholic Church in the country had intervened or forced the girl and her mother to refuse to procure an abortion, to continue with the pregnancy, and be transferred to a shelter. 

The accusations led to protests and the vandalism of the city’s cathedral and the offices of the bishops’ conference.

The Ombudsman’s Office for Children and Adolescents had the girl transferred from the hospital where she had been admitted to a shelter run by the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra when she was 21 weeks pregnant.

However, the archdiocese denied it had intervened in the case and stressed that the decision to transfer the girl to the Church-run shelter was made by solely by Ombudsman’s Office for Children and Adolescents.

Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina of Santa Cruz de la Sierra led a moment of prayer Nov. 7 with the tolling of the church bells as a sign of mourning for the death of José María after the premature delivery orchestrated by the Bolivian authorities.

In his reflection, the archbishop questioned: “If the reason the authorities adduce is that  the young mother's life was in danger, why was this procedure performed in a second-level hospital, instead of in a third-category hospital with a good neonatal ward?"

Archbishop Gualberti challenged why a teenager up to the age of 16 needs a parent’s signature to get the COVID vaccine, but “they prevented the mother from accompanying the 11 year old girl in most of the long and tragic ordeal and kept in isolation without her informed consent. They didn't, because they just wanted to carry out their nefarious plan to get rid of the baby.”

"Let’s be completely certain of this: one day God will ask all of us, without making distinctions between us, if we have defended all human life or if we have been hawkers for and executioners of death," the archbishop said.

Bolivian lay council repudiates attacks on the Church, demands government restoration of order

Red paint is splashed on the cathedral of Santa Cruz de la Sierra - Members of Mujeres Creando. / Graciela Arandia de Hidalgo - Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Nov 3, 2021 / 16:19 pm (CNA).

The president of the Jurisdictional Council of Laity of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, Abdel Guzmán López, condemned Monday the recent attacks on church buildings in the country and called on the authorities to restore order.

"The Jurisdictional Council of Laity of Santa Cruz, emphatically repudiates the acts of intolerance that have resulted in violence against our Holy Catholic Church," says the Nov. 1 statement.

The vandalism occurred after the Church was falsely accused of intervening to prevent a pregnant 11 year old rape victim from procuring a legal abortion.

On Oct. 31, a group of feminist activists of the Mujeres Creando collective entered the Basilica of San Francisco in La Paz and committed “the very serious act of interrupting the Eucharistic celebration" which was aggravated by “damaging the infrastructure of the church," Guzmán said.

The same day, a similar act occurred in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where four activists from the same organization vandalized the cathedral, splashing the façade with red paint while the local archbishop was offering Mass.

The women also displayed a yellow banner reading “hypocritical and vile  church, you force a girl to give birth.”

On Oct. 27, the People’s Ombudsman for Bolivia, Nadia Cruz, together with officials from her office led a march to the offices of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference in La Paz where some of the participants vandalized the building, tagging the walls with graffiti and sticking signs with pro-abortion messages on them.

The attacks took place a few days after some Bolivian government institutions and the Bolivian and international press accused the Church in Bolivia of having intervened in the decision of an 11-year-old girl, who was pregnant from rape, to refuse to have an abortion, continue with the pregnancy and be transferred to a shelter.

Abortion is illegal in Bolivia except in cases of bride kidnapping not actually followed by marriage, rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is considered to be in danger.

Several organizations, including the People’s Ombudsman’s office, which is charged under the constitution with defending human rights, tried to get the minor to have an abortion; however, the girl and her mother objected.

The local Church has flatly denied that it intervened or pressured the girl to keep the baby. The girl’s grandfather has been charged with the crime and is currently in custody.

Víctor Hugo Valda, the bishops’ Delegate for Health of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, that the local Church “from the beginning has shown closeness and concrete support” to the girl and her mother and lamented that the Church has been criticized “for offering material aid to help the girl with a home, education, medicine and psychological treatment.”

In his statement, Guzmán said that the laity are "witnesses of the strong and courageous attitude of our Church of Santa Cruz, in defense of life from conception to natural death."

“This is without a doubt an attitude based on Christian principles and values, an inalienable task that constantly moves our conscience and our faith, before a world eager for light and hope. Our Church will always be proactive and purposeful in the defense of life, through a responsible and prudent position, with a merciful and supportive attitude, in the face of intransigence and lack of respect,” he stressed.

Regarding the government's passivity in the face of attacks against the Church, Guzmán demanded that the authorities “guarantee the fundamental rights established in the Political Constitution of the State: Life, freedom and freedom of expression, since they are inherent to human dignity and human nature, and they are the basis of all peaceful and fraternal coexistence, which guarantees the well-being of all.”

"Therefore we ask the authorities, enjoined  by the law, to restore order, carry out justice, and to speak out as soon as possible in the face of these deplorable events," he added.

The Council of Laity also made “an impassioned call to all Bolivians to demand the right that we all have to live in peace, respecting our differences, respecting faith, ways of thinking, with tolerance and respect, with a high degree of communication and dialogue.”

“We are men and women of faith, who courageously work and fight day by day, for a better future for our families, we are called to be salt and light in the world, with the responsible task of procuring the foundations of a more humane, just and solidary society, " the Council of Laity statement concluded.

Planned Parenthood grant recipient in Peru loses in court in attempt to silence ACI Prensa

null / ACI Prensa archive.

Lima, Peru, Nov 2, 2021 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Promsex, an organization that promotes the decriminalization of abortion in Peru, lost in court in its attempt to silence ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, and to hide its ties with Planned Parenthood.

The Second Constitutional Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Lima dismissed Sept. 24 the defamation suit filed by Promsex against ACI Prensa, but as is sometimes the case, the ruling was only recently made available.

ACI Prensa revealed in 2015 that Planned Parenthood had allocated more than $3 million to the non-governmental organizations INPPARES, Catholics for the Right to Decide, and Promsex to promote the legalization of  abortion in Peru.

Promsex, headed by Susana Chávez, received more than $700,000 from Planned Parenthood for projects that ran between 2013 and 2015.

Of that amount, more than $160,00 was allocated to "strengthen the public debate to reduce the stigma of abortion," as well as "to make it a political issue."

In addition, Promsex sought to obtain "a favorable opinion from decision makers in Congress."

In an Aug. 7, 2015 opinion piece titled "The Abortion Corsairs," ACI Prensa called Promsex "promoters of child dismemberment" and "abortionists.”

The Peruvian NGO then filed a constitutional rights lawsuit against ACI Prensa, demanding "the rectification and elimination of false statements, as well as those of a denigrating nature."

A lower court ruled June 15, 2018 in favor of Promsex but ACI Prensa won on appeal with all charges dropped, in a ruling that showed profound respect for freedom of speech and the duty that media have to inform the public.

The Sept. 24 ruling represents a stiff setback for Promsex and similar pro-abortion organizations in their attempt to censor unfavorable reporting.

Besides promoting abortion in Peru, Promsex played a key role in establishing the Latin American Consortium Against Unsafe Abortion.

Records from the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation, which coordinates NGO funds and projects in Peru, show how over the years Promsex has channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Clacai, which was formed in 2006.

That year Promsex received more than $42,000 from Planned Parenthood, its parent company International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Gynuity Health Projects for the first “Clacai Regional Meeting,” which was held in Lima.

Over the years, Promsex has continued to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to Clacai, with money from, among others sources, Planned Parenthood, the International Women's Health Coalition, and foundations such as Ford and Tide.

Susana Chávez, who resumed her position as the executive director of Promsex after failing to win a seat in Peru's Congress in the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, is also Clacai's executive secretary.

Twelve bishops under investigation by Church in Mexico for covering up sexual abuse 

null / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 2, 2021 / 15:20 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Franco Coppola, the apostolic nuncio to Mexico, said that to date there are 12 bishops being investigated by the Catholic Church for allegedly covering up cases of cases of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in the country, but that nothing has been determined so far.

The investigations, carried out on the basis of the norms established by Pope Francis in his motus proprios "Come una madre amorevole" and "Vos estis lux mundi" are in various phases. While some cases are still being studied in Mexico, others have already been referred to the Vatican.

Pope Francis issued "Come una madre amorevole" in 2016, establishing that negligence by bishops in dealing with cases of sexual abuse may justify their removal.

Three years later, in 2019, the Holy Father published “Vos estis lux mundi,” which establishes that when accusations implicate Catholic bishops, the metropolitan archbishop of the ecclesiastical province to which the accused belongs must oversee the investigation. 

In Mexico, there are currently 19 ecclesiastical provinces, headed by 19 archdioceses, which comprise 73 dioceses and four territorial prelatures.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Coppola, 64, explained that “as 'Come una madre amorevole' provides, and as we have seen from the sentences that have been announced in the case of some bishops in other countries, the ecclesial penalty ⎯ in the case where it is established that there was a cover-up and depending on the type of cover-up ⎯ can range from a reprimand to removal from office.”

"What I think is important to point out is that all the complaints received are being followed up," he said.

The apostolic nuncio noted that “important steps have been taken” in the Church in Mexico in the fight to prevent and combat sexual abuse by the clergy, “but we must continue in this direction with even greater clarity and transparency, taking a position of zero tolerance.”

"We must also begin to take responsibility for the just compensation for the harm done to the victims," he said.

"There is still a long way to go to be able to regain trust, especially of the victims, those around them and non-Catholics," he acknowledged.

Coppola, who was appointed apostolic nuncio to Mexico on July 9, 2016, said that "sensitivity, care and efforts to prevent these crimes from being repeated has increased a lot."

"In almost all the dioceses a Commission for the protection of minors has been created that, on the one hand, receives complaints and cares for the victims and on the other hand, is in charge of spreading the culture of prevention throughout the institutions and ecclesiastical structures," he said.

"Also, on the seminary level there is greater care being taken in selecting those for admission and then the formation of the seminarians, so that the new priests are true shepherds according to the heart of Jesus and not people with unresolved psycho-affective problems," he stressed.

Coppola said that "I can’t say that there is no longer any problem, but I recognize that a great effort has been made to keep abreast with what Pope Francis asks of the whole Church."

This, he said, has happened "thanks to the sensitivity of many bishops and the courage of the victims who, by reporting abuse, have allowed us to realize the need to purify our presbyteries and our way of acting."

Asked about what leads clerics to commit sexual abuse, the apostolic nuncio said that while not being a “specialist” in the matter, his impression “is that, when it comes to abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, there is a serious problem in the development of the personality of the abuser, who looks for asymmetrical relationships, which therefore are not for reasons of love but of power.”

This problem, he stressed, "cannot be overcome with only good will or the intention to change; it has been seen that, although in good faith the abuser promises to change, he ends up repeating the offense."

For Coppola, it is “a deep psychological problem that must be cured and for this reason it is incompatible with the exercise of priestly ministry.” 

“On the other hand, this also denotes an unresolved affective problem: If our heart is not full and overflowing, the person tries to fill himself with the love of the Lord in another way.”

"The most normal and natural thing is through another person, an adult like me, but there are also unhealthy ways to drown the problem in alcohol or to exercise power in a way contrary to the Gospel," he pointed out.

Since 2019, Coppola has made his personal contact information available to people who wish to report cases of abuse in the Church. “It has struck me to hear from specialists, reports on damage to the brain and psychological damage reported by the victims, sometimes for many years if not for life,” the apostolic nuncio in Mexico said.

After lamenting that, "especially in past years, there was a certain superficiality and unawareness of the serious and lasting consequences of these abuses," he noted that "the first thing to do is also train and inform our people from this point of view, all of them, the pastoral workers and all the people committed to the Church regarding the special care that children deserve.”

"On the other hand, we have to do a much better job at human and spiritual formation, which is the formation of the heart," he stressed.

The prelate emphasized that true pastors must have "a heart that feels full to overflowing with the Lord and that therefore doesn’t feel the need to 'steal' attention, affection or pleasure from others."

In contrast, he said a true pastor should feel “the need rather to share what he has received, giving attention and affection and making present with our poor person, as is our vocation, Jesus himself in his way of looking at others, of acting, of being present to them, giving life and not stealing it.”

Senators mark 1st anniversary of declaration rejecting push to declare abortion an ‘international right’

The United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. / Nexus 7/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

U.S. senators have celebrated the first anniversary of a declaration affirming that there is “no international right to abortion.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced a concurrent resolution on Oct. 28 marking a year since the launch of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women’s Health and Strengthening the Family.

The resolution had 14 cosponsors in the Senate and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced a companion resolution in the House with 29 cosponsors.

The Geneva Consensus Declaration was signed on Oct. 22, 2020, by 32 countries. Other nations have since endorsed the declaration, but the United States has withdrawn its support.

Daines said: “Last year, under the leadership of President Trump, the U.S. led a global coalition to reaffirm that all life is sacred and there is no international right to abortion, to protect the family, and to defend the sovereign right of nations to enact laws that advance these core values, without external pressure.”

“Despite President Biden’s withdrawal, the Geneva Consensus Declaration coalition has continued to grow to now 36 signatory countries, which are committed to working together against the imposition of an anti-life, anti-family agenda.”

Lankford said: “Honoring the most basic right of an individual to live should not be controversial, but unfortunately President Biden is determined to be the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, as demonstrated by his decision to remove the United States from the declaration and promote abortion in other countries.”

“This resolution celebrates the historic nature of the Geneva Consensus Declaration and affirms the commitments we made with our like-minded friends a year ago. Pro-life Americans will continue to defend the basic right to life for all individuals.”

Last month, Guatemala became the latest country to sign the declaration.

Marking the occasion, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said that efforts to promote abortion as an international right were “absurd and without any foundation in law, science or philosophy.”

The declaration’s signatories had initially planned to meet at the 2020 World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. Although the gathering did not take place in-person due to the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to press ahead with the declaration.

The U.S. hosted the signing ceremony on Oct. 22, 2020.

Alex Azar, the then Secretary of Health and Human Services, said during the event: “Today we put down a clear marker; no longer can U.N. agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability.”

Then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the declaration a “deep and personal commitment to protect human dignity” and “the culmination of lots of hard work.”

The declaration states “that there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of states to finance or facilitate abortion, consistent with the long-standing international consensus that each nation has the sovereign right to implement programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies.”

In a letter dated Feb. 12, 2021, the United States Mission to the United Nations announced that the U.S. had “rescinded its co-sponsorship and endorsement” of the declaration.

The letter said: “Upon reviewing the declaration, we have reservations that aspects of the document are not consistent with our current administration’s policies, including those relating to women’s health, LGBTQI equality, and gender equality.”

“On Jan. 28, President Biden signed a presidential memorandum which, inter alia, directs the relevant heads of U.S. agencies to ‘withdraw co-sponsorship and signature from the declaration and notify other co-sponsors and signatories to the declaration and other appropriate parties of the United States’ withdrawal.’ Accordingly, the United States hereby discontinues our participation in the Geneva Consensus Declaration.”

Elyssa Koren, director of United Nations advocacy for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal group, said: “The anniversary, and recent addition of new signatories, demonstrates that this initiative is alive and well even without the support of the U.S.”

“While U.S. withdrawal was undoubtedly a blow, the coalition of governments surrounding the declaration remains united and vibrant under the leadership of Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, its founding cosponsors.”

Koren went on: “Now, more than ever, governments, and in particular those of the developing world, are subject to a deluge of coercive funding and other pressure tactics relating to abortion.”

“For instance, as stated in the newly released strategy for gender equality and gender equity, one of the main priorities of the Biden administration is to ‘defend the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion in the United States, established in Roe v. Wade, and promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.’”

“The exportation of the abortion agenda is a prime concern for the administration, supported by billions in highly coercive development assistance dollars.”

She concluded: “As a clear repudiation of incursions on national sovereignty relating to abortion, the declaration enables signatory governments to stand together in resisting all too frequent pressure to change their laws on abortion.”

“Also, governments should be able to make use of this platform to take practical action in international fora — for instance, they can band together to resist the illicit promotion of abortion in United Nations resolutions relating to development and human rights at the upcoming conclusion of the General Assembly’s Third Committee session.”

“Fueled by the momentum of the anniversary celebrations, the hope is that the Geneva Consensus signatories will be able to carry forward the pro-life initiatives previously undertaken by the Trump administration at this session.”

Bolivia's People's Ombudsman led march that attacked offices of bishops' conference

Acts of vandalism at the Bolivian bishops' conference in La Paz, Oct. 27, 2021. / ACI Prensa.

La Paz, Bolivia, Oct 29, 2021 / 18:33 pm (CNA).

Bolivia’s People’s Ombudsman, Nadia Cruz, together with officials from her office, led a Wednesday march to the offices of the Bolivian bishops’ conference, which some participants vandalized with anti-Catholic slogans.

Under the Bolivian constitution, the People’s Ombudsman’s Office is charged with defending human rights, functioning independently of the government.

The Oct. 27 march took place after some governmental institutions and the Bolivian and international press charged that the Catholic Church in Bolivia had intervened or forced an 11-year-old girl, who was pregnant from rape, to refuse to have an abortion, continue with the pregnancy, and be transferred to a shelter.

Several organizations tried to get the minor to have an abortion; however, the girl and her mother objected.

The girl was discharged from the hospital Oct. 26 and in an Oct. 27 handwritten letter, formally desisted from going ahead with the abortion. The minor was later transferred to a shelter run by the Catholic Church in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a decision made by the Ombudsman’s Office for Children and Adolescents.

Since then, the charitable action of the Church in Bolivia has been met with attacks and accusations of alleged interference in the decisions of the minor's family.

Images from Oct. 27 show graffiti and signs stuck to the walls of the bishops’ offices with various pro-abortion messages such as: "no child mothers," "rapists," "they’re not pro-life they’re pro-rape," "get your rosaries off our ovaries," "if there is rape there is (abortion)," "rapists and perverse priests." Some signs appear to have been made by children.

In a video, dozens of people can be seen outside the bishops’ offices protesting.

In a statement given to the program "No Lies" which the PAT television network airs, Dr. Susana Inch, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference’s legal advisor, said that "several of those who were in the attack wore the vests of the Ombudsman's Office." Inch said a complaint will be filed against the agency since as "there is property damage" and "the people have been identified."

"It’s absurd, the way they did it," she said, and that all legal issues "will be dealt with in the legal system."

In the same interview, Cruz said she led the violent demonstration.

“If the Bishops’ Conference is concerned about the participation of the Ombudsman's Office, because it has identified the Ombudsman's vests, I say to them that I personally went and led the demonstration from the Ombudsman's Office to the Bishops’ Conference in the exercise of our functions in order to denounce the human rights violations that the Church is committing at this time,” she said.

"If you’re so concerned about property, we wouldn’t be surprised if you are concerned about property and not about the cases of torture that you are carrying out," she added.

In a statement to the BBC, Cruz accused the Catholic Church and pro-life groups of putting pressure on the girl and her mother "to change their minds and desist from going ahead to terminate the pregnancy."

The minor became pregnant in the city of Yapacaní in the Santa Cruz administrative district after suffering repeated sexual abuse by her 61-year-old grandfather, who is now under arrest. The girl is 21 weeks pregnant.

Víctor Hugo Valda, the bishops’ Delegate for Health of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, that the Church didn’t interfere or intervene in any way and that as of this moment "no one has spoken not even with the girl nor with the mother.”

“What the Church did was appear in person on Monday at the hospital so that the voice of the girl and the mother who didn’t want to interrupt the pregnancy be respected, and because in addition, forcing her to have an abortion would be a crime. The Church was present for that and to ask about the girl's condition,” he explained.

Valda also criticized that the Church is being "accused of abducting" the minor.

"To be clear, the institution that made the decision as to where the girl has to go, and that physically transferred the girl, from (the hospital) to the shelter, was the Ombudsman’s Office for Children and Adolescents," he noted.

The bishops’ delegate for health also reiterated that the Church wasn’t "physically present during the transfer of the minor nor did it participate in the decisions about the girl."

"They decided to take the girl to this home after the Church publicly offered it," he stressed.

The bishops’ General Secretariat urged the country's authorities Oct. 26 to respect and protect the right to life and health of the 11-year-old girl and her unborn baby.

“Both lives deserve to be and must be protected. We affirm that both the rights of the girl, as well as those of the baby growing in her womb, must be protected, since both are innocent and victims of a criminal act” which the perpetrator must be held responsible for,”  the Bishops’ Conference said in an Oct. 26 statement.

The bishops stressed “that no one can be forced to perform abortions, not even given the seriousness of sexual violence, because abortion in Bolivia is a crime, even on grounds where it has been decriminalized (such as rape) and no one can be forced, not even the healthcare personnel, to commit this crime.”

Colombian judge orders that non-terminally ill woman must be permitted euthanasia

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock. / null

Medellin, Colombia, Oct 28, 2021 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

A Colombian judge ordered Wednesday that euthanasia procedures be resumed for Martha Liria Sepúlveda Campo, a 51-year-old woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, after they were suspended earlier this month by an oversight body.

Judge Omar Vásquez Cuartas of the 20th Civil Circuit Court of Medellín made his ruling Oct. 27, saying the Colombian Pain Institute (IPS Incodol) must determine with Sepúlveda within 48 hours a day and time to carry out her euthanization.

Vásquez ruled that Incodol violated Sepúlveda’s “fundamental rights to die with dignity, to a decent life, to the free development of the personality and human dignity.”

The judge said, “it is recognized that she complies with the requirements to exercise her right to die with dignity by euthanasia as established by the judicial precedent.”

ALS has rendered Sepúlveda unable to move her legs, but it is not a terminal condition.

Colombia’s constitutional court ruled in July that non-terminally ill persons may be euthanized, provided they are undergoing intense suffering due to a serious and incurable illness or bodily injury. The euthanization of a non-terminally ill person has not yet taken place in the country.

Sepúlveda was to have been euthanized Oct. 10. She had requested euthanization within days of the court’s ruling, and the Interdisciplinary Scientific Committee approved the request Aug. 6.

But IPS Incodol reported Oct. 9 that the Interdisciplinary Scientific Committee for the Right to Die with Dignity "unanimously concluded to cancel the procedure."

Incodol explained that at an Oct. 8 meeting Sepúlveda’s request “was reviewed and analyzed again in a comprehensive and sufficient manner" and the decision was reached "to cancel the procedure."

The committee explained that “the cancellation decision is based on No. 26.6 of Article 26 of Resolution 971 of 2021 of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, which assigns the Committee within its functions to review the application process and the complete euthanasia procedure, in order to determine any situation that affects it being carried out.”

“By having an updated concept of the patient's health and condition going forward, it is determined that the termination criterion is not met as the first committee had considered."

CaracolTV broadcast a report Oct. 3 in which the woman said she was “peaceful” about her decision to be euthanized and that she is "a Catholic person, I consider myself a very much a believer in God, but, I repeat, God does not want to see me suffer and I believe no one to suffer. No father wants to see his children suffer.”

Bishop Francisco Ceballos of Riohacha, who is also the president of the Commission for the Promotion and Defense of the Life of the Colombian Bishop’s Conference, posted on Oct. 6 a video message addressed to the woman, asking her to desist from her decision.

“As a pastor of the Catholic Church, with much respect and much affection, I want to show my sister Martha that she is not alone, that the God of life is always with us. That her affliction can find a transcendent meaning if it becomes a call to the Love that heals, to the Love that renews, to the Love that forgives,” the bishop said.

“Martha, I invite you to calmly reflect on your decision,” he encouraged, “hopefully, if circumstances allow it, away from harassment by the media that have not hesitated to take your pain and that of your family and use it as a kind of propaganda for euthanasia, in a country deeply marked by violence.”

The Colombian prelate encouraged the faithful to pray a lot for Sepúlveda and her family, to reconsider her decision.

“To surround her in her reflection, I affectionately invite all Catholics to join in prayer for our sister Martha, for her son, for her relatives and for the professionals who are advising her, so that the God of Life, who is Supreme Love, would fill her with his mercy,” the bishop urged.

In his message, the Bishop of Riohacha explained that "in accordance with our deepest Christian convictions, death cannot be the therapeutic answer to pain and suffering in any case."

"Death caused by assisted suicide or euthanasia is not compatible with our interpretation of the dignity of human life, whereas the use of palliative care is," he stressed.

Canada's bishops hope papal visit will aid 'reconciliation and healing'

Pope Francis gives an Angelus address, Oct. 24, 2021. / Vatican Media

Ottawa, Canada, Oct 27, 2021 / 21:11 pm (CNA).

Catholic, secular, and tribal leaders throughout Canada reacted with mixed emotions to the news that Pope Francis would likely be making a papal visit to Canada in the future.

“The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited the Holy Father to make an apostolic journey to Canada, also in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples,” said a statement from the Vatican Oct. 27. “His Holiness has indicated his willingness to visit the country on a date to be settled in due course.”

A press release from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops following the announcement said the bishops were “grateful” to hear that their invitation had been accepted. 

“The Bishops of Canada have been engaged in meaningful discussions with Indigenous Peoples, especially those affected by Residential Schools who have shared stories about the suffering and challenges that they continue to experience,” said CCCB President Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme and Mont-Laurier. 

“We pray that Pope Francis’ visit to Canada will be a significant milestone in the journey toward reconciliation and healing.”

The news of the accepted invitation comes about six weeks before a group of Indigenous Canadians will be meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. The delegation will be in Rome from Dec. 17-20 2021. 

In addition to the apology, the Indigenous leaders plan to ask Pope Francis for the release of all records that relate to the residential schools, and for the return of any Indigenous items from Canada that the Vatican may possess in its archives.

“We will invite the delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders, knowledge keepers, and youth who will meet with Pope Francis to open their hearts to the Holy Father and share both their suffering as well as their hopes and desires for his eventual visit to Canada,” added Poisson.

The idea of a pastoral visit to Canada has been discussed for months, and the CCCB recently made a pledge to “work with the Holy See and Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit to Canada by the Pope.” 

“Following this pledge and informed by three years of ongoing dialogue between the Canadian Bishops, the Holy See, and Indigenous Peoples, the President and former-President of the CCCB met in Rome with the Secretary of State of the Holy See to discuss next steps on the reconciliation journey earlier this month and in preparation for the delegation,” said the bishops.

The last papal visit to Canada was in 2002. 

The newly-appointed Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller expressed hope Wednesday that the potential visit would bring healing to a hurting people. 

Miller, who described himself as “not a Catholic,” said that “in the grand scheme of what we call reconciliation, I think, for Indigenous peoples, that full recognition of harm caused is something that is long waited for.”

In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Catholic, requested that Pope Francis issue an apology for the Church’s role in the country’s residential school system. The pope declined to give an apology, but has repeatedly expressed “sorrow” at the various atrocities which occurred at the Church-administered schools. 

Canada’s residential school system operated from the 1870s until 1996. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were separated from their families and sent to the schools, established by the federal government and run by Catholics and members of Protestant denominations, to force assimilation and strip them of familial and cultural ties.

The Catholic Church, or Catholic religious orders, ran more than two-thirds of these schools.

According to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an estimated 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the schools. Many unmarked graves located on or near the locations of the former schools were discovered over the summer. 

Individual bishops, religious orders, as well as the CCCB, have issued apologies for the role the Church played in operating the schools. The Canadian government, as well as other Christian churches, have similarly apologized.

For Chief RoseAnne Archibald, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, an apology from Pope Francis is just the beginning of what she would like to see happen. 

“I’ll welcome Pope Francis when he arrives on Turtle Island to issue a long overdue apology to survivors and intergenerational trauma survivors,” she said. “Meegwetch to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for acting on our request that the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #58 is actioned upon and eventually completed.” 

“Meegwetch'' means “thank you” in Algonquin. In 2015, the commission issued several “call to action”; #58 was an apology from the pope. 

“I reiterate that the Catholic church [sic] must be accountable and acknowledge their responsibility for the great harm caused by their direct role in the institutions of assimilation and genocide that they ran,” she said. Archibald called for further reparations, including “returning diocese land properties back to First Nations,” and additional investment into healing initiatives. 

Archibald requested that Pope Francis “formally revoke ‘Inter Caetera’ 1493 Doctrine of Discovery,” and “replace it with a Papal Bull that decrees Indigenous Peoples and cultures are valuable, worthy, and must be treated with dignity and respect.” 

Inter Caetera was a papal bull from 1493 granting control of what is now parts of North and South America to Portuguese and Spanish monarchs, as well as control of lands currently occupied by non-Christians.