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Catholic schools must be faithful and welcoming on gender identity, Cleveland Diocese says

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Denver, Colo., Sep 14, 2023 / 18:41 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has issued a policy on gender identity and related LGBT issues for its Catholic schools, stressing the need to accompany and welcome people with gender dysphoria while also showing consistency with Catholic teaching and respect for God’s creation.

“Catholic institutions must accompany people experiencing gender dysphoria and be committed both to providing a loving environment and to upholding the truth of God’s created reality,” the introduction to the Ohio diocese’s policy says. “As the Catechism teaches, individuals who experience these perceptions or feelings are to be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity and that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

The three-page policy document, dated Aug. 31, largely formalizes existing policy and practice, according to the diocese’s website. The policy applies to diocesan offices, parishes, parish schools, and diocesan schools. There are about 42,000 students in Catholic schools in the diocese.

Bishop Edward Malesic of Cleveland promulgated the policy as particular law for the Diocese of Cleveland, meaning it has canonical status.

“All are welcome,” says the policy, adding that by being a part of a Catholic community a person accepts the responsibility of acting in a way “consistent with moral teachings” and in a way that upholds “the rules and expectations of that community … designed to reflect the fullness of the Church’s teachings.”

Pronouns, bathrooms, dress codes, and more

Regarding parental notification, the policy says that a Catholic institution should notify parents or guardians if faculty or staff become aware that a minor is experiencing “gender dysphoria or gender confusion.” If there is “reasonable concern” that notification will result in physical abuse, the institution should consult the diocese’s legal office and the moral theologian designated by the bishop. However, the policy states that the “initial presumption” should be that parents are notified unless there is a “compelling reason not to.”

The policy clarifies that if a parent or guardian declines to affirm a child’s newly claimed identity it should not be considered abuse or a reason not to disclose the child’s gender confusion.

The policy bars student or staff use of “preferred pronouns” in speech or writing, including institutional correspondence and communications. With parental agreement, nicknames may be used for a person with gender dysphoria or gender confusion “as a pastoral accommodation,” provided their use does not obscure or contradict a person’s biological sex.

Bathroom use must correspond to biological sex. In some cases, an institution’s leaders may accommodate requests for the use of single-person bathrooms.

Dress codes require a person to dress “consistent with their God-given biological sex and complying with any applicable sex-specific dress code.”

Admissions to institutions, programs, and activities that are single-sex must be based on a student’s biological sex. Exceptions could include special cases, such as when a girl seeks to play certain roles on a boy’s football team.

Same-sex couples may not attend dances, mixers, or similar events as a couple.

The policy says it does not ban “open and respectful discussion or debate” on sexuality and gender dysphoria in appropriate forums for Catholic institutions. However, it bars the display of pride flags or other symbols that may be construed as opposition to Catholic teaching.

“No person may publicly advocate or celebrate sexual orientation or identity in ways that are contrary to the Catholic Church’s teaching and that could cause disruption, confusion, or scandal regarding the Catholic Church’s teachings.”

The policy bars purported gender transitions through social behavior, surgery, or medical treatments. It also rejects changes to or purges of institutional records and documents. These must reflect “a person’s God-given biological sex and legal name.”

Policy based on Catholic teaching

“A person experiencing gender dysphoria or confusion will not be denied admission to an institution or be excluded from an institution’s life and activities simply because he or she is experiencing gender dysphoria or confusion or same-sex attraction,” the policy adds. It outlines cases in which accommodations should or can be made for people with gender dysphoria.

At the same time, the policy notes, those who openly voice disagreement with Church teaching “in an open and scandalous way” or who act contrary to Catholic teaching may face restrictions, or, as appropriate, disciplinary action.

Catholic institutions must act and speak in ways consistent with Catholic teaching, the policy document says. This includes Catholic teaching that “the human person is a unity of both body and soul and that, body and soul, each person is created in God’s image.”

“Our bodies, created male and female, are part of God’s intentional design in creation and are, therefore, imbued with meaning and purpose,” the policy explains. “As stewards of these gifts, we are called to accept, love, and care for our bodies as they were created.”

Similar to policies in other Catholic dioceses

The Cleveland Diocese policy is similar to policies of other Catholic dioceses, such as the Archdiocese of Omaha, the Diocese of Sioux Falls in North Dakota, and the Archdiocese of Denver.

In June 2019, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document on gender theory and identity “Male and Female He Created Them.” The document discussed Catholic responses to gender theory, which it criticized as “cultural and ideological revolution.” The congregation said that the aim of the Church at the institutional and individual level must be the education of children in line with authentic principles that defend and instill authentic human dignity.

Court rules California district can’t bar Christian athletic club from schools

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A panel of judges ruled that a California school district must allow a Christian athletic club to return to public schools after the district banned the group over its adherence to Christian teachings on sexuality.

In 2019, the San Jose Unified School District rescinded its recognition of student groups affiliated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because the clubs require members to affirm a statement of faith that declares sexual activity is only permissible between a man and a woman within a marriage. The district claimed this mandatory affirmation discriminated against LGBTQ people.

Even though affiliated clubs had operated in the school district for more than a decade, each club was removed from schools in the district. A lower court sided with the school district, but that decision was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, which ensured that the clubs can operate in the public schools again.

According to the ruling, the San Jose Unified School District engaged in a “double standard” when it “penalized [the Fellowship of Christian Athletes] based on its religious beliefs.”

The opinion found that the district failed to treat Fellowship of Christian Athletes “like comparable secular student groups whose membership was limited based on criteria including sex, race, ethnicity, and gender identity.” The opinion found that “the Constitution prohibits such a double standard.”

The appellate court ruling grants Fellowship of Christian Athletes temporary relief, which allows it to have equal access to the public schools while the litigation is settled. The ruling does not settle the constitutionality of the issue in the ongoing litigation but indicates that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is likely to succeed in its claims against the district.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Danielle J. Forrest said that the district discriminated against Christians under the guise of fighting against discrimination.

“The height of irony is that the district excluded [the Fellowship of Christian Athletes] students from fully participating in the [Associated Student Body] program in the name of preventing discrimination to purportedly ensure that all students feel welcome,” the opinion read. “In doing so, the district selectively enforced its nondiscrimination policy to benefit viewpoints that it favors to the detriment of viewpoints that it disfavors.”

Rigo Lopez, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader for Bay Area schools, applauded the ruling in a statement.

“[Fellowship of Christian Athletes] is excited to be able to get back to serving our campuses,” Lopez said. “Our FCA teams have long enjoyed strong relationships with teachers and students in the past, and we are looking forward to that again.”

The fellowship received representation from Becket, a nonprofit law firm that specializes in religious freedom cases. Daniel Blomberg, a vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement that the ruling ensures equal treatment for religious students.

“This is a huge win for these brave kids, who persevered through adversity and never took their eye off the ball: equal access with integrity,” Blomberg said. “Today’s ruling ensures religious students are again treated fairly in San Jose and throughout California.”

The appellate court has jurisdiction over the entirety of California and eight other states: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Jesuits, Georgetown donate $27 million to fund for slave descendants

Georgetown University. / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 14, 2023 / 08:55 am (CNA).

A foundation that is raising money for the descendants of people who were enslaved by Jesuits announced $27 million in new contributions, more than doubling the total fund, which has now reached $42 million.

The new money came from two large donations: a $10 million contribution from Georgetown University and an estimated $17 million from the Jesuits. The Jesuit funding includes the estimated value of a former plantation that is owned by Jesuits and another $10 million.

With the additional funding, the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation’s fund has now reached 42% of its five-year goal of $100 million. The organization’s final goal is to ultimately reach $1 billion.

Monique Trusclair Maddox, a fourth- and fifth-generation descendant and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement that the contributions are a meaningful step.

“These contributions from Georgetown University and the Jesuits are a clear indication of the role Jesuits and other institutions of higher education can play in supporting our mission to heal the wounds of racism in the United States, as well as a call to action for all of the Catholic Church to take meaningful steps to address the harm done through centuries of slaveholding,” Maddox said.

Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation was established to support funding for programs that will help descendants of those who were enslaved by the Jesuits with a focus on three main areas. This includes education from early childhood to postsecondary education funding, support for elderly and infirm descendants, and racial healing and reconciliation in communities and organizations throughout the country.

Jesuits participated in the slave trade in North America since colonial times to support missionary efforts and establish educational institutions, including Georgetown. In 1838, the university sold more than 272 enslaved people from their plantations to southern Louisiana to support its financial needs.

“The work of reconciliation — grounded in a deep reckoning with the pain and injustice of slavery and its legacies — is an expression of hope,” Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said in a statement.

“The Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation has put forth an extraordinary vision to uplift Descendant communities, support the educational aspirations of Descendants, and promote racial healing in our nation,” DeGioia added. “It is an honor for our university to have the opportunity to contribute to their efforts. The difficult truths of our past guide us in the urgent work of seeking and supporting reconciliation in our present and future.”

Father Tim Kesicki, SJ, who chairs the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Trust, said in a statement that it is important to right past wrongs.

“As a Catholic community, it is imperative that we don’t turn away from our sinful history of slaveholding and instead look inward at how we can right past wrongs with justice, healing, and compassion,” Kesicki said. “I am thrilled to see other Catholic and Jesuit institutions step up by investing in the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation’s mission to foster racial healing and uplift current and future Descendants.”

Georgetown University had previously contributed $1 million to the fund. The Jesuits have previously contributed $15 million to the fund when the foundation was first established.

According to the foundation, there are about 10,000 living and deceased descendants of Jesuit enslavement.

Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia to cover up Nazi SS monument in Catholic cemetery

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak addresses the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2023. / Credit: Shannon Mullen/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 13, 2023 / 13:41 pm (CNA).

The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia said this week that it would cover up a monument to the Nazi SS that still stands in a local cemetery in the suburbs of the city while it engages in “discussions” with the community about the controversial display.

The monument, erected roughly 30 years ago at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery, which is owned by the seat of the archeparchy, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, gained national attention last week with a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. A report on that monument, and another in Michigan, had appeared in the Jewish newspaper The Forward last month.

The monument was meant to honor the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, which was made up of ethnic Ukrainians during the Nazi occupation. The large stone cross bears the insignia of the division as well as several memorial inscriptions in English and Ukrainian. 

Advocates argue the unit should be seen less as a vanguard of the Nazi Reich and more as a group of anti-communist Ukrainian patriots. Critics, meanwhile, say the group was involved in numerous war crimes and atrocities and that their behavior during the war — as well as their identification with the SS — should preclude any monuments being constructed in their honor. 

Amid the controversy, the American Jewish Committee issued a statement urging the Ukrainian Catholic Church to “correct” the “historical myths” about the division and “remove this memorial stone from our community.”

Marcia Bronstein, the regional director of American Jewish Committee Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey, likewise said that the AJC was “look[ing] forward to being partners and exploring how best they can condemn this and how they can remove this statue that is so painful to the Jewish community.”

On Tuesday, Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak said in a statement that “given the current attention surrounding the monument … the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia has decided to temporarily cover [it].”

Gudziak said the monument will remain covered “while our discussions ensue with the community in order to prevent vandalism and with the goal of conducting an objective dialogue with sensitivity to all concerned.”

In an earlier statement Gudziak had noted that the archeparchy “values its relationship with the Jewish community and intends to address the issues at hand with the depth and seriousness that they deserve.”

Reached for comment, an archeparchy spokesperson declined to offer information on how long that process would take, instead directing CNA back toward Gudziak’s original statement.

The 14th Division — also referred to as the 1st Galician for the region from which many of the volunteers were drawn — was after the war found to have participated in several war crimes including the massacre at the Polish village of Huta Pieniacka where as many as 1,200 Polish civilians were killed. The division was also reportedly responsible for the Pidkamin massacre, where several hundred to a thousand were murdered.

The Jewish news outlet Forward reported last month that another statute honoring the division resides near Detroit. Monuments to the division can also be found in Canada.

The Michigan monument sits “on the side of a Ukrainian credit union building” in the town of Warren, according to Forward. The town’s mayor, James Fouts, told the news outlet that there was “not even a minute chance that we would support anything like this.”

“We would never allow anything like that to go on public property,” Fouts told Forward, “but I don’t think we can do much for a monument on private land.”

USAID announces ‘religious engagement policy’ aimed at partnering with faith groups

A Christian mission team is pictured praying in Guatemala in 2019. / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 13, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Tuesday announced the establishment of a new “religious engagement policy” the agency said is meant to incorporate more religious groups and institutions into its global aid and development missions. 

USAID, an independent department in the federal government, administers foreign aid and development assistance to civilian authorities worldwide. Its $50 billion budget funds humanitarian efforts in disaster response, socioeconomic development, and other areas. 

The agency said in a press release on Tuesday that it was debuting its “first-ever religious engagement policy,” which it said underscored “the important role of religious communities and faith-based organizations [FBOs] as strategic development partners.”

The press release said the new policy, titled “Building Bridges in Development: USAID’s Strategic Religious Engagement Policy,” offers aid workers a framework for “engaging religious communities and FBOs.”

Among its goals includes improved collaboration between religious institutions and the agency to maximize “humanitarian assistance outcomes.” The agency will also be pursuing what it calls “strategic religious engagement” with religious partners.

On the policy’s website, USAID said its approach to “strategic religious engagement” can work to “engage local actors as co-designers and critical partners” and encourage partnerships with “new and underutilized organizations with innovative ideas.”

The agency called the new program “an adaptive approach to development and humanitarian assistance that can apply to any sector or region depending on the local context.” 

In a policy document, USAID said it would take several steps to implement the program, including “assess[ing] a country’s religious landscape,” developing “approaches to engagement, partnership, and safeguarding,” “inviting religious actors into stakeholder consultations,” and maintaining “continuous engagement” with those stakeholders.

Program comes after ‘extensive’ dialogue with religious groups

Bill O’Keefe, the executive vice president for mission, mobilization, and advocacy at the global humanitarian group Catholic Relief Services, said CRS is “excited” about the prospect of the new program. 

O’Keefe, who attended the program launch in Washington, told CNA that the program was “the result of extensive consultation and discussion between USAID and faith leaders and faith groups.”

“USAID has long worked directly and indirectly with faith leaders and faith groups, including Catholic Relief Services, Caritas organizations around the world, and other Catholic groups and religious leaders,” O’Keefe said.

“However, it has not had a clear policy encouraging that work and clarifying the contribution religious leaders can make to development and humanitarian response.”  

“We are excited to see the policy and hope especially it facilitates even greater support and partnership between USAID, local Catholic partners, and other religious leaders critical to peace and justice around the world,” O’Keefe continued. 

The framework of the program, O’Keefe said, is “solid.”

“Whether the policy achieves its goals depends on follow-up and leadership at USAID,” he said. “Engaging diverse religious leaders in the many contexts USAID finds itself will require [the agency to] bring to life the principles in the policy itself.”

Past controversies over potential conflicts with religion

USAID’s current administrator is Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who served in the Obama administration. 

Religious groups had raised red flags regarding her nomination to the USAID post in 2021 over concerns that she would push a pro-abortion agenda in that role. Her nomination was praised by the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood Action Fund at the time.

Jesús Magaña, president of United for Life-Colombia, said upon her nomination that Biden was exemplifying an “agenda of death” by nominating Power to the role. 

Ivone Mieles, director of Pro-Life Ecuador, likewise claimed that the nomination was “scary for Latin America” due to the “influence that organizations … like Planned Parenthood, will have” under Power’s administration.

Pro-life advocates last year similarly warned of the influence that pro-abortion ideologues were having on international aid, citing the federal President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief distributing funds to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which last year announced “a partnership with USAID” to address in part “family planning” and “reproductive health” in low- and middle-income countries.

USAID was founded in 1962 by then-President John F. Kennedy, who stressed the importance of charitable giving from “the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people” as well as the U.S.’s “political obligations as the single-largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.”

Originally devoted largely to capital assistance, in its ensuing decades USAID shifted its work to focus on material aid such as food, health, and education. 

It also advocates for more infrastructural development such as improvements in agriculture and sanitation as well as technological development and “anti-corruption” efforts. 

Michigan township can’t ban Catholic group’s Stations of the Cross, court rules

Part of the planned Stations of the Cross prayer trail in Genoa Township, Michigan. / American Freedom Law Center

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

A federal appeals court panel has unanimously ruled in favor of a Catholic group that said a local government in Michigan violated federal religious freedom law when it blocked the use of the group’s 40-acre property for a Stations of the Cross trail.

“Now this 40-acre rural property can be used again for religious worship and religious expression. We’re obviously very pleased by that,” Robert Muise, senior counsel and co-founder of the American Freedom Law Center, told CNA Sept. 12. 

“When you’re not being allowed to use your land for religious worship to display religious symbols, that obviously impacts the right to religious freedom,” he said.

Muise was on the legal team representing the plaintiff in the case, Catholic Healthcare International (CHI). The Missouri-based group promotes Christian health care modeled on the example of the 20th-century Italian St. Pio of Pietrelcina, better know as Padre Pio.

In 2020 the organization received a 40-acre wooded parcel in Genoa Township in southeast Michigan as a gift from the Diocese of Lansing. CHI planned to create a prayer trail with Stations of the Cross, a Catholic devotion that meditates on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as well as an altar and mural placed in an outdoor grotto formed by the property’s trees.

Genoa Township said the prayer path project was the equivalent of a church building and required a special use permit, the Associated Press reported. The Catholic group protested the initial demand for a permit and proceeded to construct religious displays. It also spent thousands of dollars to submit plans for an actual church building, a eucharistic adoration chapel already part of its long-term plans for the site. This too was rejected on grounds that the plan violated zoning restrictions and other rules for property use, including traffic and noise rules.

The township then forced CHI to remove any religious displays from its property. It also banned organized gatherings at the property due to an expired driveway permit.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Monday sided with CHI and granted an injunction barring Genoa Township from obstructing CHI’s religious displays.

U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge, writing the panel decision, ruled that the township’s use of zoning laws imposed a “substantial burden” on the Catholic group’s religious freedom and likely violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which provides strong religious exercise protections for land.

“Catholic Healthcare’s expectation that it could use the property for a prayer campus at the time it acquired the property was not unreasonable,” Kethledge’s decision said.

CHI’s first permit application cost over $30,000 to submit and its second application cost $8,000, but both applications were rejected.

In its ruling, the appellate panel ordered a lower court to ensure that banned symbols and displays can be restored before Sept. 23, when CHI plans to host an event at the site.

Kethledge agreed that CHI had suffered “substantial delay, uncertainty, and expense” because of how the township applied zoning ordinances. The judge also rebuked the township’s effort to categorize the proposed use as a “church” and to subject the Catholic group to the “onerous review process” required for a permit to build a church.

“The Stations of the Cross are structurally akin to large birdhouses, and the altar and mural were indeed set on the ground,” the judge wrote. He added that the ordinary meaning of the word “church” is a structure in which people gather to worship.

He compared the religious displays to nearby public parks’ workout stations and a public park’s lion-themed children’s reading trail similar in format to the Stations of the Cross.

Muise, the attorney representing CHI, noted the ban on organized gatherings at the property. He told CNA that it is “unheard of” to bar this.

“That meant no religious worship on the property,” he said.

“It’s important that we be able to use our property, our private property, for religious worship,” Muise said. “And the fact that the township battled us this long and hard for three years just for this fundamental right to religious worship is pretty disheartening. It took three years to get there, but we’re at least happy that we’re at the point where we’re at.”

The attorney said CHI will continue its ongoing lawsuit against Genoa Township over plans to build a small 95-seat eucharistic adoration chapel that the township has rejected.

Missouri transgender clinic halts treatment for minors as new law goes into effect

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St. Louis, Mo., Sep 12, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A controversial clinic at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) said it will cease the prescription of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to minors for purposes of gender transition following the Aug. 28 implementation of a new state law barring the practice for new minor patients. 

The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Childrens Hospital said it made the decision due to an “unacceptable level of liability,” according to a statement. Patients who are currently receiving blockers and hormones will be referred to other providers for these services, the clinic said.

The clinic, open since 2017, said it will continue to offer other services, including “education and mental health support for all patients, and medical care for patients over the age of 18.”

“We are disheartened to have to take this step. However, Missouri’s newly enacted law regarding transgender care has created a new legal claim for patients who received these medications as minors,” the clinic said. 

“This legal claim creates unsustainable liability for health care professionals and makes it untenable for us to continue to provide comprehensive transgender care for minor patients without subjecting the university and our providers to an unacceptable level of liability.”

The new law, signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson on June 7, bars puberty blockers and hormone therapy for minors who weren’t receiving care prior to Aug. 28 but exempts patients who were receiving medications before the law took effect, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sept. 11. The law includes a minimum liability of $500,000 with a judgment that would be three times the amount of damages assessed.

The law expires on Aug. 28, 2027, and also prohibits transgender adults from access to transgender health care under Medicaid, and bars “gender-affirming” surgery for prisoners and inmates.

The Sept. 11 announcement makes WashU the second major hospital in Missouri to shut down the practice of gender transition for minors following an Aug. 28 announcement from the University of Missouri Health Care, based in Columbia. MU Health Care similarly cited “significant legal liability for prescribing or administering cross-sex hormones or puberty-blockings drugs to existing minor patients.”

Doctors at the WashU clinic have been accused of prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to minors without parental consent, a charge the clinic has denied. In a Feb. 9 blog post, a former case worker at the clinic, Jamie Reed, said she left in November 2022 because the hospital was, in her view, “permanently harming the vulnerable patients in our care.” 

Reed claimed her former clinic put numerous minors on puberty blockers and other drugs, “regularly refers minors for gender transition surgery,” and performed at least one double mastectomy on a minor at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The clinic claimed, Reed said, that a gender “transition” would make it less likely that the patient would commit suicide and appeared eager to suggest gender transition as the response for almost any mental health issue that patients presented.

After Reed went public with her allegations, WashU said in a statement that it was “alarmed” by what was alleged.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and have already begun the process of looking into the situation to ascertain the facts,” that statement read.

The offices of Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and Sen. Josh Hawley both announced investigations into the clinic’s practices earlier this year after the allegations surfaced.

Bailey on Feb. 10 directed a letter to Trish Lollo, president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and Andrew Martin, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, urging the institutions to place a moratorium on prescribing puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to new patients at the Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital until the completion of the investigations. The clinic refused to do so, saying a moratorium would “deny critical, standards-based care to current and new patients.”

The clinic’s practices also prompted a lengthy investigative piece by the New York Times, which described the clinic as “buckling under an unrelenting surge in demand” and corroborated a number of Reed’s allegations while being unable to corroborate others. 

Bailey applauded the clinic’s Sept. 11 announcement, calling it in an X post a “big win for Missouri’s kids and a step in the right direction to properly addressing gender dysphoria and taking woke ideology out of health care.”

The Republican Hawley also praised the decision in a Sept. 11 post on X, saying: “Good news for parents and children and basic common sense — but we still need answers about what happened at WashU and why university officials won’t cooperate with investigators.”

A Feb. 14 statement from Washington University said the university is “committed to providing lifesaving, evidence-based care that aligns with the standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP].” AAP’s standards, as well as those of the U.S.-based Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, have come under scrutiny recently for failing to cite compelling evidence for their claims. 

An article from the British Medical Journal criticized AAP’s guidance on pediatric gender dysphoria, which was drafted primarily by a single doctor, Jason Rafferty, and released in 2018. The document, which recommends against pediatric transgender surgery except on a “case-by-case basis,” has been described by its author as a “policy statement … not meant to be a protocol or guidelines in and of themselves.” The AAP told the British Medical Journal that all its policy statements are reviewed after five years and so a “revision is underway,” based on its experts’ own “robust evidence review.”

Several other countries, such as Britain, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, have begun in recent years to restrict the use of puberty blockers for minors, citing insufficient evidence of their efficacy outweighed by evidence of harm. In addition, Finland and Sweden reserve transgender surgery for adults.

New Mexico bishop defends governor’s controversial gun ban

null / St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office|Wikimedia|CC BY-SA 4.0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in a Monday statement defended the New Mexico governor’s recent controversial executive order banning the carrying of guns in the state’s most populated county.

“I believe Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is correct to point out the crisis we are experiencing in Albuquerque and the County of Bernalillo,” Wester said, adding that “the number of gun deaths we witness here is deplorable and tragic. I hope we can come together in New Mexico to address this issue.” 

“In my view, the governor has been consistent in addressing gun safety through legislation and is not now attacking the Second Amendment,” Wester went on. “She knows the law. Rather, I believe she is trying to get us to solve what has become a crisis in our state.” 

“I do not see the governor’s call to action and discernment as a threat to the Constitution,” Wester said. “The focus should be on the sanctity of human life. That is the point.” 

The order, issued by Lujan Grisham on Sept. 7, temporarily suspends the right of citizens to bear arms in public in Bernalillo County, home to New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque.

Lujan Grisham issued the order following the deaths by shootings of several Albuquerque children in recent months. The order suspended the carrying of guns by citizens for 30 days and was given on the grounds that gun violence in the state constitutes a “public health emergency.”

The public health order issued by Patrick Allen, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, in conjunction with the governor’s office stated that “no person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm … either openly or concealed, within cities or counties averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year.”

In his official statement, the public health secretary said that “temporary firearm restrictions, drug monitoring, and other public safety measures are necessary to address the current public health emergencies.”

The measure stirred immediate controversy in the state and across the nation.

New Mexico citizens have held several protests in the streets of Albuquerque in which they openly carried pistols and various types of rifles.

The Albuquerque mayor and police chief have signaled that they will not enforce the gun ban and that they will leave it to state authorities to do so.

Shortly following the release of the order, Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said that though “every lost life is a tragedy, and the well-being of our community is of paramount concern to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office” the temporary ban “challenges the foundation of our Constitution.”

In a Monday press conference, Sheriff Allen said he believes the order is “unconstitutional” and that “in reference to concealed carry and open carry,” the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department “will not enforce this segment of the order.”

Responding to the criticism, Lujan Grisham said during a Friday press conference that if there is an emergency, “no constitutional right, in my view, is intended to be absolute.”

Despite the county police department’s refusal to enforce the order, Source New Mexico reported that Lujan Grisham is planning to find other ways to enforce her measure.

“The order is being enforced, and citations will be forthcoming from the state police,” Caroline Sweeney, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s office, was reported saying on Monday. 

The office added that they would not be providing additional details “to ensure officer safety.” 

Bishop Wester is the only Catholic prelate to have weighed in on the controversy thus far.

In the past, both the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis have advocated for stricter gun control laws. 

Following the deadly 2021 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Francis said that “it is time to say ‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons” and called for “all [to] make a commitment so that tragedies like this cannot happen again.”

“I hope to hear more of an outcry over an 11-year-old boy killed by a bullet fired in a road rage incident than over the right to carry a gun,” Wester said in his release. 

The Santa Fe bishop concluded his statement by calling on the faithful in his diocese and across the whole Church “to keep the victims of gun violence in your prayers so that we might take steps to solve the tragedy of gun violence in our society.”

New pro-life group prepares to administer Kansas’ $2 million abortion-alternative program

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2023 / 11:15 am (CNA).

A recently formed pro-life network is preparing to administer the inaugural $2 million budget of Kansas’ newly created state-backed “Alternatives to Abortion” program. 

The state treasurer’s office said in a press release last week that “a Kansas-based nonprofit has been selected to administer the Alternatives to Abortion program” enacted by the state Legislature earlier in the year.

The Kansas Pregnancy Care Network (KPCN) “was selected from the three eligible bids that were submitted to the Department of Administration,” the office said, noting the group “was the only Kansas-based entity that submitted a qualified bid.”

Tim Huelskamp, the president of the board of directors of KPCN, told CNA the group is “fairly new.”

The subject is somewhat personal for Huelskamp, he admitted: He himself has four adopted children and hopes the program will help more women choose life for their unborn babies. 

He said the program is “a social service with a material component” that helps pregnant women and mothers access food, diapers, counseling, and other nonmedical resources, he said. There is “no medical component” to the program, he added.

As the nucleus of the Alternatives to Abortion program began to form in the Legislature, Huelskamp said, “a number of folks were looking around and asking who was going to run the nonprofit.” 

“I looked around and didn’t see anyone who was going to put in a bid, so we put together a board of directors,” he said. 

The initiative came together very quickly, Huelskamp said.

“Basically, we started in May, had it put together in June, the [request for proposal] came out in July, it closed in August, and the contract was signed and executed last week.”

Huelskamp has been active in pro-life politics for years. He said every member of the group’s board “has a long history of pro-life activism, with pregnancy resource centers [and] legislative efforts.” 

The state will distribute public funding in quarterly installments to KPCN, after which the directors will distribute the money to qualified subcontractors carrying out pro-life work.

“We use a system by which we certify and make sure each of the organizations are pro-life,” he said. “They can’t participate if they’re not pro-life.”

“The most prevalent [services] are counseling, education, and material assistance,” he said. “They’ll provide us reports and invoices based on the amount of hours and minutes they’re providing their clients, and we’ll provide funds that support those efforts.”

Huelskamp said the group expects to have up to 60 subcontractors using the funds to advance the plan’s goals.

He said the program is based heavily on Texas’s Alternatives to Abortion plan; the Kansas program incorporates numerous elements of that plan into its own framework, including confidentiality and conscience protections.

“Plenty of faith-based organizations are concerned about taking government money for fear they can’t share the Gospel; they might be required to adopt policies that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs,” he said.

“But the [program] subcontract says if you provide abortion, you cannot participate. That’s in the language, that helps avoid that problem.”

Texas’ own program was created during the state’s 2006-2007 legislative year. Its budget has expanded to just over $100 million during the last fiscal year, according to the state health and human service department’s most recent filing.

Texas’s pregnancy care organization last year utilized “a statewide network of 80 subcontractors with a total of 169 physical locations and 10 mobile units throughout Texas,” according to that report.

The state’s four “A2A service providers” last year offered “counseling, mentoring, educational information, classes, material goods, care coordination, and support services,” the state said.

“We thank the Legislature for stepping up and working alongside the pregnancy resource centers,” he said. 

To the dozens of subcontractors with which his group plans to partner, Huelskamp said: “You’re doing great work; let’s have more of it.” 

“We’re really excited,” he added.

Biden Justice Department asks Supreme Court to overturn restrictions on abortion pill 

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2023 / 08:45 am (CNA).

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling that ordered the Food and Drug Administration to put up safeguards that would regulate the use of an abortion pill.

The DOJ filed the appeal on Friday to prevent limits on the abortion pill mifepristone. The drug has FDA approval to kill a preborn child up to the 10th week of pregnancy. It is commonly taken with another pill, misoprostol.

Although the pill has been on the market since 2000, an August ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Food and Drug Administration’s deregulation of mifepristone in 2016 and later years did not follow legally required safety protocols. With this ruling, the court ordered the FDA to return to the rules that were in effect prior to 2016 to ensure the drug is administered safely. 

Under post-2016 rules, doctors are allowed to prescribe the abortion-inducing drug remotely through televisits and women are allowed to receive the drug through the mail. If the appellate court ruling goes into effect, both of these practices would be blocked. Rather, the prescription would require at least one in-person doctor’s visit and the drug would need to be picked up in person.

Danco Laboratories LLC, which distributes the abortion pill mifepristone under the brand name Mifeprex, also petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the appellate court ruling. In a statement, the company accused the courts of imposing restrictions on the drug simply because they do not like it.

“The case presents a serious question: whether courts can disregard constitutional and statutory limits on judicial review of agency action to overrule agency decisions that they dislike,” the statement read. “Danco asks the court to grant review of both the determination that doctors who do not prescribe or want to prescribe Mifeprex have standing and the determination that FDA acted unreasonably in approving the changes in 2016 and 2021 despite the extensive study and other data supporting those decisions.”

Danco’s statement insisted that the company is “confident in the safety and effectiveness of Mifeprex” and that “the FDA actions at issue were well supported by extensive safety and effectiveness data from clinical trials and decades worth of real-world experience in millions of patients.”

In its ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the “FDA failed to address several important concerns about whether the drug would be safe for the women who use it” when it eliminated the safeguards. 

“[The FDA] failed to consider the cumulative effect of removing several important safeguards at the same time,” the court found. “It failed to consider whether those ‘major’ and ‘interrelated’ changes might alter the risk profile, such that the agency should continue to mandate reporting of nonfatal adverse events. And it failed to gather evidence that affirmatively showed that mifepristone could be used safely without being prescribed and dispensed in person.”

Despite the appellate court ruling, the abortion pill is still available under the post-2016 rules as the lawsuit awaits action from the U.S. Supreme Court. In April, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that mifepristone would remain available under the post-2016 regulations for the duration of the litigation process. 

The Supreme Court can decide to allow the appellate court’s ruling to go into effect or take up the appeal itself.

“Mifeprex will continue to be available under the current FDA-approved conditions, which include use in pregnancy up to 10 weeks’ gestation, with prescribing after in-person or telehealth examination and dispensing by certified health care professionals, brick-and-mortar pharmacies, or mail-order pharmacies,” the Danco statement read. 

Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a pro-life organization, sued the FDA over its initial approval of mifepristone in 2000 and the subsequent deregulation of the pill in 2016 and later, claiming that the agency failed to follow proper safety protocols.

The appellate court rejected the argument that the 2000 approval of the drug violated federal law but agreed with the argument that the 2016 deregulation and subsequent deregulation failed to follow proper safety protocol.