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Argentine archbishop warns president: 'There is little time left' to avoid debacle

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez at the Holy See press office, Oct. 8, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 18, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández of La Plata warned Argentine president Alberto Fernández Thursday that his priorities, such as abortion, marijuana, euthanasia, and non-binary language, don’t respond to the "profound anguish" of the people.

"For the love of this wounded country, many of us hope that the President can revise in time the priorities on his agenda, to avoid a debacle that would end up harming our people even more," the Argentine prelate wrote in a Sept. 16 column in La Nación, an Argentine daily.

Archbishop Fernández said the Argentine president has been "all taken up with abortion, marijuana, and even euthanasia, while the poor and the middle class were deeply anguished with other things that have gotten no response."

“In recent months there has been a strong push to impose ‘non-binary’ language that in the sprawling slums no one seems to be interested in. Perhaps you want to copy the agenda of Spanish socialism, forgetting that we are here in Latin America, and to top it all, in the middle of a pandemic, where circumstances demand dealing with other more pressing issues.”

“At the end of last year, while neighboring countries were buying vaccines, here the Ministry of Health was in the middle of a passionate campaign for abortion. At least it must be recognized that it was not the right time nor the most pressing need,” the Archbishop of La Plata pointed out.

A law permitting elective abortion up to 14 weeks, pushed by the Fernandez administration, was adopted in December 2020.

The archbishop noted that many women whose need for abortion the government believed it was responding to, “were living from day to day, with their families torn apart, their children who had dropped out of school and had fallen into drugs and crime, and with money worth less every day.” 

"Thus the social agenda that could have characterized this government was blurred, and so a great opportunity was squandered," he lamented.

Inflation in Argentina is expected to reach 48.2% in 2021, with an economic growth rate of 6.8%.

Referring to the primary elections held over the weekend, Archbishop Fernández said that “the very low turnout by people who don’t feel represented by other political options but are too fed up to go out and vote” ought to grab one’s attention.

It speaks volumes “that in many poor neighborhoods 40% of the people didn’t vote, although in reality this campaign with few real proposals and many slogans didn’t enthuse anyone," he added.

Open primary elections were held last weekend in Argentina. According to the Spanish language edition of CNN, if the results are repeated in November in the general elections, Frente de Todos, the governing coalition, would lose the majority it holds in the Senate; it is already in the minority in the Chamber of Deputies.

The Archbishop of La Plata stressed that Fernández "still has time to give priority to major social problems," although he pointed out that "sometimes politics gets confused when it believes that talking about certain issues responds to the expectations of society, and in reality it is only flattering minority sectors close to it.”

"That’s not the Argentine people, and the votes seem to show it," he stressed.

"However, some members of the government itself seem to think that the solution is to become more radical, without seeing that this would be getting closer to the abyss," he lamented.

Archbishop Fernández then asked “who wouldn’t forgive the President for the misstep of the little party in Olivos if they had felt him closer to their real problems? The point is that he treated those who did the same as he did as ‘imbeciles,’ as well as when he asked for a respectful debate on abortion while calling those who thought differently ‘hypocrites.’”

Fernández’ domestic partner, Fabiola Yáñez, had organized a party July 14, amid a COVID-19    quarantine.

In April, the president said in reference to those who criticized the high number of COVID-19 cases in the country that “I hear these idiots saying that the infected are a political solution. Does anyone think that the one who governs a country gains by doing politics with the numbers of those infected? You have to be a total idiot to say those things or a very bad person.”

The Archbishop of La Plata noted that "our people are generous and are capable of giving another chance to those who know how to retrace their footsteps and get back on track."

“Hopefully this will be the case, so that an economy that has been damaged for several years can be rebuilt and we can begin to resolve the difficulties of the great majority that is suffering. There are already many people tired of waiting,” he concluded.

Archbishop Fernández' column was published one day after the resignation of all the ministers and senior officials representing Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the cabinet, and amid a public confrontation between her and Fernández.

Daily Reading for Monday, September 20th, 2021 HD

Reading 1, Ezra 1:1-6 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia -- to fulfil the word of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah -Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: 2 'Cyrus king of Persia says this, "Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. 3 Whoever among you belongs to the full tally of his people, may his ...

Body of Christ, Save Me!: Prayer of the Day for Saturday, September 18, 2021

Body of Christ, save me! Save me from my great arch-enemy, my weak and faltering self. Save me from all greed of money, of power, and of praise. Save me from thirst for pleasure, worldly show, and midnight revelry. Save me from betraying You, Dear Lord, in thought, or in word, or in deed. Amen.

Body of Christ, Save Me!: Prayer of the Day for Saturday, September 18, 2021

Body of Christ, save me! Save me from my great arch-enemy, my weak and faltering self. Save me from all greed of money, of power, and of praise. Save me from thirst for pleasure, worldly show, and midnight revelry. Save me from betraying You, Dear Lord, in thought, or in word, or in deed. Amen.

St. Joseph of Cupertino: Saint of the Day for Saturday, September 18, 2021

St. Joseph was born in 1603 at Cupertino, in the diocese of Nardo in the Kingdom of Naples. After spending his childhood and adolescence in simplicity and innocence, he finally joined the Franciscan Friars Minor Conventual. After his ordination to the holy priesthood, he gave himself up entirely to a life of devotion to the Lord and his church. His deep devotional life led him to the kind of holiness which is forged through humility, voluntary mortification, and obedience. He was consecrated to ...

Daily Readings for Saturday, September 18, 2021

Reading 1: 1 Timothy 6:13-16, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 100:2-5, Gospel: Luke 8:4-15

St. Joseph of Cupertino: Saint of the Day for Saturday, September 18, 2021

St. Joseph was born in 1603 at Cupertino, in the diocese of Nardo in the Kingdom of Naples. After spending his childhood and adolescence in simplicity and innocence, he finally joined the Franciscan Friars Minor Conventual. After his ordination to the holy priesthood, he gave himself up entirely to a life of devotion to the Lord and his church. His deep devotional life led him to the kind of holiness which is forged through humility, voluntary mortification, and obedience. He was consecrated to ...

UK woman who regrets teen gender transition sees court victory overturned on appeal

null / Ink Drop/Shutterstock

London, England, Sep 17, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

A woman who says she was too young when a gender clinic prescribed her puberty blockers has lamented that a U.K. appeals court has overturned a previous decision holding that children under age 16 are unlikely to be able to consent.

“I am obviously disappointed with the ruling of the court today, and especially that it did not grapple with the significant risk of harm that children are exposed to by being given powerful experimental drugs,” said Keira Bell, according to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

Bell, who is now in her mid-twenties, was one of two claimants in a legal challenge to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Britain's main Gender Identity Development Service for children. She was prescribed puberty-blocking drugs around the age of 15 to stop the process of developing female sexual characteristics. A year later she began to take cross-sex hormones to promote the development of male characteristics and underwent breast removal surgery at the age of 20.

She said the clinic should have challenged her more over her desire to have a gender transition. Both claimants argued that prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to children under age 18 was unlawful as they were not competent to offer valid consent to the treatment.

“A global conversation has begun and has been shaped by this case,” Bell said Friday. “There is more to be done. It is a fantasy and deeply concerning that any doctor could believe a 10-year-old could consent to the loss of their fertility.”

She said she had “no regrets” about bringing the case. Doing so “shone a light into the dark corners of a medical scandal that is harming children and harmed me.” She aims to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, BBC News reports.

The Court of Appeal overturned a December 2020 high court ruling that said children are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to medical treatment involving drugs that delay puberty.

The Sept. 17 ruling said there are “difficulties and complexities” in these cases, but that “it is for the clinicians to exercise their judgement knowing how important it is that consent is properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances.”

A Tavistock spokesperson praised the ruling, saying it “upholds established legal principles which respect the ability of our clinicians to engage actively and thoughtfully with our patients in decisions about their care and futures.”

“It affirms that it is for doctors, not judges, to decide on the capacity of under-16s to consent to medical treatment,” the spokesperson said.

Backers of puberty blockers prescribe them to children who are experiencing gender dysphoria. The NHS defines this as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.”

 

The Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service backed their use because this “allows a young person time to consider their options and to continue to explore their developing gender identity before making decisions about irreversible forms of treatment.”

It argued against the high court ruling, saying it interfered with the ability of children to make decisions for themselves. It said the expert evidence presented against its practices was “partisan.”

The other claimant in the case was the mother of an unnamed teenage autistic girl waiting for treatment.  

“A child experiencing gender distress needs time and support – not to be set on a medical pathway they may later regret,” said the claimant, identified in news reports only as Mrs. A.

In the past five years, the number of people referred to the Gender Identity Development Service has almost doubled. According to the service's website, there were 1,408 referrals in 2015-16 and 2,728 in 2019-20.

Alison Holt, social affairs correspondent for BBC News, said that the ruling has effectively “removed the courts from the decision-making process in all but the most difficult cases.”

In the December high court decision, the judges said that children under the age of 16 could only consent to puberty blockers if they were “competent to understand the nature of the treatment.” This includes “an understanding of the immediate and long-term consequences of the treatment, the limited evidence available as to its efficacy or purpose, the fact that the vast majority of patients proceed to the use of cross-sex hormones, and its potential life-changing consequences for a child.”

“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”

The December decision said the clinical interventions are still “innovative and experimental.”

Puberty-suppressing drugs had been prescribed to children as young as 10 on the basis of informed consent. This is a fundamental principle of modern medicine in which a doctor informs a patient of potential risks before they agree to undergo medical treatment.

In March 2021, the High Court’s family division allowed parental consent to puberty blockers for children under 16, so long as safeguarding measures were considered.

In September 2020, before the first High Court ruling, the National Health Service had commissioned Dr. Hilary Cass to review its gender identity services, an NHS spokesman said. This review aimed to “to ensure the best model of safe and effective care is delivered.” The review will set “wide-ranging recommendations,” including the use of puberty blockers and “the many contested clinical issues identified by the court.”

The review is not yet finished.

In March 2021, Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital, which treats minors with gender dysphoria, said it would cease providing “puberty blocking” drugs or cross-sex hormones to children under the age of 16. It cited concerns about long-term effects of the drugs and hormone procedures, as well as questions about the fully informed consent of patients under the age of 16. Its statement cited the December 2020 decision against Tavistock. Children with gender dysphoria would still be able to receive psychological and psychiatric care, it said.

In October 2019, a Swedish investigative television show reported that the hospital performed double mastectomies on children as young as 14 years old.

Other critics of transition procedures have come forward. In a June 25 essay for Newsweek, New York woman Grace Lidinsky-Smith said she regrets going through gender transition surgery. She believed other factors motivated her decision to seek a gender transition.

Lidinsky-Smith is president of the Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network. The organization lobbies against efforts legally to prohibit “trans care,” arguing instead for best practices and accountability for medical providers. She backs the standards of WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, but laments that there is no requirement that these standards be followed.

Paul McHugh, psychiatry professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has criticized WPATH standards and purported gender transition protocols that progress from social transition, to medical interventions and to surgery. He says they lack evidence.

McHugh provided testimony in an amicus brief for the U.S. Supreme Court Case of Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, decided in 2020. There, he wrote that WPATH itself has said that “no controlled clinical trials of any feminizing/masculinizing hormone regimen have been conducted to evaluate safety or efficacy in producing physical transition.”

The Biden administration, citing its interpretation of sex discrimination law, backs a federal requirement that doctors and insurers provide or cover gender-transitioning procedures upon referral. Last month a federal judge ruled in favor of Catholic and Christian health care organizations opposed to this mandate.

Some U.S. and European jurisdictions have passed strict laws banning “conversion therapy” that seeks to change sexual orientation and gender identity. Other jurisdictions have sought to ban gender transition for minors.

Virginia March for Life highlights importance of gubernatorial election

The Virginia March for Life in Richmond, Sept. 17, 2021. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Richmond, Va., Sep 17, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Virginians took to the streets of Richmond on Friday as part of the third annual Virginia March for Life.

The Sept. 17 march took place in the literal shadow of the Virginia capitol, and in the figurative shadow of the upcoming gubernatorial election. Early voting began Friday, and the election was a main point of many of the pre-march rally speeches. 

“Today is the first day of early voting. So we're excited to be ushering in this voting season with pro-lifers,” Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, told CNA prior to the rally. Cobb’s organization assisted with orchestrating the march. 


Virginia, said Cobb, has “a pro-abortion majority in our legislature and a pro abortion governor, and we're sending $6 million straight out of our tax dollars, straight into the hands of the abortion industry.”

“These folks are here to say enough is enough. And today they're going to March and they're gonna March around the Capitol and make their statement,” she said. “And then they're going to March on over to the registrar's office and they're going to go vote for pro-life candidates.”

Volunteers were on hand to register people to vote as they left the capitol grounds. 

If the election in November results in pro-life candidates getting elected, Cobb told CNA that she thinks their first priority should be to defund the abortion industry. 

“We've got to immediately strike all that funding that goes to the abortion industry out of the budget,” she said. “And we've got to get back the pro-life laws that we had for years and years on the books.”

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, also spoke at the pre-march rally. Quigley told CNA that Friday was an important day for “the future of pro-life policy here in Virginia.”

“We want to make sure that pro-life Virginians know who the pro-life candidate is in this very important upcoming race,” said Quigley, “Virginia's gubernatorial race is going to be a bellwether for 2022.” 

The leading candidates in the race are Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

Quigley said that it was important to remind people that Gov. Ralph Northam, who actively supported a law that would allow abortion until birth and removed protections for babies born alive after botched abortions, had endorsed McAuliffe. 

“Last night during the debate McAuliffe said that the two of them have been a brick walls against pro-life policy here in Virginia,” said Quigley. 

With the conversation from the speakers at the rally mainly highlighting the need to elect pro-life candidates, at least one pro-life Democrat was at the march.

Craig Rew, from Short Pump, was clad in a pro-life Democrat hat and was toting a Democrats for Life of America sign. He told CNA that he was at the march “to show that there are pro-life Democrats.” 

Rew explained that he believed that “life is a progressive idea,” and that “abortion is not the solution to any problems.” 

Abortion, he said, “is the problem.” 

Hannah Clarke of Richmond came to the march along with her church, Staples Mill Road Baptist Church, and her nearly-four-month-old baby. She told CNA that while she had long considered herself to be pro-life, the experience of becoming a mother made her even more so. 

“What better reason to fight for life now that I have my own? I’m even more pro-life now that I have a baby. I didn't know if that was possible,” said Clarke. 

For Clarke, her pro-life beliefs are rooted in both faith and reason. 

“The root of the issue is that [those in favor of abortion] don't mind killing babies because they don't see them as human,” she said. “And that's where we need to get back to science. Like you don't even have to argue it from a religious standpoint, if you don't want to. The majority of scientists agree that life begins at conception.” 

She said it was particularly challenging to see the reaction to the law recently enacted in Texas. 

“I just want everyone, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof, to realize you're just laughing in the face of science and damaging people more than more than they realize,” she said. 

Adulthood and motherhood reinforcing pro-life beliefs was a common theme among the attendees CNA spoke to. 

“I was always pro-life--my family was pro-life--but I think that it really came home for me as an adult,” Liz Ferraro, from King George, Va., told CNA. “When you learn how gruesome abortion is, when you learn what it is, and you learn what it looks like, and how it ends a human life.”

Abortion, she said, “is not just a choice, it’s a person.” 

The experience of having her own children, and “seeing the sonograms when they’re only six weeks old” with their “little nubs” for limbs, helped cement her views. 

“It’s just unbelievable that (people think) it’s okay to murder them,” said Ferraro. 

The Virginia March for Life is one of several state-specific marches this year. With the Supreme Court considering Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which will decide the constitutionality of pre-viability restrictions on abortion, abortion could once again become an issue to be decided by states. 

For Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, this represents an opportunity for the pro-life movement. In recent years, even prior to knowing that the Supreme Court would be considering Dobbs, the March for Life has focused on certain states to drum up pro-life support. 

“We’re very active in the states as well,” she said. “Last month we were in California. Here we are today in Richmond, and in two weeks, we’ll be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” 

She said it would be “interesting” to see how the state-level continues to progress. Virginia, Mancini explained, has undergone “a radical shift in the direction of abortion extremism” over the past two years. 

“So, in Virginia it is important to win it back,” she said. “I mean, the two candidates that are running for governor right now could not be more different in this particular issue. Do we want a Northam 2.0, or do we want to try to take Virginia back for life?” 

Looking ahead, Mancini told CNA that she is hopeful things will be changing both in the cultural and legal realms. 

“I certainly hope that the Supreme Court goes in the direction of sending these questions to the states,” she said.  

“Our goal at the March for Life is to make abortion unthinkable. I can’t tell you how happy I’d be to work myself out of a job. That would be wonderful.”

Bishops warn against abortion funding in reconciliation bill

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' pro-life committee / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Friday warned against abortion funding in a massive spending bill being considered by Congress.

“Congress can, and must, turn back from including taxpayer funding of abortion, in the Build Back Better Act,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee.

“We urge all members of Congress and the Administration to work in good faith to advance important and life-saving healthcare provisions without forcing Americans to pay for the deliberate destruction of unborn human life,” they stated.

This week, House committees advanced portions of a federal spending package that could ultimately total $3.5 trillion. The package would include various policy priorities of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, such as funding of universal pre-K, free tuition for two-year community college, investments in “green” energy, and a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.

Included in the health care portions of the package are some proposals supported by the U.S. bishops’ conference. These include expansion of Medicaid coverage, postpartum coverage for mothers, and funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“Catholic bishops have been strong advocates for proposals at both the federal and state level that ensure all people will have access to affordable healthcare,” both Naumann and Coakley said on Friday.

“However, the legislative text advanced by the two House committees also funds abortion, the deliberate destruction of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters - those in the womb. This cannot be included,” they said.

Pro-life leaders have warned that health care spending in the bill could fund abortions, unless specific pro-life language is added to the legislation to block such funding. Federal dollars could fund abortion coverage through Affordable Care Act health subsidies and through the creation of a parallel Medicaid structure for states that refused to expand Medicaid.

Some members, such as Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), tried to insert amendments to the reconciliation bill prohibiting abortion funding; those attempts were blocked this week, in hearings of the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The budget package would need to pass through the process of "reconciliation," the process by which budget-related items can pass the Senate with only a simple majority vote. It is being considered in addition to the normal government funding "appropriations" bills for the 2022 fiscal year.