1. Pope Suggests ‘Better to Be Atheist Than Hypocritical Catholic’

By Reuters, February 23, 2017, 8:15 AM

Pope Francis delivered another criticism of some members of his own Church on Thursday, suggesting it is better to be an atheist than one of “many” Catholics who he said lead a hypocritical double life.

In improvised comments in the sermon of his private morning Mass in his residence, he said: “It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life.”

“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association’,” the head of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church said, according to a Vatican Radio transcript.

He said that some of these people should also say “‘my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life’.”

“There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”


2. FDA urged to let abortion pill be sold at pharmacies.

By David Crary, Associated Press, February 22, 2017, 3:39 PM

The so-called abortion pill — now dispensed only in clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices — should be made available by prescription in pharmacies across the U.S., according to a group of doctors and public health experts urging an end to tough federal restrictions on the drug.

The appeal to the Food and Drug Administration came in a commentary published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the 10 co-authors were doctors and academics from Stanford, Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as leaders of major reproductive-health organizations.

The restrictions have been in place since the drug, mifepristone, was approved for use in the U.S. in 2000. They stipulate that the drug, marketed as Mifeprex, may not be sold in pharmacies and that all providers of the drug undergo a special certification process.

Asked about the commentary, the FDA’s media office referred a reporter to a 2016 document asserting that the restrictions on Mifeprex remain necessary for safety reasons. The office declined further comment.

According to the latest federal figures, medical abortions — generally a two-pill regimen using Mifeprex and the drug misoprostol — accounted for about 22 percent of abortions in the U.S. in 2013. Surgical procedures accounted for nearly all the other abortions.

The new commentary suggested that lifting the FDA restrictions would likely increase the number of doctors willing to prescribe Mifeprex, since they would no longer have to stock the drug in their office and would no longer have to be on a list of certified abortion providers. 

Anti-abortion organizations, including the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, remain opposed to steps that would ease regulation of the abortion pill.

“It is a dangerous fantasy to think that unsupervised use of Mifeprex could be construed as anything but harmful to the health and safety of women due to increasing complications, hemorrhages, infections, and failures that occur as the pregnancy progresses,” said the association’s executive director, Dr. Donna Harrison.


3. Help stop war in Ukraine, aid children in need, says church leader.

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, February 22, 2017

The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church [Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych] called on the international community to “stop the aggressor” in Ukraine’s “forgotten conflict” and help the 1 million children in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Despite efforts the past three years, a “stable cease-fire” has never been achieved, “therefore, we ask international organizations to continue diplomatic approaches to stop the aggressor and end the war so that true peace can be reached,” he said in a written statement received by Catholic News Service February 22.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council during an open debate on February 21 that “all necessary steps should be taken to enforce the cease-fire and to implement the measures agreed upon” for Ukraine while respecting basic human rights and international laws.

In March 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, and about a month later, fighting began along Ukraine’s eastern border. Russian-speaking separatists with support from the Russian government and its troops have been battling Ukrainian forces.


4. In DR Congo, an upsurge of violence against the Church.

By Aid to the Church in Need, February 22, 2017, 6:09 PM

In the wake of an attack on a Catholic seminary, the leader of the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has issued an appeal about “the alarming security situation” in his country.

In a message sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, the country’s capital, reported on a Feb. 18 “arson attack” on the Malole major seminary. The prelate charged the perpetrators were “violent thugs, who have [also] sown terror among the Carmelite Sisters” in nearby Kananga.

The cardinal described the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as marked by a “resurgence of fear, anger and insecurity” among the population. He stressed that the Catholic Church in particular has come under attack recently.

The archbishop believes the Catholic Church is “being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation.”

The Church played a crucial role as mediator in negotiations that led to a Dec. 31, 2016 agreement that DRC President Joseph Kabila will step down following elections to be held late this year. The agreement brought the country back from the brink of renewed civil war.