1. Jean Vanier created a wildly inefficient model of compassion.

By Michael Gerson, The Washington Post, May 10, 2019, Pg. A23

With the passing of Jean Vanier on May 7, the sum of the world’s welcoming kindness diminished appreciably.

More than 50 years ago, Vanier sparked an unlikely movement of conscience. Shocked by the despair and loneliness he found at a psychiatric hospital outside Paris, Vanier did not merely adopt the cause of the intellectually disabled; he decided to buy a dilapidated house and live with Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two people with severe intellectual disabilities. “Essentially, they wanted a friend,” Vanier said. “They were not very interested in my knowledge or my ability to do things, but rather they needed my heart and my being.”

The L’Arche movement is not sectarian, but it is clearly informed by Vanier’s Catholic faith. His life’s work reflects a Christian anthropology — a belief in the inherent rights and dignity of every human life. Vanier identified this as “the belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being.”

In one sense, Vanier’s approach to compassion is wildly inefficient. Who would design a social program that strives for a one-to-one ratioof helpers to helped? How could that type of effort possibly be scaled? But that is precisely the point. L’Arche is not a traditional social program. Its commitment to the dignity of people with intellectual disabilities is lavish, extravagant. It rejects a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis. And it certainly rejects a social Darwinism that views the vulnerable as worthless. By serving a group of human beings that others ignore or discount, Vanier made the case that no human being should be ignored or discounted.

As a teacher and writer, Vanier spoke to a broader cultural unease. In modern societies, it is not only the disabled who feel isolated, abandoned and alone. Vanier diagnosed loneliness as the great challenge of our time. “Loneliness is a feeling of being guilty,” he said. “Of what? Of existing? Of being judged? By whom? We do not know. Loneliness is a taste of death.”

The answer to loneliness is the same thing that L’Arche offers. Human beings can thrive and be happy only in small, family-size communities. And communities of this type are created only through mutual vulnerability. And that sense of vulnerability requires a knowledge of our frailties. And so the happiness and belonging we need most in life begin with a recognition of our own weakness.


2. Vatican issues decree requiring clergy to report allegations of sexual abuse.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, May 10, 2019, Pg. A14

 Pledging that clerical sexual abuse should “never happen again,” Pope Francis on Thursday issued a sweeping new law aimed at holding leadership more accountable while overhauling how the Roman Catholic Church deals with accusations of abuse and coverup. 

The rules, a mix of commonsense requirements and more technical provisions, are the church’s first major step to formalize all stages of fielding and investigating abuse claims, a process that has previously been subject to improvisation. 


3. Alabama Abortion Debate Heats Up.

By Arian Campo-Flores, The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2019, Pg. A3

The Alabama Senate erupted in angry clashes during debate about an antiabortion bill that is considered the strictest in the nation and effectively would outlaw the procedure.

The Republican-backed measure, which passed the state House last month, would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion at any point during pregnancy, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. An attempted abortion would yield a sentence of up to 10 years. The measure makes one exception, allowing an abortion when the mother has a “serious health risk.” Women who have the procedure wouldn’t be criminally liable.


4. Could a ‘heartbeat bill’ take down Roe v. Wade?

By Kimberly Leonard, The Washington Examiner, May 10, 2019, 12:05 AM

A handful of red states are placing bets on abortion bans in the hopes of having the Supreme Court reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide for up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

States are quickly passing laws banning abortion when a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, at about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they’re pregnant. Such “heartbeat bills” have passed this year in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio, and in previous years in Iowa and North Dakota.

Because the laws violate Roe’s 24-week standard, they’ve been quickly struck down or put on hold everywhere they have been challenged, and abortion remains legal across the U.S. Still, advocates who push them hope they may eventually offer the opportunity to reverse Roe given that the Supreme Court’s makeup has changed with President Trump’s appointments of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. If that were to happen, the decision over the legalization of abortion would fall to the states. 

“The clear vitality of life that is developing is becoming more and more apparent to our eyes and our ears, and that for many people is what is inspiring these bills,” said Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, an attorney for the Catholic Association.


5. Pope’s new anti-sex abuse vague on lay leaders, movements.

By Elise Harris, Crux, May 10, 2019

Amid the various sexual abuse scandals that have rocked Catholicism in recent decades, most have involved clergy – priests, bishops, archbishops, all the way up to cardinals – while others turn on members of religious orders.

A handful, however, including some of the most protracted and painful scandals, involve laity who lead movements in the Church, such as Peruvian layman Luis Fernando Figari and his powerful Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV). Exactly what role local bishops and other authorities should play in policing such abuse has long been seen as something of a blind spot in Church law.

Perhaps it’s telling, therefore, that when two of the Church’s leading experts on the legal dimension of the abuse scandals were asked Tuesday about the implications of a new set of norms from Pope Francis for lay movements, they gave slightly contrasting responses.


6. Cardinal DiNardo welcomes new papal norms on preventing clergy abuse.

By Catholic News Service, May 9, 2019, 9:45 AM

New papal norms on preventing clergy sexual abuse are “a blessing that will empower the church everywhere to bring predators to justice, no matter what rank they hold in the church,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new juridical instrument “calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity,” Cardinal DiNardo said May 9.

The new document, given “motu proprio,” on the pope’s own initiative, was titled “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”). Cardinal DiNardo praised it for leaving latitude for national bishops’ conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances.


7. Canadians march for life.

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, May 9, 2019, 4:00 PM

Pro-life campaigners from across Canada gathered on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill Thursday for the country’s annual National March for Life. Carrying a variety of handmade and pre-printed signs in a variety of languages, pro-life advocates, school groups, families, and clergy turned out to mark the fiftieth year of legal abortion in the country.

Police declined to give a formal estimate of the crowd, but participants told CNA that thousands of marchers were in attendence.

Addressing the crowd at a pre-march rally, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto referenced the changing nature of the pro-life movement in Canada as new laws have been passed over five decades.

Pointing to the spreading practice of euthanasia across the country, the cardinal said that it was paramount that “people recognize the reality, the profound preciousness of the gift of life from the first moment of conception until natural death.”


8. How to destroy nursing’s sacred covenant, with one bad decision.

By Grazie Pozo Christie, May 08, 2019 06:53 PM

Proponents of assisted suicide have been so successful in decriminalizing it that, today, one in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction that allows the practice. Proponents want doctors’ and nurses’ professional associations to reject the Hippocratic oath’s command to “do no harm” in favor of making suicide just one more therapeutic option for sick or despairing terminally ill patients.

The American Nurses Association, whose venerable pedigree dates back to 1896, is the latest group to consider abandoning its traditional opposition to assisted suicide. A change in the ANA’s longstanding opposition to assisted suicide would rock the entire healthcare profession in the United States. It would also have enormous consequences for all Americans, given this organization’s lobbying power and prestige.

The ANA’s past statements on euthanasia and assisted suicide were spot-on. They prohibited assisted suicide, whether direct or indirect, “because these acts are in direct violation of [the] Code of Ethics for Nurses…ethical traditions and goals of the profession and its covenant with society.”

Anyone who has ever benefited from the warm attention of a competent and tender nurse — anyone who has watched in gratitude as a hospice nurse helped a family through the difficult process of natural death — understands the value of this covenant. It’s a promise to accompany and comfort. It’s a tradition of nursing, a noble tradition, that the American Nurses Association should preserve, even as activists fight to make assisted suicide just another therapy for those who suffer and despair.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.


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