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Orthodox patriarch anticipates Pope Francis visit to Turkey for Council of Nicaea anniversary

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 18:04 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis might be traveling to Turkey next year for the 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea, according to Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in comments he made on Thursday.

Although the Holy See has not confirmed any travel plans, the ecumenical patriarch told a group of reporters that a committee is being established to organize a visit, according to the Orthodox Times. The referenced council took place in the ancient city of Nicaea in 325 A.D. in the former Roman Empire, which is now the present-day city of İznik in Turkey. 

“His Holiness Pope Francis wishes for us to jointly celebrate this important anniversary,” Bartholomew said.

The Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical council in the Church. It is accepted by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and other Christian communities that accept the validity of early church councils. It predates the Chalcedonian Schism — which separated the Oriental Orthodox communion from Rome — by more than 100 years and predates the Great Schism — which separated the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome — by more than 700 years.

During the council, the bishops condemned the heresy of Arianism, which asserted that the Son was created by the Father. Arius, a priest who faced excommunication for propagating the heresy, did not accept that the Son was coeternal with the Father.

According to the council, Jesus Christ is “begotten; not made” and is “of the same substance with the Father.” It affirms that the Son is coeternal with the Father and condemns any heresies that assert “the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change” and heresies that assert “there was a time when [Christ] was not [in existence].” 

The council was convened by Emperor Constantine the Great, who is venerated as a saint in some Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox traditions.

Nebraska bishop shares mental illness story, offers message of hope 

Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln credits the support of friends, family, medical professionals, and his golden retriever, Stella, with his recovery from mental illness. / Courtesy: Dennis Kellog

CNA Staff, May 17, 2024 / 17:14 pm (CNA).

After seven years of heading the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop James Conley found himself “buckling” under all of his duties and experiencing severe anxiety, insomnia, and depression. 

Several years later, after addressing his mental health needs, the bishop shared his reflections on mental health and Christ in a May 16 pastoral letter in which he emphasized the importance of support from his friends, family, medical professionals — and his golden retriever, Stella. 

“I was overwhelmed by my responsibilities as bishop and relying too much on my own strength,” Conley wrote in a May 17 introduction to his pastoral letter in the Southern Nebraska Register. “As I received good professional care, I learned that weakness is part of the human condition, but the more we rely exclusively on ourselves, the more those weaknesses are exacerbated.”

Mental health is a growing concern in the United States. The percentage of U.S. adults diagnosed with depression has risen almost 10% since 2015, reaching 29% according to a 2023 Gallup poll, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that almost half of U.S. teens report experiencing persistent sadness and hopelessness.

The Catholic Church is taking steps to prioritize support and resources for those struggling with mental illness and challenges. From Phoenix to Washington, D.C., dioceses are offering Masses and retreats for people struggling with mental illness, while the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (CMHM) is establishing mental health resources in parishes worldwide

A bishop’s healing 

In his pastoral letter, Conley shared about how stress, overwork, and self-reliance led to the deterioration of his mental, physical, and spiritual health. The road to wellness would be a long one, but when Conley shared why he was taking leave of absence, he received overwhelming support from the people of his diocese.

“About seven years after becoming bishop of Lincoln I started buckling under my episcopal duties,” Conley wrote in the May 16 letter. “The people of this diocese have a beautiful faith, and I wanted to be the strong, invincible leader I thought they deserved. Day in and day out, I tried to fix the problems brought to me instead of surrendering them to the Lord.”

Overwhelmed by the work, Conley noted that overtime, he “slackened in taking care of my own physical and mental well-being.” 

“The first thing to go was my sleep because my brain would run nonstop,” Conley wrote. “All night I would lie in bed rehashing the day’s events, wrongly believing everything depended on me, that I was responsible for all the outcomes in the diocese. Although the wear and tear of this lifestyle was taking its toll, I kept trying to muscle through.”

An experienced runner, Conley eventually had to stop running his biannual half-marathons “due to a lack of energy.” He was hardly sleeping and ate “irregularly or not at all.”

“My physical deterioration led to emotional and psychological decline and, before I knew it, I was barely holding onto the last thread of my spiritual health,” he recalled. 

Eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, anxiety, and tinnitus, which can be amplified by stress, Conley “was forced to confront my denial.” But unsure if he could take time off for mental health issues, Conley said he “minimized my problems.”  

“Thankfully, my sister, friends, and medical professionals helped me recognize that it wasn’t selfish to take care of myself,” Conley noted.

At the end of 2019, Pope Francis granted Conley permission to take a leave of absence to recover from his mental health issues. Though it was “extremely hard to step away,” Conley said he received an “outpouring of support and prayer” from his diocese. 

“I would need all that grace since the hardest part of my journey was still ahead,” he said. 

While Conley was recovering, COVID-19 hit, causing the bishop’s “three anchors” of Mass, the rosary, and the Liturgy of the Hours to have “little solace” for him as he often had to offer Mass alone. Thrown into spiritual darkness, Conley “grappled” with the question “Where was God?”

Through meditating on his reliance on Christ, Conley began to recover from “unhealthy self-reliance” while developing his trust in God.

“I started to experience the freedom of surrender as I gradually allowed Jesus to shoulder burdens I had been carrying on my own,” he wrote.

“The last gift of this difficult healing season was my dog, Stella,” he continued. “My good friend Bishop James Wall of Gallup was in the process of getting a puppy and he convinced me to do likewise. We took a seven-and-a-half-hour road trip to El Paso to pick up four 8-week-old golden retrievers, two for us and two for other friends.”

“Looking back it’s funny to think that a 10-pound puppy was crucial in beginning to bring joy back into my life,” he continued. “Stella goes nearly everywhere with me now and is loved by all. Since I live alone, she provides needed companionship and ensures I get outside every day for walks.”

Conley ultimately returned from his leave of absence in November 2020, recovering with the help of several qualified Catholic doctors including a psychologist and psychiatrist. He shared his story with CNA in a 2020 interview.

Catholicism and mental health

Preserving faith through depression can be a challenge, but according to a 2012 study, being religiously involved can help people recover faster from depression. Resources for Catholics struggling with mental health vary; some parishes offer retreats or group ministries, while others provide referrals to therapy or other resources.

Conley noted that in times of spiritual despair, we “must protect” the “treasure” of hope that comes from God.

“When hope wanes, let us remember the countless ways God has blessed us, the particular instances in our lives where he has ‘come through,’ and the dark times when he felt absent but, in hindsight, we could discern his presence,” he wrote.

“A Catholic view of mental health is necessary because it defines well-being according to reason and revelation,” Conley wrote.

“One might rightly ask, if we don’t speak of a Catholic physics or a Catholic biology, why do we need a Catholic understanding of mental health?” he continued. “The answer is because any notion of mental health is laden with beliefs about the human person, about true human anthropology … But notions of human flourishing depend on one’s beliefs about the human person’s origins, purpose, and destiny.” 

Allison Ricciardi, a psychotherapist and counselor who launched the website in 2001, helps connect Catholics with therapists who are dedicated to the Catholic faith and its teachings. 

“The teachings of the Church are really solidly grounded in an understanding of the human person,” she told CNA in a phone call. “Between Scripture and teachings of the Church, [they] really do help us to understand human nature and how grace perfects that nature.”

Many saints have struggled with mental illness, Conley observed, and their lives are a reminder “that God is active in every life at all times in history.”

“How comforting to know many saints struggled like us — St. Ignatius of Loyola contemplated suicide, St. Jane Frances de Chantal suffered from depression for over 40 years, St. John of God had a mental breakdown that resulted in hospitalization, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton struggled with anxiety and depression,” he wrote. “They all grew closer to God through their struggles and so can we.” 

“Both body and soul must be attended to, for we reflect and glorify God through both,” he continued. “In this understanding of the human person, we can see how issues in body or soul potentially harm mental health.”

Maryland Republican Senate candidate Larry Hogan backs codifying Roe

Larry Hogan, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, greets supporters before casting his ballot in the state primary election at Davidsonville Elementary School on May 14, 2024, in Davidsonville, Maryland. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 16:04 pm (CNA).

The Republican nominee for Senate in Maryland — former Gov. Larry Hogan — announced he would vote to codify the abortion standards set in Roe v. Wade if elected, which would legalize abortion nationwide. 

Hogan, who is hoping to be the first Republican to represent Maryland in the Senate in nearly four decades, endorsed the plan to codify Roe in an interview with the New York Times, which was published on Thursday, May 16. Before this interview, the former governor had a mixed record on life issues. 

“As governor, I protected the rights of Maryland women to make their own reproductive health decisions,” Hogan said in a May 16 post on X, linking to the New York Times interview. “I will do the same in the Senate by restoring Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. No one should come between a woman and her doctor.”

Hogan, who is Catholic, called himself “pro-choice” in the interview and said he would “continue to protect the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices just like I did as governor for eight years.” 

“I think Marylanders know and trust that when I give them my word, I’m going to keep it, and I’ve protected these rights before,” the former governor added. “And I’ll do it again in the Senate by supporting a bipartisan compromise to restore Roe as the law of the land.”

Hogan served as governor of Maryland for two terms from 2015 until 2023, winning his first race by less than a four-point margin and winning reelection by nearly a 12-point margin. Maryland has a heavily Democratic electorate, and it was expected to be an easy Senate win for Democrats until Hogan announced his candidacy.

As governor, Hogan vetoed legislation to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions instead of reserving the procedure to only physicians. Democrats overrode his veto. Hogan, however, consistently said he did not support new restrictions on abortion in Maryland when campaigning for governor.

The plan to codify Roe, which is supported by Democratic leaders in Congress and President Joe Biden, would override state laws that protect life. The law would set a national standard to legalize abortion in every state until at least the point of viability. Although viability normally occurs around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the proposal endorsed by Democratic lawmakers does not set a strict week-based limit but rather allows viability to be determined by the woman’s treating physician, who is often the abortionist.

Hogan’s Democratic opponent — former Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks — who also supports codifying Roe, responded to the former governor’s announcement by calling into question his sincerity. 

“Larry Hogan won’t protect abortion rights,” Alsobrooks said in a post on X on May 16. “Senate Republicans won’t protect abortion rights. I will protect abortion rights. We will keep Maryland and the Senate blue.”

The pro-abortion group Reproductive Freedom for All — formerly called National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) — went further, calling Hogan’s statement “a lie.” The group had previously listed Hogan’s record when he was governor as “mixed” on abortion. 

“There is only one candidate in this race who will fight tooth and nail to lock the federal right to abortion into law — and that’s Angela Alsobrooks,” Reproductive Freedom for All President and CEO Mini Timmaraju said in a May 16 statement

The Senate election is on Nov. 5 to replace Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who is retiring. The Democratic Party currently holds a slim 51-49 majority in the chamber.

Voters in Maryland will also vote on a statewide referendum that would enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution. 

California governor: Pope Francis told me he was ‘proud’ of state’s death penalty moratorium

California Gov. Gavin Newsom attends an event with fellow governors in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 23, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 17, 2024 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that following a conference at the Vatican this week Pope Francis personally conveyed his endorsement of California’s efforts to end the use of the death penalty. 

In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, Newsom said the pope expressed “how proud he was of the work we’re doing in California.” 

California is one of more than two dozen states that still have the death penalty, with the largest death row in the United States. However, no one has been executed in California since 2006, due in part to a moratorium beginning in 2019 that Newsom oversaw via executive order. 

Newsom told CNS after his meeting with Pope Francis that he was “struck” by the pope’s sudden comments to him on the death penalty.

“I wasn’t anticipating that, especially in the context of this convening,” he told the news outlet. 

Pope Francis throughout his pontificate has promoted the end of the death penalty worldwide, changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 on the permissibility of the death penalty. The Church had long taught that the death penalty could be legitimate in limited cases, while the updated language teaches that capital punishment is “inadmissible,” and its elimination should be sought.

The change reflects a development of Catholic doctrine in recent years. St. John Paul II, calling the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary,” encouraged Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.

The Vatican’s top doctrinal office’s April declaration on the theme of human dignity, Dignitas Infinita, reiterated that the death penalty “violates the inalienable dignity of every person, regardless of the circumstances.”

California’s Catholic bishops have expressed support for the state’s moratorium on the death penalty. 

“This is a good day for California and a good day for our country,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles in a 2019 statement. Gomez said that the death penalty does not deter crime, nor does it provide “true justice” to those who were victims of crime.

Gomez, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has long called for an end to capital punishment throughout the United States.

Newsom, a Democrat who has held the governor’s office since 2019, has faced serious criticism for actions he has taken as governor related to the expansion of abortion as well as the expansion of protection for “gender-affirming care” for minors. 

Newsom was one of several U.S. leaders who spoke at the Vatican Climate Summit, held at the Vatican from May 15–17 at the Casina Pio IV, the seat of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, which sits in the Vatican Gardens. According to Newsom’s office, he highlighted in his speech California’s climate leadership and called for “greater global partnership,” urging world leaders to “protect democracy against the rise of extremism and in the face of climate deniers.”

Movie on Blessed Carlo Acutis and his love for the Eucharist opens this weekend

School children read about the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis at the celebration of his new shrine at St. Dominic Parish in Brick, New Jersey. Oct, 1, 2023. / Credit: Thomas P. Costello II

ACI Prensa Staff, May 17, 2024 / 14:46 pm (CNA).

The film “Eucharistic Miracles: The Heartbeat of Heaven” about Blessed Carlo Acutis and the Eucharistic miracles he studied with such devotion is showing in theaters across multiple U.S. states and the nation’s capital this weekend. 

Specifically, the feature film is showing in theaters in California; Nevada; Arizona; Utah; Idaho; Texas; Washington; Oregon; Indiana; New Jersey; Colorado; New York; Tennessee; Michigan; Georgia; Illinois; Florida; Kansas; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Pennsylvania; and Mississippi.

Gaby Jácoba, director of the International Catholic Film Festival, which is bringing the film about Acutis to movie theaters in the United States, emphasized the importance of “attending the first weekend” to see the film, in order for theaters to decide to extend the length of time they show it: “If the cinemas see that there are many people attending, they will keep it longer so more people can have this experience.”

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Jácoba highlighted the importance of this premiere in conjunction with the National Eucharistic Revival promoted by the Catholic Church in the United States.

The film about Acutis, who had a deep love for the Eucharist that was reflected in the extensive research he did on Eucharistic miracles around the world, can be a valuable “instrument” and “tool” to inspire Eucharistic revival in the U.S.

Jácoba said the film comes to America “after a long wait” and that the International Catholic Film Festival team “is very excited” that the moment has arrived.

She also noted that months ago the mother of Blessed Carlo Acutis, Antonia, visited the United States, presenting the trailer and the film in various cities.

This film “is going to be a tool to know and fall more in love with the Holy Eucharist,” said Jácoba, who invited “all groups, communities, parishes, apostolates, and movements to attend this first weekend” and see “Eucharistic Miracles: The Heartbeat of Heaven.”

The director of the International Catholic Film Festival said: “It’s a film that had a great impact on me, that profoundly renewed my love for the holy Eucharist.”

The film explores Eucharistic miracles “not only through faith but also through reason, through science, through the impressive studies that have been carried out,” she noted.

The movie is also suitable for children from “8 or 9 years old” and can be especially important for those “who are preparing to make their first Communion,” she said.

“We all left with hearts transformed and inflamed with love for the holy Eucharist and we know that, after watching this film, your experience with the holy Eucharist will be completely different, you will leave renewed,” Jácoba concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?

The National Eucharistic Revival recleased a detailed map of the upcoming pilgrimage routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 12:03 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage kicks off this weekend as Catholics observe the solemnity of Pentecost on Sunday, May 19. All are welcome to participate in Eucharistic processions and other prayer-filled events taking place across the country over the next two months.

To take part in an event near you, here’s a guide to finding all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes crossing the country and converging at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 16.

The stops include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks. At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

“It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way,” Glemkowski said. “Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life-changing for the Church across America.”

He also stressed that Catholics in communities across the country are “invited to be part of the historic movement to set hearts ablaze.”

What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

The organizers are calling it “our national Emmaus moment” after the biblical passage in which Jesus walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus. Through this campaign, the bishops plan to rededicate the country to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Where can I meet up with it? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s four routes are the Marian Route from the north, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the east, the St. Juan Diego Route from the south, and the St. Junipero Serra Route from the west. 

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here

The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.

The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 

The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

Who will be leading the pilgrimages? 

Each route will be led by a team of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims” who will accompany our Eucharistic Lord for the entire length of the journey. 

A “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will provide “ecclesial support” for the pilgrims. 

How can I participate? 

Participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is simple and costs nothing. Exact details on individual events at pilgrimage stops, including registration information, are available on the route pages

You can also participate by walking portions of the pilgrimage with the Perpetual Pilgrims. To do so, organizers ask that you register, which you can do by clicking here.

This article was originally published on Feb. 23, 2024, and was updated on May 17, 2024.

Fernández: Vatican’s new apparitions guidelines stress ‘caution’ in discernment process

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, presides over a press conference on Friday, May 17, 2024, on the Vatican’s new document on Marian apparitions. / Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/EWTN News

Rome Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 11:03 am (CNA).

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández held a press conference on Friday addressing the Vatican’s new guidelines on apparitions, with the prelate noting that the new norms would help introduce greater prudence in the discernment process. 

“The Church has stated that the faithful are never forced to believe in this phenomenon. They are never obliged. There’s no obligation,” said Fernández, the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, during the conference at the Holy See Press Office on Friday. 

“The Church, as a matter of fact, leaves the faithful free to devote their attention to this phenomena or not,” he added. “Revelation that has already happened is the word of God. It contains everything we need for our Christian life.”

The document, titled “Norms for Proceeding in the Discernment of Alleged Supernatural Phenomena” and released on Friday morning, establishes new guidelines on Marian apparitions, abrogating a former document issued in 1978 under Pope Paul VI. 

Noting that these new norms establish a set of pragmatic guidelines to assist the local ordinary as well as the dicastery, Fernández said that “some phenomenon that could have a supernatural origin sometimes appear to be related to confused human experiences.” 

Speaking specifically on the role of the bishops in the process, the cardinal observed that there have been instances in which some bishops have issued decrees on apparitions saying these events “should be considered as being true” and that the “faithful must believe, shall believe in this.”

“Quite often the bishop’s decrees have used these words,” Fernández said.

He emphasized that these new norms will help bishops “have a prudential character so that the faithful can accept this in a prudent way.” 

“The pastoral action of the bishops and then situations can be very different and therefore we decided to have six possible conclusions,” he added. “If we look at history, at the different cases, we recognize different kinds of situations that can be basically located within these six possibilities.”

The new norms outline three stages for the discernment process. At the end of the evaluation process, the local bishop and a delegate he appoints to oversee the commission’s work are to prepare a “personal votum” in which the bishop proposes to the dicastery a final judgment. That decision will normally follow one of six formulas, one of which is the “nihil obstat,” a pronouncement that means there are no doctrinal objections.

“Without expressing any certainty about the supernatural authenticity of the phenomenon itself, many signs of the action of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged ‘in the midst’ of a given spiritual experience, and no aspects that are particularly critical or risky have been detected, at least so far,” the document states.

Drawing on biblical examples, Fernández noted that “right from the very beginning of the Church, the Holy Spirit itself, with charisms, promoted the necessary discernment of these manifestations. After 2,000 years, the Church still takes care of the faithful, helping them to be meek to the Holy Spirit.”

“These new norms are in continuity with this task,” he said.

Pro-lifers rally in London amid consideration of abortion amendments

Representatives from the pro-life movement and their supporters gather to demonstrate in Parliament Square on May 15, 2024, in London. / Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 17, 2024 / 10:43 am (CNA).

A large number of pro-life people rallied May 15 outside the Houses of Parliament in London to protest a set of amendments that if passed would further liberalize the U.K.’s abortion laws, including one that critics say would allow abortions up to the point of birth.

As reported by the Catholic Herald, the rally in Westminster was coordinated by a variety of organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom UK, Christian Concern, March for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard, and 40 Days for Life. Participants held signs and wore shirts with the phrase “No to abortion up to birth.”

At issue are a number of proposed amendments to a Criminal Justice Bill under consideration in the U.K. Parliament, one of which would amend U.K. law such that “no woman would be liable for a prison sentence as a result of seeking to end her own pregnancy.” The amendments were originally scheduled to be voted on Wednesday but are now scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, June 4.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), abortions in the U.K. can be carried out after 24 weeks only in very limited circumstances — for example, if the mother's life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.

In a May 8 statement, Bishop John Sherrington, lead bishop for life issues and auxiliary bishop of Westminster, expressed support for an amendment from member of Parliament Caroline Ansell that would reduce the gestational limit for abortions from 24 to 22 weeks. Another amendment, brought by member of Parliament Sir Liam Fox, represents a step toward ending the U.K.’s current laws that allow for babies with Down syndrome to be aborted up until birth. 

However, Sherrington said he is “deeply alarmed” by two other amendments to the same bill. The amendment proposed by member of Parliament Dame Diana Johnson related to liability would remove any legal protection for unborn babies when a woman seeks to bring about her own abortion at any stage of pregnancy, he said.  

“A further danger presented by this amendment is that women could abort their own pregnancies at home through the use of abortion pills at any point in the pregnancy, which could seriously endanger a woman’s health and life. Moreover, the risks of coerced or forced abortion would only increase as the legal safeguards around abortion decrease,” he noted. 

The second amendment by member of Parliament Stella Creasy includes proposals to decriminalize abortion up to the 24th week for any party involved. 

“The Church recognizes the struggle and trauma which may lead some pregnant women to consider an abortion. Such difficult situations require pastoral and medical care for vulnerable women in their time of need. When cases of illegal abortions are prosecuted, it is for the judge to decide the appropriate balance of justice and mercy for all involved,” Sherrington said. 

“Our current legislation provides some level of protection for pregnant mothers and unborn babies by keeping abortion within the criminal law. Relaxing abortion legislation further would be a tragic mistake for both mother and child.”

“As Pope Francis has said: ‘It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.’ In England and Wales, both unborn child and pregnant mother deserve full protection under our laws, as some of the most vulnerable in our society,” the bishop concluded. 

This story was updated on May 17, 2024, at 3:15 p.m. ET with the information on the June 4 vote.

Vatican overturns own decision on seminary dean

Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone in Italy. / Credit: Ladislav Luppa / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

CNA Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 10:13 am (CNA).

In a significant reversal, the Vatican approved the appointment of a new dean at a seminary in Northern Italy almost one year after first blocking the appointment over the candidate’s published views on sexual morality.

The Philosophical-Theological College in Bressanone (PTH Brixen) announced “with great joy” that Father Martin M. Lintner, OSM, has now been confirmed as dean and will take office on Sept. 1.

The appointment of Lintner, who teaches moral and spiritual theology at the seminary, faced opposition from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education in mid-2023 over his published works on Catholic sexual morality, particularly his views on same-sex blessings. 

In an article published in 2020 by New Ways Ministry titled “Theologian Suggests Papal Civil Union Support May Lead to Church Blessings,” Lintner is quoted as saying: “A homosexual relationship does not lose its dignity due to the lack of fertility.” 

Lintner also contributed a chapter offering “theological-ethical reflections on a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples” to a book titled “The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships.”

Rome’s position on Lintner’s appointment was reversed after the Vatican’s controversial declaration Fiducia Supplicans approved nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples in December 2023. 

On the news of his appointment, Lintner told German media that the appointment of a new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Fernandez, had played a role. He also asserted that his case — the reversal of such an appointment — was setting a kind of “precedent.”

Lintner also expressed relief over his victory: “It is entirely in my interest to close this chapter, which has been stressful for everyone involved, and to concentrate on theological work again. I approach the new challenges as dean with joy and confidence,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano-Bressanone welcomed the Vatican’s decision, saying he wished the new dean a blessed start.

“I would also like to thank those responsible in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Education for all the personal and telephone conversations and for the decision that has now been made.”

The PTH Brixen, located in the Northern Italian region of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), is a significant institution in the predominantly German-speaking region offering courses in philosophy and theology. It is the academic training center of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone for priests and deacons, pastoral assistants, teachers of religion, and other pastoral vocations.

Peru’s government considers transexualism a mental health problem: what you need to know

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ACI Prensa Staff, May 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A few days ago, the government of Peru published a supreme decree in which “transsexualism” and “gender identity disorder” are considered “mental health problems,” among other points, causing controversy even within agencies of the executive branch. 

On May 10, the official newspaper El Peruano published supreme decree No. 009-2024-SA, which approves the update of the Essential Health Insurance Plan (PEAS, by its Spanish acronym), a document that details the list of diseases whose treatments are provided in public hospitals.

In this regulation, signed by Peru President Dina Boluarte, Minister of Economy and Finance José Berley Arista, and Minister of Health César Henry Vásquez, seven diagnoses considered “mental health” problems are included.

The diagnoses are “transsexualism; dual-role transvestism; childhood gender identity disorder; other gender identity disorders; gender identity disorder, unspecified; fetishistic transvestism;” and “ego dystonic sexual orientation.”

Until 2022, these diagnoses were part of the “Mental and Behavioral Disorders” chapter of the 10th version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), which was updated that year and no longer considers them as pathologies.

After the publication of the decree, various organizations, such as the feminist group Manuela Ramos, rejected the regulation and expressed their concern about the possibility of “conversion therapies.” Feminists indicated that the regulation “intends to make gender and sexual diversity seen as a disease. We demand the immediate repeal of this measure.”

After complaints, especially on social media, the Peruvian Ministry of Health (Minsa) published a statement on May 11 in which it “reaffirms its position that gender and sexual diversity are not diseases. In this framework we express our respect for gender identities as well as our rejection of the stigmatization of sexual diversity in the country.”

In its statement, Minsa also said that “a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity does not constitute in itself a physical or mental health disorder and, therefore, they should not be subjected to medical treatment or care or to so-called conversion therapies.”

The statement also noted that the update of the PEAS was made “in response to the need to ensure the benefit of comprehensive mental health interventions, as conditions for the full exercise of the right to health and well-being of the person, the family, and the community.” 

However, despite the statement by the Ministry of Health, the decree remains in force: It has not been modified or repealed.

It should be noted that on Dec. 15, 1973, the American Psychiatric Association, which establishes standards in the field of mental health, removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. A group of homosexual activist psychiatrists championed this change.

Years later, in 2005, a former president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Nicholas Cummings, together with psychologist and author Rogers H. Wright, published the book “Destructive Trends in Mental Health.

Cummings and Wright pointed out, among other things, that “psychology, psychiatry, and social work have been captured by an ultraliberal agenda, much of which we agree with as citizens. However, we are alarmed with the damaging effect it is having on our science, our practice, and our credibility.”

“Although I am in agreement with many of the APA’s stances, I am opposed to the process that has diminished its credibility. It is no longer perceived as an authority that presents scientific evidence and professional facts. The APA has chosen ideology over science, and thus has diminished its influence on the decision makers in our society,” Cummings lamented in the book.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.