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As assisted suicide law is reinstated, critics say Californians 'deserve better'

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A California judge has reinstated the state’s assisted suicide law, making it legal for terminally ill patients to end their lives while a court case is resolved – a move some critics say targets the vulnerable.

“Assisted suicide limits choice for vulnerable people such as the terminally ill, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and anyone who relies on health insurance to cover treatment,” said Kristen Hanson, the community relations advocate for Patients’ Rights Action Fund.

“It creates perverse economic incentives for insurance companies to deny coverage and deprive patients of lifesaving treatment when lethal drugs are so much cheaper,” Hanson told CNA.

On Friday, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside, CA issued a stay putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The decision gives opponents until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows patients who have a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to receive fatal drugs prescribed by a doctor.

Last month, the law had been declared unconstitutional by Superior Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County, who said the legislation was “adopted illegally” since it was passed during a legislative session limited to issues other than assisted suicide. 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra appealed Ottolia’s ruling in May, and fought over the past weeks to reinstate the assisted suicide law.

Becerra applauded the state appeals court’s decision, saying it “provides some relief to California patients, their families and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions,” according to the LA Times.

However, patients’ rights activist Matt Valliere called the legislation a distraction from providing real health care to patients.

“The California experience is that assisted suicide is controversial and a distraction,” said Valliere, executive director for Patients’ Rights Action Fund, in a June 18 statement.

“Instead of assisted suicide we ought to focus on delivering real healthcare and treatment choices for patients facing serious disease,” Valliere continued.

The End of Life Option took effect in California in 2016 in the wake of the controversial case of Brittany Maynard, who in 2014 traveled from California to Oregon to obtain lethal drugs to end her life after a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. Within the first six months of legalizing assisted suicide in California, more than 100 people ended their lives.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal by law in the District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling. It will become legal in Hawaii next year. A bill to legalize assisted suicide is under consideration in Indiana.

“In other states where assisted suicide has been legalized, we’ve seen some of the consequences: suicide contagion, doctors making mistakes in their prognoses, and clinically depressed people receiving assisted suicide drugs,” Hanson said.

“The people of California deserve better access to palliative care and hospice services, not assisted suicide.”

 

Relic of St Clement found in trash settles into Westminster Cathedral

London, England, Jun 19, 2018 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A relic discovered last year by a U.K. waste management company found a home Tuesday in London's Westminster Cathedral.

“Choosing an appropriate resting place was very important to us,” said Enviro Waste Owner James Rubin in a statement on the company's website. “Therefore, we think Westminster Cathedral is the best and safest place for the bone due to its importance to the church and to ensure that it won’t get lost again!”

Rubin presented the relic to Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff at the cathedral's Lady Chapel June 19. Archbishop Stack is chair of the English and Welsh bishops' patrimony committee.

The relic will be displayed in the Treasures of Westminster Cathedral Exhibition.

The bone fragment is encased in a wax-sealed case and includes an inscription that it is “from the bones of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr.”

St. Clement was a first-century Christian thought to have been a disciple of Sts. Peter and Paul.

It is believed that St. Clement converted from Judaism to Catholicism, and may have shared in some of the missionary journeys of St. Peter or St. Paul, and assisted them in running the Church at the local level.

Around the year 90, he was raised to the position of Pope, following Peter, Linus, and Cletus. His writings reveal much about the early Church, but little about his own life.

According to one account, he died in exile during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, who purportedly banished Clement to Crimea and had him killed in retaliation for evangelizing the local people, around the year 100. He is among the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon.

In 868, the Greek missionary St. Cyril claimed to have recovered St. Clement's bones.

Enviro Waste conducted public research before deciding what to do with the relic. They posted about it on their website blog in April, requesting input from viewers.

“650+ suggestions and over 9,000 visits to the page” later, the updated post said, they decided that the Westminster Cathedral in London should have it.

The relic's owner has said it was stolen from his car when it was broken into, and agreed to loan it permanently to Westminster Cathedral.

Vice Chair of the patrimony committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Sophie Andreae was the one who reached out to Enviro Waste, requesting the relic’s placement be in the cathedral.

She explained to the BBC why relics are important to Catholics.

“Catholics feel that they have not just a link with a very holy person from the past, but also a link with the divine,” Andreae said.

'Pro-life is Pro-love' – Conference aims to empower women

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 19, 2018 / 02:09 pm (CNA).- This month, hundreds of women will attend a pro-life conference aimed at empowering women through a uniquely pro-life approach.

“At this event by women and for women, we are coming together to proclaim that women’s empowerment cannot be attained by the oppression of other human beings,” read a statement on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference website.

“We are reclaiming the narrative of women’s empowerment; we are reclaiming our voice as the grassroots of the pro-life movement,” the statement continued, inviting women to join the conference for “three days of powerful presentations, fellowship, friendship, and fun.”

The conference, with the theme “Pro-life is Pro-love,” will take place in St. Louis, Missouri from June 22-24 at the St. Charles Convention Center. The event will include keynote speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions.

Speakers will include Serrin M. Foster, president of the Women Deserve Better campaign; Pat Layton, author, speaker and life coach; and Abby Johnson, founder of the abortion healing ministry And Then There Were None.

The topics of discussion include pregnancy loss, self-care, post-abortion healing, and fertility, and will aim to highlight the dignity of women through a pro-life lens.

In addition to Mass, meals and social opportunities, the conference is also hosting an art contest, which will explore the inherent worth of human beings, placing a particular focus on the dignity, beauty and strength of women. 

This year’s event will be the third pro-life women’s conference. A 2017 event took place in Orlando, Florida, and a 2016 event was held in Dallas, Texas, drawing over 500 women. Registration for the 2018 pro-life conference is currently open.

 

Steubenville project seeks to revitalize town, connect residents and students

Steubenville, Ohio, Jun 19, 2018 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new monthly event in Steubenville, Ohio, is hoping to revitalize businesses and build community between residents and Franciscan University students.

It is the “first time anyone in Steubenville has really seen the connection of locals who have nothing to do with Franciscans [students], and Franciscans who have nothing to do with locals,” said Therese Nelson, a special projects manager for the events.

It is “trying to bring everyone together and realizing that you can have a community, and a thriving community at that, without everybody having the same mindset or the same interests.”

The premise is simple: on the first Friday of every month, a majority of Steubenville’s businesses on Fourth Street will stay open later than normal in the evening, while activities are offered for all ages, including face painting, games, craft breweries, vendors, art, and music.

Called “First Friday on the Fourth,” the event is an opportunity to drum up more business for the community and to give locals and students something to do in a town that has long faced financial struggles.

Since the collapse of the U.S. steel industry in the 1980s, the town of Steubenville has been suffering economically. According to Data USA, nearly 27 percent of Steubenville’s population is in poverty.

Two First Friday events have already taken place: the initial one saw an estimated 800 and people, and the second saw well over 1,000.

“We usually have a big focus on art as much as possible. For the first, we just had local artists bring in their paintings and we set up our coffee shop as an art gallery,” said Nelson. “We always have live music for four hours out of the evening.”

The residents of Steubenville have already seen the project’s effects. Montana Skinner, a Steubenville resident and one of the vendors at First Fridays, told CNA that the gatherings have raised awareness of local business inside the town.

“It shows things you didn’t know were down there,” she said. “I don’t think people really realize what [businesses are] still left here and what we can build upon to bring the town back up.”

Each month’s event will have a different theme. In May, the theme was art, and temporary galleries were set up to give local artists a place to show their work. In June, vendors and shopkeepers dressed up in colonial wear for a frontier theme.

Nelson hopes to eventually connect the town events with the Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart. The devotion consists of receiving Holy Communion on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months, in reparation to Christ’s Sacred Heart.

“We actually want to start having a Mass said at one of our downtown churches with the novena on the First Fridays right before the event starts,” she said.

The program is a combined effort of the alumni-run Harmonium Project and the Catholic family-run Nelson Enterprises, both of which are dedicated to revitalizing Steubenville’s community.

The Nelson family has introduced new businesses and community projects in the town. Several years ago, Nelson Enterprises bought large portions of Steubenville property, opening a popcorn company, coffee shop, Christmas store, seasonal market, and other buildings for future projects.  

One of its projects, which began with a student making San Damiano crosses at Franciscan University, has grown to become the biggest Catholic manufacturing company in America, “Catholic to the Max.”

The Harmonium Project began about 6 years ago. Maura Barnes, a social media manager for the organization, told CNA that it focuses on connecting Franciscan University’s Catholic social teaching with the social issues of the town.

“It was really born out of the realization that many of the Franciscan students were spending a lot of time studying Catholic social teaching…but not a lot of them were really taking the time or care to get involved with the community where the university finds itself.”
 

 

Questions on sexuality loom large ahead of youth synod

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2018 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to the official working document for the upcoming synod of bishops on youth, the major questions for young people ahead of the October discussion surround issues of sexuality and gender, the role of women and the desire for a Church that knows how to listen.

The “instrumentum laboris” for the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” was published June 19, and includes contributions from both young people themselves, and bishops conferences.

Key issues highlighted in the document are not only increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts, but that many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.

The document pointed to a “metamorphosis of the human condition” some analysts say the world is undergoing due to the rapid pace at which cultural and anthropological changes are happening.

In this regard, challenges for the Church the document cited are topics related to the human body and human sexuality. The body, the text read, has always been at an “intersection between nature and culture,” yet new biomedical technologies have given rise to different concepts of the body.

On one hand, the document pointed to the trend of technological experimentation, saying there is an increasing push for the integration of “body and machine, between neuronal and electronic circuits, which find their icon in the cyborg, favoring a technocratic approach to the body.”

But on the other hand, the trend of manipulating one's body goes beyond the technical realm, and also touches on issues related to biology, the text said, pointing to surrogacy and egg donation as examples.

Things such as precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, displaying one's body online and sexual tourism, the text said, “risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life.”

Bishops, the document continued, recognize the importance of the body and of sexuality, particularly the differences and complimentary of men and women, but are often not able to communicate the Church's teachings well.

Church teaching on issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage for many youth are up for debate, both in the Church, and in society at large.

While there are young Catholics who find Church teaching to be “a source of joy” and who wish to follow this teaching despite how unpopular it is in the public eye, others want more clarification on these and other major issues, and have asked Church authorities not to be afraid to talk to them about “taboo,” topics such as gender and women.

“No bishops' conference offers solutions or recipes” to these issues, the document said, but they are convinced that “the question of sexuality must be discussed more openly and without prejudice.”

On the issue of homosexuality, the document emphasized the need to be open and welcoming to everyone, including non-believers, those of other faiths, and also the LGBT community.

Some LGBT youth who participated in the online questionnaire or offered contributions through social media, the document read, said they want to experience “greater closeness and greater care on the part of the Church.”

In their responses, bishops conferences also questioned how to respond to young people who have chosen to live a homosexual lifestyle, but who also want “to be close to the Church.”

In comments to journalists at the June 19 presentation of the synod's working document, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said the reason the Church is engaging with members of the LGBT community is because “we are open. We don't want to be closed in on ourselves.”

In the Church, “there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves – on the right, left, center, north and south – this is all possible,” he said, adding that “this is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions.”

Young people, the document said, are also concerned that at times the Church can seem distant, and have voiced a desire to have a Church that is close, transparent and up-to-date, and which is not afraid to talk about the tough issues.

Divided into three parts plus framed by an introduction and conclusion, the document offers an overview of the state of young people throughout the world today and possible pastoral responses.

The document is a compilation of contributions from four primary sources: a questionnaire sent out to bishops conferences in June 2017; a website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth were able to leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting which took place in Rome in March.

The structure of the working document follows a methodology frequently insisted upon by Francis in the process of discernment: recognizing, interpreting and then choosing.  

Recognize

The text noted that there are some 1.8 billion people throughout the world between the ages of 16-29; however, the demographic, economic and social conditions of each country are different. Whereas youth are the majority in some countries, in others youth are a minority. In some places, lifespan does not exceed 60 years of age, whereas in others it extends well over 80.

Added to this is the disparity between rich and poor nations, and the access young people therefore have to education, healthcare and a stable home. In some areas they also face pressures such as drugs, corruption, violence and the challenges brought on by an increasingly globalized world.

For what regards the role of the family, the document said that responses to the online questionnaire showed that mothers are a key reference point for youth, while the subject of fatherhood requires a deeper reflection due to the “ambiguities and voids” left as a result of the lack of father figures, particularly in the west.

According to the document, family will be a key topic of discussion, especially in light of the conclusions on the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Bishops also noted that religion no longer holds the same weight that it did in the past, and that for many young people, simply being “spiritual” is enough.

In terms of the Catholic Church itself, the document noted that many youth are committed to the Church through different activities, and bishops conferences have affirmed that youth outreach is a key priority in most parishes.

However, on the flip side, the text also noted that in the pre-synod meeting, youth had voiced concern about feeling as if they were being put into a corner, and felt that generally they were not taken seriously, especially when it comes to leadership.

The document also touched on both the risks and benefits of technology and social media, including the dangers of the “dark web,” and the role of music, art and sport as forms of expression.

Work, young migrants, and discrimination were all touched on in the document, along with racism, discrimination against women, and religious persecution, especially for Christians in areas where they are a minority.

Discrimination against women, even in ecclesial environments, was also addressed in the text, and was a key concern raised by youth themselves during the pre-synod meeting in March, during which they questioned how and where women can really, fully participate in the Church and in society.

The Church, according to the document, “can face these problems with a frank dialogue and a mind open to different ideas and experiences.”

The document also cited a growing paralysis on the part of young people when it comes to making a decision for their lives, whether it is due to a lack of opportunity, economic instability, or, at times, a the lack of a sense of meaning and purpose.

It also spoke of the need to listen to youth, who frequently lack good role models, and who want a Church which is “authentic” and which is capable of talking to them about the issues that matter.

Interpret

In the second section of the document, the text spoke of “the blessing of youth” from a biblical standpoint, emphasizing the importance of accompaniment in the discernment process.

To follow Christ, it said, “is a call to risk, to lose what has already been acquired, to trust. It is a provocation to break with the planning mentality which, if exasperated, leads to narcissism and the closing in on oneself.

The section placed a heavy emphasis on the need to accompany young people in determining what path is best for their lives, saying the task of accompaniment “is not an option with regard to the task of educating and evangelizing youth.”

Rather, “it is an ecclesial duty and the right of every young person,” the document said, adding that only the presence of a “prudent and wise” guide can help youth to correctly interpret God's will for their lives.

The text then offered a brief reflection on the different vocational paths, including the vocation to the family, to ordained ministry and to consecrated life. However, it also touched on the increasing number of people who opt to stay single, without making a move toward consecrated life or marriage.

No concrete answer to the question of “singles” was given, but due to the growing number of singles in the Church and in the world in general, the document said “it is important that the synod reflect on this question.”

In terms of discernment, the document noted that it goes “well beyond” simply deciding whether to get married or live a consecrated life. Rather, discernment is a broader concept, and also includes helping youth to determine their profession and what sort of social or political commitments to make.

But to discern well, accompaniment is needed, the document said, noting that youth themselves have voiced their desire for an accompaniment which is both free and authentic, while bishops said they wanted to provide a “broad” and varied accompaniment for young people equivalent to a sort of “Christian coaching” in life.  

The text emphasized the need to provide both spiritual and psychological accompaniment, and a formation which reaches the family, educational and social aspects of life.

Those who accompany youth ought to be able to respect each person and what God is already doing in their lives, and should be able to influence “with who they are, before what they can do or propose.”

For youth in particular, the document said it is important that those who accompany them are committed in the Church and on the path to sanctity, but it is also crucial that they are able to recognize their own limits and able to walk with young people, rather than being put “on a pedestal.”

The document also stressed that accompanying young people is not a task limited to priests and religious, but is also something laity can do.

Choosing

In terms of helping youth to make concrete choices that are right for their lives, the document stressed the need for an integral formation and education, and emphasized the role that Catholic schools and universities can play in helping to mold young people.

It also emphasized the importance of finding new models of development in terms of generating employment, fostering a better economy, and caring for creation. It also called for innovation in the technical sphere and for greater collaboration so that everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need.

Faced with the challenge of modern society, bishops said it is increasingly important to form youth in politics and in how to be active citizens. Particular attention, the document said, ought to be paid to professional competence, opportunities for service, care for the environment and a better understanding of the Church's social doctrine.

Emphasis was also placed on the role of the internet and digital media outlets as a means of evangelization, and the need to accompany prisoners, and young people who live in war zones or areas of conflict, especially women and migrants. The document also called for a greater attention to and accompaniment of young people who are sick or dying.

In terms of pastoral care, the document stressed the role of family and the education and formation of children. In this regard, bishops also presented their “best practices,” underlining the need to set aside daily times of prayer and silence for personal devotion, as well as pray in one's community.

Catechesis and opportunities to practice charity are also important, the document said, especially through mission trips, retreats with movements and associations, all of which the document said help provide space for vocational discernment.

The document also stressed that those living a consecrated life live under the same cultural and societal conditions as other people their age, so a pastoral approach adapted to different local situations is needed.

It warned against the tendencies toward narcissism and self-sufficiency, particularly in consecrated vocations, which have a common root in “a potentially pathological concentration on oneself.”

It cautioned against the dangers of individualism, which is “centered on the autonomous subject, which excludes recognition, gratitude and the collaborating action of God,” and “emotionalism,” which the document said “closes the person in the virtual world an in a false interiority, where the need to deal with others and the community is excluded.”

The document closed emphasizing the universal call to holiness and inviting young people to become saints.

“Jesus invites each of his disciples to the total gift of life, without calculation or human self-interest,” the text said, and spoke of the need to highlight not only young Saints in the Church, but also the “youth of the Saints,” who all passed through the phase of being young.

Doing this, the document said, would make it possible “to intercept many youth situations which are neither simple not easy, but where God is present and mysteriously active.”

“To show his grace is at work through torturous paths of the patient construction of a holiness which matures in time through many unexpected ways,” the document said, “can help all young people, no one excluded, to cultivate hope in a holiness which is always possible.”

 

Correction: A previous version of this story said reported 1.8 million people in the world between 16-29. The story has been corrected to read 1.8 billion people.

Why the World Health Organization says Minecraft could ruin your mind

Denver, Colo., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- This week, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its list of International Classification of Diseases, drawing praise from one mental health expert who applauded the crucial first step in addressing a mounting epidemic.  

“The World Health Organization’s decision to acknowledge the video game addiction is a good first step in addressing a growing problem,” said Dr. Michael K. Horne, director of Clinical Services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington and alumni of the Institute for Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University.

“At best, video games are a distraction that prevent genuine encounters occurring between friends, family, and loved ones. At worst, video game addiction can have severe negative ramifications on the health of the person,” Horne told CNA.

“Gaming disorder” will be known, according to W.H.O., as a clinical case of video gaming behavior which leads to distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, education or occupational functioning.

This same disorder was recognized in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association as a condition for further study, and on Monday was officially added as an International Classification of Disease, which will be officially adopted in 2019.

The W.H.O. noted that gaming disorder “affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital or video-gaming activities,” but those who play video games should be alerted to “the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities.”

The gaming industry was critical of the gaming disorder designation, saying there was not enough evidence to formalize a disorder, calling the W.H.O.’s classification “deeply flawed.” Instead, they argued that video games are “a useful tool,” to acquire “competencies, skills and attitudes required for a successful life in a digital society.”

The official W.H.O. designation was assigned in an effort to destigmatize the addiction, make video game addicts more willing to seek treatment, prompt therapists to provide help for the condition, and encourage insurance companies to cover treatment for it.

“I have patients who come in suffering from an addiction to Candy Crush Saga, and they’re substantially similar to people who come in with a cocaine disorder,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, chairman of the psychiatry department for Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, according to the New York Times.

“Their lives are ruined, their interpersonal relationships suffer, their physical condition suffers,” he continued.

Around 2.6 billion people around the world play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association – two-thirds of which reside in the U.S. The industry itself rakes in billions in revenue, projecting to reach $180.1 billion globally within the next three years.

While more and more mental health professionals are seeing a connection between poor functionality and gaming addiction, there is little insurance coverage for people seeking treatment.

The condition can also present with other symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, aggressive behavior and suicidal thoughts, making the disorder harder to diagnose – especially for health care professionals who have not been equipped to treat gaming disorder.

“We don’t know how to treat gaming disorder,” said Professor Nancy Petry of the University of Connecticut.

“It’s such a new condition and phenomenon,” she continued.

Currently, there are no formal organizations in existence to set treatment standards for gaming disorder. However, a few online groups have been formed to help addicts find community, such as StopGaming and the On-Line Gamers Anonymous forum. Some rehab centers in Asia have also been specifically designed to help gaming addicts.

The gaming disorder classification comes in the wake of other growing technology addictions. The New York Times reported that Apple recently released a new software to help consumers scale back on the amount of time they spend on their phones, while Facebook users have joined the #DeleteFacebook campaign in an effort to manage their privacy and social media addictions.

 

‘How many times can our hearts break?’ Bishop of Trenton asks after shooting

Trenton, N.J., Jun 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Trenton condemned gun violence and called for prayer in a statement following a shooting early Sunday that left one dead and 22 injured.

“The epidemic of gun violence has struck once again, this time close to home,” Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton said in a statement Sunday.

“The people of Trenton awoke this morning to the tragic news that twenty of our brothers and sisters - our families, neighbors and friends - were injured during a mass shooting in the early hours of Sunday morning…”  he said.

According to reports from authorities, the shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 17 at the Art All Night-Trenton festival, a 24-hour art exhibit that has been displayed annually for 12 years.

A 33 year-old man, Tahaij Wells, was reportedly identified as a suspect and shot and killed by police. Wells had just been released from prison on homicide-related charges, according to CNN. Another man, Amir Armstrong, 23, has also reportedly been charged in connection to the incident.

“We pray for the injured and their families, for comfort and healing. We pray in thanksgiving for the first responders and emergency workers. And we pray for our community here in Trenton that God’s peace and our love for one another might prevail,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell’s sentiments echo those of bishops throughout the country who have found themselves looking for words to comfort their grieving communities in the wake of mass shootings.

He joins numerous other bishops who have had to respond to similar tragedies in the months since the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which killed 58 people and left hundreds more injured, and has been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“Our hearts go out to everyone,” Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas said in his response to that shooting. He offered prayers for the victims and their families, as well as the first responders and all involved in the incident.

He added that he was “very heartened’ by the stories of the Good Samaritans amidst the tragedy, and prayed for an end to violence throughout the world.

The following month, at least two bishops responded to shootings in their dioceses, including  Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, who offered his prayers and condolences following the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, which killed 26 people.

“We need prayers! The families affected in the shooting this morning at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs need prayers. The evil perpetrated on these who were gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day – especially children and the elderly – makes no sense and will never be fully understood,” Garcia-Siller said at the time.

The following week, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento led the U.S. bishops' general assembly in prayer following a shooting in his diocese in which at least four people and several more were  injured at several sites in and around Ranch Tehema Reserve, a small community located about 130 miles northwest of Sacramento.

“I would ask if we could take a moment to ask God's mercy not only on those affected by this [incident], but on all affected by gun violence in these times. Let us ask for Mary's intercession for these people,” he said Nov. 14, before leading the bishops in the Hail Mary.

In January 2018, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and two other bishops responded to two school shootings that occurred within the same week, one in Texas and one in Kentucky.

On Jan. 22 at Italy High School in Italy, Texas, about 50 miles south of Dallas, a teenage girl was injured in a shooting.

On Jan. 23, a student opened fire at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., about 120 miles southwest of Owensboro, killing two students and injuring 20 others.

The shootings were “painful reminders of how gun violence can tragically alter the lives of those so precious to us – our school children,” DiNardo said in a statement at the time.

Bishop William Medley of Owensboro offered his prayers for the victims as well as for the shooter in the Marshall County shooting. “May the Lord bring comfort to the family who lost their loved one today, and to all of the students and their families who have to endure the aftermath of this school shooting. Let us all pray for peace across our nation,” he said in a Jan. 23 statement.

In response to the Benton shooting, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville offered his “deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and their friends, teachers and staff as well as the first responders and the whole community of Benton.”

“We know that God’s love overcomes all evil. May the souls of the departed rest in peace and may God’s merciful love sustain the victims and those who love and support them as they heal from the physical and emotional wounds of this senseless act of violence,” Kurtz added.

In February of this year, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami urged unity and strength in his diocese following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland which killed 17 students and injured dozens more.

“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” Wenski said at the time. He urged all Floridians to come together as a community, remain strong, and “resist evil in all its manifestations.”

Following the Parkland shooting, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, also issued a joint statement calling for “common-sense gun measures” and dialogue about specific proposals that could reduce gun violence, improve school safety and improve access to mental health resources.

In May, DiNardo once again responded to a mass shooting, this time in his own diocese, when a shooter at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston killed 10 and injured 13 others.

“Sadly, I must yet again point out the obvious brokenness in our culture and society, such that children who went to school this morning to learn and teachers who went to inspire them will not come home,” he said. “We as a nation must, here and now, say definitively: no more death! Our Lord is the Lord of life. May He be with us in our sorrow and show us how to honor the precious gift of life and live in peace.”

Prayer as a response to shootings or other deadly incidents has in recent years been criticized by some commentators, called pointless or secondary in comparison to advocacy for gun control policies or mental health resources.

The day after a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. killed 14 on Dec. 2, 2015, the cover of the New York Daily News said “God isn’t fixing this” - a response to politicians and public figures who offered “thoughts and prayers” after the tragedy, but allegedly took insufficient action to prevent such shootings from occurring in the future.

However, Monsignor Robert Weiss, who was pastor in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 when a shooter killed 11 children at an elementary school, has said that turning to God is a necessary part of the response to tragedy.

“To whom do you go? Do you rely on yourself? Because there’s no way you can individually handle these kinds of experiences,” he told CNA in a 2017 interview following the Las Vegas shooting. He recalled professionals telling him in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that “we can only do so much for these people” to help them heal from the tragedy.

“There is only one place to turn, and it’s to turn to the Lord and find some sort of understanding of this,” he said.

Police in Trenton have said that Sunday’s shooting seems to be gang-related, and not an act of terrorism.

“There is no motive, however, that can justify these ongoing, seemingly relentless acts of gun violence plaguing our cities.  How many times can our hearts break?” O’Connell said. “Once again, we fall to our knees to beg the Almighty to help us end these senseless assaults on innocent life in our communities.”    
 
 

 

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