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Catholic Bishops React to Mass Shooting in South Florida

Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), called for prayer and healing. The full statement is as follows:

We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life. May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing. Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today. I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence. Our hope is in the Lord, as he promised after his resurrection, ‘behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt. 28:20).

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House Children and Families Committee Advances Fetal Pain Bill

The Missouri House Committee on Children and Families has advanced HB 1266, sponsored by Rep. Donna Lichtenegger (R-Cape Girardeau), which would outlaw abortion at 20 weeks gestation based upon an unborn fetus’s ability to feel pain. Currently, Missouri law outlaws abortions at 24 weeks, the date fetuses are considered viable.

Whether fetuses are capable of feeling and experiencing pain in utero has been the subject of much debate. However, as technology advances and babies are born earlier and survive, the evidence is mounting that fetuses are able to feel and experience pain after 20 weeks. Professor Colleen Mallory, of the Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, stating “[w]hen procedures such as IV placement or chest tube insertion are performed on neonates at 20 weeks post-fertilization age and above, the response [including changes in vital signs] is similar to those seen in older infants or children.”

Dr. Ferdinand Salvacion, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, has testified previously that “[t]he structures required for pain perception are present in the fetus by 20 weeks gestational age. Based upon the scientific evidence, it is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the capacity to experience pain as early as 20 weeks gestational age, and the pain perceived is possibly more intense than that perceived by mature newborns.”

HB 1266 must be debated on the House floor before being sent to the Senate for consideration. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.

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Survey Touts Findings on Government Help

The majority of Americans say the federal government does not provide enough help for older people, poor people, and the middle class. Nearly two-thirds say the government provides too much help for wealthy people.The national survey, conducted by Pew Research Center from January 10-15, 2018, finds that views on government help for the poor, the middle class and the wealthy (as well as for older people) have changed little in recent years. This was the first time a question about younger people was included. About half of those surveyed said the government does not do enough for younger people; about 29 percent said it provides the right amount of help, and 13 percent say it provides too much. To find the specific percentages and more information about this study, click here.
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Catholic Missourian Launches Online Paper

The Catholic Missourian, the Jefferson City Diocesean newspaper, launched its online presence this week. This is one of the new projects that has arrived along with Bishop McKnight’s installation, making the paper accessible to a broader audience, and allowing even more content to be generated and shared from the diocese, and also from national Catholic media. Browse the new site to get updated on the latest Jefferson City diocesan news, and to read print archives going back to Oct. 3, 2017.

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New Bishop Ordained in the Diocese of Jefferson City

On Tuesday, February 6th, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis ordained Fr. W. Shawn McKnight of Wichita, Kansas as the 4th bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City. During his homily, Archbishop Carlson encouraged McKnight in his call to service, and said that he “will need to be courageous” in his new role as shepherd of the people of Central and Northeast Missouri. His call to serve as bishop and his ordination, Archbishop told him, is “an invitation to walk to the peripheries” to serve the elderly, the poor and the marginalized.

During his first address as bishop following the ordination, McKnight stated, “I proclaim the good news! Jesus Christ is risen!” He conveyed his unsettledness when he received the phone call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, announcing his appointment. “I knew that either I was in big trouble, or he was going to change the course of my life.” And indeed, that phone call did change the course of his life.

At just 49 years of age, Bishop McKnight is now the youngest bishop in the United States. He comes from a diocese that is rich in vocations to the priesthood. He has a heart for evangelization, ecumenism, and for the permanent diaconate, a topic he has studied in depth, having recently released an entire book on the topic.   

Bishop McKnight closed his opening remarks at the end of Mass by introducing the diocese to the motto that appears on his crest, “Gratias Agimus Domino” – “Let us give thanks to the Lord.” The Diocese of Jefferson City gives thanks to you, Bishop McKnight, for saying, “yes.” And thanks be to God for Bishop John Gaydos’ many years of faithful service to the Diocese of Jefferson City, and to the Missouri Catholic Conference. 

To watch the recording of Bishop McKnight’s installation Mass, click here.

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Expanding Postpartum Care for Mothers

This week, the House Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy held a public hearing on several bills that would expand health coverage for postpartum mothers. The Missouri Catholic Conference testified in support of HB 1468HB 1616HB 2120 and HB 2280. All of the bills would extend health coverage under Medicaid or the Show-Me Healthy Babies program from the current 60 days, with some bills extending coverage to one year and others to two years.

The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) said that many mothers need postpartum care well beyond the first few months after the birth of their child. New mothers can suffer from postpartum depression, pelvic injuries, urinary problems or substance abuse addictions. The MCC urged adoption of a committee substitute that could be sent to the full House chamber for that body’s approval.

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An Opioid Epidemic – Missouri Faces Major Public Health Crisis

Drug overdose fatalities now surpass motor vehicle deaths in Missouri. U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Health and Human Services, would like to see more local organizations engaged in combating drug addictions. Meanwhile, the Missouri Hospital Association has launched a new effort to address this growing public health crisis. Click here to find out more about this effort.

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House Corrections Committee and Public Institutions Committee Meets

This week, the House Corrections and Public Institutions Committee heard HB  1627, sponsored by Rep. Jean Evans (R-Manchester), that would establish guidelines for the shackling of pregnant female offenders. The Missouri Catholic Conference joined Campaign Life and the March of Dimes in supporting this bill. The legislation still allows for the restraints to be used in extraordinary circumstances for offenders. The bill was filed in response the tragic deaths of infants due to the shackling of their mothers. The committee took no action on the bill.

In other news, the House Corrections and Public Institutions Committee voted 9-0 to pass HB 1359, sponsored by Rep. Tom Hannegan (R-St. Charles). This bill sets up a procedure allowing for the early parole of geriatric inmates. As amended, the bill allows offenders who are 70 years of age, did not commit any other violent offense, and are serving a sentence of 50 years to receive a parole hearing upon serving 25 years of the sentence. The MCC supported the bill because of its efforts to rehabilitate the offender.

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Latest MCC Messenger Focuses on Maternity Homes

The first MCC Messenger of 2018 puts a strong focus on the seamless bond between mothers and children, and the important role that maternity homes and pregnancy resource centers play in strengthening and nurturing this bond. In this issue, you’ll read about St. Louis based Our Lady’s Inn maternity homes, which house and provide prenatal and postnatal care for homeless mothers and their children.

Also included in this issue is a look into legislation protecting the conscience rights of healthcare providers, Project Rachel, and more. Look for this Messenger in your diocesan newspaper in the next couple of weeks.