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Italian Bishops hold online event on prayer and disability

The Bishops of Italy host an online conference on the theme “The Prophecy of Fraternity”, and reaffirm that people with disabilities should be able to participate actively in their own care.

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

Reading 1 IS 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.

”Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

R. (26a)  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, 
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes. 
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
 I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
 the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
 and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.



Alleluia IS 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house. 
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. 
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house. 
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Payday loan expansion means fast money and cycle of debt for Michigan's poor, bishops say

CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- A Michigan proposal to quadruple the maximum lending amount allowed for payday lenders would exploit the poor and trap many people in a cycle of debt when alternatives are available, the Michigan Catholic Conference has told a State Senate committee.

“People in the state may be unaware that charity agencies and low-income lending opportunities exist to assist those who are in dire circumstances and need quick access to cash,” David Maluchnik, vice-president of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Dec. 1.

“High-interest loans that add greater financial burden to poor people should be opposed, as they contribute to an economy of exclusion rather than serving the dignity of the human person. The legislation before committee today is a form of modern-day usury; it would exploit individuals and families facing hardship and poses a danger to the common good,” he said.

Maluchnik testified before the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee against House Bill 5097, proposed by State Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo. The bill passed the House of Representatives in May, with support from 15 Democratic lawmakers.

The bill increases the amount that can be borrowed under the law from $600 to $2,500. It would allow monthly fees of 11% on the loan principal for payday loans, also known as cash advances.

The annual interest rate on a maximum loan would exceed 130%, the Catholic conference said. In a flier criticizing the bill, it said this was “exorbitant.”

“Data shows that rates such as these wreak financial havoc on individuals who typically need a one-time cash solution. In order to pay these loans off, over 70% of borrowers take out new payday loans within 30 days, causing a long-term debt cycle for their family,” said the flier.

The flier recommends alternatives to payday loans: alternative lending programs, credit unions, and financial education resources. During the coronavirus pandemic, it said, Michigan credit unions have made nearly 9,500 emergency cash loans totaling over $22.5 million.

Other critics of the law include the Michigan Poverty Law Program and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan.

Iden, the bill’s backer, told The Detroit News in September that inflation has increased since 2005, when payday loans first became legal and the limit was set. It now takes more money to replace a set of tires than 15 years ago. He said “a number of conversations” with constituents inspired the move.

The industry is also competing with online lenders.

Rep. Diana Farrington, R-Utica, chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, opposed the bill. She said that the average loan is for $400.

“I was just concerned because individuals get into a debt cycle with payday lending,” she told the Detroit News.

Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, supported the bill. He said people need the opportunity to get money in an emergency like the pandemic, and those who make payments on time will build their credit rating.

Hickson said that under the proposed change, someone could pay $4,600 on a $2,500 loan over a year, the maximum loan term allowed. He characterized the proposal as “legalized loan sharking.”

The Detroit News reported that companies or lobbyists backing increased payday lending had given tens of thousands of dollars to Michigan lawmakers’ campaigns.

The Church has consistently taught that usury is evil, including in numerous ecumenical councils.

In Vix pervenit, his 1745 encyclical on usury and other dishonest profit, Benedict XIV taught that a loan contract demands “that one return to another only as much as he has received. The sin rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has given. Therefore he contends some gain is owed him beyond that which he loaned, but any gain which exceeds the amount he gave is illicit and usurious.”

In his General Audience address of Feb. 10, 2016, Pope Francis taught that “Scripture persistently exhorts a generous response to requests for loans, without making petty calculations and without demanding impossible interest rates,” citing Leviticus.

“This lesson is always timely,” he said. “How many families there are on the street, victims of profiteering … It is a grave sin, usury is a sin that cries out in the presence of God.”

New coalition champions spiritual rights of patients

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 2, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A new coalition seeks to promote the rights of hospital patients to have “reasonable” access to family and clergy during the pandemic.

The Health Care Civil Rights Task Force is a project of the Christ Medicus Foundation, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, and other groups. The task force issued a statement on Nov. 19 calling for the protection of civil rights during the pandemic, “Defending the Fundamental Dignity and Health Care Civil Rights of All.”

The NCBC’s Dr. Jozef Zalot explained the significance of the statement on the rights of hospital patients to clergy and family visitation during the pandemic.

“We’ve have been stating that since the spring,” Zalot told CNA on Wednesday. “It is absolutely essential,” he said, “that people not have to die alone, and we’re hearing that in consults.” Families have called the center for bioethical consultations, he said, having to make life-or-death decisions for their loved ones while not allowed to be physically present with them at the hospital.

“It’s a huge issue, not only for the patients but for the family members,” Zalot said. “They’re being denied access to see their loved ones, to interact with them, to say goodbye to them, to receive the sacraments of the Church. It’s a huge, huge civil rights issue.”

Strict hospital visitation policies during the pandemic have received repeated attention from the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has intervened in several cases for patients to have access to clergy and for disabled patients to have access to an advocate.

In the statement on civil rights in health care, the coalition also called for preservation of access to the sacraments for the faithful and opposition to health care rationing based on a “value” of one’s life.

The statement’s authors warned that state and local COVID restrictions reflect a “chasm” where “[t]he spiritual is increasingly being forgotten, ignored, and trampled,” as churches are closed by public orders and the sacraments are denied to COVID patients.

Members of the Health Care Civil Rights Task Force include National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) president Joseph Meaney, Bobby Schindler—the brother of Terri Schiavo—and officials at the Christ Medicus Foundation and Healthcare Advocacy Leadership Organization.

“A secular view sees saving the physical life of a person as the only goal that matters,” the statement reads. “Faith and reason recognize that both care for spiritual health and care for emotional health are essential parts of health care.”

“However much government and courts want to keep people safe, the rights of the family are preeminent above the rights of the state,” the statement says. “There is no reason that PPE [personal protective equipment] cannot be used to allow reasonable visitation from loved ones in health care settings during this pandemic.”

Meaney, in particular, issued a statement in November on “the right not to be forced to die alone.” He stated that “simply denying all visitation is an unreasonable policy” for hospitals, and argued for patients and families to have a say in “restricted visitation.”

Meaney has said he was actually hospitalized with a heart condition in May, but could not have a Catholic priest visit to administer Last Rites.

NYC mayor de Blasio defends decision not to pay for coronavirus testing at private schools

CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2020 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his decision not to extend state funding for on-site coronavirus testing to students in Catholic schools, as he fights a court mandate that the state department of education provide testing to both private and public school students.

“We believe the law is clear that it is not the city’s obligation to provide the actual testing service,” de Blasio told the New York Post Dec. 1.

“Our obligation right now is to continue the process of having New York City public schools be open and healthy and safe.”

In a lawsuit filed Nov. 18, the Archdiocese of New York argued that the New York City Department of Education has a legal mandate to provide children attending nonpublic schools within their districts with “all of the health and welfare services” they provide to their public school students, including “the administration of health screening tests.”

The archdiocese cited burdensome costs associated with the increased testing requirements, which at public schools are covered by the state.

On Nov. 24, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the archdiocese. The DOE is appealing the ruling, and de Blasio said Dec. 1 that he interprets the state law in question, Section 912, differently.

The legal fight comes amid new public health measures from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which included additional testing requirements for schools open for in-person learning in certain zones of the city with higher infection rates.

“Yellow zone” restrictions include a 25-person maximum capacity on gatherings, 4-person to a table maximum while dining, and weekly testing for at least 20% of in-person students and faculty in all schools.

If the results of the testing reveal that the positivity rate among the 20% of those tested is lower than the yellow zone's current 7-day positivity rate, testing at that school will no longer be required to continue, the state said in a Nov. 14 guidance.

The 172 Catholic schools in the New York archdiocese have been open for in-person instruction since September.

According to a Nov. 30 op-ed by archdiocesan school superintendent Michael Deegan, their schools’ positivity rate is significantly ­below the 3 percent threshold, at 0.0046 percent.

“The mayor has been on the news lately, saying (rightly) that the key to reopening schools is testing and more testing,” Deegan wrote.

“That’s great to hear. Why, then, are he and [schools chancellor Richard] Carranza so dead-set against following state law, now backed by a court order, requiring public and nonpublic kids to receive the same testing resources?”

"Do Mayor de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, really believe that children in nonpublic schools deserve inferior measures to protect their health? Apparently," Deegan stated.

On Nov. 18, de Blasio announced that the city’s public schools would “temporarily” suspend in-person classes. He subsequently announced Nov. 29 that he would allow elementary school and pre-K students to return to in-person learning Dec. 7, with special education students returning Dec. 10.

The initial decision to suspend in-person learning in public schools was made after one set of data found that the city’s coronavirus test positivity rate was 3%. Metrics shared by Cuomo at a press conference following the decision to close, however, stated that the city’s positivity rate was 2.5%, not yet at the anticipated threshold for school closure. De Blasio also announced Nov. 29 that the 3% threshold would no longer be used.

de Blasio has faced criticism for his treatment of houses of worship during the coronavirus pandemic, threatening mass arrests or even permanent closure of churches and synagogues that did not comply with public orders.

De Blasio said in June that ongoing protests in the city merit exceptions to coronavirus regulations, while religious services do not, drawing criticism from the New York archdiocese.

The Supreme Court ruled in late November that New York state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic are a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free religious exercise.

The state’s restrictions forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in state designated “red zones, and 25 people in “orange zones.”

In a statement Nov. 26, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said he is “gratified by the decision of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, who have recognized the clear First Amendment violation and urgent need for relief in this case.”

The court’s ruling is temporary, as lawsuits filed by the Diocese of Brooklyn and by Orthodox Jewish synagogues in New York will continue, though the Supreme Court’s Nov. 26 decision is likely to weigh heavily in the outcome of those cases.

While cases of coronavirus have continued to spike throughout the country, schools have largely not been the sources of these infections.

Last month, Cuomo was part of a bipartisan group of governors from the northeast who signed a statement calling in-person learning the “best possible scenario” for children.

Once beloved Colorado priest among newly identified clerical abusers

CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2020 / 09:40 am (CNA).- Investigation into the history of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Colorado has found nine diocesan priests with “substantiated” sexual abuse allegations involving 70 more underage victims. Those priests come in addition to 43 abusers already identified in a 2019 report. The newly known abusers include a Denver priest who was a prominent advocate for the homeless.

A report on clerical abuse in Colorado was released Dec. 1 as a supplement to an October 2019 report on the history of clerical sexual abuse in the state.

“We hope and pray that this independent review and reparations process over the last two years has provided a measure of justice and healing for the survivors who came forward and shared their stories,” the Catholic bishops of Colorado said in a joint statement Dec. 1.

“We remain heart-broken by the pain they have endured, we again offer our deepest apologies for the past failures of the Church, and we promise that we will always pray for continued healing for them and their families.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez of Denver said they continue to be willing “to meet personally with survivors when they make the request.”

They pledged to “continue to work with and support anyone who comes forward.”

“We also hope that this process has demonstrated our commitment to continuing to enhance and strengthen our child-protection policies so that the sins of the past do not repeat themselves,” said the Colorado bishops.

None of the newly named priests are still in ministry. At least six of the men newly accused of abuse have died. The latest report also contains new substantiated accusations against another 16 previously known abusers.

The 93-page report from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office supplements a previous October 2019 report in a 22-month investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer.

The supplemental investigation concerns victims who made claims to the attorney general’s office or to an independent reparation and reconciliation program for the three dioceses in Colorado. It does not include victims who reported only to a diocese directly, nor does it include allegations against clergy in religious orders, church volunteers or other employees. Some victims who spoke to the reparation and reconciliation program decided not to speak for inclusion in the supplemental investigation.

Attorney General Phil Weiser said Dec. 1 that the program’s goals were “to support and comfort survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and to bring meaningful change to how the Colorado dioceses protect children from sexual abuse.”

“It takes incredible fortitude for victims of sexual abuse to come forward and tell their stories, and they are the heroes of this effort,” he said

The most prominent priest named in the latest report is Father Charles Woodrich, known as Father Woody, an outspoken advocate for the homeless of Denver. After he died in 1991 the Denver Catholic Register, which he had previously served as editor, called him “Denver’s patron saint of the hungry and homeless.”

He famously opened up the doors of his downtown parish, the beautiful Holy Ghost Church, to the homeless during cold winter nights. He would routinely give his friends on the street the coats off his back and the cash in his pockets.

Three victims alleged grooming behavior and sexual assault by him as far back as 1976, beginning at ages as young as 12. The Denver archdiocese received the allegations earlier this year through the reparations program and reported them to law enforcement.

Woodrich helped to found the Samaritan House homeless shelter and the Haven of Hope to provide hot meals and shelters for the homeless. Samaritan House, now run by Catholic Charities of Denver. Last year it served 1,405 men, women and children, providing over 80,000 nights of shelter and over 466,000 meals.

The priest also established school lunch programs for poor children. The name “Father Woody” had become synonymous with charity in the Denver community. He was the namesake of a popular Christmas party for the homeless and a service program at Regis University was named for him. A university spokesman told the Denver Post that the program will be renamed in honor of Jesuit priest St. John Francis Regis.

The latest report means that the number of diocesan clergy known to be abusive now numbers 52, with 212 victims. Several children were younger than 10. While abusers sometimes had more than one known victim, particularly dangerous was Father Harold White. The priest abused 70 known victims from 1958 to 1981. He was laicized in 2004.

Most abuse happened in the 1960s. All known instances of abuse took place between 1951 and 1999. However, more than half of the victims were abused after church leaders knew of allegations

The latest report identified Father James Moreno as another Denver archdiocese priest who sexually abused a teen boy dozens of times from 1978 to 1980. In late 2019 he admitted to abusing the victim, whom he had met through Denver Catholic schools. Moreno retired 6 years ago, but currently faces a canonical process to be removed from the priesthood. The attorney general’s report erroneously said that Moreno retired 16 years ago.

Other Denver archdiocese priests named for the first time were Kenneth Funk, Daniel Kelleher, and Gregory Smith. There were 138 diocesan priests in the archdiocese in 1950. Their numbers peaked at 215 in 1976, and are at similar numbers today. No new allegations concerned priests of the Colorado Springs diocese, which was founded in 1983.

The newly named Pueblo diocesan priests are Marvin Kapushion, Duane Repola, Carlos Trujillo and Joseph Walsh. Kapushion and Walsh worked as counselors at the Sacred Heart and abused children there. The two known victims of Walsh were aged 4 and 7 when their abuse began. The number of diocesan priests in the Pueblo diocese peaked at 83 in 1966, and they currently number 52.

Among the newly reported incidents, only one was not reported to law enforcement as required by law in 2006, when the victim first came forward. At the same time, among the new incidents 16 of the 46 newly reported victims had been abused after the diocese had been informed that the priest was a sexual abuser.

Troyer, the author of the supplemental report, said that the incidents “provide further evidence that historically the dioceses enabled clergy child sexual abuse by transferring abusive priests to new parishes; taking no action to restrict their ministry or access to children; concealing the priests’ behavior with secrecy, euphemism and lack of documentation; silencing victims; and not reporting the abuse to law enforcement.”

The bishops took encouragement that there have been no known incidents of child abuse in over 20 years, with “over 90 percent of the known incidents occurring 40 to 60 years ago.”

However, many sexual abuse victims take decades before coming forward, leaving open the possibility that reports about more recent situations could come to light..

Troyer’s October 2019 report had said the dioceses’ poor records and flawed practices made it impossible to know whether there had been any abuse in recent years.

Weiser, the attorney general, said he was pleased that the Colorado dioceses implemented “every recommendation” of the first report, with reforms that are apparently “meaningful and sound.”

“But as the report points out, these improvements are untested at this point in time, and it will be up to the church to ensure it is creating an environment that is as safe as possible for children now and in the future,” he said.

The state’s Catholic bishops said that following the recommendations strengthened policies, adding “we believe Catholics and the general public can feel confident that the Church is an extremely safe environment for children.”

“We agree with the Attorney General that other youth-serving institutions could consider using a similar public review and reparations program to address this issue,” they said.

In a separate statement regarding Woodrich and other priests, the Denver archdiocese said: “for Catholics, learning about the past sins of former priests has been extremely difficult, especially when the priest was well-known and respected.”

“For any priest that has been named in the initial report or supplemental report, the archdiocese has removed that priest’s name from any honorary designation including buildings, facilities, and programs,” it continued.

“It is important to note that the ministerial work of the Church is the work of Jesus Christ, not the work of a specific priest. Any employee or volunteer who has participated in the work of Christ in serving others should not feel that their work has in any way been diminished.”

The archdiocese said it took part in the investigation “so that any survivor who had not previously come forward would be encouraged to do so in a safe and protected process “

“We are grateful for everyone who bravely shared their stories, and we pray this process provided survivors with a measure of justice and healing,” said its statement.

The first report, issued in October 2019, examined the archives and personnel files of Colorado’s dioceses dating back 70 years.

Father Lawrence St. Peter is among other priests credibly accused of abuse. He became apostolic administrator of the Denver archdiocese in 1986 after the death of Archbishop James Casey, before future cardinal James Stafford took office. In his role as apostolic administrator and his previous role as vicar for clergy, he had access to personnel files.

The Colorado attorney general’s 2019 report on diocesan clergy sexual abuse said there is “strong circumstantial evidence” to confirm rumors that he used his access to destroy incriminating documents. The report cited a lack of abuse allegations and an absence of records of psychological treatment. The archdiocesan file lacked discussions of his “alcohol problems” and “homosexuality problems,” even though these were known by others in close contact with him.

Another prominent priest, the late Father James Beno, was a politician-priest who served in the state Senate for two terms from 1978-1986 as a Democrat from Pueblo. The reports indicate he was accused of sexually abusing at least four female victims from 1961 to 1974. One victim was as young as five years old, while another victim was a high school junior when the priest allegedly raped her.

As of Oct. 19, the three dioceses’ reparations and reconciliation program announced that $6.68 million had been paid to 73 victims of clerical abuse who were minors at the time the abuse occurred.

Denver’s Archbishop Aquila has previously invited Catholics to offer prayers and fasting for victims of sexual abuse on the first Friday of Lent.


Debate continues over who should get new COVID vaccines first

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 2, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A federal health advisory committee proposed on Tuesday that health care workers and long-term care facility residents should be the first to receive a COVID vaccine, as a Catholic ethicist warned that vulnerable people, like the elderly, cannot be pushed to the back of the line.  

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) met virtually on Tuesday to discuss and vote on the “allocation of initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine,” or who should be the very first to receive the vaccine.

The meeting occurred after pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, and Moderna, submitted their vaccine candidates for emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the FDA is expected to grant authorization in early December.

Once the vaccine is approved and distributed, the CDC committee said on Tuesday that health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities should be among the first to receive it.

According to CDC working group co-lead Kathleen Dooling, residents and staff of long-term care facilities accounted for six percent of the COVID cases in the U.S., but 40% of the deaths. Skilled nursing facilities alone accounted for more than 69,000 deaths so far.

Vaccination of these populations is important, she said, because of the ethical policy of “maximizing benefits” while “minimizing harm,” protecting health care personnel, preserving health care capacity, preventing the spread of the virus among high-risk populations and easing the burden on hospitals.

Dr. Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University, tweeted on Tuesday that it was “so important” for the committee to prioritize not only health care workers, but nursing home residents and staff. Camosy has written before that the neglect of care of the elderly in nursing homes—manifested in a “wildfire of infection and death” during the pandemic—is an element of the “throwaway culture” condemned by Pope Francis.

The “real challenge,” Camosy said, is determining who would receive the vaccine after the initial administration phase. Under the CDC group’s proposed “Phase 1b,” which the committee briefly discussed on Tuesday, “essential workers” would receive it, with vulnerable adults—the elderly and those with high-risk medical conditions—being next in line after them.

Camosy argued that the “sick and the elderly” who are not in nursing homes should be prioritized for the vaccine over younger, healthier “essential” workers.

In August, CNA discussed who should get a COVID vaccine first with an ethicist from the  National Catholic Bioethics Center.

“All of those who come into contact with many different people through their ordinary line of work, they would be first in line,” bioethicist Edward Furton told CNA. People in this group might include first responders, physicians, nurses, and other health care workers, police officers, and public transit employees.

On Wednesday, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) issued a statement calling on governors to follow the ACIP proposal putting nursing home residents and staff among the first in line for the vaccine.

“More than 100,000 long term care residents have died from this virus in the U.S. and our nursing homes are now experiencing the worst outbreak of new cases since last spring with more than 2,000 residents succumbing to this virus each week,” stated Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. 

Under the ACIP proposals discussed and voted on Tuesday afternoon, the first phase of vaccine allocation (1a) would target health care personnel at hospitals, outpatient clinics, public health services, and long-term care facilities.

Residents of the long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other residential care facilities, would also be prioritized for a vaccine.

The next vaccine phase would target “essential workers,” who cannot work remotely. After that, vulnerable adults would be prioritized for a vaccine, or adults with high-risk medical conditions or seniors age 65 and over.

Within the first bracket, ACIP members discussed who should get a vaccine first in long-term care settings, or if both residents and staff should receive vaccines simultaneously.

Executive secretary Dr. Amanda Cohn said that most facilities might conduct vaccinations simultaneously, but some jurisdictions might vaccinate the personnel first because of supply issues.

Liaison representative Dr. Robert Gluckman endorsed the policy of vaccinating long-term care residents and staff simultaneously.

“If elderly are to be vaccinated,” he added, they would need guidance on any adverse effects or side effects of the vaccine.

The board members also discussed “sub-prioritization,” or who among health care workers should receive the vaccine first. There would be enough doses to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December, members said, and sub-prioritization would be necessary earlier in the month when doses are still limited.

Those with direct patient contact who are unable to telework, such as those providing services or handling infectious materials in inpatient or outpatient settings, should possibly be prioritized, Dr. Sarah Oliver said in her presentation.

Long-term care personnel, and personnel without a known infection in the previous 90 days, should also be prioritized, Oliver said.

South African Bishop: The ending year calls for reflection on the signs of the times

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha, President of the South African Bishops’ Conference, reflects on the state of the nation and the Church in South Africa as the year ends.

“Fratelli tutti”: an invitation to act now for a post-pandemic world

Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Fratelli tutti” provided the inspiration and the themes for reflection at an on-line seminar organized by The Pontifical Lateran University.

Pope prays for missionaries slain 40 years ago in El Salvador

Forty years after their death, Pope Francis recalls the brave missionary women who were brutally murdered in El Salvador as they worked to make the lives of those suffering the county's civil war easier.