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UNITED STATES, October 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Two hospitals have amended their policies to allow patients to receive visits from clergy as well as the sacraments, in a recent victory for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

The HHS reports that the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, part of the OCR, managed to effect changes in two separate hospitals, requiring them to ensure that patients could have access to the sacraments. 

In July of this year, a mother issued a complaint against MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC) claiming that they had violated her religious freedom. After having given birth alone “she was separated from her newborn child because she had tested positive for COVID-19 upon admission to the hospital.”  

The mother asked the hospital to allow a Catholic priest inside, in order to baptize her newborn son. However, her request was refused by the hospital, “due to a visitor exclusion policy adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The OCR directed the hospital to a document drawn up by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which states that “Facilities must ensure patients have adequate and lawful access to chaplains or clergy in conformance with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.” 

As a result, the MSMHC changed its policy, allowing all patients to have access to “religious services from the religious leaders of their choice at any reasonable time, as long as the visit does not disrupt care.” 

A second case occurred in Virginia’s Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC), which resulted in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington lodging a complaint with the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. The diocese stated that the hospital had refused entrance to a priest who had been called to administer the Last Rites to a patient who was nearing the end of his life. The patient had also tested positive for COVID-19. 

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Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Every year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) supports the March for Life. And, every year the March for Life concludes at the Supreme Court of the United States.

The reason the USCCB supports the March for Life and the reason that the March for Life ends at the Supreme Court is to send a positive message about the sanctity of human life and to insist that Roe vs Wade is reversed.

Suddenly, with Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court, we now have reason to hope that Roe can actually be overturned.

But, where are the bishops of the United States to be found when Judge Barrett is being attacked on the Senate floor for her Catholic faith and for her belief in the sanctity of human life?

We now call on the USCCB to defend U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett against those who would attack her because of her Catholic faith and what that means in terms of protecting life from conception until natural death.

Please SIGN this petition to urge the Catholic Bishops of the United States to defend Judge Amy Coney Barrett from attack.

When Judge Barrett's Senate confirmation hearing began on Monday, hundreds of Protestants and their ministers gathered outside the Supreme Court to pray for Barrett. Please WATCH an exclusive LifeSite video showing this joyful gathering by clicking here.

Defending Barrett, of course, is not only about defending a nominee to the Supreme Court, but also about defending ALL of the faithful against the suggestion that the Catholic faith somehow disqualifies one for service in public life.

But, again, where is the USCCB on these important matters? Certainly, if the bishops called on their faithful to show prayerful support of Barrett, people would respond.

Thankfully, a few U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have made public statements defending Barrett's Catholic faith. However, the USCCB has not united to defend her.  

Cardinal Dolan supported Judge Barrett on September 29, 2020 in his show Conversations with Cardinal Dolan. Dolan commented that she is an articulate and committed woman of integrity and strength, and defended Barrett against what he called "nasty comments."

After reminding listeners that the Constitution says “there should be no religious test for candidates,” he said, “When you look at some of the grilling they were doing in the past, it was like they were testing her on her faith. Well, that is just out of bounds, folks."

Unfortunately, this line of questioning is still being pursued TODAY by some Democratic U.S. senators. And, it is utterly wrong.

The USCCB should urgently consider following Cardinal Dolan's lead on this matter, defending Barrett against the outrageous attacks against her Catholic faith and her pro-life beliefs.

Doing so would send a strong message about the right to practise Catholicism and participate in public life in America. And, it would also send a strong message to the U.S. Senate and the American public about the necessity of defending life in the public square.

Please SIGN this urgent petition urging the USCCB to defend Judge Barrett who is a faithful member of the Church. Bishops must provide leadership to their flocks about the significant political circumstances of our day. Thank you!

After you have signed the petition, please take a few minutes to politely call the USCCB's Respect Life Office and ask the bishops to issue a united statement in defense of Amy Coney Barrett's Catholic faith and her pro-life beliefs. Their phone number is: 202-541-3070. Or, write them an email at: [email protected]

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Watch Day 4 of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings live HERE' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/watch-amy-coney-barretts-supreme-court-confirmation-hearing-live-here

'Cdl. Dolan defends Amy Coney Barrett: She ‘takes her Catholic faith seriously’' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cdl-dolan-defends-amy-coney-barrett-she-takes-her-catholic-faith-seriously

'Amy Coney Barrett lays out timeline from legal contraception to 60M abortions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/amy-coney-barrett-lays-out-timeline-from-legal-contraception-to-60m-abortions

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The hospital later reversed its decision, when it learnt about the complaint and allowed the priest to enter and administer the sacraments. 

Despite this permission, another occasion arose in the MWHC, in which a priest was asked by the family to visit a patient in intensive care, yet was refused. The hospital forbade entry except for “end-of-life situations.”   

Once again, the OCR intervened, and MWHC updated their policy to allow for clergy visitation to non-COVID patients. For patients with the virus, the hospital now allows clergy visits, but extra measures are in place, such as completing “infection prevention training,” wearing PPE, and signing “waiver acknowledging the risks of COVID-19 transmission.”  

If he has to visit a COVID-19 patient in an emergency, the visiting cleric must self-isolate for 14 days if he has not completed infection training. 

The news is very welcome, in the light of many hospitals and care facilities imposing stringent visiting policies during the recent months of corona tide. Priests have been widely barred from gaining entrance to hospitals in order to administer the Sacraments, particularly those of the Last Rites. 

Family visits to relatives in hospitals have been heavily curtailed, and widely banned during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns. Patients often ended dying on their own, without family with them in their last hours. 

Care homes also participated in the exclusion policy, with patients and residents forced to isolate in their rooms, devoid of all normal human contact. Even the gradual lifting of such bans has still resulted, in some cases, in visits being limited to one per week with a maximum of thirty minutes, with the visitor mostly hidden under protective clothing

In March, there was public outcry in New York City after a number of hospitals banned women from having anyone accompany them – even their husbands – during labor and delivery. The city government forced them to backtrack, but many hospitals around the U.S. (and around the world) still severely restrict who can be with a woman as she gives birth. Other hospitals now routinely separate supposedly COVID-19 positive mothers from their newborns, a practice widely panned as traumatizing and inhumane.  

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