Nation/World news briefs: March 20, 2023


“Listening, humbling yourself, being at the service of others: this is serving, this is being Christian, this is being an apostle.”
— Pope Francis, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 15

State becomes first to ban abortion pills

Wyoming became the first state in the nation to specifically ban the use or prescription of abortion pills on March 17. Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed the law with a ruling by a federal judge in Texas still outstanding that could potentially implement a nationwide ban on the drug mifepristone amid a legal challenge brought by pro-life groups. The state’s legislature passed two pieces of legislation in March that would restrict abortion in the state, but the governor allowed the other bill to become law without his signature. The other bill prohibits most abortions in the state with narrow exceptions for cases of rape or incest, risks to the mother’s life, or “a lethal fetal anomaly.”

Albany Diocese files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The Diocese of Albany, New York, announced March 15 that it has filed for bankruptcy reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. According to a message from Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger that was posted on the diocesan website, the decision is “the best way” to ensure that sexual abuse survivors with pending litigation against the diocese “will receive some compensation” amid what he called the diocese’s “limited self-insurance funds which … have been depleted.” In its official statement, the diocese said it has been “named in more than 400” lawsuits filed between Aug. 15, 2019, and Aug. 14, 2021, under the Child Victims Act (CVA).

Santa Rosa Diocese files for bankruptcy in face of potentially 200 abuse claims

The Diocese of Santa Rosa filed for bankruptcy March 13, days after its bishop finally concluded the decision was necessary in order to address potentially 200 new claims brought against the diocese by survivors of child sexual abuse. Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a March 10 statement posted to the diocese’s website that after “months of careful and prayerful consideration” — including consultation with the diocese’s priests, the diocese’s finance council, and other professionals retained by the diocese, “it was clear that such an action was necessary.” Bishop Vasa pointed out the diocese faces at least 160 new claims against it as a result of California legislation opening up a three-year window in the statute of limitations, from Jan. 1, 2020 to Jan. 2, 2023, that allowed survivors of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits within that time frame. He acknowledged those claims could potentially exceed 200.

Biden administration proposes steps to reduce ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed in March the first federal limits on “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a move the Biden administration said will save thousands of lives and prevent some serious illnesses attributed to exposure to these chemicals over time. The proposal would limit toxic PFAS chemicals, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, to the lowest detectable levels. These chemicals are found in consumer, commercial and industrial products, and build up in people, wildlife and the environment. Known as “forever chemicals,” they do not break down in water and are linked to an array of health issues when humans are exposed over time, including lower infant birth weights and kidney or testicular cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also has called for federal efforts to reduce human and environmental exposure to PFAS chemicals.

U.S. extends stay for thousands of Ukrainians as war enters second year

Thousands of Ukrainians who fled their nation in the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022 can now apply to extend their stay in the U.S. by one year. On March 13, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would begin considering extensions, on a case-by-case basis, for Ukrainian nationals and immediate family members who entered the U.S. prior to the federal government’s Uniting for Ukraine program. Launched in April 2022, the Uniting for Ukraine program granted eligible applicants up to two years of humanitarian parole, enabling them to enter the U.S. and apply for employment authorization. Program applicants are required to have a financial supporter in the U.S., complete vaccinations and other public health requirements; obtain biometric, biographic and security checks; and fund their own commercial travel to the U.S. To date, more than 118,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. through the Uniting for Ukraine program. However, Ukrainians who fled to the U.S. between Feb. 24, 2022, and the Uniting for Ukraine program start date had only been granted one year of humanitarian parole. The DHS extension aligns both groups, and the agency expects the extension vetting process to take approximately four weeks.


The church in Ireland is launching a Year for Vocations as it grapples with a steep decline in seminary numbers and with aging priests. Focused on diocesan priesthood, the Year for Vocations opens April 30, on the 60th anniversary of St. Paul VI’s launching of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations in 1963. It will last until April 2024. “Take the Risk for Christ” is the theme of the initiative, which was unveiled at the national seminary in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, March 7 by the Irish Bishops’ Council for Vocations. It takes place as the Irish church’s 26 dioceses implement radical structural changes, including parish partnerships and enhanced roles for the laity, to offset the lack of priests.

Top photo: Local residents walk past a multistory apartment block in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 16, 2023, which was destroyed during the Russian invasion. Thousands of Ukrainians who fled the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion are now eligible to apply for a one-year extension of their stay in the U.S. (OSV News photo/Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters)

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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