Raleigh, N.C., Oct 24, 2014 / 05:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A seminarian is looking forward to his ordination to the diaconate this spring and the priesthood a year later, even though he was given roughly a year and a half to live back in 2008.

Phillip Johnson, who is now 30, was diagnosed with a Grade III brain cancer known as anaplastic astrocytoma six years ago when he was serving as a naval officer in the Persian Gulf.

“I remember the moment I saw the computer images of the brain scans – I went to the Catholic chapel on base and fell to the floor in tears.  I asked God, ‘why me?’” Johnson wrote in an Oct. 22 column, “Dear Brittany: Our Lives Are Worth Living, Even With Brain Cancer,” for the Diocese of Raleigh website.

He was sent home to the U.S. for radiation and chemotherapy and then discharged from the Navy before entering formation for the priesthood, a calling he said he was aware of since he was 19.

Even with aggressive treatment, most research shows that the average survival time for this type of cancer is 18 months, he said.

Quoting the 29-year-old woman who has documented her decision to die by physician-assisted suicide in an online video, Brittany Maynard, Johnson said that “being told you have that kind of timeline still feels like you’re going to die tomorrow.”

After consulting with his doctors, Johnson learned that he will “gradually lose control of my bodily functions at a young age, from paralysis to incontinence, and it is very likely that my mental faculties will also disappear and lead to confusion and hallucinations before my death.”

Much like this terminally-ill woman, he does not want to die or “suffer the likely outcome of this disease.”

“I do not think anyone wants to die in this way.”

However, Johnson believes that such suffering does not diminish his worth as a person.
“My life means something to me, to God, and to my family and friends, and barring a miraculous recovery, it will continue to mean something long after I am paralyzed in a hospice bed.”

“My family and friends love me for who I am, not just for the personality traits that will slowly slip away if this tumor progresses and takes my life.”

Johnson recognizes Maynard’s temptation to end her life “on her own terms.” He admitted that at times he wished that the cancer would take his life quickly to end the suffering and that he hoped for a miracle to be cured of the cancer.

Having been given this long to live has now proved to be a miracle in itself, Johnson said. In fact, he has “experienced countless miracles” throughout his illness.

In his preparation for the priesthood, he has been able to serve other terminally ill people and learned that “suffering and heartache that is part of the human condition does not have to be wasted and cut short out of fear or seeking control in a seemingly uncontrollable situation.”

“Perhaps this is the most important miracle for me.”

Avoiding suffering at all costs – even at the expense of one’s life – is a way to try to gain control “in the midst of turmoil,” but it ignores the redemptive value of suffering.

“We do not seek pain for its own sake, but our suffering can have great meaning if we try to join it to the Passion of Christ and offer it for the conversion or intentions of others.”

Johnson said that by ending her life prematurely, Maynard will be missing out on the “most intimate moments of her life” in return for a faster option “that focuses more on herself than anyone else.”

In his own experience, the seminarian has endured sadness, but has also experienced periods of “great joy.”

“I still get sad. I still cry. I still beg God to show me His will through all of this suffering and to allow me to be His priest if it be His will, but I know that I am not alone in my suffering,” he said, pointing to the support of his family, friends, and the Church.

Johnson said he will keep praying for Maynard in her illness, that she will “understand the love we all have for her before she takes her own life.”

If she decides against her suicide and chooses to fight the disease, she would be “an incredible example and inspiration to countless others in her situation.”

“She would certainly be an inspiration to me as I continue to fight my own cancer.”

Providence, R.I., Oct 24, 2014 / 01:55 pm (CNA).- In an election where all political candidates hold problematic positions, Catholic voters may choose “the lesser of two evils,” cast a protest vote, or simply not vote, one U.S. bishop has advised, with pro-life groups calling for prudence in making this decision.

“It’s a real problem that many faithful Catholics face these days – how to vote when all of the candidates are pro-abortion,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., acknowledged in an Oct. 16 column for The Rhode Island Catholic, his diocese's official publication.

“I know, it’s a tough time to be a moral, pro-life voter. The field is narrow and the options are few. But, vote according to your conscience, pray for our state and nation, and sleep well. Remember, God’s still in charge!”

Bishop Tobin presented the three voting options as an answer to a member of the diocese who revealed that the candidate for whom she had intended to vote supported both abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

“I responded to my letter-writer that it wasn’t appropriate for me to suggest candidates for whom she should or shouldn’t vote, but that it was important for her to become well-informed about the candidates and their positions, pray about it, and then vote according to her conscience,” the bishop wrote, adding the importance of the virtue of prudence.

In such a scenario, “when no candidate presents an acceptable position, especially about critical moral issues like abortion,” one of three options would be, Bishop Tobin said, “to choose the candidate who, in traditional terms, is the lesser of two evils.”

Alternatively, a voter could cast a “protest” vote by choosing to “write-in the name of someone who represents pro-life values … Even though this person surely wouldn’t be elected to office, a vote in that direction would send a clear signal that at least some voters won’t settle for anything less than a pro-life candidate. Contrary to what critics will charge, it’s not a wasted vote; it’s a sincere expression of conscience that upholds moral truth. And that’s never a waste!”

Another legitimate option, Bishop Tobin said, is that a citizen “might well decide to skip this year’s election and not vote at all, or at least not vote for a particular office.”

“Although Catholics have a general moral obligation to participate in the life of our nation, there are many ways to do that, and there’s certainly no obligation to vote in each and every election, particularly when the options are repugnant to the well-informed conscientious Christian voter.”

In Rhode Island's gubernatorial race, both the Democratic candidate, Gina Raimondo, and the Republican candidate, Allan Fung, support legal abortion. However, pro-life groups pointed out that the candidates differ on a number of policy points.

For instance, Fung opposes both taxpayer funding of abortions and late-term abortions, and supported the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby religious freedom decision. Raimondo was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and opposed the Hobby Lobby decision.

Joshua Mercer of CatholicVote.org suggested that citizens follow Bishop Tobin's first or second scenario – participate in the election, either to send a “protest vote” or to elect the candidate who one thinks will do the least amount of harm.

Mercer advised against the idea that one might choose not to vote for a particular office, saying to CNA that “staying at home doesn't do any good at all,” and, “I still think every Catholic has an obligation to vote, because you’ve got to communicate some way that this is what it should be like.”

He did add that “a protest vote is definitely an option. And it’s one that Catholics in good conscience should consider (in some) circumstances, precisely because you have a very flawed candidate and then a very horrible candidate.”

“When pro-lifers are in a distinct minority, you have to make very difficult choices.”

“It would be wonderful to have both political parties fighting over each other to see which one is more pro-life,” Mercer commented.

“Unfortunately, we’re not faced with that situation. There is going to be a governor sworn into office in January of next year for Rhode Island. The question is, will that governor support taxpayer funding of abortion or not?”

Rhode Island Right to Life, meanwhile, urged citizens to follow Bishop Tobin's first voting option: to vote for the candidate who will do the least amount of harm.

The group has drawn attention for their endorsement of Fung for governor, despite the pro-abortion elements of his record.

In September, Bishop Tobin responded to the group's decision by telling GoLocalProv, “I know that RI Right to Life approaches these issues very carefully, and I can only presume that they have more information about Mayor Fung's position than I do. I won't second guess their endorsement.”

He added, however: “Personally, though, I can't vote for any candidate for any office, who claims to be pro-choice, which to me translates to being pro-abortion.”

Rhode Island Right to Life spokesman Barth Bracy explained that Fung still matches up with the group on a number of legislative issues such as supporting both “incremental pro-life legislation” and a health care plan option in the state’s insurance exchange that doesn’t cover abortion.

Currently the state’s insurance exchange offers only health plans covering abortion. The current plans include an abortion surcharge which forces all participants in the exchange to pay separately for abortion coverage, raising conscience concerns, Bracy maintained. Fung has promised to support an alternative plan on the exchange “that does not provide abortion coverage, except in the circumstances of rape, incest, or to protect the life of a woman.”
“So essentially every single issue that we’ve got pending before the General Assembly that we’re trying to pass, he supports. And every single issue before the General Assembly that Planned Parenthood is trying to pass, he opposes,” Bracy told CNA.

“We would love to have perfect candidates in every race, but when that doesn’t happen, you have to choose between who is running. And when you have on the one hand one candidate that will support every single one of the initiatives that you can reasonably foresee raising over the next four years, and on the other hand you have a candidate who is the most extreme abortion advocate we have ever seen, it’s a pretty clear decision.”

“If Gina Raimondo, the Planned Parenthood candidate, wins, we’re going to lose a lot of legislative battles over the next four years, plain and simple. If Allen Fung wins, we’re going to win a lot of legislative battles over the next four years. So lives are at stake, conscience is at stake.”

Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2014 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who has been battling Ebola after treating a patient in Texas, has now been declared free of the disease, and gave thanks to God and all those who have prayed for her in recent weeks.

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today,” Pham said in a press conference Oct. 24. “I would first and foremost like to thank God, my family and friends. Throughout this ordeal, I have put my trust in God and my medical team.”

Pham thanked everyone who had been involved in her care, both in Texas and Maryland. She offered special gratitude to Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly for donating plasma, calling it a “selfless act.”

“I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me,” she continued. “I join you in prayer now for the recovery of others.”

The 26-year-old nurse, described by friends as a devout Catholic, is believed to have contracted Ebola while caring for a Thomas Eric Duncan, a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan passed away from Ebola Oct. 8.

Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland on Oct. 16. Numerous tests have now shown her to be Ebola free, and she will return to Texas to continue regaining strength.

Ebola continues to devastate parts of West Africa. The World Health Organization said that nearly 5,000 deaths had been reported as of Oct. 19, but the true numbers could be as high as 15,000.

Pham’s fellow nurse, Amber Vinson, had also contracted Ebola after caring for Duncan. Vinson is currently being treated. Her family said Oct. 22 that she had tested free of the disease.