Jun 17

TCA Media Monitoring June 6, 2017

1. Court ruling signals deference to religious nonprofit groups

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, June 6, 2017, Pg. A5

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that faith-based nonprofits can be treated the same as churches under federal retirement laws, in a decision signaling broad deference to religious institutions.

Houses of worship are allowed greater freedom to structure their retirement plans than most corporations under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), but it was unclear whether religiously affiliated nonprofits such as parochial schools and church-run hospitals would be afforded the same flexibility.

Analysts had been watching the case to see if it would give a hint as to how the court sees another legal battle involving religiously affiliated nonprofits: the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. In that case, houses of worship don’t have to purchase insurance plans that cover contraceptives, but charities do.


2. A traumatized church in Austria still has some capital in the bank

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, June 6, 2017

Twenty years ago, Catholicism in Austria was in crisis, with bitter internal divisions exacerbating the toll of centuries of intense secularization. Today things seem far calmer, and, despite it all, the Church in Austria still retains a unique capacity to bring diverse people together and put them into serious conversation about things that matter.

In 1995, frustration with a sexual abuse scandal around Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer of Vienna exploded into the formation of a KirchenVolksBewegung – a “People’s Movement of the Church.” Within weeks, organizers had gathered three-quarters of a million signatures on a petition demanding five reforms, including the ordination of married men, women deacons, local selection of bishops, expanded roles for laity, and more compassionate treatment of divorcees and homosexuals.

The movement climaxed with a “Dialogue for Austria” in 1998, held in Salzburg. It amounted to a national parliament of Austrian Catholics, and bishops pledged to carry whatever recommendations came out of it to Rome. It was three days of high drama, with intense floor debates among abbots and pastors, lay theologians and bishops, social justice activists and Catholic politicians. When the time came to vote, it was a resounding win for the reform positions.

Those demands, however, were dead on arrival in Rome, and the whole business left many Austrian Catholics bitter. Liberals felt the will of the people had been ignored, while conservatives wondered why the process had been permitted in the first place, since one doesn’t vote on matters of truth.

First, things now are far calmer.

Second, there’s an ironic sense in which, while Pope Francis has been great for business for right-wing dissenters and watchdog groups … [H]e’s sort of sucked the oxygen out of the room for liberal activists such as those who founded the KirchenVolksBewegung in Austria.

Third, even though it’s been axiomatic for decades now to write obituaries for the faith in Europe, I was struck by how much social capital the Catholic Church in Austria still seems to have in the bank.

In other words, despite the toll taken by centuries of secularization, and, more recently, by bitter internal conflicts, the Church here appears to be still in the game, to have still a fighting chance to shape culture in light of the Gospel – and if that’s the case, after all the vicissitudes and heartache Austrian Catholicism has experienced, then there’s probably hope everywhere.


3. Dialogue with Muslims, defend human dignity, pope tells missionaries

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Crux, June 6, 2017

Missionaries are entrusted with bringing hope to poor Christian communities while building bridges with Muslims and protecting human rights, Pope Francis told a group of men and women missionaries.

Meeting with members of the Consolata Missionaries at the Vatican June 5, the pope also encouraged them to push the boundaries of their missionary activity, especially in “defending the dignity of women and family values.

Founded by Blessed Giuseppe Allamano, both the men’s and women’s congregations aim to evangelize in remote areas of the world and form Christian communities.


4. Justices side with religious hospitals in pension dispute

By Sam Hananel, Associated Press, June 5, 2017, 11:53 AM

Religious hospitals don’t have to comply with federal laws protecting pension plans, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that affects retirement benefits for roughly a million workers nationwide.

The justices sided with three church-affiliated nonprofit hospital systems being sued for underfunding their employee pension plans.

The hospitals — two with Catholic affiliation and one with Lutheran ties — had argued that their pensions are “church plans” that are exempt from the law and have been treated as such for decades by federal officials.

Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said a pension plan operated by a religiously affiliated hospital is exempt from the law “regardless of who established it.”


5. Pope to Host Venezuelan Bishops on June 8

By Reuters, June 5, 2017, 4:15 PM

Venezuelan bishops will visit Pope Francis on Thursday as anti-government unrest continues unabated in the South American country, the Vatican said in a statement on Monday.

“The meeting was requested by the (Venezuelan) bishops conference, who would like to speak with the pope about the situation in Venezuela,” the statement said.

The appointment with the Argentine-born pontiff came months after Vatican-brokered peace talks between Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and opposition leaders broke down.

Protests have rocked Venezuela since early April, as food and medicine shortages have affected millions. At least 65 people have died in the unrest, with hundreds more injured.


The media monitoring clips provide a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged - such as religious liberty and other fundamental Church concerns. The clips are not intended to be an exhausted source of in-depth coverage on any particular issue. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.