Mar 17

TCA Media Monitoring March 14, 2017

1. Egypt trip gives Francis a chance to stand with suffering Christians. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, March 14, 2017

By now it seems clear that Pope Francis will visit Egypt this year. The Vatican has confirmed that a trip is in the works

The main focus doubtless will be the budding efforts by the Vatican and Al-Azahar, the leading center for learning in Sunni Islam, to join forces in delegitimizing religious pretexts for violence. That’s obviously a worthy and timely cause, and it alone would justify the outing.

There will also be a strong ecumenical component, since Egypt is home to the Coptic Orthodox Church, representing around ten percent of the national population with roughly 20 million followers, the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Yet there’s another compelling reason for Francis to go to Egypt, though it remains to be seen how much emphasis it actually will get: To make a stand in defense of persecuted Christians.

Despite the transition in Egypt in 2014 to a new government led by former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power vowing to protect minorities and reject terrorism, human rights experts say that assaults on Christians in the country are a chronic problem that’s getting worse. A recent wave of anti-Christian attacks in the country’s Sinai region offer merely the latest example.

If Francis’s partnership with Al-Azhar is to avoid leaving local Christians embittered and cynical, it has to include a clear insistence from the pontiff that its Islamic leadership press both the government and their fellow Muslims to do a better job of securing basic safety and full rights as citizens for the country’s Christians.

Otherwise, the risk is that to many Egyptian Christians, Francis’s détente may seem like a pretext for allowing their persecution to go unchecked and unacknowledged.


2. The Benedict Option. 

By David Brooks, The New York Times, March 14, 2017, Pg. A23

Throughout history we’ve seen a lot of purist religious faiths, from the Spanish inquisitors to the modern Islamic radicals, who believe in a single true way of living. Today we see a lot of secular purists: the students at Middlebury who want to shout down differing opinions, the legal activists who want to force Orthodox Christian bakers to work at gay weddings, against their conscience.

This movement has led many Christians to conclude that they are about to become pariahs in their own nation. One of these is my friend Rod Dreher, whose new book, “The Benedict Option,” is already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.

Rod shares the fears that are now common in Orthodox Christian circles, that because of their views on L.G.B.T. issues, Orthodox Christians and Jews will soon be banned from many professions and corporations. “Blacklisting will be real,” he says. We are entering a new Dark Age. “There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”

Rod says it’s futile to keep fighting the culture war, because it’s over. Instead believers should follow the model of the sixth-century monk St. Benedict, who set up separate religious communities as the Roman empire collapsed around them.


3. U.S. congratulates Pope Francis on his 4th anniversary. 

By Catholic News Agency, March 14, 2017

On Monday, the anniversary of Pope Francis being elevated to the papacy, the United States offered its congratulations and wishes for collaboration in the future.

“On behalf of President Trump and the people of the United States, I offer my congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis on the fourth anniversary of his election as Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church,” said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a statement.

On March 13, 2013, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope.

“The United States and the Holy See have worked together for decades to face global challenges such as trafficking in persons, food insecurity, epidemics, and the exploitation of religion as a tool to incite hatred and divide nations,” Tillerson said in his statement. “Together we have built vital partnerships and cooperated to advance peace, liberty, and human dignity around the world.

“On this day I join millions of Americans, and people around the world, in congratulating the Holy Father and wishing him continued success in leading the Catholic Church to make a better world for all.”


4. Planned Parenthood didn’t tell moms if twins were aborted. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, March 14, 2017, Pg. A10

A former clinic manager at Planned Parenthood says she was instructed not to tell mothers if they were pregnant with twins after abortions, because “it usually just upsets them.”

In a video released by Live Action last week, Sue Thayer describes in graphic detail an abortion she witnessed during her time at the nation’s largest abortion provider.

The Live Action video is part of its Abortion Corporation series to debunk Planned Parenthood’s claim that it provides comprehensive women’s health care and to encourage Congress to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider.


5. Pope Francis’ fourth anniversary: will the reforms work? 

By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, March 13, 2017

Will it work? In my last three posts, I set forth three points of reference for understanding Pope Francis’ pontificate as he begins his fifth year: the centrality of mercy, ministry to the poor and accompaniment. I made the case that these form the foundation for the reform the Holy Father seeks for the church. (I could have added discernment, but for U.S. Americans, I think that can only come after accompaniment becomes a more widespread ecclesiological reality.) Now we must face the question: Can Pope Francis succeed in reforming the church?

A solid case can be made that he is already succeeding. Can anyone imagine that, after Pope Francis, synods will go back to being rote affairs in which there is no genuine dialogue? Will a future pope be credible if he even tries to order edicts from on high with no consultation and only a set of syllogisms by way of explanation? Can we imagine a future pope bringing back the regalia of the Counter-Reformation and, more importantly, the attitude towards authority in the church that regalia represents? Of course not.

We have had four years in which the universal pastor of the church has unrelentingly called attention to the plight of the poor. 

In a sense, then, Pope Francis’ reforms are already working; they have already set the church on a different trajectory. I am sure all of us know friends who have told us how they have been personally encouraged by Francis to view the church differently. “I know there’s been some controversies of late,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley told my colleague Josh McElwee in his look back at the last four years, “but the Holy Father’s teaching and example are a great source of encouragement to our people. He has changed the conversation about the church in our country, and we are grateful for that.”


The reform of the Roman curia would certainly be going more quickly if Pope Francis were willing to sack those who oppose him, but it is clear that he really means it when he talks about the need for everyone to speak their mind, when he proposes a more collaborative way of informing decision-making, and when he warns other clergy against thinking they have all the answers. 


6. The Church is the ‘only functioning institution’ in South Sudan. 

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, March 13, 2017, 4:46 PM

Amid war and famine in South Sudan, the Catholic Church is still serving the most vulnerable even as the government has collapsed.

The Church is the “only functioning institution in civil society,” Neil Corkery, president of the Sudan Relief Fund, told CNA in an interview, and “is really the only thing that’s left trying to help people” who live “in the remotest parts of the country.”

Famine was recently declared in parts of South Sudan, where there has been an ongoing civil war, interrupted by tenuous peace, since December 2013.

42 percent of the population, an estimated 4.5 million people, are facing “severe food insecurity,” Corkery said, and that number is expected to rise to half the country’s population – or 5.5 million – by July.

Amid this crisis and growing famine, Catholic priests, nuns, and missionaries have been laboring to bring food and supplies to remote areas and are “reaching these people who are truly destitute and starving.”

Pope Francis has spoken about the crisis in the country and has expressed his desire to visit there. No details of the trip have yet been released, Corkery said.

“The Pope and the Church,” he said, “are the only people that have the ability to convene, bring the parties together” for a peaceful solution. Pope Francis will try to “refocus the international community on the gravity of this crisis that’s there” and “convene the warring parties to try to bring them to the table to get some peace.”


7. A Crux rundown of memorable moments from Francis’s first four years. 

By Crux Staff, Crux, March 13, 2017

Herewith, then, the official Crux review of memorable moments from the first four years of a remarkable papacy.

Holding Dominic Gondreau and hugging Vinicio Riva, Nirmala Carvalho

In April 2013 after the Easter Sunday celebrations in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis held Dominic Gondreau, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who was born three-and-a half months premature, weighing little over one pound.

I’m a sinner, Charles Camosy

In his first interview, asked to define who he is, Pope Francis replied that “I am a sinner.” That claim is important on several levels.

First, there’s his basic understanding of anthropology. We are flawed beings who need to keep this also at the front of our mind-particularly when it comes to the need for God’s mercy and the hesitation which we (should) have when coming to firm conclusions based on our own reasoning and intuitions.

But on another level, it has also changed the nature of the papacy. When a Pope leads with this, the aura of perfectly white-washed sinlessness and certainly infallibility falls away.

This pope is kind of like us … a sinner who’s trying to follow the very difficult demands of the Gospel.

Press conference on the plane back to Rome from Brazil, July 2013, Austen Ivereigh

The Rio papal flight press conference, famous for triggering the “Who am I to judge?” headline, marked a new era in papal and Vatican communication, in which the pope acted as his own spokesman and reserved the right to speak to whomever, and whenever, he wished.

The press conferences have generated an extraordinary level of coverage and helped put the papacy back at the heart of world public affairs. But they have also generated unease and sometimes scandal, with Catholics who prefer popes to speak in carefully crafted statements reacting with dismay at Francis’s off-the-cuff comments.

Speech to U.S. congress, Chris White

Despite such bitter polarization in recent years, here was the leader of the Catholic Church bringing political leaders from both sides of the aisle together in a rare moment of genuine joy and enthusiasm that no State of the Union could come close to matching!

In that address, Francis used the occasion to recast the American Dream through the lens of Catholic social teaching. It proved to be an occasion to reconsider what’s best about America-and I hope it served as an examination of conscience for the entire nation.

The Synods on the Family, Charles Collins

A speech by Cardinal Walter Kasper at the February 2014 Consistory advocating communion for the divorce-and-remarried was the opening salvo in a battle over the reception of communion by couples in “irregular unions” which at times overshadowed other serious issues surrounding familial life, both in and out of the synod hall.

Several cardinals answered Kasper in books and articles published in the lead-up to the synod (both in favor of and against the proposal), and there were reports of heated words during the synod sessions.

The debate continued at the Ordinary Synod which met the next year, and only intensified when Pope Francis issued the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia in 2016.

The entire process showed the possible contradictions in the pope’s desire for a more synodal church, and his lack of hesitation in using the full power traditionally vested in his office.

Mercy, Father Raymond de Souza

The Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began on Dec. 8, 2015 and closed on Nov. 20, Feast of Christ the King, was the capstone of a pontificate that has ensured that mercy touches all aspects of the Church’s life and does not remain limited to the Divine Mercy devotion.

Despite the contradictions and confusions that have occasioned much commentary these past years, it is the compassion of the Holy Father that makes the deepest impression upon me.

Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’ and Amoris Laetitia, blockbuster documents, John L. Allen Jr.

Evangelii Gaudium in 2013 cemented Francis’s reputation as a progressive reformer in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, while Laudato Si’ in 2015 made him the global chaplain of the push to limit climate change. Needless to say, Amoris Laetitia triggered fierce debate among the Church’s chattering classes for the pope’s cautious opening on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and the fault lines it’s opened up will help define Francis’s legacy.

His ability to address Millennials, a misunderstood generation, Claire Giangravè

Admitting that only time can tell who these Millennials actually are, if anything, few have been able to address this misunderstood generation as capably as Pope Francis, the reason why he’s the only pope to ever grace the cover of Rolling Stone, something he’s done twice: once in the United States [reprinted also in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries] and more recently, in Italy.

His prioritizing of the peripheries, a determining factor of his passport stamps collection, Inés San Martín

[I]n the past four years, and after promising that he had no intention to travel as much as his predecessors, he’s visited the four corners of the earth.

What’s more, he’s spoken about his “intention” to visit several other countries, way before the trips are confirmed. One reason for this is the fact that he knows he has the ability to raise awareness of the tragedies being lived.


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.