Feb 17

TCA Media Monitoring February 15, 2017

1. Religious freedom could top Sessions civil rights priorities. 

By Sadie Gurman, Associated Press, February 15, 2017, 3:46 AM

Sessions could bring major changes throughout the Justice Department. But the department’s civil rights division traditionally is subject to the most radical shift in agendas with each change in presidential administration. Where the Obama Justice Department wanted to leave its mark on reforming troubled police departments, Sessions will likely use its resources differently.

It’s unclear exactly what priorities Sessions will pursue when it comes to the civil rights division. The Justice Department declined to comment on his plans for enforcement of religious freedom.

Groups ranging from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Sasser’s First Liberty Institute have launched campaigns urging Trump to enact broad protections for religious objectors to laws such as gay marriage and abortion.


2. Is a Vatican-China agreement close? What could happen. 

By Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency, February 15, 2017, 12:01 AM

Hopes are on the rise for an agreement between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops, with Cardinal John Tong Hon, Archbishop of Hong Kong again making the case for a possible proposal.

To summarize, Cardinal Tong maintained that Chinese government will finally recognize the Pope as the supreme authority of the Church, and the Pope will be given the power to veto any candidate to the episcopacy he does not deem fit for the post. The cardinal also explained that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, that is the state-controlled church, will turn into a voluntary body with which bishops can freely affiliate. He voiced optimism for the eventual reconciliation of the seven illicit bishops appointed without the Pope’s consent. The cardinal also hoped for the future recognition of the bishops of the “underground Church.”

Despite the general optimism seen in Cardinal Tong’s words, the final agreement is yet to come, a source with knowledge of the Vatican-China talks told CNA under condition of anonymity.

The source explained the agreement this way: “The Chinese government wants to keep control of the appointment of bishops, and Rome cannot diminish the supreme authority of the pontiff. So, we meet in the middle.”

The talks for an agreement do not include the establishment of diplomatic ties. That will come later, according to CNA’s source knowledgeable of the Sino-Vatican dialogue.

At the moment, the Holy See’s nunciature to China is established in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The country is seen by the People’s Republic of China as no more than a rebel province.

The Holy See relationship with Taiwan is one of the biggest hurdles to the establishment of any diplomatic tie with China.

According to CNA’s Vatican source, the Holy See would be ready to drop its diplomatic presence in Taiwan, but this would not harm relations there. The Holy See could even strengthen its presence on the Taiwanese territory, with a more specific focus on pastoral concerns.


3. The Trump Era’s Catholic Mirror. 

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times online, February 15, 2017, Opinion

There is a natural desire for a unifying theory of all the disturbances in Western institutions, a way to make all the conflicts into one so that an unstable situation can be distilled and understood. Which is why, over the last week, there’s been an attempt to unite American politics and Vatican intrigue into a single melodrama, in which the same populist forces that elevated Donald Trump are supposedly trying to pull Pope Francis down.

The key to this interpretation is the connection, reported last week by my colleague Jason Horowitz, between Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief ideologist, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American traditionalist who has been the Jesuit pope’s most vocal critic within the College of Cardinals. The Bannon-Burke link consists of a friendly 2014 meeting, a few secondary connections and some broad commonalities between their respective worldviews — both in their way reactionary, nostalgic for the civilizational confidence of the Western or Catholic past.

As a description of actual machinations, this is conspiratorial nonsense: Burke has no such illiberal ambitions, Bannon has other fish to fry, and the theological issues dividing the church are quite distinct from the political issues dividing Western countries.

The difference is that in Rome the populist isn’t a right-wing president. He’s a radical pope.

Friendly media coverage casts the pontiff as a man of the center, an ecclesiastical equivalent of Angela Merkel or Barack Obama or David Cameron, menaced by authoritarians to his right. But he is no such thing, and not only because his politics are much more radical and apocalyptic than any Western technocrat. In the context of the papacy, in his style as a ruler of the church, Francis is flagrantly Trumpian: a shatterer of norms, a disregarder of traditions, an insult-heavy rhetorician, a pontiff impatient with the strictures of church law and inclined to govern by decree when existing rules and structures resist his will.

In his own way, no less than neoliberals in Western politics, John Paul II tried to forge a stable post-Second Vatican Council center for Catholicism; now, much like the neoliberal order in Western politics, his project seems to be collapsing. The church under Francis has moved left as Western politics has moved right, but the reality in both cases is one of polarization, of a right that wants to be more reactionary and a left that wants to be more radical, and an establishment uncertain how and where to move.


4. Pope Francis: Native people have rights over their lands.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, February 15, 2017, 7:57 AM

Francis met with representatives of indigenous peoples attending a U.N. agricultural meeting and said the key issue facing them is how to reconcile the right to economic development with protecting their cultures and territories.

“In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail,” he said. “Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.”

Francis didn’t cite the Dakota pipeline dispute by name and the Vatican press office said he was not making a direct reference to it. But history’s first Latin American pope has been a consistent backer of indigenous rights and has frequently spoken out about the plight of Indians in resisting economic development that threatens their lands.


5. Conservative criticism of pope sparks rally of support. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, February 14, 2017, 1:49 PM

Pope Francis’ top advisers are rallying to his defense amid an unprecedented wave of conservative criticism that represents the biggest challenge to his mercy-over-morals papacy.

In an unusual gesture, the nine cardinals from around the world who advise Francis on running the church made a public show of support for the pope and his teachings this week after posters featuring a scowling Francis appeared around Rome. The posters referenced some perceived heavy-handed moves against conservatives and asked “Where’s your mercy?”

And on Tuesday, the Vatican published a book by the Holy See’s top canon lawyer fully endorsing Francis’ controversial opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — the main bone of contention between the pope and conservative and traditionalist Catholics.


6. Catholic hospital denies unfair bias against transgender man.

By Josh Cornfield, Associated Press, February 14, 2017, 1:45 PM

A Catholic hospital denies that it unfairly discriminated against a transgender man who sued after the hospital refused to allow a surgeon to remove the man’s uterus as part of his sex transition.

Saint Joseph’s Healthcare System said that a court ruling in Jionni Conforti’s favor would violate its constitutional right to freedom of religion. The hospital filed its response to the lawsuit Friday in federal court.

The 33-year-old Totowa man had scheduled the hysterectomy at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson in 2015. His lawsuit alleges a hospital administrator told him the hospital couldn’t perform the procedure to remove his uterus because it is a Catholic hospital.

He later had the surgery performed at another hospital, but Conforti is seeking a court order requiring the hospital to perform any needed medical care for transgender patients. He is also seeking monetary damages.


7. Republicans make first move targeting Planned Parenthood funding. 

By Jessie Hellmann, The Hill, February 14, 2017, 4:34 PM

The House is expected this week to vote on a resolution that would rescind an Obama-era regulation barring states from defunding the organization for political reasons.

Because the measure is being moved through a law that allows Congress to rescind recently finalized rules, the bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate, raising its odds for success.  

Republicans framed the move to rescind the regulation as a way to give back to the states the power to determine how federal funds should be spent on women’s healthcare. 

The House Rules Committee passed the resolution Tuesday along a party-line vote, 7-4, and the full House will likely vote on it later this week.   

Obama’s rule specifically requires that state and local governments distribute federal Title X funding for services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care and breast and cervical cancer screeners to health providers, regardless of whether they also perform abortions.

It was issued by the Obama administration after a string of states tried to block funding for Planned Parenthood and its affiliated clinics. 


8. Vatican’s legal chief says desire to change enough for Communion. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 14, 2017

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, head of a Vatican office that interprets Church law, writes that Catholics in “non-legitimate” situations can receive Communion as long as they want to change their situation but cannot act on their desire because doing so would lead to further sin.

“The Church could admit to the Penitence and Eucharist the faithful who find themselves in illegitimate unions [who] want to change that situation, but can’t act on their desire,” Coccopalmerio writes.

It’s worth noting that the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, German Cardinal Gerharld Muller, said earlier in the month that Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is against Church doctrine and no one, including the pope, can change that.

Coccopalmerio offers a concrete situation as an example of a case in which a person, “knowing about the irregularity of [his or hers] situation,” has great difficulty changing their situation “without feeling in their conscience that they would fall in a new sin.”

According to Coccopalmerio, Amoris Laetitia implicitly stipulates that to be admitted to the sacraments the men or women who, for serious motives such as the education of their children, can’t fulfill the obligation to separate, must nonetheless have “the intention or at least the desire” to change their status.


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.