Jan 17

TCA Media Monitoring January 5, 2017

1. GOP House panel: Halt federal money for Planned Parenthood, By Alan Fram, Associated Press, January 5, 2017, 3:21 AM.

A Republican-run House panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood and the world of fetal tissue research has urged Congress to halt federal payments to the women’s health organization. Democrats said the GOP probe had unearthed no wrongdoing and wasted taxpayers’ money in an abusive investigation reminiscent of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

The Republican recommendation was included in the special committee’s final report Wednesday and was no surprise. The GOP released the 471-page document just 16 days before Donald Trump becomes president, at the start of a year in which many Republicans hope Congress will finally cut off federal funds for the group.

“Planned Parenthood affiliates and clinics have repeatedly neglected their fiduciary duty requiring good stewardship of federal taxpayer dollars,” wrote the panel, which was chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. Republicans created the special committee in reaction to the videos.

The report accused the group of violating federal laws by altering abortion procedures to obtain fetal tissue, disclosing patients’ private information to firms that procure the tissue and “a general disinterest in clinical integrity.”

The panel also examined tissue procurement firms including StemExpress and research entities like the University of New Mexico. The report cited 15 instances in which the committee has provided information to U.S. and state authorities for possibly violating federal and state laws.

Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report shows that of more than $1.1 billion in yearly revenue, around half — $554 million — comes from government grants and reimbursements. It provides no breakdown.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Planned Parenthood receives about $450 million annually in federal funds, mostly $390 million in reimbursements from the Medicaid program for low-income people.

By law, federal funds cannot be used for abortions except for a handful of rare exceptions.

The report recommended legislation letting states deny Medicaid and family planning payments to groups that provide abortions. Last month, the Obama administration issued a rule preventing states from blocking family planning funds to such clinics.


2. New year, same dedication — 2017 is bright for the pro-life movement, By Ashley McGuire, The Hill, January 4, 2017, 12:20 PM.

The surprise election of Donald Trump, however, has swung the door wide open for the pro-life movement, and we are seizing the moment. 

Toward the end of his campaign, Trump came out with a strong anti-abortion message. He took Hillary Clinton and her party to task for their extremism on abortion, refusing to back off the issue in the final debate.

He reiterated his promise to appoint pro-life judges, he made it clear that he understands overturning Roe would simply return the issue of abortion to the states, and he went toe-to-toe with Clinton on late-term abortion, repeating that the gruesome procedure is something “nobody has business doing.”

His blunt depiction of late-term and partial-birth abortion flummoxed the pro-choice movement, which spent the following week on defense arguing that the procedure is not the hideously violent act that it is.

One of his first moves post-election was to put forward Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

A Secretary Price would stand poised to undo the mandate that requires nuns and other objecting religious parties to provide abortifacients in their healthcare plans, eliminate the previous administration’s rule overturning state action to defund Planned Parenthood, and halt the California law requiring all employers regardless of religious objection to cover abortion in their healthcare plans, just for starters.

And then there is the Supreme Court. Ah, the Supreme Court.

More than one in five voters said appointments to the Supreme Court was the “most important factor” in determining their vote, and Trump walloped Clinton with these voters. And he did so having plainly and repeatedly promised to appoint pro-life judges to the highest court in America.


3. Pope Francis could face key choices on bishops in 2017, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 4, 2017.

Perhaps no single thing any pope ever does is more consequential than the kinds of bishops and Vatican officials he chooses to appoint, and here’s a rundown of some of the personnel choices Francis may face in 2017.

The one to watch may be [Cardinal Angelo Amato, Congregation for the Causes of Saints], who is rumored to be on his way out, and who turns 79 in June. If Francis does replace him, that would leave only the Congregation for Bishops under Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, and the Economy secretariat under Pell as major Vatican offices not led by figures either appointed by Francis or seen as broadly on the same page on most major issues.

Catholic liberals would probably vote for the 69-year-old Müller as the Vatican official they’d most like to see gone, given his track record of taking fairly tough positions on matters such as the Amoris debate.

On the other hand, Francis may think about it the way St. Pope John Paul II once thought about naming Cardinal Agostino Casaroli as his Secretary of State. The Polish pope knew he was going to make a strong anti-Communist push, and he wanted a man of détente to provide balance.

Doctrinally speaking, under Francis it’s sort of the other way around: He’s a pope of détente, and maybe he likes having a doctrine czar around inclined to be sure the baby doesn’t get tossed out with the bathwater.

In terms of prelates in dioceses around the world, here are a few big players already over 75 or who will cross that milestone in 2017:

Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, Kinshasa
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington, D.C.
Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Durban
Cardinal Angelo Scola, Milan
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Mexico City
Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Paris
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Tegucigalpa
Cardinal John Ton Hon, Hong Kong
Archbishop Peter Okada, Tokyo

Once again, there’s no rule that says the pope has to replace any of them, and in fact most seem safe bets to go on for a while, prominently including Wuerl in Washington.

However, the drama of 2017 probably pivots on the possibility of a transition in three places: Durban, Mexico City and Milan.

All three are tone-setting archdioceses for the Church on an entire continent, and they’re all places where the incumbent is conventionally seen as not quite the dictionary definition of a “Francis bishop.” Napier was a vocal part of the more conservative bloc at Francis’s two synods, Rivera is seen as an old-school cleric comfortable with power and privilege, and Scola is more of an evangelical “JPII” sort of thinker and leader.

If Francis were to do in Milan, Durban and Mexico City what he recently did with his cardinal’s picks in the U.S., meaning to elevate personalities clearly seen as in sync with his own outlook, it’ll likely be read as him nailing down his legacy in various parts of the world.

On the other hand, if he cuts in the other direction and names figures seen as more traditional or conservative, it might be taken as a gesture toward unity, trying to reassure those groups he still wants to be their pope too.


4. Vatican paper launches Argentina edition with Protestant editor, By Austen Ivereigh, Crux, January 4, 2017.

The venerable Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano for the first time now has a local edition, published this week in Spanish in Argentina. Even more remarkably, its editor is a Protestant biblical scholar.

The 16-page newspaper published this week with a letter of commendation signed by Francis, is identical in appearance to the weekly Spanish edition coming out of Rome. But it carries nine pages of content translated from the Roman edition  – including important addresses by the pope – mixed with seven pages of stories and columns sourced in Argentina.

Among the local contributors are Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the Pope’s longtime Jewish friend and collaborator, and an interview with Uruguayan president and trade unionist José Mugica, who was recently in Rome for the meeting of the popular movements.

“I’m not a believer, but I am a political admirer of the Catholic Church and believe that Francis’s word is vital for the region,” he tells Figueroa.

Figueroa, an evangelical radio-show host who at one time hosted televised discussions of Scripture featuring Skorka and the then-Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, remains close to Francis. He was among those accompanying the pope in early November to Sweden for the commemoration of the Reformation.

The mission of L’Osservatore Romano was to be “a vehicle for transmitting the pope’s universal purpose, which makes it a unique journalistic endeavor,” he told Crux, adding that the contributors were not just friends of the pope’s but more importantly people “who know his thinking.”

The novelty however lies not in a local edition per se, but in integrating the Rome edition with locally sourced content.

An Argentine edition of the newspaper, with a Spanish title, El Observador Romano, was in fact published from 1951 to 1969, when L’Osservatore Romano brought out a weekly Spanish edition that made it redundant.

The other novelty, writes Vian, is in entrusting the editorship to a non-Catholic, but argues that this, too, is in itself not a major departure – first because non-Catholics are frequent contributors to the paper, second because the newspaper has a vocation to universal fraternity.

“My Protestant church identity reflects an openness and generosity on the part of Francis that I do not want to stop thanking him for from the bottom of my heart,” writes Figueroa in his editorial.

He adds: “That’s why in this edition of L’Osservatore Romano for Argentina, the spaces for reflection and opinion will be opened not just to distinguished representatives of the national Catholic Church but also to leaders of the different religious confessions and all people of goodwill who can give a local view of Francis’s influence.”


5. Vatican-China Accord: Snapshots from Behind the Scenes, By Victor Gaetan, National Catholic Register, January 4, 2017.

Negotiations between the Holy See and China aimed at bringing unity to the Catholic Church in China divided into two communities — one, state-sanctioned; the other, functioning beyond government control —  are on course for a landmark breakthrough in 2017 according to Church experts who observe the process at close range.

Unless close observers instead are projecting their own hopes into the New Year.

The Vatican’s objective is not yet full diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See, but normalizing the process for selecting bishops in order to protect the essential papal role within a political framework that, given its nature, rejects “foreign interference.”

The current situation in China is ad hoc: If a priest learns he is being considered for episcopal appointment by the government, most seek approval from the Vatican, thus managing to be jointly approved. Of approximately 110 bishops in China, about 70 are jointly approved by Rome and Beijing, some 30 are solely endorsed by the Holy See, and eight are state-appointed bishops whose status is now under review by the Vatican. Reconciliation between Rome and Beijing has been a top priority for Pope Francis from the start of his pontificate, building on progress made under Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

But high-level opponents of rapprochement are now engaged in eleventh-hour counterpunches.

Hong Kong’s indomitable 84-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, China’s most senior Catholic cleric and a determined opponent of any deal involving concessions to Beijing, gave a crushing interview to The Wall Street Journal.

In the interview, Cardinal Zen calls the potential agreement “totally unacceptable,” made possible he said by Pope Francis’ inexperience with Communism’s systemic commitment to repression: “I’m sorry to say that in his goodwill he has done many things which are simply ridiculous.”

The division between patriotic and underground Catholics has blurred especially in the last ten years, propelled by Pope Emeritus Benedict’s pastoral letter calling for forgiveness between state-approved and unregistered faith communities to “help all Catholics grow in unity.”

Besides the Patriotic Association, there’s a Chinese Conference of Catholic Bishops, unrecognized by the Vatican.

This week, December 27-29, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) convened both groups in Beijing at the Ninth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, bringing together 59 bishops (of approximately 110 in the country) from 31 provinces, and approximately 350 delegates including priests, nuns, lay leaders and SARA bureaucrats.

Both the Chinese government and the Holy See have approved the majority of bishops who attended the meeting.

The assembly last met in 2010, when the Vatican asked bishops loyal to Rome not to attend. Normally, the meeting is held every five years, but SARA postponed it a year due to unfolding Beijing-Rome talks.

This year, instead of discouraging participation, the Holy See adopted a “wait and see” attitude, by way of a statement from Vatican spokesman Greg Burke addressed to the media: “Regarding the 9th Assembly, the Holy See is waiting for hard facts before it makes a judgment.”

Cardinal Zen, long an opponent of negotiating with a Chinese government intrinsically atheistic and murderous, wrote in his blog that the Church is fooling itself to imagine anything positive coming from this Communist-controlled event.

The much-respected online Catholic news source, AsiaNews.it, sponsored by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), shared the thought of one Catholic that the meeting represented a “slap in the face” of the Vatican because it intransigently insisted on the exclusive rights of a state church called Catholic.

Reuters reported last summer that the Holy See planned to pardon the eight illicit Chinese bishops as part of the Year of Mercy, a scenario that did not happen.

A priest close to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples explained that the two sides are “very, very close” and what divides Rome and Beijing “comes down to some details.“

He continued, “One unapproved bishop has a spouse and two children. What to do with him is difficult. That’s one of the details being determined now. And on the other side, there are several underground bishops, who have been so anti-government, Beijing has trouble accepting” their legitimization.


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.