1. Papal economist says EU must do more to help members during pandemic.

By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, April 15, 2020

A top Vatican advisor on economic and social issues has challenged the effectiveness of the European Union over its handling of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

In a roundtable with journalists April 14, Italian economist Stefano Zamagni called for the European Union to become more powerful, so that it has the ability to force member states to offer mutual support in times of crisis.

Zamagni, a professor at the University of Bologna, is the current President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and one of the highest ranking laymen at the Vatican.


2. Coronavirus Restrictions Can’t Disfavor Churches, Justice Department Says: Department weighs in on side of Mississippi church conducting drive-in services amid pandemic.

By Brent Kendall, The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020, 8:51 PM

The Justice Department said Tuesday that state and local coronavirus restrictions can’t treat churches less favorably than other institutions, filing legal papers in support of Mississippi churchgoers who received citations last week.

The case that attracted the Justice Department’s attention came from Greenville, Miss., where police last week ticketed some people attending a Wednesday evening drive-in service in the parking lot of the Temple Baptist Church, which broadcast music and a sermon over an FM radio transmitter. The fines were $500, though the city later said payment wouldn’t be required.

The department on Tuesday filed a brief supporting the church’s lawsuit against the city, saying it had an interest in preserving the “fundamental right to the free exercise of religion, expressly protected by the First Amendment.” Under Attorney General William Barr, the department has argued repeatedly against what it sees as burdensome government restrictions on religious exercise.


3. Justice Department to act on unfair religious restrictions during coronavirus.

By Catholic News Agency, April 14, 2020, 11:10 AM

The Justice Department (DOJ) has promised to act on any abuses of religious freedom after some state and local governments sought to enforce tough restrictions on Easter services during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec tweeted that Attorney General William Barr “is monitoring government regulation of religious services” in a week when Christians celebrated Easter and Jews commemorated Passover.

“While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly and not single out religious organizations. Expect action from DOJ next week!” Kupec tweeted.

“Generally speaking, there are occasions where liberties have to be restricted during certain emergencies such as war, or in this case, a potentially devastating pandemic,” Barr stated in an April 8 interview on Fox News.

He added that such restrictions, however, must be “balanced against the civil liberties of the American people” and must be applied equitably across sectors of society, not imposing “special burdens on religion.”


4. ‘The culture wars are real,’ Cardinal Pell says in new interview.

By Catholic News Agency, April 14, 2020, 2:00 PM

Cardinal George Pell has said culture wars and anti-Catholic sentiment could have played a part in the decision of Victoria police to pursue charges against him, even while they lacked supportive evidence of the allegations in his case.

Asked if he thought there was an anti-Catholic bias at work in the decision of police to charge him and by judges at the Victoria Court of Appeal to sustain his conviction, despite the evidence which eventually led to his exoneration, Pell said it was a possibility.

“I’ve seen too many people [make the leap] from possible to probable to fact. Certainly, people do not like Christians who teach Christianity, especially on life and family and issues like that.”

“The culture wars are real,” Pell said. “There is a systematic attempt to remove the Judeo-Christian legal foundations [on for example] marriage, life, gender, sex.”


5. Judge rules abortion access outweighs efforts to fight coronavirus.

By Catholic News Agency, April 14, 2020, 5:00 PM

A federal judge said on Easter Sunday that the state of Alabama cannot move to limit abortion procedures through measures intended to focus medical resources on fighting coronavirus.

Granting a preliminary injunction on Sunday, April 12, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote that “efforts to combat COVID-19 do not outweigh the lasting harm imposed by the denial of an individual’s right to terminate her pregnancy, by an undue burden or increase in risk on patients imposed by a delayed procedure, or by the cloud of unwarranted prosecution against providers.”


6. Coronavirus Crisis Makes Curtail of Religious Freedom Justifiable — Temporarily: We must not permit any governor, legislature or judge to use the crisis as a pretext to undermine religious liberty.

By Thomas F. Farr, National Catholic Register, April 13, 2020, Opinion

Both the scope and limits of religious freedom are hot topics for Catholics, and properly so in a world contending with the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the Holy Father and most of our bishops are accepting severe limits imposed by governments.

In my view, the current public-health crisis justifies curtailing our religious freedom for a time. But we must remain vigilant and hold our officials accountable. The U.S. Constitution carries a presumption in favor of religious freedom, and governments must bear the burden of overcoming that presumption even, perhaps especially, during periods of crisis. That’s not only a legal analysis. That’s just plain common sense.

Religious gatherings for Passover, Holy Week and Easter, and Ramadan are all disrupted by the stay-at-home orders and bans on gatherings of 10 or more people. To say the very least, these measures impose an immense burden on religious communities and on the precious right of religious freedom. While we must view them now as legitimate, we must also constantly review them and demand that they end as soon as possible. We must not permit any governor, legislature or judge to use the crisis as a pretext to undermine religious liberty.

Details matter. For example, the line drawn between essential and nonessential businesses and services in some government decrees is highly suspect. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam officially declared that religious services are not essential but liquor stores and abortions are. Really? Such determinations demand immediate scrutiny, explanation and close monitoring as they are enforced. 

In the end, it is incumbent upon governments to continue to justify bans on religious services and to rescind them the moment the conditions underlying these extraordinary measures subside. We cannot afford to drop our guard. Our freedoms, and our faith, depend on it.

Thomas Farr is president of the Religious Freedom Institute, a nonprofit that defends religious freedom for everyone, everywhere.


TCA Media Monitoring provides 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. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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