1. Catholic Charter School Draws Ire of Charter Advocates, Oklahoma case could lead to country’s first religious charter school, even though some leaders oppose the concept, By Matt Barnum, The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2024, 7:00 AM
A legal battle over a proposed charter school in Oklahoma could unlock a new avenue for religious education—and some of the fiercest opposition is coming from within the existing charter-school movement.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently heard arguments over whether to allow a publicly funded, expressly religious Catholic charter school, which would represent the first of its type in the nation.
State laws have long barred such schools. Supporters, including conservative lawyers and religious-education advocates, call those laws discriminatory and say they run afoul of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Some observers expect the issue to eventually reach the high court.
If the effort to allow religious charters is successful, it could open up school options for some parents, redirect public money to support religious instruction and upend the charter-school movement and publicly funded education more broadly.
Some charter advocates are wary of this future. They say that charters were always intended to be secular, public schools. A religious charter school, they say, is a contradiction in terms.

2. Study finds private religious schools produce more engaged citizens than public schools, By Sean Salai, The Washington Times, April 18, 2024
Private religious schools are more effective at producing engaged citizens than traditional K-12 public campuses, a study has found.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas and the University of Buckingham analyzed 57 international studies. They found private school students performed “modestly better” than their public school peers in four key areas: political tolerance, political participation, civic knowledge and skills, and voluntarism and community engagement.
Published this week in Educational Psychology Review, their investigation showed religious private schooling was also more strongly associated than other private schools with higher levels of political tolerance, knowledge and skills.

In the study, private schooling increased both political tolerance and political knowledge by 12% of a standard deviation over the same outcomes among public school peers. It had a modestly positive effect on volunteering and community engagement.

“Catholic schools showed the strongest overall positive effect on civic outcomes of all the school types in the meta-analysis, confirming the ‘Catholic schooling effect,’” he added. “Students don’t have to choose between God and country. They can enthusiastically support both.”

3. Catholic officials in Brooklyn agree to an independent oversight of clergy sex abuse allegations, By Associated Press, April 17, 2024, 12:42 PM
An independent monitor will oversee the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s handling of sexual abuse allegations under a settlement between the diocese and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The agreement announced Tuesday will address “years of mismanaging clergy sexual abuse cases,” James said.
Investigators with the attorney general’s office found that officials with the diocese failed to comply with their own sex abuse policies put in place after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002.

4. How Biden’s abortion stance has shifted over the years, By Amy B Wang and Blair Guild, The Washington Post, April 17, 2024, 3:16 PM
June 1974: He doesn’t think a woman has ‘the sole right to say what should happen to her body’

March 1982: He votes with Republicans to allow states to bypass Roe

April 1994: He says those opposed to abortion ‘should not be compelled to pay for them’

March 2006: ‘I do not view abortion as a choice and a right’

April 2007: He calls reconciling abortion policy with his faith ‘the biggest dilemma’

October 2012: He says he accepts that ‘life begins at conception,’ but ‘I just refuse to impose that on others’

June 2019: He reverses support for Hyde Amendment

June 2020: He vows to ‘protect women’s constitutional right to choose’

January 2021: He signs health-care executive orders to ‘undo the damage Trump has done’

May 2022: He says the right to choose an abortion is ‘fundamental’

June 2022: He calls on Congress to codify abortion rights after Supreme Court overturns Roe

January 2024: He expands contraception, abortion protections through executive orders

5. Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote, By Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press, April 17, 2024, 5:53 PM
Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote after the state’s highest court concluded the law can be enforced and the state House blocked efforts to undo the long-dormant statute.
Although no vote was taken on the repeal itself, Republican Sens. T.J. Shope and Shawnna Bolick sided with 14 Democrats in the Senate on Wednesday in changing rules to let a repeal proposal advance after the deadline for hearing bills had passed. Proponents say the Senate could vote on the repeal as early as May 1.
If the proposed repeal wins final approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature and is signed into law by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, the 2022 statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become the prevailing abortion law.

6. Catholic school tuition is a barrier for many families. Can ‘hybrid’ homeschooling help?, By Laura Loker, America Magazine, April 17, 2024
Independent Catholic school “hybrid” programs straddle the line between homeschool and traditional diocesan schools, featuring in-person, formal instruction and independent study days. But though these programs typically emerge from the homeschool movement, their affordability is beginning to attract a new demographic.
St. John Bosco School, a hybrid 7th through 12th grade program located in Sterling, Va., opened in 2019 with a group of 20 homeschooled students. Today, it serves 80 students, about 30 percent of whom came from local parochial schools, said Kelly Sonnhalter, a founding parent and faculty member.
Students learn in person on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. During in-person days, teachers—some retirees, some otherwise stay-at-home moms with teaching backgrounds, one graduate student—introduce topics, facilitate class discussion and administer tests. On intervening days, students are expected to study 45 to 90 minutes per subject area on their own.
Legally, the students at St. John Bosco are considered homeschooled. But their school days, during which the students wear uniforms, are much like those at any other small school.

But St. John Bosco and programs like it have distinct characteristics, said Ms. Sonnhalter, that appeal to some families. One is parent and student schedule flexibility, which can allow parents to spend more time with family, allow students to pursue other interests like robotics or nature studies or simply accommodate a teenager’s preferred sleep schedule.
Another is the opportunity for students to learn how to work independently. The hybrid schedule, Ms. Sonnhalter said, has borne fruit for her oldest child, who was in St. John Bosco’s first graduating class and is now a freshman in college. He is, she said, “leaps and bounds” ahead of his peers in managing the rhythm of class work and unstructured study time.
The hybrid model is not for everyone. Jennifer Charest, herself a Catholic school teacher, is not sure yet where her 10- and 13-year-old children will go to high school. Currently, they attend their local Catholic parochial school, which the family loves.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all program, said Ms. Sonnhalter. “Every family has to find what’s right for them.”
7. Italy moves to pass law allowing antiabortion groups inside clinics, By Stefano Pitrelli and Kate Brady, The Washington Post, April 17, 2024, 10:40 AM
Italy’s lower house has passed an amendment, part of the right-wing government’s new health-care package, that would open the way for antiabortion activists to enter family planning clinics, raising fears that women’s right to choose could be under threat in the country.
According to the amendment passed Tuesday, “nonprofit groups with qualified experience in supporting maternity” will be given access to family planning counseling centers that issue the certificates needed to obtain an abortion.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government maintains that the amendment doesn’t really change anything, but rather clarifies aspects of the 1978 law that legalized abortion — by allowing the activists into the centers where they weren’t permitted before.

8. Belgian court overturns ban on conservative conference attended by German cardinal, By Edward Pentin, Catholic News Agency, April 17, 2024, 4:30 PM
Belgium’s highest court ruled late last night that a conference upholding conservative values in the public square could go ahead in the country’s capital after a Brussels district mayor had ordered police to shut it down yesterday. 
Emir Kir issued the order to halt the National Conservatism conference that was scheduled to take place April 16–17 and that featured among its speakers the Vatican’s former doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Müller.
Police surrounded the venue on Tuesday, denying access to speakers and guests. 
The conference, organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a public affairs institute, aims to promote conservatism as “inextricably tied” to the idea of nation, national independence, and the revival of national traditions. 

The Belgian court overturned Kir’s decision after the order was challenged by conference organizers with the support of ADF International, a Christian legal group that works to oppose threats to religious liberty. 

9. Catholic and Anglican nuns defend religious freedom in New York’s highest court, By Tyler Arnold, Catholic News Agency, April 17, 2024, 2:15 PM
A coalition of Christian groups — including Catholic nuns, Anglican nuns, Catholic dioceses, and other faith-based ministries — defended their religious freedom rights to abstain from covering abortions in their health care plans in front of New York’s highest court on Tuesday.
The New York State Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges a New York Department of Financial Services regulation that could require the organizations to cover “medically necessary” abortions. Although the law includes a narrow religious exemption, the strict criteria needed to qualify for the exemption could prevent many faith-based organizations from being approved.
Even though the New York State Court of Appeals previously upheld the regulation, the United States Supreme Court asked that the court reconsider its ruling in light of the new religious freedom precedent set in 2021.
Noel Francisco, the lawyer representing the religious groups, told the seven-judge panel that the regulation would force these groups to violate their religious beliefs. He said the narrow religious exemption allows some faith-based groups to abstain from funding abortion but that others fail to qualify, which effectively lets the state “pick religious winners and losers.”

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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