1. Vatican to publish document on gender, surrogacy and human dignity next week, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, April 2, 2024, 6:43 AM
The Vatican will publish a document next week on gender theory and surrogacy that was announced in a bid to respond to opposition from conservatives over Pope Francis’ willingness to bless same-sex unions.
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will hold his first news conference to present the document “Infinite Dignity, on human dignity,” on April 8, the Vatican announced Tuesday.
Fernández, who is very close to Francis, revealed the declaration was in the works after he came under criticism for the roll-out of a December document from his office authorizing priests to offer non-liturgical blessings to same-sex couples.
Conservative bishops, including entire national bishops conferences in Africa, blasted the document as contrary to biblical teaching about homosexuality and said they wouldn’t implement it.

2. Pope exposes confidential details of past conclaves and settles scores with Pope Benedict XVI’s aide, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, April 2, 2024, 8:42 AM
Pope Francis has exposed the political “maneuvers” used to sway votes during the two most recent elections of popes, while denying he is planning to reform the process for future conclaves, in a book-length interview published Tuesday.
The confidential revelations are contained in “The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI,” in which the Argentine pope reflects on his relationship with the late German pope and settles some scores with Benedict’s longtime aide.

In the book, Francis revealed previously confidential details about the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict pope and the 2013 ballot in which he himself was elected, saying he was allowed to deviate from the cardinals’ oath of secrecy because he is pope.
In 2005, Francis said, he was “used” by cardinals who wanted to block the election of Benedict — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — and that they managed to sway 40 out of 115 votes his way. The idea wasn’t to elect the Argentine but rather to force a compromise candidate after knocking Ratzinger out of the running, he said.

Francis in the interview denied rumors he is planning any reform of the conclave rules for a future papal election.

In the book, Francis also settles some scores with Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, whom he initially fired and then exiled from the Vatican after what he described as a series of imprudent decisions that “made life difficult for me.”

Gaenswein is widely believed to have helped fuel the anti-Francis opposition during Benedict’s decade-long retirement, allowing Benedict to be used by conservatives nostalgic for his doctrinaire papacy. He was behind some of the biggest hiccups in the unusual cohabitation of two popes.
Francis reveals details about one well-known incident in 2020, in which Cardinal Robert Sarah, the conservative former Vatican liturgy chief, co-authored a book with Benedict reasserting the need for a celibate priesthood.

Francis insisted that Benedict always deferred to him, defended him and supported him and was not behind any of the conservative attacks or maneuvers to undermine his authority.

3. Okla. Supreme Court to weigh nation’s first religious charter school, By Laura Meckler, The Washington Post, April 2, 2024, 7:00 AM
The Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up a closely watched religious liberty case on Tuesday, with justices considering whether the state can directly fund religious education in the form of a Catholic charter school.
The case is testing the constitutional bounds of taxpayer funding for religious education, with backers of the school confident that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings on religion and schools have opened the door to what would be the nation’s first religious charter school.
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run and must abide by many of the rules that govern traditional public schools. Oklahoma law clearly states that charter schools may not be sectarian or affiliated with a religious institution, and the state constitution bars spending public money, directly or indirectly, for any religious purpose, including teaching. Voters rejected an effort in 2016 to change the state’s constitution, with 57 percent voting no to allowing such spending.

Opponents led by Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general, Gentner Drummond, say the proposed school is a blatant violation of both the state and federal constitutions, with Drummond noting the failed referendum in his brief. Drummond said Monday he planned to personally argue the case before the state’s high court.

4. I Hope to Repeal an Arcane Law That Could Be Misused to Ban Abortion Nationwide, By Tina Smith, The New York Times, April 2, 2024, 5:03 AM, Opinion
 A long discredited, arcane 150-year-old law is back in the news in 2024, and that should terrify anyone who supports reproductive freedom. Last week at the Supreme Court, the Comstock Act of 1873 was referenced on three separate occasions during oral arguments in a case dealing with access to mifepristone, one of two drugs typically used in medication abortions.
Anti-abortion activists like to bring up the Comstock Act because one of its clauses prohibits sending through the mail “every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine or thing” that could possibly lead to an abortion. Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the bait, a newly re-elected President Trump could order his Department of Justice to start interpreting that line to mean that it is illegal to mail mifepristone — a safe, effective, Food and Drug Administration-approved drug — to doctors and pharmacies, as well as to patients directly. The same could go for medical supplies that are used in performing surgical abortions. That could effectively make abortion impossible to access even in places like Minnesota, which has affirmatively protected a woman’s right to choose by passing reproductive freedom laws.
In response, I’m prepared to fight back — including by introducing legislation to take away the Comstock Act as a tool to limit reproductive freedom.

Here’s the bottom line: We can’t let anyone — not the Supreme Court, not Donald Trump and certainly not a random busybody from the 19th century — take away Americans’ right to access medication abortion. We must protect the ability of doctors, pharmacies and patients to receive in the mail the supplies they need to exercise their right to reproductive care.
As the only former Planned Parenthood executive serving in the Senate, I feel I have a special responsibility to protect not just abortion rights but also abortion access.
Very few Republicans will admit to wanting to see a total, no-exceptions ban on abortion in all 50 states, but the Comstock Act could allow them to achieve that in effect, if not in so many words.
Americans deserve better. The Constitution demands better. And common sense dictates that we stop this outrageous backdoor ploy to eliminate abortion access in its tracks.
Ms. Smith is a Democratic senator from Minnesota and a former Planned Parenthood executive.
5. Florida Supreme Court upholds state’s 15-week abortion ban, but voters will soon have a say, By Brendan Farrington, Associated Press, April 1, 2024, 7:50 PM
The Florida Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for the state to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, while also giving voters a chance to remove restrictions in November.
The court, which was reshaped by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, ruled 6-1 to uphold the state’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, meaning a ban on six weeks could soon take effect. But under a separate 4-3 ruling, the court allowed a ballot measure to go to voters that would enshrine abortion rights in Florida’s constitution.
The court’s decisions could be pivotal in the presidential race and congressional contests this year by driving abortion-rights supporters to the polls. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters in every state with an abortion-related ballot measure have favored the side backed by abortion rights supporters.

6. Ohio law banning nearly all abortions now invalid after referendum, attorney general says, By Samantha Hendrickson, Associated Press, April 1, 2024, 4:52 PM
 A 2019 law banning most abortions in Ohio is unconstitutional following an abortion referendum last year, the state’s Republican attorney general said in a court filing Monday.
The filing comes after abortion clinics asked a Hamilton County judge to throw out the law since Ohio voters decided to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution last November.
They argue that under the new constitutional amendment, the law, which bans most abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, is invalid. Attorney General Dave Yost, for the most part, agreed.
However, the attorney general asked the court to only strike down the “core prohibition” of the law — banning abortions after six weeks — and let other portions remain. These include requiring a doctor to check for a heartbeat and inform a patient, as well as documenting the reason someone is having an abortion. Yost said in the filing that the plaintiffs have not demonstrated how such provisions violate the constitutional amendment.

7. ‘Family Unfriendly’: American Culture Is Failing Parents — Here Are Some Cures, Put some of journalist Tim Carney’s best advice to use: ‘Send the kids outside, grab a drink, and don’t stop reading until someone comes back starving or bleeding …’, By Maureen Ferguson, National Catholic Register, April 1, 2024, Opinion
Car seats as contraception? In an academic article published in 2020, researchers found that American car-seat regulations work as a form of contraception. Yes, you read that right. The researchers found that U.S. laws raising the age at which kids must ride in a car seat have made it significantly harder for some families to have a third child, since your typical car can only fit two car seats in the back. Car-seat mandates, the researchers concluded, have led to 145,000 fewer births since 1980.
This study is just one phenomenon explored in journalist Tim Carney’s new book, Family Unfriendly. Carney sets out to explain how American law and culture have failed parents who want to have kids and raise them well. The long and short of it, as many parents already know: “American culture is a suboptimal habitat for the human family.”
Diagnosing problems is one thing; finding the cure is another. Family Unfriendly does both. With chapter titles like “Leave Your Kids Alone” and “Have Lower Ambitions for Your Kids,” Carney has plenty of practical advice for parents and policymakers alike. His analysis and advice are backed by data (for those who enjoy detailed footnotes) and common sense.
Family Unfriendly sifts through social science, policy analysis, polling data, personal interviews, and pop culture (Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Gwen Stefani and Jim Gaffigan all receive honorable mentions; Miley Cyrus gets a dishonorable mention). New York Times columnist David Brooks and economist-turned-pregnancy-guru Emily Oster make appearances. Carney also draws on personal experience. Carney, a veteran father of six, is Catholic, but the book explores family culture from Protestant, Jewish, Mormon, Amish and secular perspectives too.
Two typically insightful discussions in the book are worth highlighting. The first is our demographic decline. In a chapter on the current “Baby Bust,” Carney emphasizes the dangers of our society’s ‘anti-natalist’ mindset. He discusses the views of Thomas Malthus, the 18th-century British economist who popularized population control and warned that too many births would lead to resource depletion. Malthus’ theory, of course, has been shown to be dark-age voodoo science, even as it continues to hold sway in some corners today.

Second, Carney devotes time to the problem of fatherhood.

The importance of dads is a theme woven throughout the book. Carney provides a fresh opportunity to reflect on it. His personal tales of fatherly adventures are inspiring (look for the description of his heroic climb at the National Zoo with six kids in tow), making the book a great Father’s Day gift.
Parents of all kinds — current parents, expecting parents, aspiring parents, grandparents, godparents — should read Family Unfriendly. And while you read it, put some of Carney’s best advice to use: “Send the kids outside, grab a drink, and don’t stop reading until someone comes back starving or bleeding.”
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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