1. They Want to Become Nuns and Priests. Student Debt Holds Them Back., For young adults who want to join certain religious orders, paying off debt before taking a vow of poverty can prove challenging. But their communities are willing to help., By Sejla Rizvic, The New York Times, April 4, 2024
It wasn’t until after college that Kendra Baker began to consider becoming a nun. She had been raised a Roman Catholic, and after her father fell from the roof of their home, suffering life-threatening injuries, her family called a priest to come and pray with them. A few hours later, her father opened his eyes.

After much thought and research, Ms. Baker found a religious community that she felt aligned with her interests in both contemplative spirituality and active service, and she was soon accepted as a candidate with the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Only one thing was preventing her from joining: her student loan debt.

People wishing to enter religious life in the Catholic tradition are typically required to pay off all their debts to prepare themselves to take a vow of poverty, and others living in religious communities usually don’t earn an income or own assets, preventing them from paying any debts they accrued as laypeople. If they’re among the 20 percent of Americans with undergraduate degrees who have student loan debt, it can pose significant challenges.
report from the National Religious Vocation Conference signaled the alarm more than a decade ago with data that confirmed that “educational debt had become a deterrent for many discerning a religious vocation,” pointing to factors such as the ballooning cost of tuition and wage stagnation. Since then, the average student loan debt in the United States has grown steadily, reaching an average of about $30,000 in 2023.
Several organizations have emerged to help religious order candidates with this problem. Ms. Baker was put in touch with the Labouré Society, a nonprofit Catholic group that has helped more than 400 people enter religious formation since its inception in 2003.
The average student loan amount of Labouré candidates, or aspirants, is nearly $100,000, and they are typically given a goal of raising $60,000 in one six-month cycle during which Labouré facilitators train them on how to make phone calls, write letters and take meetings with potential donors in their communities. Donations have ranged from a few thousand dollars to $130,000 from a retired widow who felt inspired to give the proceeds from the sale of her home.
Ms. Baker said that she wasn’t comfortable sharing the full amount of debt she had but that it would have taken her five to 10 more years to pay it off if she hadn’t found help through the Labouré Society. Instead, she reached her goal within six months and will join her religious community in Los Angeles this summer.

2. What Trump Did for the Faithful, He allowed Mass and other services at the White House. Biden hasn’t done the same, By Mick Mulvaney, The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2024, Pg. A13, Opinion
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Easter and Holy Week are heavily politicized these days. Everything else is. Last week we whipsawed from Donald Trump’s hawking the “God Bless the USA Bible” to President Biden’s proclamation that Easter Sunday was “transgender visibility day.”
What may be a surprise is that there are some Washington veterans who look past all that. Not because it isn’t important, but because, when it comes to religion, we know something about Messrs. Trump and Biden that most people don’t.
The story begins in February 2018, when I was director of the Office of Management and Budget. Just before Lent, I asked White House chief of staff John Kelly to relay to the president what I later learned was an unprecedented request: a Catholic Mass in the Old Executive Office Building on Ash Wednesday.
I did that in large part because Lent typically falls during crunch time for budgeteers. I knew there was at least a small group of practicing Catholics who might want to attend Mass and receive ashes that day, but who might not be able to because of work. Mr. Trump approved the request.

The Mass was so successful that it continued roughly every other week until it was shut down for Covid in March 2020. When Mr. Biden took office, I encouraged members of his transition team to resume the services.
The answer I got from the Biden team was reasonable: They would look at things “after Covid.” It’s now long after Covid, and, as you can probably guess, neither the Mass or any of the other religious services have resumed.
Perhaps we should be saddened that religion is just as politicized as anything else these days. But the Christian faith has probably been political in some sense since its founding. Like politics, however, maybe religion also falls into the category of things that are best measured not by what people say but by what they do.

Mr. Mulvaney served as director of the Office of Management and Budget, 2017-20.

3. Religious broadcasters ask Supreme Court to rule on their high royalty fees
Say paying higher fees than secular NPR violates First Amendment, By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, April 4, 2024
Religious broadcasters are asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether their paying higher fees to stream music online than secular outfits like National Public Radio violates their First Amendment rights.
The National Religious Broadcasters Noncommercial Music License Committee says it is required to pay 18 times what NPR pays in royalty rates, which are set every five years by the Copyright Royalty Board.
Noncommercial religious webcasters with an audience threshold of 218 average listeners were required to pay a much higher rate in 2021 than secular NPR noncommercial webcasters, which the religious group says amounts to a “two-tier” system.

It would take four justices to vote in favor of hearing the case for oral arguments to be heard.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided against the religious broadcasters in July, giving the Copyright Royalty Board discretion in setting rates.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty legal group, represents the religious broadcasters.

4. Florida’s stricter ban on abortions could put more pressure on clinics elsewhere, By Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press, April 3, 2024, 5:41 PM
The drive to Bristol, Virginia, from Jacksonville, Florida, takes more than eight hours. It’s over 10 from Orlando and closer to 14 from Miami. Despite that distance, Bristol Women’s Health Center is preparing for an influx of women from Florida seeking abortions when a stricter ban kicks in next month.
For many people who otherwise would have obtained abortions in Florida, the clinic in southwest Virginia will become the closest practical option — as it already is for a swath of the South after a Florida policy change expected to resonate far beyond the state’s borders.

On Monday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That step allows another, stricter ban to take effect on May 1, making abortion illegal in the state after six weeks’ gestation — before many women realize they’re pregnant. The ban includes exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape, incest or human trafficking, or that threaten the life or physical health of the woman and for fatal fetal anomalies.

And getting to a provider elsewhere, she said, will drive the average cost of abortion — including transportation, lodging, meals, child care and clinic fees — to around $4,000, about twice what it is now. That will strain organizations like hers, which already often hits its budget limit well before the end of the month, as they shift to helping people get care elsewhere.

5. Iowa governor signs Religious Freedom Restoration Act, By Daniel Payne, Catholic News Agency, April 3, 2024, 2:00 PM
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this week signed legislation to protect religious freedom in her state, joining the majority of U.S. states that have enacted similar laws in recent years.
Reynolds on her website on Tuesday announced that she had signed the Iowa Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. The bill passed the state House and Senate in February.
More than half of U.S. states have passed RFRAs since the federal government passed its version of the law in 1993. That law, signed by then-President Bill Clinton, was passed nearly unanimously by Congress in response to the Supreme Court decision Employment Division v. Smith, which held that a state can enact a law that forbids some religious behaviors so long as the measure is a “neutral law of general applicability.”

6. Four more pro-life activists convicted under FACE Act, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, April 3, 2024, 3:30 PM
Four pro-life activists have been convicted of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and now face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines.
According to a Department of Justice statement released on Wednesday, the pro-lifers face a “maximum of six months in prison, five years of supervised release, and fines of up to $10,000.” 
The four activists — Eva Edl, 87; Eva Zastro, 24; James Zastro, 25; and Paul Place, 24 — were convicted of FACE Act violations in federal court on Tuesday for a protest held at a Tennessee abortion clinic in March 2021.
Edl is a well-known pro-life activist and a survivor of a communist concentration camp who fled Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe.
In January, six individuals involved in the same protest were convicted of violating the FACE Act.


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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