1. Vatican Calls Sex Change Threat to Human Dignity, New document insists gender identity can’t be distinct from biological sex, disappointing progressive Catholics, By Margherita Stancati, The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2024, Pg. A7
The Vatican rejected the concept of gender fluidity in a document released on Monday, and declared that sex change is a threat to human dignity—one of the sharpest criticisms to date of behaviors the Catholic Church regards as immoral.
The 20-page declaration, called “Infinite Dignity,” represents an effort to clarify the church’s stance on divisive moral issues as polarization between progressive and conservative Catholics grows.
Under Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has shown greater openness toward the LGBTQ+ community, including by recently lifting the ban on blessings by priests of same-sex couples, a move that displeased conservative bishops in the U.S., Africa and elsewhere.
The new document shows the limits of the church’s progressive shift under Francis, reaffirming the Vatican’s view that gender identity can’t be distinct from biological sex at birth and that the complementarity between men and women is a fundamental aspect of human life.
The document, issued by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, includes one of the church’s most explicit rejections of gender-affirming surgeries—a practice it puts in a similar category to abortion and euthanasia in terms of the damage it could cause to human dignity.
“Any sex change procedure, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity that a person has received from the moment of conception,” it says, describing the human body as a God-given gift. It added that exceptions can be made for medical procedures aimed at addressing genital abnormalities present from birth.
Progressive Catholics were disappointed, but not surprised, by the Vatican’s declarations on gender identity and sex change.
“The document’s attempt to uphold and defend human dignity is weakened by its stunning lack of awareness of the actual lives of transgender and nonbinary people,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics. “The Vatican is again supporting and propagating ideas that lead to real physical harm to transgender, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ people.”

2. Vatican’s top diplomat begins a 6-day visit to Vietnam aimed at normalizing relations, By Aniruddha Ghosal, Associated Press, April 9, 2024, 8:37 AM
The Vatican’s top diplomat began a six-day visit to Vietnam on Tuesday as a part of efforts to normalize relations with the communist nation.
Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s foreign minister, met his Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son and expressed the Vatican’s “gratitude” for the progress that has been made to improve ties. The visit took place after Archbishop Marek Zalewski became the first Vatican representative to live and open an office in the Southeast Asian country.
“The visit is of great importance,” said Son.
Gallagher will also meet Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and visit a children’s hospital in the capital, Hanoi, state-run Vietnam News Agency reported. He will hold Mass in Hanoi, in Hue in central Vietnam, and in the financial hub of Ho Chi Minh City in the south.

3. Easter eggs and the ‘Lemon test’, A picture of a cross does not threaten the foundation of our republic, By Lea Patterson, The Washington Times, April 9, 2024, Opinion
The White House found itself in hot water over Easter weekend after media reports claimed that the Biden administration had banished religious themes from its annual children’s Easter egg decorating contest.
But as quickly as the story surfaced, fact-checkers cleared the White House of wrongdoing. Apparently, they claimed, the policy banishing “religious themes” — i.e., the actual reason for Easter — didn’t come from the president, but from something called the American Egg Board. And the “nondiscrimination” policy ensuring that a nefarious cross or drawing of Jesus didn’t wind up on a child’s egg has been around for over 40 years.  
The fact that we have an Egg Board — a government-created program falling under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture — is a different conversation.

Along with other restrictions, however, the Egg Board prohibits designs that “include any questionable content, religious symbols, overtly religious themes, or partisan political statements.”
Easter without religion. Cue the bunnies. 
It’s possible, though, that the Egg Board’s banishment of religious-themed Easter egg designs comes from the government’s decades-long knee-jerk fear that allowing any religious expression is prohibited by the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

For the 40-plus years the egg contest has existed, government entities such as the Egg Board could justify excluding religious expression because of a 1970s Supreme Court case that created what became known as the “Lemon test.” Under that ruling, anything that might be seen as “advancing” religion or “excessively entangling” government and religion was forbidden.
The test quickly became a convenient way for the government to banish religious symbols and speech from the public square. Nothing was sacred, from 100-year-old veterans memorials shaped like crosses to a coach’s personal prayer after football games.
Under Lemon, the Egg Board had its scapegoat.
But in 2022, the Supreme Court tossed the Lemon test onto the ash heap of history. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the justices clarified: “This Court long ago abandoned Lemon and its endorsement test offshoot. … In place of Lemon and the endorsement test, this Court has instructed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by ‘reference to historical practices and understandings.’”

Now that Lemon is gone, the government no longer needs to fear that allowing the child of a National Guard member to submit a picture of a cross at Easter threatens the foundations of the republic. Children of Americans who celebrate the resurrection of Christ at Easter can and should be free to submit their egg drawings, even if they include a cross or Christ.
Lea Patterson is senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom for all.
4. Pope marks 6-month anniversary of Hamas attacks by meeting with relatives of hostages, By Associated Press, April 8, 2024, 9:16 PM
Pope Francis met Monday with relatives of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, marking the six-month anniversary of the attack in southern Israel with an hourlong audience.
The Vatican released photos of the encounter, showing relatives of several of the hostages sitting in a semicircle in front of Francis in his private library in the Apostolic Palace. Each one held a poster with a photo and the name of a loved one.
It was the second time Francis has met with relatives of the hostages. On Nov. 22, he met with a delegation of Israelis, and then separately a delegation of Palestinians whose relatives had been harmed during the long Mideast conflict.
Francis has called for the immediate release of the hostages and a cease-fire in Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to urgently reach desperate Palestinians.

5. Transgender Catholics say new Vatican document shows no understanding of their lives, By David Crary, Associated Press, April 8, 2024, 3:58 PM
Transgender Catholics — as well as a priest who welcomes them to his parish — expressed disappointment Monday with a new Vatican document rejecting the fundamental concept of changing one’s biological sex.
In essence, it was a restatement of longstanding Catholic teaching, but the dismay was heightened because recent moves by Pope Francis had encouraged some trans Catholics to hope the church might become more accepting.

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is not monolithic on transgender policies. Some dioceses have issued stern guidelines in effect forbidding acknowledgement of gender transitions. But some parishes have welcomed trans people, including the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Hoboken, New Jersey. Its priest, the Rev. Alexander Santora, invited Zuba a few years ago to deliver part of the homily at its annual Pride Mass.

6. Baltimore archbishop hears accounts of abuse during bankruptcy hearing, William Lori, the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore, listened as six survivors of church abuse shared their stories in court, By Steve Thompson, The Washington Post, April 8, 2024, 5:42 PM
At 68 years old, a lifetime of nightmares later, a white-haired woman told a Baltimore courtroom Monday about the sexual assaults she suffered as a teenager at the hands of a priest.
Speaking directly to the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore, who looked up at her from his seat and nodded as she spoke, the woman described spending much of her life believing that God saw her as a whore and did not love her.

The encounter came during an unusual hearing that gave six sexual abuse survivors out of hundreds seeking damages from the archdiocese a voice in a bankruptcy case, which does not typically involve victim statements.
The moment was symbolic for survivors of Catholic Church abuse. The bankruptcy had meant there would be no public testimony before a jury.

Monday’s forum for survivors came after a suggestion by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michelle M. Harner, who had urged the parties to work out a plan for survivors to be heard.
“I encourage you to be innovative and think about the ways this Court can provide … an opportunity to be heard in a way that provides perhaps more meaningful resolution to parties than perhaps money can,” Harner said during an Oct. 3 hearing, according to a legal filing.

Under rules worked out by the parties and agreed to by Harner, the survivors’ statements will not be considered as evidence and were not transcribed by the court reporter. Their sole purpose was “to increase engagement and understanding” of the case, according to an order by Harner. Those giving statements were given a choice of whether and how to identify themselves.

The court has mandated the archdiocese to widely advertise the deadline, after which civil sexual abuse claims against it will be permanently barred. The archdiocese has said the publicity would include posting links about the deadline on parish and Catholic school websites and in prominent locations in their buildings, putting notices in church bulletins, and having priests speak about the deadline during Mass at least twice.

Lori participated in a warm conversation and shook hands with at least one survivor after Monday’s hearing, a member of the creditors committee who had not spoken.

7. Trump Says Abortion Will Be Left to the States. Don’t Believe Him., By Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, April 8, 2024, Opinion
When Donald Trump was asked about the recent Florida Supreme Court decision upholding his adopted state’s abortion ban, he promised that he would announce where he stands this week, a sign of how tricky the politics of reproductive rights have become for the man who did more than any other to roll them back. Sure enough, on Monday, he unveiled his latest position in a video statement that attempted to thread the needle between his anti-abortion base and the majority of Americans who want abortion to be legal.
Trump’s address was, naturally, full of lies, including the absurd claim that “all legal scholars, both sides,” wanted Roe v. Wade overturned, and the obscene calumny that Democrats support “execution after birth.” But the most misleading part of his spiel was the way he implied that in a second Trump administration, abortion law will be left entirely up to the states. “The states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land, in this case the law of the state,” said Trump.
Trump probably won’t be able to dodge the substance of abortion policy for the entirety of a presidential campaign; eventually, he’s going to have to say whether he’d sign a federal abortion ban if it crossed his desk and what he thinks of the sweeping abortion prohibitions in many Republican states. But let’s leave that aside for the moment, because when it comes to a second Trump administration, the most salient questions are about personnel, not legislation.
Before Monday, Trump had reportedly considered endorsing a 16-week national abortion ban, but the fact that he didn’t should be of little comfort to voters who want to protect what’s left of abortion rights in America. Should Trump return to power, he plans to surround himself with die-hard MAGA activists, not the establishment types he blames for undermining him during his first term. And many of these activists have plans to restrict abortion nationally without passing any new laws at all.
Key to these plans is the Comstock Act, the 19th-century anti-vice law named for the crusading bluenose Anthony Comstock, who persecuted Margaret Sanger, arrested thousands, and boasted of driving 15 of his targets to suicide. Passed in 1873, the Comstock Act banned the mailing of every “obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article,” including “every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine or thing” intended for “producing abortion.” Until quite recently, the Comstock Act was thought to be moot, made irrelevant by a series of Supreme Court decisions on the First Amendment, contraception and abortion. But it was never actually repealed, and now that Trump’s justices have scrapped Roe, his allies believe they can use Comstock to go after abortion nationwide.

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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